I discovered on my visit to Plimoth Plantation that each dwelling mirrors one of the Pilgrim’s homes, reconstructed based on the diaries and journals they kept, and the archeological evidence unearthed, and on artifacts that were kept in families through the centuries. Though some were a bit larger than others, they shared more similarities than distinctions.
Each home was one or two rooms with an open hearth in one of the corners with a chimney directly above, and usually a loft for the children or boarders. The homes had similar sparse furnishings–a bed in a corner, a trunk or two, a few baskets, some cooking utensils, and a shelf upon which sat the family books and table settings.
Before my visit to Plimoth Plantation, I had thought that when each family moved out of the colony on their own, they would choose large pieces of land–claiming acreage like they did in Oklahoma and Texas a couple centuries later. But far from it! Each adult in the colony looked forward to paying the collective debt, and then receiving their share, which was one acre per adult in the household and 1/2 acre per child. What?? The families settling the new world would end up with less than five acres apiece?
It was then that a few thoughts came together for me. These folks came across the sea to purposefully begin a township with trade and merchants.
Though they needed to plant seed for corn, and herbs for cooking and medicine, nobody was hankering to go west as farmers and ranchers and leave civilization behind. These folks were bringing civilization, and looked forward to being in it again. The difference in the new land for them was not city life and country life, but rather city life without religious persecution. (Unless, of course, you weren’t a separatist.)
They eagerly looked forward to the annual ships arriving with the goods they were used to in Holland and in England–fresh, ready-made clothes, sugar, and spices. As they began to build their homes, they sent orders back to England for windows, dishes, linens, baskets, and other items they been without for a few years.
Basically, the Pilgrims were camping–roughing it by choice, until that glorious day when the debt was paid, and they could begin to invest in their livelihoods and build proper houses along Leyden Street.