Monday, September 27, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 73: Duxbury, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 73:  Duxbury, Mass.
August 26, 2010

            Sitting only ten miles north of the Holy Grail of history, Plymouth, the town of Duxbury surprised me with how much history of its own it has inside its borders.  Plymouth may have the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, but Duxbury may have just as much of a connection to the original Pilgrims.  It is here that many of those who arrived on the Mayflower were buried, and it is here where perhaps the most famous Pilgrim, Myles Standish, lived as well.
Powder Point Bridge leading to Duxbury Beach
            Yes, there is an overwhelming amount of historical significance throughout Duxbury there are also many other places to see as well.  The major attraction in this amazing South Shore town has to be Duxbury Beach.  It is made even more magnificent by the fact that it is accessible only by a drive across the narrow, wooden Powder Point Bridge.  The beach is very narrow at most points due to its exposure to any and all rough seas.  The Powder Point Bridge is popular for fishing and when I passed over it to go to the beach I had to make sure to go slowly. 
John Alden House
Gurnet Light
            As you travel south along the dirt road of Duxbury Beach you reach a point where it turns into the private Gurnet.  A twenty-seven acre peninsula The Gurnet is only accessible if you own a house at Gurnet Point, or if you are lucky enough like me to know someone who does.  My friend Steve’s family has a summer home on Gurnet Point and I was able to go out and take in the amazing views across Plymouth Harbor.  There is also Gurnet Light sitting high above the cliffs.  Originally there were twin lighthouses in this spot until one was torn down in 1924.  This lighthouse is difficult to see from the mainland and I was very glad that I got the chance to see it up close.
            My trip into the history Duxbury holds began at a cemetery called the ‘Myles Standish Burying Grounds.’  The oldest maintained cemetery in the United States it is here that many of the famous Pilgrims were laid to rest.  The most obvious name buried here is the one for whom the cemetery is named.  The grave of Myles Standish is unbelievable.  There are four cannons facing outward from the rock wall the surrounds the gravesite.  The ‘headstone’ is a large boulder with the name ‘Standish’ engraved on it.  I do not know how far beneath my feet the legendary Pilgrim was buried but it was an awesome feeling to be so close to someone so important to the beginnings of our country.
The grave of Capt. Myles Standish
            Not to be forgotten are the graves of John and Priscilla Alden which reside along the edge of the cemetery bordering Chestnut Street.  However there is a much better way to get a taste of what life was like for the Alden’s by visiting the John Alden House on Alden Street.  Dated 1653, the house is one of very few in the country from so far back to never have been renovated with such improvements as plumbing and electricity.  There is also the archaeological site of the original 1632 Alden Homestead on the grounds.  Archaeological pioneer Roland Wells Robbins excavated the site in 1960 and found the remains of the foundation of the original Alden house.  The house is now a museum and is open for tours throughout the summer months.     
Captain Myles Standish has a monument dedicated to him which located a short drive from the cemetery that bears his name as well.  On the way to the monument is the home of Standish’s son, Alexander.  Built in 1666 the house was occupied by Alexander and his wife Sarah Alden who was the daughter of John and Priscilla until 1688 when Sarah died.  Alexander then married Desire Doty.  Unfortunately the house is on private property and try as I might I was not even able to find a good vantage point for a shot of it.  I will have to take the Duxbury Historical Society’s word for it that it is there.
Myles Standish Monument
The Myles Standish Monument is located on Crescent Street atop the 200 foot Captain’s Hill, the 116-foot granite shaft is topped by a fourteen foot statue of Standish.  Myles Standish was hired to be a military adviser for Plymouth Colony and served as Plymouth’s representative to England.  He also helped found Duxbury and named it after Duxbury Woods in Chorley, Lancashire, England.  During the summer, mostly June and July, the monument is easy to get to, you can drive up the hill and park at the base of it.  However, on both of my trips up to the monument the gate was locked and I had to walk up the hill.  It is not a long walk and it should not dissuade any visitor from seeing this amazing tribute to an American legend.
            The monument itself can be seen from miles around as it rises high above the trees.  During the summer months there are opportunities to climb it, although it is wise to have a group to go and to call ahead.  For those who do get to climb they are rewarded with an amazing view of Kingston Bay as well as Duxbury Bay and Clarks Island.  The forest surrounding the monument is beautiful and the sweet pine scent filled the air.  I made sure to take my time and enjoy the site of this towering granite structure. 
            Although it may tend to be overshadowed by Plymouth to the south Duxbury can hold its own as far as history goes with any other town in the state.  After taking some time to relax at Duxbury Beach make sure to enjoy some of this history by visiting the Myles Standish Burying Ground and Monument.  Don’t forget the 350-year old John Alden House as well.  Have fun and happy traveling!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available through Schiffer Books!

DirectionsMyles Standish Monument: From Rt. 3 take Exit 10, turn right at Rt. 3A.  Turn right at Chestnut St., right at Standish St.  Take slight right onto Crescent Street.  Parking area for monument is on a hill on the right, if gate is closed road must be hiked to the top. 
John Alden House:  From Rt. 3A heading north turn right at Alden Street.  Follow it .3 miles to house located on right.
Duxbury Beach:  From Rt. 3A heading north turn right at Alden Street.  Turn right at St. George St., turn left at the end and bear right onto Powder Point Avenue.  Follow it across the Powder Point Bridge to the beach. 

            John Alden House
            Duxbury, Ma. - Official Town Site

No comments: