Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! One of the busiest travel weeks of the year, often coinciding with horrible weather. What could go wrong? 😉
The juice is often worth the squeeze though, and you get to enjoy a lovely meal and reflect on the things for which you’re grateful. And I guess you get to spend time with your family (whatever definition you choose), too. Gather around the hearth y’all, for this short week, here is the story of one of America’s folklore icons, the Plymouth rock.
Everyone’s basically heard of the Pilgrims, right? They were a group of mostly Puritan separatists who sailed from England in 1620. They were seeking religious freedom by heading to the New World, and they were trying to get to Virginia, where the first successful settlement of Jamestown was founded in 1607.
Obviously, if you’re ever looked at a map of the U.S., you’ll know that Massachusetts and Virginia are nowhere near each other, so they clearly didn’t reach their intended destination. Storms forced them to anchor near what is now Provincetown, at the hook of Cape Cod. This is where there was infighting and almost mutiny, so the Mayflower Compact was devised and signed, creating a new government that still gave sovereignty to the king, while enacting a social agreement wherein everyone would play by the community rules. This happened around mid-November to December 1620, and thus ’tis the reason for the season.
After exploring the area and having some ill-advised encounters with the native peoples (likely stealing the indigenous peoples’ food and stores), they settled in Plymouth. This area had been inhabited by the Wampanoag people, however this particular area had been devastated by smallpox (brought over by…you guessed it, previous European explorers/colonizers), and thus made a convenient place to stop.
The Pilgrims success was aided by the Wamponoags, whose prominent leaders, Chief Massasoit and ambassador Squanto, saved their weary butts. Squanto helped teach the settlers how to eel/fish and cultivate corn before he too succumbed to the plague. Interestingly enough, Squanto had avoided the previous death wave that killed many of his people as he had been captured as a slave and was in Europe being converted to Christianity at the time. The more you know, folks.
Anyway, this was the site of their Plymouth Colony, which by the next year had a successful harvest season. And what comes before Pilgrim Part B? Pilgrim Part-A. And that’s how we got the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving. Attended by the 50 or so remaining settlers and 90 Native Americans, they ate corn and wild turkey and now so do we.
Nowadays, the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts (40 miles from Boston) is still very keen on their history pertaining to these early settlers. “America’s Hometown” has the Pilgrim Historical State Park, which has reproduction ship called the Mayflower II that sits in the bay, Plimoth Plantation (living history museum), and of course, the famed Plymouth rock.
You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned this famed monolith yet. That’s because the pilgrims didn’t mention it either. This boulder merely represents the site where the Pilgrims first disembarked, a stepping stone if you will.
Anyway, it is the cornerstone of the Pilgrim State Park, and sits under a very fancy neoclassical portico. A true American icon, representing strength and resiliency, we’re all truly like a rock.