Dr. Patricia Moseley Stanford

1620 And Beyond

We all now know the story of the trip and survival. The hold was where the Pilgrims stayed. Here you find 50 men, 20 women, and 32 children (even babes in arms and some of the women were pregnant) in addition to the crew all living within Mayflower. Stephen Hopkins had the largest family adding one by birth. John Howland washed over board but saved in the terrible storm. William Butten died at sea, a servant to Samuel Fuller. Lastly, Peregrine White was born at Cape Cod.

How welcome land looked Nov. 9th, although the weather was "bitter cold". Several years ago my cousin and I stood on Burial Hill and although it was May, the weather was still mighty cold. We couldn't resist saying, " how could they have stood it." Even when we were within buildings we still felt the freezing cold.

Now we have a group of Pilgrims and Strangers landing away from the area of Virginia. They are on the Coast of New England. Before debarkation, the passengers decided a charter would be drawn. The Charter would establish rules to guide them in living as a cohesive group. Thus the first charter of the people by the people and for the people became the first democratic government and the basis for our present day constitution. They considered this government to be temporary until they could obtain a patent or charter from the King. In stead it became the document for the entire life of the colony.

The Compact was signed in order of rank. Interesting there were ten bore the name of John, Five with Edward, four with William, Richard, Thomas, two with Francis and 11 others.

Next we experienced the period known now as the "great sickness" that lasted through the winter of 1620-1621. We are told they divided into 19 families with single persons assigned to families. Each family was given a lot. A house was built from clap and thatched roofs one room 14x 18 feet with a fire place and a loft for sleeping.

That first winter was devastating to the crew. Of the crew, boatswain, gunner, 3 petty officers, the cook, several sailors did not survive. The ship couldn't sail until April 1621, too short of men. The chief problem was scurvy due to vitamins C-D having been four months without vegetables. Their main food consisted of corn bread, clams, and some game. Some caught pneumonia, others caught typhus or ship fever and although Dr. Fuller brought instruments, a good supply of physic, but no cure for these diseases.

By the spring of 1621 only 12 of the original heads of families and four of the 12 bachelors, and three of the entire families had been wiped out ( Martins, Tinkers, and Rigsdales). Only three married couples unbroken and only one family escaped the without loss, the Billingtons. So in three months with the total lost of families, half of the company was gone. Scurvy, other diseases and their accommodate condition had brought upon them resulting in deaths two or three a day totaling that of 100. So scarce 50 remained. Those who died the first winter were buried on Cole's Hill. Finally a bright spot The Fortune arrived with mail and 35 persons. Mail was a touch with the living. Letters arriving on " The Adventurers" were full of reproaches because the ship returned empty in April. A new contract was sent and it bound the Pilgrims in slavery for 7 years..

When the Fortune left for England she was loaded with wood and beavers skins and with mail for relatives of Edward Winslow and William Bradford stating their conditions and requesting to bring more settlers.

Capt. John Smith came in 1624. He wrote about the good fortune of the Pilgrim settlement in New Plymouth, stating there were 180 persons, cattle goats, swine, 32 houses and that they have a Fort built on high ground. They live together with every man following his trade. They are all masters of families.

Laws have been made based on the Bible and early chapters of the Old Testament. They were ridged and "No one was above the Law". Capital crimes were treason, rape, willful murder, witchcraft, and adultery and were punished by death. Punishment for other crimes were told to leave the colony. Men and women were punished alike. Drinking was permitted but not drunkenness Judgment was based on whether one lisped or staggered.

The Sabbath was a very special day in the life of the colony. Worship no work, From sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday. Saturday must have been a day of cooking and baking. A day in church was just that and the women had no voice according to the scriptures of St. Paul.

The last general court was 1691 and then early in 1692 they made last wednesday in August Forefathers Day for solemn fasting and humiliation. As we know, "They knew they were Pilgrims and he happily so named them" - William Bradford; only by the 1840's did the name become accepted - Pilgrims.

Today as we reflect back to the Mayflower Compact that was signed "In the name of God Amen" It was the forerunner to the constitution of the United States of America. It is well therefore, during this 200 or more years celebration of the Constitution that we honor it and the Signers from whom we descend.

We will soon observe their Thanksgiving Day. It was October 3, 1621 that William Bradford declared a holiday, thus beginning the most distinctive of all American Holidays. "Thanksgiving" - A Pilgrim Tradition.