Immigrants Joshua and Bathsheba Pratt
For our fourth episode, we return to Plymouth. Three years have passed since Isaac Allerton’s arrival on the Mayflower, and that first fateful winter when half the original colonists died. (See Climbing My Family Tree, Part One.)
Joshua Pratt, my nine times great-grandfather, sailed from England to Plymouth on the Anne in 1623. My research introduced me to Joshua quite some time before I learned of any of my Mayflower foreparents. I was ecstatic to “meet” Joshua as he was a true-to-life passenger on the ship that carried my fictional character, John Wilkins, on his journey to Plymouth in my book, John Wilkin’s New Plymouth. I found this to be an astonishing coincidence, as I knew nothing about Joshua at the time I wrote the book.
I chose the name John for my fictional character because John was the most common male name in the New Plymouth community, but now, in respect for my ancestor Joshua Pratt, I am giving serious thought to re-writing the manuscript and re-naming him Joshua.
Joshua Pratt was born in England. Genealogists estimate the year to be somewhere close to 1600. The truth is there is little known about his life in the Old World.
Joshua was a single man in his twenties when he sailed to Plymouth on the Anne, a ship accompanied by a smaller craft, the Little James. The two vessels carried a few new settlers, but most of the passengers were wives and children of the original Mayflower passengers, who had been left behind in Leiden, Holland. To the colonists’ despair, the two ships brought many new hungry mouths, and precious few provisions.
Although it is yet to be definitively proven, Joshua is likely to have been the brother of Phineas Pratt, the more famous of the two Pratt boys. If so, we know Joshua was the son of Henry Pratt (my ten times great-grandfather), a minister who had been imprisoned in England because he preached outside the established Church of England.
Phineas Pratt was a member of Thomas Weston’s Wessagusset company, the second English colony established in Massachusetts. Weston arranged for three ships of settlers to establish a rival colony in modern day Weymouth, Massachusetts, in the year 1622. Weymouth is less than 30 miles (about an eight hour walk) north of Plymouth. Phineas arrived on the first of the three ships sent by Weston, the Sparrow.
The settlers proved themselves ill prepared, and the settlement was nothing more than a disaster from the very beginning. The sixty or so men completely disbanded the colony the very next year. They had little food, refused to ration their meals, and were starving by the first winter. At least one of the colonists stole corn from the native populations, which resulted in substantially deteriorating the relationships both colonies had with the natives.
Upon dissolution of Wessagusset, some of the colonists returned to England, some went north to Maine, and others, including Phineas Pratt, were absorbed into Plymouth.
Although Phineas had religious motivation to move to the New World, in sharp contrast to the Separatists in Plymouth, the primary impetus for the Wessagusset Colony was to make money. A second difference between the two colonies was that Wessagusset was comprised of all men; there were no women and children like in Plymouth.
As afore mentioned, Joshua Pratt arrived in Plymouth on the Anne in 1623, a year after his presumed brother, Phineas. Joshua may have been an indentured servant, requiring him to work for the Merchant Adventurers for as many as seven years, to repay the cost of his passage to the New World. We know he was a freeman in Plymouth by 1633.
In 1624, the settlers of Plymouth Colony divided themselves into twelve companies of thirteen persons each. Joshua and Phineas were both assigned to the company headed by Francis Cooke, who had sailed on the Mayflower. The fact that the two Pratt boys were assigned to the same company fuels the argument they were likely brothers.
While in Plymouth, Joshua served on various committees and juries, was a constable, and was given the duties of measuring lands and sealing weights and measures. At one point, he received payment of a peck of corn (presumably a peck per day) for his civic efforts.
Sometime around the year 1630, Joshua married a woman by the name Bathsheba (my nine times great-grandmother). Very little is known about Bathsheba, including her maiden name. It is presumed she, too, was born in England and immigrated to Plymouth, but the ship and exact date of her arrival are unknown.
Joshua and Bathsheba had four children in Plymouth:
- Benajah Pratt (my ancestor, born 1630)
- Hannah Pratt (born 1632)
- Jonathan Pratt (born 1637)
- Bathsheba Pratt (born 1639)
When I think of Joshua, I remember my visits to Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum that continues in operation today, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The museum village is a re-creation of the original Plymouth Colony, designed to reflect what the settlement looked like in 1627.
I imagine my ancestor, a young immigrant from England, his worn English shoes kicking up dust in the dirt streets, callouses forming on his hands as he planted corn in the fields outside the village pale, searching for a wife among the few single women available. I try to imagine what it must have been like to raise his four children in the fledgling village, with none of the comparative “modern” seventeenth century conveniences he enjoyed as a kid in England.
Joshua died in Plymouth in 1656. Bathsheba was remarried to John Doggett of Martha’s Vinyard on August 29, 1667. Her precise death date is unknown, but she was living in Plymouth as of June 4, 1673.
Like countless others both before and after, Joshua came to this land in search of religious freedom and the opportunity to seek out the American dream.
In case anyone is counting, with today’s posting, that makes a total of eleven direct ancestors who came to this great nation as immigrants. There are many, many more to follow! If any one of my ancestors had been denied access, I would not be who I am today, and likely would not be at all.
My Family Tree:
- Henry Pratt
- Joshua Pratt & Bathsheba
- Benajah Pratt
- Johnathan Pratt Sr.
- Johnathan Pratt Jr.
- Barnabas Pratt
- Thaddeus Pratt
- Mary Polly Pratt
- William Pratt Sturtevant
- Pliny Sturtevant
- Electra Wyman Sturtevant
- Patricia Louise King
- Me (Alan deMeurers)
Running count of my direct immigrants from Europe to North America = 11