You do research for a historical novel. LOTS of research. You frequently become so bogged down that you have to step back and take a breather. I am probably one of the worst researchers because if I find something interesting, I will take off down the merry path of digression.
Nevertheless, I learned a lot of history from traveling hither and yon, most of it pretty interesting. So I thought I’d share some of it with you in a couple of posts.
The most important take-away for me was that early colonies populated by only men DID NOT SURVIVE. That’s not accounting for what might happen if they were overtaken by the indigenous inhabitants such as the Lost Colony in Virginia. Women were what made the settlements thrive and grow. Huzzah for the women!
I wandered off into pipes at one point. Most of those used by the Separatists were made of clay and were somewhat fragile. Lots of pipe stems have been found in the archeological digs around Plymouth. The ‘ordinaries’ – a place where meals and alcohol were served such as a public tavern or inn – offered pipes to their customers, breaking off the ends of the stems between uses. So pipes could be pretty short.
When the Separatists planted corn – as instructed by Squanto – they also planted squash or pumpkin or beans around the sprouting corn, something called the three sisters. The three sisters are called such because the corn provides a pole for the bean vines to go up. The beans keep the soil healthy, and the squash help prevent weeds from growing. Since these vegetables grow on vines, the vines would climb the corn stalk, providing shade to the corn.
Although the Separatists would eat fish, they were basically meat and bread eaters. They were not particularly great at fishing – they arrived with the wrong size hooks – but they did like eels, common in England and historically baked in a pie. King Henry VIII is said to have often stopped his barge on its progress to Hampton Court and sent a lackey ashore to buy an eel pie. The marshland and streams around the colony had lots of eels.
I don’t mind eels except as meals – Ogden Nash
Plymouth Bay was loaded with lobsters, so many that they might be found walking on the shore. The Native populations liked them and would travel to the Plymouth area to gather them for food. The Separatists ate so many in the early days of their near starvation that lobsters came to be viewed as ‘junk’ food and would only be eaten if necessary. New comers to the colony, until they had fields of their own and learned to hunt, ate lobsters.
The Pequot War 1636-1637). Most people go “Huh?” when I mention it. It was fought by the Pequot people against a coalition of English settlers from the Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, Plymouth and Saybrook colonies and their Native American allies, mainly the Narragansett and Mohegan peoples. It was an especially brutal war and the first sustained conflict between Native Americans and Europeans in what is now southern New England.
When the Dutch arrived in Long Island and the Connecticut River Valley at the beginning of the 17th century, followed by English traders and settlers, they colonized a region dominated by the Pequot. The Pequot had previously subjugated dozens of other tribes and had economic, political, and military control over the whole area. The struggle for control of the fur trade and wampum was at the root of the Pequot War. (I’ll tell you about wampum in a later post.)
Although the immediate impetus for the war has been identified as the killing of English traders – one of whom was formerly a Plymouth colonist – the war was in fact the culmination of decades-long conflict between various tribes and greatly exacerbated by the incursions of the Dutch and the English.
The Pequot War lasted 11 months and involved thousands of combatants who fought several battles over an area covering thousands of square miles. In the end, it virtually eliminated the Pequot as an impediment to English colonization and forever changed the political and social landscape of southern New England. This war had a profound influence on colonial and U.S. policies toward Native Americans for centuries.
In another post, I’ll talk about the second Indian war – King Philip’s war – and more things I discovered during my research.