The Pilgrim Treehouse

Informant is from Franklin, a small town 45 minutes away from Boston. Her neighborhood was very close knit, and people would stay in contact and interact with each other, including the children. This is a story about one of her childhood experiences.

“So, when I was in elementary school, like around six years old, a bunch of kids in my neighborhood all around the same age would play with each other. We would go to this one kid’s house, because he had a really big treehouse, which no one else in the neighborhood had. So, when we started going to the treehouse, we asked where it had come from.”

Did you ask his parents?

No, we just asked him. And he didn’t know, so he went and asked his older brother, who didn’t play with us because he was too old. So, his older brother came and told us the story of how the treehouse came to be. He said that it had already been at the house before they moved in, and was there even before any of the houses were built. He claimed that first pilgrims who came to America had built it and lived in it. Since Massachusetts has, like, the oldest history in the US, we really believed him, even though our neighborhood was built on a quarry. We were six, and stupid. He then said that the pilgrims had left the treehouse once they learned that they could leave the treehouse when they learned that they could be friends with the Native Americans. He kept on telling us that this treehouse was really big historic landmark, and if anybody were to destroy it, they would be ruining a part of American history.”

At the time, how did you react to the story?

“We all believed it. We even went back up and tried to look for pilgrim artifacts and signs that they had left behind. There were even some scratch marks on the tree, which we thought was some ancient language or something. It turns out that they were just natural scratch marks though.”

How long did you believe the story for?

“Well we believed it for about half a year, and we tried to keep it a secret because we didn’t want anyone else to come by and ruin it. Eventually, my older brother dropped the news that the story wasn’t true and that the family had built the treehouse when they had moved in. I was pretty sad when I found that out. But now it’s a really funny story to tell everyone.”


Collector’s conclusions:

This is a legend that would be confined to a very small area, such as the neighborhood where the informant is from. It takes advantage of Massachusetts historic past as one of the first places in America to be settled, and as a result the story is not completely unbelievable, especially to young children. This is an example of belief that grows with context, as the children believed the story more and more as they were in the treehouse, and began drawing conclusions and making observations that supported the legend. While it eventually turned out to be untrue, this is a typical story of an older sibling playing a trick on younger children that goes farther than originally intended.