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In 1626, this small vessel brought 25 passengers and their possessions from Europe to America. Bound for Virginia, they landed in distress on Cape Cod after the hardships of a stormy voyage of 6 weeks.

The details of the shipwreck are found in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation.

Ther was a ship, with many passengers in her and sundrie goods, bound for Virginia. They had lost them selves at sea, either by ye insufficiencie of ye maister, or his ilnes; for he was sick & lame of ye scurvie, so that he could but lye in ye cabin dore, & give direction; and it should seeme was badly assisted either wth mate or mariners; or else ye fear and unrulines of ye passengers were such, as they made them stear a course betweene ye southwest & ye norwest, that they might fall with some land, what soever it was they cared not. For they had been 6. weeks at sea, and had no water, nor beere, nor any woode left, but had burnt upall their emptie caske; only one of ye company had a hogshead of wine or 2. which was allso allmost spente, so as they feared they should be starved at sea, or consumed with diseases, which made them rune this desperate course. But it plased God that though they came so neare ye shoulds of Cap-Codd or else ran stumbling over them in ye night, they knew not how, they came right before a small blind harbore, that lyes about ye midle of Manamoyake Bay, to ye southward of Cap-Codd, with a small gale of wind; and about highwater toucht upon a barr of sand that lyes before it, but had no hurte, ye sea being smoth; so they laid out an anchore. But towrds the eveing the wind sprunge up at sea, and was so rough, as broake their cable, & beat them over the barr into ye harbor, wher they saved their lives & goods, though much were hurte with sale water; for wth beating they had sprunt ye but end of a planke or too, & beat out ther occome; but they were soone over, and ran on a drie flate within the harbor, close by a beach; so at low water they gatt out their goods on drie shore, and dried those that were wette, and saved most of their things without any great loss; neither was ye ship much hurt, but shee might be mended, and made servisable againe. But though they were not a little glad that they had thus saved their lives, yet when they had a litle refreshed them selves, and begane to thinke on their condition, not knowing wher they were, nor what they should doe, they begane to be strucken with sadnes. But shortly after they saw some Indians come to them in canows, which made them stand upon their gard. But when they heard some of ye Indeans speake English unto them, they were not a litle revived, especially when they heard them demand if they were the Gove’r of Plimoths men, or freinds; and yt they would bring them to ye English houses, of carry their letters.

They feasted these Indeans, and gave them many giftes; and sente 2. men and a letter with them to ye Gove’r, and did intreat him to send a boat unto them, with some pitch, & occume, and spiks, wth divers other necessaries for ye mending of ther ship (which was recoverable). Allso they besought him to help them with some corne and sundrie other things they wanted, to enable them to make their viage to Virginia; and they should be much bound to him, and would make satisfaction for any thing they had, in any comodities they had abord. After ye Gov’r was well informed by ye messengers of their condition, he caused a boate to be made ready, and such things to be provided as they write for; and because others were abroad upon trading, and such other affairs, as had been fitte to send unto them, he went him selfe, & allso carried some trading comodities, to buy them corne of ye Indeans. It was no season of ye year to goe withoute ye Cape, but understanding wher ye ship lay, he went into ye bottom of ye bay, on ye inside, and put into a crick called Naumskachett, wher it is not much above 2. mile over land to ye bay wher they were, wher he had ye Indeans ready to cary over any thing to them. Of his arrivall they were very glad, and received the things to mend ther ship, & other necessaries. Allso he bought them as much corne as they would have; and wheras someof their sea-men were rune away amonge the Indeans, he procured their returne to ye ship, and so left them well furnished and contented, being very thankfull for ye curtesies they receaved. But after the Gove’r thus left them, he went into some other harbors ther aboute and loaded his boat with corne, which he traded, and so went home. But he had not been at home many days, but he had notice from them, that by the violence of a great storme, and ye bad morring of their ship (after she was mended) she was put a shore, and so beatten and shaken as she was now wholy unfitte to goe to sea. And so their request was that they might have leave to repaire to them, and soujourne with them, till they could have means to convey them selves to Virginia; and that they might have means to trasport their goods, and they would pay for ye same, or any thing els wher with ye plantation should releeve them. Considering their distres, their requests were granted, and all helpfullnes done unto them; their goods transported, and them selves & goods sheltered in their houses as well as they could.

The cheefe amongst these people was one Mr. Fells and Mr. Sibsie, which had many servants belonging unto them, many of them being irish. Some other ther were yt had a servante or 2. a peece; but ye most were servants, and such as were ingaged to the former persons, who allso had ye most goods. Affter they were hither come, and some thing setled, the maisters desired some ground to imploye ther servants upon; seeing it was like to be ye latter end of ye year before they could have passage for virginia, and they had now ye winter before them; they might clear some ground, and plant a crope (seeing they had tools, & necessaries for ye same) to help to bear their charge, and keep their servants in imployment; and if they had oppertunitie to departe before the same was ripe, they would sell it on ye ground. So they had ground appointed them in convenient places, and Fells & some other of them raised a great deall of corne, which they sould at their departure. Ths Fells, amongst his other servants, had a maid servante which kept his house & did his household affairs, and by the intimation of some that belonged unto him, he was suspected to keep her, as his concubine; and both of them were examined ther upon, but nothing could be proved, and they stood upon their justification; so with admonition they were dismiste. But afterward it appeard she was with child, so he gott a small boat, & ran away with her, for fear of punishmente. First he went to Cap-Anne, and after into ye bay of ye Massachussets, but could get no passage, and had like to have been cast away; and was forst to come againe and submite him selfe; but they pact him away & those that belonged unto him by the first oppertunitie, and dismiste all the rest as soone as could, being many untoward people amongst them; although ther were allso some that caried them selves very orderly all ye time they stayed. And the plantation had some benefite by them, in selling them corne & other provisions of food for cloathing; for they had of diverse kinds, as cloath, perpetuanes, & other stuffs, besids hose, & shoes, and such like comodities as ye planters stood in need of. So they both did good, and received good one from another; and a cuple of barks caried them away at ye later end of somer. And sundrie of them have acknowledged their thankfullnes since from Virginia.

Guided to Plymouth by Cape Cod Natives, two survivors told their sad story to Governor Bradford, who immediately sent a shallop to rescue the stranded passengers and crew. The Pilgrims provided food and shelter for the castaways for nine months, at which time two vessels heading for Virginia gave them transport.

The Sparrow-Hawk is the only surviving remains of a 17th century trans-Atlantic vessel. These original timbers exemplify the small, sturdy ships vital to the colonization of America. Their size is evidence of the courage of those who undertook the journey to the New World. The Sparrow-Hawk, of about 36 tons and 40 feet in length, was typical of 17th century vessels. The Mayflower, of 180 tons, was one of the largest. The Fortune, which came to Plymouth in 1621, was about 50 tons. For more information about 17th century vessels and the Sparrow-Hawk, click here.

After being wrecked in 1626, the Sparrow-Hawk was buried in sand and mud in a part of Orleans later known as "Old Ship Harbor." The timbers were visible from time to time until 1862, when they were uncovered in a great storm. The ancient hull was removed and reassembled. After exhibition in many cities, it was presented to the Pilgrim Society in 1889. For more information about the ship, visit the “Collections” page.

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