One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the living-history museum of Plimoth-Patuxet. The plantation is divided into two areas: the indigenous village area of the Wampanoag people and the 17th century English (pilgrim) settlement.
The Plentiful Cafe
Before we began our self-guided tour, we had lunch at the museum’s cafe. (Check out their dining and catering options!) There is a beautiful view of the Eel River and delicious historically-inspired food.
The Wampanoag at Patuxet
Afterward, we followed a nature trail to the recreated Wampanoag village. The docents in Patuxet are descended from the Wampanoag and other indigenous tribes. Today, 5000 Wampanoag live in Massachusetts.
The Wampanoag (People of the Dawn) lived in southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island for around 12,000 years. They estimate a population of 50,000 – 100,000 lived in various villages around the territory. Between 1616 – 1618, a plague–accidentally introduced by European fishermen and explorers–decimated the Wampanoag peoples. When the pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower on November 11, 1620, they saw cleared land but no sign of natives.
A docent at the Mayflower II (see my blog) told me the remaining Wampanoag were eager to partner with the English colonists because they had brought guns and cannon. An alliance with them would help protect the Wampanoag from other, potentially hostile, indigenous tribes.
Actually, the English colonists referred to themselves as planters (farmers) and adventurers (stockholders: “those who adventured their money.”). It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the rare term of “pilgrim” was widely applied. But it is a fitting title (a traveler, esp. as a religious devotee) so we will use it here.
Why Did The Pilgrims Come to North America?
Briefly: A large group of English Protestants, known as Separatists, tried to separate from the Church of England but were violently persecuted by the English government. There was no separation of church and state and it was considered treasonous to form a religious group outside the Church of England. First the Separatists fled to Amsterdam, then moved to Leiden, Holland, where they lived for twelve years. This period of time coincided with a truce between the Netherlands and Spain. When the truce was up, the Leiden congregation decided it would be safer to leave Holland and seek a better life in the Virginia Colony of America. They contracted with English merchants (Thomas Weston) to travel and establish a colony that would export goods back to England.
17th Century Pilgrim Village
I didn’t think anything could impress me more than the Wampanoag village, but then we saw the recreated Pilgrim settlement.
Homes, true to the 1600s, are filled with furniture and handcrafted toys like the pilgrims would have used.
As fascinated as we were by the recreated village, my husband and I were most affected by the actors who populated the village. Not only did they dress the part, they spoke the dialect so well that they were often hard to understand. And they obviously enjoyed their roles. One woman in particular cracked us up. After I had looked into “her” house and noticed just one bed, I asked if the children had mattresses? She looked shocked and answered, “Why do they need beds as if they are kings and queens? The floor is good enough for the likes of them!”
We also spoke with a pilgrim (I didn’t get his name) who was suffering from “melancholy” that day. I don’t know if he meant depression or ill-health. I wish I’d recorded him talking – he spoke a great dialect. An example of the dialect: if a word ends with “ed,” they pronounce it: “resolv-ed,” “tim-ed.” The Pilgrims/actors also used the word “divers” and “sundry” quite often. i.e. “. . . many came unto them, from divers (separate) parts of England,” and, “. . . they were of sundry (assorted) towns and villages” (quotes from Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford).
The Two-Story Fort
The pilgrims originally built a fort overlooking their town, woods, and bay. There was a real possibility of attack from invading French or Spanish, pirates, and unfriendly Indian tribes. Pilgrims also used the fort as a meetinghouse for church, town, and court.
Toys for Children
Though pilgrim children did much labor, they took time out for schooling and play. We saw some great toys that I wished were popular today. I, for one, think rolling a hoop around a park would be great fun!
Plan Your Visit
The Plimoth-Patuxet Museums are closed for the winter, but this is a good time to plan a Spring vacation! They will open again in April, 2022. Unfortunately, their website is not listing operating hours, but they do have a helpful Practical Questions page.
The museums also include the Mayflower II and the Grist Mill. If you would like to virtually visit the Mayflower II (and learn a bit about sailors’ tattoos), you can read my last blog here.
I will leave you with a poem by Plimoth’s second governor and historian, William Bradford:
Epitaphium Meum or My Epitaph
From my years young in days of youth,
God did make known to me his truth,
And call’d me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace
In wilderness he did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, through weal and woe,
As pilgrim passed I to and fro:
Oft left of them whom I did trust;
How vain it is to rest on dust!
A man of sorrows I have been,
And many changes I have seen.
Wars, wants, peace, plenty have I known;
And some advanc’d, others thrown down.
The humble, poor, cheerful and glad;
Rich, discontent, sower and sad:
When fears with sorrows have been mixed,
Consolations came betwixt.
Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust,
Fear not the things thou suffer must;
For, whom he loves he doth chastise,
And then all tears wipes from their eyes.
Farewell, dear children, whom I love,
Your better father is above:
When I am gone, he can supply;
To him I leave you when I die.
Fear him in truth, walk in his ways,
And he will bless you all your days.
My days are spent, old age is come,
My strength it fails, my glass near run:
Now I will wait when work is done,
Until my happy change shall come,
When from my labors I shall rest
With Christ above for to be blest.
Thank you for sharing William Bradford’s beautiful poem with us. I’m happy that I could even decipher it as it wasn’t loaded with Old English wordiness.
On the topic of the Wampanoag’s dug out canoe; they know how to work smarter and not harder! While visiting Plimoth Plantation years ago, I saw that the huge canoe-to-be log was actually “dug out” using fire. A monitored and controlled fire was built inside the log, then the ash and burnt wood could be easily removed! Smaht!!! (In Massachusetts we don’t always pronounce our Rs. 😅)
Wonderful insight, thank you Jeannine! I’m glad you appreciated Bradford’s poem too. Thanks for commenting!