Today, the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers Elder Thomas Faunce, the savior of the Plymouth Rock, who died on February 27, 1746 at the age of 99.
Some claim there was no historical reference to the pilgrims landing on a specific rock, especially in William Bradford’s written accounts of the Pilgrims and their arrival.
However, in 1741, Elder Thomas Faunce traveled the three miles from his home to view the rock for the last time after he learned a new wharf would be built over the rock his father told him was their landing spot.
At 94 years of age, his trip intrigued other people to join him to view the soon to become famous rock.
William Thomas Davis wrote in his book, In the History of the Town of Plymouth, published in 1885, the following account of Elder Faunce and Plymouth Rock:
Plymouth Rock. — The authenticity of the story of the landing on this rock rests both on general tradition and well-defined statements transmitted from generation to generation.
Among the latter may be mentioned the statement of Ephraim Spooner and others to persons, either now living or recently deceased, that in 1741, when it was proposed to construct a wharf over the rock, Elder Thomas Faunce, born in 1647 and then ninety-four years of age, was carried in a chair to the spot, and, supposing it about to be buried forever, bade it an affectionate farewell as the first resting-place of the feet of the Pilgrims.
He stated that his father, John Faunce, who came over in the “Ann” in 1623, had repeatedly told him the story. He was also old enough to have heard the story from the “Mayflower’s” passengers themselves.
He was ten years old when Governor Brad ford died, twenty-five when John Howland died, nine years old when Miles Standish died, and thirty-nine when John Alden died, and he would have been at least likely to have learned from them whether the story of his father was correct or not.
The rock, however, was not buried, as Elder Faunce feared it would be, but raised upwards from its bed so that its top might show above the roadway of the wharf.
In 1774 an attempt to remove the rock to the foot of the liberty-pole in Town Square resulted in its separation, and while the upper half alone was removed, the lower remained in its bed.
On the 4th of July, 1834, the severed portion, which since 1774 had remained in the square, and by the side of which the lower southerly elm-tree now in the square was planted in 1784, was removed to the front yard of Pilgrim Hall, and the next year in closed by the iron fence which now on another spot surrounds the stone slab bearing the text of the compact.
The remainder of the rock continued in its bed, merely showing its surface above the earth, until 1859, when the land on which it stands came under the control of the Pilgrim Society, and steps were taken to carry out a previously-formed plan of erecting over it a granite canopy.
A design offered by Hammatt Billings, of Boston, was adopted, and on the 2d of August, 1859, the corner-stone was laid. The canopy consists of four angle piers, decorated with three-quarter reeded columns of the Tuscan order, standing on pedestals and supporting a composed entablature, above which is an attic.
Between the piers on each face is an open arch, so that the rock is visible from all sides, and these arches are fitted with iron gates. The canopy measures about fifteen feet square, and is about thirty feet high.
In the chamber between the dome and the capstone are de posited the remains of some of the Pilgrims who died the first winter. The discovery of these remains is described in the main body of this history.
In 1880 the severed portion of the rock was restored to its old resting-place, and it now lies within the canopy reunited to its fellow-rock.
Perhaps historians need to remember — the early Pilgrims fought for their lives and livelihood in the wilderness of the New World. Writing of the first rock they stepped upon was not a priority.
Verbal history was sufficient to save Plymouth Rock and make it a famous historical symbol.
The Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows against a photograph by A. W. Anderson of the piece of rock that he noted was “In front of Pilgrim Hall 1834.”