Have you ever heard of Mashnee Island?
In 1923, Michael Murray of Newtonville purchased Mashnee and transformed the entire island into Camp Keewaydin, a sailing camp for boys ages 6 to 16. “Keewaydin” is a Native American term that means “north wind,” and there were several Keewaydin camps in the Northeast. The camp had 22 buildings including cabins, a dining hall, a boathouse, and an infirmary. The campers could also enjoy the basketball and tennis courts, rifle ranges, a baseball field, and running straightaways. According to records in Bourne’s Town Archives, 60 to 100 boys attended the camp each summer, and parents shelled out $350 to pay for the eight-week program. Tutors were hired to help some campers keep their studies sharp while they learned the ropes of sailing, and to reach the camp one simply had to dial “Buzzards Bay 519.”
There were also two houses on the island in the 1920s, one of which was reportedly dragged across frozen marshland, in winter, from Wareham. Deborah and Ted Wyman live in the house today. Deb, who began visiting relatives on Mashnee with her family in 1956, has done some research on the area’s history, and discovered that the cottage her parents, John and Virginia Sharkey, bought in 1958 was the same structure that came from Wareham—and a photo in the Bourne Archives seems to confirm it. The Wymans also believe their home was once the cook’s hut at the sailing camp because, before their renovations, the house featured a large fireplace and a single bedroom, and it was small in comparison with later cottages.
When construction of the Cape Cod Canal was completed in 1914, shipping traffic traveled to the east of Mashnee and Hog Island, through Monument Harbor. This, too, would change. After the federal government took ownership of the canal in the 1920s, a large WPA project to improve the canal—and build today’s Sagamore, Bourne, and Cape Cod Railroad Bridges—was taken on and completed in the mid-1930s. As part of this effort the canal was deepened and widened, and its sharp turning curves were softened to improve safety and utility for ships traveling through.
According to Ellis, officials at the time realized that Mashnee would play a major role in this project. To complete the new western approach to the canal, Hog Island was cut in half, and the Buzzards Bay Channel dredged deeper. The new approach would be to the west of Mashnee, and soil from Hog Island was used to help build Mashnee’s causeway to the mainland. After several years of labor, the project was finished in 1939, and soon travelers were making their way to Mashnee by car. It was no longer an island.
During World War II, Mashnee—with its prime location by the canal’s entrance—played a role in ensuring the safety of American ships traveling along the coast. In 1941 Camp Keewaydin was closed, and military personnel were stationed on Mashnee. Coast Guard servicemen staffed watchtowers at all times, keeping an eye out for submarines cutting through the water.
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