Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pilgrim Monument

Mass Moments reminded me that today was the day the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown,  MA was completed.  P-town is the place where the Pilgrims first landed, after crossing the Atlantic.  They were grateful but tired and grouchy.  Their captain wrote:  Hence

The day the ship dropped anchor off Provincetown, concern over "discontented and mutinous speeches" led the leaders to require the 41 free adult men on board to sign a document that later came to be known as the "Mayflower Compact." Although numerous nineteenth-century writers would claim that the Compact was "the germ of American republicanism," it was in fact intended to reinforce "due submission and obedience" rather than establish new democratic liberties.

While the shallop was being repaired, groups of men set out to explore the area on foot. On November 15th, a line of men armed with muskets and swords walked behind Captain Miles Standish into the "wilderness." Soon they saw five or six native people, who immediately fled. The Englishmen followed their tracks without encountering the Indians. They did find small hills and valleys, a pond, and a field that had been cultivated. They unearthed a store of corn buried in baskets and took as much as they "could carry away," intending, Bradford wrote, to pay the "savages" if they met up with them.

Time was running out if they were not going to remain in Provincetown. The fishing and whaling appeared to be good, there were cleared fields ready for planting, and the harbor was shallow but well protected. In short, Provincetown was "healthful, secure, and defensible," and surely late November was not the best time to explore further. But Provincetown had one critical drawback: a shortage of fresh water.

On December 6th, Susanna White gave birth on board theMayflower to her son Peregrine, the first English child born in Massachusetts. That same day, 18 men took the shallop and sailed west across the stormy bay. On December 8th, as they approached modern Plymouth, their mast split apart and the rudder broke. They had no choice but to row and use an oar to steer. They spent the night and the next day, which was Sunday, on Clark's Island. On Monday, they first set foot on the land that would become Plymouth.

They "found it a very good harbor. . . We marched also into the land, and found diverse cornfields, and little running brooks, a place very good for situation [settlement], so we returned to [the Mayflower] again with good news to the rest of our people, which did much comfort their hearts."

Almost five weeks after it had made landfall on Cape Cod, theMayflower sailed for Plymouth. Of the 102 passengers when the ship left England, one had died en route and four more succumbed while they were anchored in Provincetown harbor. Ninety-nine passengers were aboard when they arrived in Plymouth on Monday, December 18, 1620. It would be the early eighteenth century before anyone claimed the Pilgrims stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock.

Hence, Plymouth became more famous than P-town.  The Yankee ancestors of our early settlers wanted to memorialize their contribution to history.  They were gradually being nudged out of P-town by Portuguese immigrants.  So the Pilgrim Monument was conceived.  Eventually it was a reality.   

People may climb up the monument and take in the view.  The view is spectacular, but to see the steps that memorialize the various Massachusetts towns that contributed money is something I found interesting.  Even more interesting is the museum at the foot of the monument.  That's where I learned about the legend of St. Brendan celebrating Mass on the back of the whale.