The first case of smallpox in the Algonquin camp was a very disturbing sight. Kitchi was a young hunter who was known to be reckless and violent. He hated the white people who were invading his land, and he did not distinguish between French and English. All of them were a threat to his life and that of his people, and he took it upon himself to be an avenging force. He was not joined in this hate by most of the Algonquin, who had come to enjoy the gifts that the French trappers gave them. Guns, knives, metal tools, and glass ornaments were valued by the Algonquin. The guns were useful in the wars that the Algonquin periodically waged with neighboring tribes.
Kitchi would head out at night on his own and use his superior stalking skills to sneak up on unsuspecting French trappers. Once near the camp, he would wait to pick off the poor soul who had to leave the campfire to go into the woods to relieve himself. Kitchi would wrap his hand over the mouth of the victim as he was standing to urinate, or squatting. He would then quickly slice his throat, severing the vocal chords so quickly that the dying man could not even let out a squeal. The man would bleed to death in silence in the woods. It would not be until morning that the rest of the camp would find the corpse of their countryman covered in blood. This had a chilling effect on the trappers, needless to say.
One day Kitchi broke out in small bumps all over his body. Within two weeks Kitchi was covered with the bumps and had a fever. Days later he was dead. Several of those who ministered to him also developed the bumps, and most also died. Smallpox had visited the Algonquin camp, and it began its devastation. It had been unknown to these people until we came from Europe. It would prove to be devastating to them.
Unbeknownst to the Gloucester settlement, Shepherd had made periodic visits to the Algonquin camp. He told the Algonquin that he wanted to continue to learn their language and to give them medical help. His original intent in coming to America was for medical and scientific research, and, despite the setback of Cape Ann, he was determined to fulfill his mission. He had not included me in these trips because he felt that he might be exposing me to danger, so he began these trips shortly after we moved to Gloucester. He only told me after he discovered that smallpox had been visited upon the Algonquin. Now he felt he needed help to minister to them. He also theorized that both he and I, and likely many others in the Gloucester camp, had an immunity to smallpox due to prior exposure. Certainly Leviticus Martin, he believed, was immune, since his two children had died of the disease, and he and his wife had survived.
One day, Shepherd came to me with a look of grief on his face.
“Luke,” he said, “I need to ask you a favor.”
“Of course, Joseph, how can I help?” I asked.
“The Algonquin camp is stricken with smallpox. I need to help them, and I need another physician to help me. Will you come with me?” he asked.
I was taken aback by the question.
“Joseph, aren’t you afraid of getting smallpox?” I asked.
“I have been exposed in the past, as I suppose you have been also as a physician,” he said calmly.
“Yes, I suppose so,” I said, “but there is always a chance of getting the disease.”
“I don’t really think that there is a great chance of that, Luke,” he said. “Yes, it could happen, but we are physicians, committed to care for the health of people. Those are some of the risks we face in our service. Besides, remember my theory that exposure to smallpox can result in future immunity. In fact, that is what I want to try. I had seen once, while I was in Byzantium, a man who had deliberately infected people with a dose of small pox by scratching their arms with some of the powdered dried scabs from healed smallpox pustules. These people got somewhat ill, but when they recovered, they did not get smallpox. Recall also that those milk maidens who were stricken with cowpox, a close relative, I believe, of smallpox, never came down with smallpox. I believe that this helps to confirm my theory,” Shepherd concluded.
I had to agree that risks are part of our profession, and this was, partly at least, a scientific journey. I hesitantly agreed to accompany him to the Algonquin camp. Shepherd had been going to the camp more than anyone knew. He had originally risked the journey soon after we arrived at Gloucester. He had thought it best to keep this mission quiet, and perhaps his goodwill was part of the reason that there had never been any reprisals from the Algonquin after the massacre months ago.
We arrived at the Algonquin camp to find much illness and disarray. The oldest and youngest in the camp had succumbed most quickly to the disease. There were a fair number who had survived the illness, but whose faces showed the disfiguring pockmarks of this dreaded plague. Shepherd went to work discussing his plan with the elders about trying the procedure he had seen used in Byzantium. He had become reasonably proficient in Algonquian, and the elders seemed to have some understanding of what he planned to do.
We proceeded to prepare the odd concoction of smallpox scabs – we dried them and ground them to a fine powder. We mixed this with the lard rendered from wild pigs that had been slaughtered for meat. With this “paste,” we planned to make small scratches on the upper arm and apply the paste. We did not know what the outcome might be, but Shepherd believed that this would prove his theory of what he called “inoculation.”
There was just one more problem. Shepherd believed that we could not ask the Algonquin to undergo this procedure unless we were first willing to have it performed on ourselves. They could not be expected to trust that we were acting in their best interest unless we would be willing to expose ourselves to it.
At first I was stunned that he would expose himself to this possible death sentence. When I realized he meant that both of us should submit to it, I was outraged that he would ask me to do this. Quickly I realized that such a gesture was consistent with Shepherd’s character, but not mine. The fact that he asked me to do this meant that he believed that it was in my character, and I just did not see it yet.
While I had no idea about this odd procedure, I knew Shepherd and I trusted him. I agreed to have this done to me. We would “inoculate” one another in front of several of the elders. We would stay in the Algonquin camp several days after we had done this so that they could see what was happening with our health. Further, if we were to somehow develop the full disease, we could not risk exposing the people at Gloucester. We told the elders of our plan, and that we would return in several days to actually start the inoculation process.
Upon our return to Gloucester we told Chepi and Kelley of our plan. Chepi by now was nearly ready to deliver her baby. Shepherd had decided not to take Chepi with him on his visits to the Algonquin camp, since he did not want to expose her to smallpox. I included Margaret in this secret discussion also. I wanted her to be aware of my intentions. I was not certain that we would return from the Algonquin camp, and I needed to have her with me at this time.
Sean Kelley asked us how we planned to explain our week-long, perhaps longer, absence from Gloucester. Before we could answer, Kelley said, “I will tell people that you two are doing some scientific experiments on plants to find medicinal remedies.”
“That sounds good, Kelley,” I said. “You are always the quick-thinking one!”
Stocked with a supply of provisions, we headed off again to the Algonquin camp to begin a scientific experiment. I wished it were as simple as gathering plants! Upon reaching the Algonquin camp, Shepherd explained what we were going to do. We prepared the dried, powdered scabs, mixed them in with some fresh lard and made a fine paste with it. Shepherd prepared my arm with his usual meticulous care. I had learned that he believed very strongly in what he called a “clean field.” He washed my upper arm, then he applied rum to a cloth and wiped a spot on my arm where he intended to make some scratches with his scalpel. He let it dry, made a few scratches just on the surface, and applied the paste. He covered it with a cloth, then asked me to do the same with him.
The Algonquin leaders watched in amazement at this experiment. They knew that we were taking a risk, and that we were doing this in an effort to help save people at the Algonquin camp. It took only a few minutes to do this, but now the waiting began. What would happen with us?
Back at Gloucester, Chepi went into labor about two weeks before her due date. Kelley fetched the midwives to help with the delivery. He was very worried about this turn of events. Her pregnancy had been very uneventful, and she had been healthy. Shepherd and I had hoped to be available to tend to Chepi if we were needed, but the midwives typically took care of all the births and the women who delivered. Margaret helped in the delivery, having gained experience at the Franciscan mission.
Chepi delivered a healthy baby girl, and she was named Kimi. Chepi had chosen this name because in Algonquin it means “secret.” Indeed, this little girl’s life had been born of secrets.
During that week also, Edwin Carr, Anne Kensington, and a cargo of salted fish, medicinal herbs, beaver pelts, and some fine timber, headed toward London on the Conquest, now repaired. Andrew Kensington was pleased that this voyage was taking place. It represented his freedom from Anne, his power over Edwin Carr, the start of trade of specialty goods from Gloucester to London, and an example of how his new shipbuilding plans could refit a ship. If he could not yet fully implement his tobacco-for-slaves trade plan, this would do until he could make that work. He had also sent Edwin Carr to transact some business with the King’s ministers regarding trade with America. He hoped that this successful voyage would pay dividends with the King.
Two weeks passed in the Algonquin camp, and we waited for symptoms. Shepherd was meticulous in taking notes of anything that we experienced. I noticed that glands under my inoculated arm swelled, which produced some minor pain. I had a slight fever for about two days, and I felt tired. By the end of the two weeks, I felt quite normal. Shepherd had not experienced any symptoms, yet he was not surprised by this. He had believed that he had been exposed to cowpox in the past, and he decided that he already had immunity. My minor symptoms were good news to him as well. He believed that I had developed a slight reaction, as he had hoped, which would make me immune from smallpox in the future.
Shepherd approached the elders about inoculating the Algonquin camp, and they agreed. Any Algonquin willing to have the procedure done would come to Shepherd and me, and we would inoculate them.
Despite our success, only seven men and three women came forward. We prepared the ingredients of our paste to be applied, and we followed the exact procedure we had used upon ourselves. We were very deliberate and obvious in making sure that the elders saw us prepare the paste and apply it exactly as we had done to ourselves.
We told the elders that we needed to get back to Gloucester, but that we would return later the next week to check on our inoculated group. We left early the next morning, confident that we had averted a disaster in the Algonquin camp. Upon our return to Gloucester, we were greeted with the news of Kimi’s birth. Chepi still did not benefit from the acceptance of other women, but the presence of a newborn baby did make for a bit of a truce. I was delighted to connect with Margaret again, and I told her of the adventure at the Algonquin camp and the apparent success of Shepherd’s inoculations.
Margaret told me of the birth of Kimi, and the miracle of birth that she was blessed to see again. Little Jacob was growing, Margaret believed, to look like his namesake, even though Jacob Carr was not his father. As Margaret described how little Jacob would grow to be a wonderful man like Jacob, I was somewhat uneasy.
“What troubles you, Luke?” Margaret asked.
“I see how little Jacob pleases you,” I began. “I am certain that he will become a fine man under your care,” I continued.
“Then why are you troubled?” she asked.
“I think that no man may ever be able to take Jacob Carr’s place in your heart,” I said, “but I have hoped that perhaps I could be a part of your life also. I think I may have loved you ever since I met you at the pub that evening years ago. Since then, I have come to admire your loving concern for others, your tender care of little Jacob, your understanding and kindness to Chepi, your amazing faith which seems to sustain you…”
Margaret had tears on her cheeks as she stopped me.
“Luke, don’t you know I love you also?” she asked. “I have seen your desire to pursue good, to use your gifts to help others, and mostly, I have seen that you love me. A woman like me who has such a past…” She trailed off. We embraced, and I asked her to marry me. She said yes.
Upon our return to the Algonquin camp, we were shocked to see that nine of our ten “patients” were showing significant symptoms of smallpox. We were, of course, deeply concerned and fearful that some may be indeed dying. We had told the elders to isolate the ten volunteers from the rest of the camp, but they had failed to enforce this. Consequently, when people became sick, family members took them in to tend to them. Once again, we were now looking at the potential of another round of smallpox ravaging the camp.
We met with the elders to discuss this latest crisis. The group of elders was divided in the way that they saw us. Some were pragmatic, and thought that the illness was being visited upon them by the gods for some reason. They did not seem to hold us responsible for the illness. Others, however, had a much darker view. They believed that we had made an elaborate show of our inoculation, but that it had been a trick to spread the illness in their camp. They had heard of stories about other people from “across the water” who had deliberately spread disease in native camps to decimate the population in order to steal the land. Some contended that we knew what the outcome would be from the start. This was refuted by those who held us blameless by the fact that we had returned to the camp. Had we known that the smallpox would be caused by our actions, why would we return?
They argued among themselves for some time. Shepherd asked if we could try to treat the victims of smallpox. He pleaded with them that we only wanted to help those who were sick. Matwau, the spokesman for the elders, made it clear to us that we were to leave as soon as possible. He could not ensure our safety if we stayed. It was only because we had some defenders in that council that we were not taken prisoner or killed outright.
We left quickly after hearing this from Matwau. It would be disrespectful to try to argue his directive to us. We were defeated, and we suspected that one or two of our “patients” were going to die. Our largest fear was that smallpox might indeed devastate the Algonquin camp. We really did not know what other devastation could happen, but we would soon find out.
We returned to Gloucester, where life was picking up after a long, hard winter. Spring brought some crisp mornings, but milder afternoons made planting almost a joy. A new food was brought back to our camp by Chepi. Chepi told us of a tuber that had been grown by her people since it was brought to them perhaps twenty years earlier by some travelers who claimed to have been in the far western area of the land. At that time, the Algonquin had been experiencing one of the frequent famines that would be brought on by changes in animal migration, weather, illness, and wars. The tuber, which they began to plant, was called “patata.” The tuber grew well, seemed to be a hardy plant, and it had no insect predators. It was versatile, and could be prepared in many ways. It even seemed to keep well if stored in cool, dry places. This food was filling as well, and after the initial success they decided to try to continue to grow it. They also decided to keep it as secret as possible, believing that the Great Spirit had sent those travelers to them to avert starvation in the camp. Knowledge like this was a great survival advantage, and it was kept highly secret. The fact that Chepi had smuggled out some patata and shared the information with strangers (if that were to be discovered) would probably seal her fate. She could then no longer return to her native family. She would now be part of the English world. She and her daughter, Kimi, indeed had shown the name to be well conferred.
One secret that was not kept was the fact that Shepherd and I had visited the Algonquin camp. I suppose that such a thing can never be kept secret; few things of significance can. Perhaps aging and ailing Captain Braden had become aware and in his confusion had let it slip. Perhaps Albert Adams, never one to miss a chance to gossip, had put together the facts about our extended absences from the settlement. I could not imagine that Margaret would divulge this secret, certainly not intentionally. Had we mentioned something to Leviticus Martin as we inquired of him about the death of his children and his likely smallpox immunity according to Shepherd’s theory? Had he inferred something? We do not know to this day, but it became generally known that we had gone to the Algonquin camp. The fact that there had been some possible benefits from our visits, such as the acquisition of the patata, allowed people to simply ignore the trips and enjoy some benefit. We never knew.
It had been nearly three weeks since we had left the Algonquin camp. Two of the nine “patients” had indeed died of smallpox, causing a great deal of fear and anger among the camp. Some of the younger warriors took it upon themselves to seek revenge upon the English who had brought death to their camp, now twice. A group of probably ten to fifteen warriors made their way into our camp at night. Sneaking up on the guards, who had built a small fire to ward off the evening chill, they seized the watchmen and slit their throats before they could yell out a warning. They then grabbed torches from near the fire, lit them, and began to throw them into whatever dwellings they could reach. As soon as people were roused by the shout of “Fire!” the warriors cut them down with a hail of arrows. Chaos ruled the camp as men found their muskets and began to return fire toward the nearly invisible warriors. The night began to glow as fires started to rage out of control. People could not risk getting to the well to get enough water to quench the fires. The warriors gradually began to be silhouetted by the very fires they started, and musket fire began to have some effect, with at least three warriors felled by lead shot. Having done the damage they had hoped to produce, the Algonquin raiding party melted into the night, gone for good. What they left behind was devastation. Fires raged as women screamed for their children, and men organized an effort to put out the fires. By dawn, we could see the remains of our settlement. Stores of food had been destroyed, and dwellings were reduced to ash. Six men were killed by arrows, and the two watchmen had died from slit throats. One woman died protecting her two young children, huddling over them in a burning log building.
Rage and fear ruled the settlement. We had lost several dwellings and much of the town meeting hall, as it had come to be known. The Governor’s Council met later in the day to determine our course of action. Andrew Kensington was beside himself with rage. He demanded that Joseph Shepherd and I be hauled up for charges and a trial. He was convinced that our trips to the Algonquin camp was the cause of the disaster. He was, in fact, correct in that thinking. His intentions were not justice, however. They were revenge. He had resented us for a long time, and this was a chance for him to get rid of us as well as exercise his power. Others on the Council were inclined to agree with him about our culpability. However, all this became a moot point when Shepherd, upon hearing of the clamor, simply came forward and took full responsibility for the venture.
“I believe that you are correct in your assessment, Lord Kensington,” Shepherd said. “I went to the Algonquin camp to help them overcome the smallpox outbreak there. I believed that it was the right thing to do. In fact, I still do, even though the results were so unfortunate. I failed them, and I have exposed Gloucester to this danger.”
Kensington raged at him, “You decided to help these savages at the risk of bringing smallpox to Gloucester? You risked yourself and us for those animals, those killers?”
Shepherd stood silent before Kensington, interrupting only to contest Kensington’s contention that the Algonquin were less than human beings.
Kensington finally finished, having done what he intended to do – to cast Shepherd in the light of a madman who was dangerous to Gloucester.
“I say that we burn him at the stake, just like Anna Moore died protecting her children – burned to death!”
“Greene also ought to die. He was every bit as guilty as Shepherd,” added Marcus Turner.
I froze at that statement. I had never had any ill dealings with Turner, but he seemed to want equal justice, if justice were to be the intent here.
Shepherd spoke up clearly and firmly at this point and said, “If you decide that my death is warranted for this tragedy, then so be it, and I will go to the stake. Do not take the life of Dr. Greene, who went with me only because I begged him to do so as a physician. As you know, we have sworn an oath to help patients regardless of circumstances, even at our own personal risk. Dr. Greene was simply following a sacred oath he had sworn. How can you penalize him for upholding his sworn duty?”
“That applies to civilized human beings, Shepherd,” said Kensington, “not these brutal savages!”
“Were we not also brutal to the Algonquin?” asked Shepherd.
This aroused a loud stir in the Council.
“We simply responded to the Algonquin attack on us!” several shouted.
“Yes, and the means which we used were not done with proper motives nor means. You were deceived into that attack, and many of you know that to be true,” Shepherd said. Before they could answer, Shepherd posed a question to them. “The child Kimi, daughter of Chepi and Sean Kelley, is she human, or is she a wild beast?”
There was a moment of silence, then Kensington responded, “Bastard child that she is, perhaps she is half human because of her English father.”
“Have you ever seen an instance where a human being was bred with an animal and produced offspring?” Shepherd asked.
“Such talk is crude, vulgar, and pointless,” ventured Kensington. “Shepherd is guilty, and so is Greene. I submit to this Council that we quickly execute them for the sake of justice, and as a message to the Algonquin that we tolerate no murderous attacks!”
Feeling emboldened, and also that I had nothing to lose, I stated, “The murder of innocent men sends no message, but simply proves the point that we are indeed the real savages here. If we mete out punishment for merciful acts, may God help our souls!”
Word quickly spread through Gloucester about the deliberations of the Governor’s Council. They had not followed the standard English law procedure of finding a bill of indictment before convening a hearing. Henry Adams quickly remedied this by asking for such a bill from a hastily called and empaneled grand jury. However, as members of the community were called upon to serve, great dissension shook Gloucester. There seemed to be a tremendous divide among the people about the whole matter. The divide was becoming clearer, and there was talk of a group of people who were willing to leave the settlement and either relocate or even return to England. Life was hard in America, and the idea of putting up with the danger of Indian attack, on top of hunger and disease was becoming too much for some. It had been an adventure of a lifetime, but people wanted that lifetime to last longer than what America seemed to promise.
Others believed that moving away from the Algonquin, perhaps to a new area of the land, was preferable to trying to stay in this hostile place. Much had already been lost at Gloucester. Was there enough to stay for? There were no guarantees anywhere in America, but the people attracted to come to America were those who wanted a new start. They were restless, and they wanted challenges in a new place. Perhaps another part of Massachusetts would prove satisfying for that need of new challenges.
There rose a clamor, not for a grand jury, but for a town meeting . This practice was becoming popular, and people liked the idea of a voice in governance. The Council agreed to a full Town Meeting on the matter, Kensington being unable to stop that approach. Perhaps a Town Meeting would serve his purposes just as well.
Henry Adams was presiding for the Governor’s Council and called the meeting to order. Broader topics were to be discussed at the meeting, not just a decision for a bill of indictment. Adams called upon people to speak their mind on the matter, and he reserved the right to keep them on topic and to monitor their time for speaking. This somewhat broad range of powers had been conferred upon him by the Council, partly to maintain good order and partly due to the respect he had gained in the past months in leading the Council.
A line of people took turns standing to say their piece about the situation at hand. To my surprise, there were a fair number of people who were not willing to cast all the blame for our problems upon Shepherd and me. However, the presence of Chepi and Kelley and their infant daughter Kimi seemed to evoke some outrage that had always simmered. Now people gave vent to those feelings, and many saw a solution of sending them to the Algonquin camp as banishment – as if somehow that would undo the tensions boiling up.
People’s reactions to Shepherd were typically strong and divided. There seemed to be anger toward the very core of his character – his sense of justice and compassion. I had always puzzled over this. I was drawn to his desire for the welfare of others, even at his own expense, yet others seemed to feel themselves judged in comparison to his strong beliefs and intolerance of wrongdoing. They saw him as arrogant, perhaps. I knew him and knew that there could be nothing farther from the truth. People often do not want truth, however; they want their own views supported.
Nearly at the end of the line of people, and as tensions seemed to be mounting to consider a bill of indictment simply to have a way to come to a just solution, aging Captain Braden came forward on the arm of his friend Albert Adams. They slowly moved forward to be heard. Albert, ever since his injuries, rarely spoke before a group of people. His command of language was not what it once was, and he believed that he could hardly express himself well any longer. Braden, now nearly feeble in all respects, had very little strength to spare.
“May I address the group?” asked Braden softly.
“Yes, of course, Captain Braden,” said Adams.
“I have known Joseph Shepherd and Luke Greene since our voyage on the Intrepid some five years ago. I do not know what transpired at the Algonquin camp, nor really do any one of you here who try to sit in judgment of them. What I do know is that I was dying on the Intrepid,and because of the efforts of these men, and the grace of God, I am still alive today. Perhaps the result of their efforts did not turn out as they or anyone wanted, but their efforts were right. Just like on the Intrepid, their efforts saved me from plague, even though the actions of others nearly resulted in my death. Can we judge them simply because other people misunderstood their efforts, just like on the Intrepid?”
Albert then haltingly spoke.
“I was taken in by the Franciscan mission in London. They helped me. Jacob Carr, the man who beat me, later took care of me, and he died saving me. I forgave him. A lot of people helped me because Joseph Shepherd helped them…”
Albert began to cry and could not continue. Braden helped Albert to a seat, and silence ruled the meeting. Margaret silently wept as she buried her head in her hands, likely recalling that awful night of the fire. Then I saw Henry Adams with a tear running down his face. He could not speak for a brief moment, then finally he asked that we take a recess.
Kensington watched the Town Meeting turn to a place he did not expect. He could no longer hope for a bill of indictment. There was still division in the Gloucester settlement, and now he had an inspiration. He could use this moment to offer a solution and get his business needs met at the same time. He had been considering the idea for a little while, but now was the time to offer it to an emotional and vulnerable community.
After a short recess, Kensington asked if he could speak. Adams acknowledged Kensington, and he began calmly and almost reverently, “People of Gloucester, I think we have seen today that we are divided on this and several matters. I would like to withdraw my request for a bill of indictment on Shepherd and Greene. I still find that their reckless actions have put us into a very vulnerable position – a place we can no longer sustain. I propose that we each make a decision where we will go. Some may want to stay here in Gloucester and face the risks of that. Others have discussed a return to England, while others have talked of moving to a different place here in Massachusetts.
“I have an offer of another opportunity, in Virginia, which was my original plan. I have a company which now has not only funding but a promise of a royal charter from the Crown in Virginia. I will begin our shipping and exporting business there with the charter and protection of the King. Those who follow me there may truly find the wealth that America offers!”
In fact, just the year before, the King had indeed revoked the charter of the Virginia Company and made Virginia a Crown colony, under royal direction. Edwin Carr’s mission had been at least two-fold. His successful return voyage to England had been the proof of what Kensington had been promising the King – potential profits from enterprises that were not tobacco-driven alone. Shipbuilding and ship repair, lumber, pelts, medicines, and a variety of goods could bring wealth to England, like Spain had been able to do. Kensington likely downplayed that slavery, tobacco, and perhaps rum were to be the profit leaders of the enterprise. However, Kensington showed amazing flexibility and a genius for making money. King James was desperate for money, and Kensington could be a moneymaker. That seemed to transcend the King’s distaste for the tobacco trade. Kensington knew how to make things work.
The crowd stirred at this turn of events. Many found relief – they no longer had to decide on punishment, they had to decide on their future! We could not know the next level of danger we faced from the Algonquin, but it seemed very real and imminent to some. Already we had faced near devastation at their hands. People were restless and ready for a change. Kensington gave some people that opportunity with his offer.
Henry Adams concluded the Town Meeting with the charge that people decide what they wanted to do. The question would be how the settlement would divide. There were some clear lines of division, with some wanting to continue at Gloucester, a group seeming ready to move with Kensington to Jamestown, and another group ready to move on simply to start anew.
I knew that Kensington’s offer did not include Shepherd and me, and we, of course, would not choose that anyway. Shepherd and I needed to discuss what our next steps might be, but first I wanted to speak with Margaret to see her reaction. I was relieved, excited, and fearful all at the same time. Margaret had been thinking about what this meant for both of us. We had decided to marry, so whatever decision we made, it would be as one. Little Jacob, now nearly four years old, would once again be facing a new world, as would we all.
Margaret and I seemed to be of the same mind almost immediately. We wanted to start fresh. Her thoughts immediately turned to Chepi, Kimi, and Kelley. Where might they turn now? Chepi would not be able to return to her people, and Margaret felt that they would need help with little Kimi. If we could gather a good-sized group, we could venture to the place of our choosing in this exciting yet formidable land. We needed people with certain skills also – fishing, farming, hunting, building – all critical for survival. We also needed men who could bear arms to defend a new settlement. There would be competition for such people if there were the splits in thinking that we believed existed. Kensington could offer the prospect of wealth with his Crown connections and business plans. Some would be swayed by this enticement, but Shepherd pointed out that if we were to meet with people about coming to a new venture with us, we would only want people who shared a commitment to the same goals. If wealth were the only inducement, they would become disaffected when wealth did not come as quickly as they hoped. He quoted from Ecclesiastes, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” We would look for people who valued independence, self-reliance, freedom of faith, and a desire to build a community that could be good for future generations. We would need people committed to vision for the future, not immediate wealth.
We met and listed those we believed would join us in these beliefs. Certainly Kelley, Chepi, and Kimi; Leviticus Martin and his family; Albert Adams and Captain Braden, knowing that they brought limited skills and would require some care; Henry Adams and his family; Herbert Wesley; Thomas Hancock and his family; Thomas Gerry and his family. These were people we believed were of the same mind. Surely there were others, and we decided to meet with these people, propose our ideas, and ask for help in direction.
Our meeting went well with this group as we explained our desire for a new community not ruled by greed and power but with shared determination of governance, faith as a cornerstone of that governance, and a desire to build for future generations. We left with a plan to find those who shared our beliefs and to invite them to join us.
It was now nearly August, and we decided that we could wait for the crops to be harvested before we left. The patata plants that Chepi had brought seemed to be doing exceedingly well, and we looked for a large harvest. Chepi told us that the patata might well be ready to harvest in about two weeks, so we decided to gather our share of the harvest and depart within two weeks. Chepi also said that she did not believe that the Algonquin were likely to attack. She did not give specific reasons for this, but we surmised that she still had some type of contact with her people. She had not shared her belief very widely, because she thought that if people sensed that she still had some contact with her people, her life and that of Kelley and Kimi might be in trouble.
Kensington was gathering his own group to head for Jamestown, and he was promising both wealth and power for those who followed him. Indeed, the prospects for his group seemed favored financially, and we could offer no such promises. By the first week of August, we could determine who would be going where. Kensington had nearly one hundred people, many of them the most able soldiers and men without families.
There was a group, of perhaps seventy people, who decided to stay at Gloucester. These were fishermen and their families who saw that Gloucester could sustain them with fish, even if crops were to fail. The cod catch was amazing at times, and there seemed to be a real future for exporting salt cod to not only England, but to the West Indies, where it was used to feed the growing slave population who worked in the sugar cane fields. They either discounted the Algonquin threat, or, willing to fight the Algonquin, disregarded it completely.
Finally, our group numbered around sixty people. What we lacked in military strength, we believed we made up in strength of will and principle. Shepherd spent a great deal of time with Henry Adams, Thomas Hancock, and Thomas Gerry – men who showed passion and ability to shape a new type of government in America. Excitement was building in that group as time grew closer to make the move to another part of the New World. Shepherd seemed confident that this group, led by principle, was going to impact the New World in a significant way. He shared that he had some personal stirrings that he needed to pray about, and we all assumed that this was just part of Shepherd’s character and that he was excited to make a new journey.
Kensington and his group were preparing a ship to head south toward Jamestown. Henry Adams had negotiated an arrangement whereby his group could take passage on the ship to a point where Reverend William Blackstone had settled with his family in an area named “New England” by Captain John Smith some years earlier as he was exploring the area. Blackstone had corresponded with both Herbert Wesley and Adams since they had met at John Ward’s meetings years before. Blackstone was an independent man, rugged and fierce in his desire to have religion untainted by the King, and by his desire for having liberty of thought as “ordained by God.”
This seemed to be just the type of environment Adams and Shepherd were seeking. Blackstone spoke of the beauty of the area, “a hilly peninsula with a natural harbor.” This is where our group would depart from the Kensington group and begin a new life.
Just before we were to depart, a ship arrived at Gloucester, the return of Edwin Carr on the Conquest from his trip on behalf of the London & Western Company. He carried another small group of people seeking relief from London’s poverty, as well as some fresh provisions. There was also salt used as ballast for the voyage, then to be used for the fishermen to salt the cod catch, wine, beer, weapons, lead for ammunition, and other goods welcomed by the settlement. There was one more crate, which carried a valuable cargo – mail. Correspondence with England was difficult, but when letters arrived they were as precious as gold to us. Shepherd received letters from Galileo, Francis Bacon, William Bradford, and William Harvey.
Shepherd was delighted to hear from his friends and colleagues. He read of Galileo’s increasing frustration with Rome and his need to conceal his truest scientific beliefs. He read about Bacon’s legal troubles and his disgrace from Parliament and dismissal from public service. However, his letter from Harvey was most prized. Harvey wrote about his newest publication, which would define his studies on physiology and the circulation of the blood. In the letter, he begged Shepherd to return to England and work with him to finalize his book, De Motu Cordis. He related also that conditions in London were increasingly intolerable for the poor. Since the Franciscan mission burned down, there were few options for the poor, the sick, and the orphans, which it had served. Harvey indicated that he might be able to secure some support from the King for a new hospital and mission. Harvey, I knew, recognized that such an appeal might move Shepherd, even more than the thought of helping to advance medical science. Harvey also noted that some of the herbs and roots that we had sent back showed promise in helping to treat illness. Sassafras root, he noted, was becoming popular in teas and medical compounds.
Harvey concluded with an offer to provide housing and funds for Shepherd and me to return to England under a royal grant. Shepherd was clearly torn in how he now wanted to proceed. A return to England to work with Harvey, and the potential of having royal support for starting another mission, were very strong allures. I saw Shepherd’s anguish the next day, and I approached him with an idea.
“Joseph,” I began, “we have been through many things together, but perhaps it is time for you to part ways with me. Margaret and little Jacob and I have decided to stay in America. However, you have gifts and talents that need to be shared with men like Harvey, Galileo, and Descartes. Margaret and I will return to England to visit once we are established here. Please do not stay in America for my sake.”
I realized at once how arrogant that may have sounded. Who was I to presume that I was the reason he wanted to stay in America. I immediately flushed with embarrassment.
“My dear Luke,” smiled Shepherd, “you are a close and trusted friend, and my affection for you indeed is strong reason to stay in America, but I must follow my heavenly Father’s wishes. I will go where He desires me to go.
“What is your decision, then, Joseph?” I asked.
He sighed and said, “I will pray about it, my friend, and I will let you know in a day or two. As you know, I have been feeling some unease about the move, and perhaps this is my answer to prayer.”
I left feeling both relieved and sad at this discussion. Shepherd had influenced my life much more than I affected him, I reasoned, yet he gives me the grace of believing that I had been important in his life. I did however leave feeling resolved in my decision to make a new start in America with Margaret. I also believed that despite my promises to Shepherd, I might never see him again.
[t3] Preparations for leaving were now picking up. Shepherd had informed me a few days after our discussion that he planned to return to England. I somehow knew that he must do this, and I also knew that it was a very difficult decision for him. He promised to write regularly, which I knew he would do, as would I. I had also convinced myself that someday Margaret, little Jacob, and I would return to visit him in England.
Margaret and I decided that we were now married, and we declared this to our traveling group. We had asked Herbert Wesley to act as a church official to bless our marriage, and he had graciously done so, even though he said that he was not an ordained elder. Several other men and women made such a declaration before our departure, as we had decided that stable marriages would be an important part of the new community we hoped to establish.
Our departure in the fall of 1626 was filled with tension. I never did trust Andrew Kensington. It was not until the ship filled with travelers, headed to both Virginia and lower New England, harbored at a quaint little port. This port, which had been described by Reverend Blackstone, was to be our new home. Only after we successfully disembarked did I breathe a little easier.
An advance party had gone before us to set up some dwellings and to lay in a stock of salt fish so that we could winter over. The first order of business for the hunters was to hunt and trap enough game to last the winter, supplementing our supply of salt fish. Our blessing was that fish abounded, especially large cod. Oyster beds were so massive that we truly believed that they could never be exhausted. We could forage for wild berries and fruits, and we were convinced that we would not need to starve as long as we could live off this plentiful land. Chepi was a godsend in helping us to know the land, finding edible plants, lending her knowledge of game patterns, and methods of preserving food. Our lives settled into a routine of sorts. I continued to look for medicinal plants in this new territory, and I became more proficient dealing with the medical needs of our small group, which actually began to flourish as the months went on.
It was not long before Margaret became pregnant with our first child together. We were excited beyond words when little Anna was born. Life is both precious and fragile, especially in a primitive land where disease and violence seemed to abound. Yet we found delight in our growing community. The founding principles which we espoused seemed to be taking root. Adams, Hancock, and Gerry rose up as natural leaders, and we formed a governing body that reflected the will of the governed, and seemed to provide us with the peace to be able to go about our lives with freedom from want and freedom from oppression, both political and religious. This contrasted with what was happening in Kensington’s new settlement just outside of Jamestown in Virginia. We had heard reports of growing violence as Kensington imposed his financial will on people. Tobacco did indeed grow well in Virginia, and his plan of slave routes as part of a trading triangle with England, Africa, and Virginia took root. I rejoiced that we had made the decision to start our new life where we did.