The Mayflower Pilgrims who planned and organized the famous voyage to North America in 1620 were English Protestant “Separatists” persecuted by King James I and the Church of England. Seeking freedom first in England and then in Holland, this brave group of 102 men, women and children sailed across the Atlantic on a small merchant ship called the Mayflower. Also among them were non-Separatist farmers and tradesmen, sometimes called “Strangers”, who were seeking a better life and were added to the group to provide necessary skills for the group’s survival. The Pilgrim group first landed at Cape Cod near the current town of Provincetown, MA. After exploring the area for a promising site, they established the first permanent European settlement in New England near an abandoned Indian Village named Patuxet. Only half of the Pilgrims survived that first difficult winter. Fortunately, in the spring of 1621, members of the local Wampanoag tribe under their sachem (leader), Massasoit Ousamequin, helped the colonists adapt and grow enough food to survive. Now, nearly 400 years later, there are millions of Pilgrim descendants living around the world.
In addition to bringing their values and spirit of adventure with them to the New World, the Pilgrims created a heritage of liberty and law by drafting a document of self-government. Forty-one adult males signed the Mayflower Compact on-board at Provincetown, 11 November 1620. The Mayflower Compact established the legal and political structure for the new colony where none had existed. A century and a half later, that document was an inspiration for the Constitution of the United States.