Rockin’ and a-rollin’, splishin’ and a-splashin’,
Over the horizon, what can it be?
The pilgrims sailed the sea
To find a place to call their own.
In their ship Mayflower,
They hoped to find a better home.
They finally knocked
On Plymouth Rock
And someone said, “We’re there.”
It may not look like home
But at this point I don’t care.
If you are a child of the 70s and early 80s, you were probably singing along with that. It’s the first verse of No More Kings courtesy of that Saturday morning cartoon staple, Schoolhouse Rock. I’ve included this little ditty not only for nostalgia’s sake (or because it’s just plain fun), but because today is Forefather’s Day.
This holiday is celebrated mostly in New England, but as Americans we should all take note. Forfather’s Day commemorates the day the Pilgrims landed on what would become known as Plymouth Rock. We know the exact day because the honorable Governor William Bradford (1590-1657) kept meticulous notes of the events of the Mayflower emigrants in his diary, which was eventually published as the History of Plymouth Plantation. This extremely detailed account is a wonderful record of the difficult voyage of the Mayflower and initial colonization of the area that would eventually be known as Massachusetts.
Just in case you are an American colonial history buff as I am (that was my area of concentration in my college history major), you may want to check out some of these books and DVDs on the subject and have your own personal celebration of Forefather’s Day.
Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History
by Nick Bunker – Did you ever wonder exactly why the Pilgrims emigrated? Not just the general “they were persecuted for their religious beliefs,” but the nuts and bolts of why they made their decision, how they carried it out, and what they did once they got here? This book, using documents never before analyzed, answers all of those questions and more. After reading this, you will feel that you not only know the Pilgrims, but understand them as well.
The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony
by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz – When someone says “Puritan” to you, do you think of a somber person dressed in black and white? This is actually as far from the truth as you can get. Puritans wore bright colors, they got drunk, and some had premarital sex! This book tells you all about the authentic, and sometimes scandalous, lives of the early settlers.
A Great & Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims & the Myth of the First Thanksgiving
by Godfrey Hodgson – So, on the first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims and the Indians sat down together to give thanks for surviving their first year and enjoyed a big meal consisting of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and cornbread. Right? Well, not exactly. Actually, that’s not even close to what really happened.
Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims
by David Lindsay – What could be worse than being an orphan? How about being an orphan who at the age of five was put on board the Mayflower and sent with strangers to settle a new colony with some of the harshest conditions ever encountered by emigrants? This book follows the story of Richard More, who after arriving in the New World makes a successful life for himself and lives to witness many of the major events of the founding of Massachusetts.
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (DVD)
Produced by Lone Wolf Documentary Group for the History Channel – This was no pleasure cruise and it certainly was no three hour tour. During the long two months it took for the Pilgrims to cross the Atlantic, half of them died. This historical documentary feels more like a feature film. It’s educational as well as entertaining and you will learn the true story of their voyage.
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
by Nathaniel Philbrick – This may be the definitive work on the first 50 years of Puritan life in the New World. Follow along with the Pilgrims on their arduous journey on the Mayflower. Meet the real men behind the legends and see them for the flawed, but courageous people they were. Delve into the tenuous relationship between the Wampanoag and the settlers, which culminates in the deadly King Philip’s War. Ultimately understand exactly what it took, and what it cost, to be one of the early American settlers.
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim
by Gary D. Schmidt – This man, William Bradford, was so beloved by his fellow settlers and so instrumental to their survival and the establishment of their new society that he was reelected to the office of Governor more than 30 times. Take that, politicians of today!
Happy Forefather’s Day! (or is it Merry Forefather’s Day?)