1627 Pilgrim Village
This is one of the ways you may be greeted in the 1627 Pilgrim
Village, a re-creation of the small farming town built by English
colonists in the midst of the Wampanoag homeland. Find yourself
immersed in the year 1627, just seven years after the voyage of the
Mayflower. In the village you will be surrounded by the
modest timber-framed houses, fragrant raised-bed gardens,
well-tended livestock and fascinating townspeople of Plymouth
Colony, the first permanent English settlement in New England.
The people you will meet are costumed role players who have taken
on the names, viewpoints and life histories of the people who
actually lived in the colony in 1627, popularly known as the
"Pilgrims" today. Each one has a unique story to tell. Learn about
the colony's difficult beginnings or discover the gossip of the day.
Ask about religious beliefs, medical practices or relations with the
local Wampanoag People. Talk to a housewife and learn what a
"pottage" is, or see how a duck or bluefish is cooked on the hearth.
Help a young colonist pull up a few weeds in a cornfield, mix daub
with your feet for a house under construction, or just relax on a
bench enjoying the unique atmosphere of 17th-century New
Your visit to the year 1627 is self-guided, so feel free to
wander around the village at your own pace. Do not be afraid to walk
in on colonists as they eat, question them as they work, or join a
lively conversation in the street. Most of the objects in and around
their houses are modern reproductions designed for everyday use and
can be handled gently. You needn't be an expert in the language of
Shakespeare to pose a question, either. Just ask and see what
happens — you may be called upon to define "bathroom" or even
explain what a "Pilgrim" is!
Take this unique opportunity to explore the 17th-century
perspective of the English who traveled across the Atlantic. You may
be surprised at what you learn!
What to Expect, How to
- What will I
see in the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
- Who will I
meet in the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
- Is this the
original site of the village?
- How long does
it take to visit the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
- Is there any
special way to talk to the role players?
- What else do I
need to know about the role players?
- Will there be
someone to talk to in every house in the 1627 Pilgrim
- Will there be
costumed children in the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
- My child just
read a book about a boy (Samuel Eaton) or a girl (Sarah Morton,
Constance Snow, or Remember Patience Whipple) who lived in
Plymouth Colony in 1627. Will we find that boy or girl in the
- Will I find a
role player portraying my ancestor?
- Can I do
genealogical research in the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
- Will I be
able to see religious services in the 1627 Pilgrim Village if I
come on a Sunday?
- What happens
in the 1627 Pilgrim Village when the weather is bad?
- Were the
English colonists and Native People friends?
- Did the
English colonists and the Native People celebrate "The First
- What happened
to the Native People who lived in Plymouth?
- Why did the
English colonists believe they could move into the middle of the
- How many
people actually lived in Plymouth Colony in 1627?
- How do you
know the names of people who lived in Plymouth Colony and the
location of their houses in 1627?
- How does the
re-created 1627 Pilgrim Village compare with the original town of
Plymouth in 1627?
- Did the
English colonists call themselves "Pilgrims"?
- Why do we
call the English colonists "Pilgrims"?
- Are there any
existing pictures of the "Pilgrims"?
- Why are the
terms "Saints" and "Strangers" sometimes used to describe the
- Did the
English colonists describe themselves as "Saints" or
- Did the
English colonists describe themselves as either "Puritans" or
- What did the
English colonists call themselves and their church?
- Why is
Plymouth spelled "P-l-i-m-o-t-h"?
"Do you really eat that
food?" and other questions that can't be answered in the 1627
- What is the
most difficult part of being a role player?
- What is the
best part of being a role player?
- Are you
really from England? If not, how did you learn how to talk like
- Do you really
eat that food?
- Do you sleep
here at night?
- Is this a
- How do you
know what you're supposed to be doing each day?
- Are you
- How are you
trained to be a role player?
- Where do you
really go to the bathroom?
- Could I do
What to Expect, How to
1. What will I see in the 1627 Pilgrim
The 1627 Pilgrim Village is a re-creation of
some of the homes, gardens, storehouses, animal pens, fields and
fortifications that the English colonists had established in New
Plymouth by 1627. You will find role players throughout these
Surrounding the town is a palisade, a high wooden fence like the
one that was built in 1622 to protect the original village. Outside
of the palisade are fields where you may encounter role playing
staff farming or cutting hay.
2. Who will I meet in the 1627 Pilgrim
The role players that occupy the town each day
are the highlight of the 1627 Pilgrim Village for most visitors. In
the course of the day these highly trained staff members go about
the rhythms of 17th-century daily life, portraying the people who
are known in today’s popular culture as the “Pilgrims.” You might
find housewives grinding corn, cooking in their hearths (mostly in
the morning), gardening, mending clothes or tending to the animals.
Men might be found building and repairing structures, working with
timber, hoeing corn in fields or practicing with a musket. At
certain times of year, you might also see a child or two.
The farm animals are another highlight, especially for families
with children. The role-players can share with you many fascinating
period details about these animals. To find out about these rare
breed farm animals and the museum's efforts to help conserve them
visit the Nye
Barn, located adjacent to the Visitor Center.
3. Is this the original site of the
No. The original site is in present-day Plymouth
Center, located 2.5 miles north of the re-created 1627 Pilgrim
Village. There are a number of historical markers on Leyden Street
that identify the location of the first houses. All the houses in
the 1627 Pilgrim Village at Plimoth Plantation are recreations of
what those first houses may have looked like.
4. How long does it take to visit the 1627
Most visitors spend at least 2 hours in
the 1627 Pilgrim Village. On your self-guided visit, you may tour
the Village and enter about a dozen recreated buildings. In many of
these places you will find role players to talk to.
5. Is there any special way to talk to the
The most important thing to keep in mind is
that the role players you meet stay "in character" and that for
them, the year is 1627. Remember, when you enter the 1627 Pilgrim
Village, you are in the year 1627, too! Just say "hello" and enjoy
your conversations with the residents of the Village, keeping in
mind that they will not recognize any events after 1627. In
addition, although many people call them “Pilgrims” today, the
English colonists didn’t identify themselves by that term
(popularized in the 19th century), so our role players will be
understandably confused if you ask them “Are you a real
- Ask lots of questions!
- Listen in on other visitors' conversations (it's OK to
- Visiting the 1627 Pilgrim Village in much like visiting a
foreign country, so please feel free to ask the role players to
repeat something or to further explain a word or idea.
6. What else do I need to know about the role
Though the role players speak in 17th-century
English dialects, you will probably have little difficulty
understanding the words they use. What is much more challenging is
listening to some of the opinions of people from the past. The role
players express 17th-century English viewpoints—not their own
modern ones. Some of what you will hear will be unusual or quaint.
Some of what you hear will even be distasteful to modern
sensibilities. Modern concepts of equality, freedom and respect for
different cultures were not part of the way a 17th-century
Englishman understood the world. The English at the time were
intolerant of foreigners, Catholics, Jews, and even the "wrong" sort
Given this background of intolerance, it is no wonder that many
of the documents left behind by the Plymouth colonists show a lack
of respect for Native People and their culture. Although the English
write of their admiration for Massasoit and other Wampanoag leaders,
there are also passages that show a deep cultural prejudice against
the Wampanoag and other Native People. You may hear this common
17th-century perspective reflected in comments made by role players.
Please remember that these comments are made "in character" as a
means of teaching you about colonial English attitudes.
7. Will there be someone to talk to in every
house in the 1627 Pilgrim Village?
Not in every house.
Much of the work in a 17th-century farming community took place out
of doors, so you will find role playing staff in the fields, gardens
and other work areas of the village as well as in the houses. When
you do encounter an empty house, feel free to respectfully explore
the interior and garden.
8. Will there be costumed children in the
1627 Pilgrim Village?
Occasionally. On weekends and
during the summer, children of staff members sometimes portray
children who lived in Plymouth.
9. My child just read a book about a boy
(Samuel Eaton) or a girl (Sarah Morton, Constance Snow, or Remember
Patience Whipple) who lived in Plymouth Colony in 1627. Will we find
that boy or girl in the village?
Probably not. Plimoth
Plantation contributed to the creation of several books, including
Samuel Eaton's Day, and Sarah Morton's Day. While
these books are about children who lived in Plymouth Colony, it is
unlikely that you will encounter a child in one of those roles
during your visit.
There are many other books that are an entertaining mix of fact
and fiction about children who never existed. One popular book
features a child named Remember Patience Whipple. Remember and her
family are fictional characters who did not live in Plymouth Colony
or travel aboard Mayflower. Many children come to the 1627
Village searching for the fictional Remember!
10. Will I find a role player portraying my
Maybe. Because there are fewer role players
than there were English colonists in 1627, not all the colonists are
represented in the 1627 Pilgrim Village. Your "ancestor" may not be
portrayed but you will find that other role players can often
provide you with the scoop on your
great-great-great-great-grandmother or grandfather!
11. Can I do genealogical research in the
1627 Pilgrim Village?
No, although you might be tempted
to because the role players seem to have all of the answers.
This is both the advantage and the hazard of a role-playing
presentation. In the 1627 Pilgrim Village, the role players use
both documented facts known about their particular character
and general information about the time period. It is impossible for
you to know which type of information they are using when answering
your specific questions.
Visitors interested in finding out about Plymouth Colony family
history are invited to visit the following sites on the World Wide
12. Will I be able to see religious services
in the 1627 Pilgrim Village if I come on a Sunday?
17th-century Plymouth, everyone was required to spend all day
Sunday in religious services. To re-enact these daylong religious
services would not allow our visitors to chat with the colonists or
to observe their daily activities. If you visit on a Sunday, the
role players in the Village will tell you it is Monday, and that you
missed a fine sermon the day before!
13. What happens in the 1627 Pilgrim Village
when the weather is bad?
The museum sites are open
through almost all weather extremes (we have been known to close
early because of a hurricane or two). Please dress appropriately for
the weather, and you should have an enjoyable time.
On rainy days the rhythm of the 1627 Pilgrim Village changes.
Much of the outdoor work cannot be done, so the role players can be
found within the houses and sheltered workplaces. Visitors report
that these rainy days have their own cozy charm.
On extremely hot summer days, you will see less activity
in the town as everyone, role player and visitor alike, heads for
the shade. This is not just a concession to modern comfort however.
Under such conditions the English colonists were likely to limit
hard work to the cooler early morning and evening hours.
Frequently Asked Historical
1. Were the English colonists and Native
People friends in the 1620s?
This seemingly simple
question has a very complex answer. The answer depends on what you
mean by "friends." If by friendship you mean military agreements,
trade relations, regular communications and even social interaction,
then the answer is yes, the English and some Native People
were "friends." If friendship means an abiding respect for each
other's culture based on trust and loving-kindness, then the answer
is no, they were not friends. In their writings, leading colonists
betray contempt for the customs, household arrangements and, most
especially, the religion of the Wampanoag. Likewise, written English
sources and Wampanoag oral traditions reveal that many Native People
considered the English to be both strange and aggressive.
Whatever "friendly" relations there were in the 1620s did not
last long. After 1630, the relationship between the two cultures
became increasingly tense as more and more English arrived in the
Wampanoag homeland. Over the next few decades the differences
between the two cultures reached a crisis. In 1675, a devastating
war later called "King Philip's War broke out between the English
the English colonists and the Native People celebrate "The First
While writings from the 1620s mention that the colonists celebrated
their first harvest “by rejoicing in a special manner” and that
Wampanoag People joined them, it was only much later—and
erroneously—that this event was interpreted to be “The First
Thanksgiving.” In fact, both cultures had separate traditions of
giving thanks that predated this particular event, and neither
culture called it a “thanksgiving” at the time. So not only was it
not a "thanksgiving," but it was also not a "first!" Here at Plimoth
Plantation, we simply call this event “the harvest celebration in
3. What happened to the Wampanoag who
lived where the English built their town?
built their town in 1620 on the site of an important Wampanoag town
called Patuxet. From 1616-1618, many of the Wampanoag people who
lived in Patuxet died from a plague that was probably carried by
European fishermen and traders. Any survivors of the sickness most
likely left Patuxet for other villages. This devastating event made
it easy for the English to lay claim to this Wampanoag land.
4. Why did the English colonists
believe they could move into the middle of the Wampanoag
The English colonists shared the
English/European belief that the "New World" was an undeveloped
wilderness brimming with commercial possibilities. They believed the
Native People were backward "heathens" in need of Christianity and
other "civilized" ways. This viewpoint allowed the English and other
Europeans to boldly claim ownership of a land peopled by vital and
thriving Native communities.
5. How many people actually lived in
Plymouth Colony in 1627?
In 1627, approximately 160
people were permanent residents of the colony, including about 30
families and 20 single men. In addition, an unknown number of
shipwrecked English and Irish people were lodging in Plymouth
Colony. These shipwrecked people left for Virginia towards the end
of that summer.
6. How do you know the names of people
who lived in Plymouth Colony and the location of their houses in
In May of 1627, the livestock was divided among all
the colonists who were resident shareholders in the colony. The
colonists made a list of families and animals, which we believe to
be a nearly complete list of residents for that year. However, we
know that some residents, such as servants, were not included.
Plymouth Court records contain a partial map of colonial house
lots from 1620. This, together with information found in later
deeds, is the basis for the street layout of the 1627 Pilgrim
7. How does the re-created 1627
Pilgrim Village compare with the original town of Plymouth in
Since what remains of the original town sits in and
under the current town of Plymouth, no one knows exactly what
the town looked like in 1627. Plimoth Plantation's 1627 Pilgrim
Village is based on available research combined with some educated
The re-created village is also an ongoing museum
interpretation of what the original town might have looked
like. This interpretation of the physical 1627 Pilgrim Village has
undergone many modifications over the years. These changes reflect
changes in our understanding of the English colonists.
One of the things we do know is that the original town had many
more houses than the dozen in our re-created village...possibly
three times as many. The "footprint" of the re-created village is
only about one-third of the size of the original as well. Like the
original, Plimoth Plantation's 1627 Pilgrim Village sits on the side
of a hill, but ours is considerably less steep than the original
hill was. In 1627, the colonists in the original town farmed about
150 acres of corn; in the 1627 Pilgrim Village you will see about an
acre being worked.
For the safety and comfort of our visitors, we have consolidated
17th-century English colonial life into a smaller space. Because of
this, you don't need travel a mile to the edge of the forest to see
a charcoal pit or a sawpit or follow the animals out to pasture to
see goats and cows.
8. Did the English colonists call
No. The English colonists did not
specifically label themselves in the letters, books and documents
they wrote. Sometimes they referred to themselves as "Planters"
(colonial farmers) to distinguish themselves from the "Adventurers"
(men who financed the colony.)
Around 1800, the term "Pilgrim" (capital "p") was first used to
refer specifically to the English who came to New Plymouth. It
gradually grew to be a popular but imprecise designation for the
9. Why do we call the English
The term "Pilgrim" was used once
in the surviving writings of the early colonists. More than 20
years after the arrival of Mayflower, William Bradford wrote
about his exiled church's departure from Leiden, Holland to America.
Referring to Scripture, as he often did, he wrote; "¸they knew
they were pilgrims," in reference to Hebrews xi.13-16. Then, as
now, "Pilgrim" meant someone on a journey with a religious or moral
Bradford did not repeat the reference nor did he use "Pilgrim" as
a label or title for the English in Plymouth Colony. Over 150 years
later, this quote was taken out of context and applied to everyone
in Plymouth Colony, including those who were not part of the Leiden
congregation Bradford described. The name gained popularity in the
1800s and remains in common usage today.
10. Are there any existing pictures of the
Yes, there is one oil painting of
Mayflower Passenger Edward Winslow that is owned and
displayed at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA (http://www.pilgrimhall.org/). It is the only picture
of a "Pilgrim" that was painted from life. Winslow sat for this rare
portrait while he was in England conducting work for the English
government. In it, he is wearing his very finest black and white
clothing, the height of fashion in the mid-1600s. It is this
portrait (and later paintings that copied the style) that helped
fuel the stereotype of the Puritans wearing only drab colors.
However, this fashion did not become popular until about thirty
years after Mayflower arrived; the painting is dated to
11. Why are the terms "Saints" and
"Strangers" sometimes used to describe the English
To a 17th-century Englishman, the term "saint"
referred to one of God's "chosen" people. "Stranger" meant the same
then as now ã someone you don't know.
William Bradford, in his chronicle of early Plymouth Colony,
wrote of "strangers" ã newcomers not part of the Leiden congregation
ã joining the Mayflower venture.
The misuse of these terms comes from a popular 1945 book about
Plymouth Colony entitled Saints and Strangers. Author George
Willison was the first to use this phrase, identifying "saints" as
the Plymouth colonists who had separated from the Church of England,
and "strangers" as the remaining colonists who were still loyal to
the Church of England. This is not the way that 17th-century
residents of Plymouth Colony understood either of these terms.
12. Did the English colonists describe
themselves as "Saints" or "Strangers"?
No, they did not
commonly use these terms to describe themselves.
13. Did the English colonists describe
themselves as either "Puritans" or
No. In the 1620s,
"Puritan" and "Separatist" were derogatory labels for two related
reform movements in the English Protestant Church. Because of the
negative connotations of each term, Englishmen did not identify
themselves by either name.
Today, "Puritan" and "Separatist" are common terms used by
historians to refer to different branches of religious reformation
in England and the American colonies. "Puritans" are defined as the
religious reformers who felt the Church of England needed
"purifying" from within, while "Separatists" are defined as members
of the non-conformist churches who separated from the Church of
England. According to these broad definitions, both "Puritans" and
"Separatists" came to Plymouth in the 1620s.
14. What did the English Colonists call
themselves and their church?
enough, the English colonists did not specifically label themselves
in the letters, books and documents they wrote. Sometimes they refer
to themselves as "Planters," (settlers and farmers) while the people
who financed the colony were called "Adventurers." The separated
church in the colony followed the New Testament model of identifying
the church by its location. One reference identifies it as the
"Church of God, at Plymouth in New England."
15. Why is Plymouth spelled
Visitors to the museum often question the unusual spelling of the
name “Plymouth” in “Plimoth Plantation.” “Plimoth” is an
old-fashioned spelling used by Governor William Bradford in his
history of the colony, Of Plymouth Plantation. This
spelling was adopted to differentiate the museum from the modern
town of Plymouth. There were no rules for the spelling of English
words in the early 17th century, and each writer did as he or she
pleased, phonetically spelling the word as seemed fit – sometimes
differently on a single page.
Plymouth is spelled a number of
ways in the early colony documents, including “Plymouth,”
“Plimouth,” “Plymoth,” and “Plimoth.” When Plimoth Plantation was
founded, it was decided to use Governor Bradford’s most common
"Do you really eat that food?" and other
questions that can't be answered in the 1627 Pilgrim
There are some questions our role players simply
can't answer for you because they speak from the year 1627. Here are
some answers to the most asked questions.
1. What is the most difficult part of
being a role player?
One of the most difficult things
about being a role player is expressing the sometimes-objectionable
viewpoints that were part of colonial English attitudes. For role
players, expressing these "in character" views can be troubling on
several levels. Some are concerned that visitors may think that they
personally hold these prejudiced views. Others worry that
they may inadvertently reinforce prejudices that unfortunately some
people still hold today .The last thing we want to do is to
encourage people to perpetuate these intolerant ideas, but we must
present them in order to be historically accurate and learn from the
The place of the "Pilgrims" in American history is also a touchy
area for role players and visitors alike. Over the centuries, the
Plymouth colonists have become "The Pilgrims," encrusted with
certain mythic qualities that have made them unspotted heroes to
many visitors. For some, the colonists have become impossibly
virtuous symbols of American ideals (like religious freedom),
whether they held these ideals or not! On the other hand, the
colonists have also been stereotyped as dour, strict and unfeeling.
All of this "baggage" can make it difficult for some visitors to see
these colonists as human beings and products of their own time who
were sometimes funny, sometimes strict and intolerant, but nearly
always devout. It is important that we are all able to look
critically at the past. Yet to judge the past is as fruitless as
judging the wind we must always ask ourselves, "What can history
teach me for today?"
2. What is the best part of being a
There are a lot of different answers to this
question, but most role players would agree that this work is
never boring. There are always new visitors to meet, skills
to master, facts to learn, and projects to tackle.
Role playing allows us to continually challenge ourselves.
Whether it is planting corn in 95-degree heat, convincing rowdy
third-graders to weed our gardens, or reading up on 17th-century
marriage customs, we are always doing something. And the
results of all that work are as satisfying as the process. It makes
our day to hear someone say, "Wow, I didn't know that."
3. Are you really from England? If
not, how did you learn to talk like that?
No, the vast
majority of the role players are Americans although the museum has
occasionally employed one or two English role players. The late
British linguist Martyn Wakelin, an expert on Shakespearean
dialects, developed accent profiles for 17 regions in England. To
learn these dialects, we listen to audiotapes based on his research,
study period documents and practice speaking with other role
4. Do you really eat that
Sometimes. It is up to us to decide whether or not
to eat the food that has been prepared on any given day. Some of the
17th-century dishes we prepare, like roasted duck or sweet cream
custard, are delicious. However, other recipes such as stewed eel or
fish heads are not quite so appetizing to modern tastes. So some
dishes are prepared, displayed and interpreted as if they were going
to be eaten, when in fact they are recycled into feed for our
livestock or end up as compost.
5. Do you sleep here at
No, at night we all return to our 21st-century
homes and real families. However, a few times each year, we do have
sleepovers so that we can get a good feel for our character's house,
bed, and nighttime environment.
6. Is this a full-time
Yes, for most of us, this is a full-time seasonal
job. Some only return for a couple of seasons, but quite a few of us
have worked in the 1627 Pilgrim Village for 15 or 20 years.
7. How do you know what you're
supposed to be doing each day?
Like all of the programs
at Plimoth Plantation, there is a great deal of research and
planning that goes into deciding what role players do each day. In
portraying the daily work, we try to show activities that are
typical for 1627 Plymouth, suitable for the season of the year and
appropriate to our characters.
Museum specialists in various fields including textiles,
foodways, agriculture and woodcraft provide training and guidance.
Women receive daily cooking or baking assignments. They also have
ongoing work projects including mending, gardening and housekeeping.
Men are assigned daily or long-term projects such as sawing, riving
(splitting wood), and repairing or building village structures. They
are also involved with re-creating colonial military training. Both
men and women do seasonal agricultural work, including planting,
weeding and harvesting corn in the fields next to the 1627 Pilgrim
Village. There is no night crew who comes in to weed the gardens or
clean the animal pens ã we are responsible for completing all of the
necessary chores on the site during the day in front of
8. Are you actors?
this is something we don't agree about. Some of us consider
ourselves actors and have a background in the theater; others think
this work is not about acting at all. But we all agree that role
playing involves a number of performance skills, including
storytelling, teaching and interpreting history. Another important
aspect of our work is recreating the daily life and skills of the
people we are portraying. We think the word "interpreter" best
describes the work we do.
As "interpreters," we don't work from a script or memorize
"parts," although our work is certainly a kind of improvisational
performance. Our goal is to be convincing and engaging, so that you
don't feel like you are listening to a lecture!
9. How are you trained to be a role
Before we don a costume, we begin by observing
experienced role players, studying primary-source accounts, and
reading essays on English history, religion, manners, medicine, and
cooking. We are also supplied with any available information about
the history, background and dialect of our assigned characters so
that we can portray them as faithfully as possible.
Even after we put on our costumes, our training continues in the
1627 Pilgrim Village. New role players are paired with more
experienced ones to guide them through their first few months on
site. Skills, such as cooking a "pottage," or riving (splitting)
wood are developed slowly by practicing and watching others. But the
real training happens over time as we gain experience in putting all
our skills and knowledge together into an engaging presentation.
This takes practice and commitment. Even the most experienced role
players feel that their training is never complete.
10. Where do you really go to the
We use modern bathroom facilities in a place
not accessible to the public. In the 1620s, the colonists would most
likely have relieved themselves outside during the day, on or near
their compost piles, and at night in chamber pots kept near their
11. Could I do this
If you like talking to the public, working
outdoors, and studying history, then you too could become a role
player. The Colonial Interpretation Department generally advertises
new positions three times a year, in April, June and September. You
may check our website for current job listings.