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American Heritage: The Mayflower heads home and the pilgrims are on their own

Published 8:12pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Now that winter was over, the Mayflower’s captain decided that it was time to head for home.

Only four of the couples that had boarded the Mayflower to come to “the promised land” have made it through the trip and the first winter. The people felt that it was the Lord’s will for them to come to this new land. They felt that they were the “New Israel” and God wanted them to inhabit this new land. So, they made the trip and they paid a high price for their decision to obey their God.

One would think that this would dampen their spirit. When it became apparent that the Mayflower would be leaving, the remaining Pilgrims had a choice to make. They were admonished by Master Jones to return to their homeland with him. What a choice to make. After all that they went through, some serious consideration was given to the admonition. However, the answer was given, plain and clear. Every one of the remaining Pilgrims decided to stay in Plymouth.

Because of what they had gone through, up to this time, they had found a new bond.

That which now bound them together was a stronger love for Christ. They had learned that what the Apostle Paul had written from his own experiences was so true. They took to heart, from their own experiences, the words that Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 12:9-10: “And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” This was the lesson they had learned and this is why they decided to stay in “the promised land” — “America the beautiful.”

In the summer of 1621, the Pilgrims built new buildings and sent men north to trade with the Indians. Their Indian friend, Suanto, went with the men and interpreted for them in their efforts.

The trading mission was a great success and they were blessed with enough corn to see them into the next year’s harvest.

In October, with a thankful heart, Gov. Bradford decided to call for a day of Thanksgiving by the people. The Indian Chief Massasoit was invited to come and participate in this great feast. The chief accepted the invitation and brought 90 of his people with him. With them, they brought at least five deer and more than a dozen turkeys. They also taught the Pilgrims how to make hoecakes and pudding that was made out of cornmeal and maple syrup, as well as how to roast the corn kernels in a pot which popped into fluffy, white delicacies known as popcorn.

In turn, the Pilgrims provided carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets and cabbages from their gardens. Added to this were blueberry, apple and cherry pies. These were made by using the flour that was made by the Pilgrims and berries that were dried and supplied by the Indians. This was all topped off with a sweet wine that was made from wild grapes.

This celebration was such a big success, the chief decided that he did not want to leave. This decision extended the celebration out another three days.

Even though they made it through the trials of their first winter, things would still be tough. They tried the experiment of “communism,” where the people actually did not own anything themselves. They shared everything that they had. Individuals owned nothing. Everything that they harvested from their planting in “common” fields belonged to all, those who put a lot of effort and work into it and to those who put little or no effort all benefited. But they found that this experiment didn’t work. The lazy gained from the work of others.

In April 1623, it was time to plant the corn and other crops. However, because of the experiment of “communism,” there was an attitude that was far less positive than the previous year. This year, it was determined that they would need twice the amount of corn as was previously needed.

Because of the attitude, a new system had to be developed.

The leaders of the colony presented their new plan to the people. The plan was an incentive plan.

They would do two plantings instead of one. The people would have their own lots to plant. They owned them. The second planting would belong to each individual or individual family who planted it. This changed the attitude and people became more enthused. The first crop would go to the community and the second crop would belong to the individuals. Even the women and the children now went into the fields, which was not the case previously.

The Pilgrims had now gone back to the old Biblical plan of community life. People now were able to own their own land. They were able to produce their own food. The harder they worked, the more they had. They would work to provide for themselves as well as helping their neighbors.

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