• Exploring American History

Mayflower Rocks the Plymouth Shore

December 20, 1620 was a day the Pilgrims had awaited for some time – not so much the date, but the event. It was on this day their ship, the Mayflower, finally reached land. Despite the fact the Mayflower docked in the merciless edge of Massachusetts’ southeastern coast, as William Bradford and the Mayflower passengers stepped onto land in the New World, Plymouth Colony became a reality.

The role Plymouth Colony played in American history is extremely important. As opposed to the citizens of Jamestown, who came to the New World with a desire to be entrepreneurs, the Pilgrims sought religious freedom. Their journey would later give birth to the phrase, “land of the free”.

Thankfully for the Pilgrims, help was available to aid them as they settled in. A Native American tribe, the Patuxet, helped show the new arrivals what they needed to do to survive. That first winter was exceedingly harsh for the colonists. Disease, starvation and bitter cold claimed the lives of half the colony, including all but three of the adult women. Thankfully, the frigid temperatures finally gave way to spring and the Native Americans, led by Squanto, taught the Pilgrims to plan squash, corn and beans.

As summer merged into autumn, a bountiful harvest was gathered. In celebration, Governor Bradford proclaimed a three-day interval from their labors in order to give thanks and feast on the abundance with those who had done so much to help them. This cooperation between Patuxet’s village and the Pilgrims inspired the Thanksgiving tradition Americans celebrate each year.

The lifespan of the Plymouth Colony was relatively short. In 1691, this colony, along with others, merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and formed the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties,

and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

William Bradford

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