Friday, November 27, 2020

Mayflower Month: Houses .... did they build log cabins?


Did the Pilgrims build log cabins? Nope. "Neither then nor later did the pilgrims build log cabins for the good reason that they did not know how." 

 (Believe it or not, Scandinavian immigrants arriving about 1640 to settlements along the Delaware, brought the know-how to erect log cabins.)

Most spent that winter of 1620-1621 still onboard the Mayflower (at least it was shelter). As soon as spring finally came, they began building a few small cottages of wattle and daub construction with steep thatched roofs, typically English in design. Each family was to build its own house and each family to take in one or more of the single persons. But it was not until March 21st that the last of the Pilgrims finally left the Mayflower and "came ashore with much adoe to live henceforth on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente." It had been eight long wintery months since the ship first sailed into Provincetown harbor. 

I've been blessed to visit Plimouth Plantation. These replica "cottages" are not someplace where you or I would want to live. They were dirt floored, tiny in area, windowless, crowded with living and with people. Yet they did survive; I am a descendant of nine passengers who were on the Mayflower, both Saints and Strangers. 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Mayflower Month: Where to finally settle


It was November; it was winter. The group had been 66 days out of Plymouth and four months out of Leiden. They were in New England and obviously not Virginia. The problem was that their charter or patent was for them to settle in Virginia and nowhere else. So what to do?

"The malcontents among them had become quite defiant, openly proclaiming that when they came ashore they would use their own libertie for none had the power to command them" since they were not in Virginia. This fractional separation led to the composing of the famous Mayflower Compact. 

But they were not in Virginia and Capt. Jones was loath to attempt, in November, to sail back into the Atlantic and south to Virginia. So it was decided; here they would stay. 

And perhaps this was the best choice after all. There was no established church so they would be free of interference in their affairs. 

All this was well and good but it was cold; it was November; it was winter and they had nobody and nothing and certainly no shelter of any kind awaiting them on the shore of this New World. 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Mayflower Month: The storms which changed history


Having left England for the last time in mid-September, they initially were cheered because September passed "under fair skies and with a fresh breeze blowing."

"Then suddenly, the weather changed as fierce storms came roaring out of the west. For days at a time it was impossible to carry a yard of sail, the ship drifting under bare poles with the helmsman desperately trying to hold her into the wind as she wallowed through mountainous seas which often had her lying on her beam-ends."

(Donna:  we can scarcely imagine how terrible awful it was for that dear group of 102 people crammed into a space the size of a living room.)

Finally,  November came and their course had brought them to the wrist of Cape Cod. They were glad to be sight land again, as "the Mayflower seemed to be in great danger and ye wind shrieking upon them withall." So they, with a sigh of relief, sailed into the safety of Provincetown harbor. 

But this was not Virginia..............what to do?

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Mayflower Month: The voyage and the people


Finally on September 6th, after two aborted starts, the Mayflower finally set out across the North Atlantic. 

"According to the usuall maner, many were afflicated with seasickness." As the ship had only the crudest of conveniences (a bucket) and no provision for even cursory washing, the air in the narrow, crowded quarters below duck must have been nauseating at best and at worst simply staggering. The North Atlantic is always cold and the passengers found it almost impossible to keep warm and dry. Except for an occasional hot dish, they lived on a monotonous and upsetting diet of hard tack, "salt horse," dried fish, cheese and beer. 

The Mayflower was packed to the gunwales for 102 passengers had been crammed on board with their goods and supplies. It is a pleasing and fanciful notion that these first Pilgrims were a homogeneous and united group, but indeed they were not. Only three of the company were from Scrooby and a third of those onboard came from Leyden, 41 to be exact. The others were "strangers" largely from London and southeastern England and were good members of the Church of England. This religious perspective/viewpoint led to "considerable irritation" among the group. 

The one thing all the passengers had on common was that they were all of the lower classes, "from the cottages and not the castles of England." There was not a drop of blue blood to be found anywhere among them in the Mayflower; they were common people............ a fact which seems to have escaped some of their descendants with their proofs of "blood" and pathetic interest in coats of arms." 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mayflower Month: How did they choose where to go?


The big question in these soon-to-be-Pilgrims was where to go? And there was much discussion around the tables in their Leiden homes.

"Some favored establishing a colony in the New World. Many violently objected, however, citing their want of funds for so ambitious a venture, the hardships of a long voyage, the dangers of perishing of starvation and disease, not to speak of the savagery of the Indians, a 'cruell, barbarous and most trecherous' people whose practice were such that a mere recitation of them caused their 'bowels to grate within them.'"

Many destinations were discussed, including Guiana or some spot along the Caribbean coast of South America. Some voted for Virginia but against this it was argued that the Anglican church was already established in the colony and they might be as harassed and persecuted there as they had been at home. But in the end, the vote was for Virginia. 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Friday, November 6, 2020

Mayflower Month: Why did they leave Leiden?


WHY did the soon-to-be-Pilgrims leave Leiden for the uncertainties of a New World?

"The leaders of the group were worried, above all by the poverty in which most of the congregation lived. Many were getting on in years, and even worse, were compelled by age and situation to put their children to work..... their situation aroused an uneasy fear that within a few years they would either scatter by reason of necessity of 'sinking under their burden, or both.'" 

They wished to find a place where they might live more comfortably and still enjoy freedom of religion. They also wished to retain their identity as an English group, having no desire to be absorbed by the Dutch. They were especially fearful of the "seduction of their children by 'ye great manifold temptations of ye place.'" 

So they left Leiden.............. the story continues. 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Occupations of the Mayflower Men


Jerri McCoy will be giving our program on Saturday, November 7th. She is the Historian for the Washington State chapter of the Society of the Mayflower Descendants. As a "teaser-preview," I thought you might find of interest that I've learned that many of the Mayflower men had bonafide occupations:

             Isaac Allerton was a merchant.
        William Bradford was a magistrate.
        William Brewster was a publisher and church leader.
        John Carver was the first governor.
        James Chilton was a tailor.
        Samuel Fuller was a surgeon (doctor).
        Degory Priest was a hatter.
        Edward Winslow was a merchant.
        Moses Fletcher was a blacksmith.
        Stephen Hopkins was a tanner and merchant.
        Richard Moore was a mariner.
        John Alden was a cooper.
        Miles Standish was a soldier.