At My Plumber Heating and Air we promised you that during the month of July we were going to visit some pivotal moments in American History. Our first moment is a point in time which many think of as the beginning of the nation. In reality there were people from all over Europe, living and working here before the Pilgrims made their ill fated voyage. But somehow their story invokes the spirit of the American heart and mind. What they suffered and their amazing endurance clarifies the essence of the American story.
Pilgrims Meet a New Friend
They left Plymouth in September more than 100 people bound for Virginia to create a life in a new land. Unfortunately, they were blown off course and it took them more than two months to reach American shores. Quarters were cramped and cold, the food was bad and people sickened from eating it. The voyage was miserable and two of the travelers died. It was good practice: a harbinger of the horror to come.
The next few months were a trial for their souls. They traveled the coast line searching for a place to settle, they knew they couldn’t make it to Virginia. They found some meat, fresh water and were able to steal some stored Indian grain and beans. But, they were constantly cold and the weather was bitter.
They encountered very few natives. The native peoples were not unfamiliar with the pale-skinned strangers, traveling their coast in ships and had learned the hard way to be wary of them. They practiced avoidance where they could, but once when the strangers robbed their food stores, they attacked.
Finally in December they found an abandoned Indian village. The original owners had been ravaged by an illness that killed most of them. They found some bodies of the people who were left where they died. The pilgrims own numbers were dwindling. People were falling victim to some form of congestive illness. They had to have warmth and shelter and they had to have it fast. No matter how gruesome the circumstances; the abandoned village with its promise of shelter against the winter snows was a godsend. They buried those that were long-dead and took residence.
The warmth and shelter of the village improved their circumstances but still people continued to die. Scurvy was rampant among them. They knew that citrus fruit or even sauerkraut could help them, but they had access to neither. Had they know it, the needles of the evergreen trees in the area, steeped into a tea was loaded with the vitamin c could have cured them, but they did not know that and more of their numbers died. By spring 47 percent of the original colonists were dead.
In the early spring help came. Not from England, but from a native. His name was Squanto and his life story was both amazing and tragic. He was better traveled than many European sailors of his day and had lived in England for a number of years. He had returned home to the very village that the settlers now occupied only to find his loved ones dead or gone. He befriended the pilgrims and taught them how to survive.
Squanto taught them how to raise local produce and what plants were poisonous and which ones had medicinal qualities. He helped them hunt and acted as a representative and sometimes intermediary between the pilgrims and the native people. He was only with them for a couple of years before death took him, but what he taught them helped them survive, even thrive in this new land.