In 1620, William Bradford and the Pilgrims traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower. According to the Mayflower Compact, the voyage was ultimately “for the Glory of God and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”
As one historian put it, “We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs, but to secure liberty for their souls.”
Although the Pilgrims were resolute in their Christian faith and their cooperative colony known as a “civil Body Politick,” they were sadly unprepared for their first harsh winter in the New World. More than half of them died of exposure and starvation before the spring of 1621.
By the following winter, an English-speaking Indian named Squanto befriended the Pilgrims and taught them how to build durable homes and grow maize. Governor Bradford wrote that Squanto was “a special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations…”
In the late fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, Squanto, Chief Massasoit, and the Wampanoag people feasted on maize and wild game, giving thanks to God. Many historians consider this gathering the “first Thanksgiving” on American soil.