Skip to content

Subscribe  |  Login  |  Account

Have you ever heard of Mashnee Island?

Have you ever heard of Mashnee Island? | Cape Cod Life JULY 2016

The island proved ideal for grazing due to its abundant grassy fields, and Rev. Bourne ensured that a keeper, or shepherd, was always on hand to look over the sheep. The keepers lived in small shacks, each with large fireplaces, and the humble homes often sustained damage in storms. Then, from 1700 to 1725 another storm washed over the island: a severe tick fever. Many sheep died as a result and the island’s days as a grazing outpost were numbered.

A century later, Mashnee became home to a new industry in the early 1800s: harvesting salt. The location in breezy Buzzards Bay made it a potentially lucrative spot to establish a saltworks industry. Workers built small dwellings on the island and erected large wooden vats, which they filled with salt water. When the water evaporated, a goldmine of salt was left behind. This effort suffered a substantial setback when a hurricane destroyed the saltworks, either in 1815 or 1835; reports vary on the year. According to Mashnee records held by the Bourne Town Archives, the storm’s tides were powerful, and water reached eight feet higher along the shore than had previously been recorded. Ellis says pieces of the saltworks were later found in Wareham.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Mashnee began to develop as an area for summer gatherings and cookouts. Ellis says wealthy families, including some who owned shoe factories in Brockton, were attracted to Bourne’s Monument Beach—located just across the harbor from Mashnee—and they purchased second homes in the area. When groups wanted to host a large summer gathering, Mashnee was an ideal location; the island was secluded, but just a short distance off shore so visitors could reach it quickly by rowboat. Due to the strong winds in Buzzards Bay, trees didn’t grow tall enough on the island to obstruct views, and at just 50 acres the shoreline was always close.

With picnics, fishing, and bonfires on the beach, Mashnee became known as a popular little vacation spot—for those who knew about it. In winter, the cold didn’t stop locals from enjoying the island either. When temperatures plummeted, Monument Harbor froze and locals could walk or take sleighs across the ice.

You might also like: