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Captain Besse's Log

The History of West ​Island

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Because of its prominent location in Buzzards Bay, West Island (535 acres) is thought to have been visited by ancient explorers such as the Norsemen even before Columbus landed in America in 1492.

It's recorded history began on November 29, 1652, when Wampanoag Indian Chief Massasoit and his son Wamsutta sold the territory of Dartmouth with all the rivers, creeks, meadows, necks and islands to a band of Pilgrims which included John Cooke.

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John Cooke the last survivor of the Mayflower settled in Fairhaven were his daughter Mercy Cooke married Steven West the individual for whom West Island is named.  

The West family settled on Sconticut Neck and owned West Island for many years. Originally called West's Island, and recorded as such on early maps, the island's name was modified by popular usage to West Island because it was much easier to pronounce.

The island was used mainly for the grazing of cattle. At low tide the cows would be herded over from farms on Sconticut Neck to graze. On May 14, 1775 the first naval battle of the revolution was fought off it's shores. It was also reported that British warships landed parties at West Island. They were supposedly interested in the sheep and cattle grazing on the island.

The last member of the West family to own West Island was Nehemiah West, a whaling captain who later sold the island in 1880 to Anthony De Costa who was a farmer in the area. He later sold it to Horace S. Crowell of Marlboro. Crowell retained Captain John T. Besse as care taker of the island. Captain Besse's house, the oldest on the island located at 42 Causeway Road, is still maintained as a private residence. 

Legend has it that the old clay chimneys at the Besse House have bullet holes from hunters from well over a hundred years ago. they are still visible today and have never been repaired.

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