This article is about the colonists of North America. For the religious travelers, see Pilgrim. For the football teams of this nickname, see Plymouth Argyle F.C. and Boston United F.C..
The Pilgrims were a group of English religious separatists who sailed from Europe to North America in the early 17th century, in search of a home where they could freely practice their religion and live according to their own laws. The various members of the group had broken away from the Church of England, feeling that the Church had not completed the task begun by the Reformation. Under the guidance of the Reverends William Brewster and Richard Clifton, a portion of the group left their home in Scrooby and sailed to Amsterdam to escape religious persecution at the hands of their countrymen. They settled in Leiden for 12 years, but by 1617 a poor economy and concern over the Dutch influence on their community convinced many of them to move on, this time to the New World.
At the time, fewer than half of the Congregation's members choose to leave the Netherlands aboard the Speedwell and sail to Southampton, England, where they joined a larger group of religious separatists and boarded the Mayflower. After stopping at Plymouth, England they departed on September 6, 1620, with 102 people aboard, their destination a section of land in the area called Northern Virginia granted by one of the Brewster family friends in the London Company. This grant would have placed them near the Hudson River.
Forced off course by typical North Atlantic weather, the Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod after 65 days at sea, weighing anchor near present-day Provincetown on November 21.
Realizing that it would require a significant additional voyage to reach their goal, the Pilgrims chose to abandon their original plans and form a community where they were. Having no legal authority to colonize the area, they met to sign their own charter, known as the Mayflower Compact, in which they agreed to form a self-governing community.
Although they discovered food and fresh water on Cape Cod, and even made contact with local natives, the Pilgrims eventually settled at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. The longest surviving members of the original group of settlers were Mary Allerton and John Alden.
The year following their arrival, an additional 35 Pilgrims from the Netherlands and England set sail aboard the ship Fortune, arriving at the Plymouth Colony on November 11, 1621.
Pilgrims are commonly portrayed as wearing black and white clothing. In reality, this was uncommon; they often wore brightly-colored clothing.