The plans of those aboard the Mayflower were thwarted repeatedly. A sister vessel leaked so badly they had to turn back soon after setting sail from England. The Pilgrims had to regroup and restock leaving behind people and resources. Their charter was for what is now New York, but they hit land north of Cape Cod in what is Massachusetts. Instead of arriving in summer, they arrived late in the fall. Those familiar with New England weather patterns will realize the seriousness of this mistake.
Explorations on shore revealed evidence of a native population. Would those they called Indians attack the Pilgrims? Especially since they took the stock of Indian seed corn found buried in a sand dune. The Pilgrim’s had few supplies left by the time they arrived – they needed seed to plant if they survived until spring.
The Pilgrim men debated what to do next. No one wanted to chance going out to sea in November to locate their charter land. They would have to plant a colony here. But where?
They investigated an island in Cape Code harbor. Finally they ventured on shore and up the hill above the bay. What they found were the remnants of an Indian village – land cleared, fields ready to plant. But no sign of recent activity. Did they dare build here? Did they really have another choice in November with winter blowing in?
The men reassembled on-board the Mayflower and wrote a compact for governing their colony. They elected a governor. They prayed for protection and guidance.
And they moved on shore. It was now too late for the Mayflower to leave, so the crew would help to build seven cabins and all the souls moved in to survive the winter. Only half of the Pilgrim population lived…the other half dying of scurvy and sickness. But when spring arrived, the group had survived. And the Mayflower sailed back to England.
One day an Indian named Samoset, who spoke broken English, came into their camp. He left returning with Squanto who spoke English well. Squanto’s own story was of capture, prisoner in England, and escape back to this shore. Here he learned that his tribe the Pawtuxets, had been wiped out by a European disease. The tribe had lived on this very spot – now called Plymouth*. The surrounding tribes left the area vacant for fear of catching the disease, too.
That is why it was ready and prepared for the Pilgrims when they arrived – in the wrong place, at the wrong time – but depending on a miracle from their God.
Location and Time: Plymouth, MA 1620
Type of Miracle: provision, guidance.
*To learn more about the Pilgrims read:
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim, by Gary D. Schmidt, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999