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Robert Cushman (1578-1625) was one of the Pilgrims. He was born in the village of Rolvenden in Kent, England, and was baptized in the parish church there on February 9, 1577/78. He spent part of his early life in Canterbury on Sun Street. Cushman married Sarah Reder on 31 July 1606. He was excommunicated for not recognizing the official church and as a consequence spent time in a cell of Canterbury's West Gate Towers. In 1611 he was one of a group of Pilgrims who fled to Holland because of differences with the official church over their practise of religion. In 1620 he returned to Canterbury and at 59 Palace Street arranged the leasing of the Mayflower for the Pilgrims to use on their voyage to America.

He did not complete the initial trip to the New World with the other Pilgrims on board the Mayflower, as the ship he was travelling on, the Speedwell, developed leaks and had to return to England.

Cushman sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in the fall of 1621 aboard the Fortune, but returned shortly thereafter to England to promote the colony's interests. There, he published an essay concerning the Lawfulness of Plantations, which was appended to Mourt's Relation. This document is of interest to modern scholars because of its treatment of the economic reasons for emigration.

Unfortunately, before he could return to the New World, he succumbed to an outbreak of plague in London, in the spring of 1625; as a result, the site of his grave is unknown. The book Saints and Strangers by George F. Willison recounts his story.

His son, Thomas Cushman (ca. 1607/08 - 1691), who accompanied him on the Fortune, was raised in the family of Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford (1590-1657), and served as Ruling Elder of the Plymouth church from 1649, until his death in 1691. He was buried on New Plymouth Hill. Thomas married Mary Allerton who died in 1699. She was the last survivor of the original Mayflower passengers.

Robert Cushman was also a forebear of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.



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