St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Saints Vs. the Strangers

Sounds like the perfect football game for the season. But wait, just who are these players?

Back in the early 1600s, a group of people born in the Elizabethan age in England wanted to practice their faith as they saw fit. They were led by a man named William Brewster, who organized and then became the ruling elder of the Pilgrim Church, in Scrooby, England. King James demanded that all of his land be members of his church and give him absolute obedience. The Pilgrim Community insisted on passive obedience. So, the saga begins.

Around the 1608 to 1609 time period, Rev. Brewster moved from England to Amsterdam and finally to Leyden. Many of his people left England under the cover of night as the King's men were making it harder for these people to worship and live. Leyden was a natural place for the Pilgrims to go as the Dutch were much more tolerant of differences between religions and cultures. The Pilgrim Church flourished well until the Pilgrims felt it was time to leave, as King James was putting pressure on the Dutch to crack down on the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims arranged for passage to America and received a grant for land to be called "Pilgrim Plantation" at the mouth of the Hudson River in the Virginia territory.

The Pilgrims arrived to find they indeed had two boats for their voyage, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Unknown to the Pilgrims, the investors in this crossing of the Atlantic also sold passage to a group of tradesmen, hence the origins of the term "The Saints and the Strangers". The Saints, also known as the Pilgrims, were infuriated with this change of plans but there was nothing to do at this point. The two ships set sail for America in 1620. Constant leaking of the Speedwell resulted in the ships returning to port. After some considerable time and effort, it was decided that the Mayflower would sail alone, carrying both the Saints and the Strangers.

The ship's crossing was not an easy one and much has been written on this. They saw the land we now know as Cape Cod. Their intent was to follow the coastline down to the mouth of the Hudson River. However, an tricky area around Cape Cod and the winds blew them back to Cape Cod. They went ashore and well, the rest is history. Some of the most fascinating accounts of their lives were written by a member of the group named William Bradford.

This story has much to teach us. For my family, it is the story of my children's ancestors. Yes, my children had two grandpas on the Mayflower voyages, a William Lumpkin and a Richard de Warren. And naturally, it is from the side of my beloved spouse. So, here I am, descended from poor farmers from Sweden and Ireland, while my spouse's family history has a decidedly much more colorful tale to tell in the settling of our great nation.

After much gnashing of teeth over my spouse's apparent illustrious lineage, I finally realized that my poor Irish and Swedish farmers offered as much to the founding of this wonderful nation of ours. The Saints and the Strangers may be the story told around this time of year, but all of our ancestors had a vital part in shaping this great land of ours.

Happy Holidays.

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