With this special Thanksgiving edition, the Times, with the help of history.com, put together what it might be like to interview one of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower to settle in the New World.
What is a Pilgrim?
A Pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons. We left England for religious freedom. I think we managed to achieve that goal, but today it seems there is too much bloodshed in the name of religion. I wish it weren’t so.
Why aren’t people called Pilgrims anymore?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but I will tell you it was highly and inappropriately used by your actor John Wayne in many of his cowboy movies.
Tell us about your arrival in the New World.
A group of about 100 of us set sail aboard the Mayflower in September of 1620. In late December, the Mayflower anchored at Plymouth Rock, where we formed the first permanent settlement of Europeans in New England.
Was Massachusetts your first destination choice?
No, we had originally signed a contract with the Virginia Company to settle near the Hudson River, but rough seas and storms prevented the Mayflower from reaching its initial destination. After 66 days, it reached the shores of Cape Cod, anchoring at the site of Provincetown on Nov. 21. We sent an exploratory party ashore, and on Dec. 18 docked at Plymouth Rock, on the western side of Cape Cod Bay.
What was your first year like?
For the next few months, many of us stayed on the Mayflower while ferrying back and forth to shore to build our new settlement. In March, we began moving ashore permanently. More than half the Pilgrims fell ill and died that first winter, victims of an epidemic of disease that swept the new colony. Soon after moving ashore, we were introduced to a Native American man named Tisquantum, or Squanto, who would become a member of the colony. Squanto acted as an interpreter and mediator between Plymouth’s leaders and local Native Americans.
Tell us about the first Thanksgiving.
In the Fall of 1621, we shared a harvest feast with the Native American Pokanokets. It is today considered the basis for your Thanksgiving holiday.
Who attended the first feast?
Most of the attendees at the first Thanksgiving were men as 78 percent of the women who traveled on the Mayflower died over the preceding winter. Of the 50 colonists who celebrated the harvest — and our survival — 22 were men, four were married women, and 25 were children and teenagers. Think about that for a minute and conjure a visual. The children and teenagers outnumbered the men and women.
What did you eat that first Thanksgiving?
We ate venison from the deer killed by the Native Americans along with chestnuts, cranberries, garlic, and artichokes — all native wild plants we were learning to use. We also ate waterfowl, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. Turkey was eaten as well. One thing we brought to the meal that our new Native American friends did not have is beer that we brought along on our Mayflower journey.
It is said the Pilgrims started the first formal government. Tell us about that.
All the adult males aboard the Mayflower had signed the Mayflower Compact, a document that would become the foundation of Plymouth’s government. The Mayflower Compact set down laws for all Mayflower passengers to follow. It included a provision that colonists would create and enact “laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices…” for the good of the colony.
What is your message for families celebrating Thanksgiving?
As you prepare to feast and visit with friends and family, give thanks for your health and happiness, remember those who could not be with you on this day, and be grateful for all of your countless blessings.