In doing research for one of my books, I had a refresher course in American history and learned a few more interesting tidbits. Take for instance Jamestown. Everyone has heard the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, but what is fact and what is fiction?
The fact is King James I of England wanted to stake a claim in the new world. He’d heard about the fortunes Spain had found and he wanted a piece of it as well. He commissioned the London Company to set up a colony in America, find the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and send whatever treasures they found back to England.
Merchant adventurers who wanted to make money of their own advertised for people to find their fortunes in the new world. Life was tough in England with overcrowding and high taxes. One hundred and fifty-one people signed up all hopeful for a fresh start. They would be sadly disappointed.
Crossing the Atlantic over forty-six of them died. Though they were happy when they first arrived, they soon found that finding fresh water was a challenge and the swamps were infested with malaria carrying mosquitoes. By the end of the first year two-thirds of them had died. One of the survivors was John Smith.
The Jamestown Colony
He was elected governor of Jamestown, explored the area and came into contact with the Powhatan Indians. Many believe he was held captive by the Indians and saved from death by Pocahontas. But there are several historians who disagree with that account.
Pocahontas: The Truth – VOA Story
As with Pocahontas much has been written of the Pilgrims journey. But did you know their story actually began long before they settled in America? In 1606 the Church of England was the only religion allowed to be practiced there. A group of people decided they didn’t want to be part of that religion and became known as the Separatists. They fled north to the Netherlands and settled in Leiden. However, they were not happy. They couldn’t find work, there were rumors of war with Spain, and their children were picking up Dutch habits that the Separatist parents didn’t like. So, once again, they were searching for a place to live. America seemed the perfect solution to their problem, except they didn’t have the money to go.
Banning together, the Separatists formed their own company and convinced merchant investors to pay them to go to the new world and in exchange the Separatists company would send the merchants in England valuable goods for seven years.
Also sailing with the Separatists were people they called Strangers. They were not searching for religious freedom, but wanted a new life.
These groups boarded two ships: the Speedwell and the Mayflower and started their journey, but it wasn’t too long when they found out that the Speedwell was taking on water. They were forced to go to Plymouth England. From there one hundred and two passengers boarded the Mayflower and set sail. Their journey would take sixty-six days.
History Channel Presents: Desperate Crossings 5 mins.
Here’s an informative website about the pilgrims adventure and that first Thanksgiving so many years ago.
The Thanksgiving Feast
FYI: Thanksgiving was not a national holiday until November 26, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the fourth Thursday in November would be set aside for celebration.
So while the first settlers who came to the new world probably did not know what chocolate cream pie taste like nor why crazy people get up before the sun the day after to run from store to store, I do think they enjoyed getting together with loved ones and being grateful for their blessings.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!