Pilgrim Fine Points [UPDATED]Published 12:57pm Friday, November 9, 2012 Updated 12:57pm Friday, November 9, 2012
My life changed in 2004 when my first cousin, Barbara Morris, contacted me about her new membership: “You and I ARE legal ancestors of Edward (and his wife – possibly Anne) Fuller who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620! I am now a member of The General Society of Mayflower Descendants and YOU could be, too!”
What an amazing surprise! To be verified as a General Society Mayflower member, legal birth, marriage and death certificates must be submitted. The first five generations have been secured. Because we are the 13th generation, Barb and her late husband, Ed, worked hard researching and securing certificates occasionally contacting town clerks out east, reading census records and more. It was difficult and time consuming, but when each generation was legally verified, Barbara joined the General Society AND the Missouri Mayflower Society. As her first cousin, all I had to do was add my parent’s and my certificates. I proudly joined the General and Minnesota Mayflower Society in 2006 purchasing a Lifetime membership.
Research and articles arrive in our Mayflower Quarterly books, through the Plimoth Plantation, and more. Enjoy unique information and please consider honoring the strong Pilgrims with 5 kernels of corn on Thanksgiving Day.
Separatists/Strangers: A group of religious people (called ‘Separatists’) wanted to worship ‘their’ way and traveled from England to Holland in the early 1600’s. Wanting to arrive in the ‘New World,’ they traveled with merchants who were known as ‘Strangers.’ The Mayflower passengers were not renamed
‘Pilgrims’ until 1840 when William Bradford’s original phrase was viewed: “…they knew they were pilgrims.”
Pilgrim Heights: The average height of English men in the 17th century was approximately 5’6” and the women were only 5’ 1/2”. (Ancestors grew taller later generations…but I’m still 1/2” shorter!)
Correct Clothing: In school we were asked to decorate Pilgrims with black/white clothing and many still believe that was how Pilgrims were dressed. No: The Puritans who arrived to the “New World” later always wore black clothing. The Pilgrims’ clothing was listed in their wills when they died. Men AND women dressed colorfully: violet, red, green and more. FYI: The Pilgrim women shaped their dress by wearing a huge padded roll tied around their hips under their immensely gathered shirt and long/wide aprons!
Food and Drinks: In the 17th century water in England was not healthy. Basically ALL Mayflower passengers hydrated their bodies by drinking beer. They ate board salted meat/fish, peas, beans and hard cheese.
Packed Mayflower: 102 Separatists, Strangers and the crew members filled the Mayflower to travel to the “New World.” There were 50 men, 19 women and 33 youngsters. All had little privacy with canvas partitions around bunk beds. The ship will filled with “180 tuns” which were large barrels filled with 265 gallons of liquid. Research listed there was no livestock, but a few mastiff dogs and maybe a cat to remove rats. Clothing, tools and furniture were also loaded. One man brought 21 pairs of shoes and 13 pairs of boots which he intended to use as a medium of exchange. Because the ship was so heavily packed it only sailed
2 miles per hour.
Arrival The Mayflower arrived in the Provincetown Harbor area November 11, 1620. Before the men left the ship, they made an agreement to join together developing the Mayflower Compact
(the “First American State Paper” which lasted 70 years). While
the original document no longer exists, the text was printed in
the Plymouth Colony in 1622 and was officially named ‘Mayflower Compact’ in 1793.
First Days: The Mayflower likely arrived on a Saturday. After the Compact the men walked to the beach and into the woods and returned to the ship. On Sunday (Sabbath), everyone stayed
inside the Mayflower and prayed. On Monday morning most waded through the icy water because it was necessary and some did it for a ‘lark.’ The kids were happy to run on the beach and
the women found ponds of fresh water where they could do
much of their laundry after their 66 day sail. Since then, women believe that Mondays are Laundry Days!
Great Sickness: Only 51 of 102 passengers survived the horrible first winter: 44% of the men lived, only 4 of the 19 women
survived and 75% of the youngsters lived. (My ancestors, Edward and his wife both passed away, but their youngest son, Samuel, lived.) Two to three people died daily in the mid winter. They had not yet met the Indians and knew they were watching them, so they were not buried until nighttime and mostly in one grave at the top of a hill so the natives would not know how few were left. (FYI: The hill named ‘Coles Hill’ became a National Historic Landmark. A few centuries later building was taking place at the bottom. Digging down, they saw bones of the Pilgrims had floated down the hill over centuries. They were removed and replaced at the top with a monument listing names.)
Kindly Helping the Pilgrims: In March, 1621 a tall Indian walked into the plantation the Pilgrims had created. His name was Samoset and he yelled, “Welcome! Welcome! Welcome, Englishmen!” They couldn’t believe he could speak English and they became friends. In April the Pilgrims and Massasoit both agreed upon terms of a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags. They were extremely helpful to the Pilgrims, teaching them how to plant Indian corn and other crops.
“First Thanksgiving” – Harvest Feast A Harvest Feast (which was called the First Thanksgiving in the 1800s) took place in 1621. Ninety Wampanoag Indians celebrated with the colonists for three days gorging themselves on venison, roast duck, goose and wild turkey, lams and other shell-fish, succulent eels, corn bread, hasty pudding, leeks and water-cress, herbs, wild plums and dried berries as desserts. Pumpkin pies? Potatoes? No, they had not arrived. Only four married women and five teenage girls were extremely industrious and efficient trying to fill 140 stomachs for three days! It was later stated that the success of the Colony rested largely in their most capable and devoted hands.
Five Kernels of Corn: The inventory after the Harvest Feast
proved that the Pilgrims had grossly overestimated their harvest. Weekly food rations were cut in half and suddenly the Fortune
ship brought 35 new settlers arriving empty handed. By May, 1622, the food was completely gone. Some provisions were borrowed from English ships 150 miles away. But without Indian corn, the Pilgrims most likely would not have survived. While the year
before had been very bad, the Starving Time came upon the little colony in spring of 1623. Tradition tells us that each person received only five kernels of parched corn a day and occasionally some fish and water. Thankfully they lived.