Learn the Truth About the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth Rock
While all of us are aware of Plymouth Rock and its historical importance in our country, there are plenty of key facts that were omitted from our common history lessons. When most of us think of Plymouth Rock, we picture a giant rock of great prominence and importance. In reality, the rock known around our country is more like a boulder. The overwhelming expectation of the rock has been vastly misconstrued over time, and when tourists finally visit the famous spot, they are typically underwhelmed.
Like the rock and its exaggerated visage, much of what we think we know about the Pilgrims and Plymouth has been romanticized over the years to create pleasant images of a quiet farming settlement that led to the America we know today.
However, there is plenty of additional information that helps shed light on who the Pilgrims were, why they came to the New World, and how they survived and thrived.
Who Were the Pilgrims?
We all believe that we know who the Pilgrims were: Individuals on the cutting edge of a religious reformation that changed European society. We think of them as early adapters to the New World, ushering in a wave of colonization. Most importantly, we think of them as the people who created Thanksgiving as we know it.
What most people don’t know is that they were also on the cusp of substantial economic change. Thought of as their voyage to freedom, this adventure to the New World was more of an investment than anything.
The Pilgrims were not wealthy people, having fled England to Holland seeking religious freedom. They were simple farmers looking for new opportunities and the freedom to express their religious views. The irony became that they had to rely on the very country from which they had fled.
Why Did the Pilgrims Venture to the New World?
Though the Pilgrims had already fled England for religious freedom, the growing group of farmers was finding that they had hit their economic ceiling in the Netherlands and needed new opportunities to grow. They required money for a ship, crew, supplies, and to support the colony until it was self-sufficient. The Pilgrims sought out investments to fuel their journey across the Atlantic, striking luck with 70 merchants who agreed on forming a joint-stock company with the group, which we now know as The London Stock Company.
Once an agreement was made between the Pilgrims and investors in London, three dozen farmers from the Netherlands met in London with the 70 entrepreneurs who were employed by the London Stock Company to protect the Pilgrims and, more importantly, the colony’s investment. Their journey was not easy; meeting choppy seas and disastrous weather, they were blown off course over 500 miles north.
How Did the Pilgrims Survive and Thrive?
The first winter in the New World was not easy on the Pilgrims as they tried to settle and cultivate the land. With sandy soil, their typical farming techniques were inefficient, and over half of the original 100 venturers had perished within the first year. Luckily for them, there was a local Native American man who, despite having been enslaved by the English and picking up the language, had no grudge with the newcomers and created strong ties with the Pilgrims. This man was Squanto, a member of the Wampanoag tribe. Squanto showed the settlers how to farm with sandy soil using fish as fertilizer. His methods paid off handsomely, leading to an extremely bountiful harvest that following fall, where the famous first Thanksgiving event took place.
Along with their newfound success in cultivating the land, the Pilgrims also established a fairly successful fur trading post, sending pelts and goods back to London to be sold in the high-demand fur market. They created a network of connections through tribes that scattered the Northeast all the way into the Midwest’s booming Ohio fur trade.
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