The Mayflower Families of Tomah,

Monroe County, Wisconsin


   The Pilgrims were a group of English people who broke away from the Church of England and sought religious freedom during the reign of King James I.  After two attempts to leave England and move to Holland, the “Separatist” group finally relocated to Amsterdam in 1608, where they stayed for about one year.  From there, the group moved south to the town of Leiden, Holland, where they remained for about ten years—able to worship as they wished under lenient Dutch law.

   Fearing that their children were losing their English heritage and religious beliefs, as well as wanting to escape the worsening economic conditions in Holland, a small group from the Leiden churches made plans to settle in Northern Virginia—as New England was known at the time.  Although King James refused to grant them a Charter to settle in the New World, he promised that he would not try to stop them from settling abroad. 

   In August 1620 the group sailed from Holland to Southampton, England, where they met other English colonists who hoped to make a new life in America.  They planned to make the crossing to America in two ships—the Speedwell and the Mayflower.  However, primarily because it was leaking, the Speedwell was forced to return to England where the group was reorganized and the voyage was limited to about 100 passengers and a crew to sail on the Mayflower.  The new group consisted of the Pilgrims as well as some non-Separatists that were added to fill out the passenger list.  The latter group was known as the “Strangers.” 

   In its second attempt to cross the Atlantic, the Mayflower and its passengers departed on 6 September 1620 from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World.  After a stormy voyage of two months, they arrived at Cape Cod on 11 November.  They spent about a month contemplating their future in their new land, performing isolated explorations of the area to find a suitable settlement location, and writing The Mayflower Compact.

   The purpose of The Mayflower Compact was to bind the Pilgrims and the Strangers to submit to “such a government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose.”  Many of the 100 passengers realized that differences of opinion were bound to occur and dissensions were bound to arise.  So, they wrote a document that had four main purposes:

·     It expressed the deep faith and belief in God and His divine guidance, which was held so dear to the Pilgrim Fathers;

·     It expressed the deep loyalty to their native England and to the King, even though they had been persecuted and exiled by his actions;

·     It expressed their mutual regard for one another as equals in the sight of God; and

·     It expressed their intent to establish just and equal laws upon which would be built a truly democratic form of government.

   The Compact stated that they would choose their own leaders and make their own laws.  It also stated there would be equal justice for all.  This Compact became the constitution of the Plymouth Colony and was the first document of American democracy to establish "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

   On 11 December 1620, as winter was settling in, the passengers went ashore and endured significant hardships as they struggled to establish a successful colony at Plymouth.  During that first winter, nearly half of the Pilgrims, Strangers and crew died because of the severe conditions.  But, in time their colony flourished and led the way to establish religious freedom and create the foundations of the democracy that Americans enjoy today.

   The Mayflower Compact was signed by all 41 male passengers on board—Pilgrims as well as Strangers and their indentured servants.  Surprisingly, of the 41 signers, at least nine have descendants that eventually settled in and around Tomah, in Monroe County, Wisconsin.  Those signers were:  William White (the 11th signer), Richard Warren (12th), John Howland (13th), Stephen Hopkins (14th), John Tilley (16th), Francis Cooke (17th), Peter Browne (33rd), George Soule (35th), and Edward Doty (41st).  There may be more than these nine, and research continues.

   Many residents of the Tomah area descend from more than one of the signers, because of the inter-marriage of many of the early descendants of the Mayflower passengers.  For example:

·      Members of the Griggs family descend from William White, Richard Warren, John Howland, John Tilley, and Peter Browne. 

·      Members of the Wadephul family descend from Stephen Hopkins, Francis Cooke, George Soule, and Edward Doty. 

·      Members of the Sowle family descend from George Soule and Richard Warren.

·      Some members of the Vandervort, Clay and Koopman families (thru the marriage of Roll Vandervort and Mattie Griggs) descend from William White, Richard Warren, John Howland, John Tilley and Peter Browne. 

·      One family, the Purdy’s, descends from Richard Warren thru the marriage of Daniel Crane Purdy to Susan Savage, whose mother was a descendant of the Warren line.

   There are many more Tomah-area families who, thru marriages in the 1800's and 1900's, descend from the Mayflower families.  To determine which of the passengers that you may descend from, go to the “Surname Index” in each of the “Descendant” reports, below, and look for your family surname.  Then, look for the descendants that have a tilde (“~”) after their name, and follow the ancestral line from the Mayflower families to their descendants in Tomah.  (Note:  These trees do not contain all of the descendants of the Pilgrims and the Strangers—just those that are known to link to Tomah families.)

   About twelve generations have passed since the Mayflower landed in 1620, and there are now millions of descendants of its passengers.  However, it must be truly unique for a community the size of the Tomah—more than 1,200 miles from Cape Cod—to be linked to such a large number of Mayflower Families.

   I hope that you are able to find your ancestry link.  If you have a known connection to a Mayflower passenger that is not listed below, please contact me and I will be glad to research and include your information.

Descendants of William White

Descendants of Richard Warren

Descendants of John Howland, Sr.

Descendants of Stephen Hopkins

Descendants of John Tilley, Sr.

Descendants of Francis Cooke

Descendants of Peter Browne, Sr.

Descendants of George Soule, Sr.

Descendants of Edward Doty

   Links to Mayflower and Pilgrim websites:

   Links to our other Monroe County genealogy websites:

·         Tomah Family Trees

·         Oak Grove Cemetery

·         St. John’s Parish Register

·         Griggs and Pergande Families

·         Website Main Page


Gary Griggs

Murrells Inlet, SC