Thanksgiving Part 4: Lifestyles of Plimoth Plantation

‘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.

We have disembarked our Mayflower vessel which brought us hence from across the sea.  We did not land on the shores of Virginia as planned, due to a Providential storm at sea which hath brought us here, to Cape Cod in Massachusetts Bay.  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.
We live in New Plimoth , a wilderness wood,
Where grass is much wanting that’s fruitful and good.
Our mountains and hills and our valleys below,
Being commonly covered with ice and with snow.
Yet, we still praise Jehovah for our God is good!
 
 
And, when the northwester with violence blows,
Then every man pulls his cap over his nose;
But, if any’s so hardy and will it withstand,
He forgets a finger, a foot, or a hand.
Yet, we still praise Jehovah for our God is good!

‘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.

Yet, we still praise Jehovah for our God is good!

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.

Of eighteen married women – only five survived.  
Of twenty-nine unmarried men, servants, and hired hands, only ten survived. 

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.

When spring comes to Plimoth, we then take the hoe
And make the ground ready to plant and to sow;
Our corn being planted and seed being sown,
The worms destroy much before it is grown.
Yet, we still praise Jehovah for our God is good!

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.

“Our papers of incorporation required of us that all land should be held in common and all should labor for the common wealth.  Thus is spawned much discontent among us, for those who labor greatly see no reward for their effort than those who allege weakness and inability . . . The Scriptures tell us, ‘He who doth not work, neither shall he eat.’  Therefore, let us cut the knot that cannot be untied.  Let us assign to every family a parcel of land according to their number . . . This shall surely make all hands very industrious, give far better contentment, and prosper all.”
 
William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation
” ‘Tis the vanity and conceit of Plato’s, and other ancients, that a commonwealth doth make its community happy and flourishing.  Indeed, as if we were wiser than God! . . . Let every man set corn for his own particular, and trust to God for himself that each might obtain a better crop and thus not languish in misery!”
John Carver, 1st Governor, Plimoth Plantation 

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 . . .

How do we plant corn and bring it to abundant fruit?

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 . . .

And, when it is growing some spoil there is made,
By birds and by squirrels that pluck up the blade.
E’en when it is grown to full corn in the ear,
It is often destroyed by raccoon and by deer.
Yet, we still praise Jehovah for our God is good! 
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Tune in Wednesday for – Thanksgiving Part 5: With a Thankful Heart
Copyright Kathryn Ross, 2011 – taken from my original performance material and primary sources of the writings of William Bradford’s and William Brewster’s personal first hand accounts.

Don’t miss all the story installments on THANKSGIVING – by Kathryn Ross:

Thanksgiving Part 1:  The Story Begins

Thanksgiving Part 2:  Meanwhile, In an Indian Village Across the Sea . . .

 

Sharing Thanksgiving Part 4: Lifestyles of Plimoth Plantation this week with:

Graceful’s Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday

Joan at Sharing His Beauty

Kathy’s Return to Loveliness at Delightsome Life

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Comments

  1. I look froward to each installment…a telling of a familiar story but always with fresh insights and wonderful illustrations!
    Thanks so much! And Happy Thanksgiving if things get too busy and we miss each other before then. But…we are Thankful people at all times…with a great purpose and calling!
    Ruth

  2. Mistress Kate,
    I am so much enjoying your re-telling of your story. I am chagrined to say that I had forgotten some of the difficulties in being in a new place, a wild and unfamiliar place. But, then as it is now, it is the Good Lord who holds us strong. We have ever so much to be thankful for!

    GOD BLESS!

  3. Dear Kathy, I always enjoy reading this series. Thank you for sharing.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  4. This was wonderful! :0)

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