Day/Date: SATURDAY – 8/13/22
Town visited: Duxbury
Had you ever been to this town before? Yes, briefly one time
Drive to 1st town: 49 miles Time spent in town: nearly 6 hours
What did we do in the town/area?
Today was all about history. We were happily joined by Jo’s (my) mom, Emily, who was visiting from Maryland, and by Jo’s sister, Jan, who lives next door to us. Jan and mom (Emily) are well versed in history and interested in ancestry research. With ancestry.com and other sources, Jan recently made some pretty compelling discoveries about our family. These discoveries influenced our choice to visit Duxbury, MA.
Once known as Mattakeesett (the place of many fish), the area now known as Duxbury had been the home of Native Americans for thousands of years. European settlers, sailing on the Mayflower ship in 1620, would change the area’s trajectory when they somewhat mistakenly arrived and settled amongst the inhabitants, the Wampanoag tribe.
These Europeans, anxious for a new life that promised religious freedom, called themselves Pilgrims. And these Pilgrims hired Myles Standish, a military adviser, to accompany them. They also hired a cooper (aka barrel maker) named John Alden. And as it turns out, we are related to both of these men. John Alden met a young woman named Priscilla Mullins, who came on the ship with her family. And after a plague claimed the lives of many Pilgrims and Native Americans, including most of Priscilla’s family, Priscilla and John Alden married. This union is where our heritage begins. And in the next generation, one of their descendants married a descendant of Myles Standish’s, which is how he enters the picture of our family tree.
The Alden family site is a preserved historic landmark in Duxbury. Hence, we figured this would be a fitting place to visit with the two women in our family who just so happen to know a great deal about this history.
But before we get to that, we decided to start our day with our typical visit to the town hall, which happened to be adjacent to the first Parish Church and cemetery. There were a few trails behind this church for North Hill Marsh Conservation Area that takes you by cranberry bogs and an old Native American footpath, but mom’s legs weren’t quite up for that, so we took note of it and hope to go back someday and check it out. From here, we drove to the Myles Standish Burial Ground, which claims to be the oldest “maintained” cemetery in the colonial United States. We explored, took some pics, and attempted to read a few ancient gravestones in this small and historic memorial site known for several of our ancestors’ burials.
Duxbury is not only known for its historic landmarks and connection to the colonists. It also happens to be known for its oysters. The ‘Duxbury Oyster’ is cultivated in the cold, grassy, nutrient-rich waters of Duxbury Bay and is known for its brine flavor, clean taste, and sweet mossy finish. So, before heading to the Alden house, we decided to have some lunch and taste the oysters at the Island Creek Oysters Farm Outdoor Raw Bar. This outdoor establishment had picnic tables set up overlooking the Duxbury Bay and a small but delicious food and drink menu. You place your order at the food truck and then wait at your numbered picnic table for them to bring you your food and drink. In the meantime, you can just sit back and enjoy the vibe, the boats and gulls along the bay, and the lively music playing through speakers disguised as stones. We had a really nice and relaxed time there. And for the record, it ain’t cheap, but it is good.
With our bellies fed and happy, we moved on to the feature of the day: The Alden House historic site. This site features a preserved house built by one of John Alden’s descendants, as well as the foundation remnants of a house that John Alden constructed and lived in after moving from the original Plimoth Plantation. We did a tour of this home which included an interesting 11 minute video of the town and family history. I was fascinated by the historic coffee grinder and the spinning wheels and barrels as preserved artifacts in the house.
We also did the posted “outdoor scavenger hunt” (researched by my sister, Jan) and dragged mom through a wooded area (her legs were a little mad at us for that) in search of the foundation site of the very original John Alden House. At one point, mom found a bench to rest on and she gave Jo a little history lesson while Jan and Jenny finished the scavenger hunt which, eventually led them to the WELL SWEEP; an arrangement of wooden branches that work like a lever to draw water from a well.
At the suggestion of the delightful young woman who gave us our tour of the Alden House, we ended our Duxbury town visit day with ice cream from Farfar’s ice cream, a Danish ice cream shop that has been in business for 43 years! I was so pleased that they had a couple of non-dairy ice cream options. Mom, Jenny, and Jan all enjoyed their ice cream delights as well. It was a perfect ending to the day. We were so lucky to have mom and Jan be our sidekicks today!
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Wampanoag, Massachusett, Pokanoket