is what The Compton's Encyclopedia says about "The
A storm-tossed, 66-day voyage across the wintry Atlantic
Ocean in 1620 carried the small, slow merchant vessel
Mayflower into an honored place in American history.
Crowded on board were the men, women, and children who
founded Plymouth, the first permanent colony in North
America settled by families. These people, now called the
Pilgrims, were the first colonists who came to the New
World to gain religious liberty. They were also the first
to draw up a written agreement providing for "such a
government and governors as we should by common consent
agree to make and choose." This historic document,
signed on the ship, is known as the Mayflower Compact.
The Pilgrims left England because the English king, James
I, did not permit freedom of religion. Everyone was
expected to belong to the official state church, the
Church of England. Some groups of people objected to
certain of its practices. The Puritans set out to
"purify" the state church. The Separatists
wanted to have a separate denomination.
Leaders among the Pilgrim Fathers had been members of a
small congregation of Separatists. They had gathered to
worship in secret at William Brewster's manor house in
the village of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire. Spied upon,
found out, and persecuted, they determined to seek a home
where they could worship as they chose. They fled to
Holland in 1608. In Leiden (Leyden) these farming folk
founded a church and a religious community. Even with
their religious freedom they did not feel at home in the
Dutch industrial and commercial city. Many had a
difficult struggle to earn a living in unfamiliar work.
Parents worried for fear their children would grow up as
Dutchmen. After long discussion they decided to go into
the wilds of the New World, where they might keep their
native language and customs.
Three years were spent making necessary arrangements.
They obtained a patent from the Virginia Company of
London to settle in the territory then called Virginia.
Lacking money for supplies and expenses, they contracted
with a group of merchants to finance them. In return they
were to work for seven years and share their output with
The group from Leiden sailed to England in a small ship,
the Speedwell, which they planned to use for commercial
fishing in America. On the Mayflower in Southampton
harbor there were other English Separatists and a group
of "strangers" recruited by the merchants.
Twice they started for the New World only to be forced to
return to England because the Speedwell was leaking.
Finally they abandoned the ship. Some of its passengers
stayed behind, and the rest crowded onto the Mayflower.
The "strangers," including the servants,
outnumbered the "saints," or Separatists, but
the "saints" remained in control.
It was September 16, nearing the season of westerly gales
and fall storms, when the ship finally set sail from
Plymouth, England. Captain Christopher Jones was in
No authentic plans or dimensions of the Mayflower are
known to exist. Naval architects, however, have made
models based on designs of other merchant vessels of the
day. The ship was a three-masted sailing vessel of 180
tons. Its length was approximately 100 feet (30 meters),
and the greatest width was 26 feet (8 meters). The stern
rose 27 feet (8 meters) above the water when loaded.
Two decks ran the length of the ship. The forecastle rose
from the main deck in the bow. It contained quarters for
the crew of 30 and the galley where the crew's food was
prepared. At the stern the poop house and poop deck sat
atop the half deck. Here were two fair-size cabins that
were normally used as quarters for the ship's officers.
Historians have wondered how more than 100 passengers
found sleeping space. One writer guessed that, if the
officers gave up most of their cabin space, perhaps 54
parents and children could sleep in tiers of double bunks
there. The single men and boys could bed down on pallets
or hammocks between decks. Their goods and supplies were
stored in the hold.
Nobody had privacy. There were no sanitary facilities,
and fresh water was too scarce to use for washing.
Seasickness plagued the travelers. The stench in the
crowded quarters must have been offensive.
Cold food was the chief fare of the passengers--hard
biscuits, cheese, and salted beef or fish. An occasional
hot dish could be cooked over an open charcoal fire in a
box of sand. Without fresh provisions many passengers
contracted scurvy in the 66-day voyage. They suffered
from exposure to bitter winds and icy waters. When storms
tossed the ship, the caulking worked out of the upper
seams, letting in the freezing spray. Once the main beam
buckled, and repairs had to be made in midocean.
"After longe beating at sea," wrote William
Bradford, later governor of Plymouth, "they fell
with that land which is called Cape Cod; the which being
made and certainly known to be it, they were not a little
joyfull." They had reached North America, having
suffered only the loss of one servant and one sailor on
the 66-day voyage. One infant was born on the ship as it
lay anchored at Cape Cod.
Their joy soon turned to fear, for the Mayflower met
perhaps her greatest danger on this day, November 19.
When Captain Jones headed southward off the eastern coast
of the cape, the vessel was caught in the scarcely
submerged sandbars southeast of present-day Chatham. For
several hours it appeared that the ship was in danger of
running aground and being wrecked. Then a change in the
wind enabled the captain to sail northward to the head of
the cape, finally mooring in Provincetown Harbor on
Saturday, November 21.
The Pilgrims had reached land at a point considerably
north of Virginia, where their patent called for
settlement. Thus they were outside the jurisdiction of
the London company. Some form of government was needed
since a few of the "strangers" were threatening
to "use their own libertie" on landing. Before
the ship anchored they drew up the Mayflower Compact, a
type of church covenant adapted for civil purposes. All
men known to be of age signed it. It read:
In ye name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwriten,
the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King
James, by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc &
Ireland, king, Defender of faith, etc. Haveing undertaken
for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian
faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to
plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia,
do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the
presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine
ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our
better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the
ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte,
constitute, and frame such just & equal laws,
ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to
time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for
the generall good of the colony, unto which we promise
all due submission and obedience.
The Compact was one of the earliest plans for
self-government by European colonists in America.
Rest and worship kept the Pilgrims aboard ship through
Sunday. On Monday the women were rowed to the snowy shore
to wash two months' accumulation of soiled clothes. The
men began repairing their shallop, or open boat. This
they used in a month's exploration of the area to find
the best site for settlement. It was December 21 when
they finally landed at their chosen spot, Plymouth. The
ship remained with the colony through the winter. It set
sail for England on April 5, 1621, and reached home a
month later. Little is known of the ship's later history.
In 1957 a replica of the ship--named Mayflower II
--sailed from Plymouth, England, to Massachusetts in an
attempt to duplicate the original trip. The second
journey took 53 days.
Important & Related
21, 1620--Signing of the Mayflower Compact by the
Pilgrims while en route to North America aboard the
Mayflower. The document's ideas of self-government based
on majority rule were used by other colonies and later
embodied in the United States Constitution.
December 21st -- 21. Forefathers' Day. New England
states. The Mayflower reached Plymouth, 1620.
Mayflower Related Links:
Plimoth on the Web take a Virtual
Tour while you are there
Articles from the Plimoth Museum Library: Mayflower
Crossing 1620 & Mayflower II & Interesting Facts
about the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and Plymouth. & Pilgrim Trivia & Mayflower (1620) & MAYFLOWER CREW
September 16 -
September special days and holidays.
Below is quoted from: The World Book, Comptons and
What is The Mayflower?
Mayflower was the ship that carried the first Pilgrims to
America, in 1620. It was built around 1610 and probably
had three masts and two decks. It probably measured about
90 feet (27 meters) long and weighed about 180 short tons
(163 metric tons). Its master, Christopher Jones, was a
The Mayflower left England on Aug. 15, 1620 (August 5
according to the calendar then in use) with another ship,
the Speedwell. After turning back twice because of leaks
on the Speedwell, the Mayflower sailed alone from
Plymouth on September 16 (September 6), with 102
passengers. The ship reached Cape Cod on November 21
(November 11), off what is now Provincetown Harbor. It
reached the present site of Plymouth, Mass., on December
26 (December 16), five days after a small party explored
The Mayflower left America on April 15, 1621 (April 5,
1621). Historians are not certain what happened to the
ship after it returned to England. Some believe it was
dismantled after Jones died in 1622, although a ship
called the Mayflower made trips to America after that.
Others believe that William Russell bought the Mayflower
for salvage, and used its hull as a barn roof. The barn
stands in Jordans, a village outside London.
The Mayflower II, built the way the original Mayflower is
thought to have looked, is kept in Plymouth, Mass. In
1957, it crossed the Atlantic in 54 days. The Britons who
built the replica gave it to the American people as a
symbol of friendship.
Learn about the Pilgrims
The Pilgrims: In the 1500's,
some members of the Church of England, known as
Puritans,favored reforms to "purify" the
church. By the late 1500's, some Puritan congregations
had broken away from the church entirely, and had become
known as Separatists. Some Separatists sought religious
freedom in Holland, then decided to begin a new life in
The early English settlers of New England became known as
the Pilgrims. On Sept. 16, 1620, 41 Separatists and 61
other people from England became the first group of
Pilgrims to journey to America. These Pilgrims sailed
from Plymouth, England, in the Mayflower. That November,
the Mayflower anchored in what is now Provincetown
harbor. Before leaving the ship, the Pilgrims drew up a
plan of self-government, which they called the Mayflower
Compact. In December, they sailed across Cape Cod Bay and
settled in Plymouth.
The Pilgrims suffered great hardships during their first
winter in America. They had little food other than the
game they could hunt. Their houses were crude bark
shelters. About half the settlers died during the winter
of 1620-1621. Early in 1621, the Pilgrims became friendly
with some Indians. The Indians taught them how to plant
corn and beans. By the time cold weather came again, the
settlers were living more comfortably. They had enough
food to last the winter. The Pilgrims celebrated the
first New England Thanksgiving in 1621.
More settlers came to the Plymouth Colony during the
years that followed. Within 20 years after the Pilgrims
landed, Plymouth Colony had eight towns and about 2,500
The Plymouth Colony:
Colony, pronounced PLIHM uhth, was the second permanent
English settlement in America. The colonists who settled
there became known as Pilgrims because of their
wanderings in search of religious freedom. In 1620, they
established their colony on the rocky western shore of
Cape Cod Bay in southeastern Massachusetts. This region
had been called Plimouth on John Smith's map of New
England, drawn in 1614. The Pilgrims established the
Congregational Church in America. Plymouth Colony
remained independent until 1691, when it became part of
Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims have become for all
Americans a lesson of how a people with little more than
courage, perseverance, and hard work could build
themselves a home in a hostile world. Their bravery set
an example for future generations of Americans.
Many tourists visit modern Plymouth with its memorials to
the Pilgrim forefathers. Just south of town there is a
model of the original Pilgrim village. Plimoth
Plantation, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to
the preservation of the Pilgrim heritage, also maintains
a replica of the first Pilgrim house and of the
How was The Plymouth Colony
of the Pilgrims were Separatists (Puritans who had
separated from the Church of England). The government of
England arrested and tried the Separatists because of
their nonconformity (refusal to belong to the Church of
England). In 1608, a group of Separatists moved to the
Netherlands. After a few years, some of them became
dissatisfied, and felt that things would be better in a
new land. They secured financial backing in London, and,
in 1620, left the Netherlands in a small ship called the
Speedwell. The ship stopped in England, and the
expedition was joined by other English people who hoped
to better their lives. The group left England in the
Speedwell and a larger ship, the Mayflower. The Speedwell
proved unseaworthy, and the fleet returned to England
twice. Finally, in September 1620, the Mayflower sailed
alone from Plymouth, England. It carried 102 passengers,
including women and children.
A rough passage of 65 days brought the Mayflower to Cape
Cod on November 20 (November 10, according to the
calendar then in use). The Pilgrims had promised to
settle somewhere within the limits of the original grant
of the Virginia Company of Plymouth. But errors in
navigation led them to the New England region. Adverse
winds and the shoals off Cape Cod forced the Mayflower to
stay north. The ship anchored in Provincetown harbor
inside the tip of Cape Cod on November 21.
The Pilgrim leaders were uncertain of their legal
position because they were in the area without authority.
They also knew they would need discipline among
themselves. To solve these problems, 41 men aboard the
Mayflower met and signed the Mayflower Compact, the first
agreement for self-government in America. The Pilgrims
also elected John Carver as their governor.
The landing at Plymouth. The sea-weary Pilgrims were
anxious to learn more about the country. For almost a
month, several small groups explored the coast around
Cape Cod Bay while the rest remained aboard. One of the
groups had to take refuge on an island in Plymouth harbor
during a blinding snowstorm. On Dec. 21, 1620, this group
landed at Plymouth. There they found a stream with clear
water, some cleared land, and a high hill that could be
fortified. This site was once an Indian village, but
smallpox had wiped out all the Indians in 1617. The
Pilgrims decided that this would be their new home. The
Mayflower sailed across Cape Cod Bay and anchored in
Plymouth harbor on December 26.
The first year was a difficult one for the Pilgrims. Poor
and inadequate food, strenuous work, and changeable
weather made the settlers susceptible to sickness. The
colony lost about half its members that first winter.
But help came one spring morning, when an Indian walked
into the little village and introduced himself to the
startled people as Samoset. He later returned with
Squanto. They introduced the Pilgrims to Massasoit, the
sachem (chief) of the Wampanoag tribe that controlled all
southeastern Massachusetts. Carver and the chief
exchanged gifts and arranged a treaty of peace. Soon
afterward, the Mayflower sailed for England, leaving the
Pilgrims. Then Carver died, and William Bradford became
governor of the colony.
The Pilgrims, under Squanto's direction, caught alewives
(a fish in the herring family) and used them as
fertilizer in planting corn, pumpkins, and beans. They
hunted and fished for food. The harvest that year led
Governor Bradford to declare a celebration. Sometime in
the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims invited their Indian
friends to join them in a three-day festival that we now
call the first New England Thanksgiving. The menu
included corn bread, duck, eel, goose, wild leeks,
shellfish, venison, watercress, and wine.
Life in Plymouth Colony
Pilgrims received legal rights to settle at Plymouth
under a patent granted by the Council for New England in
1621. Governor Bradford received a new patent, the
Warwick Patent, in 1630. It granted him all the land
south of a line between Narragansett Bay and Cohasset.
Under this patent, Bradford could have claimed ownership
of the entire colony, but he shared control with the
other settlers. He turned the patent over to all the
freemen (voters) of the colony in 1640. A few years
later, surveyors marked off an area corresponding to the
present counties of Bristol, Barnstable, and Plymouth as
the colony of Plymouth.
Expansion of the colony. In November 1621,
the ship Fortune arrived with 35 new colonists. Other
ships brought additional settlers but the population grew
to only 300 settlers in 10 years. Some of the colonists
decided to move from Plymouth to better lands. Some went
north and established the towns of Duxbury, Marshfield,
and Scituate. Others moved west to Rehoboth, or farther
east on Cape Cod to settle Sandwich, Barnstable,
Yarmouth, and Eastham.
Government. The men who signed
the Mayflower Compact were the freemen of the colony.
They, along with any newly chosen freemen, met once a
year to discuss the problems of the colony. This body,
called the General Court, elected the governor and his
assistants, made laws, and levied taxes. In outlying
towns, the freemen held town meetings to elect their own
officers and settle town matters. Beginning in 1639,
these towns sent representatives to the General Court at
Economic life. The Pilgrims
organized a joint-stock company with some London
merchants to finance the voyage. The partnership was to
last for seven years. The Pilgrims agreed to put the
results of their labor into a common fund, which would
provide the necessities of life for the settlers. At the
end of seven years, all the profits and property were to
be divided among the financiers and the settlers. This
experiment did not work out, and in 1623 the colony
allowed settlers to farm individual plots. The London
merchants in 1627 agreed to sell their interest in the
company to the Pilgrims, who finished paying off the debt
The Pilgrims at first expected to make a profit from
fishing. But they were never very successful at this.
They turned to farming for their existence and to fur
trading for profit. When other Puritans settled
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628, the Pilgrims developed
a prosperous trade in corn and cattle with them. Through
steady and hard work, the colony was able to live
moderately well without extremes of wealth or poverty.
The honored ones. William Bradford, the second governor
of Plymouth, wrote a history of the Pilgrims' adventure
aboard the Mayflower.
For the Mayflower ship's
"Mayflower Passenger List" Page
about the Indians?
American. The people now known as Indians or Native
Americans were the firstpeople to live in
the Americas. They had been living there for thousands of
years before any Europeans arrived.
that would later become the Thirteen Colonies was also
home to more than 500,000 Indians. The tribes in the
north included the Massachusett, Pequot, and Wampanoag.
Among the groups in the central part of the region were
the Delaware, the Susquehannock, and the nations of the
powerful Iroquois League--the Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga,
Oneida, and Seneca. Farther south lived the Catawba,
Cherokee, Creek, and other tribes.
The Indians of eastern North America generally lived in
villages near fields where they grew corn, squash, and
beans. They also hunted and fished, and gathered wild
plants, nuts, and berries.
European contact. The tribes of the Eastern Woodlands
were among the first to meet European explorers and
settlers. At first, the two groups had friendly
relations. Squanto, a Patuxet, is said to have taught the
white settlers how to plant corn and fertilize it with
dead fish. Massasoit of the Wampanoag helped the Pilgrims
of Plymouth Colony. In 1621, the Indians and Pilgrims
joined in a Thanksgiving ceremony to give thanks for a
good harvest and peace. But the friendly relations did
not last, and warfare soon became common. Most of the
early fighting consisted of small battles between
settlers and Indians. Smallpox, measles, and other
European diseases killed many Indians.
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