navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History: Early Years
Biographies Unit Biographies

John Carver 1576?–1621
The First Governor of Plymouth

In 1620, a ship called the Mayflower set sail from England with over 100 Pilgrims bound for North America. Among them was John Carver, a wealthy English merchant. Carver and the Pilgrims were planning to start a new Puritan religious community, where they could worship more freely.

After two stormy months at sea, they landed in present-day Massachusetts. Before landing, the Pilgrims agreed on a plan for their new government. Carver was well respected by the others. He had donated much of his money to the Puritan church. The Pilgrims chose him to be the colony's first governor.

The Pilgrims settled in nearby Plymouth. During their first winter, they did not have enough to eat. Carver almost died when illness swept through Plymouth, killing nearly half of the colonists.

Carver helped create a peace agreement with the nearby Wampanoag (WAHM puh NOH ag) Indians that lasted for over 50 years. Without help from the Wampanoags, the Pilgrims surely would have starved. In 1621, Carver was so confident that Plymouth would survive that he sent the Mayflower back to England. Today, a nearby town is named after him.

Comprehension Check

Why did Carver and other Puritans move to North America?

Critical Thinking

Why was sending the Mayflower back to England a sign that Carver believed the Plymouth colony would survive?