The Plymouth Settlement

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 10911

Do you like turkey? If so, you would not have liked the first Thanksgiving! Join Squanto and the Pilgrims through lively videos, online articles and quizzes, diagrams and your own game about Plymouth!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


In the previous Related Lesson, found in the right-hand sidebar, we learned about the first permanent English settlement in North America: Jamestown. Today, we will explore the English settlement at Plymouth.

Plymouth was an exciting part of history! Not only does it bring us one step closer to the establishment of the United States, but it also gives us one of America's most beloved holidays: Thanksgiving! But, did you know turkey was not served at the first Thanksgiving feast, and the Native Americans were party crashers at the event?

Settlements Compared

Before we begin learning about the history of the English settlement in Plymouth, watch the following video, When is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America: Crash Course US History. This clip will review what we previously learned about the first English settlement in Virginia, and will introduce the English settlement in Massachusetts. As you watch the clip, identify at least two similarities and two differences between the settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth:


Many people think the Pilgrims were the first English settlers in North America.

But, as you just saw in the video, the Pilgrims did not arrive until 13 years after the first settlers arrived at Jamestown. In September 1620, about 100 people left England for North America on a ship called the "Mayflower."

Seeking Civil Rights

Unlike the Jamestown settlement, this was not an exploration voyage. The Pilgrims left England because they felt they did not have religious freedom. They were uninterested in being a part of the Church of England, — the only legal church in England at the time — and sought a place where they could worship freely. About two months after they left home, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, located in present-day Massachusetts. Plymouth provided a harbor for docking the ship and a river with fresh drinking water.

When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, the first order of business was to sign an agreement that would guarantee peace and fellowship among the settlers. This agreement, known as the Mayflower Compact, stated that everyone would work together for the good of the colony, and everyone would abide by the rules the colony would establish. This agreement was so important to the Pilgrims that every male aboard the Mayflower signed it before they left the ship. To learn more about the journey to Plymouth and the Mayflower Compact, read Plimouth Plantation's article entitled Mayflower and Mayflower Compact.

Unlike the Jamestown settlers, the Pilgrims came to the new world prepared to plant crops and hunt for food. The problem was that the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in November. This did not allow enough time to plant crops and store food for the harsh New England winter. During the winter of 1620-1621, more than half the Pilgrims died from starvation or illness.

Squanto Comes

It looked as though the Plymouth colony would not survive. Then, the local Native American tribe, called the Wampanoag, reached out to the Pilgrims and offered to establish a peace treaty. The natives also agreed to trade furs and food for English goods. Squanto, a Wampanoag who had once traveled to Europe and could speak English, offered to stay with the Pilgrims and teach them survival skills. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, where to hunt, and how to survive the freezing winters. Without his assistance, it is almost certain that the Pilgrims would have not survived.

Survival Celebrated

The Pilgrims were so happy to have survived the first year in Plymouth that they celebrated with a huge feast. The Wampanoag showed up at the feast and it turned into a huge celebration. It was such a joyous time that the Pilgrims decided to make it an annual day of remembrance and celebration. Today, we call this day Thanksgiving, and the holiday has changed a great deal from how it was celebrated in 1621. Watch this American Heroes Channel's Thanksgiving Myths Busted video to learn what the first Thanksgiving was really like:


To discover more about life at Plymouth and the early settlers, visit HistoryNet's Why Was Life So Hard for the Pilgrims?

Now, continue on to the Got It? section to show what you know!

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