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Great Migration: Passengers of the Lyon, 1631 & 1632

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  • In The Planters of the Commonwealth, Banks introduces his passenger list:

LYON, William Peirce, Master, sailed from London June 22 [1632] and arrived September 16 [1632] at Boston. 'He brought one hundred and twenty three passengers, whereof fifty children, all in health. They had been twelve weeks aboard and eight weeks from Land's End.'

  • Excerpt from Essex and the Lyon–The people who sailed in her to New England in 1632 and the Land to which they went by Winifred Ashwell, published in 1981 by the District Museum, Braintree, Essex, England. (link:

The Ship Lyon

  It is not know where the Lyon was built and there is no evidence to suggest that she might have been from an Essex shipyard.

It is certain that she was larger and more comfortable than the Mayflower (which as we know was unfit for another voyage, after the famous one in 1620 carrying the Pilgrim Fathers, and was broken up) and that the cost of the voyage was not a problem, as most of the passengers were able to afford such comfort as was available in those times; many indeed were people of some substance.     It is known that the captain’s name was Pierce and that the Lyon sailed from London about the 2nd of June, 1632 and arrived in Boston on Sunday, the 16th of September following . . . after a voyage of eight weeks from Landsend, although the passengers had been aboard for twelve weeks. They had five days of east wind and fog, but no disaster. There were one hundred and twenty-three passengers of which fifty were children, all in good health . . ..     According to the records there were sixty men on the Lyon, and as fifty were children, the rest must have been wives and daughters. Many were related or became related by marriage. As an example, William Goodwin, one of the leaders of the group, was related by marriage to John White of Messing, the Olmsteads of Great Leighs and Joseph Loomis of Braintree, although the latter seems to have followed on the Susan & Ellen a year later.

It may seem a wild guess, but a very reasonabale one, that the Lyon belonged or was partly owend by the Vassel family of Eastwood, Essex. John Vassel had lived in Stepney; a merchant, a member of the Virginia Company of London, connected with the sea, and a ship owner.

Two sons, Samuel and William, had large active interests in Massachusetts, and although the date of their leaving England has not been discovered, it is certain that they did so, for their names appear in New England records.  
Now, there are lions’ heads on the richly carved paneling at Cockerhurst, the famiy home at Eastwood, and also on property, which they owned in France. The lions’ head appears to be a sort of family emblem or trademark. Moreover, when John Winthrop lived in Essex he was a neighbor of the Vassels, so when planning the voyage for his wife Margaret and his family, it would be reasonable to expect that he might choose a ship belong to a friend.