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The Voyage of the Mayflower
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THE SETTLEMENT AT PLYMOUTH
Operations in this direction commenced immediately upon their selection of a site and continued throughout the winter.
To locate their respective houses and to construct the same under the existing conditions, the winter being intensely cold, was a great undertaking, and they labored amid great hardships, though skillfully, with the timber near at hand.
Before spring they had constructed two rows of houses, facing each other and stretching inland from a point near the shore line, at the end of which was built by joint effort a general storehouse in the centre of a barricaded plot of ground.
On 17th February a council was held and Myles Standish, their only cavalier, appointed captain and vested with power to maintain military rule. Standish was bred a soldier in the Low Countries and had never enlisted in the army of Christ, but joined the Puritans in England either through their desire to avail themselves of his prowess or because of his own love of adventure and excitement, as he might have presumed would be forthcoming from the expedition to the new country.
In any event, he was willing to plight his future with theirs, and proved a valuable addition to their councils. Of irascible temper and just anger, he was irreproachable as to integrity and devotion, and was well suited to the office.
Within a month of Standish assuming command a lone red man came into Plymouth, saying, in good English, "Welcome, Englishmen! Welcome, Englishmen!"
In a subsequent visit, made shortly after, he brought with him another Indian, named Squanto, a native of the same tribe, who had been kidnapped by Captain Hunt in 1614 and who had been in England, whither he had been carried by his captor and where he had picked up enough of the language to be able to converse intelligently.
From him they learned that in the neighborhood there were many tribes of red men, all under the dominion of Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, who overran the southeasterly portion of New England. On the first of April Massasoit appeared before the settlers with sixty men, and in behalf of his allied tribes made an offensive and defensive treaty, which guaranteed the settlers freedom from molestation or annoyance, and which was strictly adhered to for over half a century. It is likewise a significant fact that this colony alone was thus favored with the good-will of the Indian, and standing likewise alone in having kept faith with the native American.
The 5th April, 1621, saw the departure of the Mayflower on her return voyage to England. Yet another, sad and sorrowful parting. But with true Christian fortitude and earnestness, though with a bitter heart-longing, the little band that remained immediately set about preparing the way for others yet to come.
Among themselves there was little dissension or variance to the general laws and rules laid down by the councils. Whatever differences of individual opinions there may have been, were for more moderate and less stringent views as regards their form of self-government, and not in the least from any cause bearing upon their ultimate object and unanimous desire -- the founding of a new church in a new land. These minor considerations soon regulated themselves, and by the early summer corn, barley, and peas were growing as the result of their undivided attention to the details which made their future not only possible but likewise an assured success.
Successful crops, generally, rewarded their efforts at the coming of harvest, which having been gotten in and housed in the common store, Governor Bradford sent men with fowling-pieces into the wood to gun for wild turkey, which abounded thereabouts, and who returned shortly with enough for a week's supply for the common larder: Then followed a season of thanksgiving and prayer, with much rejoicing at their present good fortune and the fruits of their past labors. Within a year from the date of the arrival of the Mayflower the second ship, the Fortune, of fifty-five tons, anchored off Cape Cod on the 9th of November, 1621, bringing recruits for the settlement and such additional supplies and provender as the early voyagers were supposed to be in need of.
On board were thirty-five persons, including Robert Cushman, many of them no doubt being of the party who originally put back in the Speedwell. The Fortune sailed from London early in July, but on account of adverse winds did not clear the channel until the end of August, thereby consuming four months on the voyage.
From the time of the departure of the Mayflower in the April previous up to the arrival of the Fortune in November six more of their number had died, leaving but a mere fragment of the original company to welcome the new comers. This influx, however, did much to revive their tired spirits, and the winter passed happily and comfortably amid new and enlarged plans for future operations.
The following year another small ship, the Anne, brought over still others, and soon after their arrival the council decided to convey a detailed report as to their progress and future prospects to the authorities in England, and deputed Edward Winslow to make the report in person to the representatives of the merchant adventurers in London.
Winslow sailed from New Plymouth in the Anne on 18th September, and upon his arrival in England made his report forthwith, with the result that further provision was made for the fitting out of yet another expedition to plant colonies in the vicinity of Plymouth Plantation, and more especially at Cape Anne. Supplies were accordingly furnished for eighty days for the use of the colony while transporting the additional numbers thither, and the Charily was fitted out to sail in March, 1622, and accompanied by Winslow as sponsor they set out upon the track now so well laid down.
Aboard the Charity were shipped several Devon cattle, the first ever brought into this country. And here may be noted the fact of the vast quantity of Mayflower relics which are supposed to exist even at the present day, the chief among these being chairs, clocks, cradles, spinning-wheels, china, and silverware. Without attempting to disparage the value or authenticity of any heirlooms now in the possession of any one in particular, it is well to remember the jocular statement that the Mayflower must necessarily have been several times her actual size in order to have brought all such into the country. Be this as it may, the reference presumably holds good to the other ships which followed so closely in the wake of the first voyage of the Mayflower. The intending settlers were undoubtedly as well supplied with household goods as their circumstances would seem to warrant, and in many cases the reference is undoubtedly genuine, and the number of pieces which exist to-day is probably large, even considering the ravages of time, which is perhaps counterbalanced by the usual New England thrift, which destroys nothing which may eventually become useful.
Luxuries, however, were not common in their belongings, hence chairs, being considered luxuries and only used by those high in the councils as a mark of rank, have proven comparatively few in number, and teapots could not have been plentiful, as an authority states that tea was worth $30 per pound at that time.
After a voyage approximating four months, the usual length, the Charily arrived at Plymouth, and there discharged a part of the company and the cattle, and taking on board certain of the able men of the settlement and some hewn timber sailed across the bay to Cape Anne. Here they proposed using the skill of the forces at hand, and to speedily construct a new settlement on the lines so successful at Plymouth.
They spent the winter here on a rocky point of land, without the shelter of protecting hills and forests, amid considerable hardship, and in the following spring interest and enthusiasm in the future possibilities of the settlement having languished to a considerable extent, the weakened remnant removed and united with the contingent already located at Naumkeag, a few miles distant.
The principal causes which led up to the undertaking of the first voyage of the Mayflower, and the subsequent voyages of other ships with the same ultimate object in view, have been recounted herein. Their motives were not speculation, excitement, or adventure, but the fundamental principle of freedom of religious worship for their little hand of followers. This it was not possible for them to find at home, and the final outcome had they remained in Holland would have been vague and uncertain. Hence they were of necessity obliged to roam, which, however, was set about with that firm and earnest purpose which distinguished all previous acts of the Puritans, and the after deeds of the Pilgrims.
The exodus opened a new era in the history of the New World, and doubtless was the sowing of the seed which afterward brought the colonists complete independence from the rule of the Crown.