The Pilgrims: Building Begins

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The Pilgrims have landed in Massachusetts, not their original destination, and construction has begun on the houses where they would live.

The Pilgrims would have used hand tools brought with them from England

Construction began on December 25, 1620. To us that is Christmas day, but the Pilgrims did not believe in celebrating Christmas because no one knew the date Jesus was really born.

While the men worked to build the houses, they returned to the ship at night where the women and children spent their days.

The women may have gone to shore to wash clothes or allow children to run on the beach, but for the most part they would have sheltered themselves from the cold elements of the weather and huddled together to stay warm.

Before building even began, the Pilgrims planned the town and how it would be designed and where every home would be built. There was one main street where houses were lined up to run alongside the town brook. Each family of six would have received a plot of 50 feet by 48 feet.

The common house was the first place built and this took twenty-six days for the men to build. After the building was complete, the men slept their while the women and children continued to sleep on the Mayflower.

The women, men and children left the Mayflower for good on March 21, 1621. {Of course this was after much illness reduced the group by half.}

Plimoth Colony

Once the Common House was completed, the men began working on building individual homes. The homes were frame homes with a thatched room, which meant they were sturdy, however they were in constant need of repair. The Pilgrims also had to worry about birds building nests in their roofs and the constant concern of fire. The main room of a home was where the family cooked, ate, played and worked. There was a small room in the back called a chamber that was used for sleeping. Mattresses were put on the floor or held to the bed frame by a rope, which had to be tightened from time to time. Young children would have slept on a trundle bed. The Pilgrims did not have a refrigerator as we know it today and stored their food and other goods in the loft.

The houses usually only had a few small windows which were closed with a wooden shutter. The floors were hard packed earth.

Their building was hindered not only by the weather, but also by occasional fires caused by a spark or ember from their fires.

A fence was built around the Plimoth property in 1622.

Eventually a law was passed that new homes should have a plank roof.

Isaac de Rasieres, a Dutchman, wrote in 1628 {almost 8 years since the Pilgrims arrived}:

New Plymouth lies on the slope of a hill stretching east towards the sea-coast, with a broad street about a cannon shot of 800 feet long, leading down the hill; with a crossing in the middle, … The houses are constructed of clapboards, with gardens also enclosed behind and at the sides with clapboards, so that their houses and courtyards are arranged in very good order, with a stockade against sudden attack; and at the ends of the streets there are three wooden gates. … Upon the hill they have a large square house, with a flat roof, built of thick sawn planks stayed with oak beams, upon the top of which they have six cannon.

The Pilgrims had every intention of later owning their own land and building better houses. {And eventually this is exactly what happened.}

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