Thursday, November 16, 2006

America's Most Famous Rock

If you've ever wondered how Plymouth Rock earned its name, here's a somewhat inaccurate account (in the interest of disclosure, Elder Thomas Faunce was my first cousin ten times removed):

In 1741, 95-year-old Thomas Faunce was carried to the waterfront where a pier was about to be built over an undistinguished rock. With great emotion he said his father, who had arrived in Plymouth in 1623, had told him that it was where the Pilgrims first landed. Maybe so.

The rock itself has had a tortuous life. In 1774, it was decided to dig it up. While being loaded into a wagon, it broke in half. Half of it was taken to the town square. In 1834, what remained had been significantly downsized by hammer-wielding souvenir hunters. While moving it to a safer location at the newly built Pilgrim Hall it fell off the vehicle and broke again. It was finally pieced together with cement and mounted in front of the hall. [Link]
John Faunce, the father, didn't come on the Mayflower (which arrived, so the Rock says, in 1620), but on the Anne in 1623. Faunce's statement was witnessed by Deacon Ephraim Spooner when he was just a boy, and it is upon Spooner's testimony decades later that the Rock was fetishized. Pilgrim Hall Museum has a more complete history of the revered stone on its website.

By the way, Caleb Johnson has written an excellent review of this weekend's History Channel presentation, "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower."
[Photo credit: Plymouth Rock by John Hartnup (license)]

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