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Notes for John Clark

Research Notes:

Master's Mate and Pilot of the Mayflower
John Clark was perhaps the John Clark baptized on 26 March 1575 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England. He first went to Jamestown, Virginia in March 1610 as a ship's pilot. There, at Point Comfort, he was captured by the Spanish in June 1611. He was taken captive to Havana, Cuba, where he was interrogated, and then sent to Seville, Spain, and then on to Madrid in 1613. He was held as a prisoner until he was exchanged for a Spanish prisoner held by the English in 1616. He immediately went back to his occupation as a ship's pilot, and took a shipment of cattle to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 under some-time pirate Thomas Jones. In 1620, he was hired to be the master's mate and pilot of the Mayflower, on its intended voyage to Northern Virginia. While the Pilgrims were exploring Cape Cod and Plymouth Harbor, the shallop was caught in a storm and Clark brought them safely ashore at an Island, which is to this day known as Clark's Island. After returning, John Clark decided to settle in Virginia himself. He went to Jamestown in 1623 on the ship Providence, with the intention of settling there, but died not too long after his arrival.
[Caleb Johnson, Mayflower website]

Coddington believed Thomas to be the Thomas son of John Clarke of Ratcliff who was baptized at St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney, co. Middlesex, 8 March 1599/1699. Ratcliffe was and is a district in the large parish of Stepney, immediately on the north bank of the Thames, and inhabited almost exclusively by seafaring men. The parents of that Thomas were the John Clarke of Stepny & Mary Morton of St. Ellins, London who were married at St. Dunstan's Stepney, 19 Feb. 1598/9 ... "We believe, furthermore, that Thomas's father, John Clark or Clarke, was the Mate and Pilot of the Mayflower on her immortal voyage in 1620 ... [who] died at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1623." Anderson comments on this: "The hypothesis is very attractive, and was accepted by Jacobus [TAG 47:3], but remains underproven."
Glazier, ("John Clarke, Mate of the 'Mayflower' in 1620" by Prentiss Glazier, Sr.in Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine, 47:42) however, says the TAG 42 article "erroneously assumed that the Mate had been the John Clarke of Ratcliff who married Mary Morton at St. Dunstan's in Stepney, Middlesex, in 1599, becoming parents of a son Thomas christened there 8 March 1599/1600, just eight weeks before the Rotherhithe Thomas Clarke. This mistake is understandable, since the churches are within sight of each other, just across the Thames from each other. It should be pointed out, however, that St. Dunstan's records (Memorials of Stepney Parish p. 199) show that 'Mr. John Clarke was chosen warden for Ratcliffe in 1627.' The mate had died in 1623. The error was unintentionally included in the 1973 Thomas Clark Family by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Radasch." 
Glazier cites Colonel Charles E. Banks, "Officers and Crew of the Mayflower," as placing him at Rotherhithe in Surrey, across the Thames River from Stepney on the outskirts of London. It was at Rotherhithe that Capt. Christopher Jones had moored his ship for several years, where four of his children were christened, and where he was buried in the churchyard. Others associated with the Mayflower -- part owners and crew -- were also of St. Mary's parish. 
American Historical Review, cited by Banks, documents the capture of Mate John Clarke by the Spanish in 1611 just off the coast of Virginia and their two examinations of him: the first at Havana in 1611 and the second in Madrid in 1613. 
Dr. Sturgis E. Leavitt adds details in his article "John Clarke before the Mayflower" in MQ 40:64-5. In the first interrogation, the Mate stated himself to be a native of London, 35 years of age, and of "the religion of the King"; in the second, he called himself an inhabitant of London, 40 years of age, and Roman Catholic. The reference to a large city as his home is understandable; the Spanish knew London but not the surrounding hamlets. His conversion (subsequently recanted) was probably a matter of expediency rather than doctrinal conviction. 
Colonel Banks noted the age discrepancy and suggested "splitting the difference," approximating the birth year at 1574/5, a date easily reconciled with the 26 March 1575 baptismal entry at St. Mary's of Rotherhithe.... "Undaunted by the four years of imprisonment, the Mate made a second trip to Virginia in 1619, returning to join the Mayflower in 1620. In April 1623 he was back in Virginia, dying there soon after. Efforts to find his will, if any, have been unsuccessful." 
It is possible that a will may yet be found, as seafarers frequently left a will before embarking on a voyage.
[From Evelyn Beran on Ancestry.com]

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