Here Lyeth Richard More

By John M. Hunt, Jr., PhD

Pilgrim Richard More, whose gravestone is pictured on this page, was one of two male children on the Mayflower who started family lines in America and yet were too young to sign the Mayflower Compact. (The other was Henry Samson.) Richard is further interesting as the Pilgrim who, landing with the Separatists in Plymouth on the South Shore, went on to become a genuine Puritan, an inhabitant of Salem on the North Shore. He is also the only Mayflower passenger whose place of burial is marked by a gravestone laid at the exact time of burial.

We learn from Bradford, in the "Passenger List" appended to his History, that "a boy was put to [Mr. William Brewster] called Richard More." There is no mention of Richard elsewhere in Bradford's narrative. Yet we know from Richard's own deposition, given much later in his life, that in 1620 he was in London under the care of Thomas Weston, a prime promoter of the Plymouth Plantation, and was "thence transported to New Plymouth in New England." Once there, he continued to live with the Brewsters. The association is confirmed by the Division of Cattle of 1627, which lists every man, woman, and child in the Colony, and enumerates him in the great Elder's family.

Richard More first married Christian Hunter in Plymouth on 20 October 1636. A year later, it is not known why, the new couple changed their residence. Richard sold his house and property at Duxbury, and they moved to Salem. On 27 February 1643 he joined the First Church of Salem; this had the effect of making him a freeman there. In the maritime atmosphere he generally flourished, taking work as a mariner. People called him Captain. In 1654 he was present at Port Royal, Nova Scotia, when the French fort there gave way to English pressure, and during the 1660s he was twice in the Colony of Virginia. His itinerary widens radically if we consider, with Eugene Aubrey Stratton in Plymouth Colony, the possibility (or probability) of trans-Atlantic voyages.

While Richard and Christian More produced seven children, his total issue, only three of these produced progeny of their own, and only one (Susanna) produced progeny leading to the fourth generation. Therefore the number of Richard More descendants is exceedingly small. Only one person in the Pennsylvania Society, according to the Register of 1991, is a member on Richard More. In contrast, six are members on Henry Samson, and a further twelve have supplementals on him.

Only in this century was Richard More recognized as a proven Mayflower ancestor, and only in 1970 was he found to have, through his mother, royal ancestry. This entails direct descent from Malcolm III and David I, eleventh- and twelth-century kings of Scotland, not to mention Alfred the Great and Charlemagne. In any event, young Richard was no "waif" of the London streets, as certain accounts once described him. The truth is that he was the son of his mother Catherine and another man, not her lawful husband Samuel. Samuel, reacting to his wife's virtual rejection of the boy and three siblings, sent the children, "with honest and religious people" as he put it, to the New World. The siblings perished in the first winter, and were no doubt buried on Cole's Hill in Plymouth, their graves unmarked.

Gravestone of Pilgrim Richard More

Gravestone of Pilgrim Richard More

Their brother Richard's grave site is quite another matter. His stone is in Burial Point (the old Charter Street Cemetery), located between Charter and Darby Streets in Salem, Massachusetts. The original marker, triangular at the top, is now strengthened by an encasement of slate. The inscription on it reads:

DIED 1692

Two points need to be made about this.

First, the year of death cannot be correct. It is clearly the addendum of a later cutter, as one can discern on the spot. Thanks to two deeds, we know for a fact that Richard More was alive as late as 29 March 1694 and was "lately deceased" as of 20 April 1696. Other primary evidence puts the date of his baptism at 13 November 1614 in Shipton Parish, Shropshire, England. If we had his age at the time of baptism we could fix his age at the time of death with greater exactitude. But discrepancies as to his age in years bedevil other records pertaining to him. So we must be cautions. We can say that he lived for a least eighty years, and that, of the original Mayflower company, only Mary (Allerton) Cushman lived longer, dying in December of 1699. These two, superannuated by seventeenth-century standards were in fact the only "Mayflower Pilgrims" to see or hear news of the absorption of the Old Colony, as Plymouth Colony was then called, into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

Second, the words "A MAYFLOWER PILGRIM" are also an addendum. For one thing, when the famous Mayflower genealogist George Ernest Bowman photographed the stone in 1901, it did not have "A MAYFLOWER PILGRIM" on it, much less "DIED 1692"; but when he returned to photograph it in 1919, it did. For another thing, people in seventeenth-century Massachusetts at large would not have made honorific reference to the Mayflower which landed at Plymouth in 1620.

The actual name of the vessel is underplayed even in terms of early Plymouth history: neither Bradford in his History nor the authors of the contemporary Mourt's Relation make any mention of it. We for our part know it from a reference in the Plymouth Colony Record of Deeds of 1623 and a notice in New England's Memorial, written by Nathaniel Morton, Bradford's nephew, in 1669.

At Richard More's death it did not yet greatly matter — and was not yet a point of pride worth cutting into one's gravestone — on which precise ship one had come. Many ships (including another Mayflower, which stopped at Salem) had brought passengers to New England in the early period.

And the term "pilgrim," though it was originated by Bradford, was still very far from having its modern currency. (Bradford used the term only once, and in such a way as to limit its application to those who had accompanied him from Leiden in the summer of 1620, the so-called Saints.)

It was thus only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that the Pilgrims of the Mayflower became, in any wide sense, figures of specific note, men and women deserving of veneration and commemoration.

Beside the gravestone of Richard More are those of his first and second wives. To the left lies


Death's head, a traditional motif, crudely fashioned, informs the tympanum (or lunette) at the top of the stone. Beneath that are the Latin words hodie mihi cras tibi, "today for me, tomorrow for you."

To the right lies, formerly widow Jane ( ) Crumpton, now


Her stone is most elaborate of all, featuring as it does on the tympanum a soul effigy, another traditional motif, and on the borders figs, a common form of decoration, with half-moons on the finials.

Thus did Richard More, mariner, end his days at Burial Point in Salem, ever to be surrounded by his two wives. These women went to their graves ignorant of a specific record of the First Church of Salem, dated 1688, revealing that "Old Captain More having been for many years under suspicion and a common fame of lasciviousness, and some degree at least of incontency and therefore was at severall times spoke to, by sundry brethren and also by the Elders in a private way, because for want of proof we could go no further. He was at last left to himself so farr that he was convicted before justices of the peace by three witnesses of gross unchastity with another mans wife and was censured by them." The Old Captain repented of this in 1691, and the Church officially forgave him.

Not far from the Mores' place of rest, in the same cemetery, lie Simon Bradstreet (d. 1696), governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony; his wife Anne, the poetess; Nathaniel Mather, brother of Cotton Mather the Puritan minister; Captain John Turner, builder of the House of the Seven Gables; and John Hathorne, ancestor of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (who changed the spelling of his name to obscure the connection, adding w for "wicked").

John Hathorne had been a judge in the Salem witchcraft trials. It is tempting to wonder what our Richard More must have felt in his final years as he experienced the panic that overwhelmed Salem from May to September of 1692, with all the accusations that were in the air and all the convictions and executions that resulted from those awful trials. He was there.

Dr. John M. Hunt, Jr., is Professor of Classical Studies (Latin and Greek) and Chairman of the Department at Villanova University, Villanova, PA. A long-time member of the Pennsylvania Society Board of Assistants, he has written a number of articles about the Pilgrims published in both the General Society's "Mayflower Quarterly" and the Pennsylvania Society's newsletter "The Pennsylvania Mayflower," serving as editor of the latter for a number of years. He is descended from Pilgrims Isaac Allerton, John Howland, George Soule, and John Tilley.