I wish I could say the Pilgrims settled in Maine. Maybe if it hadn’t been for the failure of the Popham Colony, they would have considered it. Alas, they decided to land in Massachusetts instead.

Well, technically they decided to land in New York at Hudson Bay. But a storm blew them 220 miles north and they decided it was easier just to stay there. If the winds had been a little stronger, maybe they would have made it to Kennebunkport and we would have something to brag about.

Zac McDorr is the founder of the Bath Maine History Center on Facebook.You can reach him at [email protected]

Of course, Maine and Massachusetts were not separate at the time. They were both part of the same big land grant. And later, Maine was part of Massachusetts. So if you want to, you can tell people that the Pilgrims landed in “our state,” which was accurate until 1820, when Maine achieved statehood. You wouldn’t be telling a fib exactly; your information is just a little out of date.

Or, you can simply brag about our connection to the Pilgrims. Other than Plymouth Rock, the most famous part of the Pilgrims’ story is their relationship with the Native Americans. Miraculously, the first Native they encountered was one of the few who actually spoke some English, and one of the very few to have a large hotel in Rockland named after them: Samoset.

Samoset was an Abanaki from Maine who had learned some English from the early European fishermen at Monhegan Island. While he was down visiting Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag people, he ran across the Pilgrims. In the spirit of sharing provisions (Phase I of Thanksgiving, if you will) Samoset marched into camp and asked for a beer. Later he introduced them to Squanto, who had better English-speaking skills, and then Squanto introduced them to Massasoit. So if it wasn’t for a friendly, beer-drinking Native American from Maine, maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe they would have exchanged bullets and arrows instead of turkey legs, stuffing and Waldorf salad (I jest.)

According to maineanencyclopedia.com, the Pilgrims began trading with Maine Natives and fishermen early on. When low on food one summer, they sent a small expedition to Damarascove Island for supplies. Later they applied for, and were granted, the Kennebec Patent. This gave them ownership and trade rights on much of the lower Kennebec River, and they established a trading post at Cushnoc, now known as Augusta. The point of the Plymouth Colony was to make money, and they had incurred debts while setting things up. The fur trade at Cushnoc proved to be excellent, and the colony was able to pay off its debts and made a profit.

The governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, secured his own grant on the Kennebec. This encompassed everything from the mouth of the river to Gardiner, so he once owned the land that I am sitting on today. He had no interest in living here, of course; he just wanted the beaver skins. In fact, when you look at the first three generations of Pilgrims, only two of them ever left the colony and moved to Maine. They were James Samson, who moved to Wells in 1717, and Ebenezer Eaton, who came to North Yarmouth in 1730.

Many of us Mainers are descended from the Mayflower passengers, which is something that people have bragged about for a long time. I have seen a long and convoluted genealogy that suggests that I myself have at least one Pilgrim ancestor, assuming that the research is correct (and nobody ever fooled around with the pool boy over the last 400 years). I choose to believe it, and I will enjoy my turkey dinner with much relish this year. I hope that you do too.

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