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  • Writer's pictureThe Roaming Scribe

The Plagues of 1620 and 2020

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Is this or is this not intriguing? I am sure that I can’t be the only one who noticed.

It was a plague along the coast of New England (then referred to as the New World) that cleared the way for the Pilgrims in 1620 to settle on a perfect plot of land; and it is a plague of sorts – corona virus - that will postpone the commemorations that were mean to take place for the 400 year anniversary of this event in 2020.

*picture (above) is of Kerri Helme of the Wômpanôak nation and Lynn*

A painting of the Mayflower

In September 1620, the English Separatists plus others with practical skills, a total of 102 passengers, left Plymouth, England and after a 66 day voyage arrived not far from what is now Provincetown. As they were seeking fresh water and good soil for planting, and this area was made of sand and dunes, those in command of the vessel decided to sail on. Soon they happened upon a sheltered bay with a golden sand coastline. Along its shore, the scouting party could see, that the land was cleared, there was fresh water and dense forest. Eerily, there was no one there. Not a soul.

Provincetown, Massachusetts

This was the village of Patuxet. But, what they did not know was that the reason it was empty was due to a plague that had roared down the coast from Maine in about 1614. The disease wiped out most of the coastal tribes, decimating whole villages and communities.

I have been reporting on Plymouth 400 over the last month - though the articles I have written aren’t likely to appear anytime soon. And it is with great anticipation that folks in both England and in Massachusetts have been ramping up publicity and planning events for this important date.

A Wômpanôak re-enactor at Plimoth Plantation - credit Claire Vail

What will be different when the events take place is that this is the first time the Wômpanôak nation have been fully included in the commemoration. And it is quite deliberately referred to as a commemoration, not a celebration. Because, this time around there is deference to the catastrophic invasion that would almost destroy the indigenous peoples 12,000 year old civilisation.

It has now been acknowledged that the Plymouth celebrations were, in the past, a grim affair for local tribal peoples, as the arrival of the Europeans was the beginning of the end for their mighty nation.

The Plymouth 400 organisation, based in Massachusetts, has been busy for many years organising a whole variety of activities including an opening ceremony that would have a Lobster Bake for 300 people. The opening ceremony will coincide with the return to her berth of the newly refurbished Mayflower II (a replica of the original galleon).

A recreation of the Mayflower's Shallop - a small wooden masted boat

The opening ceremony will be followed about a month later by a Wômpanôak Memorial Walk through the town which will conclude with a drumming ceremony. There is also an event in Provincetown during September and illuminations to accompany Thanksgiving Day in November.

Of course, the opening ceremony, planned for April, has been pushed back to June due to the outbreak of corona virus.

Sand dunes near Provincetown, Cape Cod

Yes, the global pandemic which has taken the world by storm (and not in a positive way). Hopefully, there will be a return to a semblance of normality by September, and there will still be time to commemorate this important 400 year marker. Watch this space…

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