Four hundred years ago, four surviving adult Mayflower women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) set themselves to the task of preparing a feast to celebrate a successful first harvest in their new homeland.
The previous year, 101-104 men, women, and children sailed for 66 days on the Mayflower from England – first anchoring off Cape Cod and then choosing Plymouth as the site of their first settlement. Of those Mayflower passengers, 41 men signed the Mayflower Compact. Nine of the 41 are our ancestors. Of our nine Mayflower ancestors, five were separatist Pilgrims, one was a non-separatist, two were servants, and one was a Mayflower crew member. About half the passengers, some who were Compact signatories, died during that first winter 1620-1621.
Those that survived built houses and common buildings, planted corn and probably other vegetables, foraged berries and nuts, fished for bass and cod, and hunted turkey and deer. It must have been a busy first spring-summer-fall. Celebrating Thanksgiving wasn’t a new holiday, nor was it specific to early Plymouth. Colonists in Virginia had celebrated thanks as early as 1607. However, the 1621 Plymouth Thanksgiving was the first time the feast was celebrated as a civil holiday rather than one sanctioned by the Church.
Here are our nine Mayflower ancestors as I understand them right now – research may add more!
George Soule (1593-1680) was a servant.
James Chilton (1556-1620) was a separatist Pilgrim.
John Alden (1599-1687) was a cooper who signed on as Mayflower crew.
William Mullins (1578-1621) was a non-separatist.
Thomas Rogers (1571-1621) was a separatist Pilgrim.
William Bradford (1590-1657) was a separatist Pilgrim and early governor of Plymouth.
John Howland (1591-1672) was a servant.
John Tilly (1571-1621) was a separatist Pilgrim.
John Goodman (1587-1621) was a separatist Pilgrim.