Voyage on the Mayflower
In 1608, a group of English people who were angry with the Church of England left the town of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire and sailed to live in Leyden, Holland. They called themselves 'Saints'. Later history called them 'Separatists'. They did not want to pledge their loyalty to the Church of England which they thought was corrupt. The Church of England was forcing all the English citizens to attend their services. The Separatists believed that in Holland they might be able to worship as they wanted to.
These Separatists, who called themselves 'Saints', could practice their religion as they wanted in Holland. However, the Dutch considered them below them in status. The Dutch craft guilds which were like unions forced them to take low-paying jobs only. Also, Holland's culture was not quite as moral as the English immigrants liked, and they were afraid for the upbringing of their children. William Bradford, a leader of the English group wrote later that 'these young people were 'drawn away' by evil (his spelling) example into extravagance and dangerous courses.'
The group decided they had to move to a location where their children would not be subject to such worldly influences and where the government would not control their religion. They chose to make their home in the New World, America. This new home was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
First, these Separatists left Holland and returned to London to find someone to finance their trip to America. The Church of England allowed them to leave if they acted in a peaceful manner. The Virginia Company told them they could establish a colony on the east coast of America anywhere between the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay.
The 40 Separatists joined with a larger group of non-religious people and set sail for America in August 1620 in two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell sprang a leak, and both ships returned to Plymouth, England. At that point, they decided to crowd all the people onto the Mayflower and set sail. The Mayflower sailed later than planned, so the ship encountered many storms. Many people were sick all the time. One young man fell overboard.
The passengers landed much farther north than the Virginia Company had permitted. They landed on Cape Cod. The weather was wintry, and they had to struggle to build a shelter. They could not plant crops and did not have enough food. The leaders decided to set up a colony called Plymouth named after the town in England from which they departed. Forty-one men signed the Mayflower Compact. With it, they agreed to set up a government which would be loyal to the King of England, elect officials, and make laws.
The English colonists lived on board the ship for the first winter. Only 53 settlers and half the crew survived the cold winter. They died of lack of food, disease and harsh weather conditions. The Mayflower left in April 1621 and returned to England to bring back food and more settlers A Pawtuxet Indian named Samoset who had learned English helped the colonists. They made an agreement with the Wampanoags. These Indians taught them how to gather shellfish, grow beans and squash, and hunt. The settlers might not have made it without his help.
At the end of the summer, 1621, the Plymouth settlers held a three-day feast to celebrate their harvest and their survival through the year. Later, the colony of Saints joined the Puritans and became a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Saints who came over on the Mayflower continued to believe that their group had been sent by God to be a light to the new country.
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