Samuel Fuller (Pilgrim)

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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1899)

Samuel Fuller (born c.1580/1 – died in Plymouth between August 9 and September 26, 1633)[1] He was a passenger on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower and became a respected church deacon and the physician for Plymouth Colony.[2]

English Origins[edit]

He was baptized on January 20, 1580 at Redenhall, co. Norfolk, England.[1] Samuel was a son of Robert Fuller, a butcher, and his first wife Sarah Dunthorne. She was buried there on July 1, 1584. In 1614 Samuel is mentioned in the will of his father Robert, but was bequeathed a small amount of inheritance money, less even than his sisters, which may indicate his father’s unhappiness with him.[3]

Life in Holland[edit]

His first mention in records of the time was of his move to Leiden by 1610 where he was a witness to his sister Ann’s betrothal. And in 1611 he witnessed the betrothal of future Mayflower passenger Degory Priest to Sarah Allerton, sister of another Mayflower passenger, Isaac Allerton.[3]

His name appears in the Leiden records, as an active church congregation member.[3] In Leiden records he was referred to as “a serge worker of London.” [1]

On January 27, 1612 he witnessed the betrothal of his sister Ann to a William White, apparently not the Mayflower passenger of the same name. This one record entry has gone on to cause much confusion in more recent genealogy with apparent Mayflower passenger William White descendants mistakenly claiming that Ann Fuller married the Mayflower passenger William White in Leiden and assigning the Mayflower passenger William Whites wife Susannah the maiden name (which the Mayflower Society states is unknown) of “Fuller”. Additionally, the Society states that there is no proof that the Mayflower White family were ever in Leiden and in fact joined the company in England as non-religious members.[3]

Samuel Fuller was betrothed to Agnes Carpenter, daughter of Alexander Carpenter, on March 15, 1613 in Leiden. They married on April 24, 1613. The marriage record notes a prior marriage to Alice Glasscock, who was deceased, but no record have been found of this marriage in Leiden or England.[3]

On May 7, 1613, Samuel Fuller witnessed the betrothal of Alice Carpenter, sister to his wife Agnes, to Edward Southworth. Alice would later be widowed and in 1623 would marry Plymouth Governor William Bradford.[3]

In mid-1615 Samuel’s wife Agnes gave birth to a boy who died soon after and was buried on June 29, 1615 at St. Peter’s in Leiden. Agnes died a few days later and was buried on July 3, 1615.[4]

In October 1615 records note that Samuel was living in the Groene Poort (Green Alley) neighborhood of Leiden “over against the clock tower”.[3]

On May 27, 1617 Samuel Fuller remarried to Bridget Lee.[4]

His name appears in Leiden records as a witness to betrothals in his English religious community for several years more.[4]

Organizing of the voyage[edit]

Samuel Fuller was involved in the church’s decision to move to Northern Virginia per agreement with the Virginia Company and would later be a deacon of the Plymouth church. Fuller, along with key congregation members Edward Winslow, William Bradford and Isaac Allerton, sent a letter on June 10, 1620 to their agents in England (John Carver and Robert Cushman) who were organizing the Mayflower voyage. The letter expressed the frustration that they were having with changes being made to the terms and conditions of the contract covering the voyage as being re-written by Merchant Adventurers agent Thomas Weston who turned out to be quite disreputable in his dealing with the Mayflower company and also later in Plymouth. The complaints of unreasonable conditions expressed the June 1620 letter included – London merchants would keep half the housing and lands when the company was liquidated – they thought the lands and houses belonged to the settlers; they complained that a change in terms allowed only one day a week off from labor instead of the previously agreed two days, of which one day was to be for personal benefit and one day was for the Sabbath. When the Mayflower departed England, none of the complaints had been resolved as no one could agree to contract terms and conditions and the agreement had not been finalized. This problem continued for over a year until agent Robert Cushman arrived in the Fortune in November 1621 and was at least partially resolved.[4]

In preparation for the Mayflower voyage, Samuel Fuller may have tried to learn the rudiments of medical knowledge, knowing that the Mayflower would not have a doctor on board.[1][4]

Mayflower Voyage[edit]

"The Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Delfthaven in Holland" (1844) by Robert Walter Weir

Samuel Fuller boarded the Mayflower with only his servant William Butten, leaving his wife Bridget and his young daughter Bridget behind in Leiden, awaiting until the colony conditions would better suit families. William Butten was the only passenger on the Mayflower to die, sadly only three days before the sighting of land.[4]

The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on the Mayflower September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.[5]

On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. Samuel Fuller and others signed the Mayflower Compact that day.[5][6]

Life in Plymouth Colony[edit]

Site of Fuller's home on Leyden Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts

In 1623, the arrival of the ship Anne brought Samuel’s wife Bridget.

In the 1623 Division of Land, Samuel received his two acres of land and his wife Bridget received her share “in with a corner by the pond.”[7]

In 1626 Samuel Fuller was one of those Purchasers involved with the joint-stock company along with senior company members such as Bradford, Brewster, Winslow, Standish, Allerton, and others.[7]

In the 1627 Division of Cattle, which noted settler animal distribution, Samuel and his wife Bridget are named as heading the eighth company and receiving several animals.[7]

In 1629, a group of settlers arrived, led by John Endicott, who founded the town of Salem. There were many sick persons and also those who needed advice on how their church should be organized, and Plymouth sent Samuel Fuller to assist them. Endicott later sent a warm letter to William Bradford dated May 11, 1629 which expressed his sincere appreciation for sending Samuel Fuller to them.[7]

In 1630 Samuel had a similar situation for colonists who had settled at Charlestown. On June 28, 1630, he wrote to Governor William Bradford regarding the situation at “Mattapan” and the medical services he provided which included the letting of the blood of some twenty persons, which was a common practice at the time. In another letter, dated August 2, 1630 he reported there were many sick and dead at his location.[7]

In 1637, a Plymouth troublemaker by the name of Thomas Morton, wrote a scathing analysis of Samuel Fuller’s medical abilities in his book New English Canaan”. A quite strong paragraph in his analysis is quoted here: “But in mine opinion, he deserves to be set upon a palfrey (horse), and led up and down in triumph through New Canaan, with a collar of Jurdans about his neck, as was one of like desert in Richard the Second’s time through the streets of London, that men might know where to find a quacksalver (quack).”.[1][8]

The Plymouth public in general seemed to appreciate his medical and religious abilities.

In the summer of 1633, Samuel Fuller fell ill with a sickness (“infectious fever”) that had spread through Plymouth by autumn. Nathaniel Morton wrote about Samuel Fuller’s demise in his 1669 New England’s Memorial: “.. among the rest, Mr. Samuel Fuller then died, after he had much helped others, and was a comfort to them; he was their surgeon and physician, and did much good in his place, being not only useful in his faculty, but otherwise, as he was a godly man, and served Christ in his office of a deacon in the church for many years, and forward to do good in his place, and was much missed after God removed him out of this world.”[9]


Samuel Fuller married three times:

1. Alice Glasscock, possibly in England, who died by 1613.

2. Agnes Carpenter, age about 24, married in Leiden April 23, 1613. Banks states they were married March 15, 1613. She was one of five daughters of Alexander and Priscilla Carpenter of Wrington, co. Somerset, near Bristol and all were later residents of Leiden by about 1600. Witnesses at her wedding were her father Alexander, sister Alice and Edward Southworth, who would become Alice’s husband a month after Agnes’ wedding. In 1615 Agnes gave birth to an unnamed child who died at birth and was buried in Leiden on June 29. Agnes herself died soon after, possibly from complications, the exact date of her death being unknown. She was buried at St. Pieterskerk (St. Peter’s Church) in Leiden on July 3, 1615.[1][10]

3. Bridget Lee in Leiden on May 27, 1617. She died May 2, 1667. It is unclear how many children they had. Banks states she was the daughter of Joyce Lee and sister of Samuel Lee and that she married Samuel Fuller on May 12, 1617.[1]

Child of Samuel Fuller and wife Agnes:

Children of Samuel Fuller and wife Bridget:

Samuel Fuller (Jr) married:
1. A woman whose name is unknown and had one child.
2. Elizabeth (Nicholas) Bowen between April 11, 1663, and May 2, 1667, and had six children.[2]

Samuel Fuller's Will, Death and Burial[edit]

Samuel Fuller made out his will on July 30, 1633, calling himself “sick and weak.” Samuel Fuller died sometime between August 9 and September 26, 1633.[2]

His will was proved October 28, 1633 with his estate inventory was presented to the court the following January [13]

The burial place of Samuel Fuller is unknown.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers: who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006), p. 56
  2. ^ a b c A genealogical profile of Samuel Fuller, (a collaboration of Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society accessed 2013)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers: who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006), p. 146
  4. ^ a b c d e f Caleb H. Johnson. The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 147
  5. ^ a b Eugene Aubrey Stratton. Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
  6. ^ George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers, (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920), Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document, pp. 7-19.
  7. ^ a b c d e Caleb H. Johnson. The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 148
  8. ^ Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 148-150
  9. ^ Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 150
  10. ^ Mayflower Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 4, pp. 328-341
  11. ^ Mayflower Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 4, pp. 328, 329, 331, 332, 333
  12. ^ Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers: who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006), p. 147
  13. ^ Caleb Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 150
  14. ^ Memorial for Samuel Fuller

Further reading[edit]