There’s a 400-year-old book, in print even today, that should be taught and read by not only school children but by adults. It was written primarily as a family journal/history by one of my seventh great-great-grandfathers, Gov. William Bradford.

In it, he set down the history of those who would become known forever as ‘The Pilgrims of the Mayflower.” It started with the formation of a small group of English men and women who met in secret under the constant threat of discovery and jail or worse. In England, that was the Church of England, established in the mid-1500s by Henry VIII for reasons having nothing to do with religious beliefs. He simply wanted to divorce the first of his six wives and the Pope wouldn’t allow it. So he started his own church, The Church of England, and declared it the official Church — of England. And membership and attendance were demanded of the citizens.

In the same time period, Martin Luther translated the first English version of the Bible. That meant that people could actually read the Bible for themselves. And that meant they could see the stark differences between what the Roman Church, and now the new Church of England, were preaching and what Jesus had been teaching.

That resulted, by the late 1500s, in increasing discontent. Few dared buck the church, at least openly. But a small group of people in Nottinghamshire started meeting in secret under the constant threat of discovery and jail or worse. Their first meetings were held at William Brewster’s home, Scrooby Manor, in Nottinghamshire. They would come, in ones and twos, under the dark of night to avoid suspicion. Brewster would become known in history as “Elder” William Brewster (one of my eighth great-great-grandfathers), the spiritual leader of the Plymouth Pilgrims.

Bradford, at the time a young man living in nearby Austerfield, would make the trek to the meetings and became like a son to Brewster.

And so the saga began. They were discovered, hounded and often jailed. This led to their fleeing to Holland where they lived for 12 years. But they became increasingly worried as their children were growing up less and less “English,” so sought a place where they could raise them as “English” and according to the teachings of Jesus as they followed from the Bible.

Fast-forward to the small band of hardy men and women risking life and limb to head for the shores of the New World of wilderness and “wild Indians.”

Due to unforeseen delays, they didn’t finally set sail until late in the season — hurricane season — and didn’t reach land until the middle of December, after nearly being sunk by a hurricane. Open to the elements, they quickly set about putting up small buildings in what was called “First Village.” But sickness, probably flu or pneumonia, quickly found almost half of them dead.

All the while, they kept a frightful eye out for the “wild savages.” They did see a few now and again on the horizon but had no contact until a warm day “about the 16th of March” when a tall, “handsome specimen of a man” strode into the village, and as children hid behind their mothers’ skirts and men and women stood agape, raised his hand and said: “Welcome Englishmen.” He also asked if they had a beer.

This was Samoset, a sachem of the Abanaki from the coast of Maine. He had a spattering of English that he learned from the fishermen plying the waters. The English were taken aback and a bit disconcerted about his dress, or lack of it — a loin cloth and moccasins.

They invited him to one of their homes and offered him “sweet water” — the thought is that this was gin. The English homes had stills for making beer and other drinks that they put in their drinking water, even for kids. This was tradition from England, as the water there was too polluted to drink straight.

They gave Samoset a red wool coat as a gift, primarily because they were uncomfortable with his mostly bare body. They communicated as best they could, with Samoset filling them in on the lay of the land, the different Indian villages and such, and they gave him some more gifts and something to eat.

Samoset told them he would bring another Indian, Tisquantum (Sqaunto) who spoke better English as he had, a few years before, been taken prisoner and spent five years in Spain and England. A gentleman in England had paid his passage back home.

Squanto was invaluable to the Pilgrims in teaching what seeds grew in New England soil, how to get eels out of the streams, and such. He also put his wickiup beside the village, as he had learned and liked some of the English ways. As Bradford wrote concerning Squanto: he “was their interpreter, was a spetiall instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectations.”

Next to visit was the local Sachem, Massasoyet (as Bradford wrote Massasoit’s name). Massasoit was Sachem of the Wampanoag, the local tribe. The Pilgrims were impressed with the Indians, with their straightforward manner, honesty and politeness. Massasoit was known for his superior intelligence and guilelessness. The Pilgrims respected the Indians for who they were, indeed found them more trustworthy than many Englishmen, and never tried to convert them.

The “wild Indians,” including Samoset, had been watching the village all winter. They had good reason to be wary. But they decided that these people were a different breed. They brought their wives and children and seemed to have come to simply live peacefully.

The Pilgrims offered to pay for the land they were living on. It had been the land of Squanto’s people when he was captured, but when he came back he found that a sickness had killed almost all and the few left went to other tribes. He said no, they were welcome to the land. The Pilgrims paid for land they built their farms on later.

Then Massasoit approached with the premise of a treaty. The deaths of Squanto’s people had left their tribes weak and vulnerable to the warring tribe of Narragansetts who were intent on wiping them out. They were also a threat to the Pilgrims. Massasoit thought that the Englishmen with their weapons, if they joined together, could form a mutual protection alliance against the Narragansetts.

And so they signed a treaty, the only treaty, it is said, with the Indians that was never broken. And it was a 50/50 treaty with six points. The most important was that if the Narragansett attacked Massasoit’s people, the Pilgrims would help them and if they attacked the Pilgrims, the Indians would come to their aid. Also, when the Indians came to visit, they would leave their weapons outside the village. Ditto if the pilgrims went to their villages, they would leave their weapons outside the village.

The Indians taught the Pilgrims how to hunt. (In England then, only the noblemen were allowed to hunt. You could be shot for shooting a deer.) They taught them how and where to fish and how to travel through the dense forests using their footpaths. (Did you ever wonder why the Boston streets have no seeming rhyme or reason? They were built over the Indian footpaths.)

The Pilgrims gave the Indians things like cloth and knives. And they traded “trucking” goods like corn and peas for furs. In 1630, the Pilgrims built a trading post on the Kennebec where Fort Western is in Augusta. They had a grant to trade with the Indians upriver. The post was built in Plymouth, disassembled, and trucked up the Kennebec to build. (Maine’s first pre-fab?) It was 20 feet by 60 feet, consisting of three rooms, a family room, a storeroom and a trading room. They also had a trading post in Castine and a third one (I can’t remember where off the top of my head).

And so the Pilgrims and the Indians settled in to decades of friendship and peace. One of the fastest friendships was between Massasoit and Edward Winslow, a prominent Pilgrim. One time, two messengers came to Plymouth for Winslow in a panic. Massasoit was deathly ill. He had sent them to ask for Winslow to come. So Winslow headed out for the village, 42 miles away, with supplies for his trip up and back and, presumably, with a couple of chickens thrown over his shoulder.

When he arrived, he found Massasoit was indeed seriously ill. Unable to rise, nearly blind, he could hardly talk. He managed to express how glad he was to see his dear friend, Winslow. Winslow cooked the chicken and fed him broth for hours. Massasoit recovered and lived to be 80.

This friendship resulted in a peace and friendship between them, and for everyone, that would last until the 1670s, after Massasoit and Winslow had died. By this time, tens of thousands of settlers had swarmed across the ocean and most did not view the Indians as friends or anyone due any respect. The Boston Bay people were outright hostile to them.

So Metacom, Massasoit’s son, also known as King Philip, as he chose to take an English name, pushed back against the colonial expansion, and the war, “King Philip’s War,” was on. And it was deadly.

And peace was lost.

What might have been.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.