Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Plymouth: First Fort, Pilgrim deaths, and John Alden Lived Here

Shortly after the pilgrims settled in what is now Plymouth, they established their first fort fort on a nearby hill. This site would eventually become, as one can see today, the first dedicated cemetery for the early settlers of Plymouth Bay Colony. It is here that Pilgrim leader William Bradford is buried along with revolutionary patriot James Warren and numerous other early notable men and women  of the colony. For the epitaph collector, it's another wonderful place to read those snippets of people's lives that are often carved into stone and slate. (For more of that sort of thing, visit my cemeteries blog.)

Here on Cole's Hill is the very first burying place in Plymouth and the sarcophagus marks the spot those first settlers died from disease and malnutrition in that first brutal winter of 1620-21. Of the original 102 settlers, 45 died that winter; of 18 adult women, 13 died and only four remained alive by Thanksgiving of 1621. This New World must have seemed more terrible than the Old One.

"This monument marks the first burying ground
in Plymouth of the passengers of the Mayflower
Here under over of darkness the fast dwindling company
laid their dead leveling the earth above them lest the
Indians should learn how many were the graves.
Reader! History records no nobler venture for faith and
freedom than that of this pilgrim band. In wellness
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!"

The site of John Alden's house at the foot of Burial Hill, overlooking the town of Plymouth. John had been hired as a carpenter and cooper before the Mayflower left Southampton. Although not a pilgrim himself, John Alden was one of the founders of the colony and the seventh signer of the Mayflower Compact. He was also reportedly the first to set foot on Plymouth. He eventually settled in Duxbury, MA with his wife, Priscilla Mullins. Both are buried in Myles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Plymouth: The Mayflower II, William Bradford and a Questionable Rock

On Sunday March 27, Susie and I took a road trip to pay a visit to Plymouth Rock. It had been years since Susie had been to Plymouth and I had never been there and wanted to roam Burial Hill Cemetery. We also wanted to catch a glimpse of the rock and so we did and much more.

It's fairly safe to say today that the pilgrims did not just happen upon the rock in what is now called Plymouth Bay. In fact they first landed at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod and from there explored the surrounding area to find a place to settle. On one such excursion they came upon the shelter of Plymouth from Clark's Island, and apparently finding it suitable, decided here they would settle, here they would put down roots. and so they did.

The Mayflower II

William Bradford (1590-1657) may have dressed oddly -- although by today's high school fashions for males that's open to some debate -- and aside from being credited as the man who initiated the idea of Thanksgiving, he was  historian of those early days of the Plymouth Bay Colony and governor of the colony for nearly 30 years. He was also a member of the exploring party that first "discovered" Plymouth Bay and the land upon which the pilgrims would settle.

And speaking of landing at Plymouth, whether those first pilgrims first set foot on that very special rock still remains open to some doubt. The mystery aside, "Plymouth rock" has been restored to its original shape (it had split in half in 1774) and is today well-preserved beneath an impressive arcaded structure, just across the street from the John Alden gift shop.

The rock's new superstructure as seen from Cole's Hill

That's the rock, way down there
Be aware that signage in Plymouth is really quite poor -- and you'll want to head down Water street to find the Rock, the Mayflower, and the other memorials to early American history.

Next: First fort, pilgrim deaths and remembering John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Update from Providence: a shooting, solitude and the French Tart

A little before 8am, Saturday, March 19, we were lounging in bed having our first cup of coffee enjoying the quiet of a weekend morning in the city when we were snapped out of our reverie by more than a dozen police cars zooming in from every direction and pulling up in front of the condo complex across the street.

Popping out of their cars and grabbing flak jackets from the trunks the police started surrounding the building, a few actually going inside, guns drawn.

Although someone had in fact been shot -- we saw him walking out of the building, with the assistance of paramedics and clutching a pillow to his upper body -- it didn't seem serious.

According to local news he had been shot by his roommate who was found soon afterwards, walking down Cranston Street still carrying the gun.

Later that day the sky turned  a gorgous blue although the air remained quite chilly and Susie and I headed out to the East Bay bike path to bask in the sunshine and center our karmas.

And just in case you forgot  what truly incredible pastries look like:




Pear-Blackberry tart

More profiteroles

Fruit-filled almond cakes

Friday, March 11, 2011