Nothing is harder to direct than a man in prosperity; nothing more easily managed than one is adversity. — Plutarch

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Plymouth Rock

The season was so far advanced when the Pilgrims reached our northeast coast, and the seas were so rough, that the captain of the Mayflower  said it would not be safe to go any farther. So the Pilgrims, who were tired of the ship and eager to begin building their new homes, decided to settle in New England. Before they left the ship, however, the menu assembled in the little cabin to draw up a paper, in which they pledged themselves to be true to their country, king, and religion, and to obey any laws made for the good of the colony. Then they elected John Carver, one of their number, as governor for one year, and named Miles Standish, an old soldier, their captain.

The First Wash Day

While the women hastened ashore to wash their linen, Standish and his little band of Pilgrim soldiers began to explore the coast to find the best spot for their settlement. For a few days they tramped up and down on Cape Cod, once only catching a glimpse of an Indian and a dog. But finally they came to a ruined wigwam, where they saw a copper kettle. This showed them that Europeans had been there before. Soon after they found some buried corn, and carried it off, intending to pay the owners for it later. About three weeks after this, some Pilgrims and seamen took a boat and sailed off to make a more extensive exploration of the coast. After going a long distance they landed, and as they walked along they were surprised to find so many graves, for they did not know then that the plague had raged there two years before. Early one day, after spending an uncomfortable night out of doors, and saying their morning prayers, the explorers were startled by a terrible Indian war whoop, and a flight of arrows fell all around them.

But Miles Standish was so brave a man that he made his men stand firm and drive the Indians away. The Indians had attacked the party only because they fancied that the Pilgrims had come to steal Indians, as the fishermen had done several times before.

The Pilgrims now continued their explorations in the midst of a driving snowstorm. Their rudder broke, and they had to steer with their oars. Finally they were driven ashore, where they kindled a fire, spending Sunday in prayer and praise, and resuming their journey only on Monday morning.

On December 21 or 22 they again ran ashore, landing on a rock, since called "the stepping-stone of New England," and now carefully preserved and known as "Plymouth Rock." The land around seemed so favorable that they decided to plant their colony here, naming it Plymouth, in honor of the last English town they had seen before leaving old England.

As the landing of the Pilgrim fathers is one of the great events of our history, the anniversary of their coming is still kept in New England and elsewhere, and is known as "Forefathers' Day."

Landing on Plymouth Rock

While Standish and his men were busy exploring, the Mayflower  rode at anchor, and its inmates barely escaped a horrible death. One of the colonists, named Billington, having gone into the cabin to get powder, carelessly left the barrel open. His boy, a mischievous youngster, crept into the cabin unseen, and began playing with a gun. Of course it went off unexpectedly, and the child came very near setting fire to the powder in the barrel, and thus blowing up the Mayflower  and all on board.

As soon as Standish had made his report, the anchor was raised, and four days later the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. The first woman to set foot upon it, we are told, was a Puritan maiden. Soon all the settlers were very busy building a storehouse for their provisions, and homes for themselves.

The men, exposed to the bad weather, caught such heavy colds that before long all were ill, and when the storehouse and a log hut were finished, both had to serve as hospitals for the sick. In spite of an unusually mild winter, the colonists found their close quarters on the Mayflower  and in damp log houses so uncomfortable that they suffered greatly.

At one time all but seven were seriously ill, and in the course of the winter nearly half of their number perished. Grave after grave was dug in the frozen ground, but the Pilgrims, dared not mark them in any way, lest the Indians should discover how many of the white men had died. They were careful about this, because, although they had not seen any, they knew that Indians were lurking near them, for tools left in the woods a few hours had mysteriously vanished.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell