“You Are Here” Special Digital Exhibition. The Duxbury Rural & Historical Society is coming to you! “You are Here” is a multi-site and online exhibition, bringing DRHS collections and Duxbury’s history out of the museums and archives, and into the community.
Find our pop-up panels around town at select locations and learn more about Duxbury, where Place Matters. Exhibit panels have been sent throughout the community. Look for them as you go about your daily life, or, click the links below to read more.
Some locations may have limited accessibility. Please inquire with the location for specifics before visiting. Thank you to all our wonderful corporate and organizational partners, for hosting panels at their locations and sharing their sense of #PlaceMatters!
Duxbury Bay Maritime School
Duxbury Coal & Lumber: Reinventing the Wharf
Bay Farm Montessori
Bay Farm: Dairy Production in Duxbury
Ford Store: The Oldest Department Store
VERC Gulf Station
Same House, New Address: House Moving in Duxbury
Cooking in Duxbury: 19th Century Baking Techniques
Osborn’s Country Store
First Division of Duxbury: Moving West
Duxbury High School
Partridge Academy: Duxbury’s First High School
The Village at Duxbury
Four Generations: A Unique Early Daguerreotype
Camp Twin Oaks: A Summer Destination
Sweetser’s: Supplying Duxbury for Generations
Rockland Trust, Duxbury
Duxbury Bank: The First Financial Institution
South Shore Sotheby’s International Realty
Federal Architecture: Stylish Homes in Duxbury
Chestnut Street Grille
Duxbury’s Shipbuilding History: An Era of Prosperity
Tortoiseshell: A Fashionable Hair Accessory
Duxbury Free Library
Lending a Hand: The Origins of the Duxbury Free Library
Women Supporting Women: Matilda Petersons’ Shop
35 Depot St, Duxbury, MA 02332
Female-owned businesses have always been rare. In the 19th century, because married women could not sign contracts nor work outside the home without the permission of their husbands, it was usually single women or widows who opened stores. After the death of her husband, Matilda W. Peterson (1798-1884) operated a successful business out of the front room of her home on Surplus Street in Duxbury, selling dress goods, “fancy articles,” and wool for embroidery. According to a patron, “her business tact had the keenness to provide articles which could not be found in other stores of the place.” She was assisted in this endeavor by her sister-in-law and niece. For over 40 years, a visit to “Aunt Matilda’s” store was considered a great treat to the young women in town.
Duxbury Free Library
77 Alden St, Duxbury, MA 02332
In the early 1800s Duxbury had a small lending library, “a kind of portable closet of the size of a common wardrobe held the whole of it.” Tiny it may have been, but the books were fondly recalled by Henry Winsor (1803-1889) who frequented it as a boy. Although Winsor had left Duxbury and operated a successful Philadelphia steamship company, he gave a gift of $5,000 to his hometown to purchase books for a public library. To house the books, another benefactor, Georgianna Wright (1837-1919), offered the use of a building on her St. George Street estate, and the Duxbury Free Library was established.
It soon became apparent that the old sea-captain’s house Wright had offered was not sufficient. A larger library, designed by architect Joseph Everett Chandler of Boston was built in its place. The new Wright Memorial Library at 147 St. George Street, named in honor of Georgianna Wright’s deceased husband and son, opened to the public in 1909. It remained the location of the Duxbury Free Library until 1997.
289 St George St, Duxbury, MA 02332
In the 1800s, hair combs made of tortoiseshell were all the rage. After the War of 1812, hairstyles moved from simple curls and tight buns to intricate twists and topknots, and a carved tortoiseshell comb would often crown these ornate hairdos.
A precursor to plastics, tortoiseshell is a decorative material made from the shells of larger species of both tortoises and turtles, primarily the hawksbill sea turtle. It has been used in a variety of ways since ancient times, prized for its warm-toned marbled surface, translucency, and durability. The material can be heated and molded into a variety of shapes. As it cools, the newly formed mold will stiffen and retain its new form.
Since 1973,the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has outlawed the capture and trade of hawksbill sea turtles and the products derived from them. They are also on the critically endangered list, mostly due to decades of overfishing and the harvesting of their shells. Today, you can still find imitation tortoiseshell accessories on the market.
Chestnut Street Grille
8 Chestnut St, Duxbury, MA 02332
The most well-known period in Duxbury’s history, the shipbuilding era, began immediately after the American Revolution. Following the Treaty of Paris, several local families took advantage of the new opportunity to fish in the Grand Banks and began to build large fishing schooners. Soon, as foreign nations began to ease trade restrictions, Duxbury mariners found that they could trade all over the world, and Duxbury began to build larger brigs and, eventually, three-masted ships. The builders of small fishing vessels soon became owners of large merchant fleets, and Duxbury prospered.
By the 1840s, Duxbury boasted about 20 shipyards and was the largest producer of sailing vessels on the South Shore of Massachusetts. With an average of ten vessels built every year between 1790-1830, the accomplishments of the Duxbury shipbuilding families rank among the more significant in Massachusetts maritime history. The era ended by 1850 when the shipbuilding industry migrated to the deeper harbor of East Boston.
Marcia Alden Packard was the daughter of Capt. Henry Packard and Mercy Alden. She was a descendant of the Pilgrims John & Priscilla Alden and was raised in a house built on Alden land (the location of the Percy Walker Pool on St. George Street, Duxbury, today). In 1836 she married Capt. Robert Welch (1804-1873) and she departed on her “honeymoon” voyage aboard the Eliza Warwick, the largest of shipbuilder Ezra Weston’s fleet at the time. Her neighbor and girlhood friend, Charlotte Bradford, described Marcia’s voyage in a letter dated Feb. 4, 1837:
Marcia has met with a sad accident during her voyage, the sixth day out they had a very severe gale, the worst time that Capt. Welch ever knew…it was a very bad time and the vessel was thrown on her beam ends, came very near oversetting and Capt. W was thrown down struck his head and put his little toe out of joint and otherwise injured. He was carried to the cabin senseless, wherefore Marcia got out of her berth thinking he was dead and the vessel rolled and sent her across the cabin. She then got into bed had a crying spell and then got up and helped Sidney Smith set the toe and do it up as soon as it was done there was a trunk got loose and come against it and put it out again. Capt. W was confined to the cabin five days and when he arrived at Mobile had not been able to wear a boot or shoe. After this they struck the Bahama banks and lost two anchors, so that poor Marcia’s voyage in which she did not expect any bad weather has turned out rather sadly.
In 1845 the Welchs adopted a daughter, Marcia Lillian Welch, from Madeira, Portugal, indicating that Marcia Alden Welch may have gone to sea again. By 1855 the family was living in Brooklyn, NY where Robert Welch had become a marine insurance underwriter. She is buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury.
Read More about Duxbury's Women at Sea
South Shore Sotheby's International Realty
459 Washington St Box 621, Duxbury, MA
Federal architecture was the first major decorative style associated with the newly formed Federal government of the United States, from about 1780 until the 1830s. Taking its inspiration from the British Georgian style, but without the allusion to King George, Federal style architecture flourished along the Eastern seaboard. Influenced by the work of the Scottish Adam brothers, and also by the great temples of ancient Greece and Rome, Americans began to build homes with Palladian windows, central decorative doorways, and symmetrical windows and rooms. This new “Federal Style” became associated with America's evolving national identity. It also coincided with Duxbury’s maritime economic heyday. Wealthy shipbuilders and mariners built grand, stylish homes whose lasting legacy has made Duxbury the historic seaside town it is today.
• Hip roof, or flat roof with a balustrade
• Symmetry in the windows of the front facade
• Fan-shaped window, or fanlight, over the front door
• Narrow side windows, called “side lights,” flanking the front door
• Decorative crown or roof over front door
• Tooth-like dentil moldings
• Palladian, circular or elliptical windows
• Brick ends
• Decorative swags and garlands
27 Bay Rd, Duxbury, MA 02332
In 1833 Duxbury was a prosperous community with a number of substantial citizens involved in the shipbuilding and maritime trades. A few of these men established the Duxbury Bank with merchant shipbuilder Ezra Weston, Jr. (also known as “King Caesar”) as its first president. The Bank was built in the newly fashionable Greek Revival architectural style and was located near the Bluefish River bridge. It was a bustling location surrounded by wharfs, mills, and other businesses.
Within a decade, the fortunes of many of the Bank’s original stakeholders were on the wane as Duxbury lost its prominence as a center of shipbuilding. The Bank was a casualty of this economic downturn, closing its doors in 1842. The building itself found a new life in 1869 as a cable office, sending and receiving telegrams, until the 1940s.
459 Washington St, Duxbury, MA 02331
The building that you are standing in was originally known as W.S. Freeman’s English & West Indian Goods, built in 1877 by Winfield Scott Freeman (1839-1917). Prior to occupying this space, he operated a small one-room grocery and dry-goods store on the west side of Washington Street.
Freeman’s enlarged store sold a variety of merchandise, both domestic and imported. He eventually turned the business over to his stepson, Fred Sweetser, and son-in-law, Arthur Arnold. The store became known as Sweetser & Arnold, and eventually, Sweeter’s. It was a staple in the community, selling seemingly every necessity, including groceries, clothing, furniture, house paint and anchors. In the late 20th century, the store closed and the building was divided to accommodate multiple offices and shops.
189 Summer St, Kingston, MA 02364
Camp Twin Oaks was a camp operating on the Duxbury/Kingston town line from 1934 to 1974. The Camp was established by three sisters, Ella Lewis Woodbury (1887-1975), Lillian Mae Lewis Hayes (b. 1896) and Beulah Lewis Fogg (b. 1898), and their husbands, and was the only South Shore destination that catered specifically to the Black community at that time.
Initially Camp Twin Oaks was to be a children’s camp – offering fresh air and summer fun to Boston’s Black youth. By 1937, the Camp had expanded its role to become a vacation center for both children and adults.
The Village at Duxbury
290 Kingstown Way, Duxbury, MA 02332
This unique photograph depicts four generations of women, from right to left: Judith (Winsor) Hathaway, Polly (Hathaway) McLaughlin, Judith Winsor (McLaughlin) Smith and Frances Smith. These women not only had a strong family bond, they also shared a commitment to social justice. From abolition to the women’s suffrage movement, Judith Hathaway and her descendants were at the forefront of the fight for equality.
Judith (Winsor) Hathaway (1778-1881), the matriarch of the family, lived to age 101. At the time of the daguerreotype in the main panel, she had recently signed her name to a petition calling for the end to the Fugitive Slave Law. Her eldest daughter, Polly (1796-1879), was a member of the Pembroke Anti-Slavery Society. Granddaughter and namesake, Judith Winsor Smith (1821-1921), was an abolitionist and ardent suffragist. Even at the age of 90, Smith was marching for the right to vote. She cast her first ballot at the age of 100 in 1921. Great-granddaughter, Frances Smith (1849-1916), carried on the family’s legacy, working for charitable organizations in Boston. Zilpah Smith (1851-1926), the daughter of Judith Winsor Smith, became a founder of the Simmons University School of Social Work. Her photograph is shown at right.
Duxbury High School
71 Alden St, Duxbury, MA 02332
Partridge Academy opened in 1845 on Tremont Street at the site of today’s Duxbury Town Hall. It was named for Honorable George Partridge (1740-1828) who left $10,000 in his will for the establishment of an institution “for a higher degree of instruction in the Mathematics, Geography, History, Languages, and other branches of good learning, than the common schools supply.” In 1868 an agreement was reached between Partridge Academy and the Town of Duxbury, allowing all Duxbury students of secondary school age to attend, effectively making Partridge Academy Duxbury’s first public high school. Even so, many Duxbury students in the 19th and early 20th centuries did not continue their education beyond age of 15, with the average Partridge graduating class having only nine students.
By the 1920s Duxbury required a larger school with more modern amenities. A new brick school on Alden Street was constructed in 1927 (today’s Duxbury Free Library). In 1933, Partridge Academy burned down and Duxbury’s Town Hall was erected on the site in 1977.
Osborn's Country Store
632 Summer St, Duxbury, MA 02332
When the town of Duxbury was incorporated in 1637, the majority of settlers lived along or near Kingston and Duxbury Bays. The north and west parts of town remained common land. That changed in 1706 when the Duxbury’s growing population required a new, larger meeting house. Town Meeting voted to build “a new meeting house 40 feet long and 33 feet wide and 17 feet high in the walls…” To raise the 180 pounds required to erect this building, some of the town’s common land in the western part of Duxbury was sold off in 40 acre lots.
This “First Division” of Duxbury spurred the growth of High Street and Ashdod. A “Second Division” in 1712 sold much of the town’s remaining common land.
17 Standish St, Duxbury, MA 02332
Late 19th century America saw a revolution in baking. Several technological and scientific advancements allowed baking to be done more quickly and consistently, and with an ease unheard of previously.
The sale of granulated sugar, for example, saved time from homemakers having to grind their own sugar loafs. Chemical leaveners like saleratus, cream of tartar, and baking powder made the rise of baked goods consistent. Inventions like the cookstove and eggbeater changed the way cooks prepared their ingredients.
Cookbooks, like the Bradfords’ pictured here, were full of “receipts,” the earlier word for “recipe,” that demonstrate the breadth of what average Duxbury households were cooking in the 1800s. The 14 different Bradford receipts for gingerbread alone are evidence of the experimentation of ingredients, measurements, and the changing nature of kitchens at the time. In addition to cakes, the book has instructions for preparing drinks, meats, medicinal remedies, cleaning solutions, and all with a handy index!
VERC Gulf Station
10 Washington St, Duxbury, MA 02332
Imagine a time when it was cheaper to move an entire house than build a new one! This was true during the 19th-early 20th centuries in Duxbury. Many houses throughout town were taken off their foundations and transported to a new location, sometimes within Duxbury, and sometimes many towns away.
Similarly, there are houses that stand in Duxbury that were built elsewhere. Warren Prince and his son, Walter, were two of the most experienced house movers. They hauled dozens of buildings in Duxbury, Kingston and Marshfield.
The house that stood on this spot was built by Capt. Daniel Hall, c.1790. When he retired from the sea, he operated a tavern from his home. The house remained in the Hall family for generations. In 1930, a couple fell in love with the dilapidated old tavern, purchased it, and moved it to Cambridge, MA where it still stands today as a private residence.
Bay Farm Montessori
145 Loring St, Duxbury, MA 02332
The Bay Farm Dairy was located on land owned by the Loring family since 1702, located on the Duxbury/Kingston town line. Harrison Loring (1822-1907), a prominent shipbuilder in South Boston during the Civil War, was the first to operate a dairy here. His sons, Atherton and Harrison, Jr., incorporated the Bay Farm Company in 1904. In addition to cows, it also raised horses, hogs and chickens. The farm consisted of two main buildings, the dairy, which could accommodate 75 cows, a stable and several outbuildings. The business was sold to White Brothers in the 1930s and continued to operate as a dairy for a time.
In 1949, a portion of the Bay Farm became the home of the Duxbury Playhouse, a popular summer stock theater, and later, The Plymouth Rock Center for Music and Drama. Today, although much of the original Loring land has been divided, just over 80 acres, in both Duxbury and Kingston, are conservation land.
Duxbury Bay Maritime School (DBMS)
457 Washington St, Duxbury, MA 023322
After most of Duxbury’s shipyards closed in the 1840s, maritime commerce slowed and the once-busy stone wharves along Duxbury’s shores began to fall into decay. In 1865, William Sheldon (1814-1892), a farmer from Illinois, purchased what had been shipbuilder Seth Sprague’s estate and built a Victorian style house at 464 Washington Street. He also purchased Sprague’s wharf, which was located at this site.
Once repairs were made to the wharf, Sheldon successfully operated the Duxbury Coal and Lumber Company. It was one of the few waterfront spots in the late 1800s that teemed with commercial activity. In 1952, the business was sold, and the wharf was the home of the Duxbury Marine Railway for many years. In 2000, the decaying wharf was replaced with a new bulkhead, boat launch and dock to make way for the Duxbury Bay Maritime School.
46 Depot St, Duxbury, MA 02332
The Ford Store, located on the west side of Tremont Street, just north of Bow Street, claimed to be the oldest department store in America. While that distinction may now be in dispute, there is no doubt that the store established by brothers Nathaniel, James and Peleg Ford in 1826 did indeed carry a wide variety of goods in separate departments on its expansive property. The store flourished throughout the 19th century and became a popular tourist spot in the early 20th century, due both to its “oldest” designation, and the fact that famed Senator Daniel Webster of Marshfield frequently visited. The Fords stocked their store with products from around the globe, brought to Duxbury by packet boat and stagecoach from Boston. The entrepreneurial Fords also owned a mill adjacent to the store in which they manufactured goods for sale.
Florence Ford, granddaughter of Nathaniel Ford, was instrumental to the founding of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society in 1883. Her picture (ca. 1875) is at right.
The store came to a tragic end in 1921 when it was burned down in a fire. Years of spilled kerosene that had soaked into its wooden floors made the building extremely flammable. A granite marker was placed at the site in 1937.