Eyewitness: The Pilgrims Land, November 1620

The Pilgrims Land

Landing in New England, November 1620

William Bradford

New England had been named by Captain John Smith, who explored its shores in 1614. The first permanent settlement was made at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620 by the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ aboard the Mayflower, whose arrival is described here.

About ten a clocke we came into a deepe Valley, full of brush, wood-gaile, and long grasse, through which wee found little paths or tracts, and there we saw a Deere, and found Springs of fresh Water, of which we were hartily glad, and sat us downe and drunke our first New England Water, with as much delight as ever we drunke drinke in all our lives.

When we had refreshed ourselves, we directed our course full South, that wee might come to the shoare, which within a short while after we did, and there made a fire, that they in the Ship might see where we were (as wee had direction) and so marched on towards this supposed River: and as we went in another Valley, we found a fine cleere Pond of fresh water, being about a Musket shot broad, and twice as long: there grew also many small Vines, and Fowle and Deere haunted there; there grew much Sasafras: from thence we went on and found much plain ground about fiftie Acres, fit for the Plow, and some signes where the Indians had formerly planted their Corne: after this, some thought it best for nearnesse of the River to goe downe and travaile on the Sea sands, by which meanes some of our men were tired, and lagged behinde, so we stayed and gathered them up, and strucke into the Land againe; where we found a little path to certaine heapes of Sand, one whereof was covered with old Mats, and had a wooden thing like a Morter whelmed on the top of it, and an earthen pot laid in a little hole at the end thereof; we musing what it might be, digged and found a Bowe, and as we thought, Arrowes, but they were rotten; We supposed there were many other things, but because we deemed them graves, we put in the Bow againe and made it up as it was, and left the rest untouched, because we thought it would be odious unto them to ransacke their Sepulchers. We went on further and found new stubble of which they had gotten Corne this yeare, and many Walnut trees full of Nuts, and great store of Strawberries, and some Vines; passing thus a field or two, which were not great, we came to another, which had also bin new gotten, and there wee found where an house had beene, and foure or five old Plankes laied together; also we found a great Kettle, which had beene some Ships kettle and brought out of Europe; there was also an heape of sand, made like the former, but it was newly done, wee might see how they had padled it with their hands, which we digged up, and in it we found a little old Basket full of faire Indian Corne, and digged further, and found a fine great new Basket full of very faire Corne of this yeare, with some sixe and thirty goodly eares of Corne, some yellow, and some red, and others mixt with blew, which was a very goodly sight: the Basket was round, and narrow at the top, it held about three or foure bushels, which was as much as two of us could lift up from the ground, and was very handsomely and cunningly made: But whilst we were busie about these things, we set our men Sentinell in a round ring, all but two or three which digged up the Corne. Wee were in suspense, what to doe with it, and the Kettle, and at length after much consultation, we concluded to take the Kettle, and as much of the Corne as wee could carry away with us: and when our Shallop came if we could finde any of the people, and came to parley with them, wee would give them the Kettle againe, and satisfie them for their Corne. . .

When wee had marched five or six miles into the Woods, and could find no signes of any people, wee returned againe another way, and as we came into the plaine ground, wee found a place like a grave, but it was much bigger and longer than any wee had yet seene. It was also covered with boords, so as wee mused what it should be, and resolved to dig it up; where we found, first a Mat, and under that a faire Bow, and there another Mat, and under that a Boord about three quarters long, finely carved and painted, with three Tynes, or broches on the top, like a Crown; also betweene the Mats we found Bowles, Trayes, Dishes, and such like Trinkets; at length wee came to a faire new Mat, and under that two Bundles, the one bigger, the other lesse, we opened the greater and found in it a great quantitie of fine and perfect Red Powder, and in it the bones and skull of a man. The skull had fine yellow haire still on it, and some of the flesh unconsumed; there was bound up with a Knife, a Packneedle, and two or three old Iron things. It was bound up in a Saylers Canvas Casacke, and a payre of Cloth Breeches; the Red Powder was a kind of Embaulment, and yeelded a strong, but not offensive smell; It was as fine as any Flower. We opened the lesse bundle like wise, and found of the same Powder in it, and the bones and head of a little childe, about the legges, and other parts of it was Bound strings, and Bracelets of fine white Beads; there was also by it a little Bow, about three quarters long, and some other odde knackes: we brought sundry of the pretiest things away with us, and covered the Corps up againe . . .

We went ranging up and downe till the Sunne began to draw low, and then we hasted out of the Woods, that we might come to our Shallop. By that time we had done, and our Shallop come to us it was within night, and we fed upon such victualls as we had, and betooke us to our rest after we had set out our watch. About midnight we heard a great and hideous cry, and our Sentinell called, ‘Arme, Arme.’ So we bestirred our selves and shot off a couple of Muskets and noise ceased: we concluded, that it was a company of Wolves & Foxes, for one told us he had heard such a noise in Newfound-land. About five a clocke in the morning we began to be stirring. . . upon a sudden wee heard a great & strange cry which we knew to be the same voices, though they varied their notes; one of the company being abroad came running in, and cried, ‘They are men, Indians, Indians’; and with all, their Arrowes came flying amongst us, our men ran out with all speed to recover their Armes . . . The cry of our enemies was dreadfull, especially, when our men ran out to recover their Armes, their note was after this manner, ‘Woath woach ha ha hach woach’: our men were no sooner come to their Armes, but the enemy was readie to assault them.

There was a lustie man, and no whit lesse valiant, who was thought to be their Captain, stood behind a Tree within halfe a Musket shot of us, and there let his Arrowes flie at us; hee stood three shots off a Musket, at length one tooke as he said full ayme at him, after which he gave an extraordinarie cry and away they went all, wee followed them about a quarter of a mile, but wee left sixe to keepe our Shallop, for wee were carefull of our businesse . . . We tooke up eighteene of their Arrowes, which wee had sent to England by Master Jones, some whereof were headed with brasse, others with Harts horne, and others with Eagles dawes; many more no doubt were shot, for these wee found were almost covered with leaves: yet by the speciall providence of God, none of them either hit or hurt us . . . On Munday we found a very good Harbour for our shipping, we marched also into the Land, and found divers corne Fields and little running Brookes, a place verie good for scituation, so we returned to our Ship againe with good newes to the rest of our people, which did much comfort their hearts.

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Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 12:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
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