Open any American history book and youâ€™re sure to find a section on the pilgrims. They had a large impact not only on early American history, but on Europe’s history as well.
What are Pilgrims?
While there is no set definition of a “pilgrim,” since they were comprised of a wide variety of people, the Pilgrims date back to Europe in the 1600s. At the time, the state religion was the Church of England, which everyone was required to be a part of lest they be found guilty of treason, as the King of England was head of both the church and the country. However, the Pilgrims, also referred to as Separatists, wanted to practice their own religion and beliefs separately from the Church of England and felt the only way to do so was to break away from them.
The Pilgrims mostly began in a village in Nottinghamshire in England called Scrooby. They moved around quite a bit, from Amsterdam to the Netherlands before beginning their voyages to America in 1620. This group was not only comprised of the Separatists, but of non-Separatists who sympathized with the plight of those wanting religious freedom or families wanting to start a new life in the American colonies. As a result, the word “pilgrims” refers to all of the early colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Journey to America
The pilgrims’ voyage to America was over the course of several years, beginning in 1620 with the Mayflower. To pay for their supplies and their trips over, they contracted with English merchants, who then enlisted other colonists to help supplement the group’s voyage and assist them once they reached the new colony. In exchange, the merchants were to be given a percentage of the profits made in the new colony.
The first four ships were the Mayflower, the Fortune, the Anne, and the Little James. The Mayflower remains the most well-known, as it was the first to arrive. Originally used to transport tar, lumber, and fish, the Mayflower was hired along with a ship called the Speedwell to help transport the Separatists. However, the Speedwell had a number of leaks, leaving the Mayflower to make the journey on its own. There were 102 people on the Mayflower, which included the passengers who were supposed to sail with the Speedwell.
The Mayflower set sail on September 16th and reached Cape Cod on November 11th. During this time, two people died and one was born. The majority of the passengers stayed on board when they reached land while a group scouted out the area. On December 23rd, the remainder of the passengers went ashore and began settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The Pilgrims were not the first group to make it to North America. There was a Jamestown colony, founded in 1607. However, the Pilgrims did not want to join this British colony as they thought they would be persecuted for their religious beliefs.
During this first winter in their new land, more than forty people died. However, soon they learned how to plant crops, and they better explored their new land. That spring, they were welcomed by Native American tribes, who taught them how to plant a variety of crops.
In the following years, more ships arrived-the Fortune in 1621 and the Anne and the Little James in 1623.
The Pilgrims remain an important part of American history.
Learn more with these Pilgrims of Plymouth websites.