When I first began writing Vagabond Quakers, I underestimated the scope of the story involving Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose. Their adventures did not end when the missionary women left the Piscataqua Region in 1663. Rather than burden readers with an overwhelming tome, the Vagabond Trilogy was born.
Book 1 Vagabond Quakers: Northern Colonies covers the incidents from Mary and Alice’s arrival at Dover in June of 1662 to their departure for Rhode Island at the end of April 1663 (NOTE: the book uses the Julian Calendar with the new year on March 25, as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar, adopted by the English Parliament in 1752, with the new year beginning in January). After three dramatic encounters with the Puritan authorities, all of which are documented in historical records, Book 1 ends as the missionary women head south for the refuge of Rhode Island.
However, Vagabond Quakers: Northern Colonies also tells the story of Richard Walderne, the Puritan magistrate who sentenced the missionaries to the Whip and Cart Act. Richard emigrated from Warwickshire to the settlement on Dover Point in 1635. His chapters reveal the early history of the Piscataqua Region. He became a pillar of the community and amassed considerable wealth in the fur trade, lumber mills, ship building, and international import/export. He was a strict Puritan, who sentenced the three missionary women to a virtual death sentence for spreading their faith in his town. The original warrant is reproduced verbatim below:
To the Constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Wenham, Lynn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these vagabond Quakers are carried out of this jurisdiction. You and every one of you are required, in the king’s name, to take these vagabond Quakers, Anne Coleman, Mary Tomkins, and Alice Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart’s tail, and driving the cart through your several towns, to whip them on their bare backs, not exceeding ten stripes each on each of them, in each town, and so convey them from constable to constable, until they come out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril; and this shall be your warrant.
At Dover, dated Dec. 22nd, 1662
Per me, RICHARD WALDERNE
It was a total of 110 stripes each on their bare backs in 11 towns over a distance of 83 miles – and it was December. However, we must remember that Richard was a product of his upbringing and the times, and our modern perspective is very different. I have sincerely tried to present the man fairly, in order to help readers understand what shaped and motivated him.
Book 2 Vagabond Quakers: Southern Colonies will follow the further adventures of Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose in the colonies south of Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In July of 1663 they travel from Newport, Rhode Island, to Shelter Island, down the north or inland coast of Long Island, on to New Amsterdam (then in its final months as a Dutch Colony), and then to the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Virginia. They are challenged by a renegade Quaker missionary, John Perrot; hunted by a sadistic sheriff named John Hill; and attacked by Virginian Captain Edmund Scarborough at the Friends’ settlement on the Annemessex River in Maryland.
Book 3 will be a prequel focusing on David Thomson (b. 1593), the man who was the driving force behind the first settlement on mainland New Hampshire. Thomson partnered with the Hilton brothers, Edward and William, establishing a lucrative fishing venture backed by London investors in the Piscataqua Region in 1623. David was a ward of Ferdinando Gorges, Captain of the fort at Plymouth, England and proprietor of the Territory of Mayne. Gorges was a primary backer of early attempts to settle northern New England, and with his mentor’s support, David crossed the Atlantic nine times between 1607 and 1623, participating in early colonization attempts from the age of 14. Thomson’s Island in Boston Harbor still bears his name. He died there at the relatively young age of 36 in 1628, just 5 years after permanently immigrating to the New World with his wife, Amais, and their 4 year-old son, John. Vagabond Explorer will tell his story.
Although firmly based on historical facts, the Vagabond Trilogy is a work of fiction. In general the historical references tell us who was involved and what happened, but they do not reveal personalities, relationships, or how people were affected. The challenge is to create a coherent, believable narrative from the isolated incidents gleaned from the historical references. As Sue Monk Kidd said of her book The Invention of Wings, “My aim was not to write a thinly fictionalized account of Sarah Grimke’s history, but a thickly imagined story inspired by her life.” I have tried to do the same.