America’s First Rager : The Story of Merrymount

This November 23, 2023 Esoteric History video covers the story of New England’s first rager, their unhappy neighbors (the Pilgrims), and a man who wanted nothing more than to have a good time. Click here for the 18-minute video.

Merrymount Colony (1624-1630 CE) was a settlement first established in New England as Mount Wollaston in 1624 but renamed Mount Ma-re (referred to as Merrymount) in 1626 by the lawyer, writer, and colonist Thomas Morton (1579-1647), best-known, primarily, from his book New English Canaan (a treatise on the Native Americans of the region, natural history, and satiric critique of his colonist neighbors) and the work Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford (l. 1590-1657 CE), second governor of Plymouth Colony, in which he is referred to as the “heathen” who established a “school of Atheism” at Merrymount.

Merrymount was more of a trade center than a residential/agricultural community but, owing to Morton’s liberal attitude toward religion, and the rapport he developed with the Native Americans, became (according to Morton) more successful and popular than its neighbors. Morton encouraged a celebratory atmosphere and, in 1627 CE, had an 80-foot (24 m) tall Maypole erected in the town square and, declaring himself the community’s host, welcomed colonists and Native Americans to a days-long festival.

Bradford sent his militia’s commander Myles Standish (l. c. 1584-1656 CE) to arrest Morton in 1628, and he was deported back to England. He returned in 1629 CE, however, and again took up residence at Merrymount until he was again arrested and deported and Merrymount burned in 1630. The story of the colony is given in a number of 17th-century sources, including those by Morton, Bradford, and John Winthrop (1588-1649 CE) of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The site of Merrymount is now a residential development in Quincy, Massachusetts, but the memory of the settlement as a progressive alternative to the Puritan or separatist models is still celebrated there occasionally by admirers of Morton in the present day.