November 9, 1620 – The Pilgrims sight land
On this day, 397 years ago, the passengers on the Mayflower sighted land at Cape Cod. After 66 days at sea they had been scanning the horizon eagerly for days, hoping for a glimpse of land.
Then, through the mist… there it was! This land which would be their new home. Rocky, windswept shore and then forest -that’s all there was. It was cold. That cold, raw wind blowing off the ocean is bone-chilling. Colder than anything they’d experienced in England or Holland. November was a hard time to begin life in a new country.
I’ve been to Plymouth Rock. I was eager to see the spot – the very spot! – where they came ashore, imagining that my being right there would give me some feeling of spiritual connection to the past. That perhaps standing where their very feet had stood would allow me to feel some kind of connection to their human experience. Or something.
The ghastly Grecian-Temple-looking structure they have built over the Rock could hardly be less appropriate. An architectural style perfectly antithetical to all that that the Rock and those who stepped ashore onto it symbolized. Sigh.
I had the same disappointing failure to connect with the past at Paul Revere’s house (tourists everywhere) and at the Alamo (parking meters right in front.) Try as I might, being in those places couldn’t transport me back to the past the way I had hoped it would.
To my mind, the best way to forge a connection with the past – to almost feel you were there – is through books. A well-written account can help you imagine just how it felt, sounded, smelled, to be there. I love that. Best of all is if it’s a first-hand account, the actual words of those who lived it.
We have three first-hand accounts from the people we call the Pilgrims. They are treasures. All three are wonderful vehicles for traveling back to the past, and you can find them all online for free, though they would be worth reading if they cost a fortune.
My favorite is Mourt’s Relation. Written, historians think, by Edward Winslow and William Bradford, it covers the events of their first year establishing the new colony. It’s short and easy to read, and reading the actual words of someone who was there builds you a connection to the past like nothing else.
Of this day Mourt’s Relations says,
“…at length, by God’s providence, upon the ninth of November following, by break of the day we espied land which we deemed to be Cape Cod, and so afterward it proved. And the appearance of it much comforted us, especially seeing so goodly a land, and wooded to the brink of the sea. It caused us to rejoice together, and praise God that had given us once again to see land.”
Good Newes from New England, by Edward Winslow, was published in 1624. It’s a similar account to Mourt’s Relation, but focuses more on their relations with the Indians.
Of Plymouth Plantation was written by William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth colony, between 1630 and 1651. He starts by describing the years in Holland before they made the Atlantic crossing in the Mayflower and goes on to tell the whole story of the first years, concluding with a list, written in 1651, of all the passengers on the Mayflower and what happened to them in the intervening years.
Read these accounts and learn from our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers what they understood about God and their relationship with Him. Observe their thankfulness to God for His providence and lovingkindness to them even in the first year when half of them died.
We need faith and vision and purpose like theirs. You must read these to your children so they can begin to understand what this country was once all about, and to give them a vision for making it that way once again.