1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Plymouth (Massachusetts)

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PLYMOUTH, a township and the county-seat of Plymouth county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the south-eastern part of the state, on Plymouth Bay, about 37 m. S.E. of Boston. Pop. (1905) 11,119; (1910) 12,141. It is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railway, by inter-urban electric lines and in summer by steamers to Boston. The harbour is well sheltered but generally shallow; it has been considerably improved by the United States government and also by the state, which in 1909 was making a channel 18 ft. deep and 150 ft. wide from deep water to one of the township's wharves. The township has an area of 107.3 sq. m., is 18 m. long on the water front and is from 5 to 9 m. wide. Plymouth is a popular resort for visitors, having, in addition to its wealth of historic associations and a healthy summer climate, thousands of acres of hilly woodland and numerous lakes and ponds well stocked with fish. Morton Park contains 200 acres of woodland bordering the shores of Billington Sea (a freshwater lake).

Few, if any, other places in America contain so many interesting landmarks as Plymouth. The famous Plymouth Rock, a granite boulder on which the Pilgrims are said to have landed from the shallop of the “Mayflower,” lies on the harbour shore near the site of the first houses built on Leyden Street, and is now sheltered by a granite canopy. Rising above the Rock is Cole's Hill, where during their first winter in America the Pilgrims buried half their number, levelling the graves and sowing grain over them in the spring in order to conceal their misfortunes from the Indians. Some human bones found on this hill when the town waterworks were built in 1855 have been placed in a chamber in the top of the canopy over the Rock. Burial Hill (originally called Fort Hill, as it was first used for defensive purposes) contains the graves of several Pilgrims and of many of their descendants. The oldest stone bears the date 1681; many of the stones were made in England, and bear quaint inscriptions. Here also are a tablet marking the location of the old fort (1621), which was also used as a place of worship, a tablet showing the site of the watch-tower built in 1643, and a marble obelisk erected in 1825 in memory of Governor William Bradford. Pilgrim Hall, a large stone building erected by the Pilgrim Society (formed in Plymouth in 1820 as the successor of the Old Colony Club, founded in 1769) in 1824 and remodelled in 1880, is rich in relics of the Pilgrims and of early colonial times, and contains a portrait of Edward Winslow (the only extant portrait of a “Mayflower” passenger), and others of later worthies, and paintings illustrating the history of the Pilgrims; the hall library contains many old and valuable books and manuscripts — including Governor Bradford's Bible, a copy of Eliot's Indian Bible, and the patent of 1621 from the Council for New England — and Captain Myles Standish's sword. The national monument to the Forefathers, designed by Hammatt Billings, and dedicated on the 1st of August 1889, thirty years after its corner-stone was laid, stands in the northern part of the town. It is built entirely of granite. On a main pedestal, 45 ft. high, stands a figure, 36 ft. high, representing the Pilgrim Faith. From the main pedestal project four buttresses, on which are seated four monolith figures representing Morality, Education, Law, and Freedom. On the faces of the buttresses below the statues are marble alto-reliefs illustrating scenes from the early history of the Pilgrims. On high panels between the buttresses are the names of the passengers of the “Mayflower.” The court-house was built in 1820, and was remodelled in 1857. From it have been transferred to the fireproof building of the Registry of Deeds many interesting historical documents, among them the records of the Plymouth colony, the will of Myles Standish, and the original patent of the 23rd of January 1630 (N.S.).

Modern Plymouth has varied and important manufactures comprising cordage, woollens, rubber goods, &c. In 1905 the total value of the factory products was $11,115,713, the worsted goods and cordage constituting about nine-tenths of the whole product. The cordage works are among the largest in the world, and consume immense quantities of sisal fibre imported from Mexico and manila from the Philippine Islands; binder-twine for binding wheat is one of the principal products. From 1900 to 1905 the capital invested in manufactures increased 83% and the value of the product 101%. Large quantities of cranberries are raised in the township. Plymouth is a port of entry, but its foreign commerce is unimportant; it has a considerable coasting trade, especially in coal and lumber. The township owns its waterworks.

Plymouth was the first permanent white settlement in New England, and dates its founding from the landing here from the “Mayflower” shallop of an exploring party of twelve Pilgrims, including William Bradford, on the 21st of December (N.S.) 1620. The Indian name of the place was Patuxet, but the colonists called it New Plymouth, because they had sailed from Plymouth, England, and possibly because they were aware that the name of Plymouth had been given to the place six years before by Captain John Smith. When and how the town and the colony of Plymouth became differentiated is not clear. Plymouth was never incorporated as a township, but in 1633 the General Court of the colony recognized it as such by ordering that “the chiefe government be tyed to the towne of Plymouth.” In 1686 the colony submitted to Sir Edmund Andros, who had been commissioned governor of all New England, and chose representatives to sit in his council. Plymouth remained the seat of government of the colony until 1692, when Plymouth Colony, and with it the town of Plymouth, was united to Massachusetts Bay under the charter of 1691 (see Massachusetts: History). Part of Plymouth was established as Plympton in 1707, and part as Kingston in 1726.

Bibliography.—For the sources of the early history of Plymouth consult (George) Mourt's Retation, or Journal of the Plantation of Plymouth (Boston, 1865, and numerous other editions); William Bradford's History of the Plimouth Plantation (Boston, 1858, and several later editions), the most important source of information concerning Plymouth before 1646; the Plymouth Colony Records (12 vols., Boston, 1855-1861); the Records of the Town of Plymouth (3 vols., Plymouth, 1889-1903); J. A. Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers (Boston, 1841); and E. Arber's Story of the Pilgrim Fathers (London, 1897), the two last containing excerpts from the leading sources. See also, James Thacher's History of the Town of Plymouth (Boston, 1832); W. T. Davis's History of the Town of Plymouth (Philadelphia, 1885); also his Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth (Boston, 2nd ed., 1899); and his Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian (Plymouth, 1906); and John A. Goodwin, The Pilgrim Republic (Boston, 1888). For accounts in general histories, see J. G. Palfrey's History of New England, I. (Boston, 1858); the appreciative sketch by J. A. Doyle, in his English Colonies in America, ll. (New York, 1889); and, especially, the monograph by Franklin B. Dexter, in Justin Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, vol iii. (Boston, 1884). As to the truth of the tradition that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, consult the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1903), 2nd series, vol. xvii. containing articles by E. Channing and W. W. Goodwin; the article by Herbert B. Adams in the Magazine of American History, ix. 31 sqq., and that by S. H. Gay in the Atlantic Monthly, xlviii. 612 sqq.