Originally created 11/27/03

Pilgrim heritage is found in area



Thanksgiving might be a special time for relatives, but for Deborah Corbin and many other Augusta-area residents it truly is a family affair.

It was two years ago that Mrs. Corbin, an Augusta resident and kindergarten teacher at Curtis Baptist School, discovered she is a Mayflower descendant.

"I'm the 13th descendant of John Alden," she said of one of the passengers who sailed to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower in 1620. "It makes the holiday special. It makes me not want to rush the holiday into Christmas and to thank God for all the things we do have."

Mrs. Corbin realized her connection to the Pilgrims after reviewing some paperwork of her grandfather's. She discovered Alden was her great-grandfather 13 times over.

Alden was among the 102 men, women and children on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact - the document in which the Pilgrims agreed to govern themselves and settle in what became Massachusetts.

Mrs. Corbin is now a certified member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, a national organization that requires proof of a person's Mayflower relation. And in the Augusta area, she's not alone.

The Society has 13 members in the Augusta area on the Georgia side, three in North Augusta and 18 in Aiken.

So, what's it like being related to such a rebellious group - one that broke free from religious persecution in England?

North Augusta resident Brad Woodward, who works at University Hospital and is a 13th descendant of Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton and 12th descendant of passenger Richard Warren, sums it up best.

"I heard a doctor make some kind of crude remark about the Pilgrims (recently) and it kind of ruffled me up a bit," he said with a laugh. "So, I guess I still have some of that rebellious streak in me."

Mr. Woodward serves as the historian for the Mayflower Society's South Carolina chapter. He said there's a greater concentration of Mayflower descendants in the Augusta area than many places in the South because Simeon Cushman, Allerton's great-great-grandson, served in the Revolutionary War, was given a land grant and moved to Barnwell, S.C.

"Pretty much all of your Cushmans and Woodwards (in the Augusta area) are Mayflower descendants," Mr. Woodward said. "They just don't know it."

Frances Coons, an Aiken resident whose maiden name is Woodward, said she's known about her Mayflower heritage for several years thanks to her mother's documentation.

Before every Thanksgiving, she now visits East Aiken Elementary School to talk to pupils about the Pilgrims.

Recalling stories of the harsh winter conditions that the Pilgrims took on in New England, she said it's a holiday that always makes her proud of her heritage.

"I always think how I would have liked to be there on that first Thanksgiving," she said. "I probably would not have been brave enough, but I'm so thankful that they were."

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.