It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. — Mark Twain

Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

The Fort and Meeting-House

That which Captain Standish calls a fort is very much like our homes, or the Common House, except that it is larger, and has small, square openings high up on the walls to serve both as windows and places through which our people can shoot at an enemy, if any come against us.

Surely there are none in this new world who should wish us harm, and yet my father says that we have need to guard ourselves carefully, because Squanto and Samoset have both insisted that a tribe of savages who call themselves Narragansetts, and who live quite a long distance away, may seek to drive us from the land.

This fort, the logs of which are sunken so deeply into the earth that they cannot easily be overthrown, has been built on the highest land within the settlement, and extending from it in such a manner as to make it a corner of the enclosure, is a fence of logs, which Captain Standish calls a palisade, built to form a square. The fence is made like the sides of our houses; but the logs rise higher above the surface than the head of the tallest man.

There are two gates in the palisade, one on the side nearest the fort, with the other directly opposite, and these can be fastened with heavy logs on the inside. All the people have been told that at the first signal of danger, they must flee without loss of time inside the fence of logs, after which the gates will be barred, and no person may go on the outside without permission from Captain Standish.

The six cannon, which I told you had been mounted on a platform when we first began to build the houses, have been taken to the top of the fort, and from there, so Captain Standish says, we can hold in check a regular army of Indians; but God forbid that anything of the kind should be necessary after we have come to this new world desiring peace, and with honest intentions toward all men.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

Because it is not reasonable to suppose that any human being could wish to work us harm, Sarah and I look upon that which is called a fort, rather as a meeting-house than a place of defence, and such it really looks to be, for the floor is covered with seats made of puncheon planks placed on short lengths of logs, while at one end is a desk for the preacher built in much the same fashion as are the seats.

Here, also, so Governor Bradford has promised, we children shall have a school as soon as a teacher can be persuaded to come over from England. As it is now, our parents teach us at home, and father believes I can even now write as well as if I had been all this while at school in Scrooby. With both a meeting-house and a school, it will seem as if we had indeed built a town in this vast wilderness.


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