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Clark’s Island Picnic: 400+ Years of Clark’s Island History

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Please join the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society for its 50th Annual Clark’s Island Picnic. Clark’s Island holds significance to many people for different reasons, but is perhaps best known as the site of the Mayflower Pilgrim’s first Sabbath in the new world. The location, known as Election or Pulpit Rock, is located at Cedarfield, the island property owned by Duxbury Rural & Historical Society. In 2020, the DRHS will acknowledge its 50th annual Clark’s Island picnic and the 400th commemorations in Plymouth with expanded programming, including two speakers, a cemetery tour, a “pick-up” ball game, music, food tasting and more!

All are welcome and this event is free. Please carefully review the information provided below:


History of the Island:

The Island’s European history extends back to the landing of the Pilgrims when, during a blinding storm in December of 1620, a band of Pilgrim explorers rowed into Plymouth Bay. Leaving the Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod, this group of 18 had been sent ahead to find a suitable place for settlement. John Clark, the first mate, spotted the shore of what is now known as Clark’s Island and was the first of them to set foot there. As the next day was the Sabbath, the explorers could not begin repairs on their battered vessel. Instead, the group, including William Brewster, Myles Standish, and William Bradford, marched to the top of the nearest hill in search of a place to worship.  They found an enormous boulder at the crest of the Island, and there elected to hold their first worship service ashore. Today, the boulder is known as Election (or Pulpit) Rock and is inscribed with words from William Bradford’s journal, “On the Sabboth Day Wee Rested.”

A darker episode in the island’s history was its use as an internment camp for the local Native population during King Philip’s War (1675-1676). Despite little evidence of a threat, Plymouth authorities feared a Native insurrection and they voted to relocate over 1,000 people on the island, “and there to remain and not to depart from there…upon pain of death.” With very few resources, starvation was inevitable.

The Town of Plymouth sold Clark’s Island to a group of individual families in 1690, many of whom would continue to hold the properties for centuries. Cedarfield was donated to the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society in 1969 by the Pilgrim Rock Foundation; it had been a part of the estate of Sarah Wingate Taylor (d. 1964), a descendant of the Taylor and Watson families. From Cedarfield, Sarah Wingate Taylor directed the Pilgrim Rock School for American Studies beginning in 1963, inviting talented students and scholars to engage in discussion and advanced learning. Notable visitors to the island throughout the history of the house, include Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Truman Capote.


History of the House:

Cedarfield was bequeathed to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society by Sarah Wingate Taylor, a poet, teacher, and historian in 1969. The 17 acre property is rich in history and scholarly tradition. Sarah Wingate Taylor spent nearly all of her summers at Cedarfield.  Her ancestors, the Watson family, had lived on the Island since the 1690s.  One of her relatives, Edward Watson, built Cedarfield in 1836. During the 1960s Taylor ran the Pilgrim Rock School for American Studies on the Island, inviting talented students and scholars to Cedarfield each year.  She treasured her family heritage and the beauty of her ancestral home. The DRHS maintains Sarah Wingate Taylor’s tradition of education each year through its Sarah Wingate Taylor lecture series, and the annual picnic and commemorative service at Pulpit (Election) Rock.


Schedule for the Day:

12:00    DRHS Launches leave DBMS

12:30    Launches arrive at Cedarfield, begin to tender private vessels.

12:30-3:30: Multiple activities available

1:00      Mini-tour of the Cemetery with Carolyn Ravenscroft, to hear about the island’s families.

1:30      Bell rings to request everyone to gather at Pulpit Rock

1:45       Remarks at Rock (45 min). Guest speakers: Rev. Daniel Dice of St. John’s Church, Duxbury and DRHS Historian, Carolyn Ravenscroft. A reflection on the island’s centuries of history and on the many people who have had a presence on the island.

3:00       Public requested to start loading private vessels

3:30       DRHS Launches leave *this is the end of availability of the tenders!

4:00       DRHS launches arrive at DBMS

Some details are still being finalized; please check back at this website for updates!



Visitors are advised that access from their boats to the island is via tenders and a transitional float connected by a gangway to the shore. Please call our office if you have questions about accessibility.

Bathroom facilities are provided, but are limited.

The picnic is “bring in, take out,” meaning whatever you bring in (trash, food, etc.) you must also take out with you.

You must bring your own picnic. There is no food available for purchase.



Most visitors for the Clark’s Island Picnic use their own vessel or share a boat with a friend.

Boats moor off the east coast of Clark’s Island and the DRHS, in partnership with the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, provides tenders to bring visitors onshore. We ask for patience as the availability of tenders is limited!

Also in partnership with Duxbury Bay Maritime School, we offer limited transportation (35 seats) on board launches, advanced reservations required (see below). Reservations Available to DRHS Members only, starting July 20.

  • Your membership must be valid at the time of your reservation.
  • Reservations limited to 4 seats per group (some exceptions made for groups with children).
  • In order to maximize this opportunity for everyone and to prevent “no shows,” a credit card number is required with your reservation; you will only be charged the $50/per person fee if you fail to show up for your reservation.
  • If interested in making reservations (after July 20), please contact Office Manager, Carly Olson, at 781-934-6106. No phone messages or emails will be accepted.
  • Thank you for your patience and understanding in regards to this high-demand reservation process!

A special thank you to the Duxbury Bay Maritime School for making available the launches.


Cedarfield, Clark's Island

Date & Time

August 23, 2020 - August 23, 2020 12:30 PM - 03:30 PM

Please join the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society for its 50th Annual Clark’s Island Picnic. Clark’s Island holds significance to many people for different reasons, but is perhaps best known as the site of the Mayflower Pilgrim’s first Sabbath in the new world. The location, known as Election or Pulpit Rock, is located at Cedarfield,…