About 400 years ago, there was a group of travelers who came to America in search of religious freedom. They wanted to worship God in their own way in England, but they were not permitted. Instead, they boarded ships and went on a journey. These people are referred to as the Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims left Europe for America on September 20, 1620, and established a colony called Plymouth. A colony is an area set up by a group of people who have usually traveled from the same country. They go to a place where they settle to live, work, and raise their families.
They sailed to America on two ships, but only one of them sailed the entire journey to America. The ship was called the Mayflower. About 100 passengers and 30 crewmembers sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the overcrowded Mayflower. It was a long and difficult voyage as they ran out of fresh water and many people became sick. Two people died. Two months later, though, the Pilgrims did not give up and finally reached land on December 11, 1620. Of course, at the time, the land was not called America.
Upon arriving, the Pilgrims made an agreement on paper about how their new colony would be run. They created and signed a document which today is called the Mayflower Compact. The compact stated they were loyal to the King of England, were Christians who served God, laws they make will be fair, and everyone would work for the good of the colony.
The Pilgrims searched the New England coast for a place to settle and decided on the area called Plymouth. There was land for planting crops, a harbor for ships, and river for fresh water. They built their village and established Plymouth Colony, in what is now the state of Massachusetts.
Although the Pilgrims were happy to have settled in America, they faced a difficult and cold winter. They were not prepared. They built a large house and some smaller homes, but for a period, people still slept on the Mayflower. Many of the Pilgrims died during the winter and of the 102 people who came across the Atlantic Ocean only 47 were still alive.
There were Native Americans living in the same area as the Pilgrims. Native Americans are the people who were already living on the land before the Pilgrims arrived in what is now known as America. They established a peace treaty with the Pilgrims. The Native Americans also agreed to trade for animal furs.
Some of the Native Americans also chose to stay with the Pilgrims and taught them how to plant corn, hunt, fish, and how to survive the cold winter. After the first harvest in 1621, the Pilgrims invited some of the Native Americans to join them for a feast. Sometimes this is referred to as the first Thanksgiving as the tradition continued after every harvest in the years that followed.
The Pilgrim houses had timber frames with a steep roof, a main room with a fireplace for living, eating, and sleeping, plus a loft for an extra sleeping area. Their villages were like small towns along a street with areas for crops and livestock such as cows, chickens, etc. Pilgrim clothing was made by hand and dyes from plants, animals, and minerals were used for the colors of the clothing.
Duck, seafood, mussels, cornbread, and a kind of oatmeal cereal were main food items. There were no forks so they ate with their hands. Work included planting and harvesting the crops, hunting, fertilizing the gardens, turning grain into flour, keeping the fire lit, cooking, collecting water, and gathering wood for the fire. Some children were given lessons in reading and writing by their parents, but there were no schools. The most important lessons for the children were learning Bible verses.
Overall, life was not easy for the Pilgrims, especially in the early days, but the most important thing for them was to freely practice their religion. As the years went by, the community of settlers from England grew to the 13 original colonies and then to the United States of America.
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