Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

Building Houses

It was agreed to build first one large house of logs, where we could all live until each man had chosen a place for himself, and both Sarah and I were on shore, standing almost knee-deep in the snow on that twenty-fifth of December, as we watched the men hew down trees, trim off the branches, and dig in the frozen ground to set up the first dwelling in this strange land.

The first thing done was to build a high platform, where the cannon that had been brought from England could be placed, so that the savages might be beaten off if they came to do us harm, and then the big house was begun.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

Of course we women and children were forced to go back on board the vessel while the work was being done, and very slowly was it carried on, because of the cold's being so great, and the storms so many, that our people could not work out of doors long at a time.

Our village was begun in the midst of the forest not very far from the seashore, where had been huts built by the savages; and because of the Indians having chosen that place in which to live, our people believed it would be well for them to make there the town which was to be called Plymouth, since it was from Plymouth in England that we had started on the voyage which ended in this wild place.

When mother asked father why the men did not search longer, instead of fixing upon a spot to which the savages might come back at any moment, he told her that much time must be spent in building houses, and not an hour should be wasted. They ought to get on shore as soon as possible in order to begin hunting, for the food we had on the Mayflower  was by this time so poor that neither Sarah nor I could swallow the smallest mouthful with any pleasure.

Sarah and I were eager to be living on dry land once more, where we could move about as we pleased; for, large though the Mayflower  had seemed to us when we first went on board, there was little room for all our company, and very many were grown so sick that they could not get out on deck even when the sun shone warm and bright.

There were nineteen plots for houses laid out in all, because of the company's being divided into nineteen families. The plots were on two sides of a way running along by a little brook, where, so I heard my father say, one could get sweet fresh water to drink. It was decided that each man should build his own house.

The plot of land where father was to build our house was quite near the bay, but yet so far in among the trees as to be shaded from the sun in the summer, while Master Carver, who was chosen to be our governor, was to build his only a short distance away.


Front Matter

Why This Story was Written
The Leaking Speedwell
Searching for a Home
After the Storm
Wash Day
Finding the Corn
Attacked by the Savages
Building Houses
Miles Standish
The Sick People
The New Home
Master White and the Wolf
Inside of the House
A Chimney Without Bricks
Building the Fire
Master Bradford's Chimney
Scarcity of Food
A Timely Gift
The First Savage Visitor
Squanto's Story
Living in the Wilderness
The Friendly Indians
Grinding the Corn
A Visit From Massasoit
Massasoit's Promise
Massasoit's Visit Returned
The Big House Burned
The Mayflower Leaves Port
Setting the Table
What and How we Eat
Table Rules
A Pilgrim Goes Abroad
Making a Dugout
Governor Carver's Death
Bradford Chosen Governor
Farming in Plymouth
Cooking Indian Corn
The Wedding
Making Maple Syrup
Decorating the House
Trapping Wolves and Pigeons
Elder Brewster
The Visit to Massasoit
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
Making Clapboards
Cooking Pumpkins
A New Oven
Making Spoons and Dishes
The Fort and Meeting-House
The Harvest Festival
How to Play Stoolball
On Christmas Day
When the Fortune Arrived
Possibility of Another Famine
On Short Allowance
A Threatening Message
Pine Knots and Candles
Tallow From Bushes
Wicks for the Candle
Dipping the Candles
When James Runs Away
Evil-Minded Indians
Long Hours of Preaching
John Alden's Tubs
English Visitors
Visiting the Neighbors
Why More Fish are not Taken
How Wampum is Made
Ministering to Massasoit
The Plot Thwarted
The Captain's Indian
Ballots of Corn
Arrival of the Ann
Little James Comes to Port
The New Meeting-House
The Church Service
The Tithingmen
Master Winslow Brings Cows
A Real Oven
Butter and Cheese
Settlement at Wessagussett
The Village at Merrymount
The First School
Too Much Smoke
Schools Comforts
How Children Were Punished
New Villages
Making Ready for a Journey
Clothing for Salem
Food for the Journey
Before Sailing for Salem
Beginning the Journey
The Arrival at Salem
Sight-Seeking in Salem
Back to Plymouth