Brennan Gifford Wins National Award

Every year the Daughters of the American Revolution hold an essay contest for students in fifth grade and above about significant historical events, such as the voyage of the Mayflower and suffrage. When I was in fifth grade, I entered an essay into the contest and won first place for the Pee Dee region. Last year (2019), when I was in sixth grade, I entered the contest again, this time winning not only the regional competition but also the state competition.  Then in May I was notified I had won the sixth grade national competition!  Normally I would have traveled to Washington DC for the awards ceremony but because of COVID-19 it was held virtually instead.  I was asked to record a portion of my essay along with an acceptance speech that would be played at the virtual conference.  One of the awards I’m receiving for winning the competition is a scholarship for college. 

Florence Christian School, especially teachers such as Mrs. Mona Timmons and Mrs. Audra Flamini, has fostered my love for writing.  The writing skills I used to win the national competition I learned from Mrs. Audra Flamini, who will be teaching the same writing curriculum at Florence Christian School this year. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere other than Florence Christian School.

Brennan’s National Award Winning Essay

I, Samuel Fuller, traveled aboard the Mayflower in 1620 in search of new land and religious freedom (Plimoth 1). Leaving my beautiful, young wife Bridget behind, I wanted to depart and settle the area before her arrival (Mayflower). As a surgeon, I thought I boarded the Mayflower prepared for medical difficulties, but soon discovered I was less prepared than I thought.

In preparation for the expedition to the New World, I gathered numerous supplies.  The most important person I brought was my apprentice, William Butten who was confident but frail.  Unfortunately, Butten perished of disease just two days before we reached the New World. As I boarded the ship that was laden with supplies and passengers, I carried with me a surgeon’s chest that held basic medical supplies as I thought I would certainly need it. The surgeon’s chest contained approximately 75 surgical instruments, basins, porringers, cups, weights, pestles, mortars, needles, and thread (Cline 1). The supplies I had gathered proved that I had not prepared enough.

It took 66 grueling days to travel across the ocean to this New World (Mayflower). While on the journey to the New World, I treated many medical situations.  At the beginning of the trip, I mainly treated seasickness.  As the journey continued, passengers gradually developed more serious diseases.  I also diligently tended to injuries sailors received while sailing the rickety ship such as cuts, burns, and general physical pain.

On one fearful day onboard the Mayflower, we crossed paths with a dangerous storm (Mayflower). As passengers, we found safety in the lower deck. Small children cried while the older children hid under itchy, wool blankets and inside of dark barrels.  All of the passengers prayed to God for protection.  The salty seawater was splashing into the ship and touching the tastebuds on my tongue every time a wave hit. So much water had flooded into the ship that our feet and ankles were drenched and cold. The sound of thunder was ear piercing and the lightning was so dangerous that we feared our lives were in peril. Riding out the threatening storm was one of the scariest moments on the ship.  How could I as surgeon have possibly saved people from drowning? 

Mercifully, the storm ended and everyone survived. Subsequently, another vast wave approached the ship and passenger John Howland was tossed overboard into the rough, cold, and salty water (Aboard 1). We rescued Howland when he clutched the rope and was miraculously saved from death.  I thought we had lost him to the dark, murky depths of the sea but God had provided a way to save him.

On November 9, 1620, we finally landed at Plymouth Colony. Although I lost my dearly loved apprentice, I was blessed when I delivered a baby on board the Mayflower (Mayflower). Although on the voyage, we only lost my apprentice to an unfortunate death, four other passengers died shortly after our arrival. As we built the structures for the colony, many more Pilgrims died due to disease, infections, and accidents. During this time, I had many patients who needed medical care. Physically I was exhausted due to all of the care that people were requiring. 

Looking back, what would I have brought to be better prepared? I certainly could have brought more blankets for added warmth because the journey to the new world was colder than anticipated. For injuries, I would have brought more clean cloths to prevent wound infections. Most importantly, I wished I would have taken medicinal herbs such as lavender and peppermint for disease and infections. A nice large root of ginger would have been beneficial to passengers who suffered from stomach issues and general sea sickness while crossing the ocean. If only I could go back to that fateful day in 1620, I would have prepared better so that more Pilgrims would have survived.

Works Cited

“Aboard the Mayflower.” Aboard the Mayflower, 1620,

Cline, Duane. “Medical Arts on the Mayflower.” Medical Arts on the Mayflower, The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony 1620, 4 Oct. 2000,

Johnson, Caleb. “Fuller-Samuel.”, Mayflower History,

“Mayflower Passenger List.”, Mayflower History,