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New England Puritans & Pilgrims

New England Puritans & Pilgrims

New England Puritans & Pilgrims Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Half a million people emigrated from England in the century after 1607, but most went to Ireland or the West Indies, not to North America.16

Some of the early New England towns restricted access to land ownership for newcomers, thinking that they could maintain an ideal social and economic order by keeping large tracts in the possession of the founding families and their descendants. Watertown, the first inland settlement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, averaged up to 200 acres per male household (among its older families) in 1647. Only 6% of that land was actually under cultivation; the families were granted more acreage than they could actually cultivate.17

The Puritans (and many non-Puritans in the crew) of the Mayflower had intended to emigrate to Virginia, but were blown off course and landed on Cape Cod and established the colony of Plymouth (in what would become Massachusetts) instead.18

Native Americans such as the Nashaway band of the Nipmuc (or "Nipnett") people of the inland Wachusett region (in present-day Worcester County) developed a gendered division of labor whereby women cultivated corn, beans, and squash—which composed about 65% of their total caloric intake. These staples were then supplemented by the game that men hunted. Both sexes fished as well.19

About half of the 102 settlers at Plymouth died during the first winter, primarily from scurvy and exposure. Yet none of the survivors chose to return with the Mayflower to England.20

In terms of casualties proportionate to the total population, Metacom's (or King Philip's) War was the deadliest in American history.21

After 1640, migration to New England virtually stopped (largely because of the English Revolution of 1640); but the family settlement pattern in the region established the basis for a thriving society. By 1700, the region's white population outnumbered both the Chesapeake and the West Indies.22

For every three men who sailed to New England in the first half of the seventeenth century, two women also made the journey. This was a much more balanced sex ratio than in the other colonies to the south, such as Virginia and Maryland. Families composed the vast majority of New England settlers throughout the Great Migration period (1629-42). They tended to be older and wealthier than their Chesapeake counterparts. By contrast, approximately one-fourth of all settlers during the period were servants.23

Many if not most Puritans did not fit modern-day stereotypes, which have been considerably influenced by the satire of writers such as H.L. Mencken in the 1920s. Particularly those in the upper class were known to wear colorful clothing, listen to secular music, and drink plenty of rum. Yet a Puritan could be arrested if he or she was found incapacitated by liquor. Repeat offenders had to wear the letter "D" in public.24

Harvard College was hardly the first institution of higher learning in the New World; over a century earlier, in 1551, the Spanish established the Royal University of Mexico.25

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