This week and next I return to Plymouth and Provincetown where I did some of the research for Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures. Our first stop is Plimoth Plantation – recently renamed Plimoth Patuxet to acknowledge the community’s name when Indigenous people occupied the area. Plimoth Patuxet is a living museum. People dressed in period outfits talk about their lives in the 17th century. Today there is an in-door museum and theatre and two outdoor villages. One is a replica of the English settlement established by the surviving Mayflower passengers in 1620. The other shows visitors what a Native American village would have been like in that same time period.
Part of our time in the area includes a tour of the newly restored Mayflower II. Last October this ship was named to the National Register of Historic Places. In a press release Plimoth Patuxet Executive Ellie Donovan stated, “We are grateful to the National Parks Service, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and all who supported our nomination to the National Register.”
The full-size Mayflower II replica of the original ship is significant for its role in preserving the history of the original ship’s role in our country’s history. Mayflower II was built in England from 1955 to 1957. It arrived in Plymouth, MA June 13, 1957, and was welcomed by an excited 25,000 spectators.
By 2015, as the 2020 400th anniversary of the original voyage approached, the ship needed major repairs. The Plimoth museum leadership collaborated with Connecticut Mystic Seaport Museum to restore the ship to seaworthy condition. Skilled shipwrights and artisans brought the ship up to the standards of the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation. Repairs required six types of wood from eight states and as far away as Denmark. As part of the 400th anniversary celebrations, the Mayflower II made a two-week voyage from Mystic Seaport back to Plymouth in July 2020.
Small and Significant
The new Mayflower is as close a proximity to the original as the ship builders could make her. The original ship was 100 feet long and about 25 feet wide, giving it the shape of an oversized bathtub, with masts. The Titanic measured nearly 882 feet in length; the modern Queen Mary II measures 1,019 feet.
For most of the long voyage the passengers were relegated to what was known as the Tween deck – a cramped area between the main deck above and the hold below, where all their belongings were stored. Their living space measured approximately 68 by 24 feet – for 102 passengers, including several children, three pregnant women, and two dogs.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Master Jones took pity on the desperate plight of his passengers and stayed with them until spring when they had housing on shore. He then sailed back to England, arriving there on May 9, 1621. The ship was appraised as part of a probate four years later, in 1624. Records describe it as being in ruins. Though one legend reports it was moved inland, turned upside down, and repurposed as a barn, it is much more likely it was sold for scrap. Timber was a valuable resource in 17th century England, so worn out ships were typically recycled for new projects.
Read more about the early encounters between the Pilgrim settlers and the Pokanokets in my historical novel Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures. Available now in paperback Ebook and audio.
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