April 16, 2008



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Between April 8 and June 12, 1630, a fleet of 17 ships carrying over 1000 passengers set sail from Yarmouth, England to Salem, Massachusetts. It was under the command of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, who sailed with 400 emigrants aboard the flagship “Arabella.” This 28-gun ship also transported the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company to Salem, thereby giving legal birth to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On board was Arabella Johnson, wife of one of the assistants. The ship was named in her honor. Charming and from a luxurious home, she was considered “queen of the colony.” Also on board, braving the Atlantic Ocean, was America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet, who at age 18 left England with her husband and parents to escape persecution by the Church of England’s Archbishop Laud.

Enroute, Gov. Winthrop preached a lay sermon titled “Modell of Christian Charity.” He clearly articulated why the Puritans migrated, and that they needed a Covenant with God to form a government—that is, they needed to consent to God’s law of justice and subordination.

“God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence hath soe disposed of the Conicion of mankinde, as in all times some must be rich some poore…” he preached. The sentence continued, “some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.”

After three sickening months at sea, surviving on salt meats, the Arabella passengers arrived at Salem to find there was no church and no town, only a rather stately house for the governor and a few hovels among cornfields that sheltered the settlers.

Their fantasy of pagan natives peaceably and eagerly awaiting the good news of the gospel was smashed when they met the starving survivors at Salem. Food was scarce, disease rampant. Arabella died within a month after her arrival. Her husband’s grief brought him to death a few weeks later.

Puritanism, a spiritual reformation in England’s churches, was found inadequate to purify the Church of England. The many who clamored to go all the way with the Bible were derogatorily labeled “Puritans.” Their image generally denotes people intent on stopping all pleasures. It wasn’t so. They wore bright clothes, danced, were excellent businessmen, ardently promoted higher education, were the first to allow multiple religious denominations in one country, and knew how to enjoy life.

Furthermore, the good ship Arabella’s cargo included 10,000 gallons of wine (50,000 fifths) and 42 tons of beer. They only had 14 tons of fresh water. Early Puritans proved to be among the best brewers. So why am I researching this?

In 1921 my maternal great-grandfather built a 39-foot boat he named the Arabella, and I wonder where the name came from. Did he name his boat after the historic Arabella that brought legal status documents to the colony of Massachusetts?

Allen Wilson Walker had the boat built in a barn across the street from the back of Woodward School in Quincy, Mass. According to a note on a post card featuring the Arabella, and oral telling, he sailed the boat between Quincy Yacht Club and Lamoine Beach (on Frenchman Bay), Maine.

The late Gladys Vigent, long-time resident of Lamoine who died in a recent May at 92 years old, provided the oral history. I met her a few years ago through my genealogy research. Both of us are descendents of Louis Des Isles, who emigrated to Lamoine from France in 1791. (We’re touching on subjects and sites—Louis Des Isles and Lamoine, Maine—in the historic romance novel which I am writing.)

Summers were special for the Des Isle clan and their friends in Lamoine. There were parties and picnics. Some of the picnics occurred at the Ovens, across Frenchman Bay on Mount Desert Island. They were daylong affairs in which the Arabella played an active part.

My great-grandfather brought the Arabella from Quincy to Lamoine for these events. Early in the day, he sailed fishermen across the bay to the Ovens to catch the fish of the day. He returned to Lamoine and filled the boat with the women, taking them to the ovens, where they would set up kettles to prepare chowders and fires to cook the fish. Later he sailed the remaining picnickers across the bay. Gladys sailed on the Arabella when she was a young woman.

Photo illustrations:

All this was done during low tide when the sailing across the reef-filled bay was the most treacherous. However, the Ovens were only visible and above water during low tide. The narrow rocky, shelly beach at the Ovens has a 60-foot or better sheer cliff walling it in. Picnickers have to vacate the beach before high tide lest they not escape at all, but drown.

I’d love more information on the Arabella—what kind of boat it was, what happened to it. However, all those people who had the pleasure of being on the boat are now gone. There’s no one left to add to its story.

One more story. On one or our visits to Lamoine, my husband Monte and I stopped at Shore Acres Retreat, just up the road from Lamoine Beach, now owned by Chuck Hemingway. It was once a hotel run by my ancestor, William des Isles.

During our conversation I mentioned the Arabella. Almost immediately, Chuck arose and excused himself, leaving Monte and I looking at each other, wondering if we’d been abandoned. When Chuck finally returned, he handed me a postcard in a wrapper—it just happened that he is a post card collector.

I studied it. It was a picture of the Arabella. I boldly asked if he would loan it to me so I could scan it and return it.

“No,” he said.

I felt miffed, put in my place.

He continued. “You take it and scan it,” he said, “but then send me a copy of the scan. You keep the original.”

I was ever grateful to him for his generosity. Genealogists are like that. For the most part, they want items to be where they belong.

Today the post card is among my family genealogy information. And yes, I did send him the scan.

You can visit Shore Acres Retreat by clicking on , or you can contact Chuck Hemingway via his E-mail: .

I’ve submitted the information about my great-grandfather’s Arabella to the Quincy Yacht Club for their website, at their request. Perhaps there are records, pictures and memories still there that I can glean information from.

There’s a lesson here: It’s wise to gather family information before it’s too late.


Thanks to commenter #21 for the following link, which I looked up: ( ) and found the following shanty:

The Saucy Arabella
(also called ‘Rolling Down the River)

Oh the Arabella set her main top’s’l
Oh the Arabella set her main top’s’l
Oh the Arabella set her main top’s’l

Rolling down the river


A-rolling down the river, a rolling down
 A-rolling down the river, a-rolling down, a-rolling down
 Said the bucko mate to the greaser’s wife

Full chorus:

Oh a pumpkin pudden an’ a bulgine pie
Oh a pumpkin pudden an’ a bulgine pie
Oh a pumpkin pudden an’ a bulgine pie

Aboard the Arabella.

The Arabella sets her main gans’l (same as above)

The Arabella sets her main royal (same as above)

The Arabella sets her main skys’l (same as above)

Further information is available at  the website .


  1. Dear Carol, my Partner, Rosalyn Hawthorne is conducting her own research at the moment.Her ancestors, the Hathornes were on that ship. Hathornes son was the Judge at Salem and a later relative is Nathanial Hawthorne,name changed because of the ensuing scandal. Please contact her at
    good luck!martin b

    Comment by Martin Barry — June 7, 2008 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Carolyn,
    What fun! I really enjoyed reading this account of the Arabella.
    Martha B.

    Comment by Martha B. Higgins — October 24, 2008 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  3. Carolyn,
    I have spent time with your site. Remembering our correspondence about Louis DesIsle. Fond memories. Lewis and I are still in The Dalles OR just puttering along

    Wish we were planning a trip to Maine but it won’t be this year.

    Have bookmarked your site so that I can come back to it.
    Barbee Hodgkins

    Comment by Barbee Hodgkins — November 26, 2008 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  4. Barbee, I haven’t forgotten you. I am so glad you commented. Keep watching, especially the category “1790’s BACKGROUND.”

    Click on this link to find out what’s keeping me so busy!
    THE WRITING LIFE: There’s a World Out There?
    (If the “clicking” doesn’t work, this article is in the category “JOURNAL”

    Comment by carolyncholland — November 27, 2008 @ 3:24 am | Reply

  5. Hello good people:
    I am related to Lt. Robert Seeley, second in command on the Winthrop Fleet. I am so happy you are keeping the memory of the history of the brave people that traveled so far and by faith that God would bring them to a new life. Hardship was at the end of there travel. Very well stated and love your site. I have to mention the book written by Nathaniel Philibreck “Mayflower” inspires me in my search of my family tree. Anyone wishing to contact me regarding Seeley family connection is greatly apprecitated.
    God Bless,
    Paul Seeley

    Comment by Paul A. Seeley — December 18, 2009 @ 3:09 am | Reply

  6. Thank you for your nice comment, Paul. There have been numerous connections made on my site, and hopefully yours will be added to the list.

    Carolyn C. Holland

    Comment by carolyncholland — December 18, 2009 @ 4:26 am | Reply

  7. Hi, anyone know where I can get a list of the passengers on the original Arabella? I am trying to track down william evans who came to New England around 1630. thanks for any help. sallie

    Comment by sallie ventresco — December 20, 2009 @ 1:46 am | Reply

    • Hey im trying to get the same things for the dudley generation who were on the arabella if you ever come across this document please send me a link and email at thx very much im still doing research on finding this document sincerly algator80

      Comment by rebekah smith — January 28, 2011 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

    • Hello Sallie, If you have a computer…, Just type into Google: (The Winthrop Fleet Of 1630) .. It will give you a list of all passengers..sorry this came so late. G. Colby

      Comment by G. Colby — January 18, 2012 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  8. Feb. 12, 2010
    Hi, I would like a scanned picture of the Arabella. I am the 11th generation of Isaac Stearns and Mary Barker Stearns and Children that came on the Arabella in 1630. Please let me know if this would be possible. We have been working on our family genealogy and would love to add it to our information. Thank you for your consideration.

    Comment by Patricia R. Lavalette — February 12, 2010 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

    • I am also a direct descendant of Isaac and Mary Stearns who were on the Arabella. (Whilst working on my family tree on, I found a link to this web page.) I would greatly appreciate a scanned copy of your postcard. Is it possible you could send it as an email attachment? Thank you very much!

      Comment by Sandy Stearns — April 17, 2010 @ 11:17 am | Reply

      • I am also a direct descendant of Isaac and Mary Stearns. I’m very, very new to genealogy but I’m trying to prove the linage to Revolutionary War Solder John Stearns, Joseph Stearns, James Stearns, Justus Stearns, and Joseph B. Stearns (my great grandfather). Interested in kowing if you may have any information. Thanks.

        Comment by Margaret Beach — May 23, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

      • I see cousins in the page here. Just on getting a link for someone else,came across this blog. We Stearns are descendants as well moving from Dedham area on to Killingly Ct. then in 1772 leaving the family farm to the eldest son, Boaz Stearns departed with his youngest son and wife. They settled a farm in Mansfield Ct. Here we still farm today 11 generations on the same soil. Just a few hours from where it all began. see and For the town 300 th anniversary we recreated that move from Killingly to Mansfield, Myself and my son ( then age 8 and his uncle age 13) walked our 2 teams of Oxen from Killingly to Mansfield, it took 5 days and was an adventure in family history!

        Comment by Carolyn Stearns — September 15, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  9. How many times have you moved homes/houses in your life?

    Comment by Short — April 3, 2010 @ 9:51 pm | Reply

    • I’ve lived in seventeen houses, in nine communities, in and five states. Is there a reason you asked?


      Comment by Carolyn C. Holland — April 3, 2010 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  10. The ship manifest for the Arabella is on-line a google search will bring it up. Good luck with your research

    Comment by Carolyn Stearns — January 29, 2011 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  11. As documented in The Crafts Family, published in 1893, my family came over on the Arabella in 1630, they were Lieutenant Griffin and Alice Crafts and settled in Brookline, Massachusetts. I just only scanned this website, can you tell me if in the information you have any reference to my Crafts family?

    Comment by Becky Good Towb — June 3, 2011 @ 9:57 am | Reply

    • I too am a descendent of Griffin and Alice Crafts. My Grandmother’s name was Alice Margarette Crafts. She married my Grandfather who was Delbert Storrs.

      I am just beginning my search for family history and am overwhelmed at the moment.

      Comment by Martha Ann Buday Jenkins — February 5, 2012 @ 11:52 am | Reply

      • Storrs is an old family name as well. Check for that line via the University of CT. as the Storrs Brothers, Charles and Augustus founded the Connecticut Agricultural College which became Uconn. Storrs is a subsection of the town of Mansfield where the Univesity is located. The Storrs and Stearns family united through marriage in the post Civil War era. Dodd Center at Uconn has searchable archives.

        Comment by carolynstearns (@carolynstearns) — February 5, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

      • Carolyn, Can you send me your snail mail address so I can send you your prize for winning the January comment contest? Email: Thanks! Carolyn

        Comment by carolyncholland — February 5, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

      • That’s fun ! Thanks its coming by email

        Comment by carolynstearns (@carolynstearns) — February 6, 2012 @ 12:50 am

      • I haved a copy of the book…if you’d like I can forward the information regarding where I purchased it, it is a hard bound photocopy that covers 10 generations, very interesting read! How wonderful to meet up with a distant relative! Please keep in touch! Becky Good Towb

        Comment by Becky Good Towb — February 6, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  12. My family ancestors were on the Arabella April 12, 1630 sail date. I would love to have a copy/scan of the original ship for our records. Our oral history includes a story about how the Charles River got its name. When disembarking a kinsman to my ancestor fell into the river. His name was Charles. It is told that Gov. Winthrop then declared the river to be called Charles as a reminder of his misstep upon arriving at his new home. It was definitely a wet initiation to America.

    Comment by June — July 20, 2011 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  13. My family was on the Arabella April 12, 1630 sail date. I would love to have a copy/scan of the original ship for our records. Our oral history includes a story about how the Charles River got its name. When disembarking a kinsman to my ancestor fell into the river. His name was Charles. It is told that Gov. Winthrop then declared the river to be called Charles as a reminder of his misstep upon arriving at his new home. It was definitely a wet initiation to America.

    Comment by June — July 20, 2011 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  14. I forgot to mention that Charles was an eight year old boy. Historians claim that the river has royal origins for its name.

    Comment by June — July 21, 2011 @ 6:33 am | Reply

  15. My ancestry includes the Johnson family. I would like a copy of the scan of the arabella, please, if you don’t mind sharing.

    Comment by Becky — October 22, 2011 @ 8:39 am | Reply

    • The boat I used as illustration is not the original boat of long ago, nor is it patterned after it. However, if you want a picture I can email it to you. Let me know.

      Comment by carolyncholland — October 24, 2011 @ 12:08 am | Reply

  16. My 10th. Great Grand Father Andrew Benton & his Uncle Edward Benton came over on the ARABELLA .Andrew was only 10yrs. @ the time . He went on to help settle Milford ,Ct. , one of 6 colonial colonies in that area . Have you ever come across their names ? email .

    Comment by Priscilla Benton-Tobin — November 15, 2011 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  17. There is a Benton Homestead museum in Tolland Ct. was even on Ghost Hunters with some Civl War era hauntings depicted

    Comment by carolynstearns (@carolynstearns) — November 15, 2011 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

    • From Carolyn to Carolyn…
      Thank you for keeping an eye on this post. It’s always nice when one of my readers reaches out to another. I’m afraid I know nothing about the Benton family. Thanks, again.


      Comment by carolyncholland — November 17, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  18. Also aboard the Arabella was Anne Hutchinson whose story is quite interesting. She was the inspiration for Hawethorne’s Hester Prynne, She was cast out by Winthrop and his council of ministers, but not for not being Puritan, but for being a little “too” Puritan. She took very seriously the concept of The Elect and grace over works. She held meetings at her house (right across from Winthrop’s house–something he can’t have found pleasant) which soon became PACKED as she would go over the sermons of Joseph Cotton and others, emphasizing that no good works can save a soul, only God’s bestowal of grace upon a person may grant them salvation. She eschewed anything relating to the Church of England and Winthrop and others thought that it was risky to be too outwardly “separatist” as the Massachusetts Bay Colony was still officially an England-granted charter corporation. What they eventually nabbed her for was not her too-Puritan ideas, though. They got her to admit that aboard The Arabella she had received a vision that someone who was true to God would be persecuted once they arrived in the New World. Claims of this sort of immediate revelation were a bigger no-no than separatism, so on account of this she was detained and then banished. The record of her trial is fascinating, demonstrating a woman with quite a sharp wit, able to parry nearly every religious argument brought against her.

    Comment by greg samsa — December 15, 2011 @ 1:47 am | Reply

  19. OOPS Hutchinson wasn’t aboard the Arabella, she shipped later on the Griffin. My bad.

    Comment by greg samsa — December 15, 2011 @ 1:59 am | Reply

  20. I loved your interesting story about the the ship “Arabella”… Can you tell me the source about the Wintrop Fleet? I would love to have a copy of the ships picture. as my ancestor came on this ship. I also liked the New Testament story of Prissila and Aquila.I would appreciate any information on the Ship:
    With Thanks….G. Colby

    Comment by G. Colby — January 18, 2012 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  21. The Arabella resurfaces in my world. I’m in the midst of historical nautical research, not of the Arabella but another ship. In my desire to understand sailing better I signed up for a 4 week class in Sea Chanteys at Mystic Seaport ( CT) Week one we are given the assignment to find a chantey we will lead in a small performance ( this Saturday 4/14/12 at 10 a.m.) 3 CD’s purchased I listen as I drive and hear one we didnt sing in class, the chantey…. The Arabella!! I liked it and began a 3 week stint of singing it all the time to get it into my head for performance and in a register I don’t usually sing in. Then I googled the chantey and found the site about the 2 Arabellas. From what I am gathering the chantey may have originated withthe replica ship and 1830 was a time when Chantey music was strong. checkout this site o nthe 2 Arabellas and the diary of a sailor from the second. at: the words to the chantey are in this site it is also on You-Tube and the CD American Chanteys. I’ll see about recording the Arabella for you-tube from the class.

    Comment by 11cvmshistoricthoughts — April 9, 2012 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

    • A very informative website. I didn’t see the you tube link to hear the shanty. I’ll wait for your class version. It sounds like a fun time.

      Comment by June — April 10, 2012 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  22. Interestingly enough, lady Arabella’s husband, was more than an assistant in the Ship, beneficiary,he was the richest man in England and he bought the Arabella ship as per of his contribution to the cause and one of the founders of Boston….

    Comment by Ron johnasen — May 4, 2012 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Ron, for the enlightening comments. I know nothing about the name Arabella and wondered why my great…grandfather named his boat Arabella. I guess I’ll never know the reason why—it was buried with him (and any other family member who knew the reason).
      Thank you for visiting my writing site.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — May 4, 2012 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  23. Interestingly enough, lady Arabella’s husband, Isaac Johnson Esq., was more than an assistant in the Ship, beneficiary,he was the richest man in England and he bought the Arabella ship as per of his contribution to the Colony and one of the founders of Boston….

    Comment by Ron johnasen — May 4, 2012 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  24. I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I do yours. Check it out at

    Comment by Dame Gussie — May 21, 2012 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  25. I’m a newby to this research; however, have compiled over 90 pages of history regarding my 19th great grandfather, William Chesebrough who arrived on the Arabella. Now will look to find the passenger list. Thanks for all the great tips and insights. Love this site.

    Comment by Karen Heitzman — June 15, 2012 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your generous praise. I suspect you will enjoy the research, and hope that you won’t find yourself enthralled in a massive undertaking, a historic romance novel, with the information you uncover. I am struggling and enjoying (at different times) writing my novel.

      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 16, 2012 @ 12:10 am | Reply

      • Karen, welcome to the world of ancestral journies. Once you start, it is hard to stop. Each find is a gift of love. Check out the Winthrop Society website for a passenger list.

        Comment by Dame Gussie — June 16, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  26. Hi! Ran across your blog researching the Sanfords. I found some sources saying my Thomas Sanford came over in 1631 on the Arabella – one year after Winthrop crossed on it. But The Complete Book of Immigrants only lists the Arabella crossing once. Any insight?

    Comment by Trish Speiser — January 5, 2013 @ 9:53 am | Reply

  27. Thank you for your post on the ship Arabella. I just found today, my 9th Great Grandfather, Thomas Minor, came from England aboard the Arabella. I had always thought the ship was Lyon’s Whelp, but the Diary of Thomas Minor, purchased on, states the ship was the Arabella ! I have alot of research ahead of me, and your link was the first I visited ! Thank you so much for being my first Arabella informational web site ! Nita

    Comment by Nita — January 14, 2013 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

    • I’m happy you discovered our post. Thank you for visiting CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS. Good luck in your future research. Carolyn

      Comment by carolyncholland — January 17, 2013 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  28. I there a passenger list for the Griffin containing “George (Lewes) Lewis?

    Comment by Bruce Dembling — February 6, 2016 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

  29. The book American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, The Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante makes several mentions of John Sanford who arrived in Boston in 1631, ship not mentioned. He was a follower of Anne Hutchinson who became her son-in-law before her trials and banishment. He and his wife Bridget went with her upon her banishment to what became Rhode Island. He was later an early governor of Rhode Island.

    Comment by Ron DeLaite — February 26, 2019 @ 2:01 am | Reply

    • You posted this a year ago Feb. Thank you for your input. Since then we have been in contact. I hope all is well with you. You are probably stranded in (Missouri, is it)? I hope you have the information I sent with you. If not, let me know and I can resend it. Keep in touch.

      Comment by carolyncholland — April 2, 2020 @ 4:38 am | Reply

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