Give thanks for history from Denver Colorado Magician and Educator, Connie Elstun. If you follow me, you know how much I love history, especially, truthful American History. This week most of America will be cooking up the dead bodies of near 155 million turkeys who were not pardoned. Not for me though, I eat tofurkey. Anyway, I came across this story of the first Pilgrim executed and I thought how appropriate for this Thanksgiving 2018 week.
Here is the story of John Billington, the first Pilgrim executed.
When the Mayflower left
England in 1620, it carried men, women, and children who sought peace and
freedom from religious persecution. They hoped that the New World would offer a
new beginning. Little did the intrepid travelers know that they shared their
ship with a dangerous man.John Billington lived in debt and on the brink of
poverty in England. In order to board the Mayflower, he made a deal
with prominent businessmen in London. Upon arrival, he and his family were to
“work on behalf of the colony until 1627”—effectively locking them into
Billington, who was loyal to the Church of England,
soon realized that he was vastly different from his fellow voyagers. Many aboard
the ship were religious dissenters who had been living in self-exile in Holland
before setting sail to the Americas. For their part, the Pilgrims referred to
Billington and other servants and adventurers as the “Strangers.”
Billington made multiple enemies on the harsh trip
across the Atlantic, earning a reputation as a “foul mouthed miscreant.” After
many weeks at sea, the crew finally sighted land and dropped anchor off the
coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts—where an unexpected blaze nearly sunk the ship.
The cause? Billington’s son, Francis, who shot off his father’s gun near a
barrel of gunpowder, almost killing the passengers before they set foot on
Billington, his wife Elinor, and his two sons, were
quickly marked as troublemakers.Nevertheless, John Billington was one of the signers of
the Mayflower Compact, which was ratified on November 11, 1620. It was the first
governing document of the Plymouth Colony. Upon establishing camp, the pilgrims
went on to face the harsh realities of a New England winter. Nearly half of them
died during this time. The following year, those who survived held their first
Thanksgiving after a plentiful harvest—and Billington surely had a seat at the
The Billington family continued to stir up trouble.
Their sons would get lost in the woods for days, only to be returned to the
colony by Native Americans. Elinor was found guilty of slander and sentenced to
a whipping. In 1624, Billington was accused of supporting rogues who were trying
to undermine the colony.When the colonists received full ownership of the
plantation in 1626, they divided the land among them. Billington received the
short end of the stick—a modest house, 63 acres of land and future land rights.
His lack of social status, loyalty to the Church of England, and repeated run-ins
with authorities made him a permanent outsider.
By 1630, things took a turn for the worse. Billington
was caught in an argument with his neighbor John Newcomen. Records are unclear
as to just what triggered the quarrel. When, days later, Billington came across
Newcomen in an open field, he shot him dead with a blunderbuss.
The tight-knit colony was shocked by Newcomen’s death,
but not necessarily surprised by the perpetrator’s identity. Governor William
Bradford concluded that Billington should be sentenced to death. After a trial
by jury, Billington was found guilty of the slaying. He was hanged not far from
Plymouth Rock and buried in an unknown location—becoming the first recorded
murderer in what would become the United States.