It is not known what the degree of Native settlement and use was in the area that would be come Duxbury during
the Contact Period (1500-1620)
. Duxbury is believed to have been called Mattakeesett, meaning “the place of no
high water” possibly describing the dramatic change in tides that exposes large mud flats in Duxbury Bay. It is believed
that the road that would later become one of the main connectors between Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, present day Route
53, originated as a Native trail. Other trails are believed to have run along the route of present day Tobey Garden Street,
Old Meetinghouse Road and Cross-Vine-Mayflower streets with Bow-Tremont Street being the original north to south coastal route
(MHC 1981: 1). The presence of abundant freshwater, 1,149 acres in the late 20th
century, extensive mudflats in
Duxbury bay and over 3000 acres of wetlands, made this an ideal location for seasonal or year round settlement.
Duxbury was settled by Europeans expanding out from the plantation at Plymouth
during the Plantation Period (1620-1675). Settlement began in Duxbury sometime between 1627 and 1632.
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. In 1627 the joint stock company of the colony was reorganized as a result of a renegotiation
of terms with the London backers. Some of the chief men of the colony agreed to repay the debt and land outside the walls
of the Plantation was granted to individual families (Deane 1856: 227). Lands were granted as far away as Duxbury, which at
that time was called “across the bay” . Settlement at this time was only for the warmer weather with families
moving back to Plimoth in the winter. This would assure that people did not mis the Sabbath meeting. In 1632, due to increased
trade (especially in cattle) with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, many people had moved outside the Plantation, especially to
the north towards Massachusetts Bay and “ For now as their stocks increased, and ye increse vendible, ther was no longer
any holding them togeather” (Deane 1856:302). Eventually, people no longer wanted to return to Plymouth for Sabbath
services and they desired to have their own meeting house
“By which means they were scatered all over ye bay, quickly, and ye towne,
in which they lived compactly till now, was left very thine, and in a short time allmost desolate....ye church must also be
devided, and those yl had lived so long togeather in Christian & comfortable fellowship must now part and suffer many
divissions. First, those that lived on their lots on ye other side of ye bay (called Duxberie) they could not long bring their
wives & children to ye publick worship & church meetings here, but with such 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.”(Deane 1856: 303).
formed Duxbury and Native trails became town roads and highways. A meetinghouse is believed to have been built by 1638 (see
discussion below) and by 1643 the European population numbered approximately 400 persons (MHC 1981: 4). Native Americans remained
in town, eventually becoming Christianized and moving to the Pembroke Ponds area.
Period (1675-1775) saw a continued decrease in the Native population and an increase in the non-Native one. By 1710
the town's population numbered 1100 people (MHC 1981: 4) and the town continued to expand beyond its original Nook and Morton's
hole foci. Secondary settlement nodes appeared at Millbrook, North and West Duxbury, Ashod, an Tinkertown. The population
had expanded to such a size that the meeting house was too small and in 1707 it was agreed that a new one should be constructed
(see below). The economic focus of the town consisted on agriculture and fishing while shipbuilding, possibly practiced on
a very small scale originally, began to expand and be a larger part of the economy.
The shipbuilding that had its inception close to the
end of the Colonial Period, saw a period of rapid expansion during the Federal Period (1775-1830). The
town center was relocated closer to the geographic center of the town and a new meeting house was constructed in 1785. The
period between 1800-1830 was one of the largest for population growth and by 1830 large shipyards and a definite maritime
focus began to dominate the economy (MHC 1981: 6).
Duxbury actively participated in the American Revolution with a large majority
of the men able to fight, actually joining the town militia and subsequently the Continental Army. During the Stamp Act Crisis
in 1765, crowds are reported to have met on the top of Captain's Hill at the Nook and effigies of British officials were burned
(Browne n.d 2). Duxbury, like many New England towns, was occupied by the British prior to the Revolution. For the most part
the occupation appears to have occurred without incident. The one exception was when citizens meeting within the second meeting
house were alarmed by British soldiers peering in through the windows (Browne n.d 2). Following the Battles of Lexington and
Concord, the Plymouth militia, consisting of soldiers from Duxbury, Plymouth, and Kingston, led by Colonel Theophilus Cotton
, met for a council of war at the house of Lt. Col. Briggs Alden in Duxbury, and prepared to march to Marshfield to engage
the British (Browne n.d. 2). While no fighting occurred as a result of this call to arms, the local militia continued to drill
and mobilize when needed, eventually a number of residents served in the Continental Army. In total, approximately 270 men
from Duxbury served in the militia or Continental Army (Browne n.d. 2).Duxbury fishermen served on board privateers with one
local ship being captured by the British off Duxbury Beach (Browne n.d. 1) and in 1776 a fort was constructed at the Gurnet.
Those who served in the Continental Army served with the 14th Massachusetts Regiment commanded by Duxbury Colonel Gamaliel
Bradford. They served from 1777-1780, spending the long winter at Valley Forge and engaging the British at Monmouth and Germantown
(Browne n.d. 2).
Bradford led the largest company of militia, nearly 100 men. He and his company served in Marshfield, then Plymouth, before
eventually being sent to Roxbury to assist with the fortification of Dorchester Heights, eventually leading to the retreat
of the British from Boston (Browne n.d. 2).
Early Industrial Period (1830-1870) was the peak of the shipbuilding industry in the town. The railroad
had not entered the town yet and as a result, shipping and export of goods remained focused on the wind and water. Between
1832 and 1837, a total of 71 ships were launched and over 900 people were engaged in shipbuilding (MHC 1981: 7). Ezra Weston
(“King Caesar”) opened the “10-acre yard” in 1834 and his yard, as well as the Samuel Hall Yard (1837)
were the largest shipbuilding yards in the town. The importance of the shipbuilding industry also led to th chartering of
the Duxbury Bank by several prominent shipbuilders. Fishing was another important element of the economy with 46 ships making
up the town's fishing fleet. The shipbuilding boom could not last forever, and with the rise of steam boats and the railroad,
Duxbury's shipyards shut down as quickly as they began. By 1865 only 2 ships were launched a year and in 1869 the last fully-rigged
ship was launched (MHC 1981:7).
The loss of shipbuilding as a mainstay of the economy
led to a large population drop during the Late Industrial Period (1870-1915). The railroad finally arrived
in Duxbury in 1871 and the town's economy saw a shift to tourists and cranberries as its mainstays. These two elements of
the economy established the summer character of the town which has endured to this day.
and eventually poultry production came to dominate the economy during the Early Modern period (1915-1940).