Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Pilgrim Ancestry

Since we habitually neglect to do FHE on Monday night (Andrew has a late class that night) we did it tonight (as we habitually do on Thursday evenings). Rachel came home from school gushing about Thanksgiving and Indians/Native American/First Nations/Aboriginal Canadians/Indigenous Americans and turkeys and pilgrims and such so I built up a lesson around her passion.

We talked about pilgrims and "Indians" during dinner and I told Rachel that she has several ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower. She was stunned. She asked if we could meet them. I said we could not since they are her ancestors—which means they're related to her but long-since dead. She then asked if we could meet an Indian. I told her that she was staring at one right now because we also have Native American ancestry. She just about died of happiness right on the spot.

"We're not really Indians though," she said, "Not anymore. Look at us. We're not Indian."

That's true. Our blood's a little diluted.

"You know Sister K. at church? She's an Indian."


"Yes, ma'am."

"Does she live in a teepee?"


"Does she live in a wigwam?"


"Well, what does she live in?"

"A house..."

"Hmmm... Well, I kind of wanted to meet an Indian that lived in a teepee."

They have a teepee set up outside their classroom and are planning on having a pow-wow at the end of the month. Rachel is all over this, thanks to orientalism in the classroom and Little House on the Prairie.

After dinner we read The First Thanksgiving and then I showed the girls our family tree all the way to Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland (Have you checked out yet? It's awesome!) before reading them the history of them my mom wrote up for our family newsletter last October:

Our Pilgrim Ancestry: John Howland Elizabeth TilleySomething to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

by Myrna Layton

As a child growing up in Alberta, I enjoyed Thanksgiving—the first school holiday after Labor Day. Every year at school, I colored pictures of Pilgrims and Indians or of cornucopias filled with delicious things, made construction paper turkeys, and sang songs like The Pilgrims Made a Feast at the Thanksgiving Day concert, at which the audience and participants all brought offerings for the local food bank. At home on Thanksgiving Day I enjoyed my mother’s fabulous cooking and watched the men working in the field, finishing up the sugar beet harvest. I didn’t think much about the pilgrims, because they were strangers in a place long ago and far away. Maybe I would have thought about them more, and remembered to be thankful for them, if I had realized that I would not be who I am without them. For I am the direct descendant of several pilgrims, as are all of you.

When the Mayflower sailed to the New World in 1620, there were 102 people on board. Most of them were separatists, trying to put space between themselves and the crown of England for religious reasons, and William Bradford, the second governor of the group, was the one who gave the title ‘pilgrims’ to this band of nomads who had already spent time in Holland before leaving for America.
Among the pilgrims were the Tilley brothers, John and Edward, with their wives and John’s thirteen year old daughter Elizabeth. Also among the pilgrims was John Carver, who would be the first governor in the New World, a wealthy man who brought some
family members and several servants.

One of the servants was John Howland, who was indentured* to Mr. Carver. They didn’t know it then, but John and Elizabeth were going to marry, have ten children and a whopping 88 grandchildren, and count all of us in their progeny! But first, John and Elizabeth had to survive.

The conditions on the Mayflower were not the best—102 people (including crew and passengers) were crammed onto the one ship. The passengers spent most of their time in the ‘tween decks, described as “a dark, airless space about 75 feet long and not even 5 feet high that separated the hold from the upper deck. The ‘tween deck was more of a crawl space than a place to live, made even more claustrophobic by the passengers’ attempts to provide themselves with some privacy. They built a number of thin-walled cabins, creating a crowded series of rooms that overflowed with people and their possessions.”** After departing from England, passengers began to get seasick. As you can imagine, in their cramped quarters, there were some terrible smells, and what little air there was in that small space was not very sweet-smelling.
Throughout the voyage there were terrible storms...several times during the passage, the conditions grew so bad that even though it meant he would lose several hard-won miles, Jones (the captain) was forced to ‘lie ahull’—to roll up the sails, and let the waves take his 180-ton ship. At one point, as the Mayflower lay ahull, a young servant named John Howland grew restless down below. He saw no reason why he could not venture out of the ‘tween decks for just a moment...So he climbed a ladder to one of the hatches and stepped onto the deck.
Howland quickly discovered that the deck of a storm-tossed ship was no place for a landsman. Even if the ship rode the waves with ease, the gale continued to rage with astonishing violence around her. The shriek of the wind through the rope rigging was terrifying, as was the sight of those towering waves. The Mayflower lurched suddenly, Howland staggered to the ship’s rail and tumbled into the sea.
That should have been the end of him. But dangling over the side and trailing behind the ship was the topsail halyard, the rope used to raise and lower the upper sail. Howland was in his midtwenties (about 27) and strong. When his hand found the halyard, he gripped the rope with such desperation that even though he was pulled down more than ten feet below the ocean’s surface, he never let go. Several sailors hauled Howland back in, finally snagging him with a boat hook and dragging him up onto the deck.^

Once the Mayflower group arrived in the New World, it was no picnic. Their journey had taken longer than expected so it was late November when they landed. They still needed to build shelters and figure out how they were going to feed themselves during the winter. That first winter was extremely difficult, and of the 100 people who remained alive, two having died at sea, only 50 were still surviving when the spring of 1621 finally arrived.

Three families were completely wiped out that winter. Some children were left orphans, including Elizabeth Tilley, whose entire family in the new world^^—parents, aunt and uncle—died, leaving her as the sole survivor.

The orphaned Elizabeth was taken in by the Carver family, who successfully survived the first winter. However, in the Spring of 1621, on an unusually hot day in April, Governor Carver left his
cornfield feeling ill, fell into a coma, and died. His wife followed him in death shortly thereafter, leaving Elizabeth orphaned again. Their estate was in the care of John Howland, who was
suddenly no longer indentured, since there was no one to be indentured to. A few years later, when Elizabeth was 17 and John 30, they married. Elizabeth gave birth to ten children! Ten—in the 1600s!—most of whom lived to adulthood and to contribute to the 88 grandchildren.

Our ancestor is John and Elizabeth’s daughter Hope Howland, born in 1629.

*Refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture.

** Nathaniel Philbrick, The Mayflower and the Pilgrim’s New World (New York: Putnam Juvenile, 2008): 27.

^ Ibid., 29.

^^ Elizabeth had 5 older siblings, and those which had survived to adulthood were all married and had stayed in England.

We talked about how amazing that was and then finished up with Daddy's favourite scripture, D&C 78:19, "he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious." Technically, Andrew's favourite scripture is the verse before but because it's Thanksgiving and all he decided that the verse after was his current favourite scripture.

We added quite a few leaves to our Thankful Tree and then I helped the girls make some turkey cards. Miriam and I had made one yesterday while Rachel was at school and she didn't think that was exactly fair so I promised that she could make one today. They had fun colouring them in and helping glue the feathers on, though I did most of the cutting. Rachel cut her card out and did a great job of it. Then she started working on the feathers and that was a little more tricky.

Suddenly she let out a wordless, spine-tingling scream, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

I looked up, expecting to see her hand dripping with blood...but it wasn't.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Did you cut yourself?"

"No!" she wailed. "I cut my feather out wrong! My turkey is ruined!"

I took over the cutting while she sobbed her eyes dry—she is a drama queen—and then we traced one of the good feathers and cut that new feather out to replace the ruined one.

And all was well in the world.

Here are the girls with their cards...

Miriam, as you can see, went a little overboard in the colouring department. Recently she's been doing full-page master pieces; blank paper is a crime comparable to finding a dirty dish when you're putting away the clean dishes (just another thing that bothers Miss Miriam).

Miriam watched Rachel writing in her card and decided that she wanted to give her card away, too. She decided to give it to me (wasn't that sweet?) and I helped her spell her message:

It says, "Mom, I  U! —Miriam"

Rachel made her card for her kindergarten teacher.

It says, "Happe thx giving. To Ms. revees. Frum Rachel. I love you." She's quite the speller now; she did it all by herself!

She's trying to teach herself cursive, which she calls "pioneer writing," and had written her name in "cursive" on the front of her card but decided it wasn't very legible so she crossed it out and printed her name instead. I think it's probably best if she masters printing before attempting cursive, though I do remember yearning to learn handwriting, myself.

Rachel's always fascinated when I use cursive, which is rarely. I think part of the awe comes from her assumption that it's "pioneer writing." To think, I must have learned it from the pioneers. Because I'm just that old...

When we were finished, we had to hop onto Wikipedia (good ol' Wikipedia) and research turkeys a bit because Ms. Reeves told the kids to only use brown, black, and grey for their turkeys. Rachel wasn't impressed by this command (but obediently followed it). We found that turkeys can be all sorts of colours, with lovely dashes of blues and reds. It's to be expected; fter all, turkeys are in the same family as peafowl. Wild turkeys, however, (which are probably the variety Ms. Reeves was talking about) are very well camouflaged with earth tones. Rachel was a little nervous about using more colour but looked longingly at Miriam's rainbow-schemed turkey; I assured her that her choice of tail feathers at home was limited only to the crayon box and that Ms. Reeves would love her card any way it came.

We sang the song Old Mister Turkey:

Who's that struttin' round lookin' mighty perky?
Looks like it might be old Mister Turkey.
Strut Mr. Turkey that's a fancy way to walk!
Strut Mr. Turkey that's a fancy way to walk!

And then we had to discuss what "strut" meant and then the girls wondered exactly how a turkey walked. So we found a video online and watched it while we discussed how proud the turkey looked—walking around all proud and puffed up is strutting.

After all that, the girls still wanted to do stories before scriptures, prayer, and bed. I could hardly keep my eyes open...but duty calls. I suppose I'm just lucky they didn't remember to ask for a Family Home Evening treat (because I had nothing up my sleeve).

Also, it should be noted that Rachel conducted Family Home Evening for us today and she assigned me to pick the song so I chose something other than Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, which is the only  song we've sung for our FHE's opening song in months since usually either Rachel or Miriam choose the song. I chose Thanks to Our Father and even though Miriam had a bit of a fit about it, she was singing along by the time we got to the third verse. It was a nice change from the usual (but it will likely be back to normal by next week, which is fine because Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam is a great song).

1 comment:

  1. No wonder I didn't want to write tonight--look at all that writing I did for you! :o)Love all the artwork, girls!