|A Year of Colonial American Frontier History|
After leaving the Provincetown area, the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Harbor on December 16, 1630. For three days, they explored the area, searching for a suitable site to establish their colony. They decided on two hills, Fort Hill and Cole's Hill. Native tribes had already cleared much of this area already so they could raise their crops.
Building the Settlement
Harse weather delayed construction. The first landing party did not come ashore until December 20, legend has it at Plymouth Rock. They parceled out lots about fifty feet deep. Family size determined the lot's width. They would recieve eight feet of width for each family member. The settlers had to build their own cabin, plus supply work on the common houses, forts, fences and storeage houses. They built the settlement on Cole's Hill. Fort Hill would contain the cannon they would use to defend the town. While building the structures the colonists continued to live on the ship, leaving a permanent presence of about twenty men ashore to defend their work against native depredation. Inclement weather, sickness among the colonists and a shortage of tools and supplies only allowed them to build four common houses and seven cabins that first winter. They had planned to build nineteen during the winter.
Provisioning and Defense
The colonists finally were able to begin bringing provisions from the ship to the colony by the end of January. During this time, they had some encounters with the natives, adding to their apprehension. By the end of February, they had appointed Miles Standish commander and organized themselves into military companies. They had installed several cannon on Fort Hill. By March, they had formed the structure of the colony and elected John Carver governor to replace Christopher Martin, who had died in January.
Death and Disease
During this first winter, the colonists underwent many hardships. Most had lived on the ship, as there were not sufficient shelters or provisions ashore. Diseases like scurvy took their toll. Many of the men were incapacitated by disease and forty-five of the 102 colonists died. However, the remainder persisted and the colony grew.
A Year of Colonial American Frontier History
© Paul Wonning 2016