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Title: A guide to Plymouth and its history

Author: Helen T. Briggs

Rose T. Briggs

Illustrator: Raymond C. Dreher

Release date: February 15, 2023 [eBook #70046]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The Pilgrim Society and the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, 1938

Credits: Steve Mattern, Karin Spence and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


And Its History

Compiled from Inscriptions on Tablets, Monuments
& Statues erected in Honor of Its Founders
THE PILGRIMS, or given in prose or verse
on Occasions of Memorial Celebrations

By Helen T. Briggs and Rose T. Briggs

Illustrated by Raymond C. Dreher


Copyright, 1938
By The Plymouth Antiquarian Society

PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts



decorative P

Plymouth preserves with loyal respect the places which are associated with her Forefathers, the Pilgrims.

In the town they founded, tablets, statues, and public monuments bear witness to the veneration that historical societies, the State, and the Nation, hold for the memory of that small group of men and women, simple in their origin, exalted in their purpose, who were destined to prove themselves great among the greatest, and whose example of a free commonwealth and a free faith, is one of the far-reaching influences in history.

Many questions are asked by visitors to Plymouth about Plymouth history and the localities of Pilgrim Life. It is the purpose of this short guide to review the Pilgrim story and give in the words of permanent inscriptions, the public estimation of the Pilgrims and their accomplishment.

Plymouth, 1938.


In grateful memory
Of our ancestors
Who exiled themselves from their
native country
for the sake of Religion
And here successfully laid the
of Freedom and Empire
their descendants the Pilgrim Society
have raised this edifice


“Forever honored be this, the place of our fathers’ refuge! Forever remembered the day which saw them, weary and distressed, broken in everything but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage, at last secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing this shore with the first footsteps of civilized man!”

—Daniel Webster

From the oration delivered
at Plymouth December 22,
1820, in commemoration of
the first settlement of New


Foreword i
The Pilgrims of the Mayflower 9
List of Mayflower Passengers 10
The Compact 13
Signers of the Compact 14
From Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts 15
Departure and Landfalls
Inscriptions at:
Southampton 15
Provincetown 15
Exploration 16
Plymouth Rock 16
The Monument over Plymouth Rock 17
Coles Hill. The First Burying Ground 18
List of Those Who Died in the First Winter 19
Statue of Massasoit 20
Memorial Seats 20
The First Street (Leyden Street) 21
Common House 22
Town Brook—The Brewster Gardens 24
Burial Hill 26
The Fort 26
The Guns 27
The Pilgrim Progress 28
The Graves 29
The Memorial to the Pilgrim Women 33
List of Women and Girls Who Came in the Mayflower
The National Monument to the Forefathers 34
The First Church in Plymouth 36
The Covenant 36
The Elders 37
The Congregation—from Dr. Charles W. Eliot’s inscription on the Standish Monument in Duxbury 37
The Meetinghouses 38
The Colony and Town Records (1620–1691)
The Pilgrim Citizen—from “The Pilgrim Spirit” by George P. Baker 40
The Colony and Town Records, and the Records of the New England Confederacy 41
The Pilgrim Society
Its establishment and purpose 43
Its history 43
Its collections 44
The Old Colony Club 47
Its celebration of Forefathers’ Day
The Plymouth Antiquarian Society 48
The Antiquarian House 51
The Harlow House: A 17th Century Home 53
The Howland House 55
The Sparrow House 56
Authorities 57



The Pilgrims of the Mayflower

“So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place near twelve years; but they knew that they were Pilgrims, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.”

Bradford: History of Plymouth Plantation

 decorative T

The little ship Mayflower of about 120 tons burden according to the present register, Capt. Christopher Jones commanding, set sail from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620.

She carried a crowded company: men with their wives and children, young men and maidens, eager with a sober spirit to found a colony, and make their permanent homes in the new world of America. Because of religious differences, they had already separated themselves from the established Church of England, and in consequence had suffered persecution, fines, and imprisonment.

Their small congregations had met in secret that they might worship according to their own principles and ideals.

Some of them had previously left their homes in the villages of York, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire, and had spent twelve years of exile in Holland, where they found hospitable and friendly tolerance in the cities of Amsterdam and Leyden.

But after long and serious debate, it was decided that they must seek greater liberty for themselves and their children; so banding together part of the congregation in Leyden with others in England, the passengers of the Mayflower sailed, not as conquerors of a new province, or adventurers of fortune, but as Pilgrims with a fixed purpose to secure civic and religious freedom in a new land.



“The names of those who came over first in
the year 1620
and were by the blessing of God the first
beginners and (in a sort) the foundation
of all the Plantations and Colonies
in New England.”

*Died the first winter


“Immortal scroll! the first where men combined
From one deep lake of common blood to draw
All rulers, rights and potencies of law.”
—John Boyle O’Reilley

Poem read at the dedication of the National Monument to the Forefathers August 1, 1889.


The Pilgrims held a charter issued to a member of a company of London merchants who had agreed to support their venture.

They intended to make a settlement somewhat to the north of the already established colony in Virginia, but storms buffeted the little ship, and head winds drove her from her course. When at last land was sighted after a weary voyage, they found themselves many leagues further north than they had intended.

With winter upon them, they knew that they must establish themselves at once, outside of the territory originally granted them, and that their charter would not cover this emergency. They determined to act for themselves.

In the cabin of the Mayflower before they came to anchor in “Cape Codd” bay, on Nov. 21, 1620 (N.S.), the men of the Company drew up and signed a compact for their government, electing their own officers, and binding themselves to work together for their common good and their common faith.

From this simple mutual agreement, took form the first American commonwealth, the beginning “of government of the people, by the people, for the people.”


“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do, by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, anno Domini 1620.”



The “Compact” was succeeded, in law, if not in the respect of the colonists, by a regular patent taken out in the name of one of the Adventurers (the English investors) in 1621. This is now in Pilgrim Hall. It was superseded by another, also to the Adventurers; and finally, in 1629, after the colonists had bought out the English investors, by one to “Wm. Bradford and associates,”—that is, the freemen of the colony. By thus transferring the “home office” of the company from London to America, the colony became an all but independent government. Consciously or unconsciously, it had from the beginning exercised most of the functions of a sovereign state, and continued to do so, except during the “tyranny” of Sir Edmund Andros, until it merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.


From Plymouth, England


Plymouth, Massachusetts

In England:

“On the 25th of August 1620
From the West Quay near this spot
The famous Mayflower began her voyage
Carrying the little company of
Pilgrim Fathers
Who were destined to be the founders
Of the New England States of America.”

Memorial tablet at Southampton, England. Placed by the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America.

At Provincetown:

“They established and maintained on the bleak and barren edge of a vast wilderness, a state without a king or a noble, a church without a bishop or a priest, a democratic commonwealth the members of which were ‘straightly tied to all care of each other’s good, and for the whole by every one.’

“With long suffering devotion and sober resolution they illustrated for the first time in history the principles of civic and religious liberty and the practices of a genuine democracy.

“Therefore the remembrance of them shall be perpetual in the vast republic that has inherited their ideals.”

From the inscription written by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard, for the Memorial Monument to the Pilgrims in Provincetown, Massachusetts.



While the Mayflower lay at anchor in Cape Cod bay, two exploring parties had been sent out to search for a suitable place for a settlement.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16 (N.S.) the third expedition sailed along the shore in the shallop owned by the Pilgrim company. There were eighteen men on board: two officers, the master-gunner, and three seamen from the Mayflower, and ten Pilgrim volunteers. These were Gov. Carver, Capt. Standish, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Tilley, Edward Tilley, John Howland, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Dotey, Richard Warren, and two of the Pilgrims’ own seamen, John Allerton and Thomas English.

The weather was cold and rough, and the voyage proved an adventurous and memorable one.

On the second day, they escaped unharmed a sudden and violent attack from a band of Indians on the shore. When they resumed their voyage a storm arose, and in the blinding snow, with high winds and a rough sea, they were nearly shipwrecked.

At last in the darkness they found shelter in the lee of a small island at the mouth of Plymouth harbor, and passed the night safely on shore.

When the sun shone the next morning, they dried their soaked clothing, looked after their firearms, repaired the damaged shallop, and gave thanks to God “for his mercies in their manifold deliverances.” “And this being the last day of the week, they prepared there to keep the Sabbath.”

Plymouth Rock:

On Monday, December 21, they crossed to the mainland, finding a channel “fit for shipping” and a sheltered harbor. There they made their first landing on a rock on the shore.

The situation seemed promising. They marched into the land and found deserted corn fields “and little running brooks.” “A place fit for situation; at least it was the best they could find.” “So they returned to their ship again, with this news to the rest of their people, which did much comfort their hearts.”

The Mayflower then weighed anchor for Plymouth, where three days were spent in anxious deliberation. They asked Divine Guidance on the momentous question of the settlement, and it was at last decided to accept the first site considered, and build their houses on the bank of the brook running into the sea, near the rock where they first landed.


Thus Plymouth Rock became “the stepping-stone of a nation.” The Rock has long been fully identified; notably in 1741 by Elder Thomas Faunce, who, at the age of ninety-five, in the presence of his sons and many spectators, declared his knowledge of it was received from his father and the Pilgrims still living in his boyhood.


For the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America built a beautiful portico of Doric columns over the Rock.

This replaced the “monumental canopy,” whose corner stone had been laid Aug. 2, 1859, under the care of the Pilgrim Society.

At the beginning of the Revolution, a large section, split from the main rock, had been carried by the patriots of Plymouth with great ceremony and enthusiasm to the Town Square, and there placed beneath a Liberty Pole to rouse and maintain patriotic feeling.

In 1834 this fragment was removed to the front of Pilgrim Hall, and surrounded by an iron railing inscribed with the names of the Pilgrim Fathers. It was returned to the shore again in 1880, and the severed fragment fitted into its original position.

Finally in 1921, all parts of the Rock were strongly cemented together, and now rest, where the tide reaches it, under the new portico on the shore.

The park reservation surrounding the Rock, from the roadway eastward to the water, is the property of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is cared for and controlled by the State.

“Plymouth Rock does not mark a beginning or an end. It marks a revelation of that which is without beginning and without end, a purpose shining through eternity with a resplendent light, undimmed even by the imperfections of men, and a response, an answering purpose from those who oblivious, disdainful of all else, sought only an avenue for the immortal soul.”

—Calvin Coolidge

Address read at the opening of the Tercentenary Celebration at Plymouth, Dec. 21, 1920.


The first Burying Ground.

“But what was most sad and lamentable was, that in two or three months half of their number died, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts.”

—from William Bradford’s
Of Plymouth Plantation

Before the Mayflower left Cape Cod, and while she lay at anchor in Plymouth harbor, a violent and fatal sickness broke out among her passengers.

Confinement in their close and crowded cabin, the hardship of a long and stormy voyage, poor food, and the exposure of building their first houses on shore, caused many of the Pilgrim company to lose their lives, in sight of the promised land they had ventured so much to gain.

Hardly a family but lost one or two of its members; wives, their husbands, children, their parents; before spring came, one half of the little colony had perished and were secretly buried on this hill by the shore.

Three hundred years later, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants placed a handsome sarcophagus to honor and receive these dead from their nameless graves, which time and accident had disturbed, and the Massachusetts Tercentenary Commission set aside a park reservation on the crest of the hill, to surround the monument. It was formally dedicated September 8, 1921.

On the side facing the street, the inscription reads:

“This Monument marks the First Burying Ground in Plymouth of the Passengers of the Mayflower.

“Here under cover of darkness the fast dwindling company laid their dead, levelling the earth above them lest the Indians should know how many were the graves.

“Reader! History records no nobler venture for faith and freedom than that of this Pilgrim band.

“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and cold they laid the foundations of a state wherein every man, through countless ages should have liberty to worship God in his own way.

“May their example inspire thee to do thy part in perpetuating and spreading the lofty ideals of our republic throughout the world!”


At one end of the memorial is inscribed:

“The Bones of the Pilgrims found at various times in or near this enclosure and preserved for many years in the canopy over the Rock were returned at the time of the Tercentenary celebration and are deposited within this monument.”

“Erected by the General Society of
Mayflower Descendants A.D. 1920.”

On the opposite end of the monument is:

“About a hundred sowls came over in this first ship, and began this work which God in his Goodness hath hithertoe Blessed. Let his Holy Name have ye praise.”

Bradford 1650.


On the opposite side of the monument, facing the sea, is a list of the Pilgrims who died in the first winter, as follows:

“of the hundred and four passengers these died in Plymouth during the first year:

The following died before reaching Plymouth:



Not far from the Sarcophagus stands a fine statue of the Indian Sachem Massasoit. It was modeled by the sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, and given by the National Order of Red Men. It was unveiled September 5, 1921, and dedicated in October of same year.

Massasoit, the grand sachem of the confederated tribes of Pokanoket, visited Plymouth on a fine spring day, April 1st, 1621. He was received with ceremony, a feast and gifts. A treaty of peace and friendship was drawn up and signed by him and the Pilgrims. He remained their loyal friend, and preserved peace with the colony for half a century.


Two stone seats have also been given as memorials, and placed on the hill, one near the statue of Massasoit, and the other under the great linden tree at the northern end. This was dedicated August 31st, 1921, and inscribed:

Presented by
The Pennsylvania Society
New England Women
To commemorate the Tercentenary
of the
Landing of the Pilgrims

The inscription of the other seat reads:

In Memory
The Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers whose
heroic idealism established the basic principles
of the government of our land.
Presented by
The Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Seated here, with the wide view of harbor, Plymouth Beach, and distant ocean spread before them

“Let musing strangers view the ground,
Here seek tradition’s lore,
Where Pilgrims walked on holy ground
With God in days of yore.”
Samuel Davis


The First Street

Since it was the twenty-first of December when the first exploring party landed in Plymouth, and winter was fast closing in, the first work to be undertaken by the men of the Mayflower was to provide shelter for their families and a storage place for their supplies.

A Common House was the first to be built, and other houses were added as those who survived the fatal epidemic were able “in their great weakness” to accomplish the heavy task. They tenderly cared for the sick and dying, and toiled through the winter weather with incredible courage, and an unshaken faith; when spring came the Mayflower sailed on her homeward voyage, but not one of the Pilgrim Company relinquished his fixed purpose and returned to England. The women bravely supported the men, and were determined to make and maintain their homes and rear their children in this new land of opportunity for civil and religious liberty.

Along the bank of the brook, the Pilgrims found cleared land, the abandoned cornfields of a tribe of native Indians who had perished about three years before in another mysterious epidemic. High land rose from the shore to a hill beyond, and following the ascent, the first street was laid out.

Along this pathway, Governor Carver portioned to each person a lot of land, each plot to be of the same size: three rods long and half a rod wide. The company was divided into nineteen families, and each family was to build its own house, which was to front the street, with a garden behind, those on the south side sloping down to the brook. The lots were to be inclosed with high palings for protection. The houses are described as built of hewn plank, the roofs thatched with swamp grass.

A partial plan of the location of the allotments was roughly drawn by William Bradford, and may still be seen at the Registry of Deeds on Russell St. in Plymouth. Seven houses were built during the first winter. It was not until March that the last of the women and children who had been sheltered during the winter on the Mayflower, were brought on shore to live.

The Common House was the first to be finished. It sheltered[22] the men working on shore; the community assembled there on the Sabbath, until the lower room in the Fort was ready for this purpose; there the Colony business was transacted, and the first “Court Days”, from which the New England institution of the Town Meeting was to develop, were held. It was used, too, as a hospital for the sick, and after the dwelling houses were built, it served as a store house. It is marked with a tablet:


This tablet is erected by the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts to mark
the site of the first house built by
The Pilgrims

In that house on the 21st of February 1621 (New Style) the right of popular suffrage was exercised and Myles Standish was chosen Captain by a majority vote. On or near this spot, April 1, 1621, the memorable treaty with Massasoit was made.

Next to the Common House came that of Peter Brown, and third, that of John Goodman. Farther up the street, at its intersection by the path to the Indian ford over the brook, was the house and land of William Brewster, Elder and spiritual leader of the Colony.

Across the path, continuing up the hill, were the houses of John Billington, Francis Cooke, and Edward Winslow. On the opposite side, conveniently near his duties at the fort, was the house of Captain Myles Standish. Next to that, descending the hill again towards the shore, was the large lot and house of the Governor, William Bradford. Part of his garden was used in 1637 for the site of the first Meeting House. Next to Bradford’s house came those of Stephen Hopkins, and of the faithful physician, Dr. Samuel Fuller. On most of these lots, descriptive tablets have been placed by the Town of Plymouth.


Six years after the first labor of building the settlement had been accomplished, the Colony received a visitor from the Dutch trading post at Manhattan, which sent its Secretary, Isaac De Rasiere, to confer with them about their respective trading transactions.

In a letter to Holland after his return from Plymouth, he describes vividly and minutely the town as he saw it in October 1627.

“New Plymouth lies on the slope of a hill, stretching east toward the seacoast, with a broad street about a cannon shot of about eight hundred feet long leading down the hill.... The houses are constructed of hewn plank, with gardens also enclosed behind and at the sides with hewn planks, so that their houses and court yards are arranged in very good order, with a stockade against a sudden attack; and at the ends of the street are three wooden gates.

In the center at the cross street stands the Governor’s house, before which is a square enclosure upon which four patteros are mounted so as to flank along the streets.”

The old street, following unchanged its original direction, has been in constant use for more than three hundred years, and its present inhabitants number several descendants of the first dwellers.


Town Brook
The Brewster Gardens

“The meersteads and garden plottes of those which came first, layed out 1620.”

To honor the memory of the courageous men and women who established their homes and made their gardens along the Town Brook in 1621–22, Mrs. William Forbes of Milton, with the co-operation of the Town, created in 1920–22, a beautiful little park on the site of the first meersteads.

The land apportioned to Elder Brewster was half way up the hill, and his garden sloped down to the brook. A flowing spring in the hollow has been reclaimed for a drinking fountain, and a branch has also been piped to the Main Street in front of the Government Building which was built on Brewster land.

The inscription on the fountain reads:

“Pilgrim Spring
on the Meerstead
set off to
Elder William Brewster
in the original allotment
December, 1620
erected by the Town 1915
“Freely drink and quench your thirst
Here drank the Pilgrim Fathers first.”

Near a little pool below the spring stands a fine statue of a Pilgrim Maiden, by H. H. Kitson. It is inscribed:

“To those intrepid English women whose courage, fortitude, and devotion brought a new nation into being, this statue of the Pilgrim maiden is dedicated.”

Presented to the Town of Plymouth by the
National Society of New England Women.


The statue is full of life, vigorous and alert, typical of the strength and cheerful courage with which the youthful Pilgrims met the hardships and dangers of their new homes.

Above the spring, on the upward path to the street, the National Society of Daughters of the American Colonists have placed a stone seat in remembrance of the women who came in the ship Ann in 1623. From here the brook in its little valley can be seen winding to the sea; on its banks, the gardens which still bloom behind the old houses on Leyden Street, occupy the same ground as those “garden plottes” where the Pilgrim women cultivated the herbs which they consigned to England, three hundred years ago. Perhaps no gardens in America can claim a longer history of continuous use.

At the mouth of the brook was the herring weir, built before 1627 to control the annual run of herring up the stream to the fresh water ponds above. The herring still run in the spring through a similar weir, and are still a source of revenue to the town.

The Town Brook with its springs of “sweet water,” the herring fishing, and the ford which lead to the Indian encampment on the southern hill, made one of the important centers of the community life, and the gardens and sunny exposures of the little houses on the bank, protected by the guns on the Fort Hill above them, must have given some quiet and happy moments to the anxious and homesick Pilgrim women.


Burial Hill
Called Fort Hill until 1698


On the top of the hill, beyond the row of the first houses, and overlooking the town, the Pilgrims in 1622–23 built with great labor, a fort and stockade; Governor Bradford describes it:

“A fort of good timbers, both strong and comely, which was a good defense, made with a flat roof, and battlements, and on which their ordinance was mounted, and where they kept constant watch, especially in time of danger.”

In 1633, he further says—“Our ancient work of fortification, by continuance of time is decayed, and Christian wisdom teaches us to depend upon God in the use of all good means for our safety.” It was therefore ordered by the Governor that the fort should be repaired, and the stockade enlarged. In 1635 and in 1642, it was again repaired, and in 1643 a watch tower was built nearby. This was of brick, two stories high, and contained a fireplace with a chimney.

Though hostile Indians never attacked the town, both they and the neighboring friendly tribes held the white men in increased respect for this protection.

During the first winter, the Pilgrims elected Capt. Myles Standish their military leader. He organized and trained his little army of twelve men, led their marches, protected the town, and rendered valiant service for thirty-five years.

“The only trained soldier
In the Pilgrim Community
Always their military Commander
But also a valuable civil servant
And a wise promoter
Of the business interests
Of the Pilgrim Stock Company.
In fight fearless impetuous and resolute
In civil affairs cautious and firm
In business shrewd just and far-seeing
A conscientious and high-minded leader
Of devout men and women
Who founded in a wilderness
A tolerant church and a free state.”

Standish Monument
Duxbury, Massachusetts

Dr. Charles W. Eliot



On the side hill near the site of the fort now stand two ancient cannon; they were presented to Plymouth Oct. 4, 1921, by the British Government, through the good offices of the Honorable Artillery Company of London (chartered in 1537) and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts (chartered in 1638).

Col. Sidney Hedges, speaking at the presentation of the guns, said:

“While we are not sure that they are the original pieces, which stood on the spot in 1621, they certainly are of the same type and age: one is called a Minion, manufactured in 1557, and the other a Sackeret, manufactured in 1550.”

Bradford and Winslow mention such guns.

“The master came on shore with many of his sailors, and brought with him one of the great pieces, called a minion, and helped us to draw it up the hill, with another piece that lay on shore, and mounted them, and a saller (saker, or sackeret) and two bases (very small pieces).”

At the presentation ceremony, Oct. 4, 1921, Mr. Joseph Smith read an original poem which contained these lines:

“Minion and Sackeret, bravely done.
Guns of a king and queen,
Brazen and bold in the autumn sun,
Mute on the hill grass-green,
Moulded in strength by skillful hands,
Fashioned in beauty for war’s demands,—
The terrible beauty that Death commands,—
And the nod of king and queen.
Here will they stand at the dead man’s gate
Where the Pilgrims sleep and dream and wait
For the day when the lowly and the great
Are as one at the throne serene.
The land that holds the bones of all their sires
The land they loved despite their hapless lot,
Has kindled once again ancestral fires
And tells these dead they have not been forgot.
And here she sends to her dead exiled sons
To guard their sanctuaries, these ancient guns.”


The Pilgrim Progress

More far reaching than the voice of the guns, was the message to the future from the small lower room of the fort, where the Pilgrims held their services of worship. Here their Elder, William Brewster, extolled freedom of thought and conscience; here were read letters received from their beloved pastor in Leyden, John Robinson; here they sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving; but still surrounded by danger, “they must constantly be on their guard, night and day.”

“With arms they gathered in the congregation to worship Almighty God. But they were armed, that in peace they might seek divine guidance in righteousness: not that they might prevail by force, but that they might do right though they perished.”

Calvin Coolidge
Plymouth, Dec. 21, 1920

The congregation assembled “at beat of drum,” and marched together from their homes on Leyden Street, protected by the muskets of the men. “They march three abreast, and are led by a sergeant.—Behind comes the Governor in a long robe, beside him on the right hand comes the preacher with his cloak on, and on the left hand the captain with his side arms.”

The women with babes in their arms and their children clinging to them, the boys and young men and the maidens follow,—“and so they march in good order, and each sets his arms down near him.”

It is minutely described in a letter written in 1627, by Isaac de Rasieres, a visitor of state from the Dutch colony at Manhattan.

This “Pilgrim Progress” is yearly reproduced by a memorial service to the Pilgrims on the site of the first fort-meeting house.

On successive Fridays in August, at five o’clock, a group of men, women and children, many of them still bearing the names of their Pilgrim forefathers, wearing the white caps and kerchiefs, the steeple-crowned hats and cloaks of the congregation of 1621, assemble again on the first street, and mount the hill, where a short service of commemoration is held. Old hymns are sung, among them those which the Pilgrims brought with them from Leyden.

“Bow down thine ear, Jehovah, answer me:
For I am poor, afflicted, and needy.
Keep Thou my soul, for merciful am I;
My God, Thy servant save, that trusts in Thee.”

Psalm 68 from the Psalm book, published in Amsterdam by Henry Ainsworth, and used by the Pilgrim congregation in Leyden and at Plymouth.


The Graves

“Here sleep the dead, their sacred dust is laid
Beneath the grass-green bosom of this hill;
They lived in faith, they faced death unafraid,
They wrought in pain, nor deemed their labors ill.”
Joseph Smith
Oct. 4, 1921

As the Pilgrims established themselves more firmly in the wilderness, there was no further need of secret burials on Cole’s Hill, and the hill about the fort was early used for the graves of the colony.

Though there are many ancient graves on Burial Hill, most of the resting-places of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower are not to be found in Plymouth, but in the later settlements of Kingston, Duxbury, Marshfield, Eastham, Middleboro, and Dartmouth, whither they had followed their sons, or established themselves again as pioneers from the first settlement.

A small granite shaft on the brow of the hill bears the name of Governor Bradford, and it is believed that he is buried here, near the grave of his son, Major William Bradford. The inscription on the north side of the monument reads:

“Beneath this stone rests the ashes
of William Bradford
A zealous puritan and sincere Christian
Gov. of Ply. Col. from April 1621 to 1657
aged 69, except 5 years which he declined.
Qua patris difficilime
Adapti sunt nolite turpiter relinquere.”
(What your fathers with so much difficulty
attained, do not basely relinquish.)

and on the south side:

“William Bradford of Austerfield, Yorkshire, England, was the son of William and Alice Bradford. He was Governor of Plymouth Colony from 1621 to 1633, 1635, 1637, 1639 to 1643, 1645 to 1657.”


The inscription on the tomb-stone of his son Major William Bradford reads:

“Here lies the body of
Honorable Major William Bradford
who expired Febr. ye 20th 1703/4 aged 71 years.
He lived long, but still was doing good
& in his country’s service lost much blood.
After a life well spent, he’s now at rest.
His very name and memory is blest.”

Major Bradford lived in Kingston. At the time of his funeral, the roads were obstructed by deep snow. He was carried by bearers along the sea shore from Jones River to Plymouth, to be buried at his wish beside his father on Burial Hill.

Near the site of the Old Fort, is the grave stone of Elder Thomas Cushman, with the inscription:

“Here lyeth buried ye body of that precious servant of God, Mr. THOMAS CUSHMAN, who after he had served his generation according to the will of God, and particularly the church of Plymouth for many years in the office of a ruling elder fell asleep in Jesus, Decmr. ye 10, 1691 & ye 84. year of his age.”

Here is also a monument erected Aug. 15, 1855, to Robert Cushman, Elder Thomas Cushman, his son, and Elder Cushman’s wife, Mary Allerton, of the Mayflower.

On the east is inscribed:

“Erected by
The descendants of
Robert Cushman
In memory of their Pilgrim Ancestors,

North side:

“Fellow-exile with the Pilgrims in Holland,
Afterwards their chief agent in England,
Arrived here—IX—November,—MDCXII,
With Thomas Cushman his son:
His memorable sermon on ‘The Danger of self-love
And the sweetness of true friendship:’
Returned to England—XIII—December,
To vindicate the enterprise of Christian emigration;
And there remained in the service of the Colony Till—
When, having prepared to make Plymouth His permanent


Continued west side:

He died, lamented by the forefathers as ‘their ancient friend,—who was as their right hand with their friends the adventurers, and for divers years had done and agitated all their business with them to their great advantage.’”

South side:

Son of Robert, died—X—December, MDCXCI,
Aged nearly—LXXXIV—years.
For more than XLII—years he was
Ruling Elder of the First Church in Plymouth,
By whom a tablet was placed to mark his grave on
this spot,
Now consecrated anew by a more enduring
widow of Elder Cushman, and daughter of Isaac
Died—XXVIII—November, MDCXCIX, aged about—XC—
The last survivor of the first comers in the Mayflower.”

Another important Pilgrim landmark is the grave of JOHN HOWLAND which is situated on the westerly slope of the hill, near the rear entrance to the cemetery. Near it are three other old graves; that of Edward Gray, 1681, whose stone is the oldest on Burial Hill; that of William Crowe, 1683–84; and that of Thomas Clark, 1697, who came over in the ship “Ann”.

John Howland’s grave is marked by a modern stone, ornamented with a bas relief of the “Mayflower”. On it is inscribed this excerpt from the Town Records:

“Hee was a godly man & an ancient professor in the wayes of Christ. Hee was one of the first comers into this land & was the last man that was left of those that came over in the Shipp called the Mayflower that lived in Plymouth.”

There is no more peaceful and beautiful burying place than this green hill, crowned with elm trees, overlooking the lovely view of[32] town and sea. Hundreds of quaint and interesting stones appeal to the antiquarian and the scholar, and the site of the Pilgrim’s fort, and the graves of the Pilgrims, connect it for all time with the nation’s “first beginnings.”

“And when we sail as Pilgrim’s sons and daughters
The spirit’s Mayflower over seas unknown,
Driving across the waste of wintry waters
The voyage every soul shall make alone,
The Pilgrim’s faith, the Pilgrim’s courage grant us;
Still shines the truth that for the Pilgrim shone.
We are his seed; nor life nor death shall daunt us.
The port is Freedom! Pilgrim heart, sail on!”
—L. B. R. Briggs
December 21, 1920

From the ode read at the celebration
of the 300th anniversary
of the Landing of the Pilgrims.


The Memorial
to the
Pilgrim Women

On the corner of North Street and the Water side, not far from Plymouth Rock, is a small park enclosed by hedges of box and privet; in the center against a background of lilac trees, a tall granite fountain supports on the front, a standing figure representing a Pilgrim woman.

Capable, courageous and devoted, steadfast in her faith and to her duties though a life-long exile from the home of her birth, through dangers and privations she made possible the domestic comfort and the permanence of the Pilgrims’ homes in the wilderness.

On the curb of the pool an inscription reads:

“Erected by the National Society
Daughters of the American Revolution
In memory of the heroic
Women of the Mayflower

and on the back of the fountain:

“They brought up their families
in sturdy virtue and a living faith in
God without which nations perish.”

On the shaft is given the names of the women who came in the Mayflower.


The National Monument to
the Forefathers

“This Monument
Where Virtue, Courage, Law and Learning sit
Calm Faith above them, grasping Holy Writ;
White hand upraised o’er beauteous trusting eyes,
And pleading finger pointing to the skies.”
—John Boyle O’Reilly

Poem read at the dedication of the
Monument to the Forefathers
August 1, 1889.

“What of her by the western sea,
Born and bred as the child of Duty,
Sternest of them all?
She it is, and she alone
Who built on faith as her corner stone;
Of all the nations, none but she
Knew that the truth shall make us free.”
Tercentenary Ode
L. B. R. Briggs

On the summit of a hill, back of the center of the town, stands the National Monument to the forefathers. Surmounting the pedestal, a figure of Faith, of heroic size, raises her arm with her forefinger pointing to heaven. Beneath her are seated Liberty, Law, Education, and Morality, representative of the Pilgrim ideals; below them are marble bas-reliefs of episodes in Pilgrim history. “The Departure from Delft Haven,” “The Signing of the Compact,” “The Landing of the Pilgrims,” and “The Treaty with Massasoit.”

Around the level plateau on which the monument stands, a wide view unrolls itself like a scroll of Pilgrim history. There lies the town of their founding; beyond it, the distant line of the ocean horizon seems almost as empty as when the Mayflower ploughed through the winter storms three hundred years ago. Her anchorage was inside the long, low strip of the beach, where she rode till the spring of 1621; a protection to the colonists, and a shelter for the women and children until houses could be built for them on shore.


Beyond the point of the beach is Clark’s Island, where the exploring party from the Mayflower spent the first Sabbath in Plymouth history. Still beyond, Saquish, the Gurnet, and the line of the coast had been mapped and charted by Capt. John Smith in 1615 and were known to earlier voyagers, as well as to the Pilgrims.

To the left stretch the Kingston shores where Elder Brewster, John Howland, and others soon took grants from the first colony. To Captain’s Hill, in Duxbury, Myles Standish retired after his long service, to spend the remainder of his life. His doughty figure on a granite pillar raised in his honor, looks across the bay to the statue of the Pilgrims’ Faith.

At the right, rises the headland of the Manomet hills; among them were also many Pilgrim land grants and house holdings. Behind, toward the sunset, the lights of the town fade into miles of still sparsely settled woodland, the remains of the old unbroken forest.

This site, well chosen by the Pilgrim Society, was acquired by them in fulfillment of the purpose expressed in their original charter of 1819: “to procure in the town of Plymouth a suitable lot, or plot of land for the erection of a monument to perpetuate the memory of the virtues, the enterprise, and unparalleled sufferings of their ancestors.”

The erection of a monument upon this ground, became a national undertaking, and subscriptions came from all parts of the country. The donations were acknowledged by engraved certificates; those above a certain amount, with a small bronze replica of the monument.

The original design by Hammatt Billings of Boston, was of huge size, but the pedestal was somewhat reduced when finally built. The figure of Faith is 36 ft. high, and the pedestal 45 ft.

The corner stone was laid Aug. 2, 1859, and thirty years later the monument was completed. It was dedicated Aug. 1, 1889, with great enthusiasm, in the presence of many distinguished people.


The First Church in Plymouth

“The story of heroic adventure, fortitude, and endurance, of which this church is the permanent memorial, does not belong to one age or one country. It has become the treasured heritage of all congregations founded upon freedom and self-government.”

—Rev. John Cuckson

History of the First Church
in Plymouth.

From This Church
Scrooby 1606 Plymouth 1620
Were Founded the
First Church in Duxbury 1632
 „  „  „ Marshfield 1632
 „  „  „ Eastham 1646
 „  „  „ Plympton 1698
 „  „  „ Kingston 1717
Second Church in Plymouth 1738
Third Church in Plymouth 1801
Now Church of the Pilgrimage


“In ye name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to his holy will and devine ordinances, wee being by ye most wise and good providence of God brought together in this place, and desirous to unite ourselves with this congregation or church under the Lord Jesus Christ our head, that it may be in such sort as becometh all those whom he hath redeemed and sanctified to himself, wee doe hereby solemnly and religiously as in His most holy presence, avouch the Lord Jehovah ye only true God, to be our God and ye God of ours, and do promise and bind ourselves to walk in all our ways according to ye rules of ye gospel and in all sincere conformity to his holy ordinances, and in mutual love to and watchfulnesse over one another.”



William Brewster

Thomas Cushman

Thomas Faunce


The Pilgrim Fathers
Were Separatists
From the English Church
They held that any convenient
Number of believers
Might form themselves
Into a church
And choose their own officers
They entered into a
Covenant of the Lord
By which they joined themselves
While in England
Into a church society
In the fellowship
Of the Gospel
To walk in all His ways
Made known or
To be made known unto them
According to
Their best endeavors
Whatsoever it should cost them.

Standish Monument
Duxbury, Massachusetts
(Dr. Charles W. Eliot)



The fort meeting-house 1623

The lower room of the fort, which the Pilgrims toiled to build “in their time of wants and great weakness,” served as their place of worship, “and was fitted to that use.”

First meeting-house 1648

In 1648 the first church was built, on land back of the garden of Gov. Bradford, fronting that part of the first street which is now the Town Square.

Second meeting-house 1683

“In 1683, it was decided to build a new structure, larger and handsomer than the last” at the head of the Town Square. The records state that “it had an unceiled Gothic roof, diamond windows, and a bell.”

Third meeting-house 1744

After more than 60 years, the society again erected a new building in the same spot. After its use for 87 years, the last services were held there on April 10, 1831.

Fourth meeting-house 1831

In December, the new building was dedicated “to the worship and service of God.” To the great sorrow of the community, this was burned to the ground, November 22, 1892.

Fifth meeting-house 1896, 1899

On the 19th of June, 1893, plans were considered for a new church. The corner-stone was laid June 29, 1896, and the building dedicated December 21, 1899.

The architecture of the present church is of English Norman type, and bears some resemblance to the ancient church at Scrooby. The tower contains the town bell cast by Paul Revere in 1801, which hung in the old church, and sounded the alarm of fire before it fell among the blazing ruins.


Gifts came from all parts of the country to help build or beautify the new church.

Three fine windows of painted glass at the back of the pulpit were given by the Society of Mayflower Descendants of New York; the central window represents the signing of the Compact in the cabin of the Mayflower; on either side are seated figures of Civil and Religious Liberty. The window opposite the pulpit shows John Robinson delivering his farewell address to the departing Pilgrims. This window was the gift of Mr. Edward G. Walker.

Near it is set as a memento, a piece of the doorstep from the ancient church in Delft-haven.

In the vestibule are windows showing Pilgrim history, and tablets giving the Elders, the Ministers, and the Covenant of the First church. The building is a tribute from the spiritual heirs of this Covenant, to the Pilgrim Congregation of 1620.

One of the hymns sung at the dedication of the new church, was written by Rev. John Pierpont for the dedication of the previous meeting-house, December 14, 1831. It contains these lines:

“What have we Lord to bind us
To this, the Pilgrim shore!—
Their hill of graves behind us,
Their watery way before,
The wintry surge that dashes
Against the rock they trod,
Their memory and their ashes,—
Be Thou their guard, O God!”


The Pilgrim Citizen

“These artisan farmers, these Pilgrims,
Steadied by precepts from Robinson,
Trained by their leaders
Who studied their Bibles for guidance,
Shaped here at Plymouth
Liberty’s fabric.
Grappled in small way
Problems of States,
Because of their wisdom
Trusting in God, believing in Man,
Knew not the havoc of Indian warfare;
Taught the new comer
Gain must be theirs
At the price of their labor;
Punished the traitor
Yet pitied the culprit.
This is your heritage
All you Americans.
Do ye maintain it?”
—George P. Baker

From “The Pilgrim Spirit,” a pageant written by George P. Baker, produced at Plymouth during the Tercentenary Celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrims, 1921.


The Colony and Town Records


Long antedating the inscriptions of bronze and stone, are the early written records of the settlement, both of the Colony and of the Town. From them may be traced the affairs of the Plymouth community from its beginning.

Nothing can give a more vivid description of the details of Pilgrim life, or the self-reliance with which the infant colony attacked the problems of an independent state, than the yellowed manuscripts in the handwriting of Gov. Bradford and Gov. Winslow. They record questions debated and decided by the assembled freemen of the Colony, who chose their officers of government, and made their laws, under the Compact framed by the Pilgrims before leaving the Mayflower.

The first dated record is a rough drawing of the First Street, with the intersecting path crossing the brook. (This intersection is now the Town Square.) This diagram gives a partial list of the house lots, or meersteads, portioned out of the different families, and the names of the builders of the first houses.

By another memorable record, the system of trial by jury is established.

“Dec. 17, 1623. It was ordained by the court that criminals, debtors, and trespassers should be tried by the verdict of 12 honest men, impanelled by authority in form of a jury upon their oaths.”

Only two cases of witchcraft were ever brought to trial in Plymouth. In both, the accused was acquitted; in one, moreover, the accuser was found guilty of defamation of character, and obliged to apologize and pay the costs of the case.

Many of the records deal with agricultural matters. The first entry on the Town records describes the earmarks of the cattle, the first of which were brought by Winslow from England in March 1623. Bounties were voted for killing blackbirds who stole the sprouting grain in the cornfields. Bounties were also granted for the pelts of marauding wolves.


Petitions soon appeared for grants of lands in distant parts of the colony.

In 1691, when the Plymouth colony was merged with the colony of Massachusetts Bay, it was voted “that the Books, Records and Files of the General Court of the late Colony of New Plymouth be committed to the care of the Clerk of the Inferior Court, to be kept and lodged in Plymouth.”

These early records consist of eighteen manuscript volumes, in which may be traced the handwriting of Gov. Bradford, and Gov. Edward Winslow, as well as those of Nathaniel Morton and other Clerks of the Colony. They cover such matters as the proceedings of the General Court and Court of Assistants; Deeds; Wills and Inventories; Judicial Acts of the Court; Treasurers’ Accounts; Laws; and Births, Marriages, and Deaths. They begin with the year 1633.

They are now deposited in the Plymouth Registry of Deeds, on Russell St. In 1820 a commission was chosen to copy such portions as they thought desirable, and these are kept in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth in the State House in Boston. In 1855, they were published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Plymouth Colony’s copy of the proceedings of the New England Confederacy, a federation of the New England colonies which in many ways foreshadowed our present Federal Union, is deposited in the Registry of Deeds. The New England Confederacy was undertaken in 1643 for mutual protection against the Indians, and was dissolved by the Royal Governor, Sir Edmund Andros in 1685.

The early records of the Town, as distinct from the Colony, are kept by the Town Clerk in the Plymouth Town House. In 1889, the Records, from 1636 to 1783, were published by the order of the Town, and may be consulted in the Public Library and elsewhere.

All these early records will repay the research of the student of American history.

“But this must stand above all fame and zeal:
The Pilgrim Fathers laid the ribs and keel.
On their strong lines we base our social health—
The man—the home—the town—the Commonwealth.”
—John Boyle O’Reilly

Poem read at the dedication of the National Monument to the Forefathers August 1, 1889


The Pilgrim Society

“This society was established in 1820 by the descendants of the first settlers at Plymouth and by such others as are desirous of perpetuating their principles, and commemorating their virtues, ... The stated meetings of the society are held in Pilgrim Hall, ...”

James Thatcher, M.D.
History of Plymouth.

On the 9th of November, 1819, a meeting of a number of Plymouth gentlemen was held at the house of Mr. Joshua Thomas, “to take into consideration the expediency of forming a society to commemorate the landing of the Fathers in the town of Plymouth.”

It was there voted that such a society be formed; the Pilgrim Society was incorporated, and the first meeting held at the Court House in Plymouth, May 18th, 1820.

The purpose of the Society was to do honor to the memory of their ancestors, the Pilgrim Fathers; its object, to hold property, to provide a suitable site for a monument, and “to erect a public building to accommodate the meetings of the associates.”

Mr. Thomas was elected President in 1820, and Mr. John Watson followed him in 1821. Thus began a succession of prominent citizens and able men to hold that office.

On Forefathers Day, 1820, Daniel Webster delivered a famous oration before the newly formed Pilgrim Society; and at their invitation on that anniversary eloquent addresses have been given by statesmen, orators, and scholars, in honor of the Pilgrims.

The building planned as a Memorial was begun in the summer of 1824. The corner stone was laid Sept. 1. The Hall was finished and dedicated on Forefathers’ Day of the same year.

In 1880, it was remodeled and made fireproof through the generosity of Mr. Joseph Henry Stickney of Baltimore, and in 1904 a wing was added to house the very valuable collection of documents, books, and papers pertaining to the Pilgrims.

The architect of the original building was Alexander Parris, who designed the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston in 1820.

On July 8, 1922, a granite facade and portico replaced the earlier one of wood, and was then dedicated and presented by the New[44] England Society in the City of New York. It was accepted by the President, Hon. Arthur Lord, who gave an interesting account of the work accomplished during the century of the Society’s existence.

This work, invaluable alike to Plymouth, to the student of history, and to the people of the nation, has been the preservation, the restoration, and the care of localities and objects connected with an important episode of American history. It includes with the help of generous gifts and subscriptions, the provision of a site for a great National Monument to the Pilgrims; the building of Pilgrim Hall, and the formation of its collections; the grading of Cole’s Hill and Burial Hill; and the assumption of ownership and trusteeship to maintain these in order and dignity; also for many years, the observance with addresses and orations of the anniversary of the Landing of the Pilgrims.

Its Collections

The collections of the Pilgrim Society are of great historical value. In Pilgrim Hall are preserved personal and household belongings of the Pilgrims, documents with their signatures, their books and Bibles, and the only known portrait of one of their number. Here is the patent issued to the Plymouth Colony in 1621, and the swords of their Governor, Carver, and their Captain, Myles Standish. Near by, a bit of woman’s embroidery, a baby’s shoe—great things and small,—the human element of a great transitional epoch, saved by reverential descendants to become an inheritance for another epoch.

A copy of the Bible translated for the Indians by John Eliot; an agreement with an Indian Sachem, drawn up and signed by John Alden; and a large collection of Indian relics and arrowheads, bear witness here to the life of the wilderness which the Pilgrims assailed with treaty, faith, and sword.

The handsome library contains books, documents, and pamphlets relating to Pilgrim history, with many original records, and affords great opportunities for quiet research. Its windows look down into a shady garden belonging to the Hall, where visitors may rest and refresh themselves by a little fountain presented to the Pilgrim Society by the General Society of the Daughters of the Revolution on September 20th, 1921.

As they loiter, they may mark the flight of time on a sun dial, presented by the Society of the Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century. It was dedicated in September, 1921.

The collections can best be studied with the help of the curator[45] and the catalogue, but some of the most interesting objects connected with the early Pilgrims are those which belonged to:

Governor Carver—His sword and armchair.

Governor Bradford—His “Dialogue” in his own handwriting.

A book given to him by John Robinson, and afterwards given by him to the First Church.

A Bible printed in Geneva in 1592.

A plate.

Elder Brewster—His sword, christening bowl, and a copy of Seneca from his library.

Captain Myles Standish—His sword, with an Arabic inscription which was translated in 1881 by Prof. James Rosedale, to read—“With peace God ruled his slaves, and with the judgement of his arm, He troubled the iniquity of the wicked.” An iron pot and pewter trencher, a fragment of a quilt which belonged to his wife, Rose Standish, and an embroidered sampler worked by his daughter, Lora; her baby’s cap and bib.

Governor Edward Winslow—Part of a chest, a mortar, a silver canteen, and several pewter plates, bearing the family coat of arms, his portrait painted in England, and the great table which stood in the Council Chamber when Winslow governed the Colony.

Mistress Susannah White, afterward wife of Governor Winslow—A cape and a slipper.

William White—A cabinet, and a candlestick.

Peregrine White—Signature on a deed.

John Alden—His Bible printed in 1661, a halberd found in his house in Duxbury, a deed with his signature.

Two baby’s cradles, one belonging to Peregrine White, the first child born in the Colony, and the other to the Fuller family.

Among the books and documents are:

A copy of John Eliot’s Indian Bible.

A volume of John Robinson’s “Observations,” printed in Leyden in 1625.

A copy of the Psalms, with paraphrases and music; compiled by Henry Ainsworth, and used by the Pilgrim congregation in Holland and at Plymouth.

A pamphlet by Sir Edwin Sandys, marking a noted ecclesiastical controversy. Sir Edwin Sandys was a patron of New England colonization.

A Commission from Oliver Cromwell to Edward Winslow, 1654.


Deeds and bonds with the signatures of John Alden and Peregrine White.

State Document—The oldest in New England and probably in the United States;—the charter granted to the Plymouth colonists by the Northern Virginia Company, dated June 1, 1621. Granted to John Pierce and sent over in the Fortune.

Indian arrow heads and relics.

Paintings of the Mayflower, and a beautiful modern model of the ship.

Paintings, drawings, and photographs illustrative of early Pilgrim history, and hundreds of objects showing the growth and continuance of the Colony.


The Old Colony Club

A bronze tablet affixed to a boulder on the lawn of the Old Colony Club declares:

The Old Colony Club
Organized January 13 1769

This Club had the distinction of holding the first public observance of Forefathers’ Day, on Dec. 22, 1769. At one of the first meetings it was voted: “that Friday, December 22 be kept by this Club in commemoration of the landing of our worthy ancestors in this place.”

The day was celebrated by the firing of a cannon, the display of a handsome flag upon the Club house, a procession of the members, who were greeted by a volley of small arms and a patriotic song by assembled school children, a dinner, and an evening entertainment.

The next year, 1770, at the anniversary celebration, Edward Winslow Jr. delivered a short address, which may be considered the first public commemoration of the Pilgrims. This inaugurated a series of speeches and orations given for many years by prominent men, sponsored at first by the Old Colony Club, later by the town and the parish of the First Church, and continued by the Pilgrim Society and the Plymouth Antiquarian Society.

Due to an error in reckoning the date, December 22 was long celebrated as Forefathers’ Day. The anniversary actually falls on December 21, and is now so observed.

The Old Colony Club was dissolved just before the Revolution, due to the conflicting politics of its members. It was later reorganized, and is one of the leading clubs of the town.


The Plymouth Antiquarian Society

The Plymouth Antiquarian Society was founded in 1920 by a group of women whose aims are:

“To preserve buildings and personal and household property of Antiquarian value;

To acquire knowledge of their original use, and of the records and unwritten traditions of Plymouth;

And so far as is possible by accurate representation of the life, surroundings, and pursuits of bygone generations, to give the Present a better understanding of the Past.”

In pursuance of these aims, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society has established and maintains two museum Houses, the Antiquarian House 1809–30 and the Harlow House 1677. Each is arranged to give visual expression to whatever can be learned, by record, by tradition, and by the preservation of household luxuries and necessities, of the daily life of a Plymouth family at the time in which it was built. Each endeavors also, by the accumulation of notes, publications, photographs etc., to be a useful source of information on the subjects within its field.

The first undertaking of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, was to preserve the fine old house, built in 1809 by Maj. William Hammatt, and later occupied for nearly a hundred years by Mr. Thomas Hedge and his family.

In 1920, this estate had been lately bought by the Town as a site for a Memorial Hall, and it was necessary to remove or tear down the house and its picturesque barn and outbuildings. The Society was willing to undertake their preservation, and accepted all the buildings as a gift from the Town, to be used for this purpose. They were successfully moved to their present position on Water St., and are maintained by the Society as a typical example of a prosperous Plymouth home of the early 19th century.

A few years later, the Antiquarian Society undertook the restoration and preservation of the Wm. Harlow House, long one of the Pilgrim landmarks of the town, on account of the fact that it contains beams and timber from the Fort on Burial Hill. These were granted to Serj. William Harlow for use in building his “new house” when the Fort was dismantled at the close of King Philips’s[49] war. The Society uses this house as the background for a study of the living conditions and household industries of the last quarter of the Pilgrim century. Not only is the visitor here introduced to the spinning, weaving, dyeing, cooking, and candle-making which made up so much of the daily lives of the pioneer women of New England, but demonstrations are given, and classes held, both for children and for older students who find the knowledge of these homely arts gives a stimulating background to their study of colonial history.

The facilities of the Antiquarian Society are much used by the Plymouth Schools, and also by other schools, sometimes at a considerable distance. Both houses also give much pleasure, and a better understanding of Plymouth and New England, to the many visitors who see them each summer.

“Advance then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession to fill the places which we now fill.

We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed.

We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, and the light of everlasting truth!”

Daniel Webster
Plymouth, Dec. 22, 1820.




The Antiquarian House

The Antiquarian House, which serves as headquarters for the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, was built in 1809 by Maj. William Hammatt, a successful merchant and ship owner. Soon after the house was built, the Embargo Act temporarily interrupted New England commerce, and Maj. Hammatt suffered financial reverses. The house was sold, and about 1830 was purchased by Mr. Thomas Hedge, whose family occupied it for nearly a hundred years.

The architecture of the house has the characteristic grace and delicacy of the Federal period, and its interesting octagonal plan shows the influence of the fashion set by Thomas Jefferson, who was not only a statesman but an observant and original architect.

Inside the house, the furniture, the books, papers, and ornaments, the glass, china, and household utensils, of a family of the period, are all in their proper places, and are shown by a hostess in the charming dress of the 1830’s. There is also a handsome and interesting collection of dresses and accessories of the 19th century, and a library where books, papers, newspapers, and personal letters make a valuable record of the time.

The house is surrounded by handsome grounds, and a garden of the old fashioned flowers in favor when it was built.

Thus in architecture, decoration and furniture, even in such details as the clothes in the closets, the toys in the nursery, and the roses in the garden, the Antiquarian House presents a lively and human picture of the opening years of the 19th century, and shows the influence of growing industry and commerce, the adventurous “China Trade,” and all the hopeful activity and expansion of a nation, founded in hardship, but destined to great prosperity and achievement.




The Wm. Harlow House

A 17th Century Home

As one candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shown to many, yea, in some sort to our whole nation.

The dim lights burning in the few houses first built by the Pilgrims on the banks of the Town Brook, increased to the brighter lights of a small town by the close of the 17th Century. (Population, 1620—102; 1700—1200.)

Ships came from England bringing new colonists, who were always welcomed, though at times there was hardly food enough to spare from the scanty harvests. “In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often,” but with reliance upon themselves and faith in the help of God, the Pilgrims and their descendants established at last a self-supporting and respected commonwealth, still owning allegiance to the King of England.

They built permanent homes on the edge of an unbroken wilderness; they built a church and a free school; they inaugurated the town meeting, where every freeman, or householder, had a voice in the affairs of the community. They elected their own Governor and selectmen and town officials, and maintained a small band of soldiers under a Captain and military officers. They made treaties with the Indians, and agreements for trade with their neighbors, the Dutch of Manhattan. Most important of all, they established freedom of speech and conscience in their religion, and liberty for their civil rights.

Cattle, sheep, and goats were early brought from England. Woolen cloth was woven on cottage looms, and linen spun from the flax raised in the fields.

Though the first houses were too rudely built to be long lasting, they soon became more substantial and comfortable, and many had “trim gardens.”

Several houses of the 17th century are still standing in Plymouth. One of these, the Harlow House, was built in 1677. It has been carefully restored, and shows in architecture and contents the characteristics of its times. The timbers which form its frame and beams were first used in the fort built on Burial Hill.


The close co-operation of family life, and the thrift and industry necessary to supply a household with food, light and clothing, by its own labor, can be well studied here, where household utensils and furniture are used as they were made to be used by the builder of the house, William Harlow, and his wife, fifty years after the Pilgrims built their first houses on the first street. Some of the Pilgrims were then still living in Plymouth, or its neighborhood; and since the process of household industries changed very little, it is easy to form a true picture of the domestic life of the Pilgrims from this home of their descendants.

Flax is spun on the wheels, and woolen cloth woven on the loom, dyed with plants from field and wood; candles are dipped from the wax of the bayberries, and the corn or maize of the Indian squaws is grown in the garden patch, dried, pounded, and cooked in iron kettles over the wood fire on the hearth. From a home like this, the next generation took grants of land in more distant parts of the colony, and became the pioneers of other new settlements; the frontier was pushed onward into the forests, and along the river banks. Thus the growth of a nation was continued.

The Plymouth Antiquarian Society is the owner of the Harlow House, and takes great thought and interest in reviving there the human element in daily life in a momentous episode of history,—the settlement of the Plymouth Colony.

“In a short time other causes sprung up to bind the Pilgrims with new cords to their chosen land. Children were born, and the hopes of a future generation arose, in the spot of their new habitation.

The second generation found this the land of their nativity, and saw they were bound to its fortunes.

They beheld their fathers’ graves around them, and while they read the memorials of their toils and labors, they rejoiced in the inheritance which they found bequeathed to them.”

Daniel Webster
Plymouth, Dec. 22, 1820


The Howland House

The old records of Plymouth pay tribute at his death to John Howland. He came as a lusty youth among the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, and after an arduous life spent for the Colony, was the last of that valiant company to die in Plymouth.

His grave stone repeats the record of the town, “He was a godly man and an ancient professor in the ways of Christ.”

John Howland and his wife, Elizabeth Tilley, had a large family of sons and daughters to inherit and transmit his good name, which after the passage of three hundred years, may be found in every state of that republic to whose beginnings he had given his youth and manhood.

Today the Society of Howland Descendants has preserved one of the earliest of the 17th century houses in Plymouth as a memorial to the founder of their family.

The house where Jabez Howland, son of John, the Pilgrim, lived, was built in 1667 by Jacob Mitchell. It was of one room with an attic and a great chimney at one end—a very usual type of building at that time. Successive generations have enlarged it by adding rooms on each side of the chimney, and a “lean to,” and by lifting the roof for upper rooms, the original structure still remains as part of the completed house. In these oldest rooms John Howland and his wife, no doubt, visited his son and his family, and around the great fire place, which is still existing, memorable tales must have been told of the adventures and experiences of the Pilgrims in their old English homes, their sojourn in Holland, and the early days of the Plymouth settlement. With this historical background the gradual evolution of such a house to meet the changing circumstances and conditions of two centuries is an interesting study of American life.

The Society of Howland Descendants, holds its annual reunions in the old house, and have furnished and filled the rooms with antiquarian collections given by its members, or preserved in groups as individual memorials.

The house with its associations is interesting to visitors, and to the Howland family a lesson of veneration from the Past to future generations.


The Sparrow House

When the Plymouth Colony Trust undertook the rehabilitation of a number of old houses on Summer St., many of them were found to contain architectural features of unusual interest. Notable among them, is the Richard Sparrow house. This house is an excellent example of 17th century building, and clearly shows how it was enlarged, a few years after it was built, from the “one-room” to the “lean-to” or “salt-box” type. Its great fireplace, with rounded inner corners and 17th century oven, is remarkable. If, as is believed, the house was built by Richard Sparrow in 1640, it is probably the oldest house now standing in Plymouth. It was therefore decided to restore it to its original appearance, and open it to the public.

The Sparrow House is now the headquarters of the Plymouth Potters, a group of local craftsmen doing very attractive and original work with local clay. They maintain a workshop and showroom at the Sparrow House. An old water wheel turns in the brook at the foot of the garden and the firing kiln on the shady bank presents much of interest to craftsmen and artists.



The history of the Plymouth Colony may be read in considerable detail in the words of its founders.

The most important of these contemporary accounts is Governor Bradford’s history “Of Plymouth Plantation,” covering the years 1602–1647. This has been republished at various times, notably by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1898) and the Massachusetts Historical Society (1912).

In his “Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers” (1847), Alexander Young has gathered together and republished a number of contemporary accounts, including “Mourt’s Relation,” so called, which is actually a journal of 1620–21, written by Gov. Bradford and Edward Winslow, and originally published in London in 1622, with a preface signed “G. Mourt”; “Good News from New England,” Winslow’s journal of 1622–23, published in London, 1624; and various other interesting documents, such as Cushman’s discourse on “The Sin and Danger of Self-Love,” a letter referring to the first Thanksgiving; and Winslow’s account of the church in Leyden, including John Robinson’s farewell sermon.

The “Colony Records” have been published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the “Town Records” by the town of Plymouth. They contain much information invaluable to the student.

Other 17th century writers who mention Plymouth are Thomas Morton, the genial but disorderly founder of “Merrymount”; John Pory; and Isaac de Rasieres, whose description of Plymouth in 1629 is quoted in most of the modern histories. Concerning the “Bay Colony” (Massachusetts) Alexander Young has reprinted much original matter, in a volume similar to his “Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers.”

Among later histories, the following are very helpful.

“The Pilgrim Republic”—John A. Goodwin

“The Pilgrims and their History”—Roland G. Usher

“Plymouth and the Pilgrims”—Arthur Lord



A Museum of Pilgrim History and Relics. Open mornings and afternoons and in the summer, open evenings.


Founded 1820





126 Water Street


119 Sandwich Street

Museums That Might Be Lived In


using local clay



Pilgrim John Howland Society

Sandwich Street, opposite Water Street

Open to Visitors


Built in 1674

Admission 25c


Landing Road  ::  Kingston, Mass.

Originally a part of Plymouth

Visit the




First Trading Post of Plymouth Colony

Reconstructed on the original foundations to illustrate the beginnings of American commerce.

On the Cape Cod Canal near the South end of the Bourne Bridge on the Gray Gables Road.


Visit the



Careswell Street Route 139

Home of Hon. Isaac Winslow, son of Gov. Josiah
Winslow and grandson of Gov. Edward Winslow.

Built 1699 and one of the finest mansions
of its period now standing.

Open June 17–Sept. 15 Admission 25 Cents


Founded 1903

To create and foster an interest in the history of that portion of the Plymouth Plantations set off as the Town of Dartmouth in 1664, a territory, at present, embracing the towns of Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Westport, and the City of New Bedford.

The Society, dedicated to historical research, maintains an extensive and unique Whaling Museum, together with a Museum of Domestic Articles illustrative of the past history of Old Dartmouth.

The Museums are open to the public during the week, except on Mondays. (Admission 25 cents) and on Sunday afternoons free.


New Bedford Massachusetts

William H. Tripp, Secretary and Curator



Boston, Mass.

A New England Institution
Every Banking and Trust Service

Charles Francis Adams
Chairman of the Board

Allan Forbes

Member Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation


Home Office: Boston

T. J. Falvey, President

Transacts business throughout the
United States.



A simple way to secure Dependable Insurance at fair price is to ask your agent or broker for a policy in a sturdy old New England Company—either the Boston Insurance Company or the Old Colony Insurance Company.

Home Offices:

87 Kilby Street, Boston, Massachusetts

Transcriber’s Notes:

1. Obvious printers’, punctuation and spelling errors have been corrected silently.

2. Some hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions of the same words have been retained as in the original.