Many of you know that I recently released a book called The Last Pilgrim, the story of Mary Allerton Cushman, the oldest surviving passenger on the Mayflower. She died in 1699 at the age of 82, having seen the entire history of the Plymouth Colony, which was subsumed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692.
The book has received a ton of five-star reviews on Amazon and was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize.
Over the next few weeks, I will post on how and why I came to write the book (especially since many of you know me as a mystery writer), how I chose Mary Allerton as my main character and some interesting facts about the Pilgrims that are not generally known. I hope you enjoy this lead-up to the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving.
First, I grew up in Plymouth. As a child, I took classes in Pilgrim arts and crafts at the Harlow House (also called the Old Fort House because it was built with the beams of the original fort at the top of Leyden Street) and marched in the Pilgrim’s Progress on Saturdays several times, playing various women and children.
I was also one of the first tour guides at what was then called Plimoth Plantation but has been renamed Plimoth-Patuxet to recognize the contribution of the Wampanoag tribe of Patuxet to the survival of the Pilgrim. Plimoth-Patuxet is a living history museum that now depicts the colony as it was in 1623-1627. I took classes my senior year in high school, with the requisite testing, in order to be accepted as a tour guide.
Plimoth Plantation was built on the site of the old Hornblower estate on Warren Avenue, just three doors down from the house where I grew up. Henry Hornblower, the owner, came from a fairly rich family, and the old mansion that stood at the top of the hill, where the fort is situated now, was a summer home. I used to play there in the summers after it was closed and rowed on the nearby pond. The topography of the estate was very similar to the site of the original Pilgrim village, so it made a perfect site for the re-creation. This site, and the property on which my old home stands, is land originally owned by Elizabeth Warren, who arrived on the Anne in 1623. More about this remarkable woman later.
Over time, I came to realize there were practically no books about Pilgrim women. But without women, the Plimoth colony would not have survived. So, many years later, after I had retired, I finally found the time and energy to write about those women, one in particular.
In my next post, I will tell you how I came to choose Mary Allerton.