A Bad Rap for Pilgrims?

Dave Gable, Vanguard University

My wife, Millicent, has over a dozen of the Mayflower Company, the Pilgrims, in her family tree. (Don’t get all that impressed: they now have over 30 million descendants! Those Pilgrims had lots of kids!)

In reading about them, so I could tell our kids about their heritage, I found some fun facts and some inaccurate myths about them, and you might use these in a Thanksgiving teaching.


1. Landing on Plymouth Rock? Its earliest mention is 100 years after they landed. It is doubtful they paid any special attention to it.

2. “Pilgrims wore black, and were very serious, against anyone having fun.” We have all heard this. The reality:

  • Pilgrim graves show they dressed normally for their day, including bright colors.
  • Roger Williams, leaving in 1636 to start another colony (Rhode Island) did so partly because in Massachusetts they had too much fun, with parties, races, and games.
  • Probably due to bad water back in England, they drank lots of beer.

3.         The Mayflower Compact, hailed now as the first national charter of a genuine democracy, was simply the way they organized their church life: “congregationally,” with the people choosing leaders and agreeing to follow them (the same way we organize our churches!), now applied to their civic life. Government based on the consent of the governed. (Our “country” came from their “church” model!)

4.         Once the Pilgrims showed they could survive here, other religious dissenters came, not by the ship, but by the convoy! King Charles was glad to see these troublesome evangelical Christians go. It was one of the largest religious migrations in history, and filled New England in short order with young, literate Christian families wanting religious liberty, people about as much like us as any of their day. They didn’t do it perfectly, but they did it well enough for it to succeed, and set the core values for this “best of countries!”

Contact Dave at david.gable@vanguard.edu.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *