Updated Gooseberry History Presentation – January 17, 2018

These are the links to my updated Gooseberry History presentation – and related files – which was delivered at the Westport Women’s Club January 17, 2018.  It’s very similar to the presentation in June.

Gooseberry – the Military, the Mystery, the Magic – January 2018

Murder at Gooseberry – the Journal

Gooseberry Summers

Gooseberry – Drone Flight overview by David Sprogis

Gooseberry – the Magic Today  – Video and slides ( different music)

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Murder at Gooseberry!

The year is 1903 – no. The year is 2017, I have recalled from somewhere hearing about a murder at Gooseberry and as I rummaged through the Historical Society files on Gooseberry, Executive Director Jenny O’Neill dug out a wonderful document – a complete journal of someone residing in the boarding house with the murderer and victim, watching the whole bitter series of events unfold and sharing their thoughts and concerns in a journal.

So come back with me to the summer of 1903. Learn what it is like to live in a boarding house on East Beach with a fascinating cast of characters – a love triangle, a fist fight, and a murder.

It makes a wonderful little piece of summer reading, so as I promised in my recent presentation on Gooseberry History, I am posting it here along with related newspaper clips from the era and part of the court record – all in a about 50 pages. Enjoy!

And when you’re done, tell me if you are certain they got the right man – for he went to prison for the crime and in 1910 died of a heart attack while exercising in the prison yard.


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Breaking News – the Towers in WWII disguise!

See Facebook album of towers in disguise here.

Seriously,folks, in my quest to uncover facts about Gooseberry history, this is a treasure! The WWII fire control towers on Gooseberry were indeed disguised to look like ordinary homes!

Cukie Macomber told me this several years ago, but others who might have recalled them that way, didn’t. I wanted proof and after my Gooseberry History presentation last week a Westport neighbor came through with this collection of images. (He wished to be identified simply as “a friend.” Many thanks, friend.!)

Just to be absolutely certain these were indeed taken on Gooseberry, I went to spot southwest of the two remaining towers and took a picture from what I estimate is the same vantage point of the original photographer.

The one picture I seriously question here, however, is that of the gun emplacement. I have found no other evidence there were any guns on Gooseberry. The towers were “fire control” for guns Little Compton, Dartmouth, and New Bedford. That is, they were connected with the gun crews by phone lines and relayed precise target information to the guns.

The guns were never fired in anger and I am told that when they fired a practice round they broke a lot of windows in the area! Bet they did. Two of the guns in Little Compton were 16-inchers that could hurl a shell 25 miles and had been destined for a battle ship. Because of an arms control treaty the battleship was never built, but the guns had been, so they were given to the Army for shore defense.


1. When were the wooden camouflage structures removed?

2. Anyone have any other pictures or evidence of a large WWII gun on Gooseberry?

3. Why does the first picture show a low, wooden fence where current remains show a fence that was taller with metal posts?

4. Note the central tower has a little building on top. Why? Part of disguise, or some other purpose? Tower not otherwise camouflaged – why?

Contact me if you have any historical information or pictures about Gooseberry you would like to share – gregstone2@gmail.com.

The full Gooseberry history presentation, updated with these pictures can be found here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1i003PDRinQpj-AuUYQsAyEakJMPcHHroNmfPqvj1It8/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000&slide=id.g1f87f99a44_0_0

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Gooseberry: The Mystery, the Military, The Magic – Presentation June 22, 2017

THANK’S EVERYONE!!! What a delight to look out and see an absolutely packed room tonight! Hope you checkout this whole post – there are links to the entire presentation, plus both videos, plus the handouts with all the resource links clickable.
I knew Gooseberry was a popular place, but I really didn’t expect such a turn out. What fun! And so many of you had some wonderful things to add about Gooseberry conveying facts and flavor that were wonderful to hear.
Hope you will follow-up with email or FB messages to me and I am especially hopeful of getting some neat photographs from a Gooseberry era that is unknown to many and forgotten by others.
Meanwhile, here’s a link to the entire presentation that I hope will be helpful for those who weren’t able to make it tonight, as well as some who were there, but might have had difficulty reading the screen, or hearing me. (For the record.)This was a presentation  at the Westport Library by Greg Stone at the invitation of the Westport Historical Society and the Westport Fishermen’s Association. )
The preceding includes an embedded link to the wonderful David Sprogis drone video.
In addition, here’s a link to the final slide video, slightly modified for publication.
Finally, here is the resource handout with all the links – much easier to use this way than in paper. 😉
Resources used in this presentation
Contact me: Greg Stone – gregstone2@gmail.com or on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/greg.stone.9022
Web sites:
Westport Historical Society – http://wpthistory.org/
Some images used with permission of David Jones of clamflats photos, http://www.pbase.com/clamflats
Gooseberry Geology and much more – Go to this link – https://gooseberryjournal.wordpress.com/geography/ and scroll to the bottom of the page for Annie Cloutier’s excellent presentation of the Geomorphology of Gooseberry Island
Westport’s Gooseberry Island – Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/gooseberry/
Gooseberry Island — Westport, MA – Gooseberry Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/gooseberry.island/
Paul Champlin is my go-to resource for birds, and this is a post where he explains, briefly, why Gooseberry is one of the best spots for birding. http://southcoastbirder.blogspot.com/2013/08/2013-gooseberry-island-southbound.html
“The Military History of New Bedford” – Christopher McDonald
“Defenses of Narragansett Bay in World War II” – Walter K. Schroder
Many, many thanks to all those who have helped me learn more about Gooseberry –
Particularly: Jenny O’Neill; the Westport librarians; Sharon Potter, Assessor’s office; David Jones; Annie Cloutier; microfilm of old newspapers at UMass Dartmouth; Jack Reynolds of the Westport Fishermen’s Association; David Sprogis who did the drone video; Jenna Petersen; Carlton “Cukie” Macomber; Sean Leach; Thomas Pettey Hancock; and Peter Rosa. I have much to learn, and have many unanswered questions, but I could not have gotten this far without their help. They gave wonderful assistance – but I alone am responsible for the contents of this presentation and thus any errors.
Gooseberry Timeline
20,000 years ago – Most recent glacier starts to melt, depositing boulders and debris it picked up on its way south through New England
1602 – Bartholomew Gosnold explores region from encampment, probably on Cuttyhunk
1707 – First Gooseberry map we have shows sandbar, ponds
1903 – September, Tillinghast Kirby is murdered in his small boat off Gooseberry, and Angles Snell is convicted of the crime – Snell dies in prison in 1910 of heart attack
1913 – Work begins on first causeway – a double row of stones along sandbar
1922-24 – Alvin Waite and others launch ambitious “Rest Isle” development by building serious, concrete- surface causeway cars can cross.
1931 – Thomas E. Pettey, a town worker, is killed in accident on Christmas Eve while moving rocks near causeway entrance.
1935 – Nicholas Saliveros (and later his brother, Kostas) purchase Gooseberry, build 7-room home, several “beach cottages,” and rents parcels of land – people camp there, build “fishing shacks,” etc.
1938 – Hurricane destroys a few buildings and severely damages causeway
1939-43 – At some point federal funds used to construct larger, modern causeway we know today
1942, March – U.S. Government takes 6.5 acres of Gooseberry for fire control towers to control guns defending New Bedford Harbor and entrance to Narragansett Bay
1943-1957 – Gooseberry grows in popularity as summer colony – many small buildings and cottages erected – by time State takes over number has climbed to 94
1954 – Hurricane Carol does extensive damage to area, but Gooseberry seems to escape with relatively little damage, though several people have harrowing experiences on Gooseberry during storm
1957 – State takes Gooseberry as part of Horseneck Beach Reservation; lets it return to wild as many of the cottages are moved to Small’s Village north of East beach and to other locations in Westport
2000 – Causeway named in memory of Thomas E. Pettey – in 2017 an engraved stone placed at Thomas E. Pettey Memorial Causeway entrance.
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Gooseberry – As you’ve never seen it before!

Well, assuming you are not a helicopter pilot or drone flyer you have never seen Gooseberry like this!  This video was created by David Sprogis who kindly gave me permission to embed it here. It’s a tad longish, so come here and watch – go to full screen – when you feel like relaxing and remembering.

David has several other videos of the region on his Vimeo page. https://vimeo.com/dsprogis/videos/all

He uses a Phantom 3 with a 4K camera. I know justa little about such drones and all I can say is this is NOT a toy – but ot’s not prohibitively expensive either. Google it.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/135610342″>Goosebury Island</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/dsprogis”>David Sprogis</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Gooseberry – a special place for birders, casual or very serious – now radar enhanced!

Paul Champlin, who has helped me repeatedly to identify birds I’ve seen and photographed on Gooseberry, has his own blog with this fascinating post that explores why Gooseberry is such a key spot for birding and how he uses internet radar to track birds as they come and go. His posts begins:

Gooseberry Neck, Westport, MA is a rather special place to bird. There are only a handful of known places where a birder can watch migrants-by-the-dosens as they funnel through a very small choke point like the Gooseberry parking lot (30 species of warbler in fall 2012/spring2013 migration, concentrated in a several hundred square foot site). These funnel points offer the ability to document migration in a different way than most places in New England, where birders visiting their favorite wetlands, forest patches, or thickets will find migrant birds, but will not actually know whether or not the birds they see are residents, or in stopover mode. Have birds been there several days? Will they be there tomorrow? Next week? Birding the Gooseberry parking lot, the answer is nearly always “No, it’s currently on its way! The next people to have a shot at seeing this particular bird are at Hammonasset in Connecticut.”  This funneling of migrants allows birders to document interesting migration events, such as the earliest movements of many species, and the magnitude of migration as it relates to weather patterns. Of additional interest to me is the predictability of migration as it relates to NEXRAD radar images collected overnight and into the morning. This blog post will not only provide readers with photos and lists of birds seen at Gooseberry Neck, it will also step readers through the thought process of my trying to predict the intensity of migration at Gooseberry, and will provide a basic outline of how to read bird migration via radar, with specifics to Gooseberry (there are several great radar ornithology resources available online, both general and site specific… like http://badbirdz2.wordpress.com/ which covers southern FL). Finally, I pose three migration “funnel” theories specific to Gooseberry, but encompassing the broader region.


Read the rest of it here.

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See  photos from recent visit:


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