The Pilgrims were a small group that left England in 1620 on the Mayflower to start a new life in the New World. They established the region's first permanent European settlement at Plymouth Harbor, although English fishermen were already familiar with some of New England's waters.
A major reason why many of the Pilgrims left their homeland was for the freedom to practice their religion. England's king was also the head of the Church of England, and at the time of the Pilgrims he sought to force many of his religious ideas on the populace. Many Pilgrims had founded their own Christian group known as the English Separatist Church, and came to the New World to practice their faith without monarchical interference.
Before building a community on land, men on the Mayflower produced the group's founding governing document, the Mayflower Compact. That first year was a serious time of trial, as a large portion of the community died during the winter. Eventual contact with nearby Native American tribes proved vital, as the natives showed the Pilgrims how to grow native crops and hunt the land. This led to a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621 and the feast now known as Thanksgiving.