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It seems as if one of the symbols of American Freedom is in jail! After hearing about Plymouth Rock for so long, I had assumed it was a humongous boulder or a cliff face. I was surprised to see it was far smaller than I imaged.
In 1741 Thomas Faunce, at age 94, pointed out Plymouth Rock to be where his father had told him was where the Pilgrams had landed. This is the first historical reference known about Phymouth Rock. At that time, it was further out in the bay, but was brought inland for a time, before being placed into the tidal zone. A structure was built to surround the rock in the early 20th Century.
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Everyone who arrives in Plymouth seems to want to see the Plymouth Rock. So did I. I must admit I was disappointed by the size of the rock. I guess when you talk monuments, you think large, not small , even if they do say "rock", but the Plymouth Rock can't be more than ten feet across. Okay, so it is bigger than a rock I would pick up and skip across the water. Maybe they should have called it "Plymouth Boulder".
The famous Plymouth Rock is set inside a large Greek columned structure with a fence around it, but still a disappointment. I think the whole idea of a rock that the pilgrims stepped on to reach land is a great story, and that's probably what it is.
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One of the most enduring legends in American history is that of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. For a century and a half after the landing of the Pilgrims the rock laid unmarked, almost unnoticed until 1769 when a handful of young men were trying to figure out a way to honor Forefathers. From Deacon Ephraim Spooner they heard of a story that back in 1741 when he was 6 years old, Ruling Elder Thomas Faunce, an "aged and godly" man of 95 year, had been brought there. To a handful of people gathered on the beach Faunce related how, as a boy, he had been told by his father, who had heard it in turn from some who had come on the ship that the Pilgrims had made their first landing at Plymouth on a rock - and, shaking with palsy, he pointed out THE rock.
In 1774 the rock split in two when a team of oxen attempted to raise it. Only the upper portion of Plymouth Rock left the waterfront. For the next century it was moved to Plymouth, first to Town Square and then to Pilgrim Hall. The Pilgrim Society acquired the other half of Plymouth Rock in 1859, and in 1867 it was then moved back to the beach and enshrined below a box of bones, presumably Pilgrims', embedded in the domed ceiling of an elaborate Victorian stone canopy. In 1880, the upper chunk was cemented together with the lower piece of Plymouth Rock, and "1620," the date of the Pilgrims' arrival in Plymouth, was permanently carved into the rock. It then stood about 15 feet long, 3 feet wide, weighing about 7 tons. It laid there for the next 50 years before it was finally moved again in 1921 to the tidewater, sheltered and quite overshadowed by lustrous Grecian temple of Quincy granite.
First described in 1741, Plymouth Rock has the distinction of being the nation's oldest historical tourist attraction. An inspiration to Revolutionary Americans, the upper portion of the world famous rock was dragged to Plymouth Town Square in 1774. The slab of Dedham Granodiorite was later placed on display at the Pilgrim Hall in 1834. Later in 1880 it was returned to the waterfront and covered in an ornate Victorian portico. That was replaced in 1921 by the Greek-style canopy seen today.
Knowing that the landing at the rock is not historically accurate has not slowed the pilgrimage of tourists. Although it has been described by one visitor as "the most disappointing landmark in America" still, as de Toqueville first discovered, it is simultaneously revered. Something about the expansive nation requires an anchor in place and time. Plymouth Rock has become that anchor. Its interpretation has led to historical tourist sites as diverse as the nearby Plymouth Wax Museum, to Pilgrim Hall and Plimouth Plantation, a fully reconstructed and active pioneer village. Today, with a reconstruction of the Mayflower nearby, visitors arrive, stare, toss pennies, laugh and pose for photographs. Despite our largely inaccurate view of the founding families, the magnetic attraction of this seven ton rock is as powerful as ever.
The rock enclosed in the Greek Classical canopy is one of America's best known landmarks. It is reportedly the rock on which the Pilgrim Fathers first set their feet after they got out of their shallop in 1620. For this it is often referred to as the Cornerstone of the Nation (or America's Cornerstone).
Hmm, I was surprised at how small this rock is, makes you wonder whether this is really the actual rock... It helps to know that two-thirds of this rock is underground now. Apparently it was identified as the rock in 1741 by a 95-year-old son of one of the first-comers. But in fact, the Rock has never been mentioned in the early colonists' writings. It was only after the American Revolution that the Rock became an important symbol to the new nation. Still, the place can give a thrill to those who love history! Click for the other pictures to see the Rock itself.
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Plymouth Rock, symbolically at least, is where it all began for the pilgrims, and by consequence for the colonisation of Plymouth and later Massachusetts.
Despite the rock's mythological importance, no-one is quite sure whether the pilgrims actually set foot on it. It wasn't until over a century after the Mayflower arrived that anyone actually set about preserving the rock, although the first attempts broke it in two while the rock was being hauled off to the town centre.
The two portions were reunited in the 19th century, and a proper covering was eventually erected to protect the rock from overeager souvenir-hunters, some of whom took to chipping away little pieces.
Whatever the historical role of the rock, it's undeniably impressive to stand over it and think about what occurred here almost 400 years ago.
Plymouth Rock: The first...
Plymouth Rock: The first thing that struck me is how small this rock is. It is still fascinating.
The place where the Pilgrims landed.
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Plymouth Travel Guide
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