Plymouth History

Plymouth, the county seat of Plymouth County, is located on the southeast shore of Boston Bay and may be considered the "hometown" of New England and possibly of our country. Today its land area covers 96 sq. miles. The history of the town runs from Native Americans, Pilgrim Separatists, to many immigrants and newer arrivals whose ancestors came from various world ports.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the New England region of today were inhabited by Paleo Indians, before 7,500 B.C. as evident by Paleo archeology discoveries at three sites in New England. By the 1600s the descendants of these earliest inhabitants were part of the "Algonquin Family... the Pequots of Connecticut; the Naragansetts of Rhode Island; the Wampanoags of Rhode Island and Massachusetts; the Pawtuckets of Massachusetts and New Hampshire; the Nipmucks who lived along the Connecticut River in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and southern Vermont; the Abenaki of Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Vermont; and the Massachusetts whose territories extended from Weymouth, Massachusetts to Portsmouth, N.H. on the east and from Thompsonville, Connecticut to Brattleboro, Vermont on the west."1

As late as 1617, the Patuxets, family tribe of Squanto and part of the Wampanoags, had a village at Plymouth, "large and prosperous, and with well-tended gardens."  Squanto had been taken prisoner first in c1617 by the English Capt. Thomas Hunt and later by the Spanish as a slave. He made his way from Spain to England and back to New England. By the summer of 1619, "Patuxet was deserted, almost all of his people having been killed by an epidemic that swept through the village two years before."2

On 26 December 1620, the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Harbor carrying a small but willing band of Pilgrims known as Separatists. Since the late 1500s they had yearned for a separate community of their own where they could practice their faith in peace. Most of them had moved, either to escape persecution or to join their friends and religious compatriots, from England to Leiden, Holland around 1608. They sailed back to England in 1620 - picking up more of their group plus others for the new world. They started out from England with 2 ships but shortly the Speedwell developed problems. They were forced to continue with only one ship, the Mayflower.

On arriving in Plymouth Harbor, they found the ruins of Patuxet and chose this as a site to build their settlement. These first white settlers numbered 120. Other ships carrying their friends and relative arrived in 1621, 1623, etc... The western flow of immigrants from the Old World to New never ceased to flow. Today the census of Plymouth is estimated at around 45,000 and untold thousands to millions of descendants of the early settlers are scattered across the country and around the world.

That first small settlement of 120 people was incorporated as a town in 1620, expanded into Plymouth Colony (Plymouth Colony Grows) and joined with the Massachusetts Colony in 1692. The towns in Plymouth County, Bristol County, and Barnstable County, MA were originally part of Plymouth Colony whose roots were planted in Plymouth.

1   Leo Bonfanti, Biographies and Legends of the New England Indians in New England Historical Series, Vol. I (PPI No. 2721) (Wakefield, MA: Pride Publications, Inc., 1968), pp. 8, 11.

2  IBID., pp. 23, 24.

Plymouth Historic District Commission
11 Lincoln Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
Plymouth Historical Alliance
PO Box 3268
Plymouth, MA 02361