The Lyon

LYON. This ship was famous in the history of the early emigration to Massachusetts, and her Master (William Pierce) was equally noted for his skillful seamanship and his sympathy with the policy of the Puritan leaders. In 1630, 1631, and 1632 she made four voyages hither in quick succession under his command with the regularity and safety of a ferry, and on one of them saved the new settlement from starvation and death by her timely arrival with provisions and anti-scorbutics. The official connection of the Lyon with the Winthrop Fleet is of the same character as related of the Mary and John, as both were doubtless approved by the Governor and Assistants. In his letter of March 28, 1630, to his wife, written from the Arbella, off the Isle of Wight, after noting the sailing of the Mary and John, Winthrop wrote: ‘and the ship which goes from Bristowe (Bristol) carrieth about eighty persons’, This was the Lyon and she probably sailed from that port to accommodate passengers living In the West Counties — Lancashire, Cheshire, Warwick, Gloucestershire, and Somerset. That they were authorized to settle in the limits of the Bay Patent seems assured as there is no evidence to the contrary following their arrival. The date of her departure is not known (probably in March) but her arrival at Salem is reported `in the latter part of May’ some time before the Arbella reached that port. The identity of this ship is not established as there were several of her name in existence at that period. In view of her valuable services to the Colony it is to be hoped that the necessary search may be made to fix her home port, previous history, tonnage, and ownership.

Of Captain William Peirce, her Master, more particulars are known. He had sailed to Plymouth in 1623 as Master of the Anne of London, bringing the last lot of passengers to the Pilgrim settlement. He was then a resident of Ratcliffe, parish of Stepney, London, and at that date was about thirty-one years old. He made a voyage to Salem in 1629 as Master of the Mayflower (not the Pilgrim ship) and thereafter he was in constant traffic in passengers and merchandise across the Atlantic. He took up his residence in Boston in 1632 and was admitted freeman May I4, 1634. His wife, Bridget, joined the church February 2, 1632/3; perhaps a second wife, as a William Peirce, mariner of Whitechapel, was licensed in 1615 to marry Margaret Gibbs. Whitechapel and Stepney are adjoining parishes. He became a Town and Colony official and was engaged in coastwise shipping thereafter. He compiled an Almanac for New England which was the second issue in 1639 from the Daye press at Cambridge. In 1641 he was killed by the Spaniards while on a voyage to the island of New Providence, Bahamas Group, whither he was taking passengers for settlement.

The following is an excerpt from the Hodge family genealogy:

Capt. William Pierce was a Ships Master who ran packet vessels between London and the Colonies from 1622 until his death in 1641. John Hodges (Hedges?) was a mate on the “Lion” which Capt. Pierce ran upon a reef and sunk on 10 April, 1633. Capt. Pierce replaced the “Lyon” with the “Rebecca”, a sixty-ton pinnace which was the first transatlantic ship built in the Colonies, and he sailed her to London on the 55 day voyage in 1634. John Hodges was the Master of the “Rebecca” in 1635, and Capt. Pierce sailed the “Desire.”

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