Plymouth Plantation

Plymouth Plantation

I was extremely excited to head out to Plymouth (Plimoth) this morning (8/7/14). Since I have been back teaching history. I love the opportunities I have to use my own pictures for power points. (Plus it’s easier to give copyright credit!) So, this leg of the trip visiting Plymouth today and Boston tomorrow offered a chance to get lots of good material. We had purchased the Go Boston card which can be purchased for between 1 and 7 days and offers a 55% discount on 47 locations. For those like my family who try to jam pack in everything you can, it’s a great deal. (They have them for a bunch of cities. Check it out at http://www.smartdestinations.com) It reminds me of the Firenze card we bought in Florence. One of the things I like best is that it encourages us to try things we might not otherwise do because “We already paid for it.”

Wampanoag structure

Wampanoag structure

We started off the day at Plymouth Plantation. This reminds me a great deal of Jamestown Settlement, one of our favorite Virginia locations. Our first stop was the Wampanoag Homesite. One thing that is different here is that the interpreters are not representing people from the past. All of them are of Native American descent–many from the Wampanoag tribe. So they speak about their heritage and culture as they have lived it and heard it from their ancestors. The first gentleman we spoke to had moved down from Canada because the current Canadian Prime Minister ran on a platform which ended funding to First Nation Schools. As a result, his school had to close. Now he works at Plymouth where he can share his heritage with those who want to learn. Another woman I spoke to decided to work at Plymouth because her whole family worked there. In another area, a man shared the difference between responsibility of Native peoples. For his tribe, you can marry when you are responsible for yourself and able to provide for an eventual family. For some, that was fifteen; others weren’t mature until thirty!

Miles Standish

Miles Standish

From the Wampanoag Homesite, we headed up to the 17th Century English Village. This is a breathtakingly scenic area with some of the best reenactors I’ve met–and I’ve met plenty! Costumed interpreters wander throughout the village, engaging visitors in conversation and asking questions. Unlike the Native Americans, they stay in the 1600’s, complete with dialect. We first ran into Miles Standish, but each interpreter represents a person who actually lived in Plymouth. We walked the length of the village, chatting with interpreters who discussed everything from how to mud and daub a house, to child care, recipes, clothing, government, and everything in between. It was truly fascinating because everyone had a different perspective to offer.

Jenny Mill

Jenny Mill

Since it was only 12:30ish, and I wanted to see the dancing at 3:00, we opted to drive into Plymouth and catch a walking tour (another courtesy of the Go Boston Card.) Of the three tours we could choose from, we took the “Discover Plymouth’s History” tour. Our tour guide, Leo, was one of the guides who assisted Kirk Cameron in the making of Monumental. Beyond that, he ran the Plymouth Mill for 17 years and now is in charge of the Museum there. Our first stop was the Jenny Mill. Leo explained how the pilgrims had landed on sand and utilized the river here in a number of ways.  In the days of Plymouth Plantation, they built 14 mills on the river. The Jenny Mill is the oldest mill in the US, dating back to 1736. It was a great location because the sand purified the water, the water provided power for the mills, and the fish provided fertilizer to supplement the sandy soil. (This past year 112,000 fish came up this river.) The river also served as a dividing line between the Indians and pilgrims.

Women in Plymouth

Women in Plymouth

When the Colonists set sail, there were 102 aboard. Initially, there were two ships, but leaving England, the Speedwell leaked, so they all took the Mayflower. 14 single women and 18 married came over, in addition to children. They came to build a society. Two children were born on the journey and two died along the way. (My ancestor was the second child to be born on board the Mayflower.) Of the men who died, one was a servant of the doctor who was told to administer lemons and limes to everyone in order to prevent scurvy, which he did with all diligence. He, however, did not like the taste of either, so he didn’t take them himself, and consequently died of scurvy. The next was a sailor who didn’t like the Pilgrims hymn singing. In a fit of temper, he told them he couldn’t wait for them to die so he could wrap their bodies and throw them in the ocean. He died the next week. No other sailors saw fit to comment…

At Work

At Work

When they finally arrived, the first arrangement was more communal–everyone got equal shares. During the first winter, however, 51 died (exactly half.) They had found a bit of corn upon arrival, but towards the end of winter, rations were 5 kernels of corn per person per day. Many women sacrificed their shares for their children and 14 of the 18 married women died. But their sacrifice paid off–10% of Americans are now Mayflower descendants.

The communal aspect wasn’t working because someone who did nothing or minimal labor got paid equally to one who worked hard, so there wasn’t much incentive for success. (Hence, the starving time). Therefore, in 1623 Bradford changed to individual land ownership. From then on, there wasn’t any more starving. Each member got a share of land equal to members of his family (including children.) Plymouth was unique in having been settled by families. A number of people think the Pilgrims had no education since there were no formal schools.  But they were educated at home.  To understand how educated they actually were, our guide explained that Bradford brought 400 books to the New World and could speak 5 languages. By comparison, when John Harvard (founder of Harvard) donated his personal library to start Harvard, he had fewer books than Bradford.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

At this point in the tour, we were caught in a gale force rainstorm. We hurried for shelter around Plymouth Rock, which helped a little, but the blowing rain insured we were all pretty much soaked. While we were there, however, we learned about Plymouth Rock. Mom asked how it split. It actually split during American Revolution. Many Plymouth men didn’t want to go to war. So, they had the idea to bring Plymouth Rock to the  town square and have the men rally around it. So, they loaded it on to a wagon. While they were moving it in the wagon, no one was touching it, and it split. The driver said it was an omen to split from England. They named the small half England and left it on the beach. The big half (America) they took to the to square where they mustered and went to war.

Massasoit Statue

Massasoit Statue

Our next spot was the statue of Massasoit. Most know Massasoit as the one who helped the Pilgrims make it through the starving time. When they threw the first Thanksgiving out of thanks to God, the colonists chose to honor Massasoit and his immediate family by inviting them to participate. Unfortunately, “immediate” doesn’t translate well–he brought 99 guests with him. A few years later when Massasoit fell ill, Edward Winslow (who was the first to meet Massasoit and help negotiate the peace) nursed Massasoit back to health. In an ironic twist years later, the son of Winslow, the current governor, goes to meet with Massasoit’s son Metacom (Metacomet), the current chief. Metacom refuses to meet with him, saying he only meets with kings. He will thereafter be known as King Philip–leader of King Philip’s War against the son of the man who saved his father’s life. When Caleb Cook shot King Philip, Governor William Bradford had King Philip quartered and hung. He then placed his head on pole, where it remained for 25 years. He wanted to dissuade others from attacking. Bradford had done something similar when he first arrived. The Wampanoags made a treaty with the Pilgrims when they first landed. When questioning why they would make a treaty with 51 half starved people, the answer is they were weak themselves, having just survived an epidemic. Soon after the treaty was signed, the Wampanoag’s enemies, the Narragansett found out about the treaty.  They sent William Bradford arrows in rattlesnake skin–the message was clear: We’re coming for you. Bradford sent rattlesnake skin back–with bullets inside. The message was also clear: Bring it. The fort was never attacked. But the graves of William Bradford, Caleb Cook, and John Howland remain at the top of the burial hill–the fort’s original location.

Old Courthouse

Old Courthouse

Our last stop was by the oldest wooden courthouse in America. Here two very famous people hung out–John Adams in the government, and his friend Paul Revere, who will make the bell in the church. We also heard the story of John Howland. He was an indentured servant of a carver. He became freeman when the carver died and Howland inherited his property. John Howland has the significance of  being the Mayflower passenger with the largest number of descendants–at the last reunion, over 1500 attended.  His famous relatives include Bush, Roosevelt, and Churchill. He also holds the distinction of being the last pilgrim to die in Plymouth. But what I found fascinating is that John Howland almost didn’t make it to the new world. During a storm when the captain had declared for no unranking person to be on deck, he went up–perhaps to deliver a message–and was washed overboard.

The Mayflower II

The Mayflower II

Luckily, he grabbed onto a topsail and was able to be hauled up. Think of how much would be different if the man with the greatest number of descendants had perished before any of them came to be.

From the walking tour, we booked it back to see the dancing. This is an audience participation event and was great fun. (A shout out to Gabriel, my five year old dance partner!) We got to learn and dance two Colonial dances–one slower, one more lively. During the instruction, it started pouring rain again. So, since most people were stuck, our guides taught us two Colonial Songs, which we preformed in rounds. Beautiful!

Forefathers Monument

Forefathers Monument

Finally, the rain let up so we could check into our hotel and head down to the Mayflower. This also was great fun getting to learn about the voyage from reenactors. After dining on lobster bisque and clam strips at Woods (the recommendation of where the “locals” eat), we made our way up to the Monument to the Forefathers. To learn more about this amazing monument to faith in God, I’d recommend checking out the movie Monumental. Finally, we headed back to the Mayflower to get a few sunset pictures with the strains of an oldies (Swing) band in the background. While our feet feel about to fall off (I hope we’re recovered by tomorrow!), it was an incredible day!

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