In 1969 at the age of 92 Captain Albert Franklin Pierce, "Allie", presented his history of Gurnet, Saquish and Clarks Island.  This is the oldest recorded history mentioning any relationship between the Benjamin Hanks family and President Abraham Lincoln.  The stories are colorful and at least one Hanks family descendant has verified these accounts.  Select this button to read this dramatic accounting reprinted by permission from the Duxbury Clipper.

"Oh stranded sailor, fear not that the sea shall overwhelm.  Quick eyes shall see thy danger; the Captain's at the helm.
Their aid will surely reach you; for a brave and hearty crew shall man the Gurnett life-boat, with Holmes the tried and true."

- Ellen Boardman from an 1886 penned poem reprinted in a 1935 History of Gurnet by her grandson Herbert R. Boardman.  Ellen was the wife of Joseph Boardman, proprietor of the "Gurnet House" vacation resort on Gurnet Point at the turn of the century.  "Holmes" is Captain John Favel Holmes, Captain of the Gurnet Lifesaving Station and father of Favela "Ella" Holmes a teacher at the schoolhouse.  Click on the image to read more about the history of Gurnet and Saquish and view more turn of the century pictures.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of a few past and present residents a
substantial amount of Gurnet and Saquish history has been preserved. wishes to thank the Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc., Elaine Nudd, Norman Forgit, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Project Gurnet and Bug Light, Denise Garvin and the Duxbury Free Library, the Duxbury Clipper and all of the families that have donated and continue to donate historic documents, pictures, audio and video to preserve the history of Gurnet and Saquish. 

Now for the first time ever this history is available in one place online.  Documents and images that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and historic accounts include a record of the first sale in 1651.  See them all and even enjoy period music when you select this image featuring "Star" & "Bright" pulling summer visitors down the beach past Plum Hills. If you are in possession of historic documents that we can preserve for future generations please select the SUBMIT button to forward your contributions and your permission to grant us the rights to publish that information online. 

Go to the SPONSOR page to sponsor this page   Thank you. 


A wonderful book which explains the geological affects on the beach the Duxbury Beach Book has an outstanding brief history of Gurnet and Saquish written by long time resident Elaine Nudd. 

The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc. owns Duxbury Beach and maintains the road to the community.  This important non profit also is mostly responsible for the rebuilding of Powder Point Bridge.

See other books on the READING page and purchase the book in the STORE.  All images by permission

"Merry Widow Waltz"


One of the happiest times on the beach was during the summer months surrounding the turn of the century between the 1890 and 1920.  Much of the popular music of the day included waltz's.  Select the play button above to listen to a soundtrack of music that would have been enjoyed at the "Old Sebastipol" dance hall.  This photo may have been "Old Sebastipol", labeled here as "Dance Pavilion Gurnet Point.  Recorded history shows that quite a few structures were moved around in the early 1900's and that this building, if it was "Old Sebastipol" was moved to Brant Rock where it became part of a hotel and later burned to the ground.  All of these people would have know the Boardmans who owned "Gurnet House", later "Gurnet Inn" and some may actually be Boardmans.


You probably know that lighthouses once burned whale oil and you might even know that the first female light keeper was Hannah Thomas who kept the Gurnet Point Light during the American Revolution from 1776-1786.  But you may not know that Hannah Thomas was one of over 250 women who kept lighthouses.  This blog features a post of an interview with Dennis Powers author of "Sentinels of the Seas" and lighthouse historian. 

- Photo courtesy archives

CLARKS ISLAND - Governor William Bradford

Imagine sailing across Plymouth Bay in an open boat avoiding rocks, shoals, and sandy islands.  Now imagine doing it in late December at night during a storm.  The Pilgrim search party was exhausted and cold in rough seas and biting wind.  Then it got worse.  Their luck began to change when they discovered an island.  They named it after John Clark, the able seaman and Mayflower ships mate that guided them through the storm.  Select this button to read the story.


Also known as Gurnett Light, Plymouth Light Station was first established on a high bluff at the end of Gurnet Point in 1768.
The light burned to the ground once, was rebuilt, built as twins, torn down and rebuilt as twins in 1843 and eventually evolved into the single tower which stands today.  The light was moved back from it's original perch in the 1990's.  Other notable facts include being fired upon and hit by a British warship during the revolution when it's keeper was Hannah Thomas, the first female lighthouse keeper in the United States.  Currently managed for the U.S. Coast Guard by Project Gurnet and Buglight you can rent the KEEPERS cottage and sleep next to Fort Andrew, one of the few remaining earthen forts built in the 1700's.  Learn more HERE.
- Photo courtesy David Maccaferri


In December of 1620 the Mayflower was anchored off Provincetown.  Aboard the ship a fierce debate lasted several days regarding where to settle.  It was finally agreed that a search party would explore Cape Cod Bay in search of a suitable place in which to establish their colony and that the search party would include Myles Standish, John Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow and other passengers along with John Clark and Robert Coppin of the Mayflower crew and three additional sailors.  There were several criteria for the ideal spot.  There must be plentiful fresh water, high ground from which to defend themselves, a clearing, and deep water anchorage.  Following the coast the Pilgrims first came upon a beach where they encountered native Americans.  After a brief exchange of gunfire and arrows the Pilgrims departed.  They had determined that 'First Encounter Beach' did not match any of the necessary criteria and the natives were hostile.  The following day they sailed through Plymouth Bay in bad weather losing sail and rudder.  The Shallop, (inset 2010), sought refuge in Plymouth Bay and eventually made landfall on an island they named after the ships mate who had successfully made port there.  Due in no small part to his heroic sailing the men aboard named the island in John Clark's honor and thus was born Clark's Island.  

Having spent the night on the island the men took Sunday off as a day of rest and forged a path to a clearing.  Here they found the rock in the center of the island and held a small church service at what is known today as "Pulpit Rock."  The full accounting of this trip is at the Pilgrim Hall Museum and available on this page via a link.

 The island, like Gurnet and Saquish is very private and you must have permission to land.  There are some historic trips each year where you can participate.  Check the CALENDAR for details.

- Photos courtesy Sand Dollar Media and Bob Deighton.  Click on the images to view more from these photographers.


Before the English arrived and the Pilgrims settled here, before Champlain mapped Plymouth Bay with Gurnett and Sagaquas and before Eric the Red's son Thorwald fell in love with Gurnet and Saquish there were people already living here.  The Wampanoag Tribe numbered 40,000 plus and lived throughout eastern Massachusetts including Plymouth, Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.  Saquish and Nantucket are among the names descended from their language.  These were the 'Native People' that broke bread with the Pilgrims.

Coin minted to celebrate Wampanoag Indians


Named by the English perhaps after the "Gurnet" fish, Gurnet Point was once covered in pine trees.  Among the oldest records are a Norse legend that claims that Eric the Red's son Thorwald may be buried on Gurnet Point.  The great explorer Samuel de Champlain noted in 1605 that Gurnet was "practically an island" covered with pine trees and there are accounts that the Pilgrims deeded the land to a priest who sold the timber on it in the mid to late 1600's.  The Gurnet has had a colorful history throughout the Revolution and the War of 1812.  It is home to the first female lighthouse keeper in the world and the only lighthouse in North America to be hit by a cannonball.  

There are several wonderfully written histories of Gurnet which can be found through links on this page.  These histories are included on this page.  All the information is "published" by permission.  And while not all of it can be documented as fact there is enough corroborating evidence to back up most of the information reprinted by permission.

Photos courtesy David Quaid and Sand Dollar Media.  Click on the images to view more from these photographers.

HISTORY OF THE GURNET - Herbert R. Boardman

Select this button to read a history of Gurnet written in 1935 by Herbert R. Boardman, grandson of Joseph Boardman, owner of the "Farm House" also known as "Gurnet House" and later "Gurnet Inn."  PLEASE ALLOW TIME FOR THIS PAGE TO LOAD IT IS A LARGE FILE.  Among the many interesting facts, reinforced by many photos on the site, are the number of strong women who lived here, how children used to put on plays to entertain adults and the long history of sarcasm and practical jokes.  This special history is available courtesy of the Heffernan/MacIntyre family who shared it with the Duxbury Clipper and is now archived at the Duxbury Free Library.


Mr. Charles W.E. Morris a native of London came to the United States as a young man to continue his engineering and architectural studies.  During the Great Depression he sought and found work at the Christian Science Monitor and thirty-three years later returned as advertising manager.  The paper attached through this button was drawn from the text of a lecture titled "Gurnet" and delivered in the Spring of 1981 during the Monday Morning Lecture Series at Pilgrim Hall who has given us permission to "publish" the text of the Gurnet lecture here.  The text was edited by Laurence R. Pizer and Jeanne M. Mills.

Gurnett Island Lifesaving Station

Built around 1873 the US Lifesaving Service predates the U.S. Coast Guard.  There were hundreds of these stations built along the eastern seaboard.  Watchmen would stand in towers or decks like the one here on the roof and look for boats grounded on Browns' Bank or foundering in Plymouth Bay.  One of the captains of the crew was John Favel Holmes whose daughter Favela, Ella for short, later became a teacher in the schoolhouse.  This image of the Gurnett Island Station boathouse was taken by L. B. Howard sometime around 1876.  Read more


"Saquish" descended from the Native American word "Sagaquas" meaning "place of many clams".  Gurnet, Saquish and Clarks Island were originally three islands created by receding glaciers.  The counter clockwise rotation of the currents in Cape Cod Bay pulled sediment from the north along the coast where the sand eventually "filled-in" from Marshfield to Gurnet Point creating Duxbury Beach.   Sediment continued to be pulled along Duxbury Beach and around Gurnet Point to Saquish Head until it filled in Saquish Neck or what some refer to as "Crescent Beach."  Today sediment continues to travel along the beach, wrap around Gurnet Point, bounce along Saquish Neck, and around Saquish Head where it builds up along Western Point.

While many residents may be familiar with the Boardman family which developed the Gurnet fewer may be familiar with the Hanks family.  Benjamin Hanks who has a street on Saquish named after him, once held title to Saquish Head and historic records included on this page connect him with Abraham Lincoln.  There is some evidence that Benjamin Hanks was great grandfather to Abraham Lincoln's mother.  In other words Abraham Lincoln's maternal great great grandfather lived on and owned most of Saquish.  The Hanks family manufactured cannonballs at one time and it is possible that Hanks cannonballs may actually have been stockpiled at Fort Standish, the earthen fort built on Saquish Head to defend the harbor.  Fort Standish was built during the War of 1812 to defend against the British.  Many historic records are by the account of a ship captain who resided in Plymouth and as far as we know cannot be corroborated with other sources in order to be stated as fact.  However, it is possible that, "Lincoln's mother slept here."

- Photos courtesy Alan Doble and David Quaid.  Click on the images to view more from these photographers.

SAQUISH STORY - Harriet B. Hamilton with Mrs. Edward Penniman

Harriet B. Hamilton penned this history around the late 1960's it appears with a good deal of help and the contributions of Mrs. Edward Penniman.  Among the "gems" in this history are an "Abstract of Title" or a record of deeds dating back to the first recorded deed on the "Island of Sagaquas" in 1651 just thirty-one years after the Pilgrims arrived.  Edward Bangs deeded "all of marsh" to "Manassa Kempton".  Other titles recorded here feature those to and from Benjamin Hanks who owned 7/8ths of Saquish "uplands and beach."  Some historians consider Hanks to be great grandfather to Abraham Lincoln's mother.  Courtesy of the Duxbury Free Library archives.

 would like to thank Pilgrim Hall Museum, Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc., Elaine Nudd, Norman Forgit, Paul Christian, the McIntyre Family, Denise Garvin of the Duxbury Free Library, the Duxbury Clipper, Jeremy D'Entremont and descendants of all the great Gurnet-Saquish Families including the Burgess, Boardman, Hall, Hanks, Holmes Rushton,and Jacobs families for the use of their historic documents, original text and images.  All content reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.


Duxbury Pier Light was built in 1871 on the north side of the main channel in Plymouth Harbor to mark the dangerous shoal off Saquish Head.  The unusual coffeepot-shaped lighthouse is locally known as "Bug Light" or simply "The Bug".  Some say the nickname came from the similarity between its modern day appearance and a water bug seen from a distance.  Click on the image to view a slide show of Buglight and click HERE to learn more from Project Gurnet and Buglight.


Once the shipbuilding capital of the world more than 180 ships were built and launched here before the advent of the deeper draft clipper ships made the harbor obsolete.  Read the short history written by Leslie A. Lawrence a member of the Duxbury Historical Commission.  Learn more about the commission when you select the image at left.



The Story of Lovers Rock dates to the War of 1812.  And while it may be rooted in history there is no real proof that it ever happened.  The story goes that Eunice, the sixteen year old daughter of Captain Thomas Burgess, the Keeper of the Light, fell in love with young Sergeant Ripley a soldier stationed  at Fort Andrew, the fort that still stands around the lighthouse at Gurnet Point.  When Eunice was forbidden by her father to wed her young lover she made a suicide pack to climb onto the largest rock at  the foot of Gurnet Point, jump in and drown with young Ripley when the tide crested.  When the waters rose Eunice jumped in and drowned while the less enthusiastic Sergeant chose to remain on the rock. Some earlier residents claim to have attended Eunice's funeral but beyond that we know only that Captain Burgess was born, lived and died on Saquish in the old Burgess home.  In a side-bar there also is a connection between the Burgess family and Nancy Hanks, believed by some to be Abraham Lincoln's mother.  Captain Burgess' son Joe lived in the farmhouse before it was purchased by Joseph Boardman in the late 19th century.  Years later the Boardmans would put on a play entitled "Lover's Rock."  In the photo above we see the Boardman family circa 1920's including Henry sitting on and standing around Lover's Rock.  You can read the history Henry wrote below. 

The rich Gurnet history written by Henry Boardman was presented by Ethel Heffernan to the Duxbury Clipper which reprinted it in a series of articles that are included in total below.  The Clipper provided the written history to the Duxbury Free Library.  You can visit the library to learn more and read the history now below.  Select the button and wait a few moments for the large file to load.  Thanks again to the Heffernan/MacIntyre family, the Duxbury Clipper and the Duxbury Free Library.    -ed

The Coast Guard at the Gurnet . . Learn more


In September of 1960 after a big storm young Wayne Christian was walking down the beach when he saw the sun reflecting off something shiny.  He walked up to a metal object and pulled it up out of the sand.  What Wayne pulled out of the sand hadn't been touched for over 100 years.  Select this picture of Wayne to read the story.

- Story courtesy Paul Christian
- Photos courtesy Patriot Ledger


If you are a resident, relative, former resident or invited guest of Gurnet and Saquish you can create a personal history IN YOUR OWN WORDS.  Select the link above to add your story and any images, music or video you own.  View current submissions on the CONNECT page.  Your story is the story of Gurnet and Saquish.

 IN MY OWN WORDS -Suzie Growe, AKA, Suellen McCarthy

"My father, Pat (PAUL McCarthy)known then as 'the Lord Mayor of Saquish' was responsible for starting the folks who built on the far end of Saquish toward the head.  We took my daughter and granddaughter  back this summer and stayed with Danny and Marion to meet the families of the eary folks.  I have photos and many memories.  I have often thought it would be good to get a book published with stories, songs and photos from different folks that traveled the land to reach Heaven on Earth.  My crowd was Billy Bennett, Al Marcotte, Joyce Greenhath, Carol Martin, the Devir kids, Bobbie Depisa...etc."

- Photo of "the Lord Mayor" in 1958 courtesy of Paul Christian.  Click on the image to view the slide show.



The Duxbury Free Library collects and posts a list of newsworthy and historic articles.  Many of these articles are from the Duxbury Clipper including a colorful history from Robert Boardman written in 1835.  Read the GURNET articles and the SAQUISH articles.  The Reverend Canon Robert Merry wrote an interesting history as well which you can read HERE.

IN MY OWN WORDS - Bob Shanklin

Bob and Sandra Shanklin are lighthouse enthusiasts with their own lighthouse website.  They have actually photographed every lighthouse in the U.S.  In the Spring of 1990 Bob and Sandra stayed in the "Keeper's Cottage" overnight.  Bob shares this account of one night in the Keepers Cottage:

"It  was early spring, maybe May 1990 and we were sleeping in the southeastern corner of the house.  It was quite interesting to me.  I woke up in bed and I had never been in a room with a light like that and it was kind of interesting the way the light would swing around and fill up the room with light and then fade and then light up again.  And I was sitting up and looking at that and I turned to Sandra and that's when . . " READ MORE

- Photo of Bob courtesy of the Shanklins


IN MY OWN WORDS - Dorothy Oram Cohn

"My knowledge of the Gurnet schoolhouse does not go back any further than when my grandfather, Archibald William Oram owned it.  I don't know whom he purchased it from only that he told me it had once been a schoolhouse.  The Gurnet (property) was in the family when my father was a young boy as you can see in picture #4 with his brother Kermit.  My Dad was born in June of 1907 so this picture would have been taken around 1917-1920.  They would sometimes drive down in a buggy drawn by "Brownie" the horse."  READ MORE

- Photos courtesy of Dorothy Cohn.  Select the photo to view the slide show

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