‘Tis I, Mistress Kate, once again to make known to ye the episodes both perilous and marvelous that befell us Pilgrims, called forth by God from our Old Country of England to the shores of America where, ’tis here we hope to build a colony to the glory of God.
Presently, we are brought to a cleared land that the Lord has provided. As the winter is come upon us, we must quickly build our Common Meeting House some twenty feet square – the largest and most central of our planned settlement homes. It is here that we, as a company of Pilgrims, will wait out the winter together – half of us – while the other half ferry back and forth onto the Mayflower anchored off shore, until more homes can be better fitted in the thaw of spring.
“Twas a goodly thing our Common Meeting House was well built and swiftly. For, as December turned to January, a great sickness came upon us. Our Meeting House was now to be used as a hospital to nurse those among us falling ill. Seemingly, more and more each day . . .
After three months on board that ship, I felt I could wait no longer to see these promised shores. Yet, now, as we arrive in winter, after all our travail, our joy is choked by tears as we watch our loved ones fall sick and die. My good Pilgrim sister, Susanna White, mother of the firstborn here on the shores of Cape Cod, is now a widow, the good Lord seeing fit to take her husband in the plague.
As it happened, January and February of 1621 saw only six of us well enough to care for anyone at any time. We committed to God the souls of our husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends.
William Brewster’s family was one of only three that was not decreased in number by the “General Sickness” – as we called it. Accepting Providence with contentment we still praised Jehovah – because He is good.
By March, we found that the harsh winter was leaving, spring was in the air and six new cabin homes were built. Everyone who had been living on the Mayflower were now returned to shore and recovering from illness. But, now, we had to look to the plowing of our fields and planting for our food – and future.
But, our good English crops of wheat, rye, barley, oats, and peas, are not pleased to grow in the Plimoth ground. ‘Tis the corn that grows so stout – and with less working of the soil.
But, no corn flour is good for ye meat and vegetable pies, let alone the ale. Alas – what new cookery we will have to learn! Yet, there is an immediately pressing problem that requires mending . . .
You see, upon our arrival, we signed our names to the Mayflower Compact, which binds us together as a people in mind and heart that we be self-governed knowing Christ at the foundation of all things. Yet, very quickly, we found that not all choose to live as self-governed as others, making a commonwealth unsustainable.
In our commonwealth error, we sought the Word of the Lord for remedy, coming to realize that true freedom and prosperous living comes from individual accountability and self-government.
Government matters decided, we still face another dilemma – ’tis a new land and a new food and cookery we must learn if we are to eat at all! A toilsome task, indeed – and we lack farming skill in this new soil.
Elder Brewster called the men to prayer and the Lord was sought that He might supply our needs. But, then it was the good Captain Miles Standish – a convert to Christ and a soldier come with us, and his men, to protect us who brought forth yet another concern. What care he for the corn when there be – the Indian problem!
Indians were scattered about the land, and would come close to our dwellings, then run when we might try to approach them. And, there seemed to be some civil strife among them. The Wampanoag tribe on one side of us, and the Narragansetts on the other were often on unfriendly terms. Any violence among them might catch our Plimoth Plantation and Pilgrims in the middle with vile results.
Then, early that March of 1621, as we discussed a sensible course of action, into our midst came an Indian who spoke English!
His name was Samoset, from the Eastern tribes by the shore. English ships were familiar to him and he had learned much of the language, but knew of another Indian who had actually lived in England and spoke better English! He was the sole survivor of his tribe – the Pautuxet Indians, who, we learned, had died in a great plague and had been the people who lived on the very land where our homes now stood! That would explain the land being already cleared and ready for human habitation.
Samoset promised to consult with the great Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag. He returned to us over the next two weeks and brought introductions to the Indians. We established trade with our Indian neighbors which greatly enriched our colony so that we had more to trade on the ships back to England, and thereby, gain more needful supplies for the building of Plimoth Plantation.
Samoset brought Squanto, the lone surviving Pautuxet Indian, who had been once abducted by ruthless English slave traders, but, was rescued by God and brought to salvation in Christ, living for a time in England where he was well schooled in our ways. He was a proper tutor to acquaint us with the ways in this new land, chosen of God and prepared for just such a time as this, that we might – together – fulfill His call and purposes.
Chief Massasoit arrived and Squanto served as mediator and interpreter between him and our Plimoth Plantation leadership.
A fair and good treaty of peace and trade was decided. The New World was begining to feel more like home . . . except . . .
Squanto’s wisdom of such things, it appeared, knew no bounds. He introduced us to the herring fish. Not only good for food – but good for fertilizer. A recipe for planting was required of us farmers: Plant four kernels to the hillock – and a herring!
In addition, He taught us to tap the trees for sweet maple syrup, and the particulars of hunting fat eels and lobster, with tricks for trapping of deer and other game he was clever to teach us. An answer to prayer, indeed, and timely. March planting, spring and summer tending . . .
Don’t miss all the story installments on THANKSGIVING – by Kathryn Ross: