Friday, August 15, 2014

A Love Triangle

My childhood best friend did not like that my parents hadn't given me a middle name at birth. By the age of seven (or some time close to that), she rectified the situation and bequeathed me "Rachel Priscilla". I disliked it so much. But once again, in my 30’s, a boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) did the same thing. Who even thinks of the name Priscilla these days? Weird.

Within the last couple of years I have learned that my 10th great grandmother, Priscilla Mullins Alden, came over on the Mayflower. Perhaps because random people have been trying to give me her name for decades now; I feel a natural attraction to her story. And also, she came over on the Mayflower. How cool is that?

As I dug through old family records and searched the Alden family website, I found her story reveals something I think has been passed down through the women in my family. She is famously known for what she said to the man who would become her husband, my (10th) great grandfather, “John--why dost thou not ask for thyself?”
When Priscilla was 17 years old, she and her family boarded the Mayflower. They arrived at Plymouth in December 1620. Priscilla was the second daughter and fourth child of William Mullins and Alice Atwood Mullins.  Her parents and her brother, Joseph, died during the first winter in Plymouth, leaving her the only remaining member of her family in the New World.

Priscilla chose her husband; being one of the few single young women, she had choices and she clearly was not a damsel in distress -- even though she had lost part of her family that had made the journey with her.  

As I drove across the state for work this past week, I found myself reflecting on her story and why she would choose John Alden and not Captain Miles Standish. At that pinnacle moment, as the story goes, John had been sent by the Captain to propose to Priscilla for him.  Their love triangle was one that fascinated another great-grandchild of Priscilla and John’s, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so much he wrote their love story in his poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.  Her decision, John over Miles, made her  (and John) the great grandparent(s) to two U.S. Presidents; if that puts any perspective as to the consequences of choices.

John Alden was hired for the Mayflower to serve as the Cooper. He was not a pilgrim. He shows exceptional people skills in somehow maintaining his friendship with Miles Standish, despite what had to be an uncomfortable situation, even if briefly. The two of them settled what is now Duxbury, not to far from the landing site.  

Though life is funny sometimes. If I understand correctly, John and Priscilla’s 4th child married Miles 2nd child (Miles did go on to marry someone else) eventually making them all family anyway.

I admire my (10th) great-grandmother for not settling for someone who didn't have the time to propose himself. She was able to see that as it was, and have foresight enough to know that wasn't what she wanted. She spoke up, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind at that moment. Now, I don't mind if anyone jokingly calls me Rachel Priscilla. 

About John Alden

For my family that is curious about the lineage, I think it is (John+Priscilla>Joseph Alden + Mary Simmons>John Alden+Hannah White>Thomas Wood + Hannah Alden>Lemuel Wood + Rebecca Tupper, etc) but if you have the Mayflower Society paper work that supersedes this in accuracy. 

1 comment:

  1. Lani Skousen Larkin3:20 PM

    You amazed me! The story you created with many actual facts makes Priscilla come to life and I want to know more. Family History is one of your many gifts Rachel. You have drive, tenacity and tenderness, and love and more... surely you emulate only the best of our heritage. Love who you are Rachel.