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.

Where Are All The Kids?

September 23rd, 2008 by admin

Since this is to address a legitimate question and not to discuss 17th century word usage (i.e. kids meaning baby goats) let me delve into it in a somewhat roundabout way.

It is a question that often puzzles us in the 17th century English Village. I don’t mean it puzzles our characters, they know exactly where their children are. They’re “down the lane”, or “out in the fields”, or “at the shore tending to the swine”. No, it puzzles (or amuses) us as modern people when visitors want to know where the children are. This is particularly true when it is a teacher herding his or her own classroom about our village.

We appreciate that they have allowed themselves the luxury of suspension of disbelief and understand that they have gone “back in time”. But surely they must know that they haven’t really and our children are exactly where theirs are- In School! We have child labor laws here in the Commonwealth!

A corollary to this is when we do have child volunteers in the village (like this year) and adults demand, “Why aren’t these children in school?” To which young Bartle Allerton must explain that we don’t have a school in New Plymouth yet.

I had the distinct pleasure and responsibility (and certainly it was that) to be the Child Volunteer Coordinator this summer. We had nine boys and girls in costume, doing a great job with such difficult work as 17th English dialect, bringing visitor’s children into their games, hauling wood and water, cooking dinner, and just general all around being Pilgrim kids. So, I want to give special thanks to Andrew, Jonah, Lilia, Patrick, Paul, Marie, Matty, Miranda, and Sarah. It was a treat for everyone to have you with us this summer and we hope to see you next year.


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21 Responses to “Where Are All The Kids?”

  1. Allie B says:

    Thanks for addressing this Buddy. It’s a particularly difficult issue to address with visitors and as you say, though we’re glad they actually believe we live in the village while they’re visiting, does anyone really think we do? Does anyone really think that in this day and age we have whole families living in those houses without plumbing and heat, not only are there labor laws in the commonwealth, but there are building codes as well.

  2. tim turner says:

    hey buddy,

    I was up in the village this summer and there was lot’s of Children around, I think they were playing man hunt. It make it feel more real when there in the village or the Homesite too. We in the Wampanoag Homesite love having the children here, but the do have to follow Mass. laws so most of our children are back in school now too. We have one or two that are not school age yet so their in the homesite sometimes.

  3. Paula Guisinger says:

    I was pleased to find your blog through one of my historic knitting groups and I am looking forward to reading your future posts. My interest lies in that my family settled in the mid 1630′s in Portsmouth R.I. area. While I understand we are looking at an 10 year difference in time; they were neighbors and my Borden family must have learned much from those that came before. While I have read a little history of the area it mostly relates to the conflicts with the native Americans and it will be interesting to learn more about daily life. I have always wondered how the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the R. I. Church of England settlers worked out their differences in the new world. Were their differences set aside because of the demands of daily living or were the wounds of ill treatment in England just to deep to ignore?

    I also have a deep interest in English textiles of that period and your embroidery post was excellent! -Paula

  4. Golf Cart Steve says:

    Nice article Buddy but don’t you think that the teachers are just staging a question to get their kids to ask more questions?

    To Allen B’s comment: I talk to a lot of visitors after they have been through the village. One of the most frequently asked questions is “do they live here full time”?

  5. admin says:

    Hi Paula,
    Welcome to our blog world! I am assuming that you are referring to Roger Williams? I’m afraid I don’t know enough about them to comment but I will ask around to see if anyone has done any research about your question.


  6. Allie B says:

    Paula’s last question sounds like a great topic for the blog.

  7. admin says:

    I hope you will visit our sister blog, The Embroiderer’s Story.

  8. Paula Guisinger says:


    Thanks for the warm welcome! I found the Embroiderer’s Story page after looking around a bit on the site. It is wonderful to see period work done in traditional methods.

    Yes, I was referring to Roger Williams’s settlers. With goods and commodities being in such short supply one would think they had to be trading with each other. My R. I. family were clothiers in England (I am not so sure what that means) but they had to be doing something related to textiles in the Colony, because it is all they knew. I would think this is a skill the Pilgrims would welcome. But my family would have had no clue about life outside the comforts of England. I would think they would have turned to the Pilgrims to learn about life in the new land. It looks to me as if the two colonies would have needed each other’s assistance. Would not both colonies be turning to the Native Americans for support? This is such an interesting period of our history

  9. admin says:

    Hi Paula,
    We have some feelers out to see if anyone can address your questions. As I mentioned, I’m afraid I’m lost once we go past 1627, which is when Williams graduated Pembroke College at Cambridge University.


  10. Gayle Boudreau says:

    Hello, I grew up on Cape Cod and recently moved to Bozeman, Montana, so I miss the Cape and Plymouth very much. I was pleased to discover a few years ago that I am a Mayflower descendant of Richard Warren, which caused me to purchase the book “Mayflower” last year. I just want to let you know that many of my fondest memories growing up were of trips to the Plantation and that I enjoy your website and blogs very much. It keeps me feeling close to “home” and I look forward to visiting this site often.

  11. admin says:

    Welcome to the blog, Gayle. We’re happy to be read out there in Big Sky country. I see your email address is an edu. Are you a teacher?


  12. Gayle Boudreau says:

    Buddy, I’m not a teacher, but a nurse at student health services. These are the best kids I’ve ever met and I feel blessed to have found this wonderful place to live and work. I sure do miss home in the autumn though.


  13. Susan K. says:

    Paula (& other commenters) may enjoy reading “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick. I’m currently listening to it as an audio book for the second time through. Among many other things, it touches on some of the interactions between Roger Williams’ group, and delves deeply into the good and bad relations with the native people of the area. (The book covers pre-departure for the pilgrims, through the end of King Phillip’s War — roughly 1619 through 1676.)

    According to the author, many of the first Plimoth colonists did, indeed, work in textile trades before their move — a weaver of tapes and a maker of corduroy (not what we think of) come to mind. Almost none of them had direct experience applicable to their most immediate need for shelter. I don’t know if their lack of preparedness makes them brave or foolish, but I don’t think *I* have what it would take to make such a journey into the unknown!

    I highly recommend the book. It is available in the PP gift shop in print or audio CD, and is proving popular in libraries, at least here in Mass.

  14. lev olson says:

    roger williams is a very complicated character, he lived in plimoth for a time (after 1627) but rejected the “non-separated” manner in which the plimoth colonists interacted with the puritans of boston. i guess dr fuller went to boston and “broke bread” with the boston church. that was not separated enough for williams. this stuff was a big deal in the 17th century. it was not the main theological issues, but the great divisions lie in the minutia. he then travelled to endicott’s colony on cape ann. they compromised politically… they were on the verge of rejecting the c of e… boston told them they were no longer eligible for the grazing land that they desired in the pigeon cove area. it was then that williams left for ri. (over simplified i know, but for chronologies sake)… there were many who followed him there and they eventually got all that was necessary for life in the wilderness. i believe that there was trade, but little fellowship between he and the plimoth colony. william bradford writes that “he seemed to have windmills in his head.” all of that being said, i think that roger williams is the one person in that area of history that i respect more than bradford… he is responsible for the wall of separation between church and state that we enjoy…

  15. admin says:

    There is no “Dr.” Fuller, this is one we need to expunge. Samuel Fuller was an “empiric”, that is to say a self taught, surgeon. His primary role (other than farmer) is that of deacon of the New Plimoth church.

    And Williams responsible for “the wall of separation between church and state that we enjoy…”?

    I think not. If we are going farther back than Madison and Jefferson I think we’d have to look to Luther.

  16. lev olson says:

    i’ll find the quote, jefferson actually quotes williams… roger williams called the providence plantations “a lively experiment” referring to the separation of those two departments… his mandate states “No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be anywise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any differences in opinion in matters of religion … but that all persons may … enjoy their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments.” and his longer letter dealing with soul liberty states (and i will apologize for the long and tedious nature with which williams writes…) “There goes many a ship to sea, with many a hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and woe is common; and is a true picture of a commonwealth, or a human combination, or society. It has fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews, and Turks, may be embarked into one ship. Upon which supposal, I do affirm, that all the liberty of conscience, that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges — that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks, be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship; nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any. I further add, that I never denied, that notwithstanding this liberty, the commander of this ship ought to command the ship’s course; yea, and also command to that justice, peace, and sobriety, be kept and practiced, both among the seamen and all the passengers. If any seamen refuse to perform their service, or passengers to pay their freight; — if any refuse to help in person or purse, towards the common charges, or defense; — if any refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the ship, concerning their common peace or preservation; — if any shall mutiny and rise up against their commanders, and officers; — if any shall preach or write, that there ought to be no commanders, nor officers, because all are equal in CHRIST, therefore no masters, nor officers, no laws, nor orders, no corrections nor punishments — I say, I never denied, but in such cases, whatever is pretended, the commander or commanders may judge, resist, compel, and punish such transgressors, according to their deserts and merits.” i know that this goes beyond plimoth, and all, but he was an amazing man, and more credit needs to go to him for what we have today,, in my opinion

  17. lev olson says:

    and as far as looking to luther… are you nuts? he nailed his thesis to the church door, and 9 years later an anabaptist named jakob katz (sp?) did the same… luther called for his blood! he called for the blood of the peasants that rallied to fight for liberty.. he called for the blood of the jews of europe. the man was not interested in liberty at all. he wanted liberty for his own opinion.. as most of these people do. i think that he enjoys a reputation because he was not as brutal as calvin….

  18. admin says:

    Lose the invective, this is a discussion.

    Luther’s personal foibles do not necessarily reflect on his notions, Jefferson held slaves…hypocrisy has its talons in us all.

    And to draw a direct line from any of these early Englishmen (ours included) to what we enjoy in this country is counter productive. It is these sorts of leaps in logic that make our work difficult.

    Everyone has their pet opinions, but like all history, they are no more than that.


  19. lev olson says:

    sorry, i thought that was a little harsh after i posted. i do not mean to throw stores.. it was after all a rhetorical question..

    i do have a little trouble with the whole concept of luther being the father of freedom… he does write a few items that i think are almost calvinistic. as you know i have a lot of “pet opinions” about the differences between separatists and puritans… and the place that holds in modern reconstruction historical writing… i think that there is a general distrust of renegades… roger williams was one of the most successful of them.. i found the quote that i was looking for above. i have to do a little more research to find the exact quote in jefferson..

    When they (the Church) have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necesity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World.”

    i know that does not have the same sense that jefferson or madison had… and there is also the thought “what exactly do you refer to in separation of church and state?” there was a sense of it in plimouth in that they did not have church officers hold civil positions, nor visa versa… but it was not in the modern sense that we see today. there is an evolutional process in colonial american government, in this area williams saw ahead and was much abuse for it… (any one the puritans hate with that much vehemence is worth looking more closely at…. one more quote from williams, not to get to far off of the subject here, i know he comes to plimoth in the late 30′s…

    “Magistrates [officials of the civil government] have no power of setting up the form of Church Government, electing Church officers, punishing with Church censures, but to see that the Church does her duty herein.
    And on the other side, the Churches as Churches, (though as members of the Commonwealth they may have power) have no power of erecting or altering forms of civil government, electing of civil officers, inflicting Civil punishments (no not [even] on persons excommunicated) as by deposing Magistrates from their Civil Authority, or withdrawing the hearts of the people against them, to their laws, no more than to discharge wives, or children, or servants, from due obedience to their husbands, parents, or masters; or by taking up arms against their Magistrates, though he persecute them for conscience.”

    that sounds a lot like madison’s “memorial and remonstrance”

    again i apologize, it was not meant terribly seriously, though you can loose a lot in type that you would normally get from the tone of voice….

  20. admin says:

    No worries, my only concern is that the casual reader might think we’re bickering. I have an obligation to the museum to keep things lighthearted.

    Let the conversation continue!

  21. lev olson says:

    well, that being said… i think that there is a difference between jefferson holding slaves and saying that it is like having a wolf by the ears.. can’t let go and can’t hold on… he saw the difficulty of the situation.. and martin luther asking the magistrates to kill the bloody peasants in the name of god… i believe that the exact quote is:

    “Stab, beat, strangle to death whoever can. If you lose your life in doing so, blessed are you; you can never attain to a more blessed death. For you die in obedience to the divine word and command.”
    and then in his own defense he said:

    “Preachers are the biggest killers of all. For they stir up the rulers to resolutely carry out their duties and to punish pests. I killed all the peasants in the riot; all of their blood is on my neck. But I blame it on our Lord God; it is He who commanded me to speak thus.”

    i do not think that the early american colonists had something entirely new here, and it came just out of the clear blue, but there was a knee jerk reaction to the magisterial reformers in the actions of williams and others… among them i think you could list Isaac robinson…

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