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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Saving Plymouth Rock


Plymouth Rock
With the first day of winter nigh upon us, let's look back upon the first day of winter nearly four hundred years ago, December 21, 1620, when weary voyagers from the Mayflower chose their first permanent dwelling place in North America. Landing on the frigid coast just above Cape Cod, the Pilgrims embarked on the shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts. And stepped onto a huge rock.


"Plymouth Rock" has since become an American icon as a symbol of discovery and liberty. A quest for religious freedom and pursuit of a better life. It cannot be verified that the rock that exists today is actually the rock that the Pilgrims stepped onto, or if they stepped onto such a rock at all. Yet tradition has firmly held through verbal transmission that the large piece of granite provided a steady landing for the sojourners, as sure as their convictions.

One Thomas Faunce was the son of John, who came to Plymouth in the Ann in 1623. John was considered one of the "First Comers"along with the original Mayflower passengers and raised his son, Thomas, contemporaneously with other second generation settlers. From his childhood, Thomas was told by his father and others about coming to America including the report about the rock. Thomas, who became the last elder of the First Church of Plymouth, brought his own children and grandchildren there to continue transmitting the story on each anniversary of the Pilgrim's landing.

Then in 1741 a wharf was to be built over the rock and 95 year old Elder Faunce was taken by chair to see the rock for one last time. At Founder's Day in 1817 a Mrs. White and Deacon Spoon transmitted their testimony that Elder Faunce had publicly proclaimed the history of the consecrated rock with tear filled eyes.


In 1775 inhabitants of the town decided to consecrate the rock as a shrine of liberty. Twenty yoke of oxen attempted to move it only to have it split in two when a team attempted to raise it. The upper portion, however, was placed at the foot of the Liberty Pole as a reminder of the values that first brought the Pilgrims to their beloved country.
Piece of Plymouth Rock taken by Lewis Bradford.
18th and 19th century souvenir hunters have chipped at the rock through the years to take a piece of its legend and legacy. A piece was taken in 1850 by a descendant of Gov. William Bradford and is inscribed "Broken from the Mother Rock by Mr. Lewis Bradford on Tues. 28th of Dec. 1850 4 1/2 o’clock p.m.”. But since 1921, Plymouth Rock has been protected by a monumental enclosure which stands in Massachusetts' Plymouth Rock State Park on the shore of Plymouth harbor. It's current size is believed to be only 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the original piece of granite.



Plymouth Rock in 1867
On the Fourth of July in 1834 the rock was moved to a position in front of Pilgrim Hall where it remained enclosed by a fancy iron fence for forty six years. In 1867 a canopy was errected which sheltered the original piece of the rock. In 1880 the the two fragments were reunited after a separation of over a century. It was that the inscription "1620" was carved into Plymouth Rock.







"We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labours; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and establish. – And we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places, some proof, that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles, and private virtue; in our veneration of religion and piety; in our devotion to civil and religious liberty; in our regard to whatever advances human knowledge, or improves human happiness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin…"  ~ Daniel Webster, 1820

Plymouth Rock's current enclosure.
  This link will take you to a panoramic view of Plymouth Rock.




2 comments:

  1. Glad that they saved it. A few of my ancestors were on the Mayflower and I visited the reconstructed Plimouth Village and saw the rock.

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    Replies
    1. Me, too, Carol, to everything you mentioned! I had no idea about its history through the years though and it was fun learning about it and especially its tie to the ideal of liberty.

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