The Pilgrims left England to escape religious oppression, arrest and persecution. They landed in the New World in December of 1620, establishing established a settlement. They named it New Plymouth after the last port they left behind in England.
1. Historical Background
The Puritans, later known as the Pilgrims, were disheartened with the Church of England formed by King Henry VIII. The corruption within the church provoked the Puritans, making them long for a simplified Anglican Church. They based their faith on the preaching of Luther and Calvin, emphasizing a break with the Church of England and forming a personal relationship with God. These Puritan Separatists were persecuted and arrested for their beliefs and a group of about 100 left England in 1608 to settle in Amsterdam, Holland. The unknown language and customs of Holland led to the Puritans leaving Holland for America in 1620.
2. Funding for the Trip to the New World
In 1620, the Puritans who immigrated to Holland, packed their belongings and set sail for the New World. Since the Puritan group did not have the funds or supplies to make the trip, they contracted the help of the Virginia Company of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth. These two businesses realized the potential profits to be made by such a venture and agreed to fund the trip.
3. Setting Sail for America
After receiving the funds for the long, arduous trip to America, 102 Puritans set sail in the Mayflower on August 15, 1620. A second ship, the Speedwell also set sail with the cargo. The Speedwell had to stop for repairs and most of the cargo was moved to the Mayflower. On September 16, 1620, the Mayflower set out alone for the ocean voyage. After 66 days with one death and one birth, the passengers sighted he shores of Cape Cod. Although this was not their original destination, they pulled into Provincetown because of the approaching winter.
4. Settling in Plymouth Plantation
Once again, the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower to find a better spot to begin their settlement. They landed in Plymouth Harbor on December 19, 1620, on what is now known as Plymouth Rock. The site of the settlement was found by a scouting party sent by the Pilgrims. Originally, a Native American village was located there but was wiped out from smallpox. Some of the land was already cleared and fresh water was nearby.
5. Early Life in Plymouth
Colonizing Plymouth during the winter months added to the hardships of the Pilgrims. In his journal, Plymouth’s governor, William Bradford, stated that half of the Pilgrim population died during January and February. The colonists suffered from scurvy, malnutrition, freezing temperatures and inadequate housing. During their first year in Plymouth, 24 homes were established. Four of those families died and only four families did not have members perish.
6. Samoset and Squanto Come to the Rescue
In March, after losing half their population, a Native American named Samoset entered the colony. The Pilgrims were surprised at his knowledge of the English language. Samoset introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who studied in England. He became their interpreter and taught them how to plant corn, how to fish and how to trade for goods.
7. The First Thanksgiving
Contrary to popular belief, the First Thanksgiving took place in late summer of 1621. Governor Bradford declared a three-day celebration to thank God for the harvest and the bounty brought during the summer months. Close to 100 Native Americans attended the feast, bringing turkeys and venison. Corn bread, succotash, roasted ducks and geese were prepared by the Pilgrims, as well.
8. Hunger Continues in the Colony
The Pilgrim’s harvest of 1622 was scarce and the colonists were hungry. Weakness and hunger forced some colonists to steal from the colony’s food storeroom. Governor Bradford strived to implement a plan that would eliminate hunger by 1623.
9. Each Family Given Land
Governor Bradford and the other leaders of the colony abolished the socialist government that existed in Plymouth. They assigned each family a parcel of land to grow their own crops, rather than sharing in the goods of all. Owning their own land, motivated the Pilgrims and entire families worked in the fields planting corn and other vegetables. Governor Bradford’s plan was a success and in 1623, over 180 acres of land were used for crops, in contrast to the 60 acres planted in 1622.
10. Free Market Established
After the harvest of 1624, the Pilgrims were able to buy out the two companies that funded their expedition to America with a ship loaded with corn. They bought back the stocks that the Virginia Company of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth held in Plymouth. This was the start of private land ownership and the free market that exists in America today.
Learn more with these Pilgrims of Plymouth websites.