I chose 1659 – the end of the English Civil War period, a time of doubt and uncertainty. Soon Charles II will return from exile. Many Puritans still residing in England harbour renewed concerns for their safety and are thinking once more of leaving to join their brethren in New England, to start a new life in America.

Groups of settlers who did embark for the New World faced a sea journey lasting 8 weeks if they were lucky, on a small sailing ship often not designed to take passengers. They usually travelled in family or community groups, but they also took orphans and young people with them. They often kept diaries and journals recording their experiences. They believed that they were God’s chosen people, marked out for His special favour, and were setting out for this new world under His guidance.

By 1659, the Massachusetts colony was already well established, many towns were already founded, but there was plenty of room for more settlers. The English believed they were civilising the wilderness, that the land was empty and there for the taking, although this was obviously not so. Native American peoples populated the whole region, although their numbers had fallen drastically since the beginning of the 17th century. Thousands had died from European diseases for which they had no immunity. At first the two peoples lived side by side with little enmity. In fact, the Indians often helped the first settlers. Without the help of the Wampanoag people, the original pilgrims would have died. Across the colony, trade continued, European goods for furs and food, but the two groups had little understanding of each other. Although some English settlers showed respect, even admiration, for their Indian neighbours, most regarded them as little more than savages and thought that their pagan beliefs put them in league with the Devil.

This is the world Mary enters. This is what she had to escape ...