The “First Comers” were how the Pilgrims came to be known prior to the 1800s. They were the Separatists from the Church of England in the 16th century. They were the extreme Puritans who sought the reformation of the Church. King James persecuted the Separatists and some of them fled to Holland where there was religious tolerance. They settled in Amsterdam and later in Leiden, where they found jobs in Dutch textile factories. When they felt the economic strain brought by their low-paying jobs and the threat of war with Spain, they decided to move to America.
They took Speedwell from Leiden to Southamptom to join another group of Separatists who chartered Mayflower. Speedwell and Mayflower sailed together on August 15, 1620 for America. On September 20 only Mayflower continued the voyage because Speedwell had a terrible leak that made it impossible for it to go any further. The voyage weathered storms at sea and on November reached Cape Cod, which they found was not a good place to settle in. Instead they saw Plymouth to be much better so they applied and were issued a permanent patent to settle in Plymouth.
The pilgrims sealed their pledge of unity through the Mayflower Agreement. Only half of them survived the harsh winter and the diseases that came with it. There were also the Natives, like the Wampanoag tribes whom they were initially friendly with. By Autumn in 1621, the pilgrims made their first harvest. In celebration they offered their thanksgiving. This began the great American tradition of Thanksgiving. The Plymouth colony grew with the coming of more settlers and their lives prospered.
They traded with the British and the Dutch. Cloth, shoes, weapons and ceramics came from England while furs and lumber came from the colonies. They made their own furniture like chairs and cabinets. The church and the state were independent of each other. The pilgrims bought lands and fenced in their property. The deaths of their leaders, William Bradford of the Pilgrims and Massaoit of the Wampanoag, resulted in open hostilities which destroyed communities and families.
The Natives suffered more. Towards the 17th century, the colonists of Plymouth became wealthy and soon led affluent lives. In 1685, Plymouth was left out in the new charters written by King William and Queen Mary. By 1692, Plymouth became part of Massachusetts but the legacy of the Pilgrims forever lives in the culture and history of America. References Pilgrim Hall Museum. (1998, July 14). The Pilgrim Story. Retrieved January 23, 2009, from http://www. pilgrimhall. org/whopilg. htm
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