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395 Years Ago Today, Pilgrims Landed in Plymouth

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On December 21, 1620, the Pilgrims came ashore at Plymouth.
After 66 days at sea and several weeks docked in Provincetown Harbor while the passengers explored Cape Cod, Mayflower finally docked in Plymouth on December 18th. On December 21st, the first expedition took the shallop ashore. Here are a few things you may not have heard about this iconic moment in history:
1) The Pilgrims did not actually land on Plymouth Rock.
There are no written or verbal accounts that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and the landing place of the Pilgrims has not been determined. In fact, the rock wasn’t identified as anything of significance until 1771, when 94-year-old Thomas Faunce, claimed that his father, who arrived in Plymouth in 1623, and several of the original Mayflower passengers assured him the stone (which was much larger at the time) was the specific landing spot.
2) The first passengers to step foot in Plymouth were…
…not documented! Little is known of the first expedition in Plymouth, but we can guess that it was likely all men who boarded the 30-foot shallop to explore their new home.
3) The Pilgrims did not name Plymouth (or America, for that matter)
Bradford wrote, while the Pilgrims were still living in Holland, that he was hoping to travel to “America,” which could have meant either North or South America, as both continents had been identified as simply “America” sometime around 1515 in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, who made at least three voyages to the continents between 1497 and 1512. The Pilgrims were also aware that where they landed was called “Plymouth,” thanks to Captain John Smith’s well-documented expedition in 1614 (which is also significant because of this high-profile kidnapping) and the maps that were created as a result. Captain Smith is credited with naming this region New Plimouth.
4) The Pilgrims might have moved on to another location…
…had it not been for the terrible sicknesses being shared among the passengers and the looming winter.  Bradford wrote, “it was the best they could find, and the season and present necessity made them glad to accept of it.”
5) Forefathers Day was introduced in 1769 to celebrate the landing of the Pilgrims
Before the creation of the United States of America, and almost a century before Thanksgiving was proclaimed a federal holiday by President Lincoln (1863), Forefathers Day was a day for commemorating not only the landing of the Pilgrims but the values which they represented, which are still largely considered cornerstones of our Nation. According to the Boston Globe, in 1802, John Quincy Adams delivered a speech at Forefathers Day in Plymouth “that celebrated the Pilgrims as proto-democrats whose Mayflower Compact had laid the basis for the great experiment in republican government to come”, and once his reputation began to rise, the position of Forefathers Day speaker in Plymouth became a coveted one.
Tomorrow morning you can catch the Old Colony Club’s Forefathers Day procession on Cole’s Hill at sunrise.

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