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The Pilgrims

Written for KidsPast by: Brandon Guymon

A Pilgrim is someone who travels for religious reasons. The Pilgrims who traveled to the New World and founded the Plymouth Colony in 1620 were Separatists. The Pilgrims left England because they were tired of the Government telling them what to believe and how to live.

The Pilgrims left for the New World on August 15, 1620. Did you know they originally left with two ships? It’s true! The first ship was named the Speedwell. The second ship, and the most famous, was the Mayflower. The Speedwell never made the trip with the Pilgrims. Soon after they left England the Speedwell started to leak. The Pilgrims had to turn back to fix the Speedwell. The Pilgrims tried again and again set sail for the New World with both ships but the Speedwell started to leak every time so the Pilgrims had to turn back. They tried again a third time, this time only sailing on the Mayflower, leaving the Speedwell behind.

The Pilgrims sailed to the New World on the Mayflower

We don’t know exactly how big the Mayflower was because we don’t know what happed to it. Some people think the ship never returned to England but was used by the Pilgrims to build houses and barns. Other people think the ship returned to England and was turned into scrap very soon after the Pilgrims’ trip. We do know about the type of ships the people used at the time. The most common ship of a similar size to the Mayflower is a three-masted Carrack. Carracks typically had four decks, were 25 feet (7.5m) wide and 90 to 110 feet (27 to 33m) long. That is about as wide as a typical two-lane road and as long as a third of a football field.

Did You Know?

The Speedwell was unable to make the voyage because the crew kept sabotaging the ship so they wouldn’t have to make the trip to the New World.

The Pilgrims were finally successful in sailing on September 16, 1620. They didn’t reach the new world until November 9, 1620. That’s 65 days of being trapped in a very small ship with about 102 other passengers plus 25 or 30 people to crew the ship. On reaching the new world many people waded to the land. They started to explore and took baths. After 65 days they probably needed a bath!

The Pilgrims didn’t settle in the first place they came to when they reached the New World. The Pilgrims would have to explore to find a suitable place to live. Meanwhile, the Pilgrims would have to stay aboard the Mayflower, only going to shore when needed. Exploration was delayed because the smaller boat used to carry people ashore was damaged during the trip across the ocean and would need to be repaired. Eventually, on December 26, 1620, the explorers found a place to live. The explorers tied the boat to a large rock on the shore and used the rock to step out of the boat and onto the land. Later, this rock would come to be known as Plymouth Rock. Although we are not sure of exactly which rock it was, a rock that seems to be in the right place has been engraven with €œ1620€ to commemorate the historic landing of the Pilgrims.

"1620" is engraved on this rock that is thought to be where the Pilgrims landed

The Pilgrims now had a place to settle but now many of them were sick. Only 6 or 7 people were well enough to work at any one time. By January 19, 1621, the first common house was built. By February the first town, Plymouth Plantation, was mostly completed. The first winter was very difficult for the Pilgrims. Nearly half of the people who set out to build a new life would die before the spring.

On March 16, 1621, a Native American named Samoset walked into the Plymouth settlement and said, €œWelcome Englishmen.€ That was the start of the friendship between a tribe of Native Americans and the Pilgrims. The Native Americans almost didn’t become friends with the Pilgrims because they had fought with earlier English Sailors and Explorers. Also, while the Pilgrims were exploring, they stole some of the Native American’s corn and other food.

Samoset introduced the Pilgrims to another Native American named Squanto. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to farm Native American style using fish for fertilizer to grow corn, or maize. Squanto and Samoset also helped the Pilgrims arrange a peace agreement with the Great Chief Massasoit. Part of the agreement was the Native Americans and the Pilgrims would help each other in war. There were other Native American Tribes that were not friendly to Massasoit’s people and the Pilgrims.

Squanto teaches the Pilgrims how to farm in the New World

The spring and summer of 1621 went better for the Pilgrims. By the fall of 1621 they were able to have a feast in celebration of their harvest and their new lives. The Pilgrims invited Massasoit and his Native Americans. In diaries, the Pilgrims wrote down what they ate at the feast. They said they ate fish, venison, waterfowl (ducks and geese), wild turkeys, corn, and other vegetables they were able to grow.

The First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims and the Massasoit people were able to live in peace for many years. One of the most important things the Pilgrims did was prove that regular people could live in and govern themselves in the New World.