The following is a story, a true story. It is a story fraught with hardship, with characters who face extreme circumstances, yet overcome. This story loosely follows the lives of two very different men whose stories intersect in the most unlikely way. I invite you to read, to imagine life through the eyes of the two and the people around them. I encourage you to contemplate this story through the lens of perspective you now have because we are so many years removed and times have changed so significantly. Indeed, much has changed, but not everything.
The first 7 years of life were fraught with tragic loss for William Bradford. Born in 1590 in Austerfield, England his father died in 1591 and was followed shortly by his Mother in 1597. After this, the boy was sent to live with his uncles. It was at the tender age of 12 that everything changed for young William – he found his calling – for this was the year William discovered an intriguing Christian community, who became known as Separatists, which would shape the rest if his life. Just one year later King James renewed his efforts to stamp out all non-government sanctioned congregations just like the one with which he had now cast his lot.
In 1605 Captain George Weymouth, was exploring the east coast of the New World looking for economic opportunities at the behest of the Plymouth Company. The Captain captured a few of the local inhabitant as a novelty to take back to his benefactor. Among those captured was Tisquantum, a member Patuxet tribe who lived on the coast. Tisquantum was in his twenties when he was transported to England. While there, he lived with Ferdinando Gorges, owner of the Plymouth Company, who taught him the ways and language of the English.
The Refuge Seekers
Now that the religious sect to which William Bradford had become involved had been outlawed, the group had to go underground to meet. In 1609 these determined and very courageous men and women, who were committed to a life based on the Bible and a relationship with God defined on their own understanding of truth not by the rules of the Church of Engalnd, made the difficult choice to relocate to the Netherlands to escape the religious persecution in their homeland. They made their way to the university town of Leiden in the Dutch Republic, a city of refugees that was known for accepting all. Here they found what they sought, religious freedom. Unfortunately, they also found a local culture that did not embrace their moral values and furthermore began having an undue influence on their children. Additionally, they found great difficulty in making a living in Leiden.
Now fluent in language and ways of the English, Tisquantum returned to his home continent in 1614 while acting as a guide and an expert on natural resources with the expedition of English explorer John Smith. Sadly, before even having a chance to reunite with tribe and family he was lured into a trap and taken captive by another British explorer who sold him into slavery in Spain. The next season of his life was spent living and learning among the Friars of Malaga in Spain. Unbeknownst to Tisquantum, in 1618 and 1619, a devastating plague swept through the Patuxet people. Every single one of his friends and relatives perished. Tisquantum made his way to back to England once again in 1619 and managed to get on with the Newfoundland Company. He was sent to Newfoundland and soon thereafter he was able to accompany Captain Dermer back to New England, his birthplace. Tisquantum, now affectionally know as Squanto by Captain Dermer and crew, upon returning to his home learned of the catastrophe that had befallen his people the previous year, having no one left he took up with the Wampanoags.
After 12 years of struggle in the Netherlands 50 of the devoted Separatists led by William Bradford decided to start a new life in the New World where they hoped to find not only religious freedom but also a better life. On September 6 th, 1620 this group now called pilgrims, set out. Their journey from the Netherlands took them first back to England to make some final arrangements but at last they began their trek across the vast Atlantic, determined to create a new settlement in the New World. Despite delays, misfortune and bad weather that hampered their journey and blew them 200 miles off course they finally reached land and anchored in Plymouth Bay on Dec 6 th, 1620. The Pilgrims located a suitable site on which to build their new settlement. They choose a prominent hill that was a good defensive location with streams nearby. Much of the surrounding area had been cleared for growing crops by the previous inhabitants, the deceased Patuxet people, who’s skeletons were still scattered about the site. The delays in their journey had delivered them to their new settlement at maybe the worst possible time of year. Living on board ship for the next 3 winter months the crew would row ashore as often as possible and work to craft the buildings needed for the settlement. By March over half of the Pilgrims has succumbed to famine and ill health but there was a glimmer of hope, a building in which to live had been erected and the infrastructure for the new settlement was beginning to take shape.
The Special Instrument
On March 16, the settlers had their first meeting with the locals in the region when Samoset walked into the village of Plymouth. He was sent to greet them as a representative of Massasoit chief of the Wampanoags. Squanto made his first appearance on March 22, when he came with Massasoit. The Pilgrims used the opportunity of having Squanto as an interpreter to negotiate a peace treaty and to establish trading relations. Massasoit offered a deal to the Pilgrims, agreeing to help their colony survive if they promised not to harm his people. He also asked the Pilgrims to form an alliance with them to protect them from their rivals, according to Bradford’s journal:
“If any did unjustly war against him [Massosoit], they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them. ”
The Pilgrims agreed, and the Chief offered Squanto as a resource to the settlers. He became an educator and interpreter for the colony, teaching the Pilgrims everything they needed to know to survive in New England. William Bradford later referred to Squanto in his journal as “…a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
He introduced the settlers to the fur trade, taught them how to sow and fertilize native crops, and how to better utilize the areas natural resources. Under his tutelage they learned how to catch eels and how to plant corn using fish caught from the town brook as fertilizer. Squanto and the pilgrims remained friends for the rest of Squanto’s life. They even went so far as to invite Squanto to live with them at Plymouth Plantation and, in August of 1621, the pilgrims embarked on a rescue mission to save Squanto after he was captured by a nearby tribe. With Squanto’s help, the pilgrims grew enough food to survive the following winter, prompting them to invite Massasoit along with 90 of his tribesmen and Squanto to the first Thanksgiving feast in the fall of 1621.
397 years later we are still celebrating the efforts of “… this special instrument sent of God for our good beyond our expectation.”
We have all this wonderful knowledge because of the effort our forbearers put into keeping journals. In celebration of this rich history and of Pilgrims everywhere we are offering a Modern take on the traditional quill pen commonly used in the 1600s. The pen, made from a turkey feather is outfitted with a replaceable high-quality ball point refill and comes with a desk stand. We have crafted a pen grip that makes it a pleasure with which to keep your own journal. Available here for a limited time.