We typically think of the Pilgrims as British outcasts who set sail to America and settled in Massachusetts. But historical facts are a little more complicated than that; the original Pilgrims were fellows of the fundamental Puritan group of the Church of England named the English Separatist Church, which unlawfully split away from the main Church in 1607. The group initially settled in the Netherlands, where the laws were more tolerant towards religion.
As soon as they arrived in the Netherlands, the Puritans suffered financial problems as well as were afraid to lose their English heritage and language. This stirred, in the end, the commitment to their voyage to the New World, where they would be permitted to practice their religion and their way of life.
In September of 1620, they united with a London stock company to fund their journey aboard the Mayflower, a merchant ship to cross the Atlantic. They envisioned to settle down near the Hudson River, part of the already established Virginia colony. That did not happen, because of stormy seas delayed their arrival and with it the lack of food. The Mayflower ultimately anchored two months delayed in what is now Plymouth Harbor Massachusetts.
That initial winter was terribly severe, but., things began turning around for the Pilgrims with the service of Squanto, a Native American of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been taken by the first explorers in 1605 and brought to England. There he learned the language and Captain John Smith brought him back to New England in 1614. It has been Squanto who educated the Pilgrims about the where to hunt, and how to plant corn, how to survive on the land which all became essential to the Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims are possibly best known today for the harvest celebration that they shared with their Native American neighbors. There are further facts to the Pilgrims than the Mayflower, religious persecution, and that first Thanksgiving. Facts that are fascinating and that you might want to share with your friends at the next dinner conversation.
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