Cole's Hill

Cole's Hill (HM1FO1)

Location: Plymouth, MA 02360 Plymouth County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 57.398', W 70° 39.73'

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The hill rises up from the shores of Plymouth Bay near the foot of Leyden Street, principal thoroughfare of the original settlement. It was the traditional burial place of the Plymouth colonists, Pilgrims and others, who died during the "starving time," the tragic first winter of 1620-21. The dead were reportedly buried at night, and their graves disguised to hide the dangerously weakened state of the survivors. In 1697 John Cole, who gave the hill his name, built a house on the northeast corner of the hill. Cannons were installed in earthworks on Cole's Hill in 1742, during the Revolution and again in 1814 of protection of the town.

As shipping became less prosperous in the mid-nineteenth century, the Pilgrim Society (founded in 1820) was able to buy and remove eight of the old commercial establishments to create the smooth slope and stairway as the start of the present park in 1856. The slope all the way down to Leyden Street was done about 1911.


A the top of Cole's Hill stands the memorial to the Mayflower Pilgrims, erected by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. The first rediscovery of Pilgrim remains occurred in 1735 following a heavy rain which washed many of the bones down the hill and into the harbor. Remains found nearby during the digging of sewer lines in 1855 and 1883 were sent to Boston to determine if they were Europeans or Native.
Pronounced European by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., four skeletons were returned to Plymouth and placed in a led-lined casket in the top of the old Hammatt Billings canopy over Plymouth Rock in 1867. The casket was retrieved when the old canopy was torn down, and it was interred in the present memorial on May 24, 1921.

Massasoit Statue

Massasoit, the chief sachem or leader of the indigenous Wampanoag people governed a federation of autonomous Native American communities in the Plymouth Colony region.

When the Pilgrims arrived his people were recovering from a terrible epidemic that wiped out entire communities (such as Patuxet where Plymouth is today). The powerful Narraganset tribe, which has not suffered such losses, was demanding that Massasoit become their vassal and the Wampanoag territory be subject to their rule. Massasoit instead chose to ally with the Pilgrims and preserve his people's independence. After Edward Winslow saved his life in 1622, the made Wampanoag leader made a personal commitment to the good relations between the English and the Wampanoag. Together Bradford and Massasoit maintained a sometimes-uneasy peace between the two people that lasted over half century.

The Bridal Tree

At the top of Cole's Hill are the remains of an ancient linden tree known as the "Bridal Tree".
The tree had been planted in a nearby yard by a young couple on their engagement in 1809. However, the marriage never took place, and the young woman in question pulled the sapling up and threw it into the road. It was found by William Davis, who lived on the hill, and he dug a hole with his heel and stuck it in the ground. It survived and has been known as a local landmark for many years.

The 1809 "Bridal Tree."

The ancient linden tree as it appears today on the northeast corner of Cole's Hill

HM NumberHM1FO1
Series This marker is part of the National Historic Landmarks series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, September 26th, 2014 at 9:59am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)19T E 362247 N 4646297
Decimal Degrees41.95663333, -70.66216667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 57.398', W 70° 39.73'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 57' 23.8800" N, 70° 39' 43.8000" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)508, 617, 774
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 26-98 Leyden St, Plymouth MA 02360, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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