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After departing from the Netherlands where the Puritans found attention to worldly goods and "unholy" faiths, men, women, and children departed on the Mayflower in 1620. Nonetheless, fewer than one-third of the one hundred passengers were Separatists. While the trip was tumultuous at times and the voyagers could only eat salt pork, there was only one casualty: a child died. Another child was born, and named Oceanus.
1. Because of storms at sea, the Mayflower went off course, and with winter fast approaching, the occupants of the ship agreed to land. So, they ended up outside the Virginia Colony; instead they happened upon what is today called Cape Cod, but it was then named Plymouth Rock. Because the new colonists had no charter, they agreed to rule themselves by majority, a decision that gave birth to the concept of town meetings and elected legislatures. Furthermore, this idea of self-rule paved the way for democracy in the new land.
Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, [we] fell upon [our] knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought [us] over the vast and furious ocean. -Wm. Bradford
The winter was a brutal one; in fact, half of the settlers died of the cold, disease, and malnutrition. The next year, William Bradford was elected governor of the settlement; he proved to be an exemplary leader, winning the governorship more than thirty times as the Plymouth Colony prospered and grew.
Having recorded an account of the history of the colonists, William Bradford entitled his work, Of Plymouth Plantation. In it he writes of "The Starving Times" mentioned above; "Indian Relations" in which the Indians curiously would come to peer at them and then run off. One day they stole tools; then, on another day one Native American approached who could speak some broken English. Later, the tools were returned and from Samoset, Bradford learns he has made a peace with the colonists in Massachusetts.
2. That Fall, the colonists at Plymouth Plantation gathered their harvest and had fowl and venison, Indian corn, and fish for the first Thanksgiving in 1621. For nearly three days, Massasoit and nearly one hundred of his men joined the Pilgrims in celebrating, feasting, and playing games.
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