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New England by Heart

Plymouth MA Tour: Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation)

You remember this from your school days, perhaps having made a field trip if you grew up in the area. But don’t rely on those childhood memories. You need to visit as an adult – with your knowledge of modern systems and conveniences – to appreciate what life was like in those early days. 2-3 hours is plenty for exploring here.

I love living history museums – the immersion into a different time, with docents in costume and in character, answering your questions and educating in an engaging way. In this case, there are two places – the recreation of 1627 Plimoth Plantation, and Patuxet, representing the community of Wampanoag that inhabited the area ahead of the Pilgrims.

Plimoth Patuxet Colonial Village

Plimoth Plantation changed its name to Plimoth Patuxet in 2020 to put more emphasis on the Wampanoag and their way of life. The Patuxet docents are modern day staff (as opposed to the “in character” docents in the colonial viallage) that educate visitors on the life of the Wampanoag. Patuxet includes winter and summer wetus (temporary huts), a cooking area, and gardens.

A winter wetu
Burning out a very large log for a canoe

Most fascinating for me is the method for making canoes out of tree trunks using only fire. If you are not familiar with the ways of the Wampanoag, this is an excellent chance to learn more, and to dispel many of the myths that surround the older Pilgrim-centric historical records.

On to the colonial village, which is ostensibly a recreation of Leyden Street, Plimoth Colony’s first street, set in the early days of the colony.

Fear Brewster on the left

On a recent visit, I met Fear, the third daughter of Mayflower Pilgrim William Brewster, who arrived with her sister Patience in 1623. Fear was to be married to Isaac Allerton, 20 years her senior, and seemed happy enough about it. But, you know, there weren’t a lot of choices and it was pretty important for young women to be wed in those days.

Life was pretty primitive
The juxtaposition of goods from the more developed homeland was jarring at times, and shows what they left behind to start from scratch.

Clearly, you can spend some time here, and learn a lot, just by engaging with the characters. But there’s more – a crafts center where you can watch expert craftsmen working at pottery and the apothecary; a very large and well done gift shop in the visitor center, and another smaller one in the crafts center; and two small movie theaters that cater to the local populace.

Fall, as with much in New England, is the most comfortable time to visit, but any time of year is fine if you dress appropriately.

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