Posted by: Jack Spratt | March 25, 2009

The Wonderful Truth about Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts

If you thought Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts is where the pilgrims first set foot on New World soil then you’d be wrong in more ways than one. Here’s why.

First, we know through the ship’s log and passenger journals that the Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod after their stormy crossing, and it was the Cape Cod sands that crunched under the first steps of those fateful pioneers. It was also their first encounter with the native people.

Their arrival location in the New World was an accident – they were heading much further south but the eventful sail across the Atlantic placed them further north and the weather was against them sailing south to their intended landfall. So after deciding Cape Cod would not be the place to spend their first winter they headed north and anchored off present day Plymouth.

The village they started would have been where Plymouth town is today, but the popular living museum of Plimoth Plantation is located a few miles outside town.

But don’t let these two facts deter you from a visit.

Though the village is recreated everything else about it rings wonderfully true – or about as true and authentic as our modern age can get. Plimoth Plantation is one of New England’s living museums – a special collection of destinations that attempts to depict everyday life of folks from a period and location in our history.

Plimoth Plantation is what we think – and feel – the early days of the village in 1627 would have looked like, and how its people would have spoken and acted.

We can’t know for sure if we’ve got it completely right – but it sure convinced and fascinated me when I visited this seaport town 40 miles south of Boston. There were a few impressions I’ll share with you in case you decide to visit – and you should visit.

First, the village itself is not manicured and preserved by professional landscapers more at home tending a golf course or million dollar show homes. The gardens and areas around the village can seem jumbled, and even in need of weeding. I don’t know if this is deliberate, but to me it keeps it authentic.

I can’t imagine the pilgrims of the 17th century spending their days worrying about how their home or vegetable gardens looked to their neighbors. Shelter and food was much more important than getting first prize for best kept lawn or rhododendrons at “ye olde Plimoth flower show of 1628” – at least it would have been to me. I don’t think there was too much home buying going on at the time either.

Second, do visit the native people village. While there is no attempt by the occupants to act to the period – they’ll be happy to discuss modern day topics with you unlike their counterparts in the pilgrim village – it will be highly educational.

Without the help of the native people it’s almost certain the pilgrims would not have survived their first year in the colony and got to celebrate what we now know as Thanksgiving in November. And there’s a bunch of myths around that particular topic as well, but that is an entirely different subject for another day.

Jack Sprat (who eats fat)

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Responses

  1. Hey Jack!

    We’re happy that you enjoyed your day at our museum. One thing, while there are primary sources written at the time there weren’t any ship’s logs or passenger’s journals (Gov Bradford wrote his history years later) for anyone to research.
    Come see us sometime at our behind-the-scenes blog at My So-called Pilgrim Life.

    Buddy

  2. I don’t know about ships logs and the likes but I remember learning in school the pilgrims landed on Cape Cod first before Plymouth – is the person from Plimoth Plantation saying this is not true?

    Anyway, I always enjoy my time at the plantation and the new exhibits they add each time.

    Mary

  3. Hi Mary,

    Naw – I don’t think Buddy was suggesting to rewrite the history books, he was just conveying that the account of the first landing was not from the ships log as it is lost but from other sources.

    I found it strange he chose to comment and correct me on the ship’s log rather than defend the criticism I’ve heard from many about the upkeep of the plantation.

    Jack


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