Why should Plymouth get all the glory?
by Sandra Murray
Kids at First Encounter Beach, Eastham
Oh sure, we all know how the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. End of history lesson, right? WRONG! Did you know that technically the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod first (Provincetown to be exact), before moving on to the more hospitable and inhabitable Plymouth?
I decided to do a little "home schooling" and take my kids on a day-trip adventure to visit some key spots of the Pilgrims very first encounter with America, right here in our own "back yard". No bridge crossing necessary.
I did my homework first. There were 3 significant incidents that occurred in the fall of 1620 that shaped the history of the Pilgrims settlement. First, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor on November 21, 1620. (http://www.mayflowerhistory.com/PrimarySources/MayflowerCompact.php)
Second, between December 6-12, 1620, the Pilgrims encountered the Natives for the first time on a beach in Eastham, and a brief skirmish ensued between them.
And third, the Pilgrims found a stash of Indian corn near a beach in Truro on November 16, 1620, which saved them from starvation after their first year. (For more info., check out the following websites: (mayflowerhistory.com, panoramio.com, capecodweb.com, sail1620.org)
Armed with these facts, and the trusty navigation tool on my smart phone, we set out to find these three spots. A promise of lunch in P-town along the way, certainly helped sweeten the pot!
First Stop: First Encounter Beach, Eastham.
Located North of Rte 6 in Eastham (just before the Cape Cod National Seashore & Visitor's Center), lies this beautiful beach. I would imagine it's quite popular and crowded on a hot summer day, but on the day we went (mid-November) it was completely empty, cold & blustery, but still gorgeous. We stayed just long enough to run after a few seagulls on the sand and take a quick picture, before returning to our nice, warm car.
Second Stop: Corn Hill, Truro
We continued approximately 13 miles up Rte. 6 from First Encounter Beach, looking for a sign for "Corn Hill". We followed the street (Castle Road) all the way to the end. After pulling into the parking lot for Corn Hill Beach, over to the far right of the parking lot, we saw a little fenced in area with a marker indicating the spot where the Pilgrims found the cache of Indian corn. Yes, some nay-sayers will argue that the Pilgrim's stole the corn from the Natives, but I was trying to stick to history, and make it a fun day for the kids, so I didn't get into that.
We took a picture with the marker, and as it turns out, Ellen found an actual ear of corn behind the marker (a happy coincidence, but it sure made her day!)
Third Stop: Pilgrim's Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown.
The last stop on our "Cape Cod Pilgrim Tour" was to the Pilgrim's Monument and Provincetown Museum (http://pilgrim-monument.org/) We love P-town, and go a couple times a year anyway, so it didn't take much to convince my kids to go again on this day. We walked around town, window shopped in the mostly closed-for-the-season shops, bought some fudge and had a delicious lunch at the Lobster Pot.
One of the benefits of going to P-town off season is that, not only was there no wait to get into the Lobster Pot, but we even got the best water-view table in the whole place! That would never happen in August.
After lunch we headed up the hill to the PMPM. We've climbed the monument a handful of times already, but it never fails to delight. The view was spectacular! On this day, the Monument was already decorated with lights for the holiday season, and the museum was having a Provincetown Pilgrim Party with a guest lecturer and cake & cider for everyone. BONUS!
The museum is definitely worth checking out. They have some great artifacts from colonial life, as well as some beautiful artwork depicting the scenes of the Pilgrim's first weeks in Provincetown (scenes from Corn Hill & First Encounter among them.)
I highly recommend you take a day to bring your family on this little historical excursion. Thanksgiving is coming, and for many of us, the kids will have 5 days off from school and you'll probably have a house-full of relatives to entertain. What better way to celebrate our country's unique and traditional holiday than to ACTUALLY walk in the footsteps of the Pilgrims? Even better, doing it Cape Cod-style! Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving.
For more information on "All things Cape Cod", please visit my blog: capecodgirl-sandy.blogspot.com
P.S. There is a fourth stop you can also visit, to continue walking the same land as the Pilgrims did in 1620! The spot of the "Pilgrims Spring". Located in the Pilgrim Heights area of N. Truro, this is the spot where the Pilgrims first found fresh drinking water. The area has many of the identical kinds of shrubs and flowers, as seen by the Pilgrims as they explored the area. The National Seashore’s Pilgrim Spring Trail is an appx. 3/4 mile hike from Route 6, and well marked. http://www.capelinks.com/cape-cod/main/entry/the-water-and-the-rock/ Happy Trails!