Experience Pilgrim Life

By: Cliff Calderwood

Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II ship are illuminating exhibits on a major event in early American history. Both are places to stir the imagination and entertain your knowledge cells. At the Mayflower II you’ll discover first-hand all about the voyage the pilgrims endured, and then barely a few miles away you’ll experience the early and struggling years of settlement.

Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower are both located in Plymouth, Massachusetts - a small city 40 miles south of Boston. Authentic yet entertaining the two attractions are links to our past and the 102 passengers that survived the journey across the stormy Atlantic seas.

The Mayflower voyage of 1620 took 66 days after leaving Plymouth, England on September 6, and anchoring in present day Provincetown harbor in Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. Only one individual did not survive the journey. Though the pilgrims had endured much hardship on the voyage the worst was yet to come.

Deciding Cape Cod was not a suitable place for a settlement, and forced north because of the weather and shoals south of Cape Cod, the pilgrims finally came ashore in late November in present day Plymouth center.  That first winter at Plimoth Plantation decimated the settlers due to cold and disease. Of the 102 that came ashore only 52 were left in the spring.

The native Wampanoag men showed the survivors how to plant corn and in October 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest at Plymouth Plantation and which today we mark on our calendars as Thanksgiving Day.

Plymouth Plantation is a 1627 Pilgrim authentic village just a few miles outside of the city.

The plantation itself is a loop tour with two primary sites, the 1627 Pilgrim Village and the Hobbamock’s (Wampanoag) Homesite. The village itself consists of modest timber-framed houses, and fragrant raised-bed gardens. Everything is plain and productive, and authentic - this means don’t expect neatly maintained and tended areas and settings. This is how the first permanent English Settlement in New England would have looked seven years into the venture.

The people of the village dress, talk, and act, as best we know they would’ve on the original Plymouth Plantation. But that doesn’t mean they are aloof or communicate in riddles or a strange tongue. Their aim is to educate and entertain but still remain true to the era. I’ve always found they are engaging and excellent in this balance.

The stroll out of the village along the Eel River walk takes you to the Native people homesite.  As mentioned earlier, the Pilgrims wouldn’t have survived the first year had it not been for help from the Native Peoples. They taught them about the region and it’s agriculture and the resources of the land, and how to thrive.

This special area is a home for an extended family not another village. It honors the importance and affinity the Native People have in this region. Take time to appreciate the skills of weaving and tanning practiced at the site, and the use of fire for burning out boats.  Go inside one of the houses and notice the materials and bindings used for construction. The inhabitants here do not role-play so feel free to discuss modern day subjects with them.

The Mayflower II replica is docked on State Pier on Water Street. You’ll think it a small ship, and wonder how it could’ve survived the wild and unforgiving North Atlantic. A 2,760-mile trip in a ship that leaked and creaked at an agonizing speed of 2 mph!

During your Mayflower tour you’ll meet passengers on the ship role-playing for you. You’ll get to see the passenger’s cramped quarters and the captain’s spacious cabin. But most of all you’ll be cast back in time... and if you close your eyes and listen to the gulls overhead, maybe you’ll hear the shouts of a sailor as he sights landfall and one journey’s end... and the start of another.

Enjoy your day at Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. They’re entertaining reminders of our history and a link back to a monumental place in our past.

Plymouth Plantation is one of my favorite three living museums in New England. The other two are Old Sturbridge Village in Central Massachusetts, and Mystic Seaport in MysticFind Article, Connecticut. All three for different reasons are marvelous experiences of New England’s contribution to American history. To discover more about each visit my web site at www.new-england-vacations-guide.com/

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