A couple of pilgrims

Published 2:22 am Thursday, November 24, 2016

Houses trace ancestors to Mayflower

John and Shirley House grew up in the same community in northwest Missouri.

They met at the skating rink, began dating in high school, and corresponded when he went to college, and later off to Korea.

They’ve been married for 63 years, and at the ages of 85 and 82, learned just this year that both of them had ancestors who were among the original 102 pilgrims who arrived in American on the Mayflower.

It had long been a part of Mrs. House’s “family lore” that her mother’s ancestors arrived on the Mayflower.

Mrs. House said she once looked at the list of original Mayflower Society members, but didn’t recognize a family name. When her mother died in 1999, the family wondered aloud why they never found out more about that lore.

The Houses’ son, Brian, began to ask questions. He was able to trace family history to learn that they were related to three passengers – James and Susannah Chilton and their daughter, Mary.

James Chilton died in the harbor at Plymouth, Mrs. House said. Mrs. Chilton died two or three months after that, and their daughter Mary, who was about 14, was taken in with another family.

“You know, half of them died the first year,” Mrs. House said.

Eventually, Mary Chilton married a Winslow who came over on the Fortune, a year or two years later. Mrs. House has since visited Mary Chilton Winslow’s grave in Boston.

“So we knew all of that,” Mrs. House said. “I paid for my children to be it hte Mayflower Society. It just never occurred to me that John’s family would be on the Mayflower, too.”

The Houses’ daughter, Brenda Gouge, who lives in Andalusia and is president of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, became active in the Mayflower Society at the state level. Mrs. Gouge said for years they had teased her father about not being a pilgrim.

But she began tracing his family from the Missouri town where he grew up … back to Indiana, then to New York, and then to Plymouth, Mass.

Mrs. Gouge has learned that her father is more of a pilgrim than her mother – he has 11 lines to the Mayflower Society, through John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, Richard Warren, William, Mary and Love Brewster, William Mullins, Isaac and Mary Allerton and Mary Norris Allerton.

This year, John House became an official member of the Mayflower Society, too.

When John House returned from Korea, he completed school and became a veterinarian. The family lived in a small town in Missouri until Dr. House’s partner died at age 37.

“That made us stop and think,” Mrs. House recalled.

The couple said it was 1972, a trying time in the United States, and they wanted to build a life that included more family time. Dr. House went to work for the USDA working in New Zealand.

They lived near the beach, and their travels to and from New Zealand afforded them the opportunities to visit Tahiti and Hawaii.

“It was very different there,” Mrs. House recalled. “When our plane landed in New Zealand, the pilot said, ‘Turn your watch back 15 years,’ and that was about right. It was a good place for our children to be.”

After three years, they returned to the United States, where House’s work took them to New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas. When it was time to retire, they did some research.

“Alabama sounded wonderful to us, and we have not been sorry,” she said.

The couple chose Magnolia Springs and lived there for three years. When Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, they decided to move inland.

“Water has always appealed to me, and we bought property on Gantt Lake,” she said.

The couple now lives at Savannah Terrace.

Their son, Bryan, is an oral surgeon in Niceville, but has a farm here.

It is with their children that the Houses will celebrate Thanksgiving today. Mrs. Gouge has collected Mayflower plates for several years, and has set the table with that them in honor of her father’s first Thanksgiving as a “real pilgrim.”