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Pilgrim History: Duxbury, Mass.

Creating a Legacy: 400 Years of Duxbury & the Pilgrims: a digital exhibition examining more than 400 years of Pilgrim Mayflower history as it relates to Duxbury, Massachusetts (Plymouth Colony, 2020 400th Anniversary Commemorations).

Duxbury is often called Plymouth’s first suburb. It is a misuse of a modern term but, Duxbury was the second town to be incorporated by Plymouth Colony’s settlers and Duxbury’s identity has always been intertwined with its Pilgrim legacy. Among Duxbury’s earliest European residents were Mayflower passengers, including Brewsters, Standishes, Soules, Aldens and others. Creating a Legacy examines Duxbury’s unique link with the year 1620, the beloved tales as well as the commodification of the Pilgrim legacy that occurred throughout the subsequent centuries to grow commerce, business and identity in town. We also examine how the Pilgrim legacy is received by the more populous Duxbury today.

The 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower is a time to reflect on how we have remembered Duxbury’s history. Who has been remembered by history and why? The legacy of living in a “Pilgrim Town” is ever-present but the few names and stories previous generations have elevated do not have to be the final word. As you move through this online exhibition, consider what “history” will mean for us in the 21st century.

This exhibition is divided into four themes: Digging Duxbury; Coming to a Pilgrim Town; Collecting in a Pilgrim Town; and, Lasting Legacy. Click the buttons to explore different parts of the town’s Pilgrim past and to view objects from the collections of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society.

An Editorial Note:

This exhibition was conceived more than a year ago, in direct result to the community interest in the 2020 commemorations out of Plymouth, Massachusetts and its 400th anniversary.  It was originally planned as a physical installation, but we were unable to install it due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, we have translated it to an online exhibition and have made it available for all.

2020 continues to be a challenging year. We always intended this exhibition to be more comprehensive and to take a wider view on Duxbury’s Pilgrim legacy. But the year 2020 has itself been a crossroads in history, and for many, a tumultuous, painful, and uncertain year. In Creating a Legacy, we at the DRHS are more than ever aware that this exhibition and the objects included represent only a fraction of the history of Duxbury’s early residents and that history in the year 2020 calls for responsibility and critical thinking.

We would like to acknowledge that exhibitions are shaped by the objects available and here, some early Duxbury Pilgrim families are excluded because no objects have survived in our collection. Other people, like women, are under-represented because objects associated with them were deemed unworthy of preservation. Small populations of Native Americans and people of color also lived in Duxbury from the 17th century on, but, especially in the earliest years, those documenting town life often failed to record their presence. This failure of acknowledgement and representation would be systematically repeated for centuries. Where possible, we have re-introduced their stories to this narrative, and the DRHS is committed to continuing further research to uncover these important, missing Duxbury histories and their associated objects.

-Erin McGough, Executive Director; Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist & Historian; and Melanie Correia, Collections Manager (June 3, 2020)

Please consider making a donation to support the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society & community projects like this exhibition. We depend on your support, now more than ever. Thank you.

All objects, text and materials in this digital exhibition are owned or copyrighted by the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society and may not be reproduced, copied or distributed without permission. © 2020, Duxbury Rural & Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. Please contact 781-934-6106 for more information.

Digging Duxbury

The quest for archaeological evidence of Duxbury’s Pilgrim past began with an 1833 dig, one of the earliest in U.S. history.

Coming to a Pilgrim Town

Coming to a Pilgrim Town

Duxbury’s Pilgrim history, combined with the town’s natural beauty, initiated a tourist boom.

Collecting in a Pilgrim Town

Collecting in a Pilgrim Town

The tourism boom brought another enterprise, the creation and sale of Pilgrim-themed souvenirs.

Lasting Legacy

Duxbury's Lasting Legacy

Duxbury never forgot its Pilgrim origins. How could it? The names continue to generate interest today.