Farther north, the first settlements of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, experienced similar difficulties getting started but benefited from the
cooler weather and faster-running waters, which provided a less hospitable environment for disease. The Mayflower carried religious separatists, or
Pilgrims, who had originally left England for Holland, but fearing its vulnerability to Spain and concerned about their children taking up Dutch ways, sought
a new refuge in North America. Also on the Mayflower were Captain Miles Standish, the ships’ officers and crew, indentured servants, and hired artisans;
all totaled fewer than 150 people. A long, starving winter and disease killed half the settlers the first year.
Although the Plymouth Colony’s initial growth was slower, the fact that the Mayflower colonists arrived in family units and shared a common faith that
encouraged hard work and community allowed the population to grow naturally. This was augmented by a low, natural mortality rate only 5 percent from
disease and a relatively long life expectancy of seventy years, if one survived childhood. The arrival of new settlers and the establishment of family farms
whose goal was self-support created slow but steady growth. By 1630, about 1,500 colonists lived in the Plymouth Colony.
Between 1630 and 1640, the Great Migration brought many more families to New England. The most successful of the New England colonies was the
Massachusetts Bay Colony. By 1660, Massachusetts was home to 20,000 inhabitants of a total New England population of 33,000.
Unlike the Southern colonies, emigrants to New England came seeking a combination of religious freedom and economic opportunity. The lack of a big
cash crop like tobacco kept most New Englanders in comparatively modest lifestyles. Most servants came with the families they worked for in England.
By 1700, less than 5 percent of the population was indentured and only 2 percent were slaves.
New England Map Photo Gallery
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