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The Pilgrim Fathers

[1] To appreciate the unique position the Pilgrim Fathers hold in America, it is necessary to understand their place in the composite group of religious dissenters in late sixteenth-century England. Believing religion to be an individual faith and denying the supremacy of the State in matters of the church, these Separatists, Congregations of Independents, or Brownists under the leadership of Robert Browne began to withdraw from the Church of England during Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603). The persecution, execution, and oppression of the dissenters increased when James I became King of England in 1603; he reigned until 1625.

[2] The label "Puritan" was first used around 1590 and was considered an odious name among the opponents of the church reformers. The Puritans had no intention of breaking with the Church of England because they felt it was politically dangerous; instead their intent was to "purify" the Anglican Church by reforming its corrupt practices. Although they were part of the Puritan movement, the Pilgrims were a distinct group because of their independent origins in England. An unsponsored, unattached company, they came from the villages of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire--strong characters of considerable initiative, such as yeomen, farmers, artisans, merchants, rather than university scholars from big cities. Not the typical church constituents willing to accept the usual formalism, the Pilgrims were sturdy independents without the connections of the establishment. Hence they displayed a freshness and directness that kept them from the dogmatic restrictions of the ecclesiastical world; i.e., they did not subscribe to the usual patterns of belief or the traditional "thou shalt not" codes and were willing to experiment.

[3] Refusing to be assimilated by the Puritans who had political and missionary aspirations, or the Baptists who insisted on immersion, or the Quakers who defied authority, they assembled secretly. Daring to break with the mother church, they endured the scrutiny of spies, the hostility of neighbors, the condemnation of the church and state, fines, imprisonment, and even execution. As a result, they felt more compassion for unpopular causes than some of their Puritan neighbors in the New World.

[4] Besides their desire to separate from the Church of England, the chief tenet delineating the Pilgrims from the Puritans and other religious dissenters was their idea of how the Christian church should be organized and how they should worship God. Insisting that the church should be reorganized along New Testament lines without regard to custom or tradition, they eschewed bishops or deans, sacraments except baptism and holy communion, prayer books, rituals, altars, candles, or incense. Ministers were elected by the congregations for each independent church, and services were made up of bible reading, sermons, and a new prayer each Sunday.

[5] A group of Brownists at the turn of the seventeenth century began worshipping at the estate of William Brewster in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire. Led by Pastor John Robinson, these rebels followed an orthodox brand of Calvinism based on congregational autonomy, exclusivity, and rule from within each church by a mutually approved covenant. Rejecting any uniform code of behavior and the political and missionary aspirations of the mainstream Puritans, Robinson formally broke with the movement in 1604. His rebellion not only defied both the Anglican Church and the Puritan establishment but also rendered his flock the scourge of all religious authorities. In those "ignorante and superstitious times," Bradford wrote, the Church of England "begane to persecute all the zealous proffessors in the land...if they would not submitte to their cermonies, and become slaves to them and their popish trash" (5).

[6] In 1609 these Pilgrims moved to Leyden, Holland, where they hoped to maintain their religious independence; they were able to obtain employment, and they lived there with little interference from the Dutch for about a decade. But when the local officials began to threaten their autonomy and younger members of the congregation started to leave the group, they decided to move away from all alien influences. Their dream was to have a community of their own in a remote part of the world where they could live according to "the gospel of the kingdom of Christ" (Bradford 26) without interference from state control. Their immediate concern was for themselves, not for the heathen, nor yet the rest of the civilized world--the Pilgrims were not missionaries. For them, preparation for an afterlife was given high priority (Langdon 7). In addition, war between Spain and the Netherlands was imminent, and they were aware of the cruelty of the Spanish conquerors in the New World.

[7] William Brewster, for whom there were arrest warrants out in England and Holland, was chosen as the man who would lead the Pilgrims to the New World; he had been the Elder of the community since their move to Leyden. A book from Brewster's printing press, The Perth Assembly, offended King James by attacking his religious policy in Scotland. His ambassador in Holland demanded the extradition of the printers and the destruction of the press. By the time the hunt was raised for him, Brewster was in England.

[8] Only about forty of the original secessionists emigrated in 1620, leaving Robinson and the majority of the congregation behind in Leyden. Leaders of the group (William Brewster, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Carver, Robert Cushman, and Isaac Allerton) procured financial backing from a group of London merchants and gained permission from the Virginia Company to inhabit the upper portion of its vast North American holdings. They were aware that the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, was begining to flourish. But an adventurer named Thomas Weston persuaded a group of merchants in London to finance the venture; he convinced the financiers to contract for land farther north in what is now New England His plan included a joint stock company with two kinds of shareholders: adventurers who would invest their money and planters who would settle. To ensure a substantive return on their investment, the London sponsors demanded that the small religious band travel with the company of "strangers" who would share in the building of the colony. These strangers (for example, Miles Standish who was hired as a military expert, John Alden as a carpenter) composed more than half the immigrants. Just before the target date to leave Southampton, Weston amended his original agreement, negating the two days a week the planter could work for himself and included all houses and land in the division to be made at the end of seven years; the Pilgrim leaders objected, and Weston tore up the agreement. The settlers had no choice but to leave without a contract; they had sold their homes and possessions when they decided to emigrate. Christopher Martin was appointed as agent for the non-Separatist group to procure provisions, ship biscuit ("hardtack"), pickled beef and pork, beer, and dried peas and beans making up the larger part of their supplies.

[9] Two ships, the Mayflower (with Captain Christopher Jones) and the Speedwell (with Captain Reynolds) were hired, and the group sailed on August 23, 1620. But the Speedwell, overmasted and carrying too much sail, began to leak, and the two ships put in at Plymouth for repairs. Judged to be unfit for the long voyage, the Speedwell returned to London with about twenty settlers who had abandoned the trip, and the remainder boarded the Mayflower. Apart from the officers and crew, there were 102 passengers of whom 17 men, 10 women, and 14 children were from the Leyden congregation; the English company had 17 men, 9 women, and 13 children. The servants included another woman and 6 children; 5 hired men completed the company.

[10] On September 20, 1620, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, and the voyagers had a fair wind for several days; many of the Pilgrims were seasick. A short time later strong headwinds and fierce storms shook the ship, and their sleeping quarters were constantly wet. In a particularly bad storm the main beam amidship cracked; it was jacked back into position with a large screw from a printing press in Leyden. One of the settlers, John Howland, was swept overboard but was eventually hauled back on the deck. Only one passenger, William Butten (a servant of Samuel Fuller), died during the voyage. A son, Oceanus, was born to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins.

[11] At daybreak on November 9, 1620, the Pilgrims made landfall at Cape Cod. One story holds that Jones was bribed to keep the Pilgrims away from the Hudson Bay settlement, but none of the accounts written by the people who were aboard the Mayflower and knew Jones give any hint of this conspiracy. There were times when Jones was anxious to get the Pilgrims ashore after they reached New England, and there were irritations between him and his passengers, all natural and understandable, but one can find in the Pilgrim writings a number of instances of his kindliness and friendship. Besides, the Pilgrim Fathers surmised that this isolated spot would benefit them; if they settled in this area, they would have more freedom from the domination of the King and the Church of England. Then, too, they were eager to once again set their feet on solid ground.

[12] Some of the non-religious settlers construed these events as their right to act individually in obtaining property. The leaders therefore drew up the Mayflower Compact, in which they all agreed to commit to a civil body politic, to frame laws and appoint officers, and to which all promised submission and obedience. The agreement expressed no desire or intention on the part of the signatories to withdraw their allegiance from the Crown, nor to sever their association with the Old Country, although they were aware they were landing on a territory for which they held no patent from the London Virginia Company on behalf of the Crown; nor, as it turned out, did they know that the Plymouth Company had been superseded by the Council for New England on November 3, 1620, while they were still at sea. John Carver was elected the first governor.

[13] Bradford wrote that the ship's longboat was lowered and an armed party of fifteen or sixteen men rowed ashore, landing at the southern end of Provincetown, where they promptly "fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element" (69). But they realized they were in desperate straits; their meager supply of food and beer was almost gone, and it was too late to plant crops. Jones agreed to keep the Mayflower in the harbor until Spring when they could start building homes.

[14] Groups of able-bodied men made several trips ashore to explore the land while the women dug shellfish and washed clothes (the first time since leaving Plymouth, England). They were pleased to see that the Indians were afraid of them, fleeing at the sight of their muskets and leaving their dwellings for the settlers to explore. The Pilgrims found baskets of corn, buried by the Indians, which they took with them, along with a great iron kettle, noting that they would pay the Indians later (which they did). Part of the corn was saved for seed to plant in the Spring. They decided this area was not suitable to build a settlement.

[15] Jones and some of his men led the next expedition to another site further down the Cape; his group shot three fat geese and six black ducks which they ate ravenously. They examined an Indian village and tried out some abandoned Indian canoes, picking up the corn they had previously found and carrying it back to the ship. The first child born in Plymouth Colony arrived; a son, Peregrine, to William and Susanna White.

[16] The next day a group of forty Indians attacked the settlers on the beach but were driven off by musket fire; there were no injuries. Eventually Plymouth Harbor was selected for the site of the settlement; when they returned to the Mayflower, they learned that Bradford's wife Dorothy had drowned. After moving the ship to the harbor, the settlers felled timber and started to build their houses. It was a hard, cold winter; the constant exposure to the cold and rain and the scurvy resulting from the long period aboard ship with no fresh fruit or vegetables took its toll; many sickened and died from the "Great Sickness"--six in December, eight in January (including Christopher Martin and Rose Standish); seventeen in February; fifteen in March--only six or seven of the Pilgrims kept on their feet. They managed to care for the sick settlers as well as the ailing crewmen. The Mayflower lost half her ship's crew. The dead were buried at night with no gravestones so the Indians would not know how their ranks were being depleted. A cannon was mounted on a hilltop to keep the Indians at bay. Governor Carver had died and a new governor, William Bradford, was chosen. Despite this grim Winter, when the Mayflower sailed for England in April, 1621, not one of the remaining Pilgrims chose to return.

[17] The Plymouth Colony had settled where the Patuxet Indians had all died of the pestilence, but word had spread to all the tribes along the New England coast of the Pilgrims' arrival. Weakened by disease and fearful of the settlers' musket power, they were afraid to attack. In March 1621 Samoset, a chief of an Indian tribe in Maine, walked into the Pilgrims' settlement; he had learned some English from fishermen who summered near his village. Through his efforts a peace treaty with Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoags, was negotiated whereby they pledged to protect and help each other; the treaty lasted fifty-five years.

[18] The Pilgrims relied on Squanto (Tisquantum) to help them plant their crops and to interpret for them. Before the pestilence struck, Squanto, the sole survivor of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped by an English shipmaster and sold into slavery in Malaga, Spain. But Squanto escaped, and with the help of some friars, he had made his way back to the New World. Taking advantage of his valuable knowledge, the Pilgrims learned how to grow crops, fish, and hunt game; by Autumn, 1621, they had a good supply of food for winter.

[19] The Pilgrims celebrated with a three-day Thanksgiving feast (probably around October 15) with wild game, corn bread, hardtack, and butter; Massasoit and ninety Indians joined them, bringing with them five deer which were roasted in the open.

[20] In November the Fortune, dispatched by Weston of the London Adventurers, arrived with thirty-five passengers as new recruits for the Colony; the newcomers proved to be just more hungry mouths to feed. Weston chastised the settlers for failing to send back any cargo with the Mayflower. But the Mayflower Compact had been approved by the Council for New England so the Colony had definite boundaries, and every settler would receive a hundred acres of land after seven years.

[21] The Fortune was sent back with a full cargo of cedar clapboards and beaver pelts, but a French warship seized the goods and sent the empty ship back to England. That next Winter they were on half rations, causing hunger and discontent; the thanksgiving visit of so many Indians and the unexpected arrival of new settlers had depleted the food supply. The newcomers did not want to work on Christmas Day as the settlers did, and Bradford had to apply force. These were only a few of the many misfortunes which befell the Pilgrims during the next decade.

[22] Trouble with the Indians developed; to increase his own importance, Squanto had started a rumor that Massasoit was about to break the treaty and attack Plymouth; Massasoit demanded that Bradford send him Squanto's head and hands, but Bradford stood his ground. The settlers had heard about an Indian massacre in Virginia that Spring so they enclosed their settlement with a palisade and later they built a fort.

[23] Weston sent seven more men from England to fish for profit and told the settlers to feed them; in June, sixty more strangers arrived for the Plymouth Colony to feed and shelter for the whole summer; Weston had sold his shares in the Plymouth Adventure and had a charter of his own. His men would not work in the fields or on construction of the fort and stole corn ears as they formed on the stalks. A poor harvest followed that Fall, and only the arrival of a trading ship from Jamestown saved the Pilgrims from another Winter of starvation. Weston's men departed in the Fall, leaving their sick with the settlers.

[24] Weston's men started a colony for Weston's profit near Boston, stealing corn from the Indians and molesting the women. To retaliate, the Massachusetts Indians planned to wipe out the Weston colony, and then attack Plymouth. Bradford sent Standish and eight armed men to help Weston's group. To the consternation of the Pilgrim leaders and a sharp admonishment from Pastor John Robinson in Leyden, Standish killed a rebellious Indian and mounted his head on a pole at the fort.

[25] Deeply in debt in England with a warrant out for his arrest, Weston arrived in Plymouth. His boat had been wrecked and plundered by the Indians, so he wanted the settlers to help him--the English adventurer who had many times denied the Pilgrims the supplies they needed now came begging. They let him have a hundred beaver skins (he paid them with slander behind their backs) that they sorely needed to trade for food. In addition, two more Plymouth cargos were confiscated by North African pirates.

[26] The settlers did not subscribe to a communist society with no private property whatsoever. But the more energetic and industrious workers resented the equal division of crops, so in place of communal planting, the next spring each family was given an acre of ground per head of ground to plant their own crops, promoting more production. Unfortunately, a drought brought them another hungry season. When eighty-seven new settlers arrived (twenty-nine were from Leyden), the newcomers were dismayed at the sight of the ragged Pilgrims and the meager fare they had to offer them.

[27] The Colony had been awaiting the arrival of John Robinson to conduct some of their church sacraments, but the London Company never provided the money for his passage. Instead, a number of unsatisfactory ordained ministers were sent; Robinson died in 1626 in Leyden. Two of the new settlers, John Oldham and Rev. John Lyford, were accused of plotting against the Plymouth government with lies about the Pilgrims to the London Adventurers and plans to reform the Plymouth church, and both were expelled from the community.

[28] The Pilgrims were disturbed by (but could do nothing about) the conduct of Thomas Morton, a lawyer from London, who took over the deserted houses of Weston's colony and named it Merrymount; Morton took Indian women for his group, plied them with strong drinks, and set up a maypole. However, when Morton began selling alcohol and guns to the Indians and teaching them how to make gunpowder and bullets, Bradford sent Standish to deal with him. Morton was shipped to England where he wrote a book (New England Canaan) deriding the Puritans in general and Plymouth in particular. But on one of his trips back to Plymouth, the Pilgrims took him in.

[29] The moral and simple Pilgrims were no match for London financiers or "operators" within their group because they were much too trusting in business matters. Isaac Allerton, an original Mayflower passenger, and the Governor's first Assistant, took advantage of his position as the Colony's agent in England to invest 7000 pounds from fur sales in trading and fishing ventures for his own private benefit instead of paying off the Pilgrims' debt to the London Company. James Sherley and Josiah Winslow (Edward's younger brother) manipulated the Colony's accounts so badly that little of the money from their cargos went to discharge their debts. Eventually the settlers had to sell some of their houses and land to settle what they owed. As Bradford (336) says, such was "the conclusion of that long and tedious business...Thus were they abused in their simplicity, and no better than bought and sold."

[30] When the Puritan migration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony began in 1630, the Pilgrim population was only about three hundred, but they welcomed strong English neighbors as they were surrounded by Dutch, French, and Indians. The new settlers had money to buy goods from the Pilgrims, which increased their prosperity. But the Pilgrim Fathers were deeply distressed with the result: the farmers were moving away from Plymouth to set up bigger farms; Plymouth Town was almost deserted in 1644. Bradford (369) writes: "And thus was this poor church left like an ancient mother grown old and forsaken by her children."

[31] In 1661 the Colony declared its allegiance to Charles II; at the suggestion they apply for a charter, they decided they did not want a royal governor placed over them. Besides, many people who wanted a charter were unwilling (or unable) to pay for it. They were later to regret this decision. New Plymouth was the poorest of the New England Colonies and one of the smallest; in 1664 there were only three thousand people in the twelve towns. The Colony had no big rivers, no good harbor like Boston or Newport, and only one sawmill; the people were so poor they were unable to pay competent ministers; there were few merchants, and they had no big ships in foreign trade. Indian skirmishes and colonial wars in 1676 and 1688 further reduced the population and depleted their financial resources. There was a scarcity of men with capital or with contacts in English commercial circles; English associates were critical to the establishment of mercantile operations in North America because American merchants depended upon English credit.

[32] In 1690 the Colony once again begged for a royal charter, but their request was denied, and in 1692 it was subsumed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. If Plymouth Colony had been granted a royal charter, it would have become the fourteenth continental colony in 1775 and the fourteenth State of the Union in 1776. However, incorporation of the Plymouth Colony into the stronger and wealthier Province of Massachusetts Bay was in the best interest of many of Plymouth's inhabitants.

Print Resources

Abrams, Ann Uhry. The Pilgrims and Pocohontas: Rival Myths of American Origins. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999.
The author outlines the myths and history that have evolved around the Pilgrims and explores the reasons why we commemorate the Pilgrims as the founders of our nation.
Bartlett, Robert M. The Faith of the Pilgrims: An American Heritage. New York: United Church Press, 1998.
Bartlett relates the history of the Pilgrims from the time of their first departure from England to Holland and then to the New World. Their faith in God and his Providence was the sole anchor in which they could put their trust. He gives an account of their ethics, family life, and religious practices in terms of church services, sermons, prayers, music, and the sacraments. He elucidates their dealings with the natives and their neighboring immigrants; he makes clear their ties to Calvinism and the distinction between the Puritans and the Pilgrims.
Bartlett, Robert M. The Pilgrim Way. Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1971.
Bartlett provides a scholarly, in-depth account of the early history of the Pilgrims, centering around John Robinson as their spiritual and intellectual leader. He portrays their struggles in England in the late Tudor and early Stuart eras, deals at length with their experiences in Holland, and traces the influence of the Scrooby-Leyden community in shaping Pilgrim religion and the unique outlook and practices of Plymouth Plantation.
Bradford's History "Of Plimoth Plantation." From the Original Manuscript. With a Report on the Proceedings Incident to the Return of the Manuscript to Massachusetts. Printed under the Direction of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, by Order o
In 1630 Governor Bradford sat down amid the distractions and burdens of office to begin what he called his "scribbled Writings"; by 1650 he had written 270 folio pages, telling the Pilgrim story from 1606 to 1647. His eye-witness reporting gives insights into what really happened, as well as the motives at work under the surface events. But he was not above distortion of facts and did not hesitate to suppress whole chapters in the history of his brethren. He sometimes misrepresented the sequence of events, transposing cause and effect, to justify some dubious action. His remarks about those who opposed him or his fellow Pilgrims are often unreliable and always savage (Willison 3-4). The manuscript was not for publication. It was passed to his descendants after his death in 1657 and was never printed until the latter half of the nineteenth century. Over the years a few clergymen and scholars were given access to the manuscript, several of whom incorporated portions of it into their own writings. Reverend Thomas Prince, who used the manuscript for his 1736 history, stored the document in Boston's Old South Church where it remained until reported missing in the late 1770s. Since the last person to have studied Bradford's manuscript was Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, many believed the loyalist official took it with him to London when he fled Boston on the eve of the Revolution. In the 1850s the manuscript resurfaced in the Church of England's Fulham Library, and the text was copied for publication in 1856. It was not until 1897 that the original manuscript was returned to Boston.
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647. New York: Random House, 1981.
Bradford's journal is the basis for most of the information available about the Pilgrims. He has included letters from many of the participants in the story that he felt should be presented as they were written. It is notable for its lack of personal details about his or any of the other settlers' lives.
Dillon, Francis. The Pilgrims: Their Journeys & Their World. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975.
The author presents the Pilgrims on a human level; the social history of their English background; and the sources of their religious thinking. Especially useful are the many little-known facts about their migration to Holland and America and their bitter struggle for survival on the inhospitable New England coast.
Fleming, Thomas J. One Small Candle: The Pilgrims' First Year in America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1964.
Fleming gives life-size portraits of the Pilgrim leaders and their unique achievements -- the Mayflower Compact, their tolerance for other faiths, and the strict separation of church and state. But he also includes some comic episodes to offset the grim and solemn aspects of these settlers.
Gill, Crispin. Mayflower Remembered: A History of the Plymouth Pilgrims. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1970.
To mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims, Gill, a British author and journalist, gives his readers a lively but detailed history. He explores the reasons surrounding the position afforded the Plymouth Pilgrims. Surprisingly, their fame has endured on both sides of the Atlantic -- the people of Plymouth, England have kept their memory alive as well.
Griffis,William Eliot. Young People's History of the Pilgrims. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920.
Taking pride in his English ancestors, Griffis makes it clear that the Pilgrims were, first and foremost, Englishmen, and their customs and views were essentially an extension of their upbringing. His narrative shows the human side of this group by focusing on the children and youth, particularly William Bradford's life; consequently, this view of the Pilgrims is a positive one.
Heaton, Vernon. The Mayflower. New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.
Heaton's account of the Pilgrims explores their personalities and their motives for this epic undertaking, from the difficult and dangerous voyage to their first years in establishing Plymouth Plantation.
Langdon, George D., Jr. Pilgrim Colony: A History of New Plymouth [1620-1692]. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956.
In this full-scale and scholarly history of New Plymouth Colony, the author shows how seventeenth-century Plymouth developed independently of neighboring Massachusetts. Different patterns of religious, political, and economic growth contributed to the uniqueness of the Plymouth experiment.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Story of the Old Colony of Plymouth [1620-1692]. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
Morison voices his concern that the story of the Pilgrim Fathers ends shortly after they have landed in the New World.  His narration is presented at a level for younger readers with lots of information about the Pilgrims' houses, clothing, manners, customs, children, and their government.  An account is given of the Indian Wars and the last years of the Old Colony.
Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Edited from the original printing of 1622, with introduction and notes by Dwight B. Heath. New York: Corinth Books, 1993.
Listed as "A Relation or Journal of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth in New England, by certain English adventurers both merchant and others," this book is the earliest published account of the Plymouth adventure. No one really knows who wrote it, but Edward Winslow was probably the principal author; William Bradford, John Robinson, and Robert Cushman may have had a hand in it.
Seelye, John. Memory's Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1999.
Seelye discusses the myths that surround Plymouth Rock and the impact of this artifact on United States history.  The role of the Pilgrims in this history is explored.
Smith, Bradford. Bradford of Plymouth Plantation. Philadelphia: J.B.Lippincott Company, 1951.
Because he feels that his ancestor William Bradford has been bypassed in the nation's representations of the Pilgrims, Smith has written a detailed account of Bradford's contributions to the Colony. A glimpse of his personal life is also included.
Steele, Ashbel (Rev., A.M.). Chief of the Pilgrims: or The Life and Time of William Brewster, Ruling Elder of the Pilgrim Company That Founded New Plymouth, the Parent Colony of New England, in 1620. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 185
Urged by the descendants of William Brewster, Steele has written this book because "Wheras no Biography, containing even all the marked incidents of Elder Brewster's life, have ever yet been written. The purpose has been to present facts, not theory, not facts mingled with philosophical disquisitions, but in connected narrative."
Stevens, Peter F. The Mayflower Murderer & Other Forgotten Firsts in American History. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993.
Stevens has explored the legends historians tend to dismiss; among them is the story of John Billington who murdered a fellow Pilgrim.
Usher, Roland G. The Pilgrims and Their History. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1918.
Usher's impetus for writing this volume is the "lack hitherto of a consistent attempt to present the story as a whole, with serious attention to proportion, emphasis, and perspective."  He focuses particularly on the period after 1627 as well as setting the record straight regarding some previously reported facts about the Pilgrims.
Willison, George F. Saints and Strangers. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945.
Willison acknowleges that much has been written about the Pilgrims, but he feels it is "about time, I think, that the Pilgrims were allowed to tell their own story -- and so far as it can be readily and readably managed, in their own words." His final chapter is devoted to the efforts expended by Plymouth to commemorate the Pilgrims, from the annexation by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to 1920.
Willison, George F. The Pilgrim Reader: The Story of the Pilgrims as Told by Themselves & Their Contemporaries, Friendly and Unfriendly. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1953.
With diaries, letters, histories, and journals, Willison challenges the popular view of the Pilgrims as men who were meek, drab, overly pious folk. He traces their struggles from 1606 to 1692 and highlights their courage and endurance.

Online Resources

Plimoth-on-Web [Archived]
This web site offers information about the Pilgrims, museums, libraries, educational opportunities, and details on visiting the present-day Plymouth.
The Plymouth Colony Archive Project
"This Plymouth Colony Archive presents a collection of searchable texts, including court records, Colony laws, 17th century texts, research and seminar analysis of various topics, biographical profiles of selected colonists, probate inventories, wills, maps, town and fort plans, architectural and material culture studies."