WHO WE ARE
The Oklahoma Society is a charitable and educational organization formed in 1947 to preserve the memory of our Pilgrim ancestors. We distribute historical and genealogical books to state libraries, present educational material and programs to schools, and sponsor Pilgrim heritage programs for the public. Members and friends fund our society with tax-deductible contributions. We are under the governorship of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.
We meet twice per year. Our fall Compact Luncheon commemorates the Mayflower Compact signing, and our spring Anniversary Luncheon honors our founding. We have approximately 250 active members and have inducted over one thousand members since 1947. It is our goal–and our pleasure–to meet new generations who will keep the memory of our Mayflower ancestors alive.
HOW WE BEGAN
1620 In 1620, 102 Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower from England to America and established Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. Pilgrim William Bradford wanted future generations to know the names of the passengers, understand the difficulties they had faced, and see how God had sustained them, so he wrote a personal journal of the voyage and early years of the colony.
Bradford's manuscript passed down through Bradford's family and was eventually added to the New England Library, a collection of books housed in the steeple chamber of Boston's Old South Church. the largest building in New England. New Englanders treasured the manuscript, known as Of Plymouth Plantation, as the first American history book.
1775 During the Revolutionary War, the British army took over Old South Church and gutted it in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party. They burned the pews, spread gravel inside, installed a jump bar, and used the church for horse riding practice. After the soldiers evacuated, Bostonians found the library in disarray and books missing. Sadly, Bradford's treasured manuscript had vanished.
1855 No one expected to see the manuscript again, but in 1855, an American historian learned by chance that it was in the library of the Bishop of London. It was a thrilling discovery for many Americans. They expected an immediate return of the manuscript labeled "property of the New England Library." Yet, the Bishop of London sent a copy and kept the original in England. For the next 40 years, the U.S. petitioned, appealed, and negotiated for the manuscript's return, with no luck.
1894 Inspired by efforts to reclaim the manuscript, Mayflower descendants in New York united in 1894.
1896 Two years later, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania descendants formed similar societies.
1897 In 1897, these four state societies met in Plymouth to create the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. That same year, England finally returned the Bradford manuscript to Boston with great fanfare.
For the first time, many Americans learned details about the men, women, and children who sailed on the Mayflower. As a result, they began to appreciate the significance of the voyage. They also became interested in knowing if they descended from any passengers. Soon, other states started organizing descendant societies.
1907 Oklahoma became the 46th state in the United States of America.
1947 The Oklahoma Society of Mayflower Descendants received its charter on January 11, 1947. As the Pennsylvania Society celebrated its 50th anniversary at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Lewis E. Neff of Tulsa presented a petition signed by 30 Oklahoma descendants to the General Society board members. On May 29, 1947, the Oklahoma Society held its first meeting at the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa and elected Neff as the first governor.
Mr. Neff had extensive genealogy experience. In his profession as an attorney, he traced Native American ancestry to determine ownership of valuable Oklahoma land and oil titles. In volunteering for the Society, he established many new Mayflower ancestral lines. Indeed, many descendants owe their proof of lineage to his research. Neff also organized societies in Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota, Nevada, Hawaii, and Delaware.
TODAY Today there are fifty-four Member (formerly "State") Societies, including the fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The General Society, headquartered at the Mayflower Society House in Plymouth, Massachusetts, approves all member applications, while each Member Society manages its local affairs. All societies meet yearly for a general congress, and every three years, the General Congress meets in Plymouth.