HOME ~ Contact us

Peter BROWNE and Martha, widow Ford

Peter BROWNE. (BROWN). Mayflower passenger. [PC T4-26].
Born in England, son of William BROWNE. He was christened on 26 January 1594-1595 at Dorking, Surrey, England.

Also said to be the son of Thomas BROWNE. (S1).

Peter Browne is said by some to have been in Leyden, Holland with the Separatists in 1608. This would mean that his father must have been in Leyden also, and probably died there. Others (E.A. Stratton, Plymouth, 255) say that he definitely was not a separatist.

[a Robert Browne was a leader among the Puritans. It is possible that Thomas and William are related to him, though there is no evidence for this.]

On 6 September 1620 Peter Browne boarded the Mayflower at Southampton, Hampshire, England. With 102 fellow Mayflower passengers and crew, they intended to travel to "the Northern parts of Virginia" and establish an English colony near the mouth of the Hudson River. Due to severe weather conditions, the ship was forced to anchor off of Cape Cod, where the first disembarkation occurred. Also there they signed the Mayflower Compact on 11 November 1620. Peter was the 33rd signer. In this document, the Pilgrims bound themselves together as a democratically governed and administered colony.

The Mayflower company finally chose a permanent site and landed on 16 December 1620.

His brothers John (who joined him in Plymouth Colony), Samuel, and James became weavers. His vocation was primarily a carpenter, but also may have included that of a machinist. Anyone with any kind of hand skills would have been in great demand. In 1619 or 1620 he was likely enlisted by William Mullins, as part of the "London contingent," whose trades and skills were necessary for the voyage of the Mayflower and the Speedwell and the creation of the colony. In fact, it is stated that he signed on to the Mayflower as the group’s carpenter.

On 12 January 1621 an incident is recorded in Mourt's Relation whereby Peter Browne and John Goodman became lost in the woods. They had gone out to cut thatch for roofing houses. The record says:
Friday the 12th we went to work; but about noon it began to rain, that it forced us to give over our work. This day two of our people put us in great sorrow and care. There was four sent to gather and cut thatch in the morning; and two of them John Goodman and Peter Browne, having cut thatch all the forenoon, went to a further place, and willed the other two to bind up that which was cut, and to follow them. So they did, being about a mile and a half from our plantation. But when the two came after, they could not find them, nor hear any thing of them at all, though they hallooed and shouted as loud as they could. So they returned to the company, and told them of it. Whereupon master Carver and three or four more went to seek them; but could hear nothing of them. So they returning, sent more; but that night they could hear nothing at all of them. The next day they armed ten or twelve men out, verily thinking the Indians had surprised them. They went seeking seven or eight miles; but could neither see nor hear anything at all. So they returned, with much discomfort to us all.
These two that were missed at dinner time, took their meats in their hands, and would go walk and refresh themselves. So going a little off, they find a lake of water, and having a great mastiff bitch with them and a spaniel, by the water side they found a great deer. The dogs chased him; and they followed so far as they lost themselves, and they could not find the way back. they wandered all that afternoon, being wet and at night it did freeze and snow. they were slenderly appareled, and had no weapons but each one his sickle, nor any victuals, they ranged up and down and could find none of the savages’ habitations. When it drew to night, they were much perplexed; for they could find neither harbor nor meat; but, in frost and snow, were forced to make the earth their bed and the element their covering. And another thing did very much terrify them; they heard, as they thought, two lions roaring exceedingly for a long time together, and a third that they thought was very near them. So not knowing what to do, they resolved to climb up into a tree, as their safest refuge, though that would prove an intolerable cold lodging. So they stood at the tree’s root, that when the lions came, they might take their opportunity of climbing up. The bitch they were fain to hold by the neck, for she would have been gone to the lion. But it pleased God so to dispose, that the wild beasts came not. So they walked up and down under the tree all night. It was an extreme cold night. So soon as it was light, they traveled again, passing by many lakes and brooks and woods, and in one place where the savages had burnt the space of five miles in length, which is a fine champaign country, and even. In the afternoon, it pleased God from a high hill they discovered the two isles in the bay, and so that night got to the plantation, being ready to faint with travail and want of victuals, and almost famished with cold. John Goodman was fain to have his shoes cut off his feet, they were so swelled with cold; and it was a long while after ere he was able to go. Those on the shore were much comforted at their return, they on shipboard were grieved at deeming them lost.

In a partial list of the house locations of the Pilgrims made out in 1620, John Goodman and Peter Browne appear to have been neighbors on the south side of the Street and the ocean side of the Highway.

Being among the Pilgrims who survived the first winter, Peter was present at the First Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621.

Peter Browne received property during the 1623 Division of Land, with one acre of land assigned to him. Having just one acre assigned to him indicates he was probably single at that time. His lot and house were on the south side of Leyden Street. By this time, the colony had built 20 houses.

Of this 1623 Division of Land, Governor William Bradford says:
And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

About 1624 or 1625--at least by 1626--Peter had married Martha, the widow of Mr. Ford. Martha came to Plymouth Colony on the ship Fortune, just a year after Peter. Peter and Martha had two daughters.

The Pilgrims negotiated a more favorable contract with the Company in 1626. In this agreement, the 53 Plymouth freemen, known as The Purchasers, agreed to buy out the Company over a period of years. In turn, 12 Undertakers, 8 from Plymouth and 4 from London, agreed to pay off Plymouth's debts in return for trade benefits. The list of the Purchasers includes Peter Browne.

This led to the 1627 Division of Cattle. Peter, his wife Martha, his daughter Mary Browne, and his stepchildren John and Martha Ford were included in the division. Plymouth Colony Records tells of the division thus:
At a publique court held the 22th of May it was concluded by the whole Companie, that the cattell wch were the Companies, to wit, the Cowes & the Goates should be equally devided to all the psonts of the same company ... & so the lotts fell as followeth, thirteene psonts being pportioned to one lot...
The eaight lot fell to Samuell ffuller & his company Joyned to him his wife (2) Bridgett ffuller (3) Samuell ffuller Junior (4) Peeter Browne (5) Martha Browne (6) Mary Browne (7) John fford (8) Martha fford (9) Anthony Anable (10) Jane Anable (11) Sara Anable (12) hanah Anable (13) Thom Morton Senor (14) Damaris Hopkins.
To this lott fell A Red [h]eyfer Came of the Cow wch belongeth to the poore of the Colony & so is of that Consideration. (viz) thes psonts nominated, to haue half the Increace, the other halfe, with the ould stock, to remain for the vse of the poore. To this lott also two shee goats.

About a year later, Peter and Martha would have daughter Priscilla (perhaps named after Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins who was also from Dorking).

By 1630, Martha was deceased.

Peter Browne married (2) Mary about 1631. They also had two children together.

Peter had a falling out with Samuel Fuller with whom he was associated in the 1627 Division of Cattle. The record says:
At a Court held the first of January, 1632, in the eighth yeare of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lord, Charles, by the Grace of God, King of Engl., Scot., Fr., & Ire., Defender of the Faith, &c…
Peeter Browne was amerced in 3ss fine for not apearing at the same Court.

Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 1, p. 5.

The Acts of the Cowncell between the Court held the 2d of Jan., 1632, & the – of April 1633…
Whereas there were divers account between Samuell fuller, the elder, & Peter Browne, wherein they differ, the said Samuel being plaintiffe, upon the xamining of things, they agreed to refer their cause of Robt Heeks and Franc Cooks, & to haue the hearing of their recconing, and according as they shall thinke meete & just to make even & sett streight the same at or before the last of this prnt month; and if either party shall fayle to stand to their arbiterm, then to forfeit the full sum of fiue pound starling.
(Plymouth Colony Records).

Peter Brown was listed in the 1633 list of freemen:
The Names of the Freemen of the Incorporacon of Plymouth in New England, An: 1633. Edward Wynslow, Govr. Capt. Myles Standish, William Bradford … Phineas Prat, Peter Browne, George Sowle…. (Plymouth Colony Records).

Peter was taxed in corn on 25 March 1633:
According to an order in Court held the 2d of January, in the seaventh yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne lord, Charles, by the grace of God King of Engl., Scot., France, & Irel., defendor of the faith, &c, the psons heere under menconed were rated for publike use by the Govr, mr Will Bradford, Capt Myles Standish, Joh Alden, Joh Howland, John done, Stephen Hopkins, Will Gilson, Sam fuller, Senior, John Genny, Godbert Godbertson, & Jonathan brewster, to be brought in by each pson as they are heere under written, rated in corne at vi s per bushel, at or before the last of November next ensuing, to such place as shall be heerafter appointed to receiue the same. And for default heereof, the value to be doubled & accordingly leavied by the publick officer for yt ent....
Peter Browne 00 [pounds], 18 [shillings], 00 [pence].
(by comparison, Governor Edward Winslow was rated 2 pounds, 5 shillings; Edward Doty was rated 1 pound, 7 shillings; and Humphrey Turner was rated 9 shillings.)
(Plymouth Colony Records).

Peter, whose first house and meerstead was on the south side of Leyden Street, near the water-side in Plymouth, afterwards moved to Duxbury. His brother John may have taken his land afterwards.

Peter died probably in the summer or early fall of 1633, during the general sickness that occurred then; and which also killed several others in Plymouth, including his neighbor Samuel Fuller, Mayflower passenger Francis Eaton, and others. It is said that his remains were buried in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

He was said by William Bradford to have died about 1634, but this is disproved by the administration of his estate.

The administration of the estate of Peter Browne occurred on 10 October 1633. His widow Mary presented the inventory of his estate to the Plymouth Court on 28 October 1633. The inventory shows that he owned 130 bushels of corn, six melch goats, one cow, eight sheep (or 5 lambs), and several pigs. His household goods included a variety of bedding, cooking utensils, two brass candlesticks, some pewter, a chamber pot, the family Bible, a cradle and several chests.

The court of Assistants, 11 November 1633, ordered: That whereas Peter Browne dyed wthout will, having divers children by divers wives, his estates amounting to an hundred pounds or thereabouts, it is ordered, that Mary, his wife, who is allowed the administratrix of the said Peter, forthwith pay downe fifteen pounds for the use of Mary Browne, daughter of the said Peter, to Mr. John Done, of Plymouth aforesaid, with whom the said Court haue placed the said Mary for nine years; at the end whereof the said John is to make good the fifteen pounds to her on her heires, if in case she die.
Also it is further ordered, that the said widow Mary Browne pay or cause to be paid into the hands of Mr. Will. Gilson the full sum of fifteen pownds, for the use of Prisilla Browne, another of the daughters of the said Peter, the Court having placed the said Prisilla wth the said Will. For 12 yeares, at thend whereof the said Will is to make good the same unto her, as her father’s legacy, as aforesaid; & to that end the said John & Will either stand bound for the other for p’formance of the severall paymts, as also for such other p’formance of meet, drinks, cloathing, etc, during the said term, as is meet.
And for the rest of the estate, the widow having two children by the said Peter, together wth her owne 3d, it is allowed her for bringing up the said children, provided that shee discharge wtsoever debts shall be proved to be owing by the said Peter, & the legacies given by the Court. For p’formance whereof shee & Mr Will Brewster bound in two hundred pownds.

When John Doane had complied with his part in the above agreement, and the nine years of Mary Brown’s service had ended, her uncle John Browne, having become a resident of Duxbury in the mean time, the Court of Assistants gave the following on 10 October 1644: Memorand. The tenth of October, 1644; that whereas Mr John Doane had some tyme since xvth the childs porcton of Mary Browne, whom he was to keepe and bring vp vntil shee should accomplish the age of seaventeene years, and should haue the use of the said p’con until then—now, the said terme being expired, the said John doane hath deliued, wth the consent of the said Mary Browne, and by order of the Court, vnto John Browne of Duxborrow, two cowes at xiijth and fourth shillins in swyne, and wheate, and is by the Court discharged of the said xvth; and the said John Browne is to keep the two cowes and their encrease for their milk, wth the rest of the stock as afores’d, vntill the said Mary shalbe marryed, or thought fitt to marry, wherevnto the said Mary hath consented.

The Court of Assistants again ordered, on 28 October 1645: Prisilla Browne, daughter of Peter Browne deceased, haueing accomplished the terme she was to dwell wth Wm Gilson of Scittuate, who was to pay her xvth in the end of the terme; now the said Priscilla came into the Courts and hath chosen John Browne, her vnckle, to be her guardian, and to haue the placeing and disposeing of her vntill the Court shall judg her meete to be at her owne disposeing; and likewise to take her porc’on, viz, xvth and to ymproue it by putting it into a breeding stock, and keep them, and giue her half thencrease, or else to use it as his owne, and to pay her the said xvth when the Court shall judg it meet for her to haue it at her owne disposeing.

It is often stated in biographies that John Brown of Windsor, Connecticut was a descendant of Peter Browne. It has been definitively proven that the Brown family of Windsor, Connecticut are not descendants of Peter Browne, the Mayflower Pilgrim.

Davis, in Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth supposes the shoal in Plymouth Harbor known as Brown's Bank to have been named for him.

WIFE (1):
Martha. widow Ford (Foord-S29)(Foorde). [PC T4-26].
She was (of Southwark-S29)(of Inkburrow, Worcestershire-S?), England.

She married (1) (William?) FORD.

The Ford family arrived in New England on the ship Fortune, the second ship to arrive at Plymouth. There was no passenger list from the time, but a list was re-constructed from the names that were recorded at the Division of Land in 1623. This list records that passengers that arrived included:
_______ Ford.
Martha Ford
daughter Ford
John Ford.

This ship Fortune returned to England after about a month. In a letter sent back in the ship, it was stated that the good-wife Ford was delivered of a son the first night she landed, and both of them are very well.

It is usually said that the husband, Mr. Ford, and the child that was born on the night of the arrival must have died shortly afterwards. However, an alternative reading is proposed of the events that were recorded.

Let us begin with the Division of Lands that was made in 1623. In this division, widow Ford received four shares. If Mr. Ford and the newborn child died shortly after arrival, it does not make sense that widow Ford received four shares. It has been said that she may have received one share in right of her deceased husband. I don't believe there is another recorded event of such a thing occurring in Plymouth Colony, so I discard this possibility. (S?).

This leaves the possibility that the son who was born on the day of the arrival, on 9 November 1621, did not die. I accept this as a probability, but more on that later.

Another event occurred in 1623 that usually gets scant notice, which was that Plymouth Colony received a visit from a group from Virginia Colony. (Three Visitors to Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England during its First Seven Years, by John Pory, Emmanuel Altham, and Isaack de Rasieres. Sydney V. James, Jr. (Ed.), (Bedford, Mass.: Applewood, 1997), p. 7.)
Of interest to us from this visit is the fact that William Bradford told John Pory, one of these visitors, that for the space of one whole year of the two wherein they had been there, died not one man, woman or child.

Mourts Relations, pg. 63 (Stratton), says of the Fortune passengers:
These came all in health to us, not any being sick by the way.
This would indicate that the husband of Martha did not die on the way.

These records indicate that Martha's husband did not die soon, neither on the voyage nor shortly afterwards. It also indicates that the child born upon arrival did not die either.

In fact, descendants of William Ford of Marshfield, Massachusetts claim that he is a son of Martha, and was a passenger on the Fortune, but that it was son John who was born in 1621.

This raises another possibility. Perhaps the Ford whose first name was not stated as a passenger on the Fortune was not the husband of Martha, but the son William. This means that Martha’s husband had died previously, before the ship Fortune even set sail. This could have occurred either in England or in Holland.

This is what I believe happened:
Martha's husband, who was probably named William, did die before Martha and the children ever left England. Why would Martha leave alone with her children? The unnamed Mr. Ford on the passenger list was not her husband, but their oldest son William, who was nearly 18 years old at the time. He was still alive in 1623 at the division of land, and received a portion with his mother and siblings. The son born on arrival was John. He is sometimes said to have been born in 1617, but I think this was incorrect speculation on the part of early researchers. From the 1623 division of land it is usually said that Martha brought two children with her. This is correct, but it was not daughter Martha and son John, as is usually stated, but it was William and Martha. Son John was the one born upon arrival.

Son William did live for a time in Duxbury where the rest of the family lived. One item that is inexplicable, which is the reason that his membership in this family is doubted, is the fact that he was not included in the Division of Cattle in 1627. I do not have an explanation for this, but I am convinced that William was a member of this family, and his presence as the unnamed Mr. Ford clarifies a lot of confusion that has reigned concerning the widow Ford and her children.

So, the correct family of widow Martha Ford is as follows:
  1. William FORD. In 1671 he gave his age as sixty-seven, and thus was born about 1604. The Ford family says that he was born in Weymouth, Dorsetshire, England, and cite as reference: C.E. Banks in his Planters of the Commonwealth-1937. William married Anna EAMES in 1633. It is said that they were married at Fordington, Dorsetshire, England. If this is true, then William may have traveled by sea for a time, which would explain why he was not there for the 1627 Division of Cattle. He lived for a time in Duxbury where he was a miller. He was in Duxbury in 1643 when his name appears on the list of those able to bear arms. He was one of the 54 Duxbury men who were grantees of the new town Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1645. On 13 June 1645 he purchased, from William Hiller, carpenter, nine acres of land on the highway leading from Plymouth to Duxbury. William moved to Marshfield where he owned a mill in partnership with Josias Winslow, Jr. He established a mill in Marshfield at site known as "Dunham's Mill" near Brown's blacksmith shop. William Ford subsequently purchased Winslow’s share of the mill and it long remained in the family. On 2 March 1647 he was admonished by the Colonial Court for not being sufficiently careful in his measuring of grain, and was advised to keep dogs, sheep and cattle away from his mill "that may annoy mens corne & meale. In 1651 he bought eight acres of land at Green Harbor in Marshfield, Massachusetts from Stephen Bryant. He was made a freeman in 1652. On 3 October 1662 he was fined five shillings for allowing Samuel Howland to take his grist from the mill on the Sabbath. While serving as constable in Marshfield, having arrested Widow Naomi Sylvester, he was attacked by her son John and daughters Naomi and Dinah, who rescued their mother. On 31 October 1666, they were fined forty shillings damages, and were ordered to pay the cost of Constable Ford's suit. William Ford served as selectman of Marshfield in 1666, 1670 and 1675. His will was written 12 September 1676, and mentions wife Anna, sons William and Michael, daughters Margaret and Millicent, and grandchildren John Ford and John Carver. William died (or was buried) on 18 (or 28) September 1676 in Marshfield, and was buried beside his wife.
  2. Martha FORD. Born about 1619. She married William Nelson on 29 October 1640 in Plymouth. She died on 20 December 1683.
  3. John FORD. Born 9 November 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the same day his mother arrived in Plymouth on the ship Fortune. He lived in Duxbury. He is last mentioned in the records on 5 January 1640-1641.

Points of consideration with this scenario:

Martha married (2) Peter BROWNE about 1624 or 1625, but at least by 1626.

She died (after 1 June 1627)(at least by 1630)(about 1633-1634) at Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

CHILDREN of Peter BROWNE and Martha:
  1. Mary BROWNE (BROWN). [PC T4-26]. Born about 1626-1627. She married Ephraim TINKHAM in Plymouth, at least by 27 October 1647. They moved to Middleboro, Massachusetts. She died after November 1689.
  2. Priscilla BROWNE. (Brown). Born after 1 June 1627 (about 1628). She married William ALLEN on 21 March 1649 at Sandwich, Massachusetts. She died after 17 February 1697-1698. He died on 1 October 1705 at Sandwich, Massachusetts. They had no children.

WIFE (2):
It has been speculated that she could possibly be an Indian Maiden, but no evidence for this is given.
Mary was the executrix of Peter’s estate in October and November of 1633.

CHILDREN of Peter BROWNE and Mary:
  1. Rebecca BROWNE. Born about 1631 (between 1627 and 1633). She married William SNOW by about 1654. They had eight children. They moved to Sandwich, Massachusetts. They also lived in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She died after 9 March 1698-1699. He died 31 January 1708 at Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
  2. (daughter) BROWNE. Name unknown. Born about 1632-1633. She died young, at least by 1647, but probably earlier.


Peter Browne and Martha, widow Ford
Mary Browne and Ephraim Tinkham
Mary Tinkham and John Tomson
Shubael Tomson and Susanna Parlour
Lydia Wood and John Thomson
Priscilla Thompson and Lemuel Sturtevant
Sarah Sturtevant and Jeremiah Leavitt
Sarah Pricscilla Leavitt and Jacob Vernon Hamblin
Ella Ann Hamblin and Warren Moroni Tenney
Clive Vernon Tenney and Minnie Williams
Mildred Ella Tenney and Glenn Russell Handy
Deborah Lee Handy and Rodney Allen Morris