In 1644, some of the most respectable inhabitants of Plymouth became the first settlers of what would become Eastham, Massachusetts. The group included two of my ninth great-grandfathers, Richard Higgins and Josias Cook. Others included John Doane, Nicholas Snow, John Smalley, Edward Bangs, and Thomas Prince.
At his home in Eastham, Prince planted a pear tree that had been brought from England. Two centuries later Heman Doane, a descendant of John Doane, addressed the tree in verse:
Two hundred years have, on the wings of time,Henry David Thoreau quoted part of this poem in Cape Cod, but deigned to use all of it. Some lines, he felt, were not worth quoting. You can read Thoreau's comments and more about the ancient pear tree in Eastham at My Ancestors in Books.
Passed, with their joys and woes, since thou, Old Tree!
Put forth thy first leaves in this foreign clime,
Transplanted from the soil beyond the sea.
Whence did our pious Pilgrim Fathers come,
To found an empire in this western land.
Where they and theirs might find a peaceful home —
A safe retreat from persecution's hand.
That exiled band long since have passed away,
And still, Old Tree, thou standest in the place
Where Prince's hand did plant thee in his day —
An undesigned memorial of his race
And time — of those, our honored fathers, when
They came from Plymouth o'er and settled here —
Doane, Higgins, Snow, and other worthy men,
Whose names their sons remember to revere.
Full many a summer breeze and wintry blast
Through those majestic boughs have waved and sighed
While centuries with their burdens by have passed,
And generations have been born and died.
And many a sister tree has had its birth.
Performed its labors, and fulfilled its day;
And mighty kings and kingdoms of the earth
Have lived and flourished, died and passed away.
There didst thou stand in times of bloody strife.
The youthful days of Boston's famous tree, —
And when our patriot fathers sold their lives
To buy their country's glorious liberty!
Old time has thinned thy boughs, Old Pilgrim Tree!
And bowed thee with the weight of many years;
Yet, mid the frosts of age, thy bloom we see.
And yearly still thy mellow fruit appears.
Venerable emblem of our sires of yore!
Like them thou hast performed life's labors well;
And when, like them, thy days are passed and o'er,
These lines may help thy lengthened stories tell.