Did the Plymouth colony quarrel over whether to build a road into the Wilderness?

I heard the following story today (it was a sermon illustration in church, if you must know), something I had never heard before:

The idea boggles the mind: they’re barely surviving, on the brink of starvation, and some fathead wants to build a friggin’ road. It all sounds so plausible, ya know? Exactly the sort of thing that some not-strongly-connected-to-reality person would think was a Good Idea, “stake our claim to this land”, etc., and I could just see it being proposed at a Pilgrim committee meeting.

However, this comes from a source who is chronically, and monumentally, details-challenged, having a proven fondness for ULs and fascinatingly mis-remembered factoids, and so I was, like, “Umm…” However, I am curious, and, not wishing to wade through many-many books of Colonial History, I thought I’d come in here. Ring any bells with any history buffs?

There are always those, (Myself included) who want to expand their horizions. Maybe for better land? Perhaps some folks just wanted to get away from other folks. If they were on the brink of starvation what’s more natural than to go out and seek better farming or hunting? Just a WAG.

Total UL is my guess.

Roads are huge amounts of work. They only make sense if they connect two places with heavy traffic between them. But there wasn’t another place like that within a year of the Pilgrims landing.

The Indians would surely have paths of various sorts to get from one village to another, but they wouldn’t need a road. They walked everywhere on land for one thing. So did the Pilgrims, who didn’t bring along any horses on the Mayflower.

So, no horses, no buggies, no carts, no transport. What would the road be for?

This notion is a non-starter, from somebody who apparently doesn’t know the first thing about history. Like Jake. :smiley:

Maybe ‘road’ is being used in the ‘narrow trail hacked into the brush’ sense?

The Wampanoag people in southern Massachusetts had a number of major pathways connecting important sites. The Pilgrims, in fact, used one, later referred to as the “Rhode Island Road,” when they visited Massasoit.

Later, lots of these centuries-old pathways were improved and paved. Many still serve as roads today. The street running in front of my own house is an example. It led from the “Rhode Island Road” to a summer settlement by the shore.

Oh, and also, a year after the Mayflower arrived, the Fortune arrived with more men.

Yeah, that was a blessing for the colony, all right:

The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony:1620

Well, yeah, I agree that the idea of an infant colony devoting time, labor, and materials to clearing and building an actual road five miles into Nowhere would be a complete non-starter, but I’m not asking whether it was a dumb idea, I’m asking whether in fact someone in the early years of the Colony did in fact seriously propose doing such a thing, and whether in fact the idea was eventually shot down by the other members.

Dang, sorry, this all got left out. :mad:

But see, you’re thinking like a Sensible Person, not like a clueless middle-class gentlemen who had never worked with his hands and who thought he was gonna help found a New Jerusalem apparently by God’s Will alone. I have no trouble at all seeing some Empire Builder get up at an early committee meeting and propose that in order to stake their claim and help civilize these godforsaken natives, they build a Proper Road. And it doesn’t have to “go” anywhere in particular, since it would just be for show, for purposes of collective ego-satisfying. But whoever proposed it may have suggested that of course that would be the direction that future expansion would be going…

Pilgrim 1: “Where does this road you’ve propsed go?”

Pilgrim 2: “That’s the beauty of it… it doesn’t go anywhere!”

Where’s my long response to this that I posted earlier? Darn hamsters.

Anyway, I said something to the effect that I find this scenario impossible to imagine. And one that I’ve never read or heard of in all this time.

I suppose somebody could have proposed it, and if you wanted to search you would need to do is to go through, line by line, all the official records and all the individual diaries.

But, c’mon. The colony was starving and needed every person working all the time just to stay alive. The Pilgrims weren’t gentlemen and they weren’t even middle class. I’m not sure they were the type of sect that were deep into the New Jerusalem and showing off for god, either. Totally empty gestures weren’t what they were about.

I can’t prove it didn’t happen. But it sure sounds exactly like a story to me.

Right. The early inhabitants of Plymouth were primarily working class. (William Bradford, who became governor after the old governor died, had been a clothworker in England) They also didn’t want to “civilize the godforsaken natives”. They were terrified of them, and attitudes ranged from “wipe them out” to “pray they don’t wipe us out”.

It’s more likely it was something the settlers of Massachussets would do…but I don’t have any knowledge that they did it either.

But now you are confusing the Plymouth settlement with Jamestown. Of the 101 original settlers on the Mayflower, none were gentry and only about one third of them were religious Separatists. The majority of the people aboard were working folk recruited to build a colony. (That is why, in recent years, the view of the Mayflower Compact has shifted among some people from “first democratic document of the New World” to “theocratic power grab,” since it shifted power from all the settlers to favor the rules of the Separatists. Whether or not this new view of that document is accurate, the view that anyone on the Mayflower expected to be idle is inaccurate.)

Without addressing the issue of whether there was an idiotic earlier proposal, this hard-to-read site claims that the first road was built twelve years after landing to connect Plymouth to the newly established village of Marshfield.

It could have happened. Heck, the city in which I used to live nearly had to lay off all the school nurses in the district, but plowed ahead with a soccer stadium. Compared to that, the PIlgrims would look wise building a road into the wilderness.

Maybe one of them was a money launderer! Real life example of a road that doesn’t go anywhere.

The Pilgrims didn’t live in a society in which governments had to deal with totally different sources of money which by law could not be used for any purpose other than the one specified.

And it will probably take another 385 years to get today’s people to understand this.

Well, Tom~ was my final hope, and if he never heard of the incident in question, then chalk up another one for my pastor the Walking Inboxer Rebellion, I guess. :smiley:

Thanks, all.

As for the "hard-to-read"ness, Tomanddeb,I copied and pasted it into Word and the green background disappeared = quite readable.

Another historical cite: In Page, Logan Waller, Roads, Paths and Bridges-The Farmer’s Practical Library, New York, Sturgis & Walton Co., 1912, pages 30 and 31, in a chapter entitled “Early Road Work in the United States”, it states:

“The first American road law was passed by the House of Burgesses in Virginia in1632. So far as can be ascertained, the first American road built by white men was at Jamestown a few years later.”

“In the North the so-called New England Path, between Boston and Plymouth, was begun in 1639.”

Belated thanks for copying that all out. :slight_smile:

It’s possible that there really were early colonists somewhere who quarreled over building a road, and so Pastor’s factoid might have originally gone, “The year after Jamestown was started, they quarreled over building a road into the wilderness.” That would make more sense, actually, and it would make sense that he got hold of the wrong end of the stick (which happens frequently with him) and attributed it to the Pilgrims. It was supposed to be a sermon illustration for “losing your passion”, in that these colonists (whoever they were), after they’d gone to all this trouble to emigrate, “only a year later!” couldn’t muster up the oomph to build a puny five-mile road (and yes I know his basic assumptions here show that he doesn’t “get” the economic and historical realities of the colonial period–there’s a lot of stuff he doesn’t “get”).

Well, next time I’m at the library I’ll look for a Big Book Of Colonial History.