Merrymaking at Mare Mount

Speaking of juicy.

Sandwiched in between the arrival of Pilgrims at Plymouth and the Puritans at the Massachusetts Bay colony, we have the libertine plantation at Mare Mount, or Merrymount, on Boston’s South Shore. It’s a provocative whiff of how New England life could have turned, had Thomas Morton successfully warded off the rival raiders.

The very name “merry” at the time was often a synonym for sexual trysting. As for Merry-Mount? It couldn’t have been more graphic.

Unlike Plymouth, this settlement was prospering and welcoming misfits.

Think of hippie. Maybe even commune. Dancing naked with Natives around a giant maypole, one that’s flagrantly phallic. Not just pagan but also reflecting some lingering Devonshire traditions taken to an extreme. (Significantly, for comparison, most of early Dover’s settlers came from Devon, not the East Anglia of Puritan culture.)

Thomas Morton, founder of Merrymount and a thorn in the Puritans’ side

That’s the short version, though there’s much more sketched out in my upcoming book.

And after Merrymount comes crashing down, its founder finds shelter in Sir Ferdinando Gorge’s Maine, not far from Dover.

No, early New England wasn’t all stern Puritans, not by a long shot, no matter how much they tried to keep a lid on.

Nearly two decades later, facing the Quaker outbreak, did Puritan authorities fear the Friends movement might trigger another Merrymount in their midst? As I’ll show, Quakers were anything but quaint and respectable when they show up, though I can assure you they stayed sober rather than make merry. Ahem.

But they were still an alternative to the Puritan rigidity.


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