A 1632 Letter from America to Scrooby
Lydia Bates Fletcher
This letter was transcribed in 2011 from a photocopy of two typed pages, held in Scrooby Parish Council's archive. The letter is introduced, in the same type, with this passage:
This is a copy of a letter written by an early American colonist on June 1, 1632, who lived in Concord, Plantation of Massachusetts. In this letter are expressed the views of the colonists in establishing Thanksgiving Day. Reference to this letter may be found in the National Geographic Magazine. June 1953, page 803.
Following the letter is a hand-written note, which reads:
Frank Fletcher Harvey was a lineal descendant of Lydia Bates Fletcher who wrote to her husband's sister in England in 1632. The original letter is in Scrooby, England. In National Geographic magazine for June 1953 page 803 by Sir Evelyn Wrench.
To Miss Ruth Fletcher, Scrooby , England
Most Dearly Beloved Sister: Governor Winthrop has informed us that the 'Lyon' will soon set sail for England, so I will give this letter to Richard Gardner, who will bring it to you when he comes to Scrooby - that you may know how we are faring in the New Land. While we have endured many hardships no one repents that he has come hither or desires to go back, for we count it happiness enough that we are free to enjoy God and Jesus Christ. We will shortly have a Church in a settlement near here which is call Boston and there will soon be many others for all do exalt in the escape from oppression and are happy to continue here. You cannot think how full of courage these Pilgrims be. With the help of the neighbours Robert has built a fine house with one room at which I do think you would smile - for it is made of logs with mud mortar between, to keep the cold without. The glass was so deare that the window is of oiled paper - which dooth very well for light - and we will be very comfortable. I cannot think how Beef or Veal or mutton would taste, but we find the Deare meat verry good and sometimes we have wild Turkey and with fishe and els we have plenty of meat.
Robert uses the skins of the Deare for jackets and breeches and they doe verry well. At first I could not eat the bread made from the maise - but now I find it verry good. The only will for grinding it is at Watertowne - where Robert has to carry it. The maise is quite white and floury when parched in the coals. It makes a verry wholesome porridge. The savage Squanto - whom you saw in England was the first to show our men how to tend and dress it - and it makes a verry good food. Then we have berries of divers kinds and beanes and have planted some pumpkins. There is a sugar tree here which yields a juice when the tree is wounded and this juice boiled downe makes a verry good sweet. Since our candles gave out we have burned the knots of the pine tree. By reason of the Pitche and Turpentine they give a light as cleare as a Torch. A most strange thing did happen to me in the Spring which did give me a greate fright. You must know that our house is at the edge of the Forest. Well, one day I hearde a noise on the roofe and looking in the Chimney I saw two big eyes and a fur nose. Filled with feare I seized Joshua from the cradle and sprang into the big Cheste and none too soone - for there came down the Chimney - for the fire was almost out - a big beaste like unto a lion. He walked about sniffing here and there and finally after a verry long time it seemed to me - he climbed back up the chimney. I declare to you he was a most unwelcome visitor.
Next Thursday - Mr Winthrop has appointed for a day of Thanksgiving on account of the good news that the privy council of the King has passed favorable measures towards the Colonies. We intend to go to service at the Boston settlement. There was a Thanksgiving day the first yeare we came - in February, when after Mr Winthrop had given his last hand full of meale to a poore man - and no one had anything worth the speaking of and it seemed as if we must all die of the cold and no food - a ship came into the harbour at Charlestown - laden with provisions - and was not that good cause for Thanksgiving - I believe it will grow into a custom of keeping days of thankfulness to God for away out here we feel how much we have to depend upon His good Providence - and we do praise Him that he brought us safely through so many hard ways. Do you know how Governor Bradford, the first year after coming to Plymouth, appointed a day of Thanksgiving in November - and had a fine dinner of game and Deare meat and fruit and many other delicacies and had for guests the Indian Chief Massasoit and his warriors, because he had been guided by God across the greate Ocean and had been supplied. Oh, but I think that was a time of reale rejoicing for those Pilgrims who with so many good things and had been befriended by the savages. I heard also that they set apart another day some time afterwards to give thanks when after a long draught - which had made all nature to languish and they were in sore straits - a plenteous rain brought forth a fruitful harvest to their no small comfort and rejoicing. Robert made the journey to Plymouth which is more then 12 leagues from here - hoping to find where the body of our deare brother Moses is laid. But as you know the place was made into a field - so that the savages might not know how many had died - and he could not find the spot - but it mattereth not where the body lieth when the soul is with God. He sleeps by the side of James Chilton and his wife, and Mary Brewster and many others you used to know. Mary Chilton has grown into a fine women - is happily wedded and has 3 children. Elder Brewster is in good health - but his haire is white like snow. Love and Wrestling Brewster are both married - and are fine men.
Some say that many in this Plantation do discover to much pride - but I think a woman should always look faire to her lord - so I pray that you will - if the chance cometh - send my taffeta skirt and Robert's ruffles and cape; that we could not bring. You see I have writ a long letter for there is much to tell about this New Strange Land. I pray God we may be preserved and in the enjoyment of this sweet libertie we will not forget Him. Robert bids me to present his love - and William who is now a tall lad - kisses your hand. Praying for your health and happiness in this world and everlasting peace in the world to come.
Yours with me best love,
Lydia Bates Fletcher, Concord in the Plantation of Massachusetts. June 1, 1632.