This time of year, a good store of our museum guests are asking the question “how did you get here?” Essentially, they want to know whether or not the 17th century person they are interacting with came on the Mayflower. Therefore, I think it’s only fair to ask you, our blog guests, “how did you get here?” No, seriously, what brought you to our blog? If the answer is not “I got an email telling me you posted”, then you should probably become a subscriber!
Speaking of subscribers, those of you who have been following They Knew They Were Pilgrims for a while may remember my ramblings on the (fake) polyandrous life of a pilgrim housewife. Well, the adventure continued last weekend, when my (real) husband spent a day playing my (fake) future husband. Confused?! It only gets worse from here.
Here’s a quick recap: My character, Christian, is the third wife of Mayflower passenger Francis Eaton. She is widowed in 1633 and the next year marries another (this one’s infamous) Mayflower Francis, Francis Billington. Every fourth grader in Massachusetts learns about the mischievous Billingtons, and parents everywhere breathe a sigh of relief upon learning that boys will be boys, no matter what the century.
For your entertainment, here are my two favourite Billington Boy stories, as documented in Mourt’s Relation:
The fifth day, [of December, 1620] we through God’s mercy escaped a great danger by the foolishness of a boy. One of John Billington’s sons, who in his father’s absence, had got gun powder, and had shot off a piece or two, and made squibs and there being a fowling piece charged in his father’s cabin, shot her off in the cabin, there being a little barrel of powder half full scattered in and about the cabin, the fire being within four foot of the bed between the decks, and many flints and iron things about the cabin and many people about the fire, and yet by God’s mercy no harm done.
Yes, that’s right. Two boys, some gunpowder, a musket and plenty of potential for trouble. Then, a month or so later:
This day [January 8th, 1620/21], Francis Billington, having the week before seen from the top of a tree on an high hill, a great sea as he thought, went with one of the Masters mates to see it. They went three miles and then came to a great water, divided into two great Lakes, the bigger of them five or six miles in circuit, and in it an isle of a Cable length square the other three miles in compass; in their estimation they are fine fresh water, full of fish and fowl. A brook issues from it, it will be an excellent help for us in time.
HE THOUGHT HE SAW A GREAT SEA BUT IT TURNED OUT JUST TO BE A POND!! HILARIOUS!!!! The best part is, that 392 years later, IT’S STILL CALLED THE BILLINGTON SEA!
Anyway, on with the story. On November 11th, 2012, the 392nd anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival at Cape Cod, and to honour those who serve their country in the armed forces, we exhibited a militia muster in the 1627 village. The settlers in early Plymouth would have been accustomed to seeing their men practicing as part of a company of musketeers or pike-men very regularly. We at Plimoth Plantation, on the other hand, hardly ever have fifteen men in the village on one day. Here’s the scene:
First of all, special thanks go to Kathy Devlin, aka Mistress Winslow, for coming in on her day off and taking these excellent photos! Next, let me say a huge THANK YOU to our friends who volunteered their time for this muster. I think I counted ten in total, and one of them was only a few months old and therefore counts as at least a Pilgrim and a half, if not two. See the one in the back of the company of pikes in the blue cassock and the floppy hat? That’s my REAL husband! You blog readers are an intelligent bunch, I’m sure that from the first half of this post you can deduce who he was playing….Yes, that’s right, none other than Francis Billington himself! This was his first day pilgrimming, so naturally I wanted to do everything I could to make it a good one. We practiced our dialect, he learned the names of all the articles of clothing he would be wearing, I even read him Bradford when he couldn’t sleep the other night, and best of all, I (along with Mistress Alden) planned a delicious seventeenth century dinner for us all to enjoy. The menu consisted of fricasse of coney, herb tart, boiled roots and pancakes. You may be wondering where my fake husband, Goodman Eaton, was during all of this merrymaking…Well, he doesn’t work on Sundays, so I did what every other self-respecting fake housewife would do:
I set a place for him at the table and made it look like he ate and ran. Sorry about the poor quality of this picture, it’s just that I had to literally jump out of my seat, whip out the camera and point and shoot in between visitors! Needless to say, I was impressed by how quickly my (real) husband began to look like he belonged in 1627. I’m pretty sure he fooled all the visitors into thinking he’s been living there all along…
Of course, a day spent with Francis Billington could not possibly be a mischief-free one. He, encouraged by his profane father, made us all jump out of our seats by throwing a squib into the hearth like it was 1620.
Well played, real husband, well played.