From Interstate Batteries Chaplain Henry J. Rogers:
On Sept. 6, 1620 the Pilgrims set sail for the New World on a ship called the Mayflower as they set sail from Plymouth, England. The long trip was cold and damp and took 65 days. Since there was the danger of fire on the wooden ship, the food had to be eaten cold. Many passengers became sick and one person died by the time land was sighted on November 10th.
The first winter was devastating to the Pilgrims. The cold, snow and sleet was exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as they tried to construct their settlement. March brought warmer weather and the health of the Pilgrims improved, but many had died during the long winter. Of the 110 Pilgrims and crew who left England, less that 50 survived the first winter.
One of those who survived was Pilgrim Governor William Bradford. The long winter was not the first hardship he faced. He was born in 1590 in a small farming town in England. Tragically, his father died when he was only one year old. His mother, Alice, then raised him until he was four, when she remarried and sent him to live with his grandfather. But his grandfather died when Bradford was only six. Further tragedy hit when his mother died only one year later. So he was then sent to live with two uncles.
At 18, Bradford fled England’s religious persecution, arriving in Amsterdam in 1608. In 1609, he moved with his Puritan church to Holland, where he resided for the next 11 years.
In 1620, at 30 years old, Bradford and his wife, Dorothy, sold their house and joined the Mayflower expedition and sailed for America. Tragically, after enduring the difficult crossing of the Atlantic, and while the ship was anchored at Cape Cod and the men were exploring on land, Dorothy fell overboard and drowned.
As he had done repeatedly throughout his life, Bradford endured through the loss of his wife, only to have to face with the other pilgrims one of the harshest years of their lives. Bradford himself got sick and wasn’t expected to live, but thankfully, he recovered.
While many would see the tragedy of his life, Bradford found reason to give thanks after a brutal year and proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Indians.
As we pause on Thursday to eat, let’s remember that like those early Pilgrims, we have much to be thankful for, too. Happy Thanksgiving!
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