by George F. Willison
Starts out slow as the Separatists from the Anglican church have fled to Leyden in Holland and have formed a congregation there. Elder William Brewster is publishing seditious books and pamphlets for which crime King James I seeks to capture and behead him!
After several false starts, the Pilgrims ( as they were much later dubbed) reach Plymouth but too late in the season to plant anything. Only half the passengers survive the first winter. They begin to plant crops ,hunt and trade with the Indians. (the term “Native American” was not in use at the time this book was written.) The author makes it clear that the settlers would not have survived at all without the help of the indigenous people.
Squanto, the last surviving member of the Patuxet, became friend and translator for the settlers. His role was of great importance as Willison tells us
Without Squanto and his native skills and knowledge of the country, the Pilgrims would almost certainly have perished, or been forced to flee the plantation, for they would have had no crops.
The settlers were heavily in debt to the investors in England. No matter how hard they tried to pay it off by sending beaver pelts , they only grew more heavily in debt.
Contending with disease, occasional trouble with native Americans, and trouble from other groups of colonists, the small community at Plymouth plantation hung on. They became the Forefathers of our country, eventually gaining independence form Britain.
The title comes from the fact that only 43 members of the 102 persons aboard the Mayflower belonged to the Separatist church, the others were recruited to colonize America and did not belong to the Pilgrims church, thus called “strangers” in the title.
I realized how amazing it was for the few straggling survivors to unite and write a document like the Mayflower Compact soon after arriving in the new world. It is so surprising that they composed such a pact to hold them together in support of one another, swearing they
“…doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in ye presence of God, and one of another,covenant and combine ourselves togeather in a body politick..and by vertue hereof to enacte, constitute and frame such just and equal lawes..”
Though dry in places, I am glad i read this book and learned so much about the first years of these brave souls on our shores! If y ou are interested to find out about the first governor, WIlliam Bradford and the Mayflower Compact,look here.