My So-Called Pilgrim Life

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A chronicle of daily life in the 1627 English village at Plimoth Plantation from both a modern and historical perspective.

I Dare You

April 11th, 2009 by admin

Hello again,

The 2009 season is in full gear and we are all very happy to be back. Some of the children have startred already and all will be here for house raising week (which begins the 20th of this month). I have given them an assignment to read the first chapter of Good News From New England (by Edward Winslow) and discuss its meaning.

So I want to offer the same challenge to you, dear reader. Go to your local library and borrow it, or better yet (for us) purchase the book by clicking this link, and read the first chapter and we can all discuss it on these pages. Are you up for it? I hope so. Let’s make history come alive.

I dare you.


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16 Responses to “I Dare You”

  1. John Montague says:

    These are the times I wished I lived closer to Plymouth. House Raising week would be right up my alley! Thanks for a great shot of house building at Plimoth Plantation. The details shown in the photo alone would fill three pages of description. The riving break for the “cleft oak pales/boards”, the roof framing, the backside showing the finished boarded roof, etc.

    Now, to take you up on your challenge. Chapter 1, here I come.
    John M.

  2. admin says:

    Riving is one of those things that fascinates and baffles visitors. While it takes a couple of hours to get it down, its fairly easy to learn, given a nice piece of wood. But most people have never even heard of it, let alone the froe.


  3. admin says:

    BTW, that’s former interpretive artisan Stuart Bolton who can be seen on the PBS series “Colonial House” from a couple of years ago. The houses from that show are now our Education Department’s teaching site.


  4. John Montague says:

    Referencing riving, I can’t help but think of one of Roy Underhill’s comments after his crew reconstructed the watchtower at Martin’s Hundred in Virginia, a ca. 1620 interpretation based on archaeology and documentary sources. They used sawn oak for the heavy planks which sided the tower, a little like the “fort meetinghouse” at Plimoth. He basically agreed that the English at Martin’s Hundred COULD have sawn all those planks in the heat and humidity of Virginia and, if they were silly enough, they WOULD have sawn them.

    Clearly, Mr. Underhill saw cleaving the board made more sense in light of abundant timber and scarce labor. Your comment about learning to rive drives home the same point. As an expedient, riving 4-6 foot lengths of board or “pales” makes perfect sense given the conditions which confronted the English in the 1600′s in Plimoth and the Chesapeake.

    Thanks again,

  5. Lisa says:

    Wondering if staff watched the first episode of “We Shall Remain”? Any reactions, thoughts, discussion? Does it appear to have influenced visitors? Also, what happened to As the Wetu Turns? Although there is still a link to it on your site, it goes nowhere

  6. admin says:

    For my part, as Scott would say, I saw a bit of the first episode. The moment I saw hats with buckles I balked. Then when “historians” started to attribute thoughts to various personalities I had to switch. I’ve heard nothing in the Village from visitors about it, perhaps on the homesite.
    RE: their blog…I wasn’t aware of its absence until your comment.
    On a sidebar, very nice to hear from you!


  7. John Montague says:

    I’ve managed to get most of the way through Winslow’s Good News from New England. Once I get past trying to figure out to whom the personal pronouns are referring, it has some riveting passages. Is anybody else trying to read it?

  8. KMW says:

    John – I honestly think that manage and try are better verbs then read when discussing Good News. The first few times I slogged through, I kept trying to find good in the good news.Between starvation, dissension, threat and drought, where’s the good? I don’t remember who (probably Richard Pickering) who pointed out it was Good News like the Gospels were good news then a happy newsletter home.At one point I had a chart with the different people and places to try to get them straight, but after a few years I’ve taken a more Zen approach.It gets easier if you read the sources as a group – both as a collection of materials and as more then one reader. The last few times I’ve read it, it’s been to find food references. Starving people write more about food then the well fed.

  9. John Montague says:

    Thanks for confirming I am not the only one who finds this difficult reading. Sure, Shakespeare’s tough to read as well, but “slogging” pretty well describes it for Good News. And, yes, you make a great point…more like “Gospel” good news than light reading! I couldn’t help but smile at your comment about creating a chart. Did that help at all?

    BTW, your articles on cooking have inspired me to check out some old recipes. I am scared to death of baking bread (don’t know why exactly), but your spice cake/bread sounds delicious.

  10. Shelley-Jo says:

    John, the spice cake is indeed delicious, I’ve eaten it at my “daughter’s” wedding at the village last fall. We’re planning another wedding this year someone should keep you updated incase you would like to attend. It was quite an event and a good time for us here to be out of our routine.
    On another note, I have heard a few comments from visitors about WSR. I think it has generated a little bit of recognition for Edward Winslow (right or wrong) as it seems to me that more people seem to know of his involvement with the Natives and I think more than usual have been able to reference his “curing” of Massasoit.
    I play his wife in the village and this is just my observation.

  11. John Montague says:

    There are many times I wish I lived closer to Plymouth.

    The house raising and the wedding feast would be two of those times.

    Now, back to Winslow…

  12. Stacy says:

    My own general comment on “Good Newes” is actually more to the point of the first impressions I had and then how those reactions evolved from those impressions. To be honest when I first read it I thought “Wow, not much good news in that book”. For me it did not seem to give an incentive for someone to come across the ocean and leave the civilized world behind. But after digesting it and taking in some world view information I read it again and then saw how it really was good news. Even though there are many hardships that are faced and dealt with they are still a surviving colony and they still seem to feel that God is looking out for them and their venture. What I feel Winslow was trying to show was not only descriptions of the plenty there but no matter how many trials are put forth God in his infinate wisdom and mercy watches over this plantation while others around them fall apart (well at least Wessagussett). This was a concept in writing that I never really thought about till I really understood the pilgrim view of “God’s providence”. And now that I am reading it again I’ll probably come to another epiphany…..

    Oh and spice cake is very good.

  13. KMW says:

    Spice cake again? We’ll be serving spice cake at the wedding in June AND we’ll have some to share with our guests as well. John, you’ll just have to make some at home and toast us from ‘away’. I was thinking of trying jumbles, too.

  14. Stacy says:


  15. John Montague says:

    Stacy and others,
    I am now on my second reading…and it really does make more sense the second time around. As I mentioned before, some of the passages (to me, anyway) are riveting. Winslow’s final comments about thinking twice before deciding to come over are refreshingly honest.

    If I try the spice cake, I’ll let you know!

  16. KMW says:

    Another secret to accessing the past through these fairly verbose documents is to read them out loud. Something about hearing them makes them a little easier. And it doesn’t hurt to have an Oxford English Dictionary nearby either. If it helps any, I try to read all the Plymouth primary sources once, if not twice in a year and after nearly thirty years, I’m still finding new bits. It always amazes me when someone new starts and asks about a particular passage, and I have no clue what they’re referring too, and then I scratch my head and wonder, How did that get added in since the last time I looked at this? And how is that for confusion of what is in reference to what?

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