Pilgrims & The
Christian-Agrarian Exodus
of 1620


Dateline: 22 November 2005



The Thanksgiving holiday is a time when we recall how a small group of people known as the Pilgrims came to the shores of America in 1620 and established a settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Most Americans who have any understanding at all of the Pilgrims believe that they came to America for religious freedom. I’m here to tell you this is not true. I’m here to tell you there was another reason why they came to America. After reading what I have to say here, your view of the Mayflower Pilgrims will be forever changed.

I used to think religious freedom was the reason for the Pilgrim Exodus but then I read William Bradford’s book, Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford was on the Mayflower and was the elected leader of the Plymouth settlement for 36 years. His book tells the whole story of the Pilgrims from 1608 to 1650. There is no better way to understand who the Pilgrims were and why they did what they did than to read what they themselves wrote on the subject.

The story of the Pilgrims is a riveting chronicle of a small group of everyday folks who changed the world. They laid the foundation for what would eventually evolve into our Constitutional form of government; a form of government that, in the beginning (at least), clearly recognized the God of the Bible as the holy sovereign He is, and applied principles of His law as the basic foundation for all civil government.

It is worth noting that the Pilgrims did not change the world as they did by conquering nations with powerful armies, or with political wrangling and domination. On the contrary, they changed the course of history by living simple, separate, deliberate, and obedient lives for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Christians of today can learn much from the Pilgrim example.

Now, Governor Bradford and I will tell you the real reason why the Pilgrims came to America. The quotations that follow are the words of William Bradford. For my own purposes I have taken the liberty of making some portions of the quotations bold.

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To fully understand the Pilgrim story, you must first understand who these people were. According to Bradford, the original Pilgrims were from a single rural church congregation in England. They lived a ”plain country life” and they worked at ”the innocent pursuit of farming”.

In other words, the Pilgrims were people of the soil… They were Christian-Agrarians.
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The Pilgrims would have remained plain farmers in England if not for their non-conforming Christian beliefs. They did not agree with the dominant English church which still held to many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic church. Bradford writes that they

”...endeavored to establish the right worship of God and the discipline of Christ in Church according to the simplicity of the gospel and without the mixture of men’s inventions, and to be ruled by the laws of God’s word...”

For this, they were known as “reformers.” The powerful state church did not take kindly to such people. Yet, the Pilgrims were resolute in their beliefs. Bradford again says

”Those reformers who saw the evil of these things, and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth, shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves together by covenant as a church, in the fellowship of the gospel to walk in all His ways, made known, or to be made known to them, according to their best endeavors, whatever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them. And that it cost them something... history will declare.”

The established church, with the aid of civil authorities

”... began to persecute all the zealous reformers in the land, unless they would submit to their ceremonies and become slaves to them and their popish trash, which has no ground in the word of God.”

This persecution became so bad that the Separatists (as they were also known)

”...were hunted and persecuted on every side, until their former afflictions were but as fleabitings in comparison. Some were clapped into prison; others had their houses watched night and day, and escaped with difficulty; and most were obliged to fly, and leave their homes and means of livelihood. Yet these and many other severer trials which afterwards befell them, being only what they expected, they were able to bear by the assistance of God’s grace and spirit. However, being thus molested, and seeing that there was no hope of their remaining there, they resolved by consent to go into the Low Countries, where they heard there was freedom of religion for all.”

The “Low Countries” Bradford mentions were the Netherlands, and Holland. The reformers left England and went to Holland (not America) so they could have religious freedom. Bradford tells the story:

”For these reformers to be be thus constrained to leave their native soil, their lands and livings, and all their friends, was a great sacrifice, and was wondered at by many. But to go into a country unknown to them, where they must learn a new language, and get their livings they knew not how, seemed an almost desperate adventure, and a misery worse than death. Further, they were unacquainted with trade, which was the chief industry of their adopted country, having been used only to a plain country life and the innocent pursuit of farming. But these things did not dismay them, though they sometimes troubled them; for their desires were set on the ways of God, to enjoy His ordinances; they rested on His providence, and knew Whom they had believed.”


With much trouble and harassment, the Pilgrims left England for Holland. They were practically destitute. They went first to the city of Amsterdam and then to the city of Leyden where...
”...they fell to such trades and employments as they best could, valuing peace and their spiritual comfort above any other riches whatever; and at length they came to raise a competent and comfortable living, though only by dint of hard and continual labour.”
During their time in Leyden (approximately 12 years), the Pilgrims earned the respect and trust of their employers. They also...
”lived together in peace and love and holiness; and many came to them from different parts of England, so that there grew up a great congregation.
That might have been the end of the story, but...
experience having taught them much, their prudent governors began to apprehend present dangers and to scan the future and think of timely remedy. After much thought and discourse on the subject, they began to incline to the idea of removal to some other place; not out of any new-fangledness or other such giddy humour, which often influences people to their detriment and danger, but for many important reasons...”
Now we get to the real reason(s) why the Pilgrims came to America. William Bradford lays out four of them.

1. the hardships inherent with living in Holland were a detriment to many of their brethren who could not (or would not) join them because they could not...
”endure the continual labour and hard fare and other inconveniences which they themselves were satisfied with.”
The fact is, the size of their congregation was dwindling. So the Pilgrims sought to find a better and easier place of living so as to accommodate their less hardy brothers & sisters who wished to join them.

2. Old age was creeping up on the congregation and...
”their great and continual labours, with other crosses and sorrows, hastened it (old age) before their time.”
They did not, in other words, know how much longer they could take the physical hardship and they felt that, for the long-term survival of the congregation, they needed to make a move while they still had the strength and stamina.

3. Their children were suffering.
”Many of their children, who were of the best disposition and who learned to bear the yoke in their youth and were willing to bear part of their parents’ burden, were often so oppressed with their labours, that though their minds were free and willing, their bodies bowed under the weight and became decrepit in early youth,—the vigour of nature being consumed in the very bud, as it were. But still more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be bourne, was that many of the children, influenced by these conditions, and the great licentiousness of the young people in the country, and the many temptations of the city, were led by evil example into dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and leaving their parents. Some.... embarked... upon... courses tending to dissoluteness and the danger of their souls, to the great grief of their parents and the dishonour of God. So they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and become corrupt.”

4.
”Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”

Clearly, these Christian-Agrarians, separated from the soil and transplanted into the wicked culture of a worldly city, were not in the best place to raise their families. One can imagine how these people, separated from the comfort of their own farms must have pined for land to once again raise crops and animals to once again care for.

God had surely worked in their congregation to refine them during those years in exile. But He did not intend for them to stay in such an ungodly environment. He would bring them back to the land; to a new land; to a better land. This hardy band of humble servants were called to establish a Christian-Agrarian civilization. And that is exactly what they did.

Howard King
On Biblical Agrarianism

Dateline: 16 November 2005
Updated: 3 September 2013

I have not had the time to write in this blog lately. But I stopped by Howard King’s Foundations web site
awhile back and read some of his thought provoking comments about Biblical Agrarianism there. I'd like to share them with you.

Issue #63 has an article titled Some Common Misconceptions About Biblical Agrarianism. What follws are extensive quotes from that article. I recommend that you go there and read the full article and Mr. King’s other comments about agrarianism (each issue of his newsletter typically has a Biblical-Agrarian article).

I’d like to point out that it was a series of articles by Howard King that introduced me to the whole concept of Biblical Agrarianism and for that I am most grateful.


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1. Doesn’t agrarianism mean that everyone has to become a farmer?

No, there are other legitimate callings besides full-time farming.  These include doctors, ministers, judges, craftsmen, builders, and many others.  However, it does mean that we have to stop looking down our noses at farmers and farming, as if they and their work were beneath our dignity......

....... And it does mean that those who do nothing to support the common task of subduing the earth by agriculture, but support themselves by doing what harms their fellowmen ought to be regarded as parasites and criminals, and treated accordingly.

2. Aren’t agrarians against technology?

No, technology – that is, the making, using and refining of tools is not evil.  But the making of tools that cannot be used without polluting the air or water or soil that we all depend on for life is an evil.  The use of tools for evil purposes, such as the military or economic conquest and enslavement of our fellow-man is an evil.  And the refinement or development of tools purely for personal enrichment, without regard for the ends they serve, or the effect they may have on the rest of society, is an evil.  These are the great evils that have shaped our modern era, and that now characterize us as a culture.

3. Isn't agrarianism a retreat from real life?

Not at all!  It is rather a return to real life......

4. Isn't agrarianism against evangelism and the great commission?

Not at all!  The goal of biblical agrarians is to fulfill the original plan of God for mankind.  This can only be done through evangelism; for the nations will never convert to a biblical agrarian way of life until they are first converted en masse to Christ.  All Christians believe that Christ is a Restorer of what was lost when man fell.  He restores God’s designed relationships in our families and churches.  Biblical agrarianssimply take that truth one step further; and say that He also will ultimately restore mankind to the original agrarian calling for which he was created.

Was the agrarian order prevalent in this country early in its history a hindrance to evangelism?  Not at all!  Those were times of missionary activity and great revivals that affected a large proportion of the population throughout the land.  Agrarianism provides a solid base for the evangelistic enterprise; and an important end of evangelism is to create agrarian societies where they do not already exist.......

5. Isn't agrarianism opposed to “taking dominion”?

Not really.  To begin with, in the language of Scripture, godly dominion is not so much “taken” as “given”.......

.... Biblical agrarians are not advocating a weak, retreatist program, but quite the opposite.  We yearn to see the church actually overcome the world, in history, as it certainly shall!

Agrarianism is opposed to the unscriptural idea that Christians are supposed to be “taking dominion” over the institutions of the worldly urban culture.  We are nowhere in Scripture told to do that.   This teaching breeds an ungodly ambition; and inevitably leads to compromise with the world in order to advance ourselves and to gain power within its institutions.  Rather, we are told to abide in our callings, to work hard at them, and to leave it to God to prosper us as He sees fit...

...Agriculture is the proper use of the dominion God has already given us: dominion over our own piece of land, and our own animals.  It is a real dominion, though the dominion of a steward -- not of the true owner.  God did not give Adam merely the abstract right to rule the earth, but he gave into his hand the whole world as his property, to distribute in time among his numerous progeny.  As we work our own land, we exercise the godly dominion our Lord intended.

6. Agrarianism won't work in our modern world.

If it is meant that the modern world will not tolerate a return to agrarianism, this may be true.  It will not willingly tolerate the rule of its rightful King in any respect; nevertheless, it will surely bow to Him in time.  But it is busy just now in futile rebellion: ........ 

Making Apple Cider in The Old Days

As I explained in a previous blog entry, our family recently took a short vacation to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. One part of the village that we especially liked was the cider press. I’m not talking about a little, portable press like I’ve used in the past. I’m talking about a cider mill; a whole building (like a barn) that houses a big apple grinder and a big press from the 1830 to 1840 era of American history.

Back then, cider was big. I mean really big. Most every New England town in those days had at least one such press, and often more. The farmers (and, remember, most everyone was a farmer back then) would haul their apples to the cider mill where they would be processed and the juice put into wooden barrels. The typical family put up 40 gallons of cider per person. So, if you had a wife and husband and 10 kids, that would amount to 480 gallons. Figure 560 gallons if Grandma and Grandpa lived there too. Let me tell you, it takes a whole lot of apples to make that much cider!

At Sturbridge we watched as a horse connected to a long wooden arm, powered a big, all-wood, apple grinder. Men shoveled apples into the mechanism and pomace fell out the bottom into a wooden trough. The pomace was left there to season before being pressed the next day.

To press the pomace, a square, wooden frame about 6” high, and a couple feet long on each side, was set on a heavy platform underneath two large wood screws. Rye straw was laid into the form and pomace was shoveled in to fill it. Once full, overhanging straw was folded over, the form was removed, and boards were laid over the top. Then the form and more straw were used to repeat the process, building more layers. Once there were enough layers in place, the screws were slowly cranked down and the juice flowed.

None of this process was sanitary. The apples were not washed. The grinder and press were not clean. Did people back then really drink juice made this way? No they did not!

According to the men who were making cider at Sturbridge that day, folks back then did not drink fresh-squeezed apple cider because they knew it would make them sick. Instead, all the juice was fermented into alcoholic (hard) cider. The fermentation process purified the beverage. In fact, cider was, by definition, understood to be an alcoholic drink. Only in recent American history has cider meant fresh-squeezed, sweet apple juice. In Europe today, cider is still understood to be alcoholic.

The alcohol content of cider in the 1800’s was around seven percent, and it was consumed daily by the rural population, including children. That’s right, children drank alcoholic cider. But, children’s cider was different. After the first pressing, the pomace stack (technically known as the “cheese.”) was watered down and a second pressing was made. Juice from this 2nd pressing was not as sweet and, therefore, made cider with less alcohol (typically 1 or 2 percent.

So that’s what we learned about cider making at Sturbridge Village. I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson.

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UPDATED INFORMATION....March 2009
My book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press is now in print. You can learn more at www.Whizbang Cider.com

The Agrarian Moneychanger

“If there is one idea I want you to take home today, it is this:  community is essential to agrarianism.  To take up an agrarian life style, we must build communities, and these communities must leaven the rest of our society, because the modern world has gone so far wrong that it cannot be corrected; it must be rebuilt.”

The above quotation is from Franklin Sanders and it begins his story titled, The Leaven Community & The Agrarian Ideal. I recommend it to you.

Mr. Sanders is a christian-agrarian farmer and has been a gold & silver dealer for many years. His web site is called The Moneychanger.

With the spectre of inflation (or worse) looming in this country, many people are putting some of their savings into precious metals. If you have considered this but have not done so, read the Moneychanger’s 10 Commandments For Buying Gold & Silver.

Great Agrarian Vacations

Dateline: 2 November 2005

My idea of a great vacation is to have time off from my non-agrarian regular job so I can stay home, be around my family, and work outside in the garden, in the woods, or in my shop. I don’t need to go anywhere else. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I do not dream of a leisurely Caribbean cruise or lounging on exotic beaches. And I sure don’t dream of going to some big city!

My dream is, instead, to work as a husbandman of the land, to be a co-creator with God in the midst of His creation. In due time that will be my full-time avocation. But, for now, it is, for me, my idea of a great vacation.

Nevertheless, there are times when Marlene and I and our three boys will take a small family vacation that involves leaving our little homestead. We try to do this once a year for three or four days. That’s long enough. Our vacation destinations almost always have an agrarian theme.

One year we went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to learn about the Amish and see their farms. On the way home we stopped off at the Rodale experimental organic farm in Emmaus, PA. We have been to Genesee Country Village near Rochester N.Y. a couple of times. The Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. was our destination another time (we skipped the more famous baseball hall of fame in favor of The Farmer’s Museum!). Hancock Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire, was also a nice vacation destination. This year we visited Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

We went to Strubridge last month (the off season) for three nights. We always splurge and get a hotel with an indoor swimming pool because that is something our three boys make good use of and really enjoy. They would enjoy camping too but Marlene is not much of a camper any more.

We save some money by eating out of a small food cooler and drinking ice water from a water cooler. We make sandwiches and salads and have cheese and crackers and tabouli and yogurt and granola, and we restock the cooler as needed at grocery stores along the way. For one vacation meal we eat out in a nice restaurant, which, on this last trip, was a Cracker Barrel. In other words, we keep the food thing simple.

We all enjoyed Old Sturbridge Village. It was my third time there. My first time was when I was in 8th grade and my social studies class went by chartered bus on a two-night field trip. I was a suburban kid at the time and the place impressed me greatly. The second time, Marlene and I went shortly after we were married.

The village’s era is 1830 to 1840. America sure was a different place back then. The Industrial Revolution was ramping up and rural America was changing but we were still an agrarian nation..... a Christian-Agrarian nation, I might add, with Christian-Agrarian beliefs and values.

Most folks worked their own small farms back then and/or they were skilled tradesmen. Daily life centered around the family, the church, the community, and the land from whence the people drew their physical sustenance. Life was not easy. But it varied with the seasons and it was rich and full.

My boys saw a small part of what life was once like with no television, no automobiles, no computers, no plastic, no factories, not massive centralized governmental bureaucracy, no supermarkets, no skateboards, no BMX bikes, and no fast food restaurants, and they liked what they saw. Even my oldest son, who has less of an agrarian inclination (for now), thoroughly enjoyed himself. After spending a whole day, from opening to closing, my boys all wanted to go back the next day! This pleased me to no end and we returned for 1/2 day more before heading home.

My hope is that fertile seeds were planted on this trip; that, in glimpsing the past, my sons also caught a vision for their future. I am not saying we can, or should, go back. That is unrealistic. But we can recognize the best virtues of agrarian life and culture from the past, and we can endeavor to reclaim them for ourselves and our families here and now in the 21st century. Indeed, we must do this if we desire to live “the good life.”

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Living history museums, like Old Sturbridge Village, are very popular tourist destinations. Why is this? I suspect it is because, deep inside, even the most modern of “Moderns” understand that the industrial culture they live in is shallow, fractured, and unfulfilling. They long for the past, when life was simpler and people focused on the truly important things in life, like family, faith, & fellowship.

I firmly believe it is only within Christian-Agrarian culture that mankind can experience true fulfillment. This true fulfillment comes from knowing the Sovereign One, through His son Jesus Christ, from humbly acknowledging His lordship over all, from living and working close to His creation, as He has mandated that we should, and from doing all of this for His glory.

To live any other way, with any other objective, is foolishness and vanity.

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One of the highlights of our Sturbridge trip this year was the turnip toss contest. My youngest son, James, made the winning toss for his age group. The prize was a bunch of raffle tickets for a Sturbridge Village gift basket that was being given away at the end of the week. James’ mom filled out his tickets and he put them in a box with hundreds of other chances. Two days after getting home, we got a phone call informing us that James had won the basket. It arrived in the mail a short while later, packed with some choice examples of Sturbridge Village craftsmanship. There was a tin cup, a tim wall sconce, a hand-turned, red, glazed, earthenware pot with a lid, a crock-like creamer with decorative cobalt blue markings, a handmade whisk broom, a hand-forged iron hanging hook, and a book about old pottery. James likes the tin cup best because he can use it and he spent a lot of time watching the tinsmith those two days. We have put the pottery on a high shelf where it will stay safe and serve as a lasting memento of this year’s wonderful agrarian vacation.

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Have you been to other living history museums that you can recommend to us?