Plymouth, Pilgrims, Puritans, The Great Migration, Wampanoags, and The First Thanksgiving


Most of us envision Pilgrims and Indians peacefully sitting down to a feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts around this time of year in the early 1600s as the “first” thanksgiving.  However, the first official Thanksgiving holiday was  created  by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the American Civil War.  And actually, the new settlers were Puritans and only became known as Pilgrims during the 18th century when historians started to refer to them as such.
Puritans were a group of people (primarily English and Dutch) who felt persecuted by The Church of England and King James I.  They believed The Church had become a product of political struggles, man-made doctrines, and was beyond reform. To escape religious persecution from church leadership and the King, the Puritans set off to America.
The term Great Migration of 1620-1640 refers primarily to those Puritans who escaped England and Holland in family groups, primarily in search of freedom to practice their religion.greatmigrationmap1620-1640
The Wampanoag Tribe people are known mostly as the Indians who greeted and befriended the small group of families in 1620, bringing them corn, pumpkin, and turkey to help them through Plymouth’s difficult winter.  Unfortunately many arrived sick or became sick shortly after arriving.  In fact, about  half of all women and children got sick and died.  Between the years 1620 when the first families arrived and 1640,  more British colonists came to Massachusetts, displacing the Wampanoags from their traditional lands, souring the relationship between the Puritans and Indians.   The Wampanoag leader Metacomet, known as King Philip to the English, appealed to the British, but war ensued. The British won decisively, sold many of the Wampanoag survivors into slavery, drove the rest into hiding, and forbade the use of the Massachusett language and Wampanoag tribal names. It wasn’t until 1928 that the Wampanoag people reclaimed their tribal identity.   The surviving 2,500 or so Wampanoags still live in New England.
Among our family members aboard the Mayflower was Edward Fuller, his wife Anne Hopkins, and young son, Samuel.  Edward was born in 1575 in Redenhall, County Norfolk, England.  His father was a butcher and his brother Samuel, a doctor and church deacon.  Edward married Anne Hopkins about 1605.  They lived in Leyden, Holland, for a while and joined the Pilgrims at Southampton, first aboard the Speedwell.  When that ship beame unseaworthy, thePuritans transferred to the Mayflower–a cargo ship used to ship wine between England and France.
While anchored at the harbor near Cape Cod, Massachusetts in November 1620,  all 41 man aboard the Mayflower drew up a document known as The Mayflower Compact to establish  fair and equal laws of governing their New World  and for the general good of the settlement, with the will of the majority.

Signer of the Mayflower Compact

Signers of the Mayflower Compact

 Edward Fuller was the twenty-first signer.  He and his wife died soon after their arrival (1620-21), and are buried in unmarked graves on Coles Hill at Plymouth.   After being orphaned, Samuel was brought up by his uncle, Dr. Samuel Fuller, the physician of the Pilgrims.  Samuel was the only Mayflower passenger to settle permanently in Barnstable and was one of the last surviving Mayflower passengers. It was, in fact, Samuel Fuller,son of Edward and Ann who founded Barnstable, Massachusetts.   On April 8, 1635, Samuel married Jane Lothrop, daughter of Rev. John Lothrop.   They were married by the infamous Captain Miles Standish at the James Cudworth house. The Fullers had 9 children.  Samuel Fuller died there on October 31, 1683.
Jane Lathrop/Lothrop is my 8th great grand aunt–ancestor of my grandmother’s (Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford) paternal “Lathrop” family.
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It is my desire to collect, authenticate, analyze, preserve, and publish all relevant Family information to give my family an accurate accounting of its past.  Information within this article has been gathered throughout my 20+ years of ongoing genealogical research. I wish also to thank contributors from the Ancestry.com public trees, the U.S. Census Bureau and Ancestry.com’s historical facts compilations, and similar materials and web sites dedicated to promoting Americans’ heritage and religious, moral, and societal contributions.

3 thoughts on “Plymouth, Pilgrims, Puritans, The Great Migration, Wampanoags, and The First Thanksgiving

    • Sorry if I didn’t make this more prominent in my post: “The term Great Migration of 1620-1640 refers primarily to those Puritans who escaped England and Holland in family groups, primarily in search of freedom to practice their religion.” And thanks for your comment. Always appreciate them.

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