The Mayflower is a famous ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. The story began in 1606 in Scrubby, Nottinghamshire, England. A small group of religious dissidents gathered together to establish their own church, separate from the National Church of England. At a time when church and state were one, such a move was treasonous. Thus, the Separatists, whom we know as the Pilgrims, left England to find refuge under the more tolerant government of the Netherlands.

After almost twelve years of struggling to get by, the Separatists, fearing they would face poverty in old age, and rejecting the idea that their children would grow up Dutch, were impelled to move once again. They were able to gain financial backing from some London merchants or "adventurers" (speculators) to set up a colony in America. They got a charter from the Virginia Company and planned to settle near the mouth of the Hudson River.

They bought a small ship, the Speedwell, which took them to England, where they were joined by other emigrants on a larger ship, the Mayflower. The two vessels set out from Southampton, but the smaller ship soon proved unseaworthy. Finally, the Speedwell was left behind at Plymouth, England, while the Mayflower went on to North America on September 6, 1620.

Wearied by gales and near disasters at sea, the small band of immigrants sighted land on November 9. Two days later, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Here the famous "Mayflower Compact" was signed. Due to the lateness of the season, they decided to stay there while groups of men were sent out to explore the region for a safe haven. Plymouth Harbor was reached a month later, and work on the little colony began Christmas Day, 1620. After a terrible winter in which half the passengers and crew died, friendly contact was made with the native people, the Wampanoag. Crops were planted and Plymouth Colony was safely established. The Mayflower departed for England on April 5, 1621. The rest is history.


Courtesy Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA