Remember Allerton looks over the food for Thanksgiving at Plimoth Plantation
The Late Reverend Peter Gomes* once said that if all the descendents of the Mayflower Puritans were put back aboard a ship, it would have to hold millions.
My family traces itself back to Isaac Allerton (1585-1659), an enterprising gentleman who was among those who landed at
on November 21,
1620. The girl in the photo above is the
young enactor representing Remember Allerton, Isaac’s daughter. Plymouth
We’ve visited Plimoth Plantation at
several times, and each time
it has been a fascinating learning experience.
The reenactors who populate this little town live in 1627. Each of them has learned his part so well
that when you talk with them, you feel you are really talking to a person from
this colony. They don’t know about
radio, electricity or automobiles, or the Plymouth,
MA . There’s not a word for “fruit” in their
vocabulary. If it wasn’t common
knowledge in 1627, they don’t know about it. United States
Pilgrim women at work in their home.
We think of the Pilgrims as English, yet they left
in 1609, and returned only in 1620 to board the Mayflower and the Speedwell to
sail to the New World. They all spoke Dutch.
By 1627 the Pilgrims figured they’ve seen it all. During that first brutal, cold winter of 1620-21 the Indians never came near them, either to attack them or to make friends. The Indians had met English sailors before. The sailors attacked the Indians, raped their women, and carried some back to
. The Indians had caught European diseases from
them which nearly wiped out some villages.
So they stayed away from the Pilgrims. England
We have the idea that the Indians the Pilgrims encountered were wild savages, but one day in March, 1621 an Indian named Samoset came walking up, and he had the ability to speak bits of English. Then he introduced them to Squanto, who had been kidnapped and taken to
he trained as an interpreter. It appears
that Squanto was the kind of guy you hope you’ll meet in a foreign country,
because he opened up this part of London for the Pilgrims. He taught them how to tap maple trees for
their sap, how to grow native crops. He
showed them the best fishing grounds, and introduced them to clams, mussels and
Wampanoag woman sewing deerskin coat.
The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags seem to have gotten along well and in 1621 Governor William Bradford decided they’d have a feast and thank the Indians for teaching them how to survive. It lasted three days. That was the basis for our modern Thanksgiving Day dinner.
At Plimoth Plantation today, in addition to the Pilgrim village, there’s a Wampanoag village, but here, instead of reenactors, there are actual Wampanoags and members of other Indian tribes, to tell visitors about what life was like amongst the Indians in
in 1627. Massachusetts
Every time we have visited Plimoth Plantation, we ask about our ancestor, Isaac Allerton. The Pilgrims always give us the same answer: “He’s gone back to
.” It turns out that Allerton was something of a
wheeler-dealer, traveling back and forth across the England Atlantic
as the colony’s business agent, buying and selling ships and goods. It seems he saddled the colony with debt, and
was accused of pulling some shady deals, so he was eventually declared persona non grata.
I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
[Above photos courtesy of Plimoth Plantation.]
* Peter John Gomes (1942-2011) was an American preacher and theologian, professor at Harvard School of Divinity. He was black, descended from
West Africans, Portuguese Jews and one of the Mayflower Pilgrims. He was a brilliant, delightful man, a
Republican most of his life, and author of two best-selling religious
books. And he was gay. He became an
advocate of homosexuality in Cape Verdeans
and particularly in religion. At one
time he headed the America
chapter of the Mayflower Society. Plymouth
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