Samuel Fuller (Mayflower physician)

Samuel Fuller (Mayflower physician)
Dr. Samuel Fuller portrayed at Plimoth Plantation in 2009

Samuel Fuller (baptised 1580 – died 1633) was an English doctor and church deacon. He is remembered as one of the Separatist Pilgrims who together formed the colony in North America at Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Early life

Samuel was born in England and baptized at Redenhall Parish, Harleston in the English county of Norfolk on January 20, 1580. He was the son of Robert and Sara (Dunkhorn) Fuller. Samuel's father Robert was a butcher in the area of Norwich. [1] Initially Samuel learned the trade of a say-weaver[2], one who makes cloth for tablecloths and bedding.[3]

In 1604 the Puritan minister John Robinson left his position at Cambridge to become pastor of St. Andrew's Church in Norwich. In the face of persecution from King James I, Robinson left Norwich and soon made his way to the village of Scrooby. Samuel Fuller went to Scrooby as well at this time, presumably influenced by Robinson. In 1609 the Separatist congregation at Scrooby escaped to the Netherlands and made their way to the city of Leiden, where they could worship as they pleased. Fuller went with them to Leiden and became a deacon in their congregation.[4] Fuller's first wife Alice Glascock having died, he took as his second wife Agnes "Anna" Carpenter in 1613. Anna gave birth to a child but it died in infancy and was buried in Leiden.[5] Anna died soon after and in 1617 Fuller took a third wife, Bridget Lee. All of his wives were Englishwomen.[6] Although some historians and genealogists have proposed that it was in Leiden that Fuller acquired training in medicine, possibly while attending lectures at Leiden University,[7] historian Norman Gevitz has found no evidence to support any conclusion other than that of Fuller having done so only once in Plymouth. Gevitz considers the contentions that Fuller was the "Mayflower physician" and played any role as a healer during the "General Sickness" after the Pilgrims' arrival nothing more than "myths."[8]

Pilgrim Journey to America

"The Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Delfthaven in Holland" (1844) by Robert Walter Weir
Site of Fuller's home on Leyden Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Fuller and the elders of the congregation entered into negotiations with some speculators to travel to North America and establish a colony there.[9] In 1620 a ship named the Speedwell departed Holland with a small number of Separatist colonists, Samuel Fuller among them. They docked at Southampton, Hampshire, where they met up with a ship called the Mayflower. The ships set sail for North America, but the Speedwell was found to be unseaworthy and they had to put in at Plymouth in Devon, England. Fuller took his apprentice and servant William Butten with him and sailed to North America. He left his wife behind in Plymouth, England to care for his young child, which later died there.[10] Samuel Fuller's brother Edward Fuller joined him, along with Edward's wife Ann.[11] The settlers founded a colony in North America and named it Plymouth, after the city they had set out from. In 1623 Bridget Fuller took passage on a ship named the Anne and came to Plymouth Colony (America). Four years later they had a son they named Samuel, who became the Reverend Samuel Fuller of Middleboro.[12]


Further reading

  • Norman Gevitz, "Samuel Fuller of Plymouth Plantation: A 'Skillful Physician' or 'Quacksalver'?'", Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 47 (1992): 29-48.
  • Arthur and Katherine Radasch, Mayflower Families for Five Generations: Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller and William White, volume 1 (Plymouth: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1974).
  • Francis H. Fuller, Early New England Fullers, New England Historical and Genealogical Register 55(1901):192-196.
  • Francis H. Fuller, Fullers of Redenhall, England, New England Historical and Genealogical Register 55(1901):410-414.
  • Will of Samuel Fuller
  • References to Samuel Fuller

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