Friday, September 30, 2016

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Massachusetts

(Exact replica of the Mayflower)

The Pilgrim saga began with a group of religious dissidents who believed it necessary to separate from the Church of England.   

Persecuted in England these 'Separatists' moved to Holland in 1607.
They soon found their lives in Holland to be as difficult as they had been in England.
Joined by others the group began the move to America in 1620.

Due to a number of unfortunate delays the Pilgrims did not arrive in the new world until Dec. 1620.  All 130 passengers and crew had to remain on the ship until spring when timbers could be cut and some structures  built.

The ship was anchored some distance from shore and all transportation back and forth to land was via a small sailing vessel.  Living conditions on board were obviously miserable.

The Mayflower passengers went heavily into debt to come to America, borrowing from a group of English 'Merchant Adventurers'.  Merchants and passengers together formed a stock company, which held all money, livestock and land.  Assets were to be divided after seven years.

The colonies were not a success for the investors.   More money was borrowed to purchase supplies. The colonists eventually repaid approximately 1/3rd of the debt.

The Compact that was drawn up to govern the new colony was communal (a lot like the Shaker commune).  However, from the beginning the Church and the Government were strictly separate.

The Mayflower Passengers (approx. 130)

One year later.
"Fifty Three survived to the first Thanksgiving in 1621"

The Museum in Plymouth has a number of items that actually came over on the Mayflower:

Matchlock Musket

Sword and Scabbard

Among the Mayflower passengers were Priscilla Mullins, John Alden and Myles Standish.  Priscilla was in her late teens,  John in his early twenties, Myles perhaps 27 was widowed the first winter of 1621.
At some point John and Priscilla married and produced 11 children.   Myles Standish remarried.  Both families were among the founders of the town of Duxbury to the north of the original settlement of Plymouth.

 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an actual descendent of John Alden, in 1858 wrote his popular epic poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish" out of an old family story.

Longfellow imagines Myles as a brave but inarticulate soldier who sends young John to plead his case with the beautiful Priscilla.  John is torn between duty to the Captain and his own love for Priscilla.  Priscilla, despite her maidenly reserve, chooses her own mate.

In early autumn of 1621 the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest, as was the English custom at the time.  
  The land had long been inhabited by Wampanoag, native Americans whose leader, Massasoit, befriended the Pilgrims.  Without the help of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims would likely have starved soon after their arrival.
The Wampanoag have lived in southeastern New England for thousands of years.
The Native Peoples were familiar with Europeans, who had been exploring and fishing here since the 16th century.

Many of the Indians came to the celebration including King Massasoit, with some ninety men.  This celebration is now remembered as the First Thanksgiving.

Squanto was a Wampanoag native of Patuxet (today Plymouth).  In 1614, Thomas Hunt, an unscrupulous English sea captain, kidnapped several Natives, including Squanto, and sold them to Spain.  Somehow Squanto made his way to London where he became acquainted with English explorer Thomas Dermer, sailing back to New England with him in 1619.  He discovered his village was vacant, emptied by disease. He went on to serve as guide and interpreter between the natives and the Pilgrims and remained with the colonists until his death in 1622.

A piece of Plymouth Rock and my hand.   
I was surprised to find this rock in the museum and asked the docent about it.  She informed me that there are many pieces of the original 'Plymouth Rock' that have been chiseled away over the years.  This one piece was returned to the town probably by someone with a guilty conscience. .

Pilgrim Memorial State Park is designed around Plymouth Rock, a large glacial boulder deposited in the harbor and smoothed by centuries of tidal wash.  The rock is not only a landmark, but also a symbol of the courage and faith of the men and women who founded the first New England colony.  


"Here is a stone which the feet of a few outcasts pressed for an instant; and the stone becomes famous.  It is treasured by a great nation; its very dust is shared as a relic."  
                                       Alexis De Tocqueville, 1835

The Docent at the memorial was this very exuberant young man.  He was due to get off work and was just leaving when a dozen tourists, including myself, walked up.  Someone asked him a question and in seconds he was pouring out this great oratory on why this rock is the "Talisman of our Country", the "Symbol of our Strength," and so much more.  For 20 minutes he expounded on how, for years, people had chipped away at the rock, taking souvenir chunks home to sit on their mantels.That it was a 90 year old resident of the town that pleaded with the town council to not build a boat dock on top of what was left, and how, finally, the townspeople erected this memorial that protects what remains of the rock.  When the young man finished his amazing soliloquy there was silence, then suddenly applause.  

I think Thanksgiving is going to be even more special to me this year.

Cape Cod

I cannot believe that this is all I have from my  visit to Cape Cod...

It rained and was miserable for three days.  

I reached the very tip of the Cape and got out of the RV long enough to walk out to the water, take a few pictures  and stick a toe into the Atlantic Ocean.

There was no one around--anywhere.

By the time I got back to the RV it was raining again and I was soaked.

So, not every day has been perfect.

I took advantage of the 'down time', read a book, made a pot of soup, and took a long nap.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Shakers

This has been my summer to encounter unusual museums and odd religions.  The stop in Canterbury, New Hampshire, a few miles north of Concord,  combined the two: an entire town converted to a museum that spotlights the vanishing 'Shaking Quaker' religion.

 The Founder of the Shakers was Ann Lee of Manchester England.  In a religious revival of the 17th Century there arose the 'Shaking Quakers' or 'Shakers' in 1754.  Nine persons from Manchester emigrated in May 1774 for the purpose of founding a Shaker Church in America.

At one time there were dozens of Shaker villages throughout the U.S. with a total of over 6000 members.  Today there is one village left--Sabbathday Lake Village in Maine--with only three members.

Canterbury, NH was once a very thriving Shaker community....

Canterbury Shaker Village was formed in 1792.  In May of that year the Meeting House was raised in one day, with such solemn reverence that scarcely a word was spoken during the framing and raising of the building, except in whisper.

By November of 1793 the massive Dwelling House was occupied and from then until 1860 not a year went by without another building being constructed or enlarged.  In addition, fields were cleared, stone walls built, a water power system constructed and production of goods for sale to the world was undertaken.

By the time of the Civil War, Canterbury was a thriving Shaker village where nearly 300 people lived, worked and worshipped in 100 buildings on over 4000 acres.

So what happened to all these 'Shakers' and why were they called 'Shakers'?  

Why they are disappearing is answered in their mutually agreed upon 'Basic Principles'...

The Basic Principles of the Shaker Order: Virgin Purity, Peace, Justice, Love
All expressed in celibate life, non resistance, community of goods and universal Brotherhood

They so completely supported the celibate life that even their buildings promoted it.  Every building had two entry doors--one for women and another for men.  If the building had two or more floors then there were two staircases to every floor--one for women and a second for men--sometimes side by side.  I couldn't resist and had to ask the Docent if any member ever 'climbed the other staircase?' As far as he knew, no woman had ever produced a baby in this community.  I am surprised that it took over 200 years for the community to die out.

How they got the title of 'Shaking Quakers' or Shakers seems due to a practice that is the antithesis of their cult standards of celibacy: Line Dancing! 

"Shakers Dancing" 
Lithograph c. 1830

During their worship service they would line up in seemingly rigid formations and express their religious ecstasy in a rhythmic and exuberant manner.  (I am surprised that it did not result in an end to that 'Basic Standard of Celibacy.')

The church floor had markings to guide the Shakers in their dances. 

The Docent said there is no one left that can demonstrate the actual dances but there are a number of drawings and writings that help explain the ritual and the energy of the dance.

 And they certainly had the music to Shake the building.

 Music, both secular and religious, played an important role in Shaker life.  Musical instruments were common by the 20th century and included pianos, cornets, saxophones, violins and harmonicas.  The Shakers formed small orchestras, including a quartette and harmonica band.  

I bet this group produced some toe-tapping numbers.

There were no adornments in any of the buildings--no elaborate paintings, no statues, no chandeliers, and very little in the way of color.  The furniture was all serviceable and of classic design.

It was communal living to the extreme with emphasis on equality...

Equality of the Sexes in all Departments of life
Equality of labor, all working for each, and each for all.
Equality in property.  No rich, no poor.


No hierarchy even at the dinner table. 

Both sexes shared in the cooking, housekeeping and work in the fields.

 I think I saw one of these at the Plumbing Museum.


Stretchers for the woolen sox.

Practices they supported...
 Freedom of Speech, Toleration in thought and religion,
Abolition of all Slavery
Temperance in all things.
Justice and Kindness to all living beings.
The Golden Rule: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Purity in thought, speech and personal habits.
Freedom from debt, worry and competition.
Simplicity in dress, speech and manner.

(Not a bad code to govern by.)

I  admired the fact that this was neither a matriarchal nor a patriarchal organization.  Over the 200 years of its existence men and women shared equally in the leadership.


In 1992 the three surviving Shakers turned the village of Canterbury over to the state to operate as a museum then moved to Sabbathday Lake, Maine to live out their days.  The youngest is 58 and the oldest is 90. 

The most well-known of all the Shaker communes is now a very prosperous community in Ohio--Shaker Heights. No Shakers live there.

The official name of the sect: The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing.