Meaning of Historical Markers

What is the meaning of all historical markers? A nice perspective appears in the recently published book Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick. It describes ancient Indian markers that were noticed in 1621 by Edwin Winslow and Stephen Hopkins who led the Mayflower Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in New England. On 2 July 1621, nine months after landing at Plymouth, the two leaders started a diplomatic trip to visit Massasoit, chief of the Pokanoket Indians. Since the colonists had no horses, the two men began their 40-mile walk. They were guided by an English speaking Indian named Squanto. On the way, they were joined by a dozen Indians, men, women, and children who were returning with their catch of lobsters from Plymouth Harbor. Philbrick writes,

As they [Winslow and Hopkins] conversed with their new companions, the Englishmen learned that to walk across the land in southern New England was to travel in time. All along this narrow, hard-packed trail were circular foot-deep holes in the ground that had been dug where any remarkable act had occurred. It was each person’s responsibility to maintain the holes and to inform fellow travelers of what had once happened at that particular place so that many things of great antiquity are fresh in memory. Winslow and Hopkins began to see that they were traversing a mythic land, where a sense of community extended far into the distant past. Winslow recorded, “So that as a man travelleth, his journey will be the less tedious, by reason of the many historical discourses [that] will be related unto him.” (Philbrick 2006, 105)

The American Revolution remains the great epic story that occurred in this region. Nothing like it occurred before or since. It defined our nation. Its noteworthy sites are all around us. We should do our best to preserve what we can.


Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York, NY: Viking/Penquin Group, 2006.