Ten Interesting Facts About the Pilgrims and Massachusetts Indians

Updated on September 15, 2019
harrynielsen profile image

New World history is a rich field that is constantly being analyzed for new material. The complexity of these tales never fails to amaze me.

The Mayflower

"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA,
"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, | Source

The Times They Were A Changin'

When the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth in 1620, Native American culture was already in transformation. Changes to the Native way of life were brought about by an increased European presence along the New England coastline. Not only did the new traders bring in more commerce between the two parties, but they also unleashed a deadly smallpox outbreak. The end results could have spelled disaster for the new arrivals, but by some strange twist of fate, the Pilgrims survived. Here are a few tidbits of history that might shed some light on how the Pilgrims survived.

What Did the First Thanksgiving Really Look Like

A Thanksgiving feast with lots of Idians in Attendance
A Thanksgiving feast with lots of Idians in Attendance

The Ship

The Mayflower was a three or four masted cargo ship, also known as a carrack. The boat is believed to have been around 100 feet long and was capable of carrying about 180 tons. The carrack, or nau, was developed by the Portuguese in the 15th century and subsequently became popular in New World exploration.

The Mayflower Compact

Originally, the Mayflower had been routed to the Virginia colony, but because of stormy seas, the ship was forced to land on the tip of Cape Cod. Here, in the isolated Massachusetts harbor, talk of mutiny was abundant, especially since many of the travelers did not want to spend the winter in the frigid north. In response to the internal dissent, the ship's captain, William Bradford, drew up a short document and then forced every free man on board to sign the paper before that person was allowed off the ship. As it was, the compact essentially said that each signer was obliged to stick with the Cape Cod settlement and abide by the Governor's rules until such time that a new charter could be agreed upon.

Lucky Strike?

After first reaching land, the colonists stayed on Cape Cod for about five weeks before crossing Massachusetts Bay and landing at a place that is now called Plymouth. In reality, the Mayflower put down their anchor adjacent to a Patuxet village that had been wiped out by smallpox. This streak of luck may have been instrumental in the Pilgrim's ultimate survival, for the local Indians quickly came to except the new arrivals as suitable replacements for the village that had been destroyed by disease. Still, the Indians were initially wary of the strangers. As a result, they did not approach the new settlers for five months. During this time about half of the pilgrims died from starvation and disease.

Samoset's Arrival

The first Indian to visit the new colony was named Samoset. He lived to the north near Monhegan Island in Maine, but was spending the winter at Plymouth so he could visit his friends among the Wampanoag nation. Through contact with English sailors, Samoset could express himself in basic English and had also acquired a taste for beer. As a result, the first words out of his mouth were a request for the popular alcoholic beverage, but the pilgrims had none to give him. Nonetheless, Samoset remained friendly, for he gave the pilgrims a quick geography lesson and informed the settlers that they had landed near a newly extinct Indian village.

Squanto, the World Traveler

In the years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Squanto had crossed the Atlantic and returned three times. The first voyage was courtesy of some English ruffians, who sold him into slavery in Spain. Eventually, Squanto escaped to England, where he was treated better and became proficient with the English language. After his first voyage, Squanto was sometimes hired as a translator by friendly English explorers in their travels around the northern region of the New World.

Squanto The Teacher

Squanto or Tisquantum teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant corn with fish.
Squanto or Tisquantum teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant corn with fish. | Source

Squanto Abused His Power

A few days after Samoset's initial visit, he returned with Squanto, who could better assist with understanding the English language. At first Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was called in his Native tongue, was invaluable in teaching the Pilgrims how to feed themselves in the new land. But after a year or two, the Indian translator began to demand special favors from both the English and the Massachusetts Indians in return for his translating skills. In the end, Squanto died young, only a couple of years after the arrival of the Pilgrims. Some historians have speculated that Tisquantum may have been poisoned by his own people since it has been documented that he was distrusted by both groups.

A Peace Treaty

Massasoit and governor John Carver smoking a peace pipe
Massasoit and governor John Carver smoking a peace pipe | Source

Massasoit, The Peacekeeper

In the long run, the most valuable Indian ally to the English colonists may have been the Wampanoag sachem, named Massasoit. It was Massasoit who was able to maintain the peace between the two groups. Massasoit was a powerful chief with several lesser chiefs under his influence. What he did was negotiate a peace and alliance with the pilgrims.The alliance stated that the new arrivals would be allied with Massoit's people against their enemies, the Narragansett. This alliance included a mutual call to arms if either party was attacked. The Bay Colony pilgrims readily accepted these terms.

Massasoit's Death Brought Trouble

When Massasoit died in 1660, war soon broke out. After the chief's death, much of his tribal authority went to one of his sons, named Alexander. Unfortunately, Alexander did not live long and another son, Phillip, gained control of the local Indians. The war that resulted was called King Phillip's War and it proved to be quite bloody and costly for the Indian groups affiliated with the Wampanoags.

First Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 included a lot of different kinds of meat besides turkey. Wild game and fish, such as lobster, eels, goose, and deer were consumed along with the turkey. Pumpkin pie was not available at the time.

Squanto's Home Village

Squanto's home village was the very same Patuxet village that was located next to Plymouth and destroyed by smallpox. Squanto survived because he was in Europe at the time. The Patuxets were considered to be a branch of the Wampanoag.

How Our Modern Turkey Day Came To Be

Questions & Answers

  • Why did the pilgrims leave cape cod?

    The pilgrims only stayed a few weeks at the tip of Cape Cod before moving on to Plymouth, which was located on the other side of Massachusetts Bay. If you have ever been to Cape Cod, it won't take long to figure this one out. The place is just about all sand. The fishing might be good, but the possibilities for agriculture were very limited. So the pilgrims adventured across the bay and landed at a place we now call Plymouth. The terrain was more favorable for agriculture, but it took a lucky break (in the form of friendly Indians) to ensure their survival.

  • What illnesses did the Massachusets colonists get?

    About half of the colonists, who spent the first winter at Plymouth, died, mostly from starvation and malnutrition.

  • Where did the Pilgrims last land?


© 2012 Harry Nielsen


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      16 months ago

      This was pretty helpful

    • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

      Harry Nielsen 

      21 months ago from Durango, Colorado

      Thanks for all the nice comments. Another Thanksgiving is upon us (about a week away) and I hope everybody has a nice modern-day feast.

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      It was the best

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      that is nice

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I like it

    • profile image

      Savage king 

      2 years ago

      I love it so much

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      i liked it


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, holidappy.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)