Family Society Friday: The Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society

GSMD is excited to welcome David A. Furlow, editor of the Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society Journal, as our special guest blogger for this week's Family Society Friday... which features the Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society!

The Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society is the most recent Mayflower Family Society, holding its Inaugural Meeting and Banquet on September 6, 2014. Yet it has helped members of the Allerton, Brewster, and Cushman families reconnect with ancestors and assemble proof of their eligibility for membership in it and in GSMD. Most importantly, it has sponsored and shared literally groundbreaking historical, archaeological, and genealogical research about Isaac Allerton and the Allerton family that sheds new light on this Pilgrim family’s important role in the 17th century birth of America.

The Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society meets in Plymouth every three years, during Mayflower Congress, to honor the memory of Mayflower passenger and Mayflower Compact signer, Isaac Allerton, his first wife Mary (Norris) Allerton, second wife Fear (Brewster) Allerton, and widow Joanna Allerton, as well as their children Bartholomew Allerton, Remember Allerton Maverick, Mary Allerton Cushman, Sarah Allerton, and Isaac Allerton, Jr.

Isaac Allerton, a tailor born in Suffolk, England in 1586, during the Elizabethan Renaissance, shaped and reshaped American society. A Separatist from Suffolk County, England, in East Anglia, he made his way to London as a young man. Then, in search of religious liberty he could not find in England, he took his sister Sarah Allerton with him to Amsterdam, became a citizen of Leiden, Holland, and married Mary Norris. Isaac, Mary, and their small children crossed the vast Atlantic on the Mayflower voyage that Isaac helped plan in 1620.

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Through his organization of the Mayflower voyage, signature (fifth) on the Mayflower Compact, and service as Plymouth Colony’s First Assistant to the Governor from 1621-1631 and from 1633-34, and negotiation of the leveraged buyout that won Plymouth’s settlers economic autonomy, Isaac Allerton helped weave representative government, popular elections, and the rule of law into the fabric of American society.

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In his book about the Pilgrims’ migration to Plymouth Colony, New England historian and genealogist Robert C. Anderson described Allerton as “one of the busiest and most complicated men in early New England....” Isaac, his second wife Fear (Brewster) Allerton, and his daughters Remember and Mary began New England’s dairy industry on their farm in Kingston, Massachusetts, the site of one of Plimoth Plantation’s most important archaeological excavations. The Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society has published photos and presented programs about the dig, its history, and its artifacts. 

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A Renaissance man in the truest sense, Isaac acted as a merchant, lender, ship captain, agent, arbitrator, mediator, bail-bondsman, attorney, and appellate judge. After he left Plymouth, he created New England’s fishing industry in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Allerton pioneered the trans-Atlantic carrying-trade and coastal commerce along America’s coast, bartering, purchasing, and selling fish, grain, tobacco, and other staple commodities. He also was the bearer of many important messages and letters between the colonies and England, as well as home ports. Thomas Rutherford Trowbridge, in an 1877 paper presented to the New Haven Historical Society, saluted Isaac Allerton as the “The Father of New England Commerce.”

Isaac Allerton played critical roles in the histories of the Bay Colony, Maine, L’Acadie (French Acadia), Nieuw NederLandt (New Netherland), Nya Sverige (New Sweden), New Haven and Virginia. Elected by the common people of New Netherland to serve on the Acht Man, or Eight Man Board of Manhattan, he led a rebellion against Willem Kieft, a cowardly and corrupt West India Company governor. Isaac Allerton was second signer of the October 28, 1644 Remonstrance of the Eight Men of Manhattan, the first petition demanding the right of self-government for settlers in any Dutch colony. In New Netherland and New England, Allerton advanced the cause of conscience, self-government, and the rule of law in early America, and not just in Plymouth.

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In addition to being the fifth signer of the Mayflower Compact, Isaac Allerton was the second signer of the October 28, 1644 Remonstrance of the Eight Men of Manhattan, the first demand for self-government by Dutch colonists anywhere in the world. 

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The Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society Journal solicits and publishes new research about Isaac Allerton and the Allerton family, as well as notices about society meetings and events. The society’s leaders present programs about Isaac Allerton and the Allerton family at historical, archaeological and genealogical conferences and at local Mayflower Societies across the U.S.

For more information about the Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society, please visit http://www.isaacallerton.com/.

David A. Furlow is a First Amendment attorney, historian, writer, and editor of the Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society Journal. He also serves on the Pilgrim Hall Board of Trustees and as a Fellow on the Texas Surpreme Court Historical Society and Executive Director of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society Journal, and as President and Director of the Houston Philosophical Society. Follow David on Twitter @DavidAFurlow. 

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