by Loring L. Bigelow

It is presumed that John1 Bigelow arrived in America with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630. This cannot be proven as no complete roster of passengers exists; however, it seems likely that he was a passenger on one of the eleven ships from England that made up the Fleet. John1 would have been but a lad of 13 or 14 at the time and probably, although unproven, traveled along with his older sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth later became the second wife of Deacon Richard Butler of Hartford, CT. (See The Bigelow Family Genealogy, Vol. 1, p. 11).

But what about this "fleet?" It consisted of 11 ships, but strangely enough, all did not sail at the same time from the same place and hence all did not travel together. At the New England landings, not all ships arrived at the same time nor at the same harbors - more about that later.

The "flagship" of the Winthrop Fleet was the Arbella and she carried the most important people, including Winthrop, Squire of Groton Manor. He had thrown in his lot with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. Winthrop was a lawyer, unsatisfied with his life and future opportunities in England. After joining the group, he was elected leader for this expedition, and thus the fleet acquired its name. The Winthrop Woman, a book by Seton is well researched and deals with factual events in the life of this Winthrop family.

John Winthrop was appointed to be in charge "for his integritie & sufficiencies" and along with more than 25 important passengers and about 70 "planters," or people with a good trade background in Flagship Merchant Services, was aboard the Arbella, considered the "Admiral" ship. Winthrop had three of his sons with him plus 8 servants. The Captain of the Arbella was Peter Milburne.

In addition to the Arbella, we find the following ships in the group as it formed in England: Ambrose, Jewel, Talbot, Charles, Mayflower (not the Mayflower, but another ship of the same name), William and Francis, Hopewell, Whale, Success,and Trial.

These ships, for the most part, had been used earlier in the wine trade to Mediterranean Ports. Ships of this typed were specially constructed, were well-caulked and dry. They were known as "sweet ships," but certainly not built to carry passengers.

The high forecastle deck (forward) housed the seamen before the mast, and the still higher poop deck (at the stern) housed the ship's officers. In the case of the Arbella, formerly the Eagle,there was a crew of 52 seamen and about 15 officers. The space between the two towering fore and aft structures was used for cargo and at other times to transport people in a most primitive fashion. No cruise ships, these!

In the Winthrop Fleet, rough "cabins" were constructed for the women and children while usually hammocks for the men were strung up every place available. The passengers had no conception of traveling thus, by sea. There was little or no ventilation below deck, no really adequate means of lighting at night, no source of heat, and very primitive sanitary and cooking facilities. Little was known about the scourge at the time - scurvy.

Potable water could not stay sweet and drinkable on long voyages. Hence beer was carried on all ships and a cooper was needed to keep the casks tight. Records show that on the Arbella, "40 tuns" of beer was carried. Charles Banks, the author of a book about the Winthrop Fleet, states that this equals 10,000 gallons of beer! Wow! Little did the people of that time know that the beer they carried, to allay thirst, also acted as a mild anti- scorbutic [helped to prevent scurvy].

The Talbot, with Thomas Beecher, Master was considered the "Vice Admiral" ship, the Ambrose, "Rear Admiral," and the Mayflower which was not the Mayflower, "Captain" of the Fleet. These four ships carried the bulk of the passengers, while the other seven ships carried a few passengers, but mainly livestock and freight of the expedition. Of interest is that the livestock consisted of 240 cows and 60 horses - "3 score and ten cattle" died in a storm a month after sailing.

Also of interest was that the Arbella was 350 tons in size, and in addition to the 42 "tuns" of beer mentioned earlier, carried 14 "tuns" of water (about 3500 gallons), 2 hogshead of "syder" and I hogshead of vinegar.

Most passengers travelled aboard four of the eleven ships in the Winthrop Fleet, the Arbella, the Talbot, the Ambrose,and the Mayflower (not to be confused with the Mayflower,but another ship of the same name). These four ships sailed first to the Isle of Wight. The other seven ships, which carried a few passengers but mainly livestock and freight, were in various southern English ports loading up. The four ships sailed from Wight on 08 April 1630 along with a few smaller vessels that were en route to Newfoundland. The seven other ships in the Winthrop Fleet sailed two or three weeks later.

Who were the passengers aboard these eleven ships? No complete list exists, but Winthrop, in a letter to his wife written before sailing, states there were 700 passengers aboard all ships. There is no corroboration for either higher or lower figures.

Each passenger travelled at his/her expense through various arrangements: those who paid directly; those who had a profession, art or trade, and were to receive remuneration either in cash or land; those who paid part of their passage and were to pay the balance after arrival at 3 shillings per day; indentured servants whose masters were to receive 50 acres of land for each servant transported. John Winthrop had 8 servants, so 400 acres of land!

Of interest to Bigelows today, we find that there were 7 passengers from Norfolk and 154 from Suffolk areas - East Anglia. John1 was from the former area while the Warrens, who would later become his in-laws, were from the latter. There was a goodly number specifically from Nayland and Stoke-by-Nayland which is not too far from the Wrentham area where John1 was baptised. John Warren and his wife Margaret were from Nayland. They are listed although their children are not.

If we surmise that John1 came across to New England in the Winthrop Fleet, we can perhaps guess that he had knowledge of some of the people. A John Firman and Giles Firman also were from Nayland, as were John Water and Richard Webb. Isaac Stearns, tailor, from Stoke-by- Nayland was in the Fleet and settled in Watertown - as did John'.

The Stearns early became associated with the Bigelows - see Vol. I of The Bigelow Family Genealogy.

In the Winthrop Fleet, there were several teenage and younger children. John1 would have been 13 or 14 at the time. John Devereaux, another from Stoke-by-Nayland, had two children with him, ages about 15 or 16.

Of special interest, there was a young vivacious girl of 9 or 10 named Anne. Surname has not been determined, but of interest is that she claimed to be the first girl of the Fleet to step ashore in Shawmut, which later became Boston. Anne married, had a family and lived to be 104 or 105.

The drinking water in the Charleston area was not very palatable and on at least one occasion, Anne got into a boat with other young people and rowed across to Shawmut for good fresh drinking water. Could John1 have been with this group of young people? Who knows. Would it not be interesting to have talked with this young vivacious lady and asked who was in the boat with her?

Other ships were about during the time of the Winthrop Fleet - the Mary and John had 140 passengers, John1 not included. The Lyon was also about the same time, and had some 80 passengers, but not John1.

The contributor of this article wishes there might be additional records of The Winthrop Fleet so we could put to rest the speculation that John' was a passenger. In closing, one must not confuse our John' with another John Baguley who early crossed into Virginia. It is true that a lot of these ships that very early crossed into Virginia also came up into the New England area - there was even a bit of trade between the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers and those of the Virginia areas. However, this could not be the same John Baguley that we call John' due to the age difference - it is much too broad.
July 1996 FORGE: The Bigelow Society Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 3

Source. Charles Banks, The Winthrop Fleet, c1930.
Related Forge articles. Vol. 7, No. 2, p. 29; Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 51; Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 11.
Scanned document December 17th, 1996 by Don Bigelow
Subject: Arbella formerly the Eagle
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2000 18:41:36 -0700
From: "gerald johnson" <  >

I am wondering if there is a sketch made of the Arbella, the lead ship of the Winthrop Fleet?  This ship was previously known as the Eagle.  My ancestor, Capt. John Johnson, and his family was on this ship along with, of course, Gov. John Winthrop.  I
checked the Winthrop Society web pages and could not find any reference to any sketch nor any way to pose such a question.
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Gerald G. Johnson, Ph.D.
648 Salem Heights Avenue, So.
Salem, OR 97302-5613
(503) 371-9485
see Arbella Page 1.

The following link leads to Information about the Winthrop Society.
They are trying to identify passengers and decendants
transported by the Winthrop Fleet.

Modified - 08/01/2007
(c) Copyright 2007 Bigelow Society, Inc. All rights reserved.
Rod  Bigelow - Director

Rod Bigelow
Box 13  Chazy Lake
Dannemora, N.Y. 13662