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Digging Duxbury, Massachusetts

Digging Duxbury, Massachusetts: Duxbury’s quest for physical evidence of its Pilgrim past began in 1832 when Reverend Benjamin Kent conducted the first dig at the homesite of Captain Myles Standish,the Pilgrim’s military leader and one of the founders of Duxbury. Kent’s “dig” at Standish’s homesite in South Duxbury is one of the earliest in American history, but it was followed closely after by a more professional undertaking by James Hall in 1856.

The publication of Henry Longfellow Wadsworth’s poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” in 1858, further elevated Standish’s popularity. This led to an interest in his lost gravesite.  In 1889 and 1891 two digs were performed in the Duxbury’s Old Burying Ground, now known as the Myles Standish Burial Ground, to find his remains. These digs confirmed his final resting place.  He was exhumed a final time in 1931 in order to be placed in a copper lined box.

In the 21st century, our quest to examine Duxbury’s Pilgrim heritage has continued. In 2012, an archaeological survey was conducted on the site of the property owned by Mayflower passenger, Elder William Brewster, currently owned by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society. The Brewster Homestead site provides valuable information on early Plymouth Colony homes, later 18th and 19th century families on the property, as well as pre-Colonial Native American life in Duxbury. In 2013, an exhibition was installed at DRHS entitled “Digging Duxbury” showcasing some of the findings of the dig, from all eras of occupation on the property.

Continue on to see artifacts from these archaeological digs, as well as a small number of objects that were preserved through other means, showcasing how Pilgrim-related items were valuable to early Duxbury families.


This exhibition is divided into four themes: Digging Duxbury, Massachusetts; 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.


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.