Interesting Facts About Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and Plymouth

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

1. Before the Pilgrims hired her, the Mayflower, a merchant vessel, was in the wine trade with France, and before that, in the fish trade with Norway.

2. The Pilgrims did not happen upon an unknown frontier. The waters off New England were fished by the English for at least 100 years before the Pilgrims landed.

3. The Pilgrims did not name Plymouth. Captain John Smith explored the New England coast in 1614 and gave his map to Prince Charles (who became King Charles). Charles put English names on the map, such as Plymouth and the Charles River.

4. The turkey, native to this country, was a familiar barnyard fowl in England brought to Europe 100 years earlier by the Spanish.

5. The Pilgrims used the word "corn" to describe wheat, rye, barley, oats, peas, and beans. They used the term "Indian corn" or "turkey wheat" when speaking of what we now call corn.

6. The Pilgrims did not eat cranberry sauce and creamed onion at the first harvest feast that we now call Thanksgiving; they did eat roast wild fowl (such as duck, goose, and turkey), corn meal, cod, sea bass, and venison brought by the Indians.

7. Pilgrims didn't eat in courses as we know them. All foods were placed on the table at one time, including the sweetmeats (dessert) and the people ate in any order they chose. Sometimes there were two courses per meal, but each course consisted of salad, fish, fowl, a meat, pudding, pottage, and sweets.

8. In the Pilgrim household, the adults sat down to dinner and the children waited on them.

9. The Native People of southeastern Massachusetts who made an alliance with the Pilgrims were the Pokanoket, one of the sachemships of the Wampanoag. "Wampanoag" means Eastern People or People of the Dawn. Wampanoag continue to live in several areas of southeastern New England. The Wampanoag Program of Plimoth Plantation gives visitors insight into the history and culture of these people.

10. "Massasoit" was sachem, or leader, of the Pokanoket from before 1620 until his death, ca. 1660. Massasoit, in the Wampanoag language, means "Great Leader." After 1630 he usually is referred to by variations of the name Ousamequin, meaning "Yellow Feather."

Courtesy Plimoth Plantation Education Department.

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* Back to the First Thanksgiving Teacher's Guide: Background Knowledge


  • Subjects:
    Native American History, Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, Autumn Themes
  • Skills:
    Social Studies