Chapter 6



A Visit TO PLYMOUTH, 1882


Plymouth derives little dignity from its position, being planted on a narrow plateau that lies behind the sea, and a range of steep high bluffs that form quite a feature of the coast. Its chief characteristics are pretty white country houses embowered in trees. There are a few manufactories, but they are in the outskirts, and give little hint of their presence. Of commerce it has very little, Boston having long ago absorbed what might have fallen to its share, and it seems to have accepted quite contentedly its position as conservator of things rare and ancient. All visitors to Plymouth are perforce pilgrims, and it is fortunate that its varied objects of interest Forefathers’ Rock, Pilgrim Hall, Burial Hill, and the National Monument are within such easy distance of one another.

As one goes down Court Street from the railway station under fine old elms, one sees on the left an ornate building with a Done portico and much the appearance of a Grecian temple standing somewhat back from the village street. It is Pilgrim Hall, erected by the Pilgrim Society in 1824, and devoted to the


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preservation of relics of the forefathers. It also partakes of the character of a general museum. In its great hail one finds many mementoes of a historic past. There are paintings and portraits on the walls, and in cases arranged about the room are many relics of the fathers and of the tribes of the Old Colony. Of the paintings, the most noteworthy is Parker’s copy of Weir’s great picture of the embarkation in the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. Sargent’s large painting of the landing, which covers nearly the whole of the east wall, is barely within the range of criticism, since it was a gift from the artist. Among the portraits, the most noteworthy is that of Edward Winslow, third Governor of the colony, and one of the immortal forty-one who signed the compact on the Mayflower. It is a copy, the original being in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the only portrait, it is said, of a passenger on the Mayflower in existence. Near the Governor’s portrait is a noble face that of his son Josiah, the first native-born Governor of the colony; the beautiful Madonna-like face beside it is that of his wife Penelope. A stern, military figure in uniform is their grandson, the Major General John Winslow of the British Army to whom was entrusted the removal of the French Acadians from their homes. All of these worthies except Governor Edward lie buried in the old churchyard at Marshfield near the grave of Daniel Webster. A


38 In Olde Massachusetts

striking portrait is that of John Alden, grandson of John Alden and Priscilla. The face of Jonathan Trumbull, the famous war Governor of Connecticut, charms one by its air of stern uprightness. His son John Trumbull, the historical painter, is also portrayed here, and there is a copy of an original portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh, painted by a London artist, which was formerly the property of President Jefferson.

The glass cases ranged about the room attract the greater number of visitors. They contain relics of the forefathers and mothers far too precious to be exposed to the dust or the rapacity of the curiosity-seeker. Those relating to Miles Standish are exceedingly interesting. There are several of these Holland brick from the burned ruins of his house in Duxbury, his great pewter platter with a rim at least four inches wide and a pit of proportionate depth, and his sword, the trenchant blade that again and again saved the little colony from destruction. There are traditions that it was made of meteoric stone by the Persian Magi, and that it possessed talismanic virtues. It is known to be of Persian manufacture, and was no doubt won from some Spanish hidalgo by the Captain in his wars in the low countries. On the blade is engraved the sun and the moon. On the face is an Arabic inscription to this effect: "With peace God ruled his slaves, and with judgment of his arm he gave trouble to the valiant of the mighty." On the reverse of the blade are two


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other inscriptions, one obscure, the other meaning, "In God is all might." We have in this case, too, a sampler wrought by the daughter of Miles Standish, a few years perhaps before her death. Into the cloth, below the intricate maze of needlework, is stitched this pious stanza


"Lorea Standish is my name;

Lord, guide my heart that I may do Thy will;

Also fill my hands with such convenient skill

As may conduce to virtue void of shame;

And I will give the glory to Thy name."


The Captain’s dinner-pot has been relegated to the floor. It is a huge affair, with a jointed bail an(1 capacious stomach, rather insecurely mounted on three rudimentary legs. In one corner, under the great Sargent picture, is the arm-chair of Elder Brewster, made of toughest oak, and capacious enough for the person of Von Twiller himself. The good elder must have purchased it at Leyden or Delfthaven, for it never could have been fashioned for an Englishman. In the opposite corner is a model of that famous vessel, the Mayflower. Near it is the cradle in which Peregrine White, the first baby born to the colonists, was rocked. There is the halberd of John Alden a murderous weapon, with a long oaken staff his Bible, a deed acknowledged before him in 1653, an original letter from King Philip, the first Plymouth patent, dated 16921, the oldest State paper in the United States, and


41   In Olde Massachusetts

scores of other relics intimately connected with the early settlers. One of the most interesting bits of the collection escapes the attention of the ordinary visitor. It may be found in one of the cases on the north side, and is the original copy of Bryant’s tribute to the Pilgrims "The Twenty-second of December." A companion piece is the first draft of Mrs. Hemans’ well-known hymn to the Pilgrims. An autograph poem on the Pilgrim Fathers by Ebenezer Elliot, the corn-law rhymer, completes the collection, which was given to the Pilgrim Society in 1880 by James T. Fields.

Passing out of the historic building, we see near the right-hand corner an iron fence, elliptical in form, enclosing a chastely cut granite pillar, erected to the memory of the signers of the famous compact. Their names inscribed on scrolls attached to the railing encircle the stone. Going south from Pilgrim Hall a few blocks, one comes to a large and handsome building, situated so far back from the street that there is room for a pretty park between. This is the County Court-house, erected in 1820 and remodeled in 1857. There are two entrances, one on the north, the other on the south. If one enters on the south and passes through a long corridor to the further end, he will have on his left the office of the Register of Deeds. In this room, under the care of Mr. William S. Danforth, Secretary of the Pilgrim Society, is preserved one of the oldest, most complete and extensive collections of legal


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and State papers in the land. They comprise the earliest records of Plymouth Colony, its laws, the allotment of lands, the original plan of the town, the records of the first church, the deeds, mortgages, and wills of the men famous in history. One easily fixes upon the original patent of the colony granted by the Earl of Warwick in 1629 as the most interesting. It is kept in the original box in which it came from England, and still retains the great wax seal which gave it validity. Of almost equal interest is the first order for trial by jury, in the quaint handwriting of Governor Bradford. Here, too, is the will of Standish, with his autograph attached, the order for the first customs law, the order dividing the cattle into lots, one cow being divided into thirteen lots, that is, her milk was distributed among thirteen families.

The chief object for all pilgrims is, of course, Forefathers’ Rock. To reach it from the Court-house, one follows the main street a short distance south to Shirley Square. From this point a narrow side-street, the original Leyden Street of the Pilgrims, leads down to the docks and shipping. Here, near the water’s edge, amid the din and stir of traffic, one finds the historic stone. Probably the first feeling of all visitors is one of disappointment. There is no stormy and rock-bound coast, as one has been led to expect, but a low, sandy shore, a natural landing-place. The rock itself is not a part of some huge cliff, but a boulder brought down


42  In Olde Massachusetts

by the glaciers and deposited here to form the steppingstone of a new empire. A granite canopy, designed by Billings and erected by the Pilgrim Society, covers it, and adds still more to the incongruity of its surroundings. Cole’s Hill, a little bluff overtopping the rock, is also vastly changed since Master Coppin used it as a landmark in guiding the Pilgrim shallop to land. This hill was the first burial-ground of the Pilgrims, it will be remembered, nearly half the whole ship’s company having been laid here ere the first year had passed, and their graves sown over with wheat, that the Indians might not discover the weakness of the colony. The hill now is turfed, surrounded by an iron railing, and granite steps lead down its side to the rock. We found Burial Hill, overlooking the central part of the village, exceedingly interesting. Here stood the earliest church, and here still rests the dust of the forefathers.

The churchyard is quite populous; there are more inhabitants here than in the village below. The tombstones are in a great variety of form and material, though the dark slate of England and the marble and granite of our own country predominate. The earlier headstones were brought from England before there was any stonecutter in the colony, and bear the winged cherub above the inscription, with much curious tracery on the sides. The oldest stone now standing is one erected to the memory of Edward Gray, a merchant who died in 168L A stone to William Crowe, near the


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head of the path, bears date 1683—4. There is one to Thomas Clark, said to have been mate of the Mayflower, erected in 1697; one to Mrs. Hannah Clark, 1687; one to John Cotton, 1699; these being all the original stones of the seventeenth century that remain. Too many of those that rest here sleep in obscurity. Not any of the one hundred and two souls of the Mayflower have their graves surely designated by the customary hic jacet, nor any of those who followed in the ship Fortune in 16~21, save one Thomas Cushman; and of those who came in the Ann and Little James, in 16~23, only one Thomas Clark is remembered by any form of memorial. Tradition, however, has pointed out the places of sepulture of some of them, and on these spots their descendants have erected suitable monuments. Two attract the eye at once by their stateliness the shaft in memory of William Bradford, the first Governor of Plymouth Colony and its faithful chronicler, and that erected by filial piety to the memory of Elder Robert.

The view from the summit of the hill is beautiful in the extreme. The village lies at your feet; before you the circle of Plymouth Bay rounds north and south, its northern headland being Captain’s Hill, with the Standish monument crowning its peak, and its southern the bold bluffs of Manomet. It was interesting to look into the modern town and compare it with De Rasière’s description of 1627:


44  In Olde Massachusetts

"The houses," be observes, "are constructed of hewn planks with gardens also enclosed behind and at the sides, so that their houses and courtyards are arranged in very good order with a stockade against a sudden attack. At the ends of the street there are three wooden gates. In the center, on a cross street, stands the Governor’s house, before which is a square enclosure, upon which four pateros are mounted so as to flank along the street. . . . Upon the hill they have a large square house with a flat roof. . . . The lower part they use for their church, where they preach on Sundays and the usual holidays. They assemble by beat of drum, each with his musket or firelock, in front of the Captain’s door; they have their cloaks on and place themselves in order there abreast, and are led by a sergeant without beat of drum. Behind comes the Governor in a long robe, beside on the right hand comes the preacher with his cloak on, and on the left hand the Captain with his side arms and cloak on and with a small cane in his hand; and so they march in good order, and each gets his arms down near him. Thus they are constantly on their guard night and day."

I have before spoken of the range of hills that encircles the village. On the highest of these the Pilgrim Society, with the aid of contributions from the nation at large, has erected a monument to the memory of the Forefathers. There is so much of the crude and incon


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gruous in American sculpture that it is a pleasure to be able to commend this memorial. It is partly at least in accord with the genius of the place, and fitly presents the character and work of the men it is intended to commemorate. The material is Maine granite. The general design is that of an octagon pedestal forty-five feet high, on which stands a colossal statue of Faith. Four subordinate figures on buttresses projecting from the pedestal represent Morality, Education, Law, and Liberty. Beneath these in alto-relief are represented the departure, the signing of the compact, the landing, and the first treaty with the Indians. There are four panels on the four faces of the main pedestal, one on the front having the inscription of the monument, and those on the right and left the names of the passengers of the Mayflower. The fourth panel awaits an inscription. The pedestal was placed in position in the summer of 1876. The statue of Faith is the gift of Oliver Ames, a native of Plymouth, and was put in place in 1877. But one of the smaller statues that of Morality is now in position. It was the gift of the State of Massachusetts. The alto-relief beneath it was the contribution of Connecticut. The statue of Education is completed, with its companion alto-relief, both being the gift of Mr. Rowland Matber, of Hartford, Conn. The two other statues, Law and Liberty, are yet unprovided for, and await the contributions of those who honor the memory of the Pilgrims.