Plymouth Massachusetts, 1890

ever memorable as the first town settled by Europeans in New England, lies in the southeast part of Plymouth County, 37 miles southeast of Boston by the Plymouth Branch, and 46 by the Shore Line of the Old Colony Railroad. It is a port of entry and the seat of justice for Plymouth County. It is bounded on the north by Kingston, Duxbury Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, east by the latter, south by Bourne and Wareham, and west by Carver and Kingston.

Territorially Plymouth is the largest town in the State, extending about 16 miles along the sea, and from five to ten miles into the interior, broadening seaward midway of its length, and forming here a large rounded angle marked by Manomet Hill. The assessed area is 50,797 acres; having some 40,000 acres of forests, consisting principally of pine and oak. The rock formation appears to be granite, which is overlaid, except at its elevations, by drift and alluvium. Bowlders are occasionally met with, also iron ore; and there are small tracts of clay. The surface is quite uneven; and, with the exception of a narrow area along the coast, is sandy and unproductive. The land rises at the broad northeast projection into the long and beautiful wooded eminence of Manomet Hill, 396 feet above sea-level. A charming locality on this shore, called Manomet Bluffs, has become quite populous with summer residents, having a hotel, villas and cottages. The land rises precipitously in a curved line from the shore to the heights of 60 and 100 feet. "The outlook from the bluffs is one of the finest and most expansive on the coast. In fair weather, nearly the entire outline of Cape Cod, from Sandwich to Provincetown, may be seen sweeping around and enclosing the bay." The view to the north includes the nearer Duxbury Bay, with the Neck, Captain's Hill, and Pilgrim Hall and church spires and towers in Plymouth, and the shipping in its harbor. A remarkable feature in the town is the numerous fresh-water ponds, which have an area of about 3,000 acres. The most noted of these —beginning at the north— are Billington Sea, Great South Pond, Long Pond, Half-way Pond, and Great Herring Pond which extends a little into Bourne. Long Pond is becoming quite a summer resort, and has several handsome cottages. Within a circuit of five miles there are at least twenty ponds, large and small, abounding in fish; while the adjacent forests contain deer and other game; the southwestern part being almost as much of a wilderness as when the Pilgrims first traversed it on their way to Buzzard's Bay, or to visit the friendly Massasoit at Mount Hope Bay. The principal streams are Agawam River, flowing from Halfway Pond to Buzzard's Bay; Eel River, carrying the overflow of Great Pond to the southern extremity of Plymouth Harbor; and Town Brook, flowing from Billington Sea into the bay at Plymouth village.

[Plymouth Rock]

The harbor is formed by a narrow beach, formerly well wooded, which runs out three miles northwesterly from the east shore of Eel River. At the extremity is a pier, and on an island northeast is the harbor beacon. Still further northeast is Saquish, a long, curved peninsula point toward Plymouth, and making an elbow with Duxbury Beach, where the Gurnet Light is located. Within this elbow lies Clark's Island, where the Pilgrims spent the Sabbath before the celebrated "landing." It is a gently rounded eminence, and is verdurous with grassy lawns, shrubbery, and even large trees, and is further adorned by several pretty cottages.

Plymouth, the chief village, lies upon Town Brook. At the shore is "Plymouth Rock," famous from its having received the feet of the Pilgrims as they left the boat when they made their celebrated "landing." It is a solitary sienite bowlder, now covered by a beautiful stone canopy. The top of the rock has been removed to Pilgrim Hall. The land rises beautifully from the bay in a broad and gentle slope. At the summit, visible from afar over the village, is the monument to the forefathers, recently completed, the corner stone having been laid in 1859. The designer was Hammat Billings, and its cost has been about $200,000. It is of solid granite throughout; consisting of an octagonal pedestal 45 feet high (uncarved except in narrow bands and mouldings) upon which stands the figure of Faith, 36 feet high, her feet on Plymouth Rock, and holding in her left hand an open Bible, while the right, uplifted, points heavenward. On buttresses about the pedestal, are seated four figures of heroic size, representing Morality, Education, Freedom and Law. Between these are tall panels bearing inscriptions, and below them, relief tablets representing chief scenes in the Pilgrim's career. The cost of the work has been defrayed by various organizations and by individual contributions.


The erection of this monument seems to be the culmination of the Pilgrim drama. In the village are many handsome streets and elegant buildings, among which stand forth conspicuously the court-house, with a fine lawn in front; the Pilgrim Hall, a solid structure of granite; the Oddfellows Hall, the Old Colony Bank building, the Leyden Building, one or two hotels, and several fine church edifices.

[Samoset and the Pilgrims]

The post-offices are Plymouth (village), Chiltonville at the mouth of Eel River, North Plymouth and Manomet. Other villages are Cedarville, Ellisville, Halfway Pond, South Plymouth, West Plymouth, Red Brook, Saquish and Wellingsly. The population in 1885 was 7,239, of whom 1,896 were legal voters. There were 95 farms, whose aggregate product was $85,169. The principal manufacturing establishments in the last census year were two woollen mills, employing 156 persons; three shoe factories, employing 263; a cordage factory employing 219; two cotton mills, employing 72; and a rolling mill for iron, employing 50. Seventy-eight persons were employed in making tacks, 24 in making nails, 18 in making rivets, and 86 in making various castings, forgings and machinery. The value of the textiles made was $1,295,595; and of the iron and other metallic goods, $535,087. The value of the total manufactures was $2,064,749. The fisheries — chiefly of mackerel, cod and alewives — produced $15,000. The commercial marine consisted of five vessels, — one barque, two schooners and two sloops, having a total tonnage of 1,301. The two national banks have a capital stock of $410,000; and the two savings banks at the close of last year carried deposits to the amount of $2,908,020. The valuation in 1888 was $5,373,325, with a tax-rate of $14 on $1,000. There were 1,379 assessed dwelling-houses.

The schools are excellent, consisting of primary, grammar and high; and for them are provided 29 buildings, valued at some $60,480. Plymouth Public Library contains upwards of 5,000 volumes; and the collection of the Pilgrim Social Library numbers upwards of 11,000. The newspapers are the "Old Colony Memorial" and the "Free Press," both weekly issues. There are four Congregationalist churches, and one each of the Baptists, Universalists, Unitarians, Protestant Episcopalians, Methodist Episcopalians, African Methodist Episcopalians, Latter Day Saints and Roman Catholics.

On landing, December 21, 1620, the sea-tossed company of Pilgrims proceeded to lay out Leyden Street, which now extends from the shore, a little south of the "Rock," to the summit of the acclivity. On January 31, 1620-21, the forefathers "kept their first Sabbath-worship on shore;" and on the 8th of February following Rose Standish died. On the 27th of the same month they formed a military organization, with Miles Standish for its captain; and on the 3d March they mounted the "great guns" from the ship on their log fort, on what is now called "Burying Hill." On the 26th of March they received a visit from Samoset, who cried out to them as he approached "Welcome, Englishmen !" On the 1st of April this friendly Indian brought with him Squanto and Massasoit; the latter of whom, chief of the Wampanoags, with his brother Quadequena, entered into a formal treaty of peace, which was sacredly observed until broken by King Philip in 1675. Governor Carver died on the 15th of April, and William Bradford was chosen to fill his place; "and being not yet recovered of his illness, in which he had been near ye point of death, Isaak Allerton was chosen to be an assistant unto him." On 22d of May, Edward Winslow and Mrs. Susanna White were married. This was the first marriage in the colony. Those who died during the first winter were buried on a bank called "Cole's Hill," but a short distance from the landing-place; and the graves were levelled in order to prevent the Indians from suspecting the loss and weakness of the company. A great freshet in 1735 washed many of the bones of the forefathers into the sea. Defences were raised upon this bank in 1742, and during the war of the Revolution, also in that of 1812. Burying Hill, above the town, embraces about eight acres, and is filled with ancient graves and memorial stones.

The first grist mill in New England was built in 1632 by Stephen Dean, near Billington Sea. The house of Mr. Clark was attacked by the Indians March 12, 1676; when eleven persons were massacred and the building reduced to ashes. Eleven dwellings and two barns were burnt by the savages on the 11th of May following. The Pilgrim Society was instituted in 1820, to commemorate the deeds of the forefathers; and Daniel Webster delivered the oration before it on the 22d of December of that year. The first newspaper published here was "The Plymouth Journal," by N. Coverly making its appearance in March, 1785. The "Old Colony Memorial" commenced in 1821. The Old Colony Railroad was opened to Plymouth on November 8, 1845; and from that date the industrial aspect of the town has been steadily improving.

The Plymouth church came from the pastoral care of the Rev John Robinson, in Leyden, a man of signal ability. It was for some time after its arrival in America under the guidance of Elder William Brewster, who used to preach twice every Sabbath, but declined to administer the ordinances. Robert Cushman preached to it December 12, 1621, the first sermon ever printed in America. The Rev. Ralph Smith, settled in 1629, was the first regular pastor. The Second Church, organized in 1738, had for its first minister the Rev. Jonathan Ellis. Among the eminent men Plymouth has given to the world were Col. Benjamin Church (1639-1718); General James Warren (1726-1808); John Davis, LL.D. (1761-1847); Oakes Ames (1804-1873); and Charles T. Jackson, M.D. (1805).

Pp. 542-547 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890