Spanish Pilgrims…

Sept 20, 1620
A religious group known as the Puritans, left the village of Leiden in the Netherlands, setting sail for the North American continent. The ships were the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Speedwell ended up turning back due to doubts about its seaworthiness. The Mayflower made the 66 day voyage alone.

The group traveling had agreed to work for the Plymouth Colony Company of London, who financed the voyage, including supplies to start the colony. The agreement being that the exports would be used to repay the 1200 – 1600 British pounds investors had put up to finance the endeavor. The terms of the repayment was to have been 7 years. However the terms were amended in 1623 due to poor conditions and little to no profits. It would take over 20 years to repay the loans and investments. Repayment was accomplished by the group engaging in trade with neighboring natives, exchanging crops for furs.

The Puritans wouldn’t officially be called “Pilgrims” until they were written as such around 1820. The definition of pilgrim refers to “a group that has taken a journey for religious purposes”, which indeed they had. The Pilgrims as we know them, had been jailed for practicing a religion other than that of the Church of England, as established by King Henry the VIII. The Pilgrims wanted religious freedom to pursue more pure, Christian beliefs without the pomp and circumstance, as well as the rituals required by the Church of England and Catholicism, both of which were prominent at the time, in England.

These Puritans were very much like the Spanish who had initially settled St. Augustine. The Spaniards were desperate for a new life, in a new land, and sought a better way of living for themselves and their families. They too had left all they ever knew for the promise of an even better life in a faraway place.

Unlike the Spanish Colony founded 55 years earlier in St. Augustine, Plymouth would be written about extensively in the history books. You may wonder why? Simply, even though St. Augustine is older, it is newer when it comes to the American story. St. Augustine maintained sovereign status as a Spanish settlement until 1821, at which time it became part of the United States of America. Long after much of Americas history had already been written and taught in the English schools.

While the Pilgrims may not know, or remember, much about the first Spanish colony, the same cannot be said for the people of St. Augustine. This past Saturday, September 20th, we acknowledged the day the Puritans left England headed for America. We know all about these English Pilgrims. We know about the troubles they faced. We know of their challenges making a profit, having enough food to eat and so much more. You see, St. Augustine has been there, done that! We had been doing this for 55 years before the Puritans ever stepped foot on the Mayflower.

Until next time. – Jim

(Blog post provided by Jim Neuenfeldt – Seasoned Ghost and Historical Guide and long time St. Augustine, FL resident.)

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