The Ladies' repository 18 (1): 7-10, 1858

"Our fathers' God! thy own decree
Ordained the Pilgrims to be free;
In foreign lands they owned thy care,
And found a safe asylum there."

IN the December of 1620 the Mayflower cast anchor in Plymouth Bay. It was just two hundred and thirty-seven years ago this very month in which we write. That period is not so far removed from the present generation as we at first imagine. A simple fact will show this. Peregrine White, who was born after the arrival of the ship at Cape Cod, died in 1704. The great grandfather of the writer was then about twenty years old, and had, we believe, seen and conversed with him. Our grandfather died but a few years since. Thus the event seems removed from us only two generations. The mind is over whelmed in its effort to realize that the unparalleled transformations upon this continent, since the landing of the Pilgrims, have all taken place within that brief period.

The history of the Pilgrim Fathers is a part of the history of our country—to be read and re-read by each successive generation. No matter, then, how often the story is repeated, or in how many ways and forms it is published. If we would kindle a stern and abiding love of liberty in the breasts of American youth, let them study not merely the Declaration of Independence and the chivalric deeds of the Revolution, but also the history of the Pilgrim Fathers. That history, as it embodies the very marrow of religious and civil liberty, will impart the strength and beauty of its principles to the youthful mind.

It was during the month of July, 1620, that the Pilgrims sailed from Delph Haven, in Holland. The parting, between the little band of emigrants and those of the Church who, with their pastor, Rev. John Robinson, remained behind, was affecting in the highest degree. The farewells were mingled with sighs, sobs, and prayers; tears gushed from all eyes; even the Dutch strangers, who stood on the quay as spectators, could not refrain their tears. When the moment of parting arrived, Mr. Robinson fell upon his knees, and in a fervent prayer commended them to the guidance and protection of Heaven. They soon reached Southampton, where they found the Mayflower waiting their arrival. They sailed on the 5th of August, but owing to the unseaworthiness of the Speedwell, the smaller vessel, they were compelled to put back to Dartmouth. On the 21st of August they again put to sea, but from the same cause were compelled to return once more to port. They now landed at Plymouth, when the Speedwell was given up and part of the company remained behind. On the 6th of September the Mayflower left port for the third time, and after a stormy and perilous voyage, on the 9th of November the cheering cry of "land, land," was heard. On the 11th, having come to anchor in Cape Cod harbor, the day was spent in religious services. They all prostrated themselves upon their knees—it is refreshing to think that the Pilgrim Fathers kneeled—and poured out their thanksgiving to God, who had so graciously brought them safely over the broad ocean.

Their next movement was organization. They formed a solemn compact or covenant, to which all the adult males, forty-one in number, appended their names. The females and children increased the company to one hundred and one. John Carver was unanimously chosen Governor. Their military captain was Miles Standish, "vnto whom was adioyned for counsell and aduise" three others. No regularly-accredited minister accompanied the Pilgrims, nor did any follow them for some years. But Mr. Brewster, a ruling elder, was to them both pastor and elder till the day of his death, in 1629. Mr. Hubbard, in his History of New England, says, that though the people desired it, "he could never be prevailed with to accept the ministerial office."

Having organized, the little band commenced their explorations to obtain a suitable location for settlement. The narrative of their journeys and adventures, given in the "Relation, or Journal," of the Pilgrims, will greatly interest the reader. It was not till the 11th of December—Forefather's Day—that they selected the site which they afterward called Plymouth, in honor of the kindness received in the last port from which they sailed in England.

We must at this point give the narration of the Pilgrims in their own words:
"10. of December, on the Sabboth day wee rested, and on Munday we sounded the harbour, and found it a very good Harbour for our shipping; we marched also into the Land, and found divers corne fields, and little running brookes, a place very good for scitnation, so we returned to our Ship againe with good newes to the rest of our people, which did much comfort their hearts.

"On the fifteenth day, we waighed Anchor, to go to the place we had discovered, and comming within two leagues of the Land, we could not fetch the Harbour, but were faine to put roome againe towards Cape Cod, our course lying West; and the winde was at North west, but it pleased God that the next day being Saturday the 16. day, the winde came faire, and wee put to Sea againe, and came safely into a safe Harbour; and within halfe an houre the winde changed, so as if we
had beene letted but a little, we had gone backe to Cape Cod. This Harbour is a Bay greater than Cape Cod, compassed with a goodly Land, and in the Bay, 2. fine Ilands vninhabited, wherein are nothing but wood, Oakes, Pines, Wal-nut, Beech, Sasifras, Vines, and other trees which wee know not; This Bay is a most hopefull place, innumerable store of fowle, and excellent good, and cannot but bee of fish in their seasons: Skote, Cod, Turbot, and Herring, wee haue tasted of; abundance of Musles the greatest & best that ever we saw; Crabs and Lobsters, in their time infinite. It is in fashion like a Cikle or Fish-hooke.

"Munday the 18. day, we went a land, manned with the Maister of the Ship, and 3. or 4. of the Saylers; we marched along the coast in the woods, some 7. or 8. myle, but saw not an Indian nor an Indian house, only we found where formnerly, had beene some Inhabitants, and where they had planted their comrne: we found not any Navigable River, but 4. or 5. small running brookes of very sweet fresh water, that all run into the Sea: The Land for the crust of the earth is a spits depth, excellent blacke mold and fat in some places, 2. or 3. great Oakes but not very thicke, Pines, Wal-nuts, Beech, Ash, Birch, Hasell, Holley, Asp, Sasifras, in abundance, & Vines euery where, Cherry trees, Plum trees, and many other which we know not; many kinds of hearbes, we found heere in Winter, as Strawberry leaues innumerable, Sorrell, Yarow, Caruell, Brook-lime, Liver-wort, Water-cresses, great store of Leekes, and Onyons, and an excellent strong kind of Flaxe, and Hempe; here is sand, gravell, and excellent clay no better in the Worlde, excellent for pots, and will wash like sope, and great store of stone, though somewhat soft, and the best water that euer we drunke, and the Brookes now begin to be full of fish; that night many being weary with marching, wee went abourd againe.

"The next morning being Tuesday the 19. of December, wee went againe to discover further; some went on Land, and some in the Shallop; the land we found as the former day we did, and we found a Creece, and went vp three English myles, a very pleasant river; at full Sea, a Barke of thirty tonne may goe vp, but at low water scarce our Shallop could passe: this place we had a great liking to plant in, but that it was so farre from our fishing our principall profit, and so incompassed with woods, that we should bee in much danger of the Salvages, and our number being so little, and so much ground to cleare, so as wee thought good to quit and cleare that place, till we were of more strength; some of vs hauing a good minde for safety to plant in the greater Ile, wee crossed the Bay which there is fiue or sixe myles ouer, and found the Ile about a myle and a halfe, or two myles about, all wooded, and no fresh water but 2. or 3. pits, that we doubted of fresh water in Summer, and so full of wood, as we could hardly cleare so much as to serue vs for Corne, besides wee iudged it colde for our Corne, and some part very rockie, yet diuers thought of it as a place defensible, and of great securitie.

"That night we returned againe a ship boord, with resolution the next morning to setle on some of those places. So in the morning, after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution, to goe presently ashore againe, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for vs, for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially, our Beere, and it being now the 19. of December. After our landing and viewing of the places, so well as we could, we came to a conclusion, by most voyces, to set on the maine Land, on the first place, on an high ground, where there is a great deale of Land cleared, and hath beene planted with Corne three or four yeares agoe, and there is a very sweet brooke runnes vnder the hill side, and many delicate springs of as good water as can be drunke, and where we may harbour our Shallops and Boates exceeding well, and in this brooke much good fish in their seasons: onl the further side of the river also much Comrne ground cleared: in one field is a great hill, on which wee poynte to make a plat-forme, and plant our Ordinance, which will command all round about; from thence we may see into the Bay, and farre into the Sea, and we may see thence Cape Cod: our greatest labour will be fetching of our wood, which is halfe a quarter of an English myle, but there is enough so farre off; what people inhabite here we yet know not, for as yet we haue seene none, so there we made our Randevous, and a place for some of our people about twentie, resolving in the morning to come all ashore, and to build houses; but the next morning, being Thursday the 21. of December, it was stormie and wett, that we could not goe ashore, and those that remained there all night could doe nothing, but were wett, not having dailight enough to make them a sufficient court of gard, to keepe them dry. All that night it blew and rayned extreamely; it was so tempestuous, that the Shallop could not goe on land so soone as was meet, for they had no victuals on land. About 11. a Clocke the Shallop went off with much adoe with provision, but could not returne it blew so strong, and was such foule weather, that we were forced to let fall our Anchor, and ride with three Anchors an head.

"Fryday the 22. the storme still continued, that we could not get a-land, nor they come to vs aboord: this morning Good wife Alderton was delivered of a sonne, but dead borne.

"Saturday the 23. so many of vs as could, went on shore, felled and carried tymber, to provide themselues stuffe for building.

"Munday the 25. day, we went on shore, some to fell tymber, some to saw, some to riue, and some to carry, so no man rested all that day, but towards night some as they were at worke, heard a noyse of some Indians, which caused vs all to goe to our Muskets, but we heard no further, so we came aboord againe, and left some twentie to keepe the court of gard; that night we had a sore storme of wynde and rayne.

"Munday the 25. being Christmas day, we began to drinke water aboord, but at night the Master caused vs to haue some Beere, and so on boord we had diverse times now and then some Beere, but on shore none at all.

"Tuesday the 26. it was foule weather, that we could not goe ashore.

"Wednesday the 27. we went to worke againe.

"Thursday the 28. of December, so many as could went to worke on the hill, where we pur posed to build our platforme for our Ordinance, and which doth command all the plaine, and the Bay, and from whence we may see farre into the sea, and might be easier impayled, having two rowes of houses and a faire streete. So in the afternoone we went to measure out the grounds, and first, we tooke notice how many Families they were, willing all single men that had no wiues to ioyne with some Famnilie, as they thought fit, that so we might build fewer houses, which was done, and we reduced them to 19. Families; to greater Families we allotted larger plots, to euery person halfe a pole in breadth, and three in length, and so Lots were cast where euery man should lie, which was done, and staked out; we thought this proportion was large enough at the first, for houses and gardens, to impale them round, considering the weaknes of our people, many of them growing ill with coldes, for our former Discoveries in frost and stormes, and the wading at Cape Cod had brought much weakenes amongst vs, which increased so euery day more and more, and after was the cause of many of their deaths.

"Fryday and Saturday, we fitted our selues for our labour, but our people on shore were much troubled and discouraged with rayne and wett that day, being very stormie and cold; we saw great smokes of fire made by the Indians about six or seaven myles firom vs as we conjectured.

"Munday the first of Ianuary, we went betimes to worke; we were much hindred in lying so farre off from the Land, and faine to goe as the tyde served, that we lost much time, for our Ship drew so much water, that she lay a myle and almost a halfe off, though a ship of seventie or eightie tun at high water may come to the shore.

"Wednesday the third of Ianuary, some of our people being abroad, to get and gather thatch, they saw great fires of the Indians, and were at their Corne fields, yet saw none of the Savages, nor had scene any of them since wee came to this Bay.

"Thursday the fourth of Ianuary, Captaine Miles Standish with foure or fiue more, went to see if they could meet with any of the Savages in that place where the fires were made; they went to some of their houses, but not lately inhabited, yet could they not imeete with any; as they came home, they shot at an Eagle and killed her, which was excellent meat; It was hardly to be discerned from Mutton.

"Fryday the fifth of Ianuary, one of the Saylers found aliue vpon the shore an Hering, which the Master had to his supper, which put vs in hope of fish, but as yet we had got but one Cod; we wanted small hookes."

Our space will not allow us to quote farther. On the 5th of April, 1621, the Mayflower sailed for England, having remained five months to aid the colonists in effecting their settlement.

Now let the reader turn to the engraving. As the noble figure in the foreground, followed by an equally noble woman, strikes the eye, we are reminded of Mrs. Sigourney's ode:

"O, noble Carver! boundless is thy wealth,
In the pure heart that thus doth cling to thine,
With all the trustfulness of woman's love,
And all its firm endurance. He who boasts
Such comforter shall find the barren heath
Thick sown with flowers of Eden."

On the right, a placid, almost pensive countenance robes the chivalric soul of Miles Standish:

"Rest on thy sword, thou man of blood, and muse,
Thy fading Rose beside thee. Bow and ask
Strength for new warfare, when the savage foe
Shall plant his ambush, and the secret shaft
Ring through the forest, while the war-whoop wakes
The frighted infant on its mother's breast."

The two forms kneeling just in front again remind us of the muse:

"Prithee, John Alden, say thy prayers with zeal,
Forgetful of thy comeliness, and her
Who Cupid's subtile snare shall weave for thee,
When, here and there, the settler's roofs shall mix
With the fresh verdure of this stranger soil."

Then the eye is attracted to that touching
manifestation of the tender affections—more
touching from the bleak, chilling aspect of the
scene around:

"Pale and sweet,
Ah! suffering bride of Winslow, 't is in vain
That thus he fondly clasps thy fragile hand:
He may not guard thee from the ghastly foe
That on thy forehead stamps the seal of doom.
He can not keep thee, lady. Snows may chill
Thy foot, that England's richest carpets prest,
A little while, and then the soul that sits
Bright on thine upraised eye, shall heavenward soar."

We have space for a single word only, and that shall be to protest against the injustice history has done to those noble women who composed part of the company brought by the Mayflower to our shores. Its very silence is injustice.

author: D.W. Clark ("The Editor")

The Ladies' repository: a monthly periodical, devoted to literature, arts, and religion. / Volume 18, Issue 1. Jan 1858

published by:
Methodist Episcopal Church [etc.]. Cincinnati, OH

images of text:
Clark, Rev. D. W., D. D., Landing of the Pilgrims Pages: 7-10

online source:  
Making of America at University of Michigan