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quality posts: 17 Private Messages WootBot


When the Plymouth pilgrims sat down to their historic harvest feast in the fall of 1621, they had managed to survive a very tough first year in the New World, with the help of their Wampanoag neighbors. If they could see the orgy of overeating and megastore-shopping that their descendants have made of their holiday, I think we can all agree: they would feel nothing but pride. But how much do we really know about our November carb carnival? Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, is here to talk turkey about all the Thanksgiving misinformation we’ve been swallowing all these years.

The Debunker: Did the Mayflower Land at Plymouth Rock?

As American symbols go, Plymouth Rock is such a potent one—right up there with the Liberty Bell and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo—that tourists are inevitably disappointed when they visit it today at Massachusetts’s Pilgrim Memorial State Park. It’s just a lump of granite—and a surprisingly small one, since about two-thirds of the rock has been chipped off over the years. In the late 19th century, the date “1620” was carved in its surface, to vouch for its bona fide Plymouth Rock-ness. But did the pilgrims really land at Plymouth Rock? We’ll never be sure, but the historical evidence is so flaky that it seems very, very unlikely.

Plymouth Rock isn’t mentioned in the firsthand accounts of any of the Plymouth pilgrims. In fact, it first shows up in the historical record over two centuries (!) later, when a Plymouth doctor and writer named James Thacher decided to write the town’s history. Thacher was told by local jurist Ephraim Spooner that in 1741, when Spooner was a boy, a 95-year-old local church elder named Thomas Faunce had been carried down to the shore to bid farewell to the pilgrims’ landing place. Aha, you say. The elderly Mr. Faunce was a Mayflower pilgrim? Well, no. He heard the story from his father. His father, by the way, was not a Mayflower pilgrim either. He came on a later ship.

So it’s not impossible that an unbroken oral history went from some mystery pilgrim to Mr. Faunce Sr. to Thomas Faunce to Ephraim Spooner to James Thacher. But given the kind of exaggerations and inaccuracies that tend to accumulate in local folklore (particularly when 95-year-old men bragging about his proximity to Important Historical Events are involved) I don’t think there’s much chance that the first pilgrims actually stepped ashore on this specific rock. What’s more, even if they had, it wouldn’t have been their historic arrival in the New World. Before moving on to Plymouth, the Mayflower first anchored at the tip of Cape Cod, off what is today Provincetown. But there is no Provincetown Rock, probably because no old guy thought to make one up.

Quick Quiz:

At the 1964 founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, who told the crowd, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us”?


Ken Jennings is the author of Because I Said So!, Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at or on Twitter as @KenJennings.


quality posts: 17 Private Messages xdavex

The quote is attributed to Malcom X.

"We are not Americans. We are a people who formerly were Africans who were kidnaped and brought to America. Our forefathers weren't the Pilgrims. We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; the rock was landed on us. We were brought here against our will; we were not brought here to be made citizens. We were not brought here to enjoy the constitutional gifts that they speak so beautifully about today. "


quality posts: 22 Private Messages NascarDad

Wow... so no real rock....
Next thing you are gonna tell me they didn't have a Plymouth, either.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages chcurtis

And Squanto, who befriended the Pilgrims, had crossed the Atlantic several times by the time the Pilgrims landed. Squanto was Sir Fernando Gorges' informant when Gorges planned the New England colonies, and he sailed with Captain John Smith as a translator. Squanto finally asked to go home, and was dropped off not far from his village, only to discover that it had been wiped out by disease a year before.

Samoset, another native who had spent time in England, greeted the Mayflower pilgrims with the words, "Greetings, Englishmen! Have you got any beer?"


quality posts: 47 Private Messages alanhwoot

The current location of the rock isn't original either. It's been dragged around, broken, and cemented back together over the centuries.


quality posts: 1 Private Messages onsitestudios

The Mayflower first made land in P-Town.


quality posts: 1 Private Messages CyborgBill

I had a collateral ancestor who came over on the Mayflower, William Mullins. He was one of the 2nd class citizens like John Alden and Myles Standish who were paid to join the colony. The crown didn't want any of the colonies to fail. It wanted all its colonists to succeed wildly - and pay LOTS & LOTS of taxes. Failed colonies usually resulted in lots of dead colonists - and that is bad for revenues. Everybody knows the old saw about dead men and tales. Well, let me tell you. Dead men are downright TERRIBLE at paying taxes.

So it was mandated that someone in every company of colonists would have to possess one of the critical skills or the company would not be cleared to depart. William Mullins (father of Priscilla whom Longfellow immortalized) was a store keeper and so knew how to do basic accounting and other elements of the provisioner's art. Myles Standish was a Mercenary Soldier and veteran of the European wars. John Alden was a barrel wright and as such would have possessed basic iron working skills.

Precisely where the Pilgrims landed is much less important than the fact that they DID.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages osu68

Nothing is true. The pilgrims were lost at sea when their ship hit an iceberg, was attacked by a kraken, rammed by a whale, and sunk in a storm. So, how could they have landed on that rock?

Sir Charles Chilkoot


quality posts: 1 Private Messages bugg925

I played an indian in my fourth grade play 25 or so years ago... NAILED IT!


quality posts: 3 Private Messages baboval
xdavex wrote:The quote is attributed to Malcom X.

Malcom X was quoting Cole Porter. (Probably ironically.)

"If today
Any shock they should try to stem
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them." - Anything Goes, 1934.


quality posts: 33 Private Messages olcubmaster
osu68 wrote:Nothing is true. The pilgrims were lost at sea when their ship hit an iceberg, was attacked by a kraken, rammed by a whale, and sunk in a storm. So, how could they have landed on that rock?

They were lifted out of the churning seas and plunked down on the Plymouth Rock by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Sugar 'em up and send 'em home


quality posts: 49 Private Messages moles1138
olcubmaster wrote:They were lifted out of the churning seas and plunked down on the Plymouth Rock by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Being in Massachusetts, that may have been Cthulhu.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages atkinsd

and the correct answer is Provincetown.