22 Main Street

Orleans, MA 02653


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Mayflower 400

Commemorating and celebrating the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower

On September 6th of 1620, one-hundred men, women and children seeking religious freedoms set sail from England to the New World aboard the Mayflower. Two perilous months at sea and on the morning of

November 9th, the ship landed in Provincetown harbor.


While their intended target was Northern Virginia, the rough waters of the Atlantic, the overcrowded ship, and lack of resources meant they were running out of options. The Pilgrims chose to stay in the Cape Cod bay and begin settlement. In December of 1620, the Pilgrims would choose Plymouth Harbor as their new home. 

As you may know, the Snow's family are direct descendants of Stephen Hopkins, whose family arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. In this special and commemorative year, we thought it was important to share more information about the Snow's family connection to the Mayflower and their Orleans roots. 

The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall, 1882 (Pilgrim Hall Museum)

plymouth rock.jpg

In 1623, three years after the arrival of the Mayflower, the ship Anne brought a whole new group of individuals to help settle and build in Plymouth Harbor. Including Nicholas Snow, the husband-to-be of Stephen Hopkins daughter, Constance. 

Unconvinced that the land at Plymouth harbor was adequate for harvesting crops and sustaining the increasing population, a group of Pilgrims expanded their search on Cape Cod for their perfect home. The first Plymouth colonists to settle in the Nauset region, on land that would become Orleans, were Nicholas and Constance Hopkins Snow. They produced twelve children, and started the Orleans-Snow's legacy on Cape Cod that continues today.


The gravestone of Constance Hopkins Snow can be found in the Cove Burying Ground on Rt. 6 in Eastham. Also to be found there are the gravestones of two other Mayflower passengers that settled in Nauset; Constance’s brother Giles Hopkins, and Joseph Rogers.


 Since 1644, the Snow families have served the town, both in government and business, a tradition that continues today.

Constance Hopkins & Nicholas Snow

Grandpa Stephen Hopkins 





Today we will focus on the time when Plymouth seriously considered moving the town to Nauset. The original decision of the Mayflower leaders to settle at Plymouth was not so much a choice but a last ditch option. It was the middle of the winter of 1620; they had survived a rough trans-Atlantic voyage, and had still been living aboard ship for five weeks in what became Provincetown Harbor. At the suggestion of the ship’s pilot, Robert Coppin, they headed for “Thievish Harbor”, (may be modern day Gloucester), a place Coppin was aware of from a previous voyage. Instead, they came upon Plymouth Harbor, decided to settle there, and, as the saying goes, “the rest is history”.


What the legends of the Mayflower story often omit is that the Pilgrims were never really happy with Plymouth. The land was sandy and rocky, and almost from the beginning, the colonists were concerned about the suitability of the location for the long term sustainability of the town. Much to the consternation of William Bradford, the demand for land caused some colonists to leave Plymouth and form new towns, Duxbury being the first, with six more soon to follow. By 1643, however, Plymouth was still the largest town in the colony with 147 men aged 16-60.


In 1637, a proposal to move both Plymouth and Duxbury and combine them into a single town in what was considered a better location failed. A more serious effort was made seven years later in 1644, and this attempt was to have a most consequential effect on the land at the elbow of the Cape. Discontent with the land at Plymouth had continued, with Bradford writing of “the straightness and barrenness of the land” and commenting on the desire of many colonists to find a better location. Meetings were held, and attention was given to Nauset, land they had become familiar with during their explorations while still harbored at Provincetown. A committee of seven freemen, led by Thomas Prence, was sent to evaluate the land, and it was determined that Nauset was too small and remote to accommodate the entire population of Plymouth. However, it was determined to establish a settlement there, and seven freemen and their families, a total of 49 persons, set out to form the new settlement. In the list of these seven families, one sees familiar names, families that have remained prominent in Cape History: Thomas Prence, Deacon John Doane, Edward Bangs, Richard Higgins, Nicholas Snow, John Smalley, and Josias Cook.


The records of the Colony read: “The Court doth grant unto the church of New Plymouth, or those that go to dwell at Nossett, all that tract of land lying between sea to sea, from the Purchasers bounds at Naumskechett to the Herring Brook at Billingsgate, with said Herring Brook and all the meadows and islands within the said tract”


One of the first orders of business for the inhabitants of Nauset was to establish their church, and a meetinghouse was built on the north (Eastham) side of Town Cove.  The Federated Church on Main St. in Orleans is a direct descendent of this humble 1644 beginning, and timbers and other materials from this first meetinghouse were used in the construction of a house on Canal Road. This house still stands today, and has been designated “Orleans’ Oldest House”.


Pursuant to the agreement made with George, Sachem of the Nauset tribe from whom part of the Nauset land was purchased, a strip of land by the harbor at the east side of the land was reserved for the Nausets to grow corn. This arrangement continued for decades, and the land today is called Nauset Heights.


The first Plymouth colonists to settle on land that became Orleans were Nicholas and Constance Hopkins Snow, being granted the southernmost tract in the division of land among the first Nauset settlers. Nicholas arrived at Plymouth on the Anne in November of 1623, and Constance arrived on the Mayflower as a young girl in 1620 and was the daughter of Stephen and Constanta Hopkins. They produced twelve children, starting the Snow legacy on Cape Cod that continues today. The gravestone of Constance can be found in the Cove Burying Ground on Rt. 6 in Eastham. Also to be found there are the gravestones of two other Mayflower passengers that settled in Nauset; Constance’s brother Giles Hopkins, and Joseph Rogers. 


Nauset continued as a settlement until 1646, when the General Court of Plymouth incorporated it as a town. The name of the town was changed to Eastham in 1661. Orleans separated from Eastham in 1797, becoming the independent town we know today.


If someone tells you that Orleans’ history began in 1797, don’t believe them.

Ron Petersen, Orleans Historical Commission

Snow's Orleans Roots





April 24:

Commemoration Opening Ceremony

Memorial Hall, Plymouth

June 17 - 21 and September :

A New England Sojourn

New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston

June 27 and 28:

Official Maritime Salute to the 400th Anniversary

Plymouth Harbor

August 1:

Wampanoag Ancestors Walk

Plymouth Waterfront

September 7-14:

Mayflower II in Provincetown

Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown

September 12:

Mayflower II Gala

Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown 

September 14:

Official State House Salute to the 400th Anniversary

Massachusetts State House, Boston 

October 30 - November 1:

Indigenous History Conference and Powwow 

Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater

November 20 - 25:

Illuminate Thanksgiving


Events & more information

Participate in the Celebrations

Photo credit above:

Special thanks to Ron Peterson of the Orleans Historical Society for providing his time, information, and passion for preserving historical data.