Almost exactly 399 years ago, a band of unhappy Leidenites left Plymouth, England, anxious to start a new life, free from persecution for their religious beliefs and free to persecute any heretics who had the temerity to disagree with those beliefs. Most school kids learn that the Pilgrims sailed aboard the Mayflower directly across to Plymouth Rock. Actually they cruised up to Plymouth, Massachusetts, only after ransacking some Indian food stores and graves further south. Still, as we rounded into Plymouth Harbor after leaving Boston we could imagine how relieved they must’ve been to see the welcoming lighthouse.
We know the Pilgrims passed a lighthouse on their way in because we found a picture, painted just as Massasoit saw things through his fashionable tortoise-shell glasses. (We figure there’s no way the local ophthalmologist who sponsored the painting would be deceptive, although there are no lenses in the glasses.)
We both admit to imagining Plymouth Rock as a majestic natural monument to the courage and fortitude of Miles Standish, William Brewster, and the rest of the gang, who used it as the first giant step for American mankind. As it happens, the structure around the Rock in fact is rather grand.
The rock, not so much.
Plymouth Rock actually is kind of puny. Plus, there’s no real evidence anyone stepped on it at all. Even worse, at some point the Rock was moved, and broken in half, reassembled, and then plopped where some unknown person guessed was an historically-appropriate spot on the shore but nobody knows for sure. The concept is cool, but the production is on the sketchy side. (At least we know the rock dates back to exactly 1620, of course, because some unknown person chiseled “1620” right there on top.)
Anyway, it was pretty lucky for Plymouth that the Mayflower stopped here. Certainly the tourism industry has benefitted greatly. Plymouth does Pilgrims like PEI does Anne of Green Gables. Most of the tacky stuff we skipped, but we enjoyed the walking around part. For example, we visited Burial Hill and William Bradford’s spot in it.
That’s pretty cool. A bunch of other Pilgrims are up on the hill there as well. Yet others apparently were just dumped together under another marble monument closer to what then was town.
None of the original buildings from the settlement have survived, but we’re still glad we stopped off here even though we only stopped off here because the marina refused to waive the cancellation penalty.
A couple of nice Plymouth sunrises are in the books, so we’re heading out tomorrow.