Home Previous TOC Next Bookshelf


[1] (1584-1656).

62. The English Pilgrims in Holland; why they left England.—When the news of Henry Hudson's discovery of the Hudson River reached Holland, many Englishmen were living in the Dutch city of Leyden.[2] These people were mostly farmers who had fled from Scrooby[3] and neighboring villages in the northeast of England. They called themselves Pilgrims, because they were wanderers from their old homes.

England and Holland

The Pilgrims left England because King James would not let them hold their religious meetings in peace. He thought, as all kings then did, that everybody in England should belong to the same church and worship God in the same way that he did.[4] He was afraid that if people were allowed to go to whatever church they thought best that it would lead to disputes and quarrels, which would end by breaking his kingdom to pieces. Quite a number of Englishmen, seeing that they could not have religious liberty at home, escaped with their wives and children to Holland; for there the Dutch were willing to let them have such a church as they wanted.

1 Myles (Miles): Standish himself wrote it Myles.

2 Leyden (Li'den): see map in this paragraph.

3 Scrooby (Skroo'bi): see map in this paragraph.

4 There were some people in England who thought much as the Pilgrims did in regard to religion, but who did not then leave the Church of England (as the Pilgrims did). They were called Puritans because they insisted on making certain changes in the English mode of worship, or, as they said, they wished to purify it. Many Puritans came to New England with Governor Winthrop in 1630; after they settled in America they established independent churches like the Pilgrims.

63. Why the Pilgrims wished to leave Holland and go to America.—But the Pilgrims were not contented in Holland. They saw that if they staid in that country their children would grow up to be more Dutch than English. They saw, too, that they could not hope to get land in Holland. They resolved therefore to go to America, where they could get farms for nothing, and where their children would never forget the English language or the good old English customs and laws. In the wilderness they would not only enjoy entire religious freedom, but they could build up a settlement which would be certainly their own.

64. The Pilgrims, with Captain Myles Standish, sail for England and then for America; they reach Cape Cod, and choose a governor there.—In 1620 a company of Pilgrims sailed for England on their way to America. Captain Myles Standish, an English soldier, who had fought in Holland, joined them. He did not belong to the Pilgrim church, but he had become a great friend to those who did.

Cape Cod

About a hundred of these people sailed from Plymouth,[5] England, for the New World, in the ship Mayflower. Many of those who went were children and young people. The Pilgrims had a long, rough passage across the Atlantic. Toward the last of November (1620) they saw land. It was Cape Cod, that narrow strip of sand, more than sixty miles long, which looks like an arm bent at the elbow, with a hand like a half-shut fist.

Finding that it would be difficult to go further, the Pilgrims decided to land and explore the cape; so the Mayflower entered Cape Cod Harbor, inside the half-shut fist, and then came to anchor.

Before they landed, the Pilgrims held a meeting in the cabin, and drew up an agreement in writing for the government of the settlement. They signed the agreement, and then chose John Carver for governor.

5 Plymouth (Plim'uth).

65. Washing-day; what Standish and his men found on the Cape.—On the first Monday after they had reached the cape, all the women went on shore to wash, and so Monday has been kept as washing-day in New England ever since. Shortly after that, Captain Myles Standish, with a number of men, started off to see the country. They found some Indian corn buried in the sand; and a little further on a young man named William Bradford, who afterward became governor, stepped into an Indian deer-trap. It jerked him up by the leg in a way that must have made even the Pilgrims smile.

Indian Deer-Trap Bradford Caught

66. Captain Standish and his men set sail in a boat for a blue hill in the west, and find Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Harbor; landing from the Mayflower.—On clear days the people on board the Mayflower, anchored in Cape Cod Harbor, could see a blue hill, on the mainland, in the west, about forty miles away. To that blue hill Standish and some others determined to go. Taking a sail-boat, they started off. A few days later they passed the hill which the Indians called Manomet,[6] and entered a fine harbor. There, on December 21st, 1620,—the shortest day in the year,—they landed on that famous stone which is now known all over the world as Plymouth Rock.

Standish, with the others, went back to the Mayflower with a good report. They had found just what they wanted,—an excellent harbor where ships from England could come in; a brook of nice drinking-water; and last of all, a piece of land that was nearly free from trees, so that nothing would hinder their planting corn early in the spring. Captain John Smith of Virginia[7] had been there before them, and had named the place Plymouth on his map of New England. The Pilgrims liked the name, and so made up their minds to keep it. The Mayflower soon sailed for Plymouth, and the Pilgrims set to work to build the log cabins of their little settlement.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

6 Manomet (Man'o-met).

7 See paragraph 46.

67. Sickness and death.—During that winter nearly half the Pilgrims died. Captain Standish showed himself to be as good a nurse as he was a soldier. He, with Governor Carver and their minister, Elder Brewster, cooked, washed, waited on the sick, and did everything that kind hearts and willing hands could to help their suffering friends. But the men who had begun to build houses had to stop that work to dig graves. When these graves were filled, they were smoothed down flat so that no prowling Indian should count them and see how few white men there were left.

68. Samoset,[8] Squanto,[9] and Massasoit[10] visit the Pilgrims.—One day in the spring the Pilgrims were startled at seeing an Indian walk boldly into their little settlement. He cried out in good English, "Welcome! Welcome!" This visitor was named Samoset; he had met some sailors years before, and had learned a few English words from them.

The next time Samoset came he brought with him another Indian, whose name was Squanto. Squanto was the only one left of the tribe that had once lived at Plymouth. All the rest had died of a dreadful sickness, or plague. He had been stolen by some sailors and carried to England; there he had learned the language. After his return he had joined an Indian tribe that lived about thirty miles further west. The chief of that tribe was named Massasoit, and Squanto said that he was coming directly to visit the Pilgrims.

In about an hour Massasoit, with some sixty warriors, appeared on a hill just outside the settlement. The Indians had painted their faces in their very gayest style—black, red, and yellow. If paint could make them handsome, they were determined to look their best.

8 Samoset (Sam'o-set).

9 Squanto (Skwon'to).

10 Massasoit (Mas'sa-soit').

Standish and Massasoit

69. Massasoit and Governor Carver make a treaty of friendship; how Thanksgiving was kept; what Squanto did for the Pilgrims.—Captain Standish, attended by a guard of honor, went out and brought the chief to Governor Carver. Then Massasoit and the governor made a solemn promise or treaty, in which they agreed that the Indians of his tribe and the Pilgrims should live like friends and brothers, doing all they could to help each other. That promise was kept for more than fifty years; it was never broken until long after the two men who made it were in their graves.

When the Pilgrims had their first Thanksgiving, they invited Massasoit and his men to come and share it. The Indians brought venison and other good things; there were plenty of wild turkeys roasted; and so they all sat down together to a great dinner, and had a merry time in the wilderness.

Squanto was of great help to the Pilgrims. He showed them how to catch eels, where to go fishing, when to plant their corn, and how to put a fish in every hill to make it grow fast.

After a while he came to live with the Pilgrims. He liked them so much that when the poor fellow died he begged Governor Bradford to pray that he might go to the white man's heaven.

Arrows in Skin

70. Canonicus[11] dares Governor Bradford to fight; the palisade; the fort and meeting-house.—West of where Massasoit lived, there were some Indians on the shore of Narragansett Bay,[12] in what is now Rhode Island. Their chief was named Canonicus, and he was no friend to Massasoit or to the Pilgrims. Canonicus thought he could frighten the white men away, so he sent a bundle of sharp, new arrows, tied round with a rattlesnake skin, to Governor Bradford: that meant that he dared the governor and his men to come out and fight. Governor Bradford threw away the arrows, and then filled the snake-skin up to the mouth with powder and ball. This was sent back to Canonicus. When he saw it, he was afraid to touch it, for he knew that Myles Standish's bullets would whistle louder and cut deeper than his Indian arrows.

Plymouth Palisade

But though the Pilgrims did not believe that Canonicus would attack them, they thought it best to build a very high, strong fence, called a palisade, round the town.

They also built a log fort on one of the hills, and used the lower part of the fort for a church. Every Sunday all the people, with Captain Standish at the head, marched to their meeting-house, where a man stood on guard outside. Each Pilgrim carried his gun, and set it down near him. With one ear he listened sharply to the preacher; with the other he listened just as sharply for the cry, Indians! Indians! But the Indians never came.

11 Canonicus (Ka-non'i-kus).

12 Narragansett (Nar'a-gan'set): see map, paragraph 84.

71. The new settlers; trouble with the Indians in their neighborhood; Captain Standish's fight with the savages.—By and by more emigrants came from England and settled about twenty-five miles north of Plymouth, at what is now called Weymouth. The Indians in that neighborhood did not like these new settlers, and they made up their minds to come upon them suddenly and murder them.

Governor Bradford sent Captain Standish with a few men, to see how great the danger was. He found the Indians very bold. One of them came up to him, whetting a long knife. He held it up, to show how sharp it was, and then patting it, he said, "By and by, it shall eat, but not speak." Presently another Indian came up. He was a big fellow, much larger and stronger than Standish. He, too, had a long knife, as keen as a razor. "Ah," said he to Standish, "so this is the mighty captain the white men have sent to destroy us! He is a little man; let him go and work with the women."[13]

The captain's blood was on fire with rage; but he said not a word. His time had not yet come. The next day the Pilgrims and the Indians met in a log cabin. Standish made a sign to one of his men, and he shut the door fast. Then the captain sprang like a tiger at the big savage who had laughed at him, and snatching his long knife from him, he plunged it into his heart. A hand-to-hand fight followed between the white men and the Indians. The Pilgrims gained the victory, and carried back the head of the Indian chief in triumph to Plymouth. Captain Standish's bold action saved both of the English settlements from destruction.

13 See Longfellow's The Courtship of Miles Standish. This quotation is truthful in its rendering of the spirit of the words used by the Indian in his insulting speech to Standish; it should be understood, however, that the poem does not always adhere closely either to the chronology, or to the exact facts, of history.

72. What else Myles Standish did; his death.—But Standish did more things for the Pilgrims than fight for them; for he went to England, bought goods for them, and borrowed money to help them.

He lived to be an old man. At his death he left, among other things, three well-worn Bibles and three good guns. In those days, the men who read the Bible most were those who fought the hardest.

Near Plymouth there is a high hill called Captain's Hill. That was where Standish made his home during the last of his life. A granite monument, over a hundred feet high, stands on top of the hill. On it is a statue of the brave captain looking toward the sea. He was one of the makers of America.

Kettle and Sword Standish's Signature

73. Governor John Winthrop founds[14] Boston.—Ten years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, a large company of English people under the leadership of Governor John Winthrop came to New England. They were called Puritans,[15] and they, too, were seeking that religious freedom which was denied them in the old country. One of the vessels which brought over these new settlers was named the Mayflower. She may have been the very ship which in 1620 brought the Pilgrims to these shores.

Governor Winthrop's company named the place where they settled Boston, in grateful remembrance of the beautiful old city of Boston,[16] England, from which some of the chief emigrants came. The new settlement was called the Massachusetts Bay[17] Colony,[18] Massachusetts being the Indian name for the Blue Hills, near Boston. The Plymouth Colony was now often called the Old Colony, because it had been settled first. After many years, these two colonies were united, and still later they became the state of Massachusetts.

14 Founds: begins to build.

15 See footnote 4 in paragraph 62.

16 Boston, England; see map in paragraph 62.

17 Massachusetts Bay; see map in paragraph 84.

18 Colony: here a company of settlers who came to America from England, and who were subject to the king of England, as all the English settlers of America were until the Revolution.

74. How other New England colonies grew up; the Revolution.—By the time Governor Winthrop arrived, English settlements had been made in Maine, New Hampshire, and later (1724), in the country which afterward became the state of Vermont. Connecticut and Rhode Island were first settled by emigrants who went from Massachusetts.

When the Revolution broke out, the people throughout New England took up arms in defence of their rights. The first blood of the war was shed on the soil of Massachusetts, near Boston.

75. Summary.—The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, New England, in 1620. One of the chief men who came with them was Captain Myles Standish. Had it not been for his help, the Indians might have destroyed the settlement. In 1630, Governor John Winthrop, with a large company of emigrants from England, settled Boston. Near Boston the first battle of the Revolution was fought.

Why did some Englishmen in Holland call themselves Pilgrims? Why had they left England? Why did they now wish to go to America? Who was Myles Standish? From what place in England, and in what ship, did the Pilgrims sail? What land did they first see in America? What did they do at Cape Cod Harbor? What did the Pilgrims do on the Cape? Where did they land on December 21st, 1620? What happened during the winter? What is said of Samoset? What about Squanto? What about Massasoit? What did Massasoit and Governor Carver do? What about the first Thanksgiving? What is said about Canonicus and Governor Bradford? What did the Pilgrims build to protect them from the Indians? What is said about Weymouth? What did Myles Standish do there? What else did Myles Standish do besides fight? What is said of his death? What did Governor John Winthrop do? What did the people of New England do in the Revolution? Where was the first blood shed?