Mayflower Facts for Kids

  • In September 1620, a ship from England called the Mayflower set sail.
  • It usually carried wine and other goods, but this time it had 102 passengers who wanted to start a new life in the New World.
  • Nearly 40 of these passengers were Protestant Protestants that we call today “Saints.”
  • They wanted to have their church in the New World.

Who were the Mayflower Pilgrims?

In 1608, a group of people from England went to Holland. They were angry at how the Church of England was. People did not want to be part of it because they thought it was almost as bad as the Catholic Church. Keep reading to learn more Mayflower facts.

The Separatists were not the same as the Puritans. The Puritans wanted to reform the Church of England, but Separatists wished to separate themselves from it. They went to Holland thinking that they would be free there.

Separatists, or “Saints,” found religious freedom in Holland. But they also found it challenging to live in Holland because Dutch guilds excluded migrants. They were only allowed to have jobs where they made little money.

Some of the children of the Separatists were not happy with Holland. They had a hard time, and they didn’t like it.

The Separatists were very strict and devout. People decide to move away from the government or worldly things. They went across the ocean to America, which they called “the New World.”

The people who founded the Plymouth Colony called themselves “Saints,” not “Pilgrims.” But for some reason, no one used the word “Pilgrim” to describe this group until after they had lived there for 200 years.

Financing the Voyage

Profit-seeking corporations set out to establish colonies in America. Investors wanted people who were close, diligent, and knew how to work hard. The Pilgrims fit these qualities well.

After the Pilgrims received a license from the Virginia Company to establish a colony in their region, 70 merchants in London known as the Merchant Adventurers contributed money. They invested in the firm. These individuals paid for the Mayflower, her crew, and food for a year.

The Merchant Adventurers wanted to profit; therefore, they made the Pilgrims work for the firm for their first seven years in America. For coming to America and working, each colonist over the age of 16 was given one share of stock. They were free to keep the stock if they worked hard.

The Pilgrims needed to take on new people to help pay for the voyage. They took on other people who wanted commercial success, but they did not share their beliefs.

These “strangers” (as the Pilgrims called them) were half of the people on the Mayflower. When they landed in Massachusetts, they argued about making their own rules and not following those from Virginia. The Pilgrims made a group and wrote the Mayflower Compact,  a document to set regulations for self-government and prevent them from rebelling.

The Mayflower Crossing

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor.

The Mayflower sailed on September 16th, 1620, from Plymouth in Great Britain. The ship went to America.

More than 30 million people can trace their ancestry back to the 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew aboard the Mayflower when it landed in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts. It was a cold winter.

The Pilgrims were not the first to land in America. There were already other colonies here. One of these is Jamestown. It was founded in 1607.

Pilgrims thought that Virginia in America was an excellent place to live because people had already settled there. But they didn’t want to settle too close and create the same environment.

Some of the people on board on the Mayflower were John Alden, Isaac and Mary (Norris) Allerton, Bartholomew, Remember, and Mary John Allerton. Onboard were also William Bradford and his wife Dorothy (May) Brewster. They had their children Love and Wrestling. There was also Richard Britteridge’s family with Peter Browne.

The Mayflower took 66 days to cross the Atlantic. The voyage was so bad that people could not stand up, and they only had little power because of many storms.

Sometimes, they just drifted rather than using their sails. One person was swept overboard. A woman named Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to a baby boy who was given the name Oceanus.

Arrival in America

The Pilgrims had planned to land in Virginia and the Hudson River (today New York). They had heard good things about it. The Mayflower missed the Hudson River by some degrees.

The Pilgrims sailed towards land. They saw the cape on November 9th at sunrise. The Pilgrims decided to make their plantation in New York because it had a good river with many fish.

But the rough seas almost shipwrecked the Mayflower, and they decided to stay and explore Cape Cod rather than risk another journey south. They anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor.

A woman named Susannah White gave birth to a baby boy aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child that was born in the colony. His name ended up being Peregrine. He was named after a traveler (a pilgrim).

The Mayflower Compact

The colonists knew they were not allowed to live in the land they came to, so they drew up a document that would make them seem like they had some legal standing. On this document, called the Mayflower Compact, the settlers on the Mayflower agreed to cooperate.

They also agreed that they would deal with issues by voting and establish constitutional law. The law would be based on what more people wanted.

In this document, they talked about how they wanted to have a government in the new world. They wanted a body politic and laws that were just and equal.

They also promised to be loyal to the English king. It was the first document in America that talked about democracy because it set an example for people trying to get away from being ruled by the British later on.

Plymouth Colony

After 66 days, the Mayflower reached Cape Cod Bay. They landed on the site of Provincetown on November 21. They sent an exploratory party ashore and docked at Plymouth Rock 18 days later.

The explorer John Smith named the area Plymouth after leaving Jamestown, a permanent English settlement in the New World. The settlers agreed that the name was appropriate because the Mayflower had been from Plymouth, England.

Some settlers stayed onboard the Mayflower for a few months. They would go to shore and then back again to build their new settlement.

In March, they began to move ashore and build their homes permanently. More than half of the settlers became sick and died that first winter because of an epidemic that swept through the colony.

The Pilgrims, soon after they landed, met a Native American man. His name was Tisquantum or Squanto. He became a member of the colony too.

John Smith captured a member of the Pawtuxet tribe and took him to England. This man, Squanto, escaped back to his homeland. He acted as an interpreter between Plymouth’s leaders and the Pokanoket tribe’s leaders.

English-speaking Samoset helped the colonists ally with the local Wampanoags. They showed them how to hunt, gather food, and grow vegetables.

Read more about Plymouth Colony

A Love Triangle

In 1620, John Alden went on the Mayflower voyage. He was hired to be a cooper (barrel maker) on the ship. Myles Standish also joined the trip for his military experience. When the ship got back to England, John and Myles decided to stay in Plymouth Colony rather than go home.

Priscilla Mullins started on the voyage with her father, stepmother, and brother. It was a challenging year for Plymouth. It had been tough before, but then tragedy struck, and Priscilla lost her whole family.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins are amongst the colony’s first couples to marry. According to folklore, John Alden and Myles Standish have sworn enemies. This is why the well-known poem The Courtship of Miles Standish was written.

In the poem, Myles has a crush on Priscilla. He wanted to tell her, but he was too shy, so he asked John to say to her for him. Priscilla liked John more than Myles, so she started going out with John instead of Myles.

Though there is not much information about John Alden and Priscilla Mullin’s courtship, we know a lot about their lives and legacy. John Alden was an active member of the Plymouth Colony.

He signed the Mayflower Compact. He also served in many different jobs, including treasurer, court deputy, and governor’s assistant.

John and Priscilla received 100 acres in Duxbury. They built a house and farm on the property.

The family traveled 10 miles to Sunday church services in Plymouth for many years. So, they started another congregation in Duxbury that became a separate town in 1637.

John and Priscilla had 10 children together and were both founding members of Duxbury. They had more descendants than any other Mayflower passengers.

The First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the Pilgrims and the Pokanokets had a feast. It was a big meal for three days. They played games too. The feast is now called Thanksgiving because it happens in Fall.

On the first Thanksgiving, most of the people were men. 78 percent of the women who traveled on the Mayflower died over winter. Of 50 colonists who celebrated the harvest, 22 were men, four were married women, and 25 were children and teenagers.

The Pilgrims were outnumbered by the Native Americans. They had to have been scared because there were more Native Americans than Pilgrims. But they also knew that they wanted to live in peace so that they could talk with them.

Read more about The Pilgrims

More Ships Arrive

The Mayflower was the first ship to come to Plymouth. Three more vessels came after it, including the Fortune, Anne, and Little James. The people on the first four ships were called “Old Comers” because they came to Plymouth before everyone else. They were given special treatment in later colonial affairs.

The Pilgrims first paid off their debt in 1648. They had a similar fate as many struggling businesses. The Plymouth Colony was eventually taken over by a larger, more successful company when it merged with other colonies to form the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691.

Still, even though there were other Christians in the world, the people from Mayflower and their descendants felt that God chose them to be a beacon for them. Bradford wrote that “as one small candle can light a thousand candles, so our light has shown to many people and in some ways even to our whole nation.”


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