Was the Mayflower First?

Earlier this week I posted a piece that confirmed and debunked some facts about how the ‘Mayflower’ made the historic journey to New England and establish a permanent colony. As Pilgrims, they leave England for religious freedom. With the help of their guide, who learned English from English sailors, Squanto acts as an interpreter between his chief and these strangers. This chief is Massasoit of the Pokanoket tribe. Massasoit, never having met these people with pale skin and hairy faces, befriends the Pilgrims and his people provide aid by teaching them how to grow corn, and how to gather the bounty of the ocean. We have taught our children in the past that following the first harvest all gathered at a glorious feast which later becomes our modern day Thanksgiving. The year is 1620.

True or False?

When the Mayflower anchored off the shores of Cape Cod in November 1620, no other English or other European power had sailed as far North as New England. False.

According to author, Nathaniel Philbrick in his book, ‘Voyage, Community, And War’, the earliest recorded visit occurred in 1524, near present day New Port, Rhode Island.

For many years, European fishermen had been making the trek across the Atlantic to fish off the coast of Maine and Cape Cod Bay. This is how Cape Cod received its name. By 1602 English explorers, like Bartholomew Gosnold travelled to map the area and harvest sassafras that could produce medicine for certain diseases.

In 1605, having created conflict Gosnold and other needed to leave.

In 1611 an English Captain captured a half dozen natives and brought them back to Europe as slaves. We believe one such prisoner to be Squanto, who would later return and play a role in future negotiations between the two cultures, having learned the English language during his travels. But his true motives have come into question.

In 1614, Captain John Smith, from the story of Pocahontas, explored the area of Cape Cod drew a very detailed map, which highlighted the locations of all potential areas for successful settlement. Smith almost became a member of the expedition, but there was a dispute with over the size of his fee. It is unfortunate because he had extensive knowledge of the area and had dealt with natives before. Instead, they agreed that Smith would sell them a copy of his map.

It was during Smith’s voyage in 1614 that another Englishman captain had the entire cargo hold filled for the slave trade. Smith was furious and knew how this action would affect all future relationships and interactions.

A year later, in 1615, a French ship wrecked off Cape Cod, and the natives killed all the survivors, except a few. They men were kept alive as slaves. It is said that even Massasoit received one prisoner to become a servant.

It would seem that Massasoit and his people had interacted with Europeans before. This interaction would have recently occurred. One can see that the seeds of mistrust had already been planted than surmised — potentially leading up to the King Phillip’s War.

If this is true? Why was Massasoit so quick to provide aid?

That is a post for another day.

If you want a good read, I recommend Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War by Nathaniel Philbrick


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