Friday, October 17, 2008
Today just did not get started right. I didnâ€™t know it then, but I should have taken that as a harbinger of things to come. I donâ€™t remember what it was about or how it got started but Margo and I got into a spat this morning. I think its part of the hazard of my vacation planning. I pack them full of things to do, so we end up a bit tired. Anyway we ended up eating our continental breakfast in silence.
We checked out and headed for our first stop.
One of the things our guide talked about last night was the Jenny Grist Mill. We had walked part of what is called the Town Brook. This small river was a chief reason the Pilgrims hung around this area. It was spring fed, so it never went dry. It was a spawning ground for herring, so fresh fish and fertilizer could be had. Plus it ran down a reasonably steep grade, so there was enough water flow to build a mill. The Jenny (surname of the guy who built in) Grist (a quantity of grain to be ground) Mill (a machine for grinding grain into powder form) was the first one built. I thought it would be a good idea to take a tour of the mill.
Brewster Gardens is one of the prettiest parks I have seen
So we parked our car and made began walking upstream on the Town Brook, retracing part of our tour. We walked through Brewster Garden, a small but very beautiful park that has the Town Brook winding though it. There were plenty of ducks and other birds to see.
There are several natural springs along the way that feed the river. It was kind of interesting to see water bubbling up from the ground. It looked like a sprinkler system had suffered a major breach.
First Parish Church
We walked the path along the stream until we reached the mill. It is a pretty good sized exhibit with a large water wheel to power the mill. But, for some reason my desire to actually take a tour had all but evaporated. Maybe I was still in a surly mood from earlier. The mill looked inviting enough, but all of a sudden I didnâ€™t feel it was worth the effort. So after asking Margoâ€™s opinion, she didnâ€™t care one way or the other, we headed back down the trail, towards the oldest section of Plymouth.
The oldest area of Plymouth encompasses Leyden St, Church St, The First Parish Church, and Burial Hill.
Those run in order eastbound from the water. We were west so our first stop was the church (because there was a restroom nearby) and then Burial Hill.
I don't think the Brewster's are there.
First Parish Church is the oldest continuous ministry in the United States. But, there is some controversy surrounding that claim. In 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived, they immediately began holding church services aboard the Mayflower, as they had no church yet. They did eventually get a real church building. They had several actually, before the current one, build of stone in 1899. The previous wooden ones, had a tendency to burn, likely from all of the fire and brimstone sermons.
Anyway, like I began, in 1620 the Pilgrims came over and were know as â€śSeparatistsâ€ť because they had separated from The Church of England.
Part of the reason for coming to America was to practice this brand of religion. Things went smoothly for about 180 years. Then a new minister, James Kendall, took over. Kendall had different ideas than the Separatists. He leaned towards Unitarianism. Iâ€™m sure there are pronounced and specific differences between the two, but I donâ€™t know what they are. I do know that the Separatists were self-governing and that the Unitarian church that Kendall liked had a main office, so to speak. With the preacher going one way, and a couple of hundred years of tradition pulling the other, a rift developed. In 1801, a vote was taken and the majority decided to become Unitarian. But, the vote was very close, and the losers decided that they would not just go with the flow. They broke off and formed a new congregation, and build a church almost next door. That church is now known as the The Church of the Pilgrimage. So depending on who you talk to the Unitarian church is the oldest because they got to keep all of the records, furniture, and have been worshiping in the same place for longer.
The correct James Warren
Or the Church of the Pilgrimage is older because their theology traces directly back to the Separatists in England, in 1606. My vote is for the Unitarian church because it was striking enough for me to take its picture.
William Bradford's tombstone
All of that was interesting, but we had to pee. There was a public restroom at the 1769 Courthouse, which was across the town square from the church. With that taken care of, and the aforementioned picture snapped, it was back west and very uphill, past the First Parish Church, to Burial Hill. When the folks of Plymouth say Burial Hill, they arenâ€™t just taking poetic license. This hill is significant. They have installed stairs to climb so you get up to the top to take a look at the ancient and historic graves.
I feel sorry for those who had to lug a body or stone up to the top. I suppose they used horsepower for the most part, but not always.
Anyway we got to the top and started searching for the graves. I enjoy cemeteries on the East Coast, because they are so much older than what I see back home. In Denver an old grave dates back to 1850. This cemetery had 100 years of use by then. The stones are made of slate, instead of granite, and look like they came out of an old movie or cartoon. But, these are very real and historical. I was looking primarily for William Bradford, but I knew from the signage that John and Mary Brewster and James Warren were around somewhere. John and Mary Brewster and William Bradford were both Mayflower passengers.
William Bradford took over as governor of Plymouth after the first winter killed about half of the colonists.
He was elected just about every year of his life thereafter in the position. Those years he wasnâ€™t elected, he asked not to be considered for the job. Being governor was a stressful job. William Bradford has quite a few famous descendants including the TV cook, Julia Child, actor Clint Eastwood, and acting brothers, Alec, Stephen, William, and Daniel Baldwin, to name a few.
The Sarcophagus filled with Pilgrim bones
William Brewster was Plymouthâ€™s preacher for the first 9 years. That was not his original plan, but because the colonyâ€™s original spiritual leader died before the trip across the ocean, the job fell to Brewster, as we was college educated and the senior elder. He, and his wife had at least six children. The Brewsters were fond of what are known as Virtue Names for their children. Examples of Virtue Names are Faith, Hope, Charity, and Grace. Among the Brewsters children were; Patience, Fear, Love, and Wrestling Brewster.
That latter one must have a different meaning back then. Margo and I never found the Brewsterâ€™s grave. I later found out that he might have been buried elsewhere.
James Warren was a politician and Revolutionary War general. He saw action at Bunker Hill and was active in the Sons of Liberty. But, he was more a politician than a soldier.
We took plenty of pictures and then tried to find the best spot on the top of the hill to take a shot of Plymouth Bay. There was no unobstructed spot, but we did manage to find one that was only partial blocked by a tree. Even so it is a great place to look out over the Bay.
Our next stop was Coleâ€™s Hill.
There were several things that I wanted revisit. Coleâ€™s Hill was just down Leyden Street from the Church and Burial Hill, in front of Water Street. Leyden Street is the oldest continually occupied street in America. This is where the Pilgrims built their first homes, and homes have been here ever since. Thatâ€™s more that 375 years.
Margo and I in front of the Engagement Tree
Once we got through Leyden Street we turned on to Carver St and went to the top of Coleâ€™s Hill. Coleâ€™s Hill was the first cemetery for the Pilgrims, and it got a lot of use. There were 104 people that came over on the Mayflower in 1620. Nearly half of them died that first winter. They buried them in unmarked graves on Coleâ€™s Hill. But, over the years bones were found after rains, or through construction work.
The finders knew what those bones were and they turned them into the city officials. When a fair amount had been collected it was decided that a box in a closet somewhere was not the best way to handle the remains of the Pilgrims. So a sarcophagus was constructed and the bones interred inside that. The sarcophagus was placed on Coleâ€™s Hill, and is inscribed with their story and a list of the deceased.
Cole's Hill, with the Engagement Tree on the right.
Across, on the other side of the hill is a statue of Massasoit, the sachum, or leader of the local Indian tribe, the Wampanoag. Massasoit was a strong leader among his people and a great friend to the early Plymouth settlers. Massasoit has some prior experience with Europeans and thought it prudent to make a treaty with them. The Europeans possessed guns and would make powerful allies against the enemies of the Wampanoag. Massasoit would later warn the Plymouth colonists about an impending attack on Plymouth, by several other Indian tribes.
The military protector of Plymouth, Captain Myles Standish organized his men and averted the attack.
My favorite story of the yesternightâ€™s tour involved Standish. A set of circumstances developed, the exact nature told several different way, in which the Captain was brought into the company of an Indian chief called Pecksuot. Though Pecksuot did not have as much political power as Massasoit, he did have the title of Pinese. A Pinese was the Indian equivalent of Delta Force. It was said that a Pinese could chase away 100 men. This particular Pinese commented to Standish, while sharpening his knife, in words to the effect said â€śShorty, you donâ€™t look like much to meâ€ť Standish was known to be height challenged and possessing a quick temper. Both Standish and Pecksuot were in the company of friends. The next day, when the two groups met again, Standish initiated a fight, took Pecksuetâ€™s knife away from him and killed him with it.
After word got out, that Standish had killed a Pinese in battle, this pretty much stopped troubles with hostile Indians (for a time) But, this not only eliminated hostilities, which was good. But, many Indians moved away, which took valuable trading partners away as well. Not so good.
The Mayflower II
We continued our trip across Coleâ€™s Hill and came upon the Engagement Tree. It is also called the â€śWedding Treeâ€ť. It was a tradition in days gone by, to plant a Linden tree upon the engagement of a couple. According to the story told to us by our lantern guide the engagement of this one particular couple, back in 1809, was a stormy one. When it was broken off, by the former groom, the abandoned bride pulled the Linden tree out by its roots and threw it in the street. A man happening on it, thought that was a shame and a waste of a nice tree, replanted it on the top of Coleâ€™s Hill, off on Water Street.
Plymouth Bay is too shallow for a peir. These boats are "docked"
Today, two hundred years later, the tree is now mostly dead, and will soon be taken out by the city. They have tried most everything to save it. But, nothing has worked. But, they have been able to take cuttings of the tree and are starting new, genetically identical trees to this original. The hope is that when the original tree has to be removed, one of these saplings will take its place. Margo and I accosted another tourist had her take our picture in front of the soon to be removed tree. Maybe we will go back one day to see its offspring.
With our tour of Coleâ€™s Hill complete we walked down the granite steps that lead from the top to Water Street and headed north. We had pretty much seen everything that I wanted to see, except for the Mayflower II, and Margo wanted to visit the shops.
We bopped around the shops on Water Street for an hour or so. We couldnâ€™t make up our minds exactly what to get for the kids back home. We were running out of vacation, so we pretty much had to finish up our shopping here in Plymouth. But, we finally did it. With t-shirts and things in hand we made a detour to our car, and headed back to Pilgrim Memorial State Park.
Plymouth Rock portico
It was time to finish up the day, so we headed towards the Mayflower II. Our guide last night told us that no one is sure what the original Mayflower looked like or what happened to it. The most credible claim, and it is far from substantiated, has one of the timbers being made into a barn in Buckinghamshire, England.
after the ship was scrapped about 1624. The Mayflower II was built in 1957 in England and sailed across the ocean to Plymouth, MA. We walked over to the ship and decided against touring the ship. We were both a little on the tired side, and we still had to drive up to Boston. So after snapping a few pictures we headed back to Plymouth Rock for a final look see.
Margo and The Rock
It was kind of appropriate to end our day at Plymouth Rock, as we had started our historical tour of the waterfront area there. I took a picture of Margo leaning against the portico and then we both went over to the viewing area. We were both a little bit surprised to see that it was now sitting in four inches of water. Tides are something us land locked Coloradans donâ€™t have to deal with.
Plymouth Rock in the tide
With a final picture of Plymouth Bay, we headed over to our car and headed out of town. Our next stop was Boston, where we had an evening tour of Boston, with stops in two graveyards scheduled. I was really looking forward to this.