| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
 The next English colony was settled in Massachusetts. One
stormy day in December, 1620, there sailed into Plymouth
harbor a queer little vessel named the Mayflower. On board
this little craft were a hundred brave men and women,
who had come from England in order to escape "religious
persecution." These are rather large words for
 but I think it better for you to learn them just here,
because they seem, somehow, to belong to these particular
people. Why, you will understand later.
Now, it seems rather cruel to leave these wanderers out in
the cold storm; but we must for a few moments, while we
hurry over to England to learn what had happened there to
force these men and women across the ocean at this stormy
time of the year.
Many years before, King Henry the Eighth of England had had
a great quarrel with the Pope at Rome. The Pope, being the
head of the Catholic Church, sent certain orders to King
Henry; for all England at that time was Catholic, and
always obeyed the Pope in every point. But King Henry had
made up his mind that he would obey no one and that he
would be the head of the Church himself.
 So he announced to his subjects that no longer were they to
pay any attention to the Pope's orders, but that they were
to obey him instead. And so came about the English Church.
This seemed a fearful thing to some of the people. They
believed God would send some terrible punishment upon them.
Still, there were very many people in England who were
glad of the change, and who, therefore, took the king's
side in the trouble that followed.
King Henry died before the people had all grown used to the
change, and left the throne to his son Edward, who believed
as his father had done and held to the English Church.
Edward died very soon after he came into power, and his
sister Mary took the throne. Now, Mary was an earnest
Catholic, and as you would suppose, began at once bringing
 back the priests and doing everything in her power to
restore the old religion.
But Mary's reign, too, soon came to an end, and Queen
Elizabeth took the throne. Elizabeth was as strong an
English Church woman as Mary had been a Catholic; and so
again the country was thrown into confusion; places of
worship were destroyed; priests were displaced, and all
who were Catholics were expected to join the English Church,
just as in Mary's reign all who were of the English Church
had been expected to turn Catholics.
Queen Elizabeth was followed by James I., the king, you
remember, who so cruelly caused Sir Walter Raleigh to be put
to death. James was meaner than any of the Kings or Queens
who had gone before him, and persecuted all, Catholics or
Protestants, who opposed his ideas.
But you will begin to wonder what all this
 has to do with the men and women we left in
Cape Cod harbor. As you will see, it has everything to
do with them.
During all this trouble there, a class of people had
been rising in England who
believed neither in the Catholic Church nor in the English
Church as it was then.
These people dressed very strangely, and acted even more
strangely. Now, it was the fashion in those days for
gentlemen to wear their hair long, and to dress in very
elegant clothes; but these people who hated both the
Churches, dressed in the very plainest of clothes, wore
their hair so short that they were nick-named, "Round
Heads," would not allow music in their churches, would not
have the old church service, and, in short, would have
nothing but the very barest and plainest of everything.
 These people were called Puritans, Round Heads,
Separatists, and many other names by the English Church
people, who looked upon them as fools and lunatics.
You may be sure the Puritans, or Separatists, did not have
a very enjoyable time in England under King James.
At last, in 1608, a little band of Separatists, from
Scrooby, in England, unable to bear their persecutions any
longer, went over into Holland. There they lived happily
enough, but they longed for a home of their own, where
they could teach their own religion and make it the
religion of the country.
DEPARTURE OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS FROM HOLLAND, 1620
For this reason they went back to England, obtained
permission to found a colony in the new world, and with
their hearts full of hope and courage, started out—in the
Mayflower and the Speedwell,—for
the unknown land.
 The Speedwell, however, was obliged to put
back into port because it was found to be unseaworthy.
Thus it was that the Mayflower alone came into Cape Cod
You will often hear these Puritans, who
came first to America, spoken of as Pilgrims, or the
Pilgrim Fathers. This was a name given them because of
their pilgrimages to Holland and to America in search
of a home. Try to remember this,—these plain, honest,
God-fearing people were all called Puritans in
England, while the few who wandered about and finally
settled in Plymouth were given the name of Pilgrims.
Let us go back to Cape Cod harbor now,
and see what these Pilgrims have been doing
all this time. It was one of those snowy,
windy days that we, who live in the
North Eastern States, expect to have now and
 then in the winter time. Not a pleasant sort of day to
spend on the ocean even in the snuggest and warmest of
vessels. Much less pleasant it must have been to these
wanderers in their rudely built vessel, drifting about at
the mercy of the wind and tide.
The Pilgrims had intended to land much farther south,
where it was pleasanter and warmer; but the storm was so
severe that the captain of the Mayflower said he must
make port wherever he could.
I am afraid they were not over-pleased when their vessel came
into Cape Cod harbor; for there they found only a sandy,
desolate shore awaiting them; and, as it was in the dead of
winter, you can imagine how cold and bare it looked. The
trees were leafless, the ground was frozen, and the waters
about the shores were covered with sheets of ice.
 But they were brave and sturdy; and, although they would have
been glad to be welcomed by the pleasant warmth of the
southern lands as they left their weather-beaten vessel,
still they bravely accepted what
was before them, perfectly sure that they had been guided to
this shore by Divine Providence.
As soon as they had all landed, they gathered together
about that large rock at the water's edge, known now
as Plymouth Rock, and kneeling down, thanked God for
their safe deliverance from the perils of the sea.
Then they went sturdily to work. These men were not
idle, lazy good-for-nothings, as many of those first
colonists in Virginia had been. They did not need a John
Smith to urge them to be industrious.
They were all terribly in earnest.
They had left their native
 land and, with their brave wives, had come over to this
wilderness to build homes for themselves.
Can you not fancy their axes ringing in the still winter
days, as they felled the trees for lumber with which to
build their rude houses?
Can you not fancy the brave, tender-hearted wives and
mothers working cheerfully on in the bitter cold of their
old, uncomfortable houses, washing, ironing, baking,
brewing, pounding the corn, spinning the cloth, and
making the homes comfortable and even cheerful, in the
thousand ways which only mothers and wives
And the little boys and girls, too! There were not very many
of them to be sure; but you may be sure the children of
such noble men and women would bravely
bear the cold and
hunger without a tear, and
 would try in all their little ways to do their part toward
helping their fathers and mothers to build up their village.
A HOUSE WITH PALISADES
And there were two little babies, too;
little baby boys, who were born during the
voyage from England to America. I am afraid these little
babies didn't have all the beautiful little dresses, puffs
and powders that our babies have. I should not wonder if
the little strangers were wrapped in very
 ordinary shawls and blankets, and that the mothers were very
thankful they could keep them from the cold.
Nevertheless, I suspect these little babies had a very
warm welcome from all these sturdy, hard-working men
and women, and were the pets
of the whole colony. Can you not see the women coming
every day to look in upon the new babies, and the men, each
glad to stop and amuse the little ones for a minute as they
went to and fro; and the children only too happy to be
allowed to take care of them?
A STREET IN OLD PLYMOUTH
THE LANDING OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS
The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tossed;
And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o'er,—
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.
Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;
Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;—
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.
Amidst the storm they sang,
Till the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.
The ocean-eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared;
This was their welcome home.
There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band;
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?
There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.
What sought they thus afar?—
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas? the spoils of war?
They sought a faith's pure shrine.
Ay, call it holy ground,
The land where first they trod!
They have left unstained what there they found,—
Freedom to worship God!
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