Modern Plymouth

             While by no means forgetful of her distinguished past, Plymouth is working steadily to a position of rank among the thriving smaller cities of Massachusetts.   She has “grown old gracefully,” and bears her years and her honors as well befit the oldest settlement in conservative New England.  The passing of three centuries has left a town considerable modernized and with all the usual comforts and conveniences of the age, but non the less pervaded by a spirit of old fashioned charm and animated by a pardonable pride in her noble traditions.

Importance of shipping 

            The excellence of Plymouth Harbor attracted the Pilgrims in 1620, and the harbor today has reached the point where it is second only to that of Boston in importance among the Massachusetts ports of entry.  Here there are received each year foreign imports to the value of more than $7,000,000, for at Plymouth are the largest cordage mills in the country, and possible the largest in the world, and they require vast quantities of siasal and manila, which are had from various countries, chiefly from Yucatan and the Philippines.  An able and enlightened municipal government year ago equipped Plymouth with all the customary improvements which belong to a modern city.  Adequate water supply systems have long been established,   the source being various fresh water “ponds” just to the south of the town.  An excellent sewage system includes the use of discharge which extend 1500 feet into deep water in Cape Cod Bay.  In addition to being served by the transportation facilities of the N.Y.N.H.&H.Ry., and excellent street railway or trolley system, Plymouth is reached during a large part of the year by steamers which ply to and from Boston across Massachusetts Bay.  Motorists may reach Plymouth from Boston over a well traveled state road.

            Until some fifty years ago the fishing industries which centered at Plymouth, constituted a source of wealth to the people, but of late years, the importance of eh fisheries has declined on all parts of the New England coast.  As this industry became yearly less and less remunerative, commerce and manufacturing became increasingly important, more than compensating for the diminishing revenue from the fishing industry.  The development of the usefulness of the Cape Cod Canal, which was cut directly across Cape Cod, connecting Buzzard’s Bay with Cape Cod Bay, seems destined to exert a helpful influence upon Plymouth, which possesses the harbor which is nearest the canal. 

Growth of Manufacturing 

            Among the thriving industries which add to the wealth of Plymouth, and which uphold the fame of the old town of the Pilgrims, are those devoted to the manufacture of insulated wire for electrical uses; zinc and copper in various form; boxes, barrels, kits and kegs.  Other large plants are required fro furnishing the electric power for he operation of numerous plants, and fro the lighting of the streets and highways, the residences and business structures of the entire region.  Because these and other modern business developments require a large number of operatives, there have come to the modern Plymouth vast numbers of later day “pilgrims,” – laborers from many of the countries of Southern Europe.

            In connection with the shipping which centers in Plymouth Harbor, mention has already been made of eh cordage works in which more than 2000 workmen are employed.  The business of this one concern is said to amount to more than $10,000,000 each year, and the factories or mills, together with the necessary houses of these workers, from a small city in themselves.  Other large factories are required for the manufacture of woolen fabrics, carpets and rugs is devoted to the industry of stove making and one entire village, on the outskirts of Plymouth, centers about he large plant of Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Co.

            The entire country looks to the neighborhood of Cape Cod, and particularly to the district surrounding Plymouth, for a large part of its supply of cranberries, and this industry is being carried on upon a constantly increasing scale; it is reported that the output of cranberries from this region amounts to the value of about $400,000 each year, with a growing demand for these ancient product of the Cape Cod region.

The Visitor to Plymouth           

            Visitors to Plymouth’s historic spots are apt to receive considerable attention from small boys – of several nationalities—who stand by reciting rapidly some of the well known poems which deal with the spot.  A visitor to the Rock must expect to be surrounded by small urchins reciting, in unison, perhaps, some parts of Mrs. Hemans’” Landing of the Pilgrims,” for example.  This might be tolerated, possibly, if the reciting of the stanzas, from memories well trained, fostered patriotism or encouraged interest in the Rock or veneration for it – but alas, ‘tis not so, and the attention is directed toward the visitor rather than toward the Rock, and the effort is made wholly in the hope of gratuities!  In discouraging these attention, which the wise and experienced traveler will most assuredly do, it need not be feared that the enthusiasm of patriotic youth will suffer a rebuff.

Public Schools and Library 

            The public school system, in all of the different grades, has been carefully developed and the public library, which is one of he most attractive of he later building in Plymouth, was founded almost half a century ago.  Almost all the more important religious bodies are represented by numerous churches, while two newspapers, five banking institutions and well organized fire department add to the fullness of the equipment of the town of the present day.

Plymouth in the Wars 

            From the first day of its history, Plymouth has realized the necessity of having available suitable military defense.  Perhaps the spirit of vigilance personified during he early days of Captain Myles Standish is still alive. His name, too, has been perpetuation in the annals of charted more than a century ago and were long one of the foremost companies in the 5th Regiment, doing notable duty in the civil war, and serving also in the war with Spain.


In 1861 the “Standish Guards” were” minutemen,” and on April 16 with their regiment, then the “3rd Massachusetts,” were the very first of the Federal troops, either national or volunteer, to penetrate within the Confederate line, as they did when on the gunboat “Pawnee” they rand the Confederate batteries and destroyed the Norfolk Navy Yard, and saved the “Cumberland” on April 20, 1861.  In the late war with Germany, the “Standish Guards,” as part of the National Guard, were mustered into the service of the United States on August 8,1917, under command of Captain A. J. Carr, and 141 strong, encamped at Framingham where a consolidation was made of eh 5th and the 9th Regiments the result being the 101st U.S.N.G. Infantry, in the 26th Division, which left for European service on September 7, 1917.

            In the first chapter of this little Guide to Plymouth considerable mention has been made of eh historical spots in which visitors are apt to be interested and of the relics of Pilgrims which are still contained in the old town which they founded.  The visitor to Plymouth of the present day will find a pleasant, old fashioned New England town, or small city, which respects is somewhat similar to other town in New England. The buildings are not disposed in just the way which makes Marblehead, for example, interesting to visitors, nor has Plymouth the wealth of fine old colonial mansions, the relics of a degree of commercial prosperity, which still abound in Salem  The Plymouth houses, nevertheless, are placed upon the ground in a way which is quite their own.  They are not apt to exactly face the streets, neither are they always parallel to the street line; they are placed, apparently, in accordance with no rule which prevails anywhere else, and it would seem that they were built entirely according to the whims of their original owners.

Old Byways 

            Many of Plymouth’s streets are shaded by the old elms which are characteristic of many New England town and villages.  Sometimes the trees are lindens instead of elms. At the corner of North Winslow Streets stands the well known Winslow house which is shaded by spreading lindens, planted in 1760.  the trees have been developed from tine saplings – which must have been mere twigs – said to have be brought from England, growing in a raisin box.  In this old house, which has seen considerable history, Ralph Waldo Emerson was married to his second wife in the autumn of 1835.

            One of the most interesting of the Plymouth buildings is the structure known as the Registry Building which contains the various departments of record and the Registry of Deeds.  In this later department are kept records of Plymouth which go back to the very earliest days of the colony, and here n their actual handwriting are records and documents of different kinds made by almost all of the men who helped to establish Plymouth.

Clam Raising 

            While, as has been already said, the fishing industries along the New England coast have decreased greatly in value during the past few years, a newer water industry has been developed around Plymouth, which to some extent is taking its place.  The broad, sandy beaches near the Cape Cod shore are being used for the raising of clams and already, it is said, more than 1000 acres are in use for this purpose.  The clams are raised, or “cultivated,” in a highly scientific manner, and are “graded” as carefully as the apples which come from certain famous western orchards.  The sale of clams is not the only source of revenue which this industry affords, for the shells are made into by-products for poultry feeding or else made into material suitable for use in making roads, so that from $500 to $750 per acre is being realized annually from the clam raising industry around Plymouth.

            For generations one of the unfailing sources of revenue for the district around Plymouth, and farther along extending over the whole of Cape Cod, has been the entrainment of summer visitors.  The broad, sandy beaches which are numerous along the shores of “the Cape” attract visitors from every part of the country.  In Plymouth itself there are several excellent hotels, and there, as well as elsewhere, are many boarding places – large and small – where guests are received.


Public Buildings 

            The Plymouth Post Office and Custom House, which is perhaps the most interesting of the more modern buildings, occupies the site which was assigned to Elder William Brewster when Leyden Street was originally laid out.  Visitors are not often intended in such necessary details of the modern town as its prisons, but if anyone cares to examine the chief institution of this kind in Plymouth, it may be found just back of the Court House.  At the south end of the town there is maintained another prison for those being detained for short terms.

            Of course a live town or small city must have the usual county and city courts, and these departments in Plymouth are well provided for.  Not far from Pilgrim Hall, the repository of many relics of the Mayflower Company, which has been described in another chapter, stands the Plymouth Court House, surrounded by a little park.  This building, of course, contains such usual office as those of the County Treasurer, County Commissioners, Clerk of the Court and various court rooms, while upon an upper floor there maintained a law library.

Historic Churches 

            The First Parish Church, which faces Main Street, is claimed to be the original church of the Pilgrims, and an offshoot from the little congregation in Leyden, Holland, which was presided over by the Rev. John Robinson.  This church is said to have and unbroken record from the very beginnings of Plymouth to the present time.  The present house of worship of he First Parish Church is a stone building in the Norman style, and its entrance doorway is a reproduction of eh arched portal of the ancient church at Austerfield, England, where Governor Bradford was baptized.  At the right of eh First Church, as one approaches it, is the flight of stone steps which leads up to Burial Hill.

            The religious faith of the Pilgrims, -- the faith to hold and practice which they made such a heroic sacrifices and endured untold hardships, -- was a somewhat broad from of Protestant Christianity, and is said to be best expressed today, by the Congregationalist from of belief.  Religious worship, both public and private, was the common practice of Plymouth with this highly important factor omitted.  The Congregational Church in Plymouth is known as the “Church of the Pilgrimage,” and the present building, which was erected in 1840, is not far from the spot where the Pilgrims called there churches “meeting houses” to distinguish them from the places of worship of the Church of England.

            As a visitor to Plymouth will see, the old and new are not separated into two distinct districts, one being the Plymouth of the Pilgrims and the other the Plymouth of today.  On the contrary, the town has grown surely but slowly for 300 years about very much the same center, and the old and the new are really together; one may find a building of first historic interest next to, or near, one of the newer building in the town.