Today we celebrate the Pilgrims, a group of trans-Altantic voyagers who carved out a settlement on the American continent nearly 400 years ago. But did you know that the musket-toting, buckle shoe-wearing party that stepped off the Mayflower was actually an accidental merger of two very different groups of people?
The original plan was that two ships (the Mayflower and the Speedwell) would set sail from England. The Speedwell would carry a group of radical Separatists who had initially fled England for Amsterdam, which they found a little too unseemly for their Puritanical lifestyle (surprise, surprise). The Mayflower, on the other hand, held a group of hopeful planters seeking some soil to call their own. One group sought a free land; the other, free land.
The two groups, dubbed the "Saints" and the "Strangers" (presumably by the Separatists), were not friendly to each other, and probably intended to have nothing to do with one another. That is, until the Speedwell sprung an irreparable leak and all 102 passengers had to climb aboard the Mayflower (hence the overcrowding). Two months later, they arrive in Cape Cod, just a wee bit off-course from their intended destination: Northern Virginia.
My favorite tidbit of the Pilgrims story, however, is that after sailing halfway around the world, the Saints and Strangers could have chosen to name their new colony anything they'd like. After what I'm sure must have been much heated deliberation--and in one of history's least creative moments--they decided to name it the exact same name as the town they'd just sailed from: Plymouth. If I ever have a chance like that, you can rest assured that I'm not naming my colony New Provo.