The Mayflower set sail from England, in August 1620, led by William Bradford. The Church of England under King James I was persecuting everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged the theocracy and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their religious beliefs.

     Separatists first fled to Holland. After several years, about forty Pilgrims risked everything to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In the New World, they would certainly face hardships, but at least the promise was they, “could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”

     According to Bradford’s detailed journal, the Mayflower landed in America in November, it was a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims — including Bradford’s own wife — died of starvation, sickness or exposure. When spring finally came, “the Native American Indians” taught the settlers how to plant corn and skin beavers for coats.

     Textbooks today teach children Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than what it really was “a devout expression of Thanksgiving” to God for living in America. ...

— Sallie Helmer
611 Park St.

     To read the entire letter, see the Dec. 5, 2019 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.