Category Archives: Kingston Bay

For National Poetry Month: “A-sailing Down Jones River”

Sailboat on the water, no date
Sailboat on the water, no date

A-sailing Down Jones River

Do you recall one night in June,
When sailing down Jones River,
We listened to the Bullfrog’s tune
And watched the moonbeams quiver?
I oft since then have watched the moon
But never, love, ah never, never,
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
And the moonlight on Jones River

Our boat went drifting toward the Bay,
By the wharves along the river,
Those old, old wharves where the good ships lay,
In the days now gone forever.
The busy hum of toil is o’er;
On the ways no ships were standing, standing
Holmes, Cushman, Bartlett, Drew, were gone;
All silent lay The Landing.
Can I forget that night in June
When sailing down Jones River?
Can I forget that Bullfrog’s tune
And the moonlight on Jones River?

Catherine Drew Russell

It was customary in earlier days for boating parties in the river or out into the Bay, to drift and sing. Moonlight parties were especially popular. Popular tunes of the day were often sung with original words, like the above, following the general idea of the song but adapted to the mood of the party. Miss Russell was very apt at impromptu rhyming and this is one of the songs composed at the time and recalled in later years. We used the song with its original music at the meeting of the Jones River Village Club, when Miss Russell gave her Musical Reminiscences of Kingston, with different members assisting in the vocal and instrumental examples. E.F.D. [Emily Fuller Drew]

Sources: IC-11 Delano Photograph Collection; PC-36 Poetry

New Exhibit: Summertime

This month’s exhibit celebrates summer in Kingston with picnics and parades, fresh sweet corn from the farmer’s market, swimming, fishing, and just lounging on the grass eating ice cream.

Horse-drawn float in the 200th Anniversary Parade, 1926
Horse-drawn float in the 200th Anniversary Parade, 1926

Here’s the front of a float in Kingston’s 200th Anniversary Parade, which rolled on August 20, 1926.  The four boys behind the float seem very interested in whatever’s going on behind that shack…

Bathing beauties on 200th Anniversary Parade float, 1926
Bathing beauties on 200th Anniversary Parade float, 1926

Well, yeah, that’s why!

Howland’s Lane Bridge

Two years ago, we noted that the wooden planks in the Howland’s Lane bridge over the railroad tracks needed to be replaced, an  issue had been under discussion for a decade.  The bridge, built in the 1870s and renovated during the 1930s, is now closed for repairs.  Rocky Nook’s primary water main, carried over the tracks underneath the bridge, will also be upgraded. See here and here for details.

Here are few early images of the bridge and the surrounding area.

How peaceful is this setting in the fields. One can hardly imagine the many trains that now go to steadily stream to and from Plymouth each day.

The Standish monument already stood across the Bay, but other familiar elements were missing.  Howland’s Lane was not yet unpaved. No water line crossed the bridge. No one lived in Rocky Nook. Gray’s Beach Park was still a marshy, rocky shore.  Shade trees stood few and far between.  It’s easy to imagine old Joshua Delano walking along the tracks, travelling from his warehouse at the wharf now named for him  to his home on Main Street for his mid-day meal.

Sailing, Sailing

Kittiwake V, no date
Kittiwake V, no date

Kingston’s storied history of building ocean-going sailing vessels stretches from about 1713, when shipwright Samuel Drew and his son Cornelius set up shop on the Jones River, until 1874, when Edward Holmes launched the brig Helen A. Holmes, or perhaps until 1898 when Edward Ransom built only Kingston’s only steamer, the Tiger. As the era of great sailing ships passed away, for a short time Kingston ruled the yachting world.

Miladi and Rattler, no date
Miladi and Rattler, no date

This month’s exhibit highlights some of the knockabouts, catboats and spritsails built in Kingston and raced in local waters by members of the Kingston Yacht Club, whose annual regatta is this weekend.

Clam-a-rama!

Town of Kingston Plan of Clam Grants, 1909
Town of Kingston Plan of Clam Grants, 1909

Throughout the 1800s, Kingston, along with Plymouth and Duxbury, provided clams to cod fisheries all along the Massachusetts coast. Clams were sold fresh for bait in the winter months, or steamed, salted and barreled for summer use. The region produced as much as 100,000 bushels a year. Around 1875, the shellfish – steamed and fried – became a sought-after delicacy, not only for New England clam bakes and shore dinners, but also in fancy restaurants in Boston, New York and Chicago for restaurants. Closer to home, shellfish

With Chapter 195 of the Acts of 1870, Massachusetts allowed towns to regulate shellfishing. In 1909, licenses to culture and harvest clams were issued by the Selectmen of Kingston, and the Bay floor was divided among the lucky license holders. The first license was issued to Fred Bailey for “one-half acre more or less.” The division of Gray’s Flats can be seen on the blueprint above.

Clam grant to Fred Bailey, 1909
Clam grant to Fred Bailey, 1909

During the 1920s, outbreaks of typhoid fever were traced back to local shellfish and many beds were closed. Some Kingston clam flats have remained closed since that time, while other areas were harvested into the 1970s. As the towns around Kingston, Duxbury and Plymouth Bays grew, pollutants increasingly affected the ecosystem, and shellfishing became hazardous. By 2002, however, efforts to decrease storm drain runoff and regulate septic systems had lowered pollution levels enough to allow Kingston Bay to be seeded with seven tons of cherrystones, quahogs, little necks and soft shell clams. In 2009, Kingston were again issued shellfish licenses, almost 100 years to the day after the original licenses were granted. Aquaculture is a new, and newly revived, industry in Kingston and surrounding towns.

A whale of a tale

Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.
Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.

In the 1948 Annual Report of the Town of Kingston, the Board of Health reported:

On October 20th, 1948, a fin-back whale came ashore north of the town pier [today’s town landing] at the foot of River Street. Measuring 42 ft. in length and weighing approximately 30 tons, this would ordinarily have been a human interest story, but it developed into a Board of Health problem when this Board was forced to dispose of the mammal.  Our Highway Department with the assistance of power machinery, loaded the whale on a heavy-duty platform trailer and carried it to the Town Dump where it was suitably buried.

After the dump closed a few years later, the Kingston Drive-In was built on the site.  Today this location is occupied by Summerhill Plaza, so yes, indeed, there is a whale buried under the Stop-n-Shop!

Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.
Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.