Pilgrim Monument Dedication, Part I

Introduction: In this article – to celebrate tomorrow being Forefather’s Day in honor of the Pilgrims – Melissa Davenport Berry writes about the dedication ceremony for the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Forefather’s Day commemorates the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on 21 December 1620, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and then spending a month exploring Cape Cod. The Mayflower had anchored in what became Provincetown Harbor on November 21.

Nearly 300 years later, townspeople in Provincetown, Massachusetts, erected an impressive, 252.5-foot-tall granite tower, the Pilgrim Monument, to honor the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World.

Photo: view of the Pilgrim Monument with the Mayflower Compact bas-relief by Cyrus Dallin below, as seen from Bradford Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Photo: view of the Pilgrim Monument with the Mayflower Compact bas-relief by Cyrus Dallin below, as seen from Bradford Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Credit: Peter Whitlock; Wikimedia Commons.

The Pilgrim Monument was dedicated on 5 August 1910. Dr. Rev. Daniel Requa Foster (1838-1915), a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants through his direct line to William Brewster, wrote an account of the monument’s dedication. (I’ll be writing more on Foster and his life in my “Mayflower Descendants: Who’s Who” series on the GenealogyBank Blog in the new year.)

Here is Rev. Foster’s description of the event as published in the Trenton Evening Times.

An article about the Pilgrim Monument, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 16 August 1910
Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 16 August 1910, page 12

I will send you my experience on the tip end of Cape Cod, where, on the edge of the wilderness, a settlement began, and today the descendants of the one hundred and two Pilgrims are to be found over the whole of the continent.

It was worthwhile to travel fourteen hours from the Battle Monument of Trenton to the unveiling of the Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown. It was worthwhile to build that shaft 252 feet in height. It was worthwhile for the National Government, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the descendants of the Mayflower to pay $90,000 for its erection.

It was worthwhile for the President of our republic to be there, the members of his Cabinet, our foreign ambassadors, the Legislative and Judicial Council, both of the state and nation, and for the Army and Navy to have been represented there.

For it was a most glorious illumination of the memory of those heroes who unconsciously, through their religious principles, laid the foundation of our republic, inspired the erection of its superstructure, and broadcast among the nations those moral characteristics and material results which have made her name revered throughout the civilized world.

The day of dedication was ideal. The dream of many a lifetime was realized. The monument had been the talk of generations. The cornerstone was laid by President Roosevelt three years ago amidst great pomp and ceremony. And on the fifth of August it was dedicated by President Taft, himself a Mayflower [descendant]. (See: https://bit.ly/39Hoo3T)

The Pilgrims spoke softly, like Taft, yet carried the “big stick,” like Roosevelt.

That most historic scene was a mingling of the past and present. The criers shouted through the streets and lanes of the quaint old town the arrival of the President of the United States as the Mayflower [the name of the presidential yacht] steamed into the harbor. After a visit had been paid to the Connecticut, the flagship of the North Atlantic squadron, the Chief Magistrate and his suite were landed at the wharf and conducted to the platform in front of the assemblage of joyous thousands, where the gigantic hats and motor bonnets and gowns of brightest hues worn by the women were in sharp contrast with the costumes of the members of the Pilgrim Society, who were arrayed like Priscilla Alden, Miles Standish, and the other Mayflowers who first set foot on the sandy beach of Provincetown nearly 300 years ago.

Captain Sears, the designer of the monument, presided. The most lengthy address was made by ex-President Elliot who, fortunately for himself, showed respect to the Bible, the doctrines of which led the Pilgrims over the seas, thereby proving himself a better religious historian than a religious prophet.

He was followed by President Taft, Senator Lodge, Governor Draper, and many others. All addresses were becoming that notable occasion. They were historic, patriotic, ethical, and educational. After this feast of scholarly oratory, it remained for ex-Congressmen McCleary of Minnesota, in a speech which, while no less dignified, patriotic, and intensely practical than those which had proceeded, it so sparkled with wit and humor as to electrify the audience, and evoke such thundering applause as to drown the noise of the cannon that boomed from the war ships.

Photo: on 20 August 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts
Photo: on 20 August 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Note: More to come tomorrow!

Additional Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers.

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