‘Drought…humiliation…harvest’: ‘Instead of famine now God gave them plenty’

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Special to WorldTribune.com

By Bill Federer, November 22, 2018

On Nov. 21, 1620 (NS), the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact and began their Plymouth Colony.

Of the 102 Pilgrims, only 47 survived till Spring. At one point, only a half dozen were healthy enough to care for the rest.

In the Spring of 1621, the Indian Squanto came among them, and showed them how to catch fish, plant corn, trap beaver, and was their interpreter with the other Indian tribes. Gov. William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”

Bradford added: “The settlers … began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto stood them in good stead, showing them how to plant it and cultivate it. He also told them that unless they got fish to manure this exhausted old soil, it would come to nothing … In the middle of April plenty of fish would come up the brook … and (he) taught them how to catch it.”

Pilgrim Edward Winslow recorded in Mourt’s Relation that in the Fall of 1621: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.

They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week…. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.

And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time, with us, yet by goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” Bradford described the same event:

“And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”
Two years after the Pilgrim landing, there was a drought in 1623. Edward Winslow recorded in Alexander Young’s Chronicles of the Pilgrims (Boston, 1841):

“Drought and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by Fasting and Prayer.”

After they prayed, Gov. Bradford wrote: “Afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty.”

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