Since Thanksgiving is almost here, I think that it is appropriate to reflect upon the circumstances and the attitudes of the Pilgrims in the early 17th Century.
One-hundred and two passengers left England on 6 September 1620 in a ship that was about 100 feet in length. Now the passengers had already been crammed into the ship for a month prior to that. They had originally set sail with a sister vessel, the Speedwell, from South Hampton, but had to divert to Dartmouth for repairs. After the crew sealed the leaks in the Speedwell, the two ships headed out for the New World. However, the Speedwell began taking on water again, so they made port in Plymouth, England. Due to these delays, they had to get rid of the Speedwell and sail over the Atlantic during the stormiest period of the year in one cold and over-crowded ship.
Two people died and one was born on that sixty-five day voyage “across the pond.” The Mayflower reached Cape Cod during mid-November. By December, work had begun on the village of Plymouth, New England. That first winter was extremely difficult for the fledgling Pilgrim community. Carving a town out of the wilderness was hard for folks who were not used to that kind of manual labor, not to mention the harsh New England weather. Illnesses and food shortages made it even tougher on the pilgrims. By April of 1621, one-half of the Plymouth Colony had perished. Those who remained were barely fit enough to attend to the burial of their dead. Despite all of these hardships, we read the following in a report of Governor Edward Winslow, who described of the Pilgrim's feast in the fall of 1621:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms. Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
They had endured many hardships and losses during their first months in the New World, but were grateful for what they did have. We don’t live in a perfect world right now, but let us remember to be thankful for the people and possessions that we do have at the present time.
Happy Thanksgiving SOCPAC! – CH Holdridge, www.socpac.socom.mil/chaplain