Dr. Patricia Moseley Stanford

Bringing What Was Needed



by Mabelle E. Martin

In 1608, some people called Separatists began leaving England and moving to Holland so they could worship God in their own way. One group settled in Leyden. But by 1618 they were growing discontented. Most of them had been farmers and it was difficult to make a living in the city. They longed to have lands to farm, but land was scarce and expensive in Holland. Their children were growing up to talk and act like the Dutch. Some of the older ones had married into Dutch families. Some were refusing to go to church. Some boys had run away and joined the Dutch army and navy. Also there was danger of war between Spain and Holland. And if Spain won, they feared they would no longer be allowed their own way of worship.

As the Leyden Separatists talked all this over, some of them decided it was time to move again. When the Dutch learned that they were talking of going to the New World, a Dutch company offered to let them settle near the mouth of the Hudson River. But they were dealing with a Mr. Weston, who represented a London company which would furnish the money for passage to Virginia if they would earn their shares by working four days a week for the company. They would be equal partners for seven years, then divide according to the shares. They agreed, and began to make ready.

But when Weston sent the contract for them to sign, it was not according to the agreement. They would have to work for the company six days a week instead of four, and everything they owned would be divided at the end of the seven years. The leaders refused to sign. Many of the volunteers backed out.

But others had already sold all their possessions and put the money into a common fund. They had bought their own ship, the "Speedwell," to use in America for fishing and trading, and had stocked it with large supplies of food and tools. The ship needed a lot of repairs but was soon ready to carry them to England to join the "Mayflower."

Many men left their wives and small children behind. Others took their wives and left their children. William Bradford, who became their famous governor, took his wife Dorothy and left their child John, age five.

Bradford later wrote in his journal, "So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place near twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims . . ."

Friends accompanied them to the harbor at Delftshaven to see them off and it was a sad parting. As the "Speedwell" sailed out of the Dutch harbor, those remaining waved them off with tears rolling down their cheeks. Of the fifty passengers, almost half were under eighteen years old.

The "Mayflower" was waiting for them in England with some seventy passengers aboard. Weston had advertised in England for more colonists. Some of them were paving their own way, and that plus their labor gave each of them two shares of stock. A few were hired laborers under contract to stay one year. Weston did not care about their religion. He wanted good laborers. Those who were not Separatists from Leyden, -Holland (or "Saints" as they called themselves), were called "Strangers."

The "Speedwell" began to leak so badly that she finally had to be left behind. The "Mayflower" could not carry all, so some had to remain in England.

At last, on September 6, 1620, the "Mayflower" left Plymouth, England, with one hundred and two passengers, officers, and crew. Less than half of the passengers were from the Holland group. Among the passengers from England were some indentured servants who had to work four to seven years just to pay for their passage.

As the "Mayflower" headed into the Atlantic, the passengers watched the shores of old England.