Mattakeesett (‘place of many fish’, some also reference it as ‘the place of no high water’) was inhabited by Native Americans as early as 12,000 to 9,000 BC. At the time European settlers arrived here, the region was inhabited by the Wampanoags .
In 1620, the English settlers known as the Pilgrims established their colony in Plymouth. Per the terms of their contract with financial backers in London, they were required to live together in a tight community for seven years.
After 1623, there were few other large groups of passengers for Plymouth. In the next five years, only a handful of colonists arrived, generally aboard ships bringing supplies to the area.
By 1629 and 1630, numerous ships came to the Massachusetts Bay bringing approximately 1,000 settlers for that colony. In these two years, Plymouth also got an additional influx, ten or so aboard the Mayflower (not the 1620 ship) and 35 aboard the Talbot in 1629, and about 60 in the Handmaid in 1630.
Many of them were Leiden Separatists. Some people moved from Massachusetts Bay Colony to Plymouth and vice versa, seeking a more congenial home. Small numbers of additional Plymouth colonists trickled in during the next three years.
By 1633, the population of Plymouth Colony was approximately 400 individuals. The colonists expanded beyond the bounds of the town of Plymouth. (Plimoth-org)
Land along the coast was allotted to settlers for farming. Each man was given twenty acres for himself and an additional twenty for each person in his family. Thus, the coastline from Plymouth to Marshfield was parceled out and many settlers began moving away from Plymouth.
The first area to grow (and the second town – after Plymouth – in the Plymouth Colony) was Duxbury. Bradford described what happened,
“[T]he people of the plantation begane to grow in their owtward estates, by rea[son] of the flowing of many people into the cuntrie, espetially into the Bay of the Massachusets; by which means come and catle rose to a great prise, by which many were much inriched, and commodities grue plentifull and yet in other regards this benefite turned to their hurte, and this accession of strength to their weaknes.”
“For now as their stocks increased, and the increse vendible, ther was no longer any holding them togeather, but now they must of necessitie goe to their great lots ; they could not other wise keep their katle; and having oxen growne, they must have land for plowing and tillage.”
“And no man now thought he could live, except he had catle and a great deale of ground to keep them; all striving to increase their stocks. By which means they were scatered all over the bay, quickly, and the towne, in which they lived compactly till now, was left very thine, and in a short time allmost desolate.”
“And if this had been all, it had been less, thoug to much; but the church must also be devided, and those that had lived so long togeather in Christian and comfortable fellowship must now part and suffer many divissions.”
“First, those that lived on their lots on the other side of the bay (called Duxberie) they could not long bring their wives and children to the publick worship and church meetings here, but with shuch burthen, as, growing to some competente number, they sued to be dismissed and become a body of them selves; and so they were dismiste (about this time) , though very unwillingly.”
“But to touch this sadd matter, and handle things together that fell out afterwards. To prevent any further scatering from this place, and weakning of the same, it was thought best to give out some good faroms to spetiall persons, that would promise to live at Plimoth, and lickly to be helpfull to the church or comone-welth, and so tye the lands to Plimoth as farmes for the same; and ther they might keepe their catle and tillage by some servants, and retaine their dwellings here.”
“And so some spetiall lands were granted at a place generall, called Greens Harbor, wher no allotments had been in the former divission, a plase very weell meadowed, and fitt to keep and rear catle, good store.”
“But alass ! this remedy proved worse then the disease; for within a few years those that had thus gott footing ther rente themselves away, partly by force, and partly wearing the rest with importunitie and pleas of necessitie, so as they must either suffer them to goe, or live in continuall opposition and contention.”
“And others still, as they conceived them selves straitened, or to want accommodation, broak away under one pretence or other, thinking their owne conceived necessitie, and the example of others, awarrente sufficente for them.”
“And this, I fear, will be the mine of New-England, at least of the churches of God ther, and will provock the Lords displeasure against them.” (Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 151-153)
Mayflower Pilgrims Founded Duxbury
Some of the most influential men in the colony received grants in Duxbury (sometimes spelled Duxborough) and became its first leaders. Captain Myles Standish, the military leader of the colony, lived in “the Nook,” an area now known as Standish Shore.
Elder William Brewster was for many years the religious leader of the colony. He probably led services in Duxbury until it received its own minister in 1637. John Alden was another important settler, Assistant Governor of the colony for fifty years.
At first, those who settled in Duxbury came to work their new farms just in the warmer months and returned to Plymouth during the winter.
Originally, the land farmed by the settlers at Plymouth was held in common to be commonly worked and the profits commonly used to repay the backers in London.
It was not long, however, before they began to build homes on their land, and soon requested permission from the colony to be set off as a separate community with their own church. Duxbury was incorporated in 1637 (June 7, 1637, old style, or June 17, 1637, new style) and became the second town in the Plymouth colony.
Duxbury was primarily a farming community throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s quiet history in the 18th century was interrupted only by the Revolutionary War. In the years leading up to the war, the community was solidly rebellious and had little tolerance for loyalists.
It is said that Duxbury was named by Myles Standish and that the name Duxbury, though spelled in various ways, probably came from Duxbury Hall, one of the country seats of the Standish family in England. The Indian name for the area is Mattakeeset. Duxbury is located on Cape Cod Bay, 35 miles south of Boston on the South Shore.
Click the following link to a general summary about Duxbury: