Mayflower History & Fun Facts

by Sari Bodi

Did you know that 35 million Americans can trace their family history back to the original 102 Pilgrims who sailed to America on the Mayflower?            
The Pilgrims came from a village called Scrooby in England. They were part of a sect called Separatists because they separated from the Church of England and created their own religion. This was against the law so they had to escape to Holland. There they lived for twelve years, but finally decided to leave because their children were losing their English language and customs.
In 1620, the Pilgrims set sail from Southampton, England with two ships – the Speedwell and the Mayflower, a wooden three-masted ship measuring about 113 feet long. When the leaky Speedwell had to turn back, some of the Speedwell’s passengers boarded the Mayflower, making it even more crowded. Some of the passengers were “Separatists”, and some were “Strangers,” people who wanted to make a new start in America, but not necessarily for religious reasons. There were also about 30 sailors on board, including the captain, Christopher Jones.
The Pilgrims intended to set up a colony in Virginia where they could experience religious freedom, but their ship went off course. It took 66 days for the damp, crowded, noisy Mayflower to finally reach Cape Cod Harbor off of Massachusetts.  The Pilgrims spent most of the first winter living on board ship. They sent out scouting parties in smaller boats to find a place to live, and discovered an area, which had forests, fresh-water streams, and corn fields. This was where they created the Plymouth Colony.

  • The sailors and the Pilgrims didn’t get along. The sailors called the Pilgrims who got seasick “flib-gabbety puke stockings.” 
  • 34 of the passengers on the Mayflower were children. One boy was born on the ship while it was at sea. He was named Oceanus.
  • There were no bathrooms on the Mayflower and the passengers had to wear the same clothes every day for 66 days. They were finally able to wash their clothes when they reached the shore.
  • You may have heard of Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, and John Alden. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made his ancestors famous in a poem he wrote called The Courtship of Miles Standish, telling the tale of a love triangle between these three Pilgrims.
  • During one storm, a young man named John Howland was swept off the deck and into the sea. But he caught hold of a rope and was pulled back onto the ship.
  • Along with the passengers and crew, there were also dogs, cats, sheep, goats, and chickens.
  • The only food the Pilgrims had to eat was salted meat and fish, dry ship’s biscuits, dried peas and beans, dried fruits, and cheese, washed down with beer, the only drink.
  • The Mayflower Compact, which set up the laws for the Pilgrims, was signed on board the ship. The first governor voted into office by the Pilgrims was John Carver. William Bradford became governor when Carver died, and remained in office for over 30 years. His famous book “Of Plimoth Plantation” is a history of the Plymouth Colony.

--------- Writer Sari Bodi is the author of THE GHOST IN THE POOL the story of how an eighth grader gets help from a Mayflower ghost! 

The Ghost in the PoolEighth grader Allie Toth has no interest in history. Things change, though,
when Allie meets a ghost – one Dorothy May Bradford, a true-life person
who in 1620, along with her husband, William, the future governor of Plymouth Colony,
sailed on the Mayflower. Turns out this ghostly historical figure – the very one her eighth
grade teacher wants her to research – is just the person to help her cope with the daily ups
and downs of a confused and lonely eighth grader. (Author’s note – just like Allie, I am descended from several passengers on the Mayflower.) For further information about The Ghost in Allie’s Pool, visit