Monday, November 19, 2007

11-19-07: Plymouth Rock

I have the odd privilege of having been born in the easily-recognizable, historical small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Usually, when I tell people where I was born (usually for paperwork), I get “Oh, isn’t that where the Pilgrims first landed?” I used to reply with “Yep, that’s the one,” but as years have gone by, I’ve moved on to “Allegedly. There are those who say they landed in Provincetown first.” Age does that, I suppose.

The town, the namesake of the surrounding county in which I first resided (not in Plymouth, though; I lived in Duxbury), is home to the Plymouth Rock. The story of the rock is rather peculiar, both in how it came to be known as “the Plymouth Rock” and how it came to reside at its current location. Many from the area know it’s a bunch of bullshit, but tourists love visiting the plantation and seeing the rock. It’s probably not from where the pilgrims first landed. William Bradford’s foot did not likely set down on it, at least not as early as legend tells. People have spent millions of dollars to come see it, and the commonwealth has recently invested (hold on) $680,000 of taxpayers’ money to renovate the steel and granite portico protecting the broken rock.

The rock came to be famous in 1741 because a 94 year-old man named Thomas Faunce said that his father had told him decades earlier that it was located where the pilgrims landed. That was 121 years after Bradford’s people had landed. The guy’s father likely wasn’t even alive then, so there had to have been an additional source involved. But, the people bought the idea (who in 1741 Massachusetts Bay wouldn’t?), and it became a cultural icon of the area. People still love seeing it.

The other part of the rock’s history is how it came to reside in its large, expensive granite and steel portico. It’s been moved, and cracked, twice: once in 1774, another time in 1834. Some even say it’s not even the same rock that was originally moved from shore. When people ask me if I’ve seen the rock (which I have), I always make sure to point out its screwy history. It’s interesting to see, and I encourage you to visit there, if you can. Your dollars are always welcome in Plymouth County.

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