NOTES FROM WEBMASTER:|
Within these webpages are some lesson plans that are being made available to assist you in the instruction of topics relating to the Mayflower journey and Plymouth Colony. Each of the main topics in the content list below is clickable for ease in location. Because of the size of the content I have made nearly 100 links (and sub-links) off of this main site. Each of these branches are "clickable". In addition, there are nearly 90 images/pictures, most original artwork from Duane Cline. A major update to this site occurred in September 2002, mostly in Part IV ("Their Native American Friends").
If you are interested in a particular subject within these web pages you can use the "Search this Site" field below that will look for any topic within the 75 websites. Also, clicking on the "Site Map" will produce an interactive map that allows for selection of any of the individual web pages.
If you wish to print any of the graphic images contained within these pages it is recommended that you do so by copying the image to your own PC first. You can do this by simply placing your cursor within the image you wish to copy, and clicking the RIGHT mouse button. This will allow you the option to "Save Picture As..." and store it on your fixed disk. Once it is stored on your PC you can use any graphics software (e.g., Paint or Paintbrush) or a current edition of any of the major word processing programs (e.g., Word or Wordperfect) to manipulate the image to the size and/or orientation that you wish for printing.
Recommended Links November 25, 2013
Part I. Pilgrim Background
THE BIBLE FROM LATIN TO ENGLISH
Until the latter part of the sixteenth century, the only Bibles available
were printed in Latin. After the Reformation began the Geneva Bible was
published in English. For the first time the common men were able to read
the Scriptures for themselves. The Geneva Bible is the version that would
have been most familiar to the older generation of Pilgrims. At the
beginning of the seventeenth century, King James authorized another
translation of the Bible into English, which still bears his name [The
King James Version]. Until these English versions came into being, the
common man was not able to read or understand the Scriptures. It was
necessary for the ministers and church officials to tell the worshippers
what was in the Bible and interpret the Scriptures. As the English
translations became more readily available, the people were able to read
the Scriptures for themselves, and controversies began to arise
concerning the interpretation of many passages in the Bible. Other
controversies arose concerning the rituals of the church service.
THE STATE CHURCH
At the time the Pilgrim Fathers were living in England there was only one church approved by the English rulers. Everyone was required to attend that church - and ONLY that church - every week. If the English ruler were Protestant, all people of the realm were required to follow the Protestant beliefs and attend those church services; if the ruler were Catholic, everyone in the kingdom was required to practice the Catholic faith and rituals. All religion in the kingdom was strictly dictated by the government. This is what we call a "State Church."
The reigning ruler appointed the archbishop of his or her choice and every church in the kingdom was under the direct orders of the ruler and the archbishop. There was no freedom to choose what a person believed or how he could worship.
Anyone who objected to the beliefs of the state church or the forms of the church services could be arrested, questioned and thrown into prison. If they refused to give up their personal beliefs, they could be tortured in an effort to make them agree with the state church. If they still refused to give up their convictions after torture, they could be executed. Many people were imprisoned, tortured and put to death. Those who were executed for their religious beliefs died painful deaths. Many were hanged and quartered, some were burned at the stake, while others were crushed to death under heavy weights.
There were two major groups of believers who disagreed with the beliefs and practices of the Church of England. One group wanted to stay in the church, but hoped to change its forms of worship: This group was called "Puritan" because they wanted to "purify" the church. The other group did not believe the state church could be changed: This group was called "Separatist" because they wanted to separate completely from the Church of England.
At the beginning of the 1600s, a group of Separatists began to gather at Scrooby in the northeastern county of Nottingham. Scrooby was located on the main post road which ran between Scotland and London. When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 and James VI of Scotland was to become James I of England, he traveled the post road on his way to be crowned.
James I was a Protestant and the Separatists were hopeful he would be
more tolerant of differing religious views. It was not long, however,
before the Separatists learned that differing religious views would not
be allowed under the new king.
Click here for Map of Scrooby Region
One group was called the Separatists because they demanded a complete separation from the Church of England. They wanted to worship in a very simple manner without all of the ritual and symbols which were used in the Anglican Church. In their study of the Bible they had decided the original church in New Testament times had been a simple church and they wished to follow that example in their own worship. They believed there were so many changes needed to be made in the Anglican Church that it could not be accomplished to their satisfaction. Therefore, the only possibility for them was to "separate" completely from the state church.
Their pastor, Richard Clyfton, had guided this religious community into a form of democratic self-government. Various points of view were tolerated, but the will of the majority ruled in decision-making. The members of this group believed in equal rights and equal duties for members of its congregation. Our modern concepts of a democratic system of government began with Pastor Richard Clyfton. It was their Pastor John Robinson who first coined the word "independent" in the matter of self-government.
The Pilgrims were warm, generous and thoughtful in their dealings with their fellow citizens and with the Indians they met in America.
Their manner of dress was typical of the ordinary fashions in England at that time. We know from Wills and Inventories of that early period that some of the leading men wore brightly colored clothing. Some even wore breeches of red, green or violet. This is a far cry from the dark, somber clothing of the Puritans which we see pictured every Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were a good-natured, fun-loving people who loved life and insisted on the freedom of choice.
It was the Pilgrims who established Plymouth Colony. It was the Pilgrims who celebrated that first Thanksgiving with the Indians. It was the Pilgrims who brought our American principles of democratic government into being - not the Puritans.
Click here for Principal Leaders of the Scrooby
The other major group in opposition to the Church of England was the Puritan group, which believed that the Anglican church could be changed to their satisfaction. They simply wanted to "purify" the church by eliminating the objectionable aspects of worship in the established church. This became a rather severe and militant group. Their church authorities ruled every aspect of their lives and, like the Church of England, they were extremely intolerant of any points of view which conflicted with their own dogma.
In their enthusiasm to keep their religion "pure," they were extremely severe in their punishment of anyone who would oppose them: Witness the atrocities during the witch-trials in Salem. They dressed in dark and somber clothing with no fashionable decorations. Gaudy apparel was certain to be an indication of the devil at work.
The Pilgrims and the Puritans were poles apart in their religious views,
their systems of government, their everyday attitudes, and their style of
FIRST ATTEMPT TO LEAVE ENGLAND
By 1606 the Separatist group in Scrooby (in the northeastern county of Nottingham) decided that the situation in England had become so intolerable that they would have to leave England in order to find religious freedom. At that time Holland was tolerant of varying religious beliefs and the Scrooby Separatists decided that this might be an ideal place for their relocation. Other religious groups from England were already establishing themselves in several Dutch cities. One group of Separatists had already settled in Amsterdam, and the Scrooby Separatists planned to join them.
In 1607 the Scrooby Separatists made their first attempt to leave England bound for Amsterdam. However, their plan to leave England was discovered by the English authorities and they were arrested during their attempted departure. Many of the men were jailed for this action. Among the group was William Brewster, who would become a leader of the Scrooby Separatists.
Click here for First Attempt to Depart, 1607, and
THE SEPARATISTS DEPART FOR HOLLAND
In 1608 the Scrooby congregation made another attempt to leave England. During this attempt they were again troubled by the authorities who discovered their plot. The men had already boarded the ship, but the women and children were still on shore when the authorities arrived. The Dutch captain of the ship was forced to depart with the men, while the crying women and children on shore were taken into custody by the authorities. However, it was not long until the Separatist families were rejoined in Amsterdam.
Click here for Second Attempt to Depart, 1608, and Map
Through the following years a number of other Separatists from England made their way to Holland to join the growing numbers in exile.
In looking at the map entitled English Homes of the Pilgrims, you
will notice that the original nucleus of the Separatist congregation came
from the Scrooby area in northeast England. However, the members of the
Separatist group from Leiden together with the "strangers" came from many
places throughout England.
Click here for map of English Homes of the Pilgrims
Click here for Contemporary Photos of Pilgrims' English Homes and Churches
THE LEIDEN SEPARATISTS
In Amsterdam some disputes arose over church affairs and in 1609 a group
of about one hundred Separatists moved to Leiden, Holland, where they
centered their activities around Leiden Univesity under the leadership of
Pastor John Robinson. At that time, Leiden University was one of the
leading universities in Europe.
[NOTE: Throughout this guide the name of the Dutch city will be spelled
LEIDEN. It is pronounced with a long "i" as though it were spelled
"Lieden." Many sources spell the name Leyden, but the Dutch spell
Their years in Leiden seem to have been peaceful for the most part until William Brewster (who had become a printer of sorts) began publishing books in opposition to the Church of England and smuggling them back into England for distribution. This, of course, created tensions between the authorities in England and Holland.
King James demanded the Dutch authorities to arrest Brewster and return him to England for punishment. There are many letters between the English and Dutch authorities (which have been preserved) telling this intriguing part of the story.
Click here for View of Leiden and the City Map
Click here for photo of facade of St. Pieterskerk
Click here for photo of the Rapenburg Canal
Click here for Pilgrim Fabric Workers and Merchants
DECISION TO LEAVE HOLLAND
The decision to leave Holland was based on a number of considerations. In the early 17th Century, Holland was overpopulated in relation to the economic situation of the day—much like England. William Bradford spoke of "the hardness of the place and country." The only occupations available to English immigrants were those in low-paying jobs such as cloth-making, related trades and other labor-intensive occupations. Some of the English who had fled to Holland expended their funds and "returned to the prisons of England rather than endure the hardships in Holland."
Many of those who remained in Holland began to succumb under the hardships and from old age. Bradford tells us "...their great and continual labours with other crosses and sorrows, hastened it [death] before its time."
In many instances the children were forced to labor alongside their parents in order to survive. As Bradford put it, "their bodies bowed under the weight of the same, and became decrepit in their youth, the vigour of nature being consumed in the very bud as it were." Some of the young men became soldiers in the Dutch military and others took to the sea for livelihood—life situations which tended to lead them into "dissoluteness and the danger of their souls." The Pilgrim fathers "saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted."
It appeared to the English community that the Dutch did not remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy, but after Sunday church services allowed feasting and merrymaking—especially among the children. This was intolerable to the English.
The younger family members were beginning to lose their English identity and becoming more Dutch than English. This is a concern we see in the United states in our own time among the American Indians, African Americans and immigrants from around the world. The fears of the Pilgrim fathers in that regard proved to be well-founded. The children of those English puritans who did not emigrate to New England or return to England became completely absorbed by the local population by 1660.
The twelve year truce between Spain and the Netherlands had been signed on 30 March 1609 and was due to end in 1621. Bradford states "...there was nothing but the beating of drums and preparing for war." In such a military engagement the outcome would be uncertain, and "The Spaniard might prove as cruel as the savages of America."
The Pilgrim fathers also had a desire to advance the gospels and the Christian doctrine in remote parts of the world.
The religion of the Pilgrims had grown out of the Puritan movement in England. With the English translations of the Bible at their disposal, they had decided to return their form of worship to a New Testament form, rejecting all of the formal rituals of the Catholic Church and the Church of England. During the later years in Leiden, their beliefs met some opposition and even heated debates at the University of Leiden from other groups such as the one led by the Arminians. By the last year there, the Pilgrims found themselves ridiculed and sometimes physically assaulted by opponents. In fact, James Chilton was stoned by a group of youths and nearly lost his life. The Pilgrim fathers "...therefore thought it better to dislodge betimes to some place of better advantage and less danger, if any such could be found." In the end, they concluded it was time to live as a distinct body by themselves under the Government of Virginia. Pastor John Robinson and the elders began to seek a refuge for the entire congregation.
Finally, the Leiden Separatists asked King James for a Royal Charter, which would allow them to establish a colony in the New World. Although James refused to give them a Charter, he promised that he would not try to stop them from settling abroad.
After long delays and great expense the Leiden group succeeded in getting a Patent from the London Virginia Company, which was a group of merchants who were investing their money in new settlements in America in hopes of financial gain. Because these merchants were investors looking for large gains, the Pilgrims were forced to agree to terms which indentured them for seven years before they would be free to take any profits for themselves.
The Mayflower - along with its master and part-owner, Christopher Jones - was engaged in London to carry the Leiden group to America. A smaller ship called the Speedwell was purchased and outfitted in Holland to accompany the Mayflower. The Separatist group planned to use Speedwell as a fishing boat in the New World. No one in their congregation knew much about fishing, but they thought it would help pay off their debts to the Merchant Adventurers.
It was originally intended the entire Leiden congregation would move to
America, but they decided to send only sixty or seventy of their most
able members to establish the community -- the others were to follow at a
THE SPEEDWELL SAILS FOR SOUTHAMPTON
When the time came for them to leave Holland, the departing group was
accompanied by the entire congregation as they traveled by barge from
Leiden to Delfshaven where the Speedwell was waiting to take them
to Southampton, England, where they were to meet the waiting
Click here for a list of Speedwell passengers January 29, 2008
Click here for Arrival at Southampton
Click here for map of the Pilgrim area of Holland
Click here for route from Leiden, Holland to Plymouth,
Before leaving England, the Separatist leaders went to talk with Capt.
John Smith, who had been to the New World and had made some extensive
surveys of the New England area. Capt. Smith would have been willing to
sail with them on the Mayflower as an adviser. However, the
Pilgrim Fathers did not have the money to pay for his service. Instead,
they purchased his book, which included a detailed map of the New England
Click here for Captain John Smith's Map
Click here for Early Journeys of the Pilgrims Map
When the first group of Separatists arrived at Southampton, there was an unpleasant disagreement with Thomas Weston. The money had run out and the ship was ready to depart. There was also some disagreement concerning the terms of the contract, which would not allow the Separatists to work for themselves during the term of the agreement. Weston became belligerent, refusing to alter the terms of the contract or to give the group another penny toward their expenses.
As a result, the little band of colonists was forced to sell some of the
butter from their provisions in order to pay the dock fees which were
required before they could even weigh anchor.
THE MAYFLOWER'S FINAL DEPARTURE
Since there had not been enough volunteers to fill the two ships, a group of non-Separatist people was enlisted to fill out the required number of passengers for the voyage. Those additional passengers are many times referred to as the "strangers," since they were not all Separatists. It must be noted that ALL of the passengers who came on the Mayflower in 1620 became known as Pilgrims, whether they were Leiden Separatists (sometimes referred to as the "saints") or "strangers."
After many frustrating delays in leaving Southampton, and problems with the Speedwell which proved unseaworthy, the Mayflower was forced to make the voyage to America without the company of the Speedwell.
Because so many problems had developed, many of the Leiden members decided that they did not wish to make the voyage and returned to Holland.
After delays in Dartmouth and Plymouth while the Speedwell was
examined, repaired and finally declared unseaworthy, the voyage finally
[NOTE: For greater detail from the original accounts of these events, see Pilgrim Courage, edited by E. Brooks Smith and Robert Meredith.]
The Mayflower made her final departure from Plymouth, England, on September 6/16, 1620, with 102 passengers aboard. Of this number only 41 were members of the Leiden church. The remainder of the passengers were hired men, paid servants, or "strangers" who wanted to make a new life in America.
Click here for photos of the Barbican Pier at Plymouth, England
Click here for photo of the Mayflower sailing into open water
Click here for illustration of English Flags
Part II. Voyage of the Mayflower
William Bradford and Edward Winslow were the only Pilgrims to leave
accounts of the Mayflower and the voyage from England to Cape Cod.
Being landlubbers, the Pilgrims were nervous about their future welfare
as well as the long voyage to reach their final destination. It is no
wonder the accounts of Bradford and Winslow are filled with the negative
aspects of the voyage. Their experiences for the past three years had
been fretful, troublesome and full of doubt. Unfortunately, it has left
us with account which cannot in any measure give us a true description of
that great voyage across the Atlantic.
We are told the Mayflower was a ship of 180 tuns. But what does
that mean? We are accustomed to thinking in terms of a 2,000 lb. measure
of weight when we read the word. However, that is not what the tun of
measure meant in the early 17th Century. A tun - spelled T-U-N - was a
large barrel or cask for wine equal to double hogsheads (or 265 gallons).
An illustration from the period shows four men carrying an empty tun
barrel on their shoulders as they work at a shipping dock.
Click here for illustration of sailors carrying a tun
barrel in 1597
The size of a merchant vessel such as the Mayflower was measured in terms of how many of these barrels could safely be carried in the hold. The Mayflower was capable of carrying 180 of these large barrels fully loaded. So this was not a tiny ship as some authors in the past have indicated. In fact, she would have been one of the larger merchant vessels of her day.
Some authors have indicated the Mayflower was a dull sailer and made very slow progress in her voyage. But this again is a misconception. She made the crossing in 66 days, which would average out to about 2 miles per hour. It must also be remembered that in coming from England to Cape Cod the Mayflower was sailing against the strong currents of the Gulf Sream as well as the stormy winds of the North Atlantic.
As the fishermen of the day knew all too well, September was the time to seek safe harbors for winter. Undoubtedly, the Pilgrims had been warned of the dangers which they would face in the North Atlantic if they insisted on beginning their voyage at that time of year. However, their money was at an end - not to mention the fact the English authorities were still searching for William Brewster, who was concealed on the ship. They had no choice but to continue. Master Christopher Jones, the skipper, had sailed the waters of the North Sea during stormy seasons, and he knew how to handle Mayflower under such stressful weather conditions.
The fastest clipper ships a century or more later were only making a speed of about 3 miles per hour on this same route. On her return trip to England in the spring of 1621, Mayflower made the voyage in 31 days, which would have been an average speed of about 3 3/4 miles per hour. So she was not a dull sailer for her time.
We must also remember that on her return trip, Mayflower was sailing with the currents of the Gulf Stream in fair weather - not to mention a lighter burden of cargo, which allowed her to ride higher in the water.
Some authors also suggest Mayflower was a creaking, old ship
(based on the fact that a main beam cracked during a terrible storm at
sea). We need to remember the Pilgrims were land-lubbers who did not
understand the ship as well as did its part-owner and master.
Click here for details about The Ship
Click here for 17th Century Navigation and numerous
CHRISTOPHER JONES: MASTER OF THE MAYFLOWER
Notice here we refer to Jones as master of the ship - not the captain. In those times the skipper of a naval ship carried the rank of captain. The skipper of a merchant ship such as Mayflower was called the master.
Christopher Jones was born into a seafaring family. He was trained from childhood to carry on the family tradition. He undoubtedly went through the full sea training of the time - probably shipping out as a cabin boy by at least the age of 12. He inherited 1/4 ownership of a ship at his coming of age. He then became a merchant seaman and a master of ships. He was also a naval architect of some repute. In fact, he designed and built a large ship, the Josian, which he named for his second wife.
The Josian was so well-designed and built it attracted the attention of the British Navy, and those plans were used in the construction of some naval ship by order of King James I. So we know Master Jones was not some unknown skipper Cushman and Carver picked up at a dockside tavern in London. He was a highly respected seaman with a number of years of experience.
We also know Mayflower had been used in the merchant trade with the Scandinavian countries as well as Spain, France and possibly Italy for about twelve years. This ship had endured the waters of the North Sea, which is the most treacherous body of water in the world. Jones had served as master on those crossings. He knew Mayflower well. He also knew that if she were strong enough to travel the North Sea, she was surely strong enough to endure the Atlantic crossing. This man, who designed and built ships, would not have ventured to cross the Atlantic in a tiny, creaky, old ship.
Aside from the accounts of Bradford and Winslow, the only facts we have
concerning the Mayflower are some records of her earlier voyages,
a partial list of her crew in 1620, and mention of her cargo carrying
capacity. Employment in the wine trade had made her a "sweet ship."
Leakage from the wine casks over the space of years had neutralized the
garbage and other filth which sailors in those days threw into the hold
instead of bothering to drop it overboard. That explains why the Pilgrims
lost only one of their number by illness on the long, rough, cold voyage.
LIFE ABOARD MAYFLOWER
It is a puzzle how Mayflower managed to accommodate 102 passengers and a crew of about 30. She was a merchant ship, not a passenger ship [there was no such thing as a passenger ship in those times]. Therefore, she was not equipped to take many passengers. Some passengers, we know, slept in the shallop, a large ship's boat which was stowed on the gun deck.
The passengers would have paid the ship's carpenter to build cabins or bunks in the 'tween decks. Double or triple tier bunks must have been built, or hammocks slung on the gun deck. Here they had their beds or hammocks, cooking pots, clothing and items they would need during the crossing. Their other goods were stored in the hold. There could have been little privacy.
A family's cabin on the Mayflower was very small and simple, often
no more than canvas partitions around a set of bunk beds, depending upon
how much the family could afford to pay the ship's carpenter.
Click here for a list of Mayflower
Click here for Pilgrim Search puzzle
The foods they ate on board-salted meat and fish, peas, beans, beer, and hard cheese-were not very different from what the country folk in England ate in winter or early spring.
There were 32 children or young people on the Mayflower. Of all
the passengers, they were probably the most bored. They could play games
or listen to someone read to them. When the weather was good, the sailors
probably allowed them to go up on deck. In stormy weather they probably
spent their time praying, being seasick, and trying to keep from being
bruised and battered against the beams and walls of the ship, a common
injury of passengers during a storm.
Click here for Medical Arts on the Mayflower
Click here for Ship Surgeon's Chest
Click here for Children on the Mayflower
A day's activities might be as follows:
During the stormy weather, the Pilgrims had to stay below decks where it
was dark, wet and crowded. Many of the passengers got seasick. But the
passengers kept up their courage by singing and trying to keep the
children occupied as much as possible under those conditions.
Click here for Mayflower Classroom
Although the Mayflower left late in the summer and did not arrive
until winter in the New World, it appears the voyage itself was not an
especially difficult one. There had been a strong storm at sea, but that was to be expected at that season of the year.
STORMS AT SEA [William Bradford's account]
"After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season, they were encountered many times with cross winds and met with many fierce storms with which the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in the midships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. So some of the chief of the company, perceiving the mariners to fear the sufficiency of the ship as appeared by their mutterings, they entered into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship, to consider in the time of danger, and rather to return than to cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable peril. And truly there was a great distraction and difference of opinion amongst the mariners themselves; fain would they do what could be done for their wages' sake (being now near half the seas over) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives too desperately. But in examining of all opinions, the master and others affirmed they knew the ship to be strong and firm under water; and for the buckling of the main beam, there was a giant iron screw the passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the beam into his place; the which being done, the carpenter and master affirmed that with a post put under it, set firm in the lower deck and otherways bound, he would make it sufficient. And as for the decks and upper works, they could caulk them as well as they could, and though with the working of the ship they would not long keep staunch, yet there would otherwise be no great danger, if they did not overpress her with sails. So they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed."
[An approaching storm at sea is announced by a "head sea," or high waves which pile up ahead of the winds which are following. That was the time to reduce sail and secure everything on board to keep them from being tossed about. One such event is depicted in a Mayflower painting entitled "The Wind Freshens" by the English marine artist, Dr. Mike Haywood.]
Click here for Dr. Mike Haywood's painting of Mayflower approaching a head sea entitled "The Wind Freshens"
"In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull for divers days together. And in one of them, as they lay thus at hull in a mighty storm, a lusty young man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above the gratings was, with a roll of the ship, thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship."
Click here for Dr. Mike Haywood's painting of "John Howland Overboard"
William Butten, the apprentice to Dr. Samuel Fuller, died two days before arriving at Cape Cod, and two babies were born: Oceanus Hopkins was born during the voyage between 16 Sept and 11 Nov 1620; and Peregrine White was born on Mayflower before the end of Nov 1620 while it was anchored on Cape Cod ."
ANIMALS ON BOARD
Apparently there was no livestock aboard Mayflower. This seems to be confirmed in a later statement by Edward Winslow, who said, "If we have but once kine, horses and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here, as any part of the world."
However, some of the passengers brought their pets. They used a mastiff
and a spaniel to hunt deer the first winter ashore, and we may be sure
these were not the only animals aboard Mayflower. For one thing,
we know every ship in those days had cats to cope with the numerous rats
that always found their way on board while ships were moored at the docks
which were rich feeding grounds for vermin.
Click here for The Mayflower Dogs
Besides her human cargo of one hundred and thirty or more passengers and crew, the lading of Mayflower when she sailed from Plymouth, England, September 6/16, 1620, was considerable. Judging from authentic sources of the period the food supply brought on Mayflower by the Pilgrims would have included those mentioned by Capt. John Smith a few years later.
[from Capt. John Smith's A Sea Grammar, 1627]
"A Commander at sea should provision himself and company at sea with
bedding, linen, arms and apparel; and keep his table aboard, and his
expenses at shore, and provide his petty Tally, which is a component
proportion according to the number of these particulars following:
TO ENTERTAIN STRANGERS:
Fruits (natural, dried and preserved) were probably in rather small
supply in that day. Dried or preserved fruits were not yet in common use
in the early 17th Century.
The clothing supplies of the Pilgrims included hats, caps, shirts,
neck-cloths, jerkins, waistcoats, breeches (cloth and leather),
stockings, shoes, boots, belts, cloth, piece-goods (for dresses), etc. By
the will of William Mullins, it appears he had twenty-one dozen pairs of
shoes and thirteen pairs of boots on board. Undoubtedly, he intended to
use these as a medium of exchange or barter. By the terms of the contract
with the Pilgrims, the Merchant Adventurers were to supply all their
actual necessities of food, clothing, etc., for a full term of seven
Click here for Clothing of the Pilgrims
Among the furniture brought on Mayflower may be enumerated: chairs, table-chairs, stools and benches, tables of several sizes, table-boards, trestles, beds, bedding, cradles, cupboards and cabinets, chests, boxes, trunks, andirons, fireplace tools, shovels, cushions, rugs, blankets, etc.
Among the household utensils wee spits, bake-kettles, pots, kettles,
lamps, candlesticks, snuffers, buckets, tubs, baskets, sand-glasses,
pewter-ware including platters, plates, tankards, and porringers. There
would have been wooden-ware such as trenchers, trays, noggins, spoons,
ladles and scoops. The earthenware would have included jugs, crocks,
Click here for Pilgrim Furniture
TOOLS AND OTHER EQUIPMENT
The Pilgrims would have need of a number of other pieces of equipment in
order to build their homes, plant their crops, fish and protect
themselves against attack. Such equipment would have included hoes,
shovels, rakes, several kinds of axes, hatchets, sickles, adzes, hammers,
mallets, nails, rifles, armor, lead for bullet-making, and barrels of gun
Click here for Pilgrim Tools and Equipment
Click here for "Looking for Land" Puzzle
Part III. Arrival in the New World
After two months at sea, the Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod. Imagine the sight that greeted their eyes on that cold November morning.
It was as though they had landed on another planet, a strange, unfriendly
place with no signs of civilization-a stark, barren landscape. There were
no friends or relatives to greet them, no warm homes for their comfort
and no jobs to be had to earn a living.
A NEAR MUTINY
Even before Mayflower anchored off the tip of Cape Cod, there was a near mutiny. The passengers had hired themselves out as indentured servants, promising to work for seven years to pay for their passage. Some of these passengers thought they could do as they pleased since they were outside the bounds of English law. So they threatened to take their freedom as soon as they got on land.
The Pilgrim leaders knew it would take a lot of hard work to survive that
first winter. They would have to cut down trees and haul logs and thatch
to build houses. They knew they would need all the help they could get.
THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT
To solve the problem, the Pilgrims wrote the Mayflower Compact. The Compact was an agreement signed by all the men on board-including the indentured servants-promising to abide by laws that would be drawn up and agreed upon by all male members of the community. The women were not allowed to participate in the governing process.
The Compact states that they would choose their own leaders and make their own laws. It also stated there was to be equal justice for all. This Compact became the constitution of the Plymouth Colony. It was the first document of American democracy to establish "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
THE CONCEPTS OF DEMOCRACY
When the Separatist group decided that they must look for another
homeland, Pastor John Robinson sent with them a long letter in which he
outlined a plan for setting up a new government based on democratic
principles. The Mayflower Compact which was signed on board the
Mayflower at Cape Cod on November 21, 1620 [new style date], was the
direct outcome of Robinson's guidance.
Click here for an explanation of "Dual Dates" (AKA Old Style/New Style)
This Compact, which was to be the official Constitution of Plymouth
Colony for over 70 years, is the first American State Paper. It is also
the first statement of the principles of democracy as we now know and
understand them. For the first time in the history of the world, a group
of men --of their own will--agreed to be governed by themselves according
to the will of the majority. The Mayflower Compact is the first document
of American Democracy.
Click here for Elementary Compact Study
Click here for Upper Level Compact Study
THE FIRST EXPLORATIONS
The Mayflower was anchored in safe harbor at the tip of Cape Cod, near the Indian site of Paomet (the present-day location of Provincetown). After signing the Mayflower Compact, fifteen or sixteen of the colonists went ashore in the long-boat. The ship was out of wood for cooking, and the Pilgrims were eager to see the land which would be their new home. They were greeted by sandy beaches with wild grasses and shrubs that ran all the way to the water-line in places. The exploring party returned to the ship at nightfall, reporting that they had seen neither person nor habitation. They had seen only sandy dunes with pale grasses, marshy ponds and low trees. On the sandy hills they had seen thousands of birds.
Click here for photos of Cape Cod
CAPE COD BAY
The next day was the Sabbath, which was spent aboard the ship in rest and prayers of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in the New World. On Monday, they unloaded the shallop, which had been stored below on the waist deck. It had been dismantled and stored there for the crossing. Now it must be reassembled and repaired because it had sustained some damage and would need rather extensive repairs before it could be pressed into service.
Since the water was shallow, it was necessary to wade from the long-boat to the shore in the icy November water as the colonists took advantage of this opportunity to leave the ship. Some waded because it was necessary, though some did it for a lark -- little suspecting that the colds they caught might contribute to the "Great Sickness," which would reduce their numbers in the weeks and months to come.
On land, the children could run as they wished without the confinement to which they had been subjected during the sixty-eight day crossing. The women found ponds of fresh water among the sandy dunes where they could do their much needed laundry. The carpenters went to work on the shallop, while some of the men explored the surrounding area.
Click here for photo of Provincetown
The exploring party discovered this to be a narrow neck of land with a
bay on one side, and the ocean on the other. The ground was all sandy
dunes; but, the earth about a foot down was an excellent black soil. It
was wooded with oak, pine, sassafras, juniper, birch and holly with some
ash and walnut. On Wednesday, they sighted a few Indians on the shore;
but, as the exploring party approached, the Indians and their dog ran
away and vanished into the woods. The men camped on the beach overnight.
The next morning at about ten o'clock the men were marching through the woods again when they came into a deep valley full of brush, wood gaille and long grass. They moved down into the clearing and at the bottom of the hill they found a fresh water spring. At the spring, the exploring party sat down to rest. Here they drank their first New England water. Edward Winslow wrote later, "with as much delight as ever we drunk drink in all our lives." This is one of the few spots along the Pilgrim route of exploration which still remains in an unaltered state. After more than 350 years, Pilgrim Spring still flows in its natural state.
Click here for photos of Pilgrim Spring
Marching south through the sandy hills and valleys, the men moved along the western shore of Cape Cod, finding heaps of sand here and there, which they supposed to be Indian graves. In one place they discovered more heaps of sand so freshly made that the hand prints were still visible. Digging down, they found two baskets of corn. This area is now called Corn Hill. A small bronze tablet now marks this historic spot.
The men took as much corn as they could carry and returned to the Mayflower. They planned to use the Indian corn as seed-corn, when planting time arrived. Several days later, when the shallop was ready, thirty-four men and sailors -- some in the long-boat and some in the shallop -- sailed to the small river they had discovered earlier. This they named Cold Harbor. They landed the boats and marched five or six miles along the river and camped that night under pine trees.
The next morning they discovered two Indian dwellings, which had recently
been occupied. Returning to their boats by way of Corn Hill, they picked
up more corn to take back to the ship. In all they had taken about ten
Click here for coloring sheet of Indian Dwellings
Click here for photos of Corn Hill
FIRST ENCOUNTER BEACH
Several days later, the colonists decided to make a third exploration along the western coast of Cape Cod Bay. They got up their sail on the shallop and sailed along the coast to a sandy beach, where they saw ten or twelve Indians. As the colonists approached, the Indians again vanished into the woods. The men camped overnight on the beach. The next morning, when they marched along the beach and into the woods, they found four or five Indian dwellings with no mats. These were summer dwellings. When the Indians moved to their winter quarters, they removed all of the mats and took them with them. They explored until sundown, and went back to the shore to meet the shallop, camping overnight on the beach. About five o'clock the next morning they heard hideous cries and suddenly the Indians began to attack with arrows. When the Indians were repelled by gunfire, the explorers picked up eighteen arrows around the area, which is now called First Encounter Beach.
Click here for photo of a shallop exploring an inlet
Click here for Shallop in Sail (Coloring sheet)
Click here for photo of the plaque marking "First Encounter Beach"
NEW PLIMOTH [now PLYMOUTH]
After their first encounter with the Indians, the colonists sailed further along the coast, swinging west, then northward along the mainland. They explored around the harbor, which is now known as Plymouth Harbor, and spent some time on an island which is now known as Clark's Island. The colonists finally decided that the mainland was a good place to situate their families.
The Mayflower weighed anchor at Paomet and sailed into Plymouth Harbor. It was near Plymouth that the Pilgrims landed on December 21st [Dec. 31, New Style date].
After three more days of exploring the Plymouth area, they decided upon Plymouth as the most favorable location -- because it had a fair brook that ran under a high hill on which they could build a gun platform for their protection.
Click here for photos of the Town Brook
Click here for Map Skills Project
The "Great Sickness" was beginning to take its toll among the Pilgrim
families; but, when weather permitted, as many as could went ashore to
fell and carry timber for building material. It was agreed that each man
should build his own house, but they would cooperate in building the
common-house where their supplies would be stored.
Click here for Home Building at Plymouth
By mid-January the common-house was completed, and the little village
began to take shape. The "Great Sickness" raged through the winter
months. Half of the colonists would soon be dead. Even the crew of the
Mayflower was not spared. Nearly half of her crew would not
survive to make the return trip to England in the spring.
Click here for student work on Deaths the First
THE SPRING OF 1621
In mid-March the weather began to clear. The "Great Sickness" began to
subside, and the colonists busied themselves about the tasks of digging
up the ground in their family garden plots, where they planted some of
the seed which they had brought with them from England. One day, while
the men were meeting in the common house, an Indian named Samoset came
down the hill and walked into the village. He was able to speak in broken
English. Through this first meeting, the colonists were brought into
friendly relations with Squanto, the Massasoit and the other Wampanoag
[Wam'pa'no'ag] Indians of the area.
THE MAYFLOWER DEPARTS
Master Jones had seen the Pilgrims through the winter, and suffered many losses among his crew in doing so. With the coming of spring, he knew that he must return to England. On April 5 [15th New Style date] the Mayflower made its departure, but not one of the Pilgrims decided to return with Master Jones. The Pilgrims faced many hardships during the following months, but the colony gathered its strength and continued to build on the little community which they had established in New Plimoth.
Part IV. Their Native American
THE WAMPANOAG NATION
The Wampanoag were known to their neighbors as the Pokanoket, which means "place of the cleared land." However Adrian Block of Holland, who traveled to the Naragansett Bay area, referred to the people there as the "Wamapanoo." Later English visitors to the area called them "Pokanoket." Eventually the name Wampanoo developed into Wampanoag and in the 17th century, "Wampanoag" had for the most part replaced "Pokanoket" as the name of the people living in that region. Wampanoag means "People of the East" or "People of the Early Light." It is composed of two Algonquin words: wampa, meaning dawn, and noag, meaning people. These Indians along the eastern coast were the first to see the dawn each day.
Their territory contained forests of oak, maple and pine, as well as rivers, streams and wetlands.
Click here for Map of New England Tribal Lands
Click here for Indian Place Names and Map
At the beginning of the 17th century, between 21,000 and 24,000 Wampanoag inhabited the southeastern portion of present-day Massachusetts, the islands off its shores, and the eastern part of Rhode Island.
Click here for "Using Correct Terms"
Click here for "The Five Clans"
Click here for "Pokanoket Flag or Badge"
Click here for "Pokanoket Badges" Classroom Activity
Click here for Physical Appearance of the Wampanoag
Click here for Indian Dwellings
When the Pilgrims met them in 1620, the Wampanoag were competent farmers, fishers, hunters and gatherers. All of these occupations provided them with a generous supply and variety of foods.
Click here for Indian Foods
Click here for the Thirteen Moons of Each Year
The Wampanoag had an established system of government and religion. Children learned from their parents about their future adult roles as individuals and their responsibilities to the community.
MEETING OF THE TWO CULTURES
The first recorded facts concerning the Wampanoag People comes from the written accounts of many early explorers who found their way - in advance of the Pilgrims - to the Northeast coastal areas now known as New England.
1502Miguel Cortereal, a Portuguese, sailing under his country's flag, commanded the first recorded expedition to lands within the Pokanoket realm.
1524Among the earliest of these adventurers was the Florentine explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano who sailed out of Madeira in the year 1524 under the sponsorship of Francis I of Spain. In a letter to the King of France after his return, he described his discovery of what is believed to be Block Island, situated in Narragansett Bay. He wrote:
"We found about twenty small boats of the people which, with divers cries and wonderings, came about our ship; coming no nearer than fifty paces towards us, they stared and beheld the artificialness of our ship, our shape, our apparel, then they all made a loud shout together, declaring that they rejoiced; when we had something animate them, using their gestures, they came so near us, that we cast them bells, glasses, and many toys, which when they had received, they looked on them with laughing, and came without fear on board our ship."
In that same year, the celebrated Captain John Smith made a voyage to the area, and landed at Cape Cod in the vicinity of the Nauset Indians. He was responsible for mapping the New England region and published his account prior to the Pilgrims' departure from England.
In that same year Captain John Smith explored the coast from Megan Island (Maine) as far south as the tip of Cape Cod.
In that year, Adriaen Block, a Dutch explorer, mapped the southern New England coast from the Hudson River to eastern Massachusetts.
In his account Dermer states his belief that the Indians might have killed him at Nemasket had it not been for his guide, Squanto. He mentioned stopping at Patuxet (the area in which the Pilgrims later settled) where he found all the people dead. Then traveling overland into the forest, Dermer moved westward into the Nemasket country, which is now the town of Middleboro, Mass. From that point he sent a message to the Massasoit. From his account we are told:
"When I arrived at my savage's [referring to Squanto] native country, finding all dead, I traveled alongst a day's journey, to a place called Nemasturghurt [Nemasket] where, finding inhabitants, I dispatched a messenger a day's journey farther West to Pokonokit, which bordered on the sea, whence came to see me two kings, attended with a guard of fifty armed men, who being desirous of novelty, gave me content in whatsoever I demanded, where I found that former relations [Indian hospitalities] were true."
He reported there were places which had been inhabited, but he saw no evidence of living people and believed a great sickness was destroying the tribes.
In this expedition, Captain Dermer reclaimed two Frenchmen, who had been shipwrecked off the coast. In their usual custom of hospitality, the Indians had cared for them for three years.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE PILGRIMS
Although it was a relatively cold and windy day, he wore only moccasins and a fringed loin skin. Over his shoulders were a bow and empty quiver, while in his right hand he carried two arrows, one with a stone point, the other with no tip, probably to signify that he and his people were prepared for either war or peace. In broken English, he told the Pilgrims that he was Samoset, Sachem of a tribe in Mohegan Island, Maine, where he had learned to speak a little English from his contact with the fishermen and traders who visited his island each year. He had been visiting the Wampanoags for the past eight months, but he intended to return to his own people within a short time. [He had sailed with Capt. Dermer from Monhegan to Cape Cod some six months before the arrival of the Mayflower, and spending the winter with the Nauset Indians, reached the Plymouth settlement on that Spring day in 1621.]
Since he was the first Indian with whom the Pilgrims had spoken since they arrived in New England, they questioned him for some time, learning from him that the Patuxets, who formerly owned the land on which they had built their settlement, had all died four years before  from the plague, and that their nearest neighbors were the Nemaskets, a tribe of about 300 people. [This information is in agreement with the account of Capt. Thomas Dermer.]
He told them that the Massasoit, Great Sachem of the Wampanoags, was then staying at Nemasket, attended by a number of his Councilors.
After tossing a coat over his shoulders to ward off the chill winds, the Pilgrims fed him, then continued to question him. Samoset told the Pilgrims of the seizure by Capt. Thomas Hunt of twenty Indians from the tribe which lived there at Patuxet, of seven Indians from the Nauset tribe, whom he had enticed on board his ship under the pretense of trading with them, then carried them off to be sold into slavery. The Spanish monks proved to be less cruel than the English captain. Through the efforts of the monks, the Indian survivors were rescued and given their liberty.
When it became evident that Samoset did not intend to leave, the Pilgrim leaders decided to let him sleep on the Mayflower since it would be almost impossible for him to commit any treachery out in the harbor. However, the water was too rough for them to launch the shallop with any degree of safety and it was decided to allow him to sleep at the house of Stephen Hopkins, who would keep watch over him throughout the night. Samoset left after breakfast the next morning, but came back on the following Sunday with five more Indians who not only returned some of the Pilgrims' tools they had found in the woods, but brought some furs to trade. After the Pilgrims fed them, they explained that they could not conduct any business on the Sabbath, asking the Indians to return at another time with more furs. Samoset, who complained that he felt ill, did not leave with the others but remained in Plymouth until Wednesday morning.
Click here for more information on Samoset
SQUANTO VISITS THE COLONY
In 1619, Squanto returned to his home and found most of the people of his tribe had died of disease. He joined the Wampanoags who were living near Plymouth, and in 1621, he met the Pilgrims.
It was Squanto who would teach the Pilgrims how to find herring, a kind of fish, and to use it as a fertilizer when planting corn, pumpkins and beans. This was especially important to the Pilgrims because the seeds they had brought with them from England did not do well in the New England soil. Squanto also showed them how to find clams and eels in the rivers and how to hunt for deer, bears and turkeys. The children also learned where to find nuts and berries of all kinds. Click here for a Squanto Biography
THE INDIAN PEACE TREATY
On March 22/April 1, 1621, Samoset and Squanto appeared in the little colony with three other Indians. They brought with them a few skins and some red herrings newly taken and dried to trade. They told the Pilgrims that their great sagamore (chief), the Massasoit, was nearby with Quadequina his brother and about sixty men. They were able to arrange a meeting between the Massasoit and the first governor of Plymouth Colony, John Carver.
Following introductory ceremonies, Carver and the Massasoit agreed upon the terms of a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags.
Click here for details of the Treaty Signing and illustration
When the treaty ceremonies were ended, a number of Indians remained behind as hostages while Governor Carver escorted the Massasoit to the edge of the brook. The Pilgrims thought that Winslow would rejoin them as soon as the Massasoit was with his own people, but Squanto soon reappeared at the settlement to let them know that Quadequina was also coming to see them. It is interesting to note that Quadequina was so afraid of the English guns that he would not sit down until they took their weapons to another building. When this last round of formalities was over, Quadequina returned to where the others were waiting, and Winslow was released.
BENEFICIAL ASPECTS OF THE TREATY
CONTINUING PEACEFUL RELATIONS
We are told any misgivings between the two races faded from memory and the peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and their Indian friends continued. In his A Letter Sent from New England in December, 1621, Edward Winslow reported: "Wee have found the Indians very faithfull in their Covenant of Peace with us; very living and readie to pleasure us: we often goe to them, and they come to us; some of us have bin fiftie myles by Land in the Country with them; the occasions and Relations . . . Yea it hath pleased God so to possess the Indians with a feare of us, and love unto us, that not onely the greatest King amongst them call Massasoyt, but also all the Princes peoples round about us, have either made sute unto us, or beene glad of any occasion to make peace with us, so that seaven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end . . . So that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was formerly, neither would have bin but for us; and we for our parts walke as peaceably and safely in the wood, as in the hie ways in England, we entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their Venison on us."
TRADE WITH THE PILGRIMS
THE GATHERING STORM CLOUDS OF DISTRUST
The peace born of mutual support and trust eventually eroded. Another plague-the small pox epidemic of 1633-34-swept away thousands of Algonquins and made more land available. Only between fifteen to eighteen thousand Native People still survived in all of New England. Meanwhile, the expanding colonial towns were bulging with the new arrivals, eager to start claiming and clearing their own piece of America.
Land transfer was not a simple matter. The colonial laws guarded the rights of the natives. Only through qualified agents could purchases be made. Interpreters must be present, as well as several witnesses for both parties. The Indian owner or his family must be present for the formal signing, for unlike communal tribal lands of the western Indians, much of the land was owned by individual tribesmen. Finally, the sachem must also add his mark if he were in agreement.
If all this puzzled the land-rich warrior, he may have been aware of his rights under English law. And when all was said and done, he generally retained his right to hunt and fish on the property. To the twentieth century mind, trade goods seems a small price to pay for a slice of real estate. But values must be interpreted as to time and place, and the Algonquin was certain he had the best of the bargain.
In 1675, a full-scale war erupted between the increasing number of colonists and the Indians. Now known as King Phillip's War, after the name of the Massasoit's son, who was then chief, the clash lasted eleven years and caused great destruction on both sides.
The Wampanoag were defeated, and peaceful relations between the two groups were forever shattered.
The peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and Indians had lasted 54 years, during the lifetimes of the Massasoit and the original members of Plymouth Colony.
Click here for "Preservation of Indian Language" (added October 2002)
Part V. First Pilgrim Thanksgiving
The background for the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving is found in Bradford's History. In the fall of 1621, their first fall in the New World, "They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwelling against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All summer there was no want. And now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first, but afterward decreased by degrees. And besides water fowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, and now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.--And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their out-goings and in-comings..."
In their first ten months at Plymouth, just passed, they had erected seven dwellings, a Common Meeting house and three small store houses for food, clothing and other supplies.
In spite of their numbers having been cut in half by sickness and death, they found reasons for thankfulness. They had gained their foot-hold on the edge of an inhospitable continent. They were well recovered in health and strength. They were making the best of a hard life in the wilderness. They had proved that they could sustain themselves in the new, free land. They were assured of the success of their purpose of establishing freedom. They had made firm friends with the Indians, who had been so kind to them.
The original account of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving is in a letter from Edward Winslow in Plymouth, dated Dec. 21st, 1621 to George Morton in England. It was printed in Mourt's Relation, London, 1662. Winslow relates the following: "We set last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas. According to the manner of the Indians we manured our ground with herrings (alewives) which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase in Indian corn. Our barley did indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering. We feared they were too late sown. They came up very well and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered in the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as many fowl as with little help besides, served the Company for almost a week, at which time, amongst our recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their great king the Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. They went out and killed five deer, which they brought in to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. Although it not always be so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. -- We have found the Indians very faithful in their Covenant of Peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us. Some of us have been fifty miles into the country by land with them. -- There is now great peace amongst us; and we, for our parts, walk as peaceably and safely in the woods here as in the highways in England. - I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have enjoyed. -- If we have but once kine, horses and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here, as in any part of the world. -- The country wanteth only industrious men to employ, for it would grieve your hearts to see so many miles together with goodly rivers uninhabited, and withall to consider those parts of the world wherein you live to be seven greatly burdened with abundance of people."
For three days the Pilgrims and their Indian guests gorged themselves on venison, roast duck, goose and turkey, clams and other shell-fish, succulent eels, corn bread, hasty pudding, leeks and water-cress and other "sallet herbes," with wild plums and dried berries as dessert, all washed down with wine made of the wild grape. The affair was more like an out-door barbeque for the entire population, than a family reunion dinner.
This feasting involved the preparation of unusually large quantities of food, some of it unfamiliar. Only four of their married women had survived, and only five teenage girls, three of those being the sole survivors of their families. They must have been extremely industrious and efficient, and they must have worn themselves ragged, trying to fill a hundred and forty demanding stomachs for three days. Sufficient tribute has never been paid to them for making these festivities a success, under such trying conditions. Indeed, even the success of the Colony rested largely in their most capable and devoted hands.
The gathering was enlivened by contests of skill and strength: running, jumping, wrestling. Also, there were games of various kinds. The Indians were probably amazed to learn that the white men could play games not unlike their own. The Indians performed their dances and struck up their singing. Standish put his little army of fourteen men through their military review. Then followed feats of marksmanship, muskets performing against bows and arrows. The Massasoit and his braves headed home at last with a warmth of feeling for his white friends which survived even the harsh tests to which it was soon subjected.
Thus they elaborately celebrated the prospect of abundance until their next harvest.
Click here for Thanksgiving Activities for Elementary Level (5 "Action" Figures)
Click here for Thanksgiving Activities
Part VI. STARVATION TIME & FIVE KERNELS OF CORN
The first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 was a bountiful feast, but the inventory taken afterwards in preparation for winter proved the Pilgrims had grossly overestimated their harvest. The only way they could possibly get through the winter was to cut in half the already weekly rations of food. To make matters even worse, the ship Fortune arrived shortly thereafter with 35 new settlers. Only three were women. They came empty-handed and poorly clothed; ill-equipped for the approaching winter. Bradford wrote, "They were lusty young men, and many of them wild enough, who little considered whither or about what they went.-But there was not so much as biscuit or cake or any other victuals for them, neither had they bedding, but some sorry things they had in their cabins; not a pot nor pan to dress any meat in; nor over many clothes.-The Plantation was glad enough of this strength, but could have wished that many of them had been of better condition, and all of them better furnished with provisions."
Thus after a month the Fortune returned to England. The Fortune itself had to be supplied from the scant stores of the Colony for her return voyage.
Grim starvation now threatened their annihilation. The Pilgrim colonists could only tighten their belts. Many times the colonists supplied unexpected arrivals and distressed mariners, sometimes in large numbers, from their slender store.
The houses were very small, barely large enough for the families who, despite cold, hunger and sickness had built them. The new arrivals busied themselves by making additions to the seven houses where they were quartered.
From the first, the colonists had been repeatedly promised provisions from England, but the much needed relief never came.
The colonists struggled through the winter, but by May 1622 their food supply was completely gone and the harvest was four months away. According to Edward Winslow's account, the wildlife and fish were in short supply because the number of fowl decreased during the warm months and lacking the proper fishing gear they were prevented from taking advantage of the abundance of cod in the area.. Winslow stated, "And indeed, had we not been in a place where divers sorts of shell fish may be taken with the hand, we must have perished."
In desperation, Winslow was sent 150 miles up the Maine coast to buy, beg or borrow whatever provisions the English ships there could spare. All who were asked gave what they could and not one would accept payment of any kind.
By the time Winslow returned, the settlers were literally starving. The
provisions were a godsend but there were many mouths to feed; when
rationed out, each person received only 1/4 lb. of bread a day.
[The "Five Kernels of Corn" material is based largely on the work of Susan E. Roser of the Canadian Mayflower Society.]
1622 SUMMER HARVEST FAILS
The long awaited harvest of 1622 was a dismal failure. The Pilgrims had not yet perfected the art of growing corn. They had been busy building the fort and their lack of food that summer had left them too weak and weary to tend the fields properly. It seemed they now faced the prospect of another year with little food.
Yet another ship arrived at Plymouth, the Discovery, this one from Virginia on its way home to England. It had a cargo of what the settlers needed - knives, beads and assorted trinkets which could be traded with the Indians. Seeing how badly they needed the goods, the captain cheated them miserably, but they considered the ship's arrival a blessing - they could now trade with the Indians for food.
Corn was not known to Europeans until it was discovered in America. It is not too much to say that without the indigenous Indian corn, the Pilgrims could not have survived. None of the great variety of English garden seeds they had brought with them and planted ever produced a good harvest. Their food supply became precarious. Occasionally a deer, wild turkey, partridge or quail was bagged, if the hunters were fortunate; fish when fishermens' luck permitted, lobster, alms and eels, if and when they could be found. Wild berries, grapes, groundnuts, strawberries and such could be plucked in their season. Besides not having sufficient grain to make bread, they were also without butter, cheese and milk because they had no cattle.
By early 1623 the shallop had been rudely fitted out as a fishing vessel. It was constantly at sea, coming ashore only long enough to unload a catch and change crews. For months at a time the Pilgrims' diet consisted of fish, clams, groundnuts and whatever deer or water fowl could be hunted. Bradford wrote of this time, saying, "By the time our corn is planted, our victuals are spent, not knowing at night where to have a bite in the morning, and have neither bread nor corn for 3 or 4 months together; yet bear our wants with cheerfulness, and rest on Providence."
It was at this time, awaiting the harvest of 1623 they lived four or five days at a time on a few grains of corn.
Again their hopes rested on a good fall harvest. A six-week drought began in June and the crops turned brown and were slowly withering away. They turned to the only hope they had - intervention by God, and appointed a solemn day of humiliation and prayer. They assembled one July morning under a hot, clear sky and for nine hours prayed. Their prayers were answered by the next morning, and for the next two weeks they were greeted, in the words of Winslow with "such softe, sweet and moderate showers . . . As it was hard to say whether our withered corne or drooping affections were most quickened and revived."
It turned out to be a double blessing from above. That same month arrived the ships Anne and Little James with 60 new settlers which came loaded with provisions.
The harvest in the fall of 1623 proved to be the best yet. It also
promised a new beginning for the Pilgrim colonists, and they never
THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC COLONY HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED SUCCESSFULLY IN THE NEW WORLD
Click here for a photo of Pilgrim sarcophagus that sits high on Cole's Hill overlooking Plymouth Harbor.
About the Author
The content within this website was written by Duane A. ClineMr. Cline received his M.A. degree in Speech and Theater from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and continued post graduate studies in radio and television production at Oklahoma University. His formal education included extensive courses in American and English literature, European history, journalism, art and speech, as well as theatrical history, criticism and design. Following seminary courses in Bible and religion, he was ordained by his home church.
Over the years he has written, designed and directed a great many theatrical productions and historical pageants in his capacity as a university professor, head of theater department and founding director of a regional art center. In addition, he has written two books: Navigation in the Age of Discovery: an Introduction, and Centennial History: General Society of Mayflower Descendants. He has twice been invited to serve as a Guest Curator at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
When he learned both he and his wife, Carolyn, were descendants of Mayflower passengers, he became affiliated with the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Through the years he had served that organization in many capacities on both state and national levels. Most notably, he was a Former Assistant Governor General of the national Society, and had served a number of years at its Education Chair.
|FROM THE FAMILY OF DUANE CLINE: Duane A. Cline passed April 9, 2006. He felt his mission was to serve and to find truth. He strived to write objectively. Through his work, the readers of this site can share in his enthusiasm and be inspired by the story of interaction of two cultures. We hope the readers will be encouraged to search out and uncover more information that has been long forgotten. Our wish is for the readers of this site to continue the quest for truth.|
Mr. Cline was assisted by Dave Lossos as webmaster for the "Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony: 1620" website. Mr. Lossos is also the creator and webmaster of the popular "Genealogy in St. Louis" website and author of "Irish St. Louis" (ISBN 0738532223), "St. Louis Casa Loma Ballroom" (ISBN 0738533785), and "Now & Then - Saint Louis" (ISBN 0738539554). Dave, who received his engineering degree from St. Louis University, spent 30 years with IBM in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Vermont before returning to his hometown of St. Louis where he is now retired. In 1990 Dave was named "Engineer of the Year" in the St. Louis IBM Branch Office.
Last modified November 25, 2013
Webmaster Dave Lossos