Today In History: Pilgrims Land At Plymouth

Today In History |

December 18, 1620

Today in 1620, the Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. The people aboard the Mayflower would found Plymouth Colony, beginning the long campaign of settlement that would eventually birth the United States.


The Mayflower was crewed by a group of Puritans from Nottinghamshire, England. The sect was persecuted by the Church of England, accused of treason, and were exiled to the Netherlands. After living there for twelve years, the group courted merchants in London to finance a colony in the New World. The colonists boarded the Mayflower on September 6, 1620, led by William Bradford.

The Mayflower arrived at Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod, on November 11, 1620. 41 of the passengers, all male, signed the Mayflower Compact, binding them to rule by an elective government. Multiple scouting groups made landfall over the ensuing weeks. One of these scouting groups reported back that they had located a settlement-worthy harbor.

NBC Connecticut

Inclement weather prevented the colonists from fully disembarking until December 18. They chose to settle in a former Wampanoag village, which had been abandoned due to an outbreak of European-borne illness.

The new colony saw an extremely harsh winter. When the winter broke, fifty of the Mayflower's 102 passengers had died. They solicited help from the Wampanoags, signing a peace treaty with Massasoit, their chief. With their guidance, the settlers were able to cultivate a small number of crops that sustained them.

On April 5, 1621, the Mayflower embarked on a return voyage to England.

Plymouth, in the ensuing decades, became a booming settlement. It was incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Association in 1691.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.