American Heritage: The ‘promised land’ brought abusePublished 9:56pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012
As we left our Pilgrims in our last article, they were feeling the abuse of their first winter in the “promised land.” Cold, wind, ice and, of all things, a fire in their nearly finished shelter that had destroyed almost everything including their clothing.
The death count continued to climb, as the winter went on. Instead of six deaths per month, the deaths were beginning to be counted by the day. Two and three people were beginning to die per day, instead of per month. It is recorded that at one point only five men were available to take care of the people who were ill.
During the time of severe illness within the group, the fear of Indian attacks continued to be on the minds of the people. The Pilgrims felt that the Indians were watching their every move. They even went so far as to wait until after dark to bury their dead so that the Indians would not know how many of the Pilgrims were dying. The graves of the dead were left unmarked as a result. Even the crewmembers of the Mayflower were beginning to experience serious illness as well. One record states that one crewman was ill and expected to die. He asked one of the other crewmen to take care of him during his illness, and told him that if he did, all of his possessions would go to him. His companion agreed and “went and got a little spice and made him a mess of meat once or twice, and because he died not so soon as he expected, he went amongst his fellows and swore the rogue (had swindled) him. He would see him choked before he made him any more meat! And yet the poor fellow died before morning.”
Another story was told about one of the crewmembers who had cursed and scoffed the Pilgrims on the voyage. He became seriously ill. The Pilgrims showed the type of people that they were by caring for him during his illness. Later, he stated that he knew that he did not deserve the kindness and compassion that they showed toward him in his illness. He told them “…you, I now see, show your love like Christians indeed to one another, but we let one another lie and die like dogs.”
March was a very bad month for these people. Thirteen people died. It was, however not as bad as the month of February. February had seen 17 deaths. During the course of the winter, 47 people had died. This was almost half of the people who made the voyage from their homeland. One shocking statistic that shows the seriousness of the matter was that 13 out of 18 wives had died. The result was that only three families remained unbroken.
Even with these high numbers, the Pilgrims had fared better than those who had settled Jamestown. The Jamestown rate was at least 80 percent. The amazing thing about these people is that even with all that they had suffered, they remained faithful to their God and they still assembled together each Sunday to worship Him.
They are now halfway into March. Winter was beginning to lighten up. Things were beginning to look brighter for the survivors. Then it happened. The dreaded words had penetrated the ears of those who had survived the death grips of the winter illnesses. “An Indian is Coming!” Of course, the worse was expected. But when the people looked out of their windows, all they saw was one, single Indian, dressed in nothing more than a leather loincloth.
His first words to the fearful onlookers was “Welcome.” Everyone was startled. At first they could not respond. His name was Samoset. He was a chief of the Algonguins. He had learned his English from the different fishing captains that he had met as they put in at the shore up at his home area in Maine.
Samoset explained the history of this area where the Pilgrims landed. They learned that the tribe who had inhabited this area in the past, had suffered from a severe plague that had wiped out much of the tribe. So, believing that the area was inhabited by an evil spirit, they abandoned the area. Now, there was no one inhabiting the land any closer than 50 miles to their southwest. The tribe, the Wampanoags, only had about 60 warriors. The chief’s name was Massasoit. He not only ruled over that tribe, but several other smaller tribes as well. He was a very wise Indian.
The Pilgrims also learned that the Indians, whom they feared after being attacked by them, were known as the Nausets. They were a very warlike tribe. They had about 100 warriors. These Indians hated the white settlers. They had a very bad experience with one of the Captains of a ship previously. The captain’s name was Captain Thomas Hunt. He had tricked seven of their braves to come aboard his ship. He had told them that he wanted to trade with them. When they got on the ship, he would not allow them to disembark. He took them and 20 Patuxets to Spain where he sold them into slavery.
We will conclude our study of the Pilgrims with our next article.