Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

Finding the Corn

Not until Friday evening did our fathers come back; no one of all the party of seventeen was missing, although it seemed to me they had been in great danger.

Before they had gone on their journey more than a mile from the Mayflower, they saw five savages and a dog coming toward them, and hastened forward to learn what they might about this new world. The Indians ran among the trees as soon as they saw our people, and they ran so swiftly it was impossible to overtake them.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

After making chase without coming upon the savages, Captain Standish led the way along the shore until next day they came upon what looked as if an Indian village had once been in that place, for the land had been dug over much as though to raise crops, and there were what appeared to be many graves. On opening one of these piles of sand, there were found two baskets full of what one of the sailors said was Indian corn; but another declared it was Turkish wheat, while Captain Standish believed it should be called Guinny wheat. It had been left near the graves, for these savages believe that even after people are dead, they need food.

Later, when we had become acquainted with Samoset and Squanto, we came to know that on the spot which had been chosen for our home, there had been a large Indian village. Four years before we of the Mayflower  came, a terrible sickness had attacked the settlement of savages, and more than two hundred died. Those who were alive and able to walk, deserted the place to go many miles into the forest away from the sea, and, except for the graves which our people found, every trace of the town was wiped out, the savages believing that only by the destruction of everything connected with the settlement, could the evil spirit of the mysterious sickness be cast out.

Our men were very glad to find this wheat, and as soon as they had brought it aboard the vessel, the women set about boiling some, for that seemed to be the only way in which it could be eaten, since it is hard, almost like flint. Neither Sarah nor I, hungry though we were, felt like eating what had been left for dead people; but we did taste of it, and found it very good, even though it had not been cooked quite enough.

It was not long, however, before we found out how to prepare it, and many a time since then has it saved us from starving, but of that I will tell you later.


Front Matter

Why This Story was Written
The Leaking Speedwell
Searching for a Home
After the Storm
Wash Day
Finding the Corn
Attacked by the Savages
Building Houses
Miles Standish
The Sick People
The New Home
Master White and the Wolf
Inside of the House
A Chimney Without Bricks
Building the Fire
Master Bradford's Chimney
Scarcity of Food
A Timely Gift
The First Savage Visitor
Squanto's Story
Living in the Wilderness
The Friendly Indians
Grinding the Corn
A Visit From Massasoit
Massasoit's Promise
Massasoit's Visit Returned
The Big House Burned
The Mayflower Leaves Port
Setting the Table
What and How we Eat
Table Rules
A Pilgrim Goes Abroad
Making a Dugout
Governor Carver's Death
Bradford Chosen Governor
Farming in Plymouth
Cooking Indian Corn
The Wedding
Making Maple Syrup
Decorating the House
Trapping Wolves and Pigeons
Elder Brewster
The Visit to Massasoit
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
Making Clapboards
Cooking Pumpkins
A New Oven
Making Spoons and Dishes
The Fort and Meeting-House
The Harvest Festival
How to Play Stoolball
On Christmas Day
When the Fortune Arrived
Possibility of Another Famine
On Short Allowance
A Threatening Message
Pine Knots and Candles
Tallow From Bushes
Wicks for the Candle
Dipping the Candles
When James Runs Away
Evil-Minded Indians
Long Hours of Preaching
John Alden's Tubs
English Visitors
Visiting the Neighbors
Why More Fish are not Taken
How Wampum is Made
Ministering to Massasoit
The Plot Thwarted
The Captain's Indian
Ballots of Corn
Arrival of the Ann
Little James Comes to Port
The New Meeting-House
The Church Service
The Tithingmen
Master Winslow Brings Cows
A Real Oven
Butter and Cheese
Settlement at Wessagussett
The Village at Merrymount
The First School
Too Much Smoke
Schools Comforts
How Children Were Punished
New Villages
Making Ready for a Journey
Clothing for Salem
Food for the Journey
Before Sailing for Salem
Beginning the Journey
The Arrival at Salem
Sight-Seeking in Salem
Back to Plymouth