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Pilgrim Monument, line drawing by Ewa Nogiec
THE LIGHTING OF THE MONUMENT AT THANKSGIVING 2002





Again this year we celebrate this imposing structure by decorating it with long strands of electric lights, extending the boundaries of our town by a luminous radius of some 50 fifty miles over land and sea.


What is the signal we are sending?
Most people on our horizon confuse it with a gigantic Christmas tree, like the one at Rockefeller Center. And we who stand under it, who marvel at the light it casts over our Town in this dark season, gaze up at it not in awe of its meaning, but in wonder at its massive and eternally incongruous presence in our midst.


The Pilgrim Monument was built by Cape Codders as a tribute to a group of refugees who conceived the Mayflower Compact, touchstone of the American ideal of self government and personal freedom nearly 300 years earlier in the shelter of our harbor. These First Immigrants comprised both sexes, all age groups and represented virtually every socioeconomic background. There was a birth and a death while they were here, but beyond that Provincetown was only a stopover. While there was a searing fanatic idealism still burning at the end of an arduous, dangerous sea voyage, (the Compact is proof of that), there was also a very practical decision made to quit this desolate place and face an uncertain future in a settlement across Cape Cod Bay which was closer environmentally to England and Holland, from whence they had come.


The Pilgrims left nothing tangible behind. For most of us living here today, it seems as if the Pilgrims were never really here. Except, of course, for the Monument, which stands out, more than dominant, in the center of our Town.
Is the Pilgrim Monument out of place? Yes, but doesn’t idealism always seem out of place? For all time it’s here for us to marvel at the undiminished power of faith and community, and the relentless pursuit of human idealism in a very real world.


The annual Lighting of the Monument must become a ritual as sacred to us in Provincetown as our Town Meeting, or our Blessing of the Fleet, Veteran’s Day or Fourth of July.


Every Thanksgiving we should gather at its base to acknowledge the Monument’s power to symbolize an ideal which lived not only in the minds of the Pilgrims during their month-long sojourn in our Harbor but in the government they formed aboard the Mayflower and established in Plymouth. And the Monument should become something more for us, especially those of us who have committed our lives to this community.

The real connection between the Monument and the Town is the spirit of that ideal, how people can shape a community which supports the common weal while it protects personal freedom. An ideal the Pilgrims somehow established here, a spiritual legacy we have, managed to preserve and perpetuate.
That is the signal we are sending.

—Edward M. Rudd
Provincetown, November 2002

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This issue of i am provincetown is a timeline of building Pilgrim Monument, from the very concept in 1892, thru signing a act by President Theodore Roosevelt in June 1906, working on the fundation, construction and dedication on August 5, 1910 with President William Howard Taft visiting Provincetown for this ceremony.

August 5, 1910: Miss Barbara Hoyt, a young girl who was the granddaughter of Captain Sears and a descendent of Elder Brewster, draw aside the flag that covered the bronze tablet over the doorway. The inscription on the plaque, reads:

"On November 21st, 1620, The Mayflower, carrying 102 passengers, men, women and children, cast anchor in this harbor 67 days from Plymouth, England.
On the same day the 41 adult males in the company had solemnly covenanted and combined themselves together “into a civil body politick.”
The body politic established and maintained on the bleak and barren edge of a vast wilderness a state without a king or a noble, a church without a bishop or a priest, a democratic commonwealth the members of which were “straightly tied to all care of each other’s good and of the whole by every one.”
With long-suffering devotion and sober resolution they illustrated for the first time in history the principles of civil and religious liberty and the practices of a genuine democracy.
Therefore the remembrance of them shall be perpetual in the vast republic that has inherited their ideals."


Historical photographs in this issue of i am provincetown are courtesy Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. Text was written by Laurel Guadazno, Curator of Education.

 

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Fishing Boat line drawing by Ewa Nogiec

If I can say "I am Provincetown" so can YOU :)

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