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The Pilgrims Come to the New World


Photo of Brooksyne dressed as a Pilgrim

(These are the notes to a program Brooksyne Weber uses to share the history of the Pilgrim's coming to America.)

Pilgrim – A pilgrim is one who goes on a very long journey.

Mayflower – 102 pilgrims; 41 Separatists, also called saints wanting freedom of religion. 61 Strangers - those who wanted to buy land, soldiers, etc. (30 Sailors making a total of 132 aboard)

Early 1600's – Persecution, imprisonment and death for those who separated themselves from King James rule of the church of England.  The Pilgrims (separatists) found corruption and practices that were in conflict with the Holy Word of God and thus began to meet in secret so they could worship God according to the way the Bible told them.  It was time to flee form England and find a place where they could worship freely.

Exiled in 1608 – The pilgrims exile to Amsterdam and Leiden for 12 years.  They were welcomed by the people, but there were uncomfortable changes.  The foreign language, poverty stricken, ungodly influences, industrial  nation which the pilgrims were not trained to work in, and the causes they stood for were not consistent with the beliefs of the pilgrims.

Prepare for first Departure – July 22, 1620 – As they boarded the Ship Speedwell –A description of that scene was given by William Bradford in his journal later made into a book, Of Plimouth Plantation.

That night was spent ashore, "with little sleepe by ye most, "and early the next morning they and their friends boarded the Speedwell to exchange a last farewell, and truly dolfull was ye sight of that sad and mournfull parting, to see what sighs and sobbs and praires did sound amongst them, what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches peirst each harte."  Falling upon his knees, and everybody with him, Pastor Robinson (who stayed behind) gave them his blessing and "with watrie cheeks commended them with most fervente praiers to ye Lord….and then with mutual imbrases and many tears, they tooke their leaves one of another, which proved to be ye last leave to many of them.

"So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place for twelve years, but they knew that they were Pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits….and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leave one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them."  

July 22, 1620 First attempt to depart,  they left from Leiden, though they return after 15 days due to water leakage. 

August 5, 1620 -  Second attempt to depart on Mayflower & Speedwell – They left from Southampton, England but the Speedwell, after a few days, was once again "open and leakie as a sieve."

September 6, 1620 – Third Departure – The pilgrims leave from Plymouth, England.   This time the Mayflower goes solo.

THE MAYFLOWER – A small sailing vessel made to carry cargo, not a passenger ship.  It carried things like cloth, hats and wine.  The wine had leaked into the wood over the years making it a very "smelly" vessel.  The Mayflower only sailed when there were significant winds filled the sails.

SIZE – 90' (about two long trailer trucks.)


1) Sleeping – Very crowded. 80 persons slept in a cabin made to hold 30 people.  Imagine the snoring, coughing, seasickness, babies crying, diapers, expectant moms, body odor, no privacy. 

2) Lack of Comfort – There was only one main cabin which was only five feet tall.  The pilgrims were wet, dirty, sick, had lice and fleas and most of them wore the same article of clothing the entire journey.

3)  Food – Ship's biscuits – dry as rocks (called "hardtack").  Dried beef and dried pork (also called salt horse), salted fish, cheese that quickly molded, dried peas and beans.  Roaches, weevils, and maggots infested the hardtack so pilgrims preferred to eat in the dark so they couldn't see these little creatures.  By dipping the hardtack into their coffee it softened the very hard bread, but weevils would be swimming in the top of the coffee afterwards.  Expecting to have warm meals on board the pilgrims found this to be nearly impossible due to possibility of fire starting due to winds blowing flame towards sails.  So warms meals were a rare exception.

4)  Supplies – People could bring very little due to lack of space – one trunk per family.  Included with supplies were farming and building tools, seeds, blankets, clothing, cookware, weapons, animals and each Pilgrim family brought a Bible along.  This was the Geneva 1599 edition.  Also a Bible box which stored the Bible.  They would rely on the Scriptures most especially on the treacherous voyage and in the settlement of the new colony. 

5)  Relations with Sailors.  The sailors, were harsh, swore often and found great pleasure in making fun of the pilgrims and their religious habits.  They taunted them when the pilgrims got seasick referring to them as "glib-glabbety puke stockings."  The sailors resented the daily prayers, hymns, and Scripture reading sessions that pilgrims faithfully held.  But in the end the sailors had to admit that the Pilgrims were strong and brave.

6)  Sickness – There was much sickness due to lack of food, good  hygiene, constant wetness from the storms.  The fresh water quickly contaminated so the only beverage they could drink was beer.  One boy pilgrim and one of the saltiest and mean-spirited sailors died on the way over.  One baby was born midway and was named "Oceanus."

7)  Danger – Besides the terrible storms they weathered the main beam in the ship eventually cracked after one terrible storm.  A very large bolt brought to anchor the cannons in the new world was used for repairing the beam and saved the ship from sinking.


November 9, 1620 - Land Ho!!  66 days later land is finally spotted.  Rather than Virginia, the original plan, they arrive at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown. 

Prayer upon landing"Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they  fell upon their knees, and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof…" William Bradford

Mayflower Compact Nov. 11, 1620 The Mayflower compact is signed.  This compact drawn up in the cabin of the Mayflower was not a constitution.  However it was the germ of popular government in America.  Gov. Bradford refers to the circumstances under which this Compact was drawn up and signed:

"This day, before we came to harbour, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine together in one body and to submit to such government and governors as we should by  common consent agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows, word for word."

Search Party – 18 men (those who were strongest and healthiest) went on exploratory trips to find a good location for building their colony.  Three trips were made.  They got lost in winter storm "the water froze on our clothes, and made them like coats of iron."  They also dealt with Indians. 

December 11 – The search party finds the place John Smith had discovered years earlier which he had named Plimouth (running brooks, fields already cleared, two rivers, harbor safe for small boats and no enemy Indians)

December 16 – The Mayflower sails to Plimouth arriving on Dec. 21.

First Building Project – "The Common House" – 26 days to build.  It was the meeting house, church, storage house and it became necessarily a "hospital" for the sick.

Workdays – The Sabbath began on Saturday afternoon through Monday morning.

The Great Sickness – Some days in the spring only 6 or 7 were well enough to care for the sick.  Children are dying, parents are dying leaving orphans, sailors are dying.

The Dead – By spring half of the pilgrims are now dead and their remains must be buried.  The pilgrims did this in secret after dark and did not mark the sight for fear that they might be overtaken by the Indians after they find the number of pilgrims so few.

SOS Prayers spoken for God to send aid.

Indians Arrive – Samoset arrives and speaks English.  Within a couple days he brings Squanto along who also speaks English and chooses to live with the pilgrims and help them farm, hunt, and work with the land.  He was Christianized while living as a slave in Spain.  Squanto was a very good friend to the Indians and died about three years later due to illness.

Peace Treaty – Indians and Pilgrims live in harmony for over 50 years.

Prosperous Growth – Summer of 1621

Thanksgiving Celebration for God's goodness – The governor declares a Thanksgiving celebration over a three day period and invites Chief Massasoit.  They also said he could bring a few friends.  The pilgrims gave thanks for

Much corn

Plenty to eat

Seven houses finished with others started

Danger of sickness over

No fear of Indians due to a peace treaty

Most importantly they could worship God according to His Word

The feast was held in the middle of October 1621.

-         50 pilgrims,

-         Chief Massasoit and a "few" friends (he brought 90)

The Food – Wild turkey, meat pies, wild geese, wild duck, lobsters, eels, clams, oysters, fresh fish of all kings.  Indians brought five deer, popcorn, corn, carrots, cucumbers, turnips and onions, radishes, beets and cabbages.  Berries picked in the spring and dried to eat later.

Activities – Men and boys played games, had contests, shot bows and arrows, hand wrestled, jumping, running and racing.

Parade – Myles Standish, army commander, held a parade where soldiers marched and fired their guns.

Woman and girls – Constantly cooked and preared the meals.

Time of Sharing  - For all the pilgrims it was a time of sharing and giving thanks to God.

Resources: Information pulled from "Saints and Strangers", "Stories of the Pilgrims" "If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620" "Of Plimouth Plantation" and other readings.

The following resources are recommended by Brooksyne and can be ordered by clicking on the link

438957: Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647
By William Bradford / Random House, Inc
A new edition. The complete text with notes and an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. The definitive edition of one of the great American classics. Bradford's history is a story of a simple people inspired by an ardent faith to a dauntless courage in danger, a resourcefulness in dealing with new problems, an impregnable fortitude in adversity that exalts and heartens one in an age of uncertainty, when courage falters and faith grows dim. It is this story, told by a great human being, that has made the Pilgrim Fathers in a sense the spiritual ancestors of all Americans, all pioneers. Thus Samuel Eliot Morison, the preeminent American historian in this field, in his Preface to this great American classic. For the first time the printed text of Bradford's history has been compared word for word with the original manuscript; for the first time the difficult abbreviations and contractions used by Bradford have been filled out and his archaic and variant spellings made uniform. This edition has a double value: it presents Governor Bradford's text in readable form and it provides contemporary readers with a history of that text and its enduring significance by the historian clearly elect to interpret it.

647273: Saints & StrangersSaints & Strangers (DVD) By Vision Video
What role did faith and religion play in the founding of our country? From the landing of the Mayflower to the Great Awakening, from the fervent patriotism of the pre-Revolutionary era to the War of Independence, this survey examines groups of the faithful who wielded important spiritual influence during the colonial period, including the Anglicans, Puritans, Baptists, Quakers, and others.

25726: Stories of the PilgrimsStories of the Pilgrims  By Margaret B. Pumphrey / Christian Liberty Press
Faith, bravery, perilous journeys, hardships---the stories of the Pilgrims make for exciting reading! This illustrated text follows the Pilgrims from England to Holland to the New World. Your students will meet William Brewster, Miles Standish, John Alden, Massasoit, and others, and learn how our nation was founded on Christian principles. Includes comprehension questions throughout. Grade 4. 244 pages, softcover

51618: If You Sailed on the MayflowerIf You Sailed on the Mayflower  By Ann McGovern / Scholastic Trade
Imagine being a Pilgrim on the Mayflower, anxiously awaiting arrival in a new land. This popular book in the If You series answers a variety of questions about Pilgrim life--both on the ship and on shore--helping readers understand what it was like to have lived at that time. Four-color illustrations. Grades 2-5

02080: Three Young PilgrimsThree Young Pilgrims By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster Trade Sales  
When Bartholemew, Remember, and Mary Allerton and their parents first step down from the Mayflower after sixty days at sea, they never dream that life in the New World will be so hard. Many in their Plymouth colony won't make it through the winter, and the colony's first harvest is possible only with the help of two friends, Samoset and Squanto. Richly detailed paintings show how the pilgrims lived after landing at Plymouth, through the dark winter and into the busy days of spring, summer, and fall. Culminating with the excitement of the original Thanksgiving feast, Three Young Pilgrims makes history come alive. Recommended for ages 5 to 10.

6785X: Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of Thanksgiving SymbolsTurkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of Thanksgiving Symbol By Barth / Houghton-Mifflin  
Why did some of the Pilgrims call Miles Standish "Captain Shrimp" behind his back? Who are the Three Sisters of Iroquois lore, and what do they have to do with our Thanksgiving celebrations today? The amazing stories behind our familiar Thanksgiving symbols and the history of the ancient festivals that led up to the first American Thanksgiving all remind us how much we have to be thankful for...and are revealed in the pages of this entertaining book.

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Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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