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Cape Cod Cape Cod and the Pilgrims

Although Cape Cod is perhaps more commonly thought of as a vacation spot, this part of New England is rich in the early history of the Pilgrims, that courageous group of Englishmen and women who sailed on the ship Mayflower to establish themselves in a new land where they could pursue their religious beliefs without interference.

The Pilgrim’s charter called for a settlement in Virginia but the chances of fate took the Mayflower off its course and brought it to the wrist of Cape Cod, apparently to a point off the high bluffs of Truro. The ship stood in to shore, but after a conference with the skipper, they tacked about and stood off to the south’ard for the Pilgrims were still bent on finding “some place about Hudson’s river for their habitation.”

Running close to shore, they followed this course until noon, when at the sharp elbow of the Cape, off the present town of Chatham, they suddenly “fell amongst dangerous shoals and roaring breakers.” They had stumbled into the treacherous waters which had almost brought Champlain to grief in 1605 and three years earlier had been christened Tucker’s Terror by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, who had tried fishing in these waters and given the Cape its apt name. (This area is today known as Pollock Rip)

The Mayflower seemed to be “in great danger, and ye wind shrinking upon them withall,” the helm was put hard over, and they headed back up the coast, “happy to get out of those dangers” before nightfall. With a gentle wind blowing, the ship lay to the open sea all that night, and early the next morning—66 days out of Plymouth, England and almost four months out of Delft Haven, Holland—the Pilgrims rounded the curved tip of the Cape into what is now Provincetown harbor, as fine and fair as any on the continent, large enough to shelter a fleet of a thousand sail.

So, the Pilgrims first landed at Provincetown, from whence they eventually went to Plymouth to establish their permanent settlement.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 02/22/06
Categories: History
Keywords: pilgrims, history


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