Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress

Magnet # 343: Plymouth Mayflower

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Me

This is Mayflower Day, the anniversary of the day in 1620 when 102 men, women, and children sailed from Plymouth, England to make a home for themselves in the New World. It wouldn't be for about another 200 years that this group of individuals seeking religious freedom would be known as the Pilgrims, but for the sake of this post, I'll refer to them as such. They actually called themselves saints. The group had begun to form in the late 1500s when they were dissatisfied with the Church of England and consisted of many Separatists who disagreed with its teachings and practices. Of course, it was illegal to dissent from the church and some were jailed before most of the Pilgrims fled to Holland. There, they had more freedom, but some had difficulty finding work and there was concern that their children were becoming more like the Dutch. And when war broke out in Europe, they decided to move to America, even though some were still concerned about the hardships they would face there. But they were finally able to secure a land patent from the London Company. Originally, the Pilgrims intended to take two ships over to the New World - the Mayflower and the Speedwell. However, the Speedwell was having trouble with leaks, so it was left behind. Eventually, it was discovered that the crew was sabotaging it to get out of their year-long contracts. The Mayflower sailed alone, meeting with some trouble late in the nearly two-month voyage. Only one crew member and one passenger died, while one child was born at sea and named Oceanus. The truly hard times wouldn't come until the Pilgrims first winter at the home they built in Plymouth Colony. Over half of them died before March of 1621. But the Pilgrims who survived continued on, eventually establishing their place in America and its history.

It's hard to believe we're just a decade shy of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's departure. Too bad the ship no longer exists - it certainly would be fun to tour it, or even just have a look at it. It stayed with the Pilgrims during the first winter they spent in the New World, even though half its crew died. It then sailed for home in April of 1621, reaching Britain within a couple of months. Interestingly enough, a second ship named Mayflower brought more Pilgrims over to the Plymouth Colony in 1629. By then, the first Mayflower was probably no longer in existence. Its captain passed away in 1622 and by 1624, the ship had fallen into ruin. It was most likely sold for scrap after being torn apart. There are claims that parts of the Mayflower were used to build a barn in Jordans, England. And though it seems that it was constructed from the remains of a 17th century ship, it's impossible to tell if that ship was the Mayflower. And even though the first Mayflower has been lost, a final version was built in the 1950s, which was an accurate replica of the original. It sailed from Devon, England to Plymouth Harbor, where it was met on June 13, 1957 by an enthusiastic crowd. Nowadays, Mayflower II is moored in Plymouth, Massachusetts and visitors can have a look at it, led by costumed guides. In fact, the entire town of Plymouth is a great destination for tourists wanting to explore the lives of the Pilgrims. It's also home to the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which houses many artifacts that belonged to the settles and the Plimoth Plantation, a recreated 1627 English Village consisting of homes, gardens, barns, and a fort. It also had a site based on Wampanoag Indian culture. and, of course, the town is also home to Plymouth Rock, the site where the Pilgrims are said to have landed in December of 1620. There is an actual rock there, protected from visitors by a neoclassical monument created in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims' arrival. Although I've never been to Plymouth, it certainly seems as though it is still steeped in history. I'm not sure if they're having any celebrations in honor of Mayflower Day, but it still might be a nice place to visit on future anniversaries. And I imagine it will have some pretty big festivities in just a decade. It's good to see how important the Pilgrims still are in modern times, that the risk they took and the hardships they suffered have not been forgotten.


  1. I have been on a tour of the Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower. The recreators do a good job explaning aspects of life in Plymouth at the time of the Pilgrims plus the Mayflower is amaziningly small. Spending mounths on that ship seems like a punishment. I think I would have remained in the old country before I tried that perilous journey.

  2. I hope I'll make it up there someday myself. It is incredible to think just how much people suffered to establish our country - for the Pilgrims, getting over here was almost the easy part!