This is the 400th anniversary
of the sailing of the Mayflower
and landing of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod Massachusetts. There were lots of plans made on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to celebrate the historic milestone. It is amazingly those pilgrims survived the first Winter.
The colonists lived on the Mayflower. A scouting party did go out late in December to find a place for a possible settlement. They found an area that had been abandoned by native people and then decided that it would be suitable for them to build their homes once warm weather came.
They would name their village site Plymouth after the town by that name where they had departed in England. Only 53 passengers and half the crew survived that first Winter. Women were particularly hard hit; of the 19 women who had boarded the Mayflower, only five survived, confined to the ship where disease and cold were rampant.
The Mayflower sailed back to England in April 1621, and once the group moved ashore, the colonists faced even more challenges. Without the help of the area’s native people, it is likely that none of the colonists would have survived. An English-speaking Abenaki named Samoset helped the colonists form an alliance with the local Wampanoags, who taught them how to hunt local animals, gather shellfish and grow corn, beans as well as squash.
Celebrating 400 years
In order to celebrate the 400 year anniversary, the replica Mayflower Ship needed to first be sent out for repairs.
William Bradford (1590-1657) was a special member of the Plymouth Colony. He was important for colonial American history because he was a signer of the Mayflower Compact and he played an important role in the first Thanksgiving. He was also Plymouth colony’s governor for more than 30 years and he wrote a history of Plymouth Plantation. This was one of the first books of European settlement in the New World.
Bradford was born in Yorkshire England in 1590. He came from a well to do family and expressed his religious differences even while in his early teens. During his teens, he joined the Pilgrims, also known as Separatists, a group that wanted to separate from the Church of England, something that was not allowed. The Pilgrims were persecuted in England, and Bradford joined the Pilgrims as they fled to the Netherlands for religious freedom.
After 11 years in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims decided to set up a colony in the New World. They set sail in 1620 on the ship bound for America. It was a rough trip across the ocean but the Pilgrims finally arrived off the coast of what is now Massachusetts.
America’s First Thanksgiving
The celebration that we now regard as the ‘First Thanksgiving’ was the Pilgrims’ 3-day feast celebrated in November of 1621. Bradford helped organize the celebration. This feast was a celebration for their first rich harvest as well as a way to thank the local Indians who helped teach them important survival skills.
The first Thanksgiving started a tradition of giving thanks for good harvests and good health through feasting sometime during the fall season. By the mid-17th century, the custom of Thanksgiving spread throughout New England and became so popular that, after the American Revolution, the newly established Congress officially recognized the need for this holiday.
Bradford as Governor of Plymouth Colony
Upon landing and establishing Plymouth Colony, elections were done for choosing the governor of the colony. For the first year, John Carver was governor. However, Carver passed away after one year as governor. From then on, Bradford was elected governor, a leadership role that he held for most of his remaining life. The governor was elected every year, and Bradford was governor for 30 years.
Bradford was largely responsible for keeping Plymouth Colony independent of the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony. Since the Massachusetts Bay Colony was made up of Puritans who wanted to continue worshiping in the Church of England style (just a ‘purified’ version of it), and Plymouth Colony was made up of Pilgrims who wanted to remain separate from the Church of England, it was a wise decision for Bradford to keep his colony apart from the other.
Bradford was a very active political figure in Plymouth Colony. Not only was he the governor, he was also chief magistrate, high judge, and treasurer, and he presided over legislative issues in the General Court. In 1636, he helped draft the colony’s legal code. Bradford was also known for being more religiously tolerant than the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s governor, John Winthrop. Many of the people who were banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for religious reasons often found shelter in Plymouth Colony under Bradford’s leadership.
Hope you enjoyed the above film which helps to give you a clearer picture of the hardships of their voyage across the Atlantic in the Mayflower. Many of you may have Mayflower ancestors and may not even know it. I know that I have ten Mayflower grandparents.
There are an estimated 10 million living Americans and 35 million people around the world who are descended from the original passengers on the Mayflower like Myles Standish, John Alden, William Bradford that includes people like Humphrey Bogart, Julia Child, Norman Rockwell, and presidents such as John Adams, James Garfield or Zachary Taylor. You too could be included on this list.
The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for self-governance established by the English settlers who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. When Pilgrims “the Saints” and “the Strangers” were to be working together in the colony, they wanted to be able to get along and cooperate. A compact seemed to be a good solution. It was signed by most of them.
I have ten mayflower great grandparents and to discover if you do as well, it can take a great deal of research. I am willing to help. You are welcome to join my Maine Mayflower group. I have made sure that there is some information there that may interest you. This is the link: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3673280 – Enjoy.