The Higginson Fleet (named after the Reverend Francis Higginson) was bound for Massachusetts to prepare the way to expand the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Portions of a diary Higginson kept of his voyage and the first few months in the colony was published as “New England’s Plantation, or a Short and True Description of the Commodities and Discommodities of that Country”'(1630). A lot of the information here comes from his writing.
Rev. Higginson tried to prepare people before they came, saying,
“Before you come, be careful to be strongly instructed what things are fittest to bring with you for your more comfortable passage at sea, as also for your husbandry occasions when you come to the land.
“For when you are once parted with England you shall meete neither markets nor fayres to buy what you want. Therefore be sure to furnish yourselves with things fitting to be had before you come …”
“… as meale for bread, malt for drinke, woolen and linnen cloath, and leather for shoes, and all manner of carpenters tools, and a great deale of iron and steele to make nails, and locks for houses, and furniture for ploughs and carts, and glasse for windows, and many other things which were better for you to think of there than to want them here.”
Higginson listed a “A Catalog of such needefull things as every Planter doth or ought to provide to go to New-England; as namely for one man; which, being doubled, may serve for as many as you please.”
Also there are divers other things necessary to bee taken over to this Plantation, as Bookes, Nets, Hookes and Lines, Cheese, Bacon, Kine [cattle], Goats, &c. [and spices] (Higginson)
Winslow also helped prepare future colonists with “Certain Useful Directions for Such as Intend a Voyage into Those Parts,”
“Now because I expect your coming unto us, with other of our friends, whose company we much desire, I thought good to advertise you of a few things needful.”
“Be careful to have a very good bread-room to put your biscuits in. Let your cask for beer and water be iron-bound, for the first tier, if not more.”
“Let not your meat be dry-salted; none can better do it than the sailors. Let your meal be so hard trod in your cask that you shall need an adz or hatchet to work it out with.”
“Trust not too much on us for corn at this time, for by reason of this last company that came, depending wholly upon us, we shall have little enough till harvest. Be careful to come by some of your meal to spend by the way; it will much refresh you.”
“Build your cabins as open as you can, and bring good store of clothes and bedding with you.”
“Bring every man a musket or fowling-piece. Let your piece be long in the barrel, and fear not the weight of it, for most of our shooting is from stands.”
“Bring juice of lemons, and take it fasting; it is of good use.”
“For hot water, aniseed water is the best, but use it sparingly.”
“If you bring anything for comfort in the country, butter or salad oil, or both, is very good.”
“Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant meat as rice; therefore spare that, unless to spend by the way.
“Bring paper and linseed oil for your windows, with cotton yarn for your lamps.”
“Let your shot be most for big fowls, and bring store of powder and shot. I forbear further to write for the present, hoping to see you by the next return.”
“So I take my leave, commending you to the Lord for a safe conduct unto us.” (Mourt’s Relation, Edward Winslow, December 11, 1621)
The Earth, Water, Air and Fire of New England
Higginson described the colonies and uses the four elements in his description. “Letting passe our Voyage by Sea, we will now begin our discourse on the shore of New-England.”
“And because the life and wel-fare of euerie Creature here below, and the commodiousnesse of the Countrey whereas such Creatures liue, doth by the most wise ordering of Gods prouidence, depend next vnto himselfe, vpon the temperature and disposition of the foure Elements, Earth, Water, Aire and Fire.”
“(For as of the mixture of all these, all sublunarie things are composed; so by the more or lesse injoyment of the wholesome temper and conuenient vse of these, consisteth the onely well being both of Man and Beast in a more or lesse comfortable measure in all Countreys vnder the Heauens.)”
“First therefore of the Earth of New England and all the appurtenances thereof; It is a Land of diuers and sundry sorts all about Masathulets Bay, and at Charles River is as fat blacke Earth as can be seene any where: and in other places you haue a clay soyle, in other grauell, in other sandy, as it is all about our Plantation at Salem , for so our Towne is now named, Psal. 76.2.”
“The forme of the Earth here in the superficies of it is neither too flat in the plainnesse, nor too high in Hils, but partakes of both in a mediocritie, and fit for Pasture, or for Plow or Meddow ground, as Men please to employ it: though all the Countrey be as it were a thicke Wood for the generall … The fertilitie of the Soyle is to be admired at”.
“Of the Waters of New-England with the things belonging to the same. New-England hath Water enough both salt and fresh, the greatest Sea in the World, the Atlanticke Sea runs all along the Coast thereof. There are aboundance of Ilands along the Shore, some full of Wood and Mast to feed Swine; and others cleere of Wood , and fruitfull to beare Corne.”
“Also we haue store of excellent harbours for Ships, as at Cape Anne, and at Masathulets Bay, and at Salem, and at many other places: and they are the better because for Strangers there is a verie difficult and dangerous passage into them, but vnto such as are well acquainted with them, they are easie and safe enough.”
“The aboundance of Sea Fish are almost beyond beleeuing , and sure I should scarce haue beleeued it except I had seene it with mine owne Eyes.”
“Of the Aire of New-England with the Temper and Creatures in it. The Temper of the Aire of New-England is one speciall thing that commends this place. Experience doth manifest that there is hardly a more healthfull place to be found in the World that agreeth better with our English Bodyes.”
“Many that haue beene weake and sickly in old England, by comming hither haue beene thoroughly healed and growne healthful and strong. For here is an extraordinarie cleere and dry Aire that is of a most healing nature to all such as are of a Cold, Melancholy, Flegmatick , Reumaticke temper of Body.”
“Fowles of the Aire are plentifull here , and of all sorts as we haue in England as farre as I can learne, and a great many of strange Fowles which we know not. Whilst I was writing these things, one of our Men brought home an Eagle which he had killed in the Wood: they say they are good meat.”
“Here are likewise aboundance of Turkies often killed in the Woods, farre greater then our English Turkies, and exceeding fat, sweet and fleshy, for here they haue aboundance of feeding all the yeere long, as Strawberries, in Summer all places are full of them , and all manner of Berries and Fruits.”
“Thus you haue heard of the Earth , Water and Aire of New England, now it may be you expect something to be said of the Fire proportionable to the rest of the Elements.”
“Indeed I thinke New-England may boast of this Element more then of all the rest: for though it be here somthing cold in the winter, yet here we haue plentie of Fire to warme vs, and that a great deale cheaper then they sell Billets and Faggots in London: nay all Europe is not able to afford to make so great Fires as New-England.”
“A poore Seruant here that is to possesse but 50 Acres of Land, may afford to giue more wood for Timber and Fire as good as the world yeelds, then many Noble Men in England can afford to doe. Here is good living for those that loue good Fires.”
“And although New-England haue no Tallow to make Candles of, yet by the aboundance of the Fish thereof, it can afford Oyle for Lamps . Yea our Pine-Trees that are the most plentifull of all wood, doth allow vs plentie of Candles, which are verie vsefull in a House …”
“… and they are such Candles as the Indians commonly vse, hauing no other, and they are nothing else but the wood of the Pine Tree clouen in two little slices some thing thin, which are so full of the moysture of Turpentine and Pitch , that they burne as cleere as a Torch. I haue sent you some of them that you may see the experience of them.” (Higginson)
Click the following link to a general summary about Preparing for Life in the Colonies in the Early Years: