In 1620 one hundred Puritans boarded the ‘Mayflower’ bound for the New World. These people were the Pilgrim Fathers. The Pilgrim Fathers saw little chance of England becoming a country in which they wished to live. They viewed it as un-Godly and moving from a bad to worse state. The Pilgrim Fathers believed that a new start in the New World was their only chance.


A lot of the trials and tribulations about where they should sail to, the journey across the Atlantic to the New World and the initial problems experienced by the Pilgrim Fathers are contained in a diary written by William Bradford.


“The place they thought of was one of those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for living. There are only savages and brutish men, just like wild beasts. This idea led to many and different opinions. But, after many things were said, it was agreed by the major part to carry it out. Some were keen for Guiana, or some of those fertile places in those hot climates. Others were for some part of Virginia.


After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a time, they met cross winds and many fierce storms. With these the ship was greatly shaken, and her upper decks made very leaky. In many of these storms, winds were so fierce and the seas so high that they could not carry a scrap of sail. A in one of them, a lusty young man called John Howland, coming for some occasion upon deck, was with a heel of the ship thrown into the sea. But, it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail ropes, which hung overboard and ran out at length.”


On November 9th, 1620, the ‘Mayflower’ sighted what is now Cape Cod. Despite seeing land, the crew of the ‘Mayflower’ searched for another month to find somewhere to land. Where they eventually landed was called New Plymouth. On December 25th, after finding a place where the ‘Mayflower’ could be safely anchored, the Pilgrim Fathers began to build the first house for common use. Bradford described in his diary how the “foulness” of winter affected all and that many became sick. By February 1621, Bradford claimed that 50% of the Pilgrim Fathers had died as a result of the cold weather and the inadequate housing that they had built for themselves.


A Native American called Squanto helped those Pilgrim Fathers who survived the harsh winter. He showed them how to sow maize and how to cultivate the crop. Bradford claimed that seeds brought from England were of little use in their new environment. By the summer of 1621, the Pilgrim Fathers had built houses for themselves and had gathered up a small harvest. Bradford claimed that:


“They were well recovered in health and strength, and had all things in good plenty. For, as some were thus working in the fields, others took part in fishing for cod and bass and other fish. Of these, they took good store, a large amount of which every family had its share. All the summer there was of no want. And then began to arrive flocks of duck and geese.”


However, not all Native Americans were friendly. As a result, a wooden fence with watchtowers surrounded the homes that had been built and the gates in the fence were locked at night. By 1622 the Pilgrim Fathers had built a fort to protect themselves. It also served as a meeting place to discuss issues of government within the new colony. Over the next few years, as life for Puritans became more uncomfortable in England, more and more made the journey across the Atlantic. By 1630, their numbers were such that the Puritans were able to establish the Massachusetts Bay Company and establish Boston, which was to grow as a major port. Despite the privations of 1620, the Puritans founded colonies that thrived and their success depended on fishing, shipbuilding, trade and farming.