This jaunt takes you to the three of the most important sights in Plymouth – the Mayflower II, Plymouth Rock and Cole’s Hill. If I were to visit Plymouth only once and only for a few hours, this is what I would do. It certainly does not do full justice to the town, as there is much more to do and see, but this includes the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock, two of the most visited attractions.
The Mayflower II is located down on the waterfront, in the water, docked. No, this is not the original Mayflower, which is long gone, but yes, it’s an accurate seaworthy replica that will leave you in awe that anyone could have crossed an ocean in it. Get on board for a tour. The stories of that voyage are more than worth hearing.
Pilgrim Mother Statue
The Pilgrim Mother Statue and fountain honors the women who came over on the Mayflower. Of the twenty-nine women and girls, only five adult women survived that first winter. Three were pregnant when embarking on the Mayflower, with two infants surviving and one stillborn.
Think about that, about that journey, about the fear they must have felt landing in a wild country devoid of any of the comforts of home. How do you make food out of this? How do you keep yourself and your children safe, warm, dry and fed? They faced it courageously and carried on.
About the Rock, as it is affectionately known by locals – it is not impressive as a boulder, let’s just get that out there – many have been the tourists with bemused and disappointed miens as they peer over the railing at this mighty pebble. Also, it may or may not have been where the Pilgrims first set foot in Plymouth – that being a legend passed down orally from an early Colony elder who might have got it wrong, or not. There’s no written record. What is sure is that the poor thing has been battered, sundered and plundered through time, and is now a third of its former self. I will not divulge this sorry history because that is best done through the interpreter (and signage) at the site – this is well worth hearing about – you will laugh, you will cry, and you will surely walk away with a greater appreciation for the humble Rock.
Across the street from Plymouth Rock is Cole’s Hill. There is a set of granite steps that will take you to the top, where to the left you’ll find the statue of Wampanoag Chief and Grand Sachem Massasoit, sculpted by Cyrus Edwin Dallin.
Massasoit was a great friend to the Pilgrims in the early years, teaching them much about living off the land, and determined that there should be peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag. That peace survived throughout his lifetime (he died in 1661). We can only be glad that he was fortunate enough to miss the later disintegration of that relationship.
There is little to mark the significance of Cole’s Hill other than a small stone marker, so it’s easy to miss its importance. This is where many pilgrims were buried in secret that first deadly winter to keep the natives unaware of the toll.
So it is well that we have the Pilgrim sarcophagus, the final resting place for those whose remains that had been recovered from Cole’s Hill. Previously held in the old 1867 monument over Plymouth Rock, the replacement with the current granite portico built in 1920 was the impetus for the Society of Mayflower Descendants to find a new home that honors those who were not able to survive that treacherous first year.