Plimoth Plantation

Visiting America's Hometown...

We recently took advantage of a recent Free Family Day to go visit Plimoth Plantation.

Plimoth Plantation is a "living museum" which depicts life in 1627 Massachusetts. You have a visitor center, a Wampanoag village, a fortress, a place to get lunch, and the Plantation itself. It's an easy enough walk, although handi-capable folks should note that 1627 Plimoth isn't that wheelchair-friendly. I saw some chairs being backed downhill.

Every kid in Plymouth County or on Cape Cod has done a Plimoth Plantation field trip at some point in their academic career. It's actually in the curriculum, and the kids got to know what's what with Plimoth, Squanto, Myles Standish et al.

It is the main historical item of note for SE Massachusetts, an important chunk of history to have when the neighboring city kids have Bunker Hill/Boston Tea Party and the MetroWest people can brag about Lexington & Concord. We got the holiday and the feast, suckers!

We passed on the movie and the tour, instead deciding to go solo. Each spot was isolated via forest and trail from the other.

First stop? Patuxet. Well, seeing as it was post-plague 1627, it may not have been Patuxet. Either way, the Wôpanâak represent hard.

The Wampanoag have houses hewn directly from trees, in a manner that you can use to show children that people work with supplies from the environment. The houses looked sturdy, although they were bit short.

The women of the tribe (who performed 75% of the food production in Wampanoag society) were portrayed on the Plantation by two ladies who were cooking with indigenous ingredients. Dinner that night was cornmeal made into a bread with walnuts an dried cranberries.

We also met this dude:

He was making a canoe the old fashioned way, burning the wood and carving by hand. They had a finished product (with natural oars) for the kids to sit in.

The canoe-maker had some nice tat work. The Wampanoag looked fairly authentic, other than a teen squaw I saw. She was pale-faced enough that Priscilla Alden may have wanted to ask John Alden what he was doth doing at that first Thanksgiving afterparty.

The Wampanoag literally lived off the land, and a few minutes in their village reminds a visitor of this fact. It was how life was lived, and- year-wise - has  been the way of life in these parts longer than the White Man's Ways.

I had a few questions I wanted answers for (Are you pre-plague? Do you trust whitey?), but Free Family Day was drawing in a lot of people, and the poor guy was getting peppered with questions. I decided to go easy on him.

It does cast a certain pall over the proceedings when you realize (or have to tell your kids) that the English lied, broke faith, stole land, laughed off treaties, force-fed Christianity, murdered leaders, exterminated the population and sold the survivors off into West Indies sugarcane slavery.

Plimoth Plantation doesn't address these facts directly to visitors, but the actors/educators could most likely speak for an hour on the topic. The Wampanoags focus more on the day-to-day aspects of their ancestor's life. You won't see a bunch of natives waiting to attack Deerfield, nor will you see the English preacher thanking God over a burnt village.

That's probably for the best, seeing as a lot of the visitors were little children.

Life was hard in the New World. The Pilgrims never knew what was coming out of those woods next, especially after the first thing that came out of those woods was an English-speaking Wampanoag. Next it may be a bear, a hostile tribe, a pack of wolves, the French, the Spanish Armada, a Yeti, a sea monster..... so the Pilgrims built a fort.

The fort is right after the snack bar. We took our grub to the fort and had hot dogs and Cokes on a bench there, just like they did in 1627. We then scoped out the fort... two stories, one of them a meetinghouse, the other devoted to defense.

I noticed with some disappointment that most of the cannon there were aimed at Duxbury, just a bit South of my old neighborhood. I suppose it was Plymouth Bay. The cannon would overshoot the village, and would make Plimoth un-attackable by sea by any army not willing to park 200 yards to the left of the fort and come ashore there.

... My man Logan is about to lay down the law on someone....

The fort is uphill from the main village. The Plantation is made up of about 20 houses. The houses are very close together for ones built by people with "all of North America" to work with. All-wood construction, made by people who could hack homes out of trees.

Each house, depending on when you showed up, had an actor playing a Plimoth Englishman in it. Others were engaged in various self-sustaining stuff, like tending sheep, working gardens, churning butter and so forth.

Thanks to Squanto's teachings, there were a lot of squash/beans/corn (the "three sisters" of New England staple foods) growing everywhere. They also had a display at the Plantation with a Squanto-like display of what plants were available to the settlers, and what they used them for.

From there, we headed back to the parking lot. They had sheep penned there, so the kids got one more thrill before leaving.

Here's a view from the fort, pretty much directly what Logan's cannon was aiming at. That's Saquish on the horizon.

Here's a re-make of America's first permanent street, 1627's Leyden Street.

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