ZACHARY'S SHIP NAME

    The 1913 Bicknell Genealogy does not give the name of the ship upon which Zachary sailed to the New World. But soon after I began this project I found two references to the ship’s name. An article about the Bicknell Homestead in The Weymouth News around 1968 referred to it as the "Assurance". Later in a genealogy of the Joshua Bicknell family of Barrington, MI by Thomas W. Bicknell published in 1880 he wrote "The ship ‘Assurance de Lo’ (i.e. "of London") sailed for America in spring 1635 from Gravesend, Kent, England with 106 emigrants...". Two questions immediately arose in my mind: the first was the port of embarkation. Gravesend is in the London area, a very long journey in the 17th century from the Somerset & Dorset area; the second was that, if he knew the name of the ship, why did not Thomas include it in the 1913 volume? The port question was easily solved. Not only did the original passenger list clearly give "Waymouth" as the port of embarkation but geographically Weymouth is located in Dorset, the area from which the company was gathered. But an error in the port did not necessarily preclude the ship’s name being correct.

    After many years of searching, I think I have finally tracked down the source of Thomas’ original statement in his Joshua book. On page 378 of the NEHGS Register, Volume XXV in an article entitled "Memoir of Mr. David Reed," he claims descent from William Reed who was born in 1605, who "sailed from Gravesend, in the County of Kent, England in the ‘Assurance de Lo’ in 1635. He settled in Weymouth, Mass... He bought a house and land of Zachary Bicknell for 7 13s 4d in 1636, which was the average price for homesteads at that early day." In Hotten’s list, there is a William Read aged 28 years, Susan Read his wife aged 29 years & two young daughters. Although the David Reed article gives William’s wife’s name as Ivis and his age would be 30 years, I can see where Thomas might have thought that the William Read on Hotten’s list and the William Reed of the "Assurance’ who also settled in Weymouth were the same man. However, further research shows that William Reed was admitted a freeman at Weymouth 18 May 1635 (Ref: NEHGS Register Apr 1934) which was prior to the July arrival in Weymouth of Rev. Joseph Hull’s party which included the other William Read. The first William Reed’s son Thomas later married Zachary’s granddaughter Sarah Bicknell.

    I found another reference in Hotten’s showing the ship "Assurance de Lo" leaving England 24 July 1635 sailing to Virginia. Since Zachary’s ship did not drop anchor in Massachusetts Bay until 6 May 1635, the time factor seems to indicate that his ship was probably not the "Assurance". A period of time must be allowed for unloading, repairs, reloading at both ends of a 40-50 day return voyage, which would put some question on a 24 July sailing. But we cannot eliminate the "Assurance" completely as it is just barely possible although not probable.

    A descendant of Nathan Bicknell wrote that their family tradition was that the ship was named the "Speedwell" although another member of this same family thought it was the "Good News". I was able to eliminate the "Speedwell" when I found record of the "Speedwell" of London sailing for Virginia on 28 May 1635, only 22 days after Zachary’s ship dropped anchor in Boston after a 46 day voyage from England. I could not find any record of an early ship "Good News" and wonder perhaps if the name was confused with that of the Bicknell Family Association newsletter called "Good News".

    I have spent untold hours poring over old books & records of early ships searching for a clue to the ship’s name, including an entire day at the G. W. Blunt White Library in Mystic Seaport, CT, but to no avail. While in England, I enlisted the aid of J. A. C. West, curator of the Weymouth History Museum, of Miss Boddy of the Weymouth Reference Library and of Derek M. Shorrocks, County Archivist at the Somerset Record Office in Taunton but other than the emigration source quoted by Hotten’s, no other contemporary records exist and thus no mention of the name of the vessel on which Rev. Joseph Hull’s company sailed. If any record of the ship’s name remains, I suspect it will be found on this side of the Atlantic.

  LATE ADDITION: I have just discovered a new reference to the name of Zachary’s ship but unfortunately there is no time to check it out before this book goes to press. Tucked into an old Bible now in the possession of the NEHGS in Boston are some handwritten pages dated 14 June 1883 (not Thomas W. Bicknell’s handwriting; writer & source unknown) giving the direct descent of the "John’ line. In the first paragraph is a sentence claiming that Zachary, his wife Agnes & son John ‘came to this country in 1635 in the ship "Aliance’. No source or background is given, the author is unknown.