3 Tales from America’s Hometown
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard at least one famous story out of America’s Hometown, especially at this time of year. After all, this seaside village has bragging rights to the first Thanksgiving. But there are plenty of stories from where it all began that don’t involve cranberry sauce, and there’s a good chance you haven’t heard any of them yet.
We picked some of our favorite tales from Plymouth, Massachusetts – and most of them don’t even have anything to do with the Pilgrims. Read them before you head over to the in-laws for Thanksgiving. Fun facts, colonial trivia and local heros are the perfect thing to have in your back pocket this Turkey Day.
Fun Fact: There Was an Earlier – and Bigger – Plymouth Rock
More than one rock in Plymouth has a story worth telling.
One sits on a small island in Plymouth Harbor called Clark’s Island. Clark’s Island became a place of refuge for 16 Pilgrims when a nor’easter hit in November of 1620.
After the Mayflower first landed in Provincetown, it became clear that the sandy tip of Cape Cod wasn’t suitable land for a permanent settlement. A smaller crew of men including William Bradford, John Carver, Myles Standish and Edward Winslow set out in the shallop to find a better place. Sheltering from a turn of bad weather, they spent the night and the following Sabbath on Clark’s Island.
That’s where you’ll find Pulpit Rock, or Election Rock.
Legend has it that they gathered at Pulpit Rock and held their first religious service in “the New World” the morning after they survived that storm. It’s also when and where they decided – or elected – to make Plymouth their permanent home, giving the large rock its second name.
A private island only accessible by boat, a trip to Clark’s Island and Pulpit Rock takes some planning. If you do get the chance to go, look for the inscription of William Bradford’s words: “On the Sabbath Day we rested.”
A White Horse Soldier Puts A Third Rock on the Map
Another local rock well-loved by Plymouthians and boasting a patriotic past is Flag Rock. This one, however, has nothing to do with Plymouth’s first European settlers.
Located about 7 miles south of the Plymouth Rock, Flag Rock is off the coast of White Horse Beach. A large rock out in the middle of the water, it’s not very easy to access. Yet for as long as many residents can remember it’s been painted with a huge American Flag.
The story goes that in 1941 a group of local teens painted the first flag. The rock is in the water, and since it gets exposed to pretty rough elements it wasn’t too long before the painted flag faded.
A tradition of repainting the rock every July 4th began. As the original patriot painters headed off to war, the flag-fixing was passed on to trusted cousins and friends.
From Pilgrims to Patriots Plymouth’s Continued Role in American History
Near Clark’s Island is another hard to access part of Plymouth: the Gurnet. Attached to land by the northern town of Duxbury, the Gurnet is a twenty-seven acre spit of sandy land at the top of Plymouth Bay. It was also home to Ft. Andrew, a military base built in 1776 by the towns of Plymouth, Kingston, and Duxbury.
Fort Andrew garrisoned sixty men and mounted 6 cannons – three twelve-pounders, one six-pounder, and two nine-pounders. And good thing, because the Fort saw military action.
During the revolutionary war, British ships destroyed a beacon on one of the twin lighthouses at the fort. According to local lore, attacks in that day could have been a lot worse if not for a group of young girls, tall sand dunes and some flags.
How a Gaggle of Young Girls and a Few American Flags Helped Keep the Coast Safe
The Gurnet was no stranger to strong, crafty women. In fact, the first woman Lighthouse Keeper in America, Hannah Thomas single-handedly manned the twin lighthouse towers on Gurnet Point from 1776 to 1786 after her husband, General John Thomas, died in the war.
Not many people weathered the rugged climate of the Gurnet year-round, but there were residents who lived on the remote spit all year, including local schoolchildren. Locals tell the story of how a group of young girls helped deter the Royal Navy.
With British ships off the coast, it’s said the children would run behind the tall dunes with flags, to make the British think the Fort and land were more strongly fortified than they actually were.
Considering Plymouth is one of the oldest towns in our now United States, it makes sense it would have a rich history of good stories. This Thanksgiving, share some of these lesser known ones. Better yet, plan a road trip and visit Plymouth yourself. Exploring our country sea-to-shining-sea is the best way to create stories of your own.