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pierre girard

OVER THE SEA Chapter 1

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This a story, was first begun for my grandchildren, the eldest of whom has recently shown an interest in history. The protagonist would be his 10th great-grandfather. The narrative quickly reached beyond anything I could explain in grade-school vocabulary. The style is somewhat simplistic as I have hopes he will be able to read it before he is out of high school. It is, of course, fiction - based on fact. The attempts at 17th century English dialects will be a hard sell, I'm sure, but the actual language is almost unreadable - to me at least. The Algonquien dialects of the tribes used have, unfortunately been lost, save a word or two. Most often they are replaced with Ojibwe - which is another Algonquien dialect - though much different than those spoken on the Eastern Seaboard. Though fiction, I've done my best to view events as the protagonist (possibly) would have viewed them.



Zack stood at the ship’s rail, breathing in the pine scented air wafting out from the rapidly approaching shore. He’d never seen such wild looking country. The sand and gravel beaches were backed by deep forest; some areas pine, others, leafy deciduous, great oaks and chestnuts, both inviting in the sunlight, and forbidding when overcast. Occasional headlands and small islands showed a few rocks, but there were no great cliffs or impediments to landing anywhere along the coast. There was no sign of a house or any other habitation of man as far as the eye could see.

Zack turned his eyes toward the ship on which he stood. The Lyon was a good ship, and he knew more about her than he’d ever expected to know about a ship. Her Master, Captain William Pierce was a goodly God-fearing man, and had allowed Zack to work off a portion of his fare as a Navigator’s Assistant. Though Zack had never been to sea before, Zack’s grandfather had been famous as an astronomer and mathematician, his books teaching sea captains how to navigate – and Zack had studied his grandfather’s work.

Zack, with his background in the “sciences mathy maticales” quickly picked up the use of the backstaff, or Davis quadrant, and other rudimentary navigation tools and was soon doing most of the charting, a great help to Captain Pierce, and their first sight of land showed them to be almost exactly where they wished to be.
There were a great many other people on the Lyon – all settlers bound for a new land. There were also many other ships beside the Lyon. There was the Talbot, of 19 guns (or cannon), the Four Sisters with 14 guns, The Mayflower, with 14 guns, the Lion’s Whelp, the George Bonaventure, and the flagship, the Arabella – which transported Governour John Winthrop, the leader of the expedition. All told, 700 people were headed for Massachusetts this June day in 1629 – along with cattle, goats, and rabbits. There were also six great pieces of ordinance – cannons – for a fort, along with muskets, pikes, corselets, drums, and colors – all the implements of war to protect themselves.

Unlike Zack, who had lost his home and farm – and been put in prison for his beliefs – most of the immigrants had left stable homes and comfortable circumstances to find a place where they could worship God the way they wanted to.
Most of Zack’s shipmates looked scruffy and unkempt. Some were on their knees, thanking God for safe passage to this new land. “Thank you God,” Zack said under his breath. He, perhaps more than anyone on board, had reason to thank God. He shuddered at the memory of Wakefield Prison, where so many had died. Another month or two and he would have been among the dead – he had no doubt.

Disturbing his reverie, A young boy ran toward him, one of many on board. Zack was uncertain if he would have made the voyage with children of his own. Quiet and reserved with adults, something about the young man seemed to attract the children. He wrinkled his brow, trying to remember the youngster’s name. It came to him.
“Thomas, lad – what think thee of thy new home?” The child squealed with delight. Zack’s broad Yorkshire accent and strange turn of speech was a source of enjoyment for the younger children, mostly from East Anglia. To the children – and adults – all Zack had to do was say something and it was immediately obvious he was from the far north midlands of England. Just before his yeoman mother converged on him and bade him not bother the gentleman, Thomas became solemn for a moment and answered, “T’is said there are savages there and monsterous wild beastes too.”

Zack smiled, then frowned, thinking of his time in prison. “None more fearsome than an Englishman, I’ll wager.”

He looked toward the shore again, “Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them (Deut. 1:8).” he murmured to himself.

The ship came about at the end of a long bay.
Captain Pierce came forward with his seaman’s rolling gait. He smiled at Zack and looked landward. “A fine land, a fine land,” he murmured to himself. Looking back at Zack he said, “And the Lord has blessed us with a fine crossing as well!”

“Tell me again the name of this place?” Zack asked. “Naumkeag, the Natives call it,” Captain Pierce replied, “Though some call it Salem.”


The Puritans: In 1534, with the Act of Supremacy, King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church. As to the church in England itself, some things changed, but many people felt the King hadn’t gone far enough. These dissenters, very serious about their spiritual life, often referred to themselves as “The Godly,” while others referred to them as “Precisemen,” or “Puritans.” The advent of the Bible in English, allowing the English people to read the scriptures in their own tongue – was a great shock. One Englishman, upon reading the Bible for the first time, said, “If these things be true – then none of us are saved!” Feeling so large a disconnect from the Church of England, many people hoped to see the church changed and “purified.”

By the late 1620s, Lord John Winthrop, trained as a lawyer, along with many other English religious dissenters, “Puritans,” watched in dismay as King Charles I showed intolerance to their views and supported the Church of England’s attempts to rein in their religious activities.

On 8 April, 1629, four ships left the Isle of Wight bound for the new world. On board the Arbella was John Winthrop, who’d been appointed Governour, under a royal charter. This was part of a greater fleet of eleven ships carrying 700 people determined to worship God in the manner they believed he’d ordained.


Zack was among the first party of men that went ashore. At first they were very hesitant about what they would find. He was issued a musket, steel helmet, and sword from the arms store. As a young man he’d been taught the rudiments of sword play – along with his cousins – as befitted a “young gentleman.” These weapons proved unnecessary. Though there were only a few poorly constructed sheds and not much of a clearing visible – there was no immediate danger. Some of the men were still clearly apprehensive about possible dangers from the dark forest. Zack was only curious. Such forests did not exist in thickly settled England.

There were many strange and unknown bird and animal sounds from the forest in those first days. While the other men grew accustomed to them and soon ignored them, they filled Zack with wonder and he hoped he would grow to know each sound and what animal or bird made the sound. He found the forest, with its tall pines, intriguing. He hoped there would be a chance to explore.

The next few days were filled with the tasks of ferrying supplies from the ship to the shore. And filled as well with building simple shelters from saplings, brush, and sail-cloth. Some of the men were very good at thatching – which is a way of making roofs from long grass.

One of the biggest jobs was moving the cannon ashore. Each one, weighing many hundred pounds, needed to be lowered from the ship, using a windlass and tackle rigged from a ship’s spar – into a small boat. Getting the cannon out of the boat and unto shore proved even harder.

Getting the cows and horses ashore was much easier than Zack thought it would be. They were simply lowered into the water using a sling, then left to swim to shore on their own. The small boat went along side to nudge them if they started to swim in the wrong direction. Then the women and children came ashore, the women casting uneasy glances toward the dark forest. The children, for the most part, just seemed happy to be off the ship, and ran around joyfully, until corralled by their nervous mothers.

The people, were mostly from the yeoman class (wealthy farmers) with others from the cities and a few of the minor gentry (upper class).

Zack himself would probably qualify as minor gentry. Zack had been born at Ardsley, West Yorkshire. His mother died soon after his birth, and she had been the light of his father’s life. Zack’s father died when Zack was only nine. Although his parents had died young, his grandfather was wealthy, and his father had been to the University. His family had a “Coat of Arms,” but Zack’s uncle, Lord Matthew, had inherited most of the family wealth, and Zack was a poor nephew. He spent his time being shuttled between various aunts and uncles. The worst times were when he was at Topcliffe Hall, or the Manor at Thurnscoe, the residences of Lord Matthew.

Updated 18th-June-2014 at 02:52 AM by pierre girard (spelling, grammar)