Here is part 3 of the Thanksgiving story. If you didn't see part 1 and 2 you can find it with my other articles by clicking my name at the top of the page. Then look next week for the next part!
The first winter in Plymouth was a hard one. The weather was bitterly cold; the Pilgrims had to trudge through snow as they worked on building houses. They slept on the damp ground, and the three months at sea had left them very weak. However, the harder things got, the more the Pilgrims prayed and trusted God. Satan could not break their spirits.
Soon sickness began to spread. Three months at sea with horrid conditions began to take its toll. Six died on December, 8 in January. The 21st of February alone claimed 4 lives. February had 17 deaths. March claimed 13. At one point during this “General Sickness”, there were only 5 men well enough to care for the sick. They buried their dead at night so that if the Indians were watching they would not know how weak the group was becoming. The children fared much better that the adults and they were often the ones doing the majority of the work. During that first winter, almost 1/2 of the Pilgrims died - 47 to be exact. 13 out of 18 wives died. Some records show that many of these women died while lying over their children to keep them from freezing in the frigid temperatures. Only 3 families remained unbroken. However, out of 7 daughters, none died; of 13 sons only 3 died.
Capt. Myles Standish is the only adult who did not get sick.
But eventually, spring came. In April of 1621, the Mayflower was set to sail back to England. The captain of the Mayflower offered (probably begged) to take back any survivors free of charge. As tempting as it may have been to return home, no one took him up on his offer. One of the crew men, who had decided that he liked one of the young ladies, decided to say as well. They knew what God had called them to and they knew He would see them through.
One spring day in March, a shout was heard, "Indian coming!" – Not Indians, just Indian. The men had gathered in the common house and gathered to watch this Indian as he approached. There had been stories of savage Indians killing settlers, and on their searching of Cap Code there had been an attack on their men. The Pilgrims were not sure what to expect from this man. I guarantee whatever it was they were expecting it was not they saw in front of them.
This Indian was Samoset. When he was close enough he welcomed the Pilgrims by saying, "Welcome young Englishman. Do you have any beer?"
I am sure the sound of broken English from this “savage” man was quite a shock.
The Pilgrims soon learned that Samoset had learned English from fishermen along the coasts. He explained to the Pilgrims that until 1617, a large group of hostile Indians had lived on the land they were now on. Those Indians hated the white man. Four years before the Pilgrims arrival, an unknown disease had killed every man, woman, and child in the tribe. Nearby tribes now shunned the area, convinced that some supernatural spirit had destroyed the tribe. I would venture to say this was another way God provided for these men and women.
Samoset stayed the night with the Pilgrims then left the next day taking gifts with him. He promised to return in 3 moons with others. 3 days later, just as he promised Samoset returned to Plymouth bringing with him Chief Massasoit and Squanto.
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, and Chief Massasoit made a peace treaty and the two groups lived peacefully together until Massasoit's death many years later.
Squanto had an amazing story of how God had prepared him for this moment. When he was a young man Squanto had been captured and taken to England. Nine years later he was able to escape and return to his village with an Indian fishing expedition. But he was tricked along with 19 other Indians and kidnapped. The kidnapped Indians were taken to Spain where they were sold as slaves. There was a group of Spanish monks who would work and save their money and buy a slave with the sole intent of teaching him English and teaching him about Christ; they would then free the man. This round they bought Squanto, took him back to their monastery, taught him English, and told him about Jesus. Eventually, Squanto was able to return to America. When he did return home he found his whole tribe of Indians gone. He learned that an illness had settled upon his tribe and killed them all. Just a side note – this tribe was very hostile to English men and it is believed they would have killed the Pilgrims had they still been alive when they landed on this land. This illness and death of the whole tribe also left the surrounding Indians with a belief that they whole area was cursed and they refused to go into that area, creating an invisible hedge of protection around this group of Pilgrims. This is one more way that God’s hand was on the work of the Pilgrims. Squanto then went to Chief Massasoit and lived peacefully with his tribe.
After Massasoit and Samoset left, Squanto stayed and helped the Pilgrims in many ways. He taught them how to stalk deer, plant pumpkins, make maple syrup, he told them which herbs to eat and which to use for medicine, he introduced them to the beaver trade, and probably most importantly how to plant corn. He explained that you must bury kernels of corn with three fish to feed the soil.
Throughout all the hardships the Pilgrims never gave up. Eventually, life continued on as before: In May, the Pilgrims celebrated their first wedding – Edward Winslow and Susanna White. Both of these had lost their spouses during the 1st harsh winter, but they refused to give up and continued the best they could in this task God had called them to. (Edward Winslow's testimony in Mourt's Relation includes another account of the 1st Thanksgiving which just further backs the truth of our history). Throughout all of the hardships the Pilgrims never gave up, they kept living their lives, trusting God to see them through.
To be continued ….