The Thanksgiving Holidays are coming soon, and thoughts of the Americans are coming back through the Ages to the historical background. We all know that the Pilgrims came to this country on the ship, and this ship is Mayflower. Well, the question is if all the passengers on this historical voyage were Pilgrims, and how many of them were coming to step on the unknown continent. I did not know the answer. Do you?
In September 1620, a merchant ship called the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, a port on the southern coast of England. Typically, the Mayflower’s cargo was wine and dry goods, but on this trip the ship carried passengers: 102 of them, all hoping to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Nearly 40 of these passengers were Protestant Separatists–they called themselves “Saints”–who hoped to establish a new church in the New World. Today, we often refer to the colonists who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower as “Pilgrims.”
Pilgrims Before the Mayflower
In 1608, a congregation of disgruntled English Protestants from the village of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, left England and moved to Leyden, a town in Holland. These “Separatists” did not want to pledge allegiance to the Church of England, which they believed was nearly as corrupt and idolatrous as the Catholic Church it had replaced, any longer. (They were not the same as the Puritans, who had many of the same objections to the English church but wanted to reform it from within.) The Separatists hoped that in Holland, they would be free to worship as they liked.
In fact, the Separatists (they called themselves “Saints”) did find religious freedom in Holland, but they also found a secular life that was more difficult to navigate than they’d anticipated. For one thing, Dutch craft guilds excluded the migrants, so they were relegated to menial, low-paying jobs. Even worse was Holland’s easygoing, cosmopolitan atmosphere, which proved alarmingly seductive to some of the Saints’ children. (These young people were “drawn away,” Separatist leader William Bradford wrote, “by evill [sic] example into extravagance and dangerous courses.”) For the strict, devout Separatists, this was the last straw. They decided to move again, this time to a place without government interference or worldly distraction: the “New World” across the Atlantic Ocean.
First, the Separatists returned to London to get organized. A prominent merchant agreed to advance the money for their journey. The Virginia Company gave them permission to establish a settlement, or “plantation,” on the East Coast between 38 and 41 degrees’ north latitude (roughly between the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Hudson River). And the King of England gave them permission to leave the Church of England, “provided they carried themselves peaceably.”
In August 1620, a group of about 40 Saints joined a much larger group of (comparatively) secular colonists– “Strangers,” to the Saints–and set sail from England on two merchant ships: The Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Speedwell began to leak almost immediately, however, and the ships headed back to port. The travelers squeezed themselves and their belongings onto the Mayflower and set sail once again.
Because of the delay caused by the leaky Speedwell, the Mayflower had to cross the Atlantic at the height of storm season. As a result, the journey was horribly unpleasant. Many of the passengers were so seasick they could scarcely get up, and the waves were so rough that one “Stranger” was swept overboard and drowned.
The Mayflower Compact
After two miserable months at sea, the ship finally reached the New World. There, the Mayflower’s passengers found an abandoned Indian village and not much else. They also found that they were in the wrong place: Cape Cod was located at 42 degrees’ north latitude, well north of the Virginia Company’s territory. Technically, the Mayflower colonists had no right to be there at all. In order to establish themselves as a legitimate colony (“Plymouth,” named after the English port from which they had departed) under these dubious circumstances, 41 of the Saints and Strangers drafted and signed a document they called the Mayflower Compact. This Compact promised to create a “civil Body Politick” governed by elected officials and “just and equal laws.” It also swore allegiance to the English king.
Plymouth Colony and The First Thanksgiving
The colonists spent the first winter, which only 53 passengers and half the crew survived, living onboard the Mayflower. (The Mayflower sailed back to England in April 1621.) Once they moved ashore, the colonists faced even more challenges. During their first winter in America, more than half of the Plymouth colonists died from malnutrition, disease and exposure to the harsh New England weather. In fact, without the help of the area’s native people, it is likely that none of the colonists would have survived. An English-speaking Pawtuxet 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 and squash. At the end of the next summer, the Plymouth colonists celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day festival of thanksgiving.
Eventually, the Plymouth colonists were absorbed into the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. Still, the Mayflower Saints and their descendants remained convinced that they alone had been specially chosen by God to act as a beacon for Christians around the world. “As one small candle may light a thousand,” Bradford wrote, “so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.”
Who Came with Mayflower?
Detailed below is a list of the passengers on board the Mayflower during its trans-Atlantic voyage of September 6 - November 9, 1620, the majority of them becoming the settlers of Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts. Of the passengers, 37 were members of the separatist Leiden congregation seeking freedom of worship in the New World.
The Mayflower launched with 102 passengers, as well as at least two dogs. One baby was born during the trip and named Oceanus Hopkins. Another, Peregrine (meaning "wanderer") White, was born on the Mayflower in America on November 20, before the settlement at Plymouth. About half of these emigrants List of Mayflower passengers who died in the winter of 1620 - 1621|died in the first winter. Many Americans can trace their ancestry back to one or more of these individuals who, 'Saints' and 'Strangers' together, would become known as the Pilgrim Fathers|Pilgrims.
The names of those which came over first, in the year 1620, and were by the blessing of God the first beginners and in a sort the foundation of all the Plantations and Colonies in New England; and their families.
Mr. John Carver, Katherine his wife, Desire Minter, and two manservants, John Howland, Roger Wilder. William Latham, a boy, and a maidservant and a child that was put to him called Jasper More.
Mr. William Brewster, Mary, his wife, with two sons, whose names were Love and Wrestling. And a boy was put to him called Richard More, and another of his brothers. The rest of his children were left behind and came over afterwards.
Mr. Edward Winslow, Elizabeth his wife and two menservants called George Soule and Elias Story; also a little girl was put to him called Ellen, the sister of Richard More.
William Bradford and Dorothy his wife, having but one child, a son left behind who came afterward.
Mr. Isaac Allerton and Mary his wife, with three children, Bartholomew, Remember and Mary. And a servant boy John Hooke.
Mr. Samuel Fuller and a servant called William Button. His wife was behind, and a child which came afterwards.
John Crackston and his son John Crackston.
Captain Myles Standish and Rose his wife.
Mr. Christopher Martin and his wife and two servants, Solomon Prower and John Langmore.
Mr. William Mullins and his wife and two children, Joseph and Priscilla; and a servant, Robert Carter.
Mr. William White and Susanna his wife and one son called Resolved, and one born a-shipboard called Peregrine, and two servants named William Holbeck and Edward Thompson.
Mr. Stephen Hopkins and Elizabeth his wife, and two children called Giles and Constanta, a daughter, both by a former wife. And two more by this wife called Damaris and Oceanus; the last was born at sea. And two servants called Edward Doty and Edward Lester.
Mr. Richard Warren, but his wife and children were left behind and came afterwards.
John Billington and Ellen his wife, and two sons, John and Francis.
Edward Tilley and Ann his wife, and two children that were their cousins, Henry Sampson and Humility Cooper.
John Tilley and his wife, and Elizabeth their daughter.
Francis Cooke and his son John; but his wife and other children came afterwards.
Thomas Rogers and Joseph his son; his other children came afterwards.
Thomas Tinker and his wife and a son.
John Rigsdale and Alice his wife.
James Chilton and his wife, and Mary their daughter; they had another daughter that was married, came afterward.
Edward Fuller and his wife, and Samuel their son.
John Turner and two sons; he had a daughter came some years after to Salem, where she is now living.
Francis Eaton and Sarah his wife, and Samuel their son, a young child.
Moses Fletcher, John Goodman, Thomas Williams, Digory Priest, Edmund Margesson, Peter Browne, Richard Britteridge, Richard Clarke, Richard Gardiner, Gilbert Winslow.
John Alden was hired for a cooper at Southampton where the ship victualed, and being a hopeful young man was much desired but left to his own liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed and married here.
John Allerton and Thomas English were both hired, the latter to go master of a shallop here, and the other was reputed as one of the company but was to go back (being a seaman) for the help of others behind. But they both died here before the ship returned.
There were also other two seamen hired to stay a year here in the country, William Trevor, and one Ely. But when their time was out they both returned.
These being about a hundred souls, came over in this first ship and began this work, which God of His goodness hath hitherto blessed. Let His holy name have the praise.
(From William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation,1650).
Sources and Additional Information: