Children Story – The Pilgrims and the Mayflower

A little more than three hundred years ago, there were people in different countries who had not learned to let others worship God as they thought was right. Even in good old England the king wanted everyone to go to the same church he attended. If they refused to obey him, they were severely punished. Sometimes, they were put in prison or even to death. Some of the people did not like this. They thought the king should not meddle with their religion. They wanted to be free to worship God in their own way, and not be punished for it.

In Holland there was religious freedom for all. At last, a company of people left England and went to Holland to live. They were happy in Holland, but as their children grew up, they seemed more like the Dutch than like English people. The fathers and mothers thought this was not best. So, after living in Holland twelve years, they decided to sail to far-off America where they could have a country of their own.

They remembered how Abraham and his family wandered from place to place—“strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” desiring a “better country, that is, an heavenly” (Hebrews 11:13, last part, 16, first part). “We, too, are pilgrims,” they said, “on our way to heaven.” Ever afterwards, these English people were called “Pilgrims.”

Some of the older people thought the wild trip across the ocean would be too much for them.

“Isn’t the trip too long and too dangerous?” they asked. “Will not the Indians in America kill us?”

“Let us be brave and trust in God. He will surely take care of us,” the others said.

Still, the aged men and women thought it was best for them to stay in Holland. But they went to the boat to bid their loved ones good-by. On the shore they all knelt down and prayed that God would protect those who were leaving, and that He would be a father to those who were left behind. The good old pastor, John Robinson, stayed in Holland to look after those who remained.

With tearful eyes but brave hearts one hundred twenty Pilgrims sailed back to England in the ship “Speedwell.” From there they sailed away in two ships, the “Speedwell” and the “Mayflower.” But the “Speedwell” was a poor boat. Twice it sprang a leak, so they had to bring it back to England. Only one hundred of the little company could find room in the “Mayflower.” So another tearful good-by had to be said to the twenty who were left in Plymouth, England. At last, on September 6, 1620, these one hundred Pilgrims sailed away from their native land never again to return.

Among the Pilgrim children on the ship there were four little girls with very singular names. One little girl’s name was “Remember.” Another was “Resolved,” another was “Desire,” and still another was “Love.” Another of the children was named “Wrestling.” Then there was a beautiful young woman, whose name was Priscilla. She was an ancestor of the poet Longfellow. Captain Miles Standish and John Alden were there, too. Miles Standish was captain of the Pilgrims’ little army of twelve men, who were always ready to keep back unfriendly Indians. John Alden was a gentle, scholarly young man, a close friend of the captain.

The voyage was a long and stormy one. On the ocean a little boy was born. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. White, named him “Peregrine.” It meant “Wanderer.” Everyone on the ship had a kind word and a loving arm for this dear little wanderer. Years and years after this, some of his descendants went as missionaries to China.

At last, on December 21, 1620, after more than one hundred days, the people on the “Mayflower” landed on the shores of America. John Alden was one of the first who stepped ashore on the great rock which is now called “Plymouth Rock,” or “Forefathers’ Rock.” They had with them a map of this country, which Captain John Smith had made. By looking at it, they found that they were in New England at a place called Plymouth.

“Surely God has led us to this place,” they said. “We left our Plymouth in Old England, and here we have a new Plymouth in New England. Let us make our new homes here.”

It was in the middle of winter. Not a house was to be seen! Not a person anywhere to welcome them! Only the dark forests before them! Only the great ocean behind them! Yet with full hearts they thanked God. They knew that He was with them.

The men began at once to build homes. With willing hands they cut down trees for walls. They made the roofs of bark stripped from the logs. They filled the cracks between the logs with mud and grass. They built the chimneys on the outside with stones. They put sheets of oiled paper over the windows for glass. They had no clock, so they cut a notch on the window. When the sun shone on this notch they knew it was noon. They had no stove, so they cooked their food in an iron kettle which hung in the big fireplace. In those days there were no matches, and if the fire in one house went out, one of the boys was sent to a neighbor’s house for some coals.

The winter was very cold, and the Pilgrims suffered much. They did not have enough food. A great many became sick. At one time, there were only seven well ones to take care of the others. When spring came, half the little company had died, among them Priscilla’s father and mother and brother, leaving her alone. In their sorrow the singing of the spring birds seemed like music straight from heaven.

Suddenly, one day in March, a tall Indian stood before them. His body was covered with bright-colored paint. His course, straight, black hair was cut square across his forehead. At the back it hung down long, and from it three eagle’s feathers stuck out. In his hand he carried a bow nearly as tall as he, and in his belt a tomahawk. For a moment, no one spoke.

“Welcome, welcome, Englishmen!” the Indian said at last.

“Welcome, Indian!” the white men answered. “Who taught you to speak English?”

“Some fishermen who were here several years ago,” answered the Indian.

Samoset, for this was the Indian’s name, decided to stay awhile. The Pilgrims did everything they could to gain his friendship. As he went from house to house, each one gave him something to eat. One man gave him some beads. The governor gave him a cloak. Samoset called Baby Peregrine the little “paleface papoose.”

When night came, Samoset decided to stay all night. Some of the Pilgrims slept but little that night. They feared unfriendly Indians might come during the night and kill them. In the morning, the mothers gave Samoset a good breakfast. The men gave him a knife, a bracelet, and a ring. He was pleased with these things, and finally went away. After this, the Indians were friends of the Pilgrims, and gave them very little trouble.

During the spring, the Pilgrims planted Indian corn which the Indians gave them. They also planted seeds of pumpkins and other vegetables. When autumn came, they had a bountiful harvest. They were not going to starve as they had the first winter.

They were so thankful for God’s blessings that they had a great feast to which they invited the Indians. This was the first Thanksgiving Day in America. Early in the morning of Thanksgiving Day, ninety Indians greeted them with a loud Indian yell. They brought deer meat with them. After breakfast, the beating of the drum called everyone to church. Then some of the white men went into the woods and got wild turkey. Others picked cranberries, grapes, and plums, which grew wild. Outdoor fires were started, and the food was cooked in large kettles which hung over the fire. Tables were set outdoors, and everyone had all he wanted to eat. It was a grand feast.

After the table was cleared, the Indian chief poured out a bushel of popped corn. The children had never eaten anything like this before. This Thanksgiving feast was another tie that bound the Indians to the Pilgrims in friendship—a friendship that lasted fifty years.

[Emphasis author’s.]

True Education Reader, Sixth Grade, 115–122.