The Pilgrims arrived in New England in November
of 1620. What happened to them after they settled in the New World?
After signing the Mayflower Compact, the passengers were allowed to leave the ship. This ended
a voyage that had lasted over two months. Their first order of business was to attend
to hygiene issues which had been neglected during their journey (mostly bathing).
The first groups to explore land were led by Captain Myles Standish. They found an abandoned
native village. The village had buildings and fields which had already been cultivated
for planting. They learned that the abandoned village had belonged to the Patuxet tribe.
These natives had been destroyed by a plague three years before.
They discovered a number of graves where they found corn, which had been buried with the
natives. They had no wish to rob these graves, but they were nearly out of food, and feared
they might starve. So, they took some of the corn to eat and buried the rest, so they could
plant it in the spring. Construction began at once on a larger village
as supplies were brought ashore. This was the colony that became known as Plymouth.
It was mostly completed by February of 1621. However, the winter months took a heavy toll
on the settlers. Late November had been a poor time to arrive in New England. The weather
kept getting colder and supplies were scarce. It would be months before new crops could
even be planted, much less harvested. Many of the Pilgrims became ill and began
coughing violently. At one point, only six or seven adults were well enough to care for
the others. By the time spring arrived, only 47 settlers left alive. This meant that over
half of the entire population had died. That spring, the Pilgrims met Squanto, the
only remaining member of the Patuxet tribe. He showed them the best ways to catch fish
and demonstrated a method for planting corn which involved placing the corn inside a dead
fish, which acted as a fertilizer and helped the corn grow.
With Squanto’s help, conditions in the fledgling colony improved. By the end of their first
full year, the Pilgrims truly had something to be thankful for. That November, they celebrated
their health and their new lives for three days. This event is what we now recognize
as the first Thanksgiving.