The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1897
The return of Bradford’s history in 1897 was preceeded by an event equally momentous to Mayflower descendants. On Jan. 12th, 1897, The General Society of Mayflower Descendants was formed in Plymouth, Mass., with one of its objectives being "To Perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of our Pilgrim Fathers". Four state societies had previously been organized, the New York Society in 1894, followed by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in 1896; it was representatives of these four states who met and formed the General Society in 1897.
In 1941, the Society purchased the historic Winslow House in Plymouth – a fitting choice for the headquarters of the Mayflower Society as the house had been built in 1754 by Edward Winslow, great-grandson of Edward Winslow of the Mayflower. Winslow purchased the land from Consider Howland, brother of his wife Hannah and great-grandson of John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower.
The house as you see it today was not the house built by Winslow; the original (which still remains as the lower front) was a clapboard house set low and close to the ground however in 1898 the house was given a face lift and was restored. Bought by wealthy Chicago lawyer, Charles L. Willoughby, for a summer home, he commissioned well known architect and restorationist Joseph Chandler to carry out the remodeling and renovations. The house was moved back thirty feet, thus enlarging the front yard and the foundation was raised five feet for the addition of the porches to three sides. New rooms were added which doubled the size of the house, with the old and new sections meeting with the "flying staircase". Throughout the house, extensive use was made of rich woods such as mahogany, cherry and sycamore. The entrance portico was made more elaborate and a cupola and balustrades to the roof, which included a British coat-of-arms to commemorate the Tory sympathies of its first owner. The end result is an architectural beauty. While the front of the house has been preserved as colonial, the rear is distinctly Victorian, a magnificent combination of eras long past. To set the mood even further are the furnishings, straight from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
According to The Mayflower Quarterly of July 1944, the house at that time was occupied by the Plymouth Chapter of the American Red Cross. One of the first pieces of antiques acquired for the house was the Winslow chair which stood in the hall of the Winslow House in Marshfield. Since the 1940’s,the Society has furnished the house with beautiful period pieces, entirely through donations by members and it is open as a museum during the summer months. At the rear of the house are the beautiful gardens and Society library – a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or two (or three or four!), which is also the office of the Historian General.
General Society Highlights
Oct. 1935 – First issue of The Mayflower Quarterly
Nov. 1941 – Establishment of Colonies
Dec. 1941 – The historic Winslow House was purchased by the General Society. Cost: $23,500. Subscriptions raised: $22,742. 28.
1946 - Winslow House was renamed "Mayflower Society House"
Nov. 1947 - The office of the Historian General in Boston suffered a disastrous fire; most of the lineage papers were either destroyed or badly burned.
1949 - Design of membership certificates approved.
1960 - The office of the Historian General was moved from Boston to the "Tea House" at the Mayflower Society House in Plymouth. Lewis E. Neff elected Governor General.
11 Sept. 1963 – Dedication of the "Lewis E. Neff" Cottage (Tea House), to serve as office quarters for the Historian General and Governor General and to house the Society’s library of 400 books.
Dec. 1975 - The Society published the first five generations silver book, vol. 1, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller & William White; price $10.00.
18 Apr. 1990 – Ground breaking ceremonies for the new addition to the Society Library (Lewis E. Neff Cottage), with the dedication on 27 Oct. 1991.
Last Updated: February 5, 2003
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