Illustration in the free domain.

In 17th century England King James I ruled both the state and the church. Concerned lest his subjects might defy him as their spiritual leader, they might one day oppose him as their political leader. Those who held different views from the state church were thus persecuted. In those years a group, who were known as separatists, fled the country and went to the Netherlands where they found religious freedom. There, however, they felt like sojourners in a foreign culture and so they decided to settle in America. Thus in 1620 they set sail on the Mayflower.

In every way their new life was hostile at Plymouth Foundation.

Quoting The American Pageant, Brief Edition, by David M. Kennedy and Thomas A. Bailey: “The winter of 1620-121 was a bone-chilling one, with cold and disease taking a grisly toll. Only 44 of the 102 survived. At one time only seven were well enough to lay the dead in their frozen graves. Yet when the Mayflower sailed back to England in the spring, not a single one of the courageous band of Separatists left.

“God prospered His children, so the Pilgrims believed. The next autumn, that of 1621, brought bountiful harvest and with them the first Thanksgiving Day in New England.”  In time they were able to build a solid community where they could worship God as separatist Protestants.”

William Bradford who was one of their early leaders would go on to serve as governor of Plymouth Colony for more than 30 years, wrote a firsthand account of all the hardships the pilgrims went through called Of Plymouth Plantation. His tribute to them was stated in these words, “But those things did not dismay them (though they did sometimes trouble them) for their desires were set on the ways of God, and to enjoy His ordinances; but they rested on His providence and knew Whom they had believed.”

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year may we remember to be thankful for all our blessings, and especially for those brave pilgrims who stood for their beliefs and for freedom. Happy Thanksgiving. —Franklyn and Joanne Mahar

Don’t miss three wonderful sites this thanksgiving. The illustrations are supberb.

The Pilgrim’s Fathers Story

The Pilgrim Story

Thanksgiving Inspiration

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