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It pleased God to visit us then with death daily. Disease was everywhere. The living were scarcely able to bury the dead.

William Bradford, Governor

In 1620, ten years after John Rolfe lands in Jamestown, another group of settlers arrive. The majority of the settlers are Puritans. They are religious fundamentalists who believe the Church of England hasn’t reformed enough since its break with the Catholic Church. The Church disagreed, persecuted, and so they come to America. They first anchor off Provincetown Harbor, steal some corn from Native American burial sites, and encounter some living natives.

They eventually land on a deserted beach 300kms from where they hoped to be. They name it Plymouth after the port from which they sailed. The settlers soon endure their first winter. They’re in the middle of a mini-ice age. The growing seasons are shorter and food supplies dwindle. Barely half the settlers survive the first three months.

In April 1621, the Mayflower, the ship that brought them, returns to England. The remaining nineteen families are on their own.

The survivors meet their first Native Americans. The natives don’t have the numbers to be hostile. A previous European landing brought a plague that wiped out 9 out of 10 of them. The native plague survivors show the Pilgrim survivors how, by using fish as fertilizer, crops can be grown in the sandy soil. In return, in August, 14 Pilgrims use their modern guns to ambush and kill a rival tribe at night. The resultant crops and peace leads to the first ‘Thanksgiving’ celebration.

By 1623, they establish New Hampshire. In 1630, a thousand more Puritans arrive and Connecticut is established in 1633 - Rhode Island in 1636.


The founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams is even more fundamentalist than the Puritans. He believes all churches essentially corrupt. He also says the courts have no right to enforce the Commandments for which he’s exiled back to England. He flees and is saved by Native Americans. On land agreed by them, he sets up his vision of true religious freedom, Providence Plantation.

"It was not just the first American settlement to embrace such freedom of conscience; it was the first in the Western world."

Simon Schama

This ‘livelie experiment’ is given royal blessing by Charles II, in 1663.

"It unmistakeably makes the very unpuritanical figure of King Charles II rather than, say...Thomas Jefferson, the establisher of free conscience in America."

Simon Schama

Did you know?

Today more than 10% of all Americans can trace their ancestry back to these first 50 pilgrims., Within a few generations, the colonists were on average two inches taller than their English counterparts. Their children were now twice as likely to reach adulthood; they were 20% wealthier and pay only a quarter of the tax. , Wealthy Quaker William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, instilled a strong sense of equality into the new state, with women possessing rights long before they did elsewhere in America., The original 13 colonies were: Virginia; Massachusetts, Connecticut; Rhode Island; New Hampshire; New York; New Jersey; Delaware; Maryland; Pennsylvania; North Carolina; South Carolina, and Georgia. (Their combined population was approximately three million people), It was the fur trade, as much as their faith that kept the new colony going.