(The FRENCH, DUTCH and ENGLISH to AMERICA – continued)
In addition to the Jamestown area, English migrants from 1620 went to Barbados, an uninhabited island in the Caribbean where Arawak Indians had once lived. Another group that sailed from England were those called Pilgrims. Originally they were called Separatists, a sect that had wished to free itself from domination by bishops of the Church of England. In small bands, between 1607 and 1609, they sneaked out of England – English law forbidding people to leave without permission – and they found refuge in the Calvinist Netherlands. While there the Thirty Years' War erupted. Spain was still a threat to the Dutch. Some of the Pilgrim refugees decided that they would be better off in America. It was five years before King James revoked the Virginia Company's charter, and the Pilgrims agreed to work for the Virginia Company in exchange for the company providing them passage. And King James approved the Pilgrim's journey following the Pilgrim's promise to live peaceably in his colony. In 1620, after sailing from the Netherlands to England, 35 of the Pilgrims boarded a ship called the Mayflower, and they were joined by 67 other Englanders.
The Mayflower was blown off course, and rather than land in Virginia it landed at Plymouth, where there was a deep harbor and land with fresh water, timber and good soil. Europeans had been going ashore on this northern coastline for years, and Indians there had already been decimated by the smallpox carried there by the Europeans.
The Pilgrims found most of the nearby Indian villages recently abandoned. Of the 3,000 or so Massachuset Indians living in the area in 1614, their number had been reduced to less than 800 by the time the Pilgrims arrived. Another people living in the area were the Wampanoag – whose language, like the Powhatan, Pamunkey and Massachuset, was a branch of Algonquin. Disease had killed as many as 90 percent of the Wampanoag between 1616 and 1618, leaving around 1,200 who were in need of allies against hostile neighboring tribes. note17
No one had granted the Pilgrims land, but they believed that the land under their feet had been given them by their god, Jehovah. The colonists had agreed among themselves to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good, but it was December, 1620, and Plymouth was colder than Jamestown farther south. There was little general good to share, and only half of the settlers survived their first winter. Those who did had stayed in abandoned Wampanoag villages and had raided Wampanoag food caches.
The following spring, the settlers found streams teaming with fish, and the Wampanoag who were still around exercised the native American's sense of sharing and showed them how to plant corn, how to cook squash and pumpkins, how to make corn pudding, and how to gather greens. The Wampanoag brought the Pilgrims the meat of deer they had hunted. The settlers and the Wampanoag made a treaty, the Wampanoag happy to have allies to help defend against hostile neighbors. And on November 25, 1621, the Wampanoag chieftain, Massasoit, and more than ninety of his warriors feasted with the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were thankful, and the day was to be celebrated in the United States as Thanksgiving.
Then more Puritans arrived around Plymouth. A small settlement was established at Wollaston, and a few Plymouth families crossed the bay to settle at Duxbury. In 1622, sixty people from England settled around 25 miles north of Plymouth at Weymouth. There a food shortage developed, and some of the settlers stole corn that Massachuset Indians had stored. This was sharing not approved by the Indians, and they decided to cut their trade with the settlers. The settlers threatened violence, and from Plymouth a military leader, Miles Standish, went to the rescue of the Weymouth colony. He led a raid against the Indians, defeating a group and its leader, Wituwamet, killing eight. And Standish resorted to the European tradition by displaying Wituwamet's head on a wooden fort wall, and the local Indians began calling the settlers wotowquenange – cut throats.
In 1623, 120 more Puritans – men and women – landed at Weymouth, and that year the settlement at Weymouth abandoned land sharing. Men laboring in the fields had been disgruntled by the sharing, believing they were doing more than some others, and married men disliked seeing their wives cooking for bachelors. Each family was given its own plot of land, and dissension among the settlers declined.
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.