Searching for Home

I’m currently in Ohio, staying with my brother while searching for my next home. I’ve had a great time exploring the area and contemplating various options. As I told the realtor who is suggesting possibilities, I either want to rent or buy something, either old or new, in or not in a planned senior retirement community. I know. Searching for a home takes a lot of imagination and investigating.

As I do this, I’m also thinking about the Pilgrims who were doing this back in November and December of 1620. However, they were searching for a home from the confines of the Mayflower, not the comfort of a guest room. After 66 grueling days cramped together in a small, stinky ship, they finally anchored off the coast of modern Provincetown. Their search for a home was far from finished.

Land, land Everywhere

Several challenges confronted them. Many were sick from the absence of adequate, decent food and the presence of cold, wet, weather and inadequate shelter. Then there was shipmaster Christopher Jones and his surly crew. They wanted these pesky passengers off the Mayflower asap so they could return to merry old England, their home. Searching for the best location to build their new settlement was limited to what they could explore on foot until they reassembled their shallop. They’d taken it apart to fit in the storage space available on the Mayflower. It took two weeks to reassemble.

Captain Myles Standish led the first team of sixteen men on a chilly march along the northern “arm” of Cape Cod. Wearing armor and carrying weapons, they explored along the coastline but found no place they deemed suitable to establish the new settlement. They did find a grave, a European-style cast iron kettle, a stash of corn, and other evidence that the area was or had been occupied. They also spotted a few Natives in the distance, who quickly disappeared. After a ten-mile hike in search of them, they gave up seeing them again.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

Exhausted, cold, and hungry, they returned to the ship to regroup. Next, twenty-four of the men set out in their reassembled shallop. This time Master Jones, and nine of his crew accompanied them with the ship’s longboat. They planned to spend two days exploring along the interior coastline.  Still, they found no place deemed suitable. However, they did experience a shower of arrows shot by Natives they could hear, but not see. For a few terrifying minutes, Natives shot arrows at them fast and furious to send a clear “go away” message. They went as far as back to the ship to organize another exploration voyage.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Sea Master Jones’ impatience increased as the supplies of eatable food decreased. He wrote in his ship log: “Sunday, 26 November: At anchor, Cape Cod harbor. Third Sunday here. Master notified planters that they must find a permanent location and that he would keep sufficient supplies for the ship’s company and their return.”

The voyage had taken much longer than anticipated. The weather hampered finding a place to establish a settlement. The ship was their only protection from the harsh winter setting in. While Master Jones and the others were exploring, those left back on the ship were clearing six inches of snow off the deck.

Third Times the Charm

A third exploration party headed out in the shallop, determined to find a place to build a settlement. Led again by Captain Standish, the team included ten passengers and six Mayflower crew. Among them was the ship’s second mate Robert Coppin who’d been to the area on a previous voyage, and the future Governor William Bradford. 

Before they left, they went to shore to bury young Jasper More, one of four children foisted on the passengers because his mother’s husband refused to accept responsibility for the children he was certain were not actually his biological offspring.

On their third search-for-home trip, they found a lovely place across Cape Cod Bay. It was teeming with fish and other seafood, had a clear freshwater brook, and a level area between the beach and a hill. The good news of their discovery was overshadowed by the news that awaited them. Dorothy Bradford fell overboard and drowned while William Bradford was away exploring.

Making Themselves at Home

Later they learned the reason such an ideal place was available was that a couple of years earlier, a plague had wiped out everyone who lived there. The few who survived the pandemic left, leaving it deserted. Today we know this place as Plymouth. They called it Plimoth Plantation. The Natives knew it as Patuxet.

Finally, at the end of December, having started their journey from Southampton, England, in July, they were ready to build their new homes. I’m looking for my new home via the internet, studying photos and videos of available places. These brave souls established their new homes by first felling the lumber to make the planks to build the Common House and a few cottages.

Every family took in someone who traveled alone or was now orphaned or widowed due to the high death count between anchoring and the first spring. Half of them didn’t live through that first frigid winter. However, the surviving ones, through hard work, grit, and determination, carved out a community for themselves and a permanent place in history.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures tells more of the harrowing story of how a small group of Separatists braved the unknown to migrate twice to unfamiliar places in search of a better life. It also tells the largely overlooked story of how two cultures were forced to decide how to deal with each other.  There’s much more to the story than you learned in school. I’d love to speak to your book club or organization about this fascinating history. Contact me at HowWiseThen to make arrangements. Sign up to receive free weekly blogs and/or a monthly newsletter. Please consider sharing this article with a friend.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and their interactions with the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio. (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies are available from my website or

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