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Students search for the 'first Plymouth Rock'

The best way to figure out how the Pilgrims established the boundaries of the first Cape Cod towns would be to find the center point. But that stone is believed to be in Cape Cod Bay. The next best way is to find the land stones they placed to mark boundaries. And a group 7th- and 8th-graders just may have done it ...

By Robin Lord

August 24, 2008
ORLEANS - It's a mystery that could prove how the Pilgrims set the boundaries for the first Cape Cod towns.
Called "The Cornerstones Project," the effort has already paid dividends for a Chatham man and a group of Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School students, who this spring discovered a boulder etched with a giant "X" in Orleans Town Cove. The rock may have been placed there by Pilgrims as a marker for the southernmost boundary of the town of Eastham.

"It just seems so top secret," said Joey Benedict, 13, of Dennis, who chose the Cornerstones seminar last spring.
The project, started by Michael Farber and Lighthouse teachers Paul Niles and Daniella Garran, works off a theory developed in 1985 by retired architect and amateur historian H. Morse Payne. As the descendent of the first settlers of the town of Yarmouth, Payne has an avid interest in early Cape Cod history and has researched much of his genealogy.

Payne learned that English Pilgrims arriving in the New World in the early 17th century discovered something interesting when they first sailed around Cape Cod. By the time they navigated around the outside and into Cape Cod Bay, the needle on their compass had spun all the way around and they realized the peninsula represented a surveyor's dream. It was a natural compass rose.

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