The chronicles of Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose have proven more extensive and complex than I had ever imagined, when I first began writing this book. Their story does not end when the women leave the Piscataqua Region of what was the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1663 (now New Hampshire). In order to avoid writing a 600-page tome, I decided to write Mary and Allie’s story in two volumes.
Book 1 is Vagabond Quakers: Northern Colonies. It covers the incidents from June 1662, when Mary and Allie first arrive at Dover, to their departure for Rhode Island in April 1663 (remember this is the Julian Calendar, wherein the new year begins in March. We now use the Gregorian Calendar with the new year beginning in January). After three painful encounters with the Puritan authorities of Dover Point and Hampton, all of which are documented in historical records, Book 1 ends as the missionary women make for a safe haven in Rhode Island.
In Book I Richard Walderne’s (Waldron) story also runs parallel to that of Mary and Allie. His chapters reveal the history of early Dover, NH (Bristol/Northam), as he emigrated there from Warwickshire in 1635. He became a pillar of the community and a successful businessman in the fur trade, sawmills, ship building, and import/export. He was a strict Puritan, and the magistrate that dictated the ridiculously brutal sentence against Mary Tomkins, Alice Ambrose, and Anne Coleman of 10 stripes on their bare backs in 11 towns over a distance of 83 miles in December 1662; however, he was a product of his upbringing and the times. I hoped to present him fairly and suggest what shaped and motivated him.
Book 2 Vagabond Quakers: Southern Colonies will cover the missionary work of Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose in the south. In July of 1663 they traveled from Rhode Island to Shelter Island, down the north or inland coast of Long Island, on to New Amsterdam (then in its final months as a Dutch Colony) to Virginia, where the women dealt with renegade Quaker missionary, John Perrot, and barely survived a severe whipping at the hands of John Hill, a sadistic sheriff. Concerned Friends removed them to the relative safety of the newly-formed colony of Maryland, where they recovered under the care of physician Peter Sharp(e).
Early Boston circa 1638
Mary returned to Boston in the spring of 1664 , where she again connected with Edward Wharton of Salem. Missionary Friend Wenlock Christison was with them. Mary was gravely ill but was forced to appear in court regardless of her condition. Their confrontation with Governor John Endicott was indicative of the bitter prejudice the Puritans exercised against the Quakers.
Book 3 will be a prequel focusing on David Thomson (b. 1593), who was the driving force behind the first tenuous settlement – a fishing venutre – in the Piscataqua Region with the Hilton brothers, Edward and William. David trained with Richard Vine as an apothecary (what passed for a doctor in the 17th century). When George Weymouth, a ship’s captain in Gorges’ employ, brought 3 natives back to Plymouth Fort in 1605, it is likely that young David was instrumental in teaching one of them called Tisquantum (Squanto), English. David was 12 years old at the time and a ward of Ferdinando Gorges, captain of the fort and holder of the charter for the Province of Mayne. Wild horses could not have kept the youth from the Indian “guests” during their two-year stay. No doubt he would have talked with them and probably learned their language as well as teaching them English, for he was known to speak the natives’ tongue.
Gorges was a primary backer of the early attempts to settle northern New England. David crossed the Atlantic nine times between 1607 and 1623, participating in early colonization attempts from the age of 14. Thomson’s Island in Boston Harbor still bears his name. He died there at the relatively young age of 36 in 1628, just 5 years after permanently immigrating to the New World with his wife, Amais, and their 4 year-old son, John.
a reasonable facsimile of Edward Wharton’s craft
Although firmly based on historical facts, Vagabond Quakers is a work of fiction. In general the historical references tell us who was involved in the events but not their personalities or how they related to each other. They relate what happened but not how people were affected. The challenge was to make a believable narrative from the isolated incidents that were chronicled in the references As Sue Monk Kidd said of her book The Invention of Wings, “My aim was not to write a thinly fictionalized account of Sarah Grimke’s history, but a thickly imagined story inspired by her life.” I have tried to do the same. The bibliography for The Vagabond Trilogy is extensive and keeps growing. Love that research!