Old Plymouth

        Plymouth is one of those magical names which so call to mind events or periods in American history, that the places themselves constitute patriotic shrines.  Independence Hall, Valley Forge, Mt. Vernon, Lexington and Yorktown are all names, the mere mention of which recalls happenings that render the places themselves historic ground.  Among these, Plymouth may justly lay claim to a rank which is particularly its own.

        New England, as a whole, might seem to be a more appreciative guardian of historic shrines and fanes than certain other sections of the country; there has been less of the destruction of historic landmarks in the cities of Massachusetts, perhaps, than in most of what were the 13 original colonies.  Much has perished, of course, but much yet remains, to be treasures more carefully and guarded more zealously by each succeeding generation.

Old Homes of the Pilgrims
    Of the original buildings erected by the Pilgrims very little remains after the lapse of three centuries.  The Pilgrims themselves, accustomed to homes of at least fair degree of comfort, probably intended that their first a fair degree of comfort, probably intended that their first rude and primitive huts of logs should give way, as soon as circumstances made it possible, to homes of a more permanent nature.  Pilgrim homes still exist, however, in the Crowehouse (built 1664) and the Howland house (1666), and both houses were built and lived in by members of the original Mayflower colony.  Other homes of the same period, or only very slightly later, are the Kendall Holmes house on Winter Street (1666),

the Leach house on Summer Street (1679), the Shurtleff house (1698) and the Sergeant William Harlow house, built in 1677.  Of these houses those build by the Crowe and Harlow families are said to have been built largely from material taken from the Old Fort on Burial Hill, when it was dismantled after King Philip’s War.  One of the early houses, which may be seen just across the bay, is the Standish house, built in 1666 by the son of Myles Standish.  Architecturally these old houses, when they have not yet been “modernized,” are extremely pleasing and many of them illustrate well the use of the gambrel roof developed in New England, which was quite different from the gambrel which was popular in the Dutch district around New York.  Of these earlier Plymouth houses the Howland and Harlow homes are open to the public at certain times, for in one instance the house is the property of the Howland Descendants and in the later case the house belongs to the Plymouth Antiquarian Society.


Monument to the Forefathers
    The National Monument to the Forefathers constitutes, perhaps the most important memorial which posterity has risen to the Pilgrims.  The project of building the monument was undertaken in 1820, while the dedication of the completed monument took place in 1889.  Upon a large octagonal pedestal of solid granite stands the figure of Faith;  one foot rests upon Forefathers’ Rock and in the left hand she holds the Bible, while the right hand points to Heaven.  The four seated figures grouped about the main statue represent the chief principles upon which the Pilgrims founded their commonwealth – Morality, Law, Education and Freedom.  Below these four figures are alto relievos representing scenes from Pilgrim history – the Departure from Delft Haven in Holland on the journey to America; the First Treaty with the Indians; the Signing of the Compact in the cabin of the Mayflower, and the Landing of the Pilgrims.  A panel at the front of the monument bears the inscription: “National Monument to the Forefathers.  Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty.”  Other panels bear the names of those who came over in the Mayflower.  The figure of Faith, 36 feet high, is said to be the largest granite stature in the world.

Pilgrim Hall
    One of the most important of the historical buildings in Plymouth is Pilgrim Hall, into which have been gathered relics and other treasures which are closely connected with Pilgrim history.  Erected in 1824 and extensively remodeled in 1880, Pilgrim Hall is a plain and solid structure of stone, of interesting proportions and of the period which architects know as the Greek revival,  somewhat resembling many of the old churches which face various “ commons” or “greens” throughout New England.  Its classic portico is adorned with six Doric columns.  Within the versatile hangs a large painting of the Landing of the Pilgrims and near it is a portrait of King James I, and various maps and views of Plymouth from which the growth and history of the colony may be studied.  Above the doorway from the vestibule into the main hall is a large gilded copy of the seal of the colony, reproduced from the Book of Laws of 1685. The original seal, which was adopted in 1625, disappeared during the administration of Governor Andros.

    The Hall, as might be supposed, includes among its historical treasure many documents and papers of various kinds which bear upon the history of the Pilgrims and the colony which they established.  Among them is the commission granted by Cromwell to Edward Winslow, appointing him as one of the arbitrators between England and he States General of the United Provinces in the matter of ships and goods detained within the King of Denmark’s dominions after May, 1652.  Another document of high historical value and interest is the colonial patent or charter, dated June 1, 1621, which is certainly by far the oldest state paper in New England, if not the oldest document in America which is connected with American history.  The paper which is written in the style characteristic of the period bears the names of the Duke of Lenox, the Marquis of Hamilton, the Earl of Warwick, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and one other name which is not legible.  A clock in Pilgrim Hall was once the property of the John Hancock, famous in American history in the many ways, not the least being the fact that his was the first signature to be placed upon the Declaration of Independence.

Relics of the Mayflower
    Of the relics of many different sorts which are treasured in the Hall, perhaps those most interesting to the average visitor are the small belongings which were once part and parcel of the daily lives of the Pilgrims, and which were doubles used during the journey on the Mayflower, as well as during the first days of their living in Plymouth.  Peregrine White, the first child born to the Pilgrims in America, was born on the Mayflower after the arrival in Cape Cod Bay.  The Hall contains the cradle in which he was rocked, made, according to the custom in Holland, of woven reeds or “osiers,” and recalling the work of the craftsmen which is still seen in Holland.  Perhaps the cradle formed part of the scanty household possessions of the Pilgrims when they first left Delft for America, by the way of England.  There are other relics too, connected with the life of Peregrine White – the shoes which he wore during his baby days, and – oddly enough – his will, made when he was old and so feeble that it is signed with a cross.  It must not be supposed, however, that he could not write, for here also treasured a bond, written as well as signed by him some years earlier.

    Arranged in Pilgrim Hall are various cases, in which are displayed relics relating to many of the original families.  Among the most interesting of these cases is that wherein are gathered the various articles connected with the history of the Winslow family.  Here are the tiny shoes which were worn in babyhood by Josiah Winslow, son of a Governor and destined one day to be a Governor himself.  The inlaid cabinet and beaded purse which belonged to Penelope Winslow suggest that some of the women of early Plymouth valued the small trivialities of life, as is also evidenced by the careful preservation of certain slippers which ere worn by “Madame Governor Winslow,” -- slippers of gray, embroidered with silver, and the kind which the French known as a mule, having a high Louis XIV heel, but covering only the instep and the toes.  It might be that the Winslows were rather more opulent than most of the Pilgrim colonists, for the Winslow mansion, which is mentioned elsewhere in these pages, was built with a frame imported to Plymouth from England.

Colonial Heirlooms
    New England has always been particularly fond of the samplers upon which young women wrought tangible and enduring proof of their skill with the needle by working upon squares of canvas or other fabrics, in stitches of various kinds, the letters of the alphabet, sundry ornamental borders or other designs, the name of the owner, of course, and very often her age or the date of her birth.  Added to all this there was generally a verse or two from scripture, or sometimes a poem.  Obviously “home made,” which was often a sternly pious nature.  A sampler worked by Lorea Standish, daughter of Myles Standish, bears these lines which record sentiments that well become a daughter of the Pilgrims:

“Lorea Standish is my name.
Lord, guide my hart that I may doe Thy will;
Also fill my hand with such convenient skill
As will conduce to virtue void of shame,
And I will give the glory to thy name.”

    Other relics, relating in one way or another to the prominent Standish family, are the pot and platter and the famous sword which belonged to Myles Standish.  The sword was probably in Damascus before the Christian Era, and is thought to have come down to Captain Myles Standish from the crusaders: 

“Spake in the pride of his heart, Myles
Standish, the Captain of Plymouth,
‘Look at these arms,’ he said, ‘the warlike
weapons that hang here,
Burnished bright and clean, as if for parade
Or inspection,
This is the sword of Damascus I fought
With in Flanders’."

    Another relic, later to be sure, but nevertheless a part of Pilgrim history, is the original manuscript of the well known poem by Mrs. Felicia Hermans on the Landing of the Pilgrims.  Its lines which used to be in every “Fourth Reader” – or was it the “Fifth”? – give a vivid idea of life during the times 

“When a band of exiles moored their bark,
By the wild New England shore.”

Historical Paintings
    Many of the visitors who come to the paintings of various kinds which hang upon the walls of this Plymouth museum.  There are several paintings of historical scenes, several of which are mentioned or referred to into the Hall proper hangs a large picture, done in distemper, of the “Landing,” which was presented to Pilgrim Hall by Robert G. Shaw of Boston.  Another painting of the Landing of the Pilgrims hangs within the Hall, at the east end.  This painting, which is of considerable size, was painted by Henry Sargent and given by him in 1834.  Upon the south wall hung a copy of the painting in the capitol at Washington of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims at Delft Haven.  Another historical painting of considerable interest, the give of Ex-Governor Rice of Massachusetts, is Charles Lucy’s large painting of the Departure of the Pilgrims, while still another is the fine historical scene by W. F. Halsall, showing the Mayflower in the Harbor at Plymouth. 

Early Portraits
    Other Paintings are in the form of Pilgrim Company or the immediate descendents of the Pilgrims.  Among them there are several portraits of members of the Winslow family – Edward Winslow, of the Mayflower migration, who was Governor of Plymouth Colony in 1633, and Josiah Winslow, his son, who was the first of the native Governors and who ruled from 1673 to 1680.  These two portraits are said to have been painted in 1651 in London by Robert Walker.  Other portraits of the Winslow family are those of Penelope Winslow, the wife of Governor Josiah Winslow, and General John Winslow, the great-grandson of the first of the Governors of the family.  He is pictured in the scarlet uniform of the British army, and was second in command of the expedition which removed the Arcadians from Nova Scotia in 1755.

    Mention has already been made of the portrait of King James I which hangs within Pilgrim Hall; during his reign the Pilgrims made their journey to America.  It is interesting to note the wording of the “Compact,” which was signed upon the Mayflower, written by “the loyal subjects of our dread sovereigne. Lord, King James.”  The Pilgrims, although they had departed from England, evidently had no idea of considering themselves as anything other than faithful subjects of the British crown, and therefore still part of the realm.

    Plymouth is so literally filled with relics of the Pilgrims, that merely to give a list of what still exist today would mean a catalogue considerably larger than this little Guide.  The visitor to Plymouth, however, should be sure to drink from the Pilgrim Spring, the water of which is now pumped to a granite fountain, which will easily be found where Main Street suddenly becomes Town Square, shaded by elms planted in 1784.

Burial Hill
    In almost any old town one of the most interesting of all its historical shrines is its old graveyard, and the curious, archaic monuments and tombstones which it is quite sure to contain.  Elsewhere in this guide mention has been made of Cole’s Hill,  not far from the water, which was the earliest of the Plymouth burying grounds, and where during the winter of 1620-21 more than half the Mayflower Pilgrims found their graves.  Burial Hill, however, was the first permanent burying ground and here rest many of the men and women who survived the first winter, as well as many of their immediate descendants.  It must not be forgotten that Burial Hill, probably on account of its lofty and commanding position was the site of the OLD Fort and Watch Tower before it became a burying ground, so that it possesses a two-fold historical interest.  Tablets mark the locations of the Fort and Tower, and many old monuments and gravestones mark the resting places of the first settlers.

    In these days, when the trappings of death are not often made as gruesome and funereal as possible, it is interesting to note the way in which the 17th century seem to dwell upon the full horror of death, and to surround the grave with everything which would make the most of all its terrors.  Old tombstones abound with sculptured cross-bones and with skulls – often with wings attached – hourglasses, skeletons, Father Time with his scythe, and sometimes seated upon and hourglass, and numerous other emblems which were probably calculated to induce sober thought.  In addition to giving the names and enumerating the full honors of those buried beneath, the tombstones usually bear epitaphs – frequently in verse, and sometimes more or less “labored” – which are apt to give the visitor considerable pause.

     Befitting his high station in the Plymouth Colony, Governor William Bradford rests beneath a marble obelisk which bears a text in Hebrew, now much worn, which is said to mean “Jehovah is the help of my life,” and a Latin inscription which may be translated “Do not basely relinquish what the Fathers with difficulty attained.”  The Governors monument bears his name and the names of his parents and that of his birthplace, giving also the years during which he served the colony.  About him lie many other Bradford’s.  Other early tombstones near at hand are those of Edward Gray (1681), William Clark (1697), and John cotton (1699).

Burial Hill Epitaphs

 The monument of an eminent judge bears the inscription:


 “This stone is erected to the memory of that unbiased judge, faithful officer, sincere friend, and honest man, Col. Isaac Lothrop, who resigned his life on the 26th day of April, 1750, in the forty-third year of his life.


Had Virtue’s charms the power to save
  Its faithful votaries from the grave,
This stone had ne’er possessed the fame
 Of being marked with LOTHROP’S name.”


Elsewhere the grave of a child, aged 25 days, is marked:


  “What did the little hasty sojourner find so forbidding and disgustful in our upper World to occasion its precipitant exit?”


Above the grave of Mrs. Ellen Lothrop is the epitaph:


“To name her Virtues ill befits my grief,
What once was bliss can now give no relief;
A Husband mourns – the rest let friendship tell,
Friends knew her worth; a Husband knew it well.”


This in memory of William Rider:


“Our life is ever on the wing,

And death is ever nigh;

The moment when our lives begin,

We all begin to die.”


In memory of Miss Patience Warren, age 74, is the solemn verse, which is also part of a hymn:


“Hark, from the tomb a doleful sound;

My ears attend to the cry.

Ye mortal men come view the ground

Where ye must shortly lie.”


To Mrs. Elisabeth Clarke:


“Though the pale corpse is in the Grave Confined,
She leaves a Pattern for her Sex behind.
The sun of Virtue never can decay:
It shines in Time, and gives eternal day.”


 And above the graves of several children:


“Sleep on, babes and take your rest,
‘Twas God who called you when he thought it best.”


On another tombstone, to a woman with a child by her side:


“Come view the scene, ‘t will fill you with surprise,

Behold the loveliest form in nature dies;

At noon she flourished, blooming, fair and gay;

At evening an extended corpse she lay.”


Above the grave of a revolutionary soldier, Captain Jacob Taylor; died 1788:


“Through life he braved her foe, if great or small

And marched out foremost of his Country’s call.”


Over the tomb of Mrs. Tabitha Plaskit; 1807:


“Adieu, vain world, I’ve had enough of thee;

And I am careless what thou sayest of me

Thy smiles I wish not,

Nor thy frowns I fear,

I am at rest; my head lies quiet here.”

    Mrs. Plasket, during her widowhood, kept a private school for little children and at the same time did her own spinning, according to the custom in Plymouth.  T is said that her favorite method of punishing her pupils was to pass skeins of yarn under their arms and hang them upon pegs!

    To most visitors who have a sense of values, Burial Hill, with its graves, tombs and moss-grown monuments, represents the Plymouth of the Pilgrims.  The Hill, which is about 8 acres in extent, is the highest point in the locality and is the first spot in Plymouth to see the rising sun and the last to see the sun set, and her, upon its very summit, sleep the men and women whose lives and example are worth more to present-day America than almost anything else could be.  An old “Pilgrim Almanac” contains these words on Burial Hill:

    “Stranger!  As from this sacred spot, hallowed by the remembrance of the true-hearted who sleep beneath its turf, you cast your eyes around and view scenes unsurpassed in interest and beauty, -- while you behold flourishing towns and buildings abounding in industry, prosperity, and happiness, where once all was dreary, inhospitable and desolate; think of the self-sacrificing Forefathers, learn to emulate their virtues, and firmly resolve to transmit unimpaired, to latest posterity, the glorious lessons of their noble example.”

Plymouth Rock
    Naturally, the most interesting thing Plymouth Rock, upon which the Pilgrims made their permanent landing in America.  The rock itself might be described as a boulder of sienitic granite weighing some seven tons, and the theory which has been advanced for its being upon the sandy shores at Plymouth is that it was placed there by some prehistoric upheaval or by some unusual action of nature.

    In 1775, when enthusiasm over the war of the revolution was at its height, it was decided to move the Rock to a more suitable site.  In attempting to pry it from its foundation a large portion was split off, the splitting of course being interpreted at the time as prophetic of the split between the colonies and the mother country.  By 20 yoke of oxen the Rock was dragged to a spot in Town Square and set at the foot of a liberty pole upon which was flying a flag bearing the words, “Give me liberty or give me Death.”  In 1834 the Rock was again moved, this time to an area in front of Pilgrim Hall where it was surrounded by an iron fence, which bore the names signed to the Compact of the Mayflower.  Another moving of the Rock was undertaken in 1880, when it was removed to its original site, -- now some little distance from the actual water, -- cemented to its original base, and covered by a stone or marble canopy – a sort of baldachino – of a rather impressive design.  Here the rock rested until the spring of 1921 when it was moved, for what will probably be the last time, to a site at the water’s edge, the present-day equivalent for its position when the Pilgrims first stepped upon it.  A suitable covering for the famous Rock has been planned, which it is hoped will be built.  In this final setting the Rock may be seen by visitors which brought the Pilgrims, to whom the Rock was indeed the “stepping stone to liberty