My family first came to America on the Mayflower, and died that first winter. At least, that’s the story as it was told to me. It’s hard to tell if the Turner who came to the Boston colony some time later and from whom I’m descended is any relationship to the merchant John Turner and his two sons, all of whom died in 1621. It may be true, and if so, I am content, but I still harbor suspicion that the whole story is a bill of goods sold to my family some sixty years past.
Of greater interest to me is the story of my great-grandfather Archie Turner, who, according legend, was part of a group of men who broke Plymouth Rock. As the story goes, the piece of Vermont granite known as Plymouth Rock was not always present in its current location. In fact, it was at that time in two locations, because only half of the stone had been hauled into public view. The other half remained buried near the shore.
When the time came that the Town of Plymouth wanted to give their beloved stone a new resting place, they decided to reunite the two pieces once again. They hired a man to do the job, and that man hired a young laborer named Turner to assist him.
Since the second piece of Plymouth Rock had been buried all those years, no one knew how big it was, which turned out to be a good thing, because it turned out to be too large and too unwieldy for the workmen to manage properly. Having hauled the boulder out of the earth, they proceeded to drop it in transit, and it broke.
Naturally, this is a reason for concern, because the locals held Plymouth Rock in high regard as the place their forefathers first set foot when founding the Plymouth Bay colony. Whether this legend were true or not was irrelevant — one does not simply break a town monument.
To cover up their failure, so they say, the group of workmen broke up the smaller of the two pieces of Plymouth Rock and carried them away. The larger piece was hauled to its new home and passed off as the whole thing, and the customer was none the wiser.
Evidence in favor of this story includes the fact that many pieces of Plymouth Rock turned up as souvenirs in the hands of locals after that time, and that the piece of rock delivered by the laborers didn’t quite mesh with the piece previously moved in the 1700s. The dates, however, don’t quite seem to fit my family timeline, and it’s possible that this tale may just be an embellishment wrapped around some ill-defined bits of local history.
If my family is responsible for breaking Plymouth Rock, I must offer the people of Plymouth my humblest apologies. And if not, I probably should apologize for being part of a family of liars. Either way, I am sorry.
Note: Saints and Strangers by George F. Willison, shown above, is a dense but interesting history of the Plymouth Bay colony. If you enjoy reading history, pick it up. I found it a useful resource when researching the history of Plymouth Rock and Plymouth Bay Colony.