A Visit to the Aptuxcet Trading Post, 1627

I am republishing this post from 2018, which is based on some research I did for The Last Pilgrim.

One of the days of my research in and around Plymouth led me to the Aptuxcet trading post in Bourne, on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal. I always love driving down that way to admire the Canal and its bridge. I went by boat to the Canal one night when I was in high school to collect plankton.  The Canal is integrally related to the Separatists*!

File:Cape Cod Bourne Bridge and Railroad Bridge.jpgIn 1627, colonists from Plymouth established a trading post at Aptuxcet, about 20 miles south on the Manamet River. They had visited the site earlier to trade for corn and beans and to search for the missing son of John Billington. Aptuxcet is the Wampanoag word for “little trap in the river,” a reference of Indian fishing weirs.









The site was accessed by sailing south from Plymouth and up the Scusset River, then portaging over land to the Manamet River. Construction of a canal linking the trading post to the ocean was first considered by Myles Standish, the Separatists’ military advisor. Trade at the site was prosperous between the Indians of Narragansett Bay and the Dutch of New Netherland, who traveled north to acquaint themselves. The first attempts sat building a canal did not take place until the late 1800s.

Aptucxet was the first trading post established by the Plymouth colonists, and it was followed in 1633 by the Metteneque Trading Post in Windsor Locks, Connecticut and the Cushnoc Trading Post in Augusta, Maine. Because these posts were located at a distance from the colony, they were manned year-round by colonists.

The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 tore the roof off the post and it was finally abandoned in the 1650s. It has been estimated this storm was at least a strong category 3 when it made landfall on Long Island and swept northward. Much of the area between Providence, Rhode Island and the Piscataqua River in Maine was damaged by the storm. Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony wrote that the storm drowned seventeen Wampanoags and toppled or destroyed thousands of trees; many houses were also flattened.

The structure existing today is a replica erected on the original foundation which was archaeologically excavated in the 1920’s, and it sits on the southern shore of the Cape Cod Canal. The museum also features a replica saltworks, similar to ones that were used in the area to manufacture sea salt in the 1800s. The saltworks consist of square wooden vats where seawater was left to evaporate. Each vat is equipped with a sliding hipped roof that can be used to protect it from dew and rain.

Here are some pictures from my tour. I was introduced to wampum during the tour and I wil tell you about wampum in another post! In this first picture, there is a circular structure made out of bricks on the left of the hearth. It is an oven with a large metal kettle on top and was used for making beer.

These are Beaver pelt on the left and a I believe a marten pelt on the left.

This is the way the Dutch shipped sugar to the Separatist, in a cone wrapped in blue paper. The goodwives uses the blue paper for bluing in their wash. If children were told to scrape some sugar off the cone, they were told to sing or whistle while they did it, so their mother would know they weren’t eating it!


*The Pilgrims did not acquire their name until the mid 19th century. Until then they were referred to as Saints or Separatists. In 1840, someone resurrected William Bradford’s (Plymouth Colony’s first governor) original phrase describing the Saints who had left Leiden to sail on the Mayflower to the New World. They left Leiden, he said, “that goodly & pleasante citie which had been their resting place for near 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.”



15 thoughts on “A Visit to the Aptuxcet Trading Post, 1627”

    1. Actually, a so-called salt maker came on the Anne in 1623, but his works were a failure. It wasn’t until 1643 or thereabouts that Plymouth colony had a salt maker!

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: