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Plymouth and the 1627 Division of Assets

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

In the book I recently acquired, "Christopher Jarrett of New Plymouth", by Winona Strachan, shared in a previous post, I came across a curious term I had seen before, but never took the time to research - "the dividing of assets". I decided it was time to find out what it meant.

Following is the excerpt:

As you may know, or recall from my previous blogs regarding the Mayflower passengers who landed at Plymouth Colony in 1620, there were two groups of passengers on the ship - the Leyden Congregation (true "pilgrims") and associates of the Merchant Adventurers (true capitalists). With lots of work to be done in the new colony and the potential for profit, the investors financed the passage and supplied provisions for the colonists under the agreement that they would be repaid and profit from future commodities the colony would produce, such as corn, tobacco and furs.

In 1626, several of the Plymouth men and five London investors bought out the Merchant Adventurers interest in the colony. The following record of "garden plots" written in William Bradford's handwriting was published in Records of the Colony of New Plymouth Vol. 1, (Deeds), page 2:

Fifty-three householders joined the "company" as shareholders. The livestock and cattle became community property and it was agreed the colony's assets would be divided after seven years, giving everyone the incentive to work hard to care for and breed the livestock.

In 1623, each household in the Plymouth Colony was granted one acre of land per person. The lots were drawn like a lottery. Isaac Allerton received the largest parcel - seven acres for the seven people in his family. Then in 1627 the "Division of Cattle" took place. Twelve groups would each receive a cow and two female goats. Each of these groups consisted of 13 people. The full list of groups is published in Records of the Colony of New Plymouth Vol. 1, (shown below) on pages 9-13.

Almost anything you would want to know about the Division of Assets in the Plymouth Colony can be found in this volume. Other volumes of Records of the colony of New Plymouth, in New England can be found here, in my previous blog.



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