Birth of First Pilgrim Child in New World, 1620

Peregrine White was the first child born to the Pilgrims in the New World. He was the second son of William and Susanna White. Peregrine’s name means “one who journeys to foreign lands” or “pilgrim.” His older brother was named Resolved.

The Mayflower had anchored at Provincetown on November 11th, 1620. The Pilgrims had been given a land patent to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River. Provincetown was well outside of the permitted area, so there were some who questioned their legal right to form a colony there. Still on board, a group of Pilgrims drafted the Mayflower Compact as a design for the governing of the colony. For the time being, that set minds at rest.

The following day was Sunday, so they stayed on ship. On the 13th, the first party landed, and began exploring the area. By the 15th, an exploratory party of 15, led by Myles Standish, was sent out. They had a fairly productive day — they disturbed an Indian gravesite and stole a cache of corn intended for the dead.

Peregrine was born the following week, on November 20th. The birth took place onboard ship, the first Pilgrim birth in the New World. (There had been one previous birth during the voyage.)

There had been a few more exploratory expeditions, and at least one hostile encounter with the Natives, who were not happy about the corn-stealing incident. It was deemed wise to settle elsewhere, so by early December, the Pilgrims left Provincetown and set sail for Plymouth Harbor.

The first winter at Plymouth was a hard experience for the Pilgrims. They didn’t even begin their construction of shelter until December 23rd. In the days that followed, 20 men always stayed ashore for security purposes, but the women and children had not yet left the Mayflower. They had been onboard ship for six months. It took two weeks to construct the first building, a wattle and daub “common house.”

During the first winter, 45 of the 102 immigrants died. Another 4 died during the following year, leaving only 53 people alive to celebrate the First Thanksgiving. Of the 18 women who had come on the voyage, 14 died during the first year.

One of those who died that first year was William White, Peregrine’s father. In May of 1621, his widow, Susanna White, married Edward Winslow, whose wife had also died during that terrible year. Winslow had come to the New World with his wife, his brother Gilbert, and two servants, George Soule, a teacher, and the eight-year-old Ellen More. Ellen had three brothers and sisters who also came on the trip, and were taken over by other members of the colony. For many years, it was believed that the More children were orphans, but in the 1990’s it was discovered that they were actually illegitimate, and were sent to the New World by their parents to avoid scandal. It is not known whether or not Winslow was aware of his servant’s questionable parentage.

The marriage of Edward Winslow and Susanna White was the first marriage in the colonies. Winslow was apparently a well-respected man among the Pilgrims. He was the third signer of the Mayflower Compact, and he later became Governor of Plymouth Colony. He represented the colony in dealings with both the Native Americans and with the British. Later, he established what later became the town of Marshfield, Massachusetts.

Peregrine was raised largely in Marshfield, and he married there and established his own farm. he was known for his planting of many European fruit trees, and his farm appears to have been a successful one. He held several offices in the community, and also served in the militia.

Peregrine’s wife was Sarah Basset, whom he married in about 1648, when he was 28 years old. Sarah’s parents had immigrated to Plymouth in 1621, and Sarah was born there in 1627. In 1648, according to historical records, Peregrine and his wife were brought to court for having fornicated before their marriage. They paid a fine and the matter was settled.

Peregrine White died on July 20, 1704. He was 83 years old. According to the Vital Records of Marshfield, Massachusetts, he was “vigorous and of a comly Aspect to the last.” It was also said of him that “Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant; yet was much Reform’d in his last years; and died hopefully.”

Sources: “Peregrine White”, Wikipedia; “Plymouth colony”, Wikipedia; “Mayflower”, Wikipedia; “Edward Winslow”, Wikipedia; “History of Marshfield, Massachusetts”, Wikipedia; “Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony)”, Wikipedia; “Peregrine White”, Pilgrim Hall Museum; “Peregrine White in 17th Century Records”, Pilgrim Hall Museum.

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