The article that was here has been replaced by an updated presentation on Gooseberry History I delivered in a June of 2017. That presentation can be found here. SImply click on each slide to advance through it.


Here is an updated timeline of Gooseberry History.

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.
Some comments below may refer to the outdated article that has been removed.

37 Responses to History

  1. Peter Rosa says:

    Thank you for your reply. The email address to reply to was not complete. Please resend. I don’t know how much history I can offer, my contribution would be in amazing memories of growing up on the island. I spent May 1st to Labor Day with my grandparents on the island. I remember stories they told about the 1938 and 1944 hurricanes. I do have a photo of the cottage that sat on the top of the highest part of the island. We had a 360 degree view from the four cottages. I will contact you next week after you send an email address to me and I will try to fill in what I can add. I also will study your site here and see if it spurs further information stored in my mind. I am now 66, and memories are starting to fade. The government take over of the island was monumental in the history of this island. It ruined many lives and the government never did anything with the island after paying to have cottages moved and the rest destroyed. More next week. Peter J. Rosa, grandson of the mayor of Gooseberry Neck Island Joesph Victor Cabral and Delia Olga Mia Cabral.

  2. sandi barr says:

    Hi Greg,
    I love your Gooseberry journal. I spent many weekends on Gooseberry Island from the time I was born in 1951 until the hurricane in 1954. I may have been very young, but I have very vivid memories of staying at my uncle’s Quonset hut with my mom, dad and one of my younger sisters. I have spent every summer of my life at Horseneck. First on Gooseberry, then in Small’s little village and now on East Beach on property inherited by myself & my sisters.
    I recall riding in the car on the causeway. We would stop at a store on the left where my dad would run in and pick up something for our weekend stay. There were houses on both sides of the dirt road and houses behind those houses and many Quonset huts. My uncle’s Quonset hut was across the road from the military compound on the east side of the island. The compound was surrounded by high chain link fence. I remember that the walk down to the water from my uncle’s hut was not easy one – it was very rocky and painful on little feet !!!
    After the hurricane in ’54 and after the state took over the island, some of the still existing houses were purchased from owners who were no longer interested in them. My uncle purchased a piece of land from the Small’s farm and moved one of these houses to this property. Today, the part of Small’s farm that was sold, consists of the 3 streets, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Street. Bayside Restaurant is on the corner of 3rd St. & Old Horseneck Rd. In the sixties, my summer friends, my sisters & myself would walk to Gooseberry Island. We pretended to have forts in the rocks on the causeway, we’d walk around the island. At the time, there were 3 towers with metal ladders up the walls. We would climb to the top of the towers. There was also a bunker that you could go in. It still contained some of the equipment left behind by the military. The chain link fence extended all the way down to the the water on the west side of the island.
    I have so many wonderful memories.
    I do have some old photos that I will dig up. I think they are mainly of family, not landscape.

    sandi barr

    • Peter Rosa, former inhabitant of Gooseberry Island says:

      Sandi, when were you living on Gooseberry Island? It is very possible that we played together. I am 68 now and my Grandparents were early settlers of the island and lived there in one of the four cottages on the very top of the island until we were forced to move to Small village on Second Street. All four of these cottage were moved to Smalls on different lots. Only one wall of our cottage still exits as stated in the laws of the town of Westport. I understand the place is now a large summer house. My grandfather Joseph V. Cabral was known as the mayor of the island. He built the playground that sat on the side of the island that looked out to the causeway, near our cottage. I would love to hear from you. You may contact me at Email: rosapj@AOL.com or by cell: 941-266-3211 THANKS Peter Rosa

    • Robin J. Linhares says:

      Sandy, Just saw my mom today…she has Alzheimer’s now but we talked about the Barrs and Gooseberry, Little Rock, the Village, your parents and Rabbit. So many great memories!

  3. Pingback: Gooseberry Summers – a mystery solved! « Gooseberry Journal

  4. Susan says:


    As a newcomer to Westport, I found this history fascinating. Woderful pictures and narrative!

    • Greg Stone says:


      • Peter Rosa, former inhabitant of Gooseberry Island says:

        Greg, please contact me. Email: rosapj@AOL.com or Cell 941-266-3211. I lost track of you and really would like to find out how yo are doing. I got off FB for a while and lost track of many people. I hope you are well. Pete Rosa

  5. uggs says:

    I appreciate, result in I discovered exactly what I was having a look for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  6. Sam says:

    I have been wondering about the bunkers forever! I went to school at Umass Dartmouth and my friends and I often went to Gooseberry Island (as we called it). This is a really interesting article, thanks!!!

  7. Peter Rosa says:

    From time to time, I come back to Gooseberry Island Journal to reminisce. I disagree with Cukie’s assessment of “rather flimsy cottages. Having lived on the island for just short of 20 years, there were a few flimsy abodes, but the majority were solid structures and during the 1950s, some of the structures were full homes. There was one large duplex half way up the main road that belonged to a family that occupied both sides of the duplex. The four cottages on the top of the island were solidly built by my grandparents and three other friends/families. These were in no way flimsy. I realize that we all have different ideas, but I want folks to know that these were permanent structures. The 1954 hurricane did a magnitude of damage to the area, however these cottages were strong enough to survive without major damage. They were also strong enough to be transported to various places during the mass move, including many that ended up at Small’s village. Once again, thank you Greg for keeping the memory of GOOSEBERRY ISLAND PAST alive. Peter

  8. Pam says:

    Thank you so much for this information. My 8 year old son has always wondered about the towers on the island and wanted me to do research on the island. You have answered all of his questions that I could not answer. Thank you very much.

  9. Peter Rosa, former inhabitant of Gooseberry Island says:

    Pam, your son would have loved to have lived my life on Gooseberry Island. I lived there until we were forced to move. I played all around the fort in my childhood when people did not worry about lawsuits. We used to play in all the buildings. There was much more than the tower that now exists and the bunker that I understand is now sealed shut. You may contact me at Email: rosapj@AOL.com or Cell: 941-266-3211 THANKS Peter Rosa

  10. Kendra says:

    Awesome! Thank You!

  11. Phil Baykian says:

    Wow, great website! My grandfather had a cottage on Gooseberry until the ’38 hurricane. It washed away, and several years later he purchased the big house just north of the causeway, (maw-nan-tuk inn) along with the small oriental looking one (we used to call it the little house). My family owned those properties from the mid-’40s until 1983. I spent all my summers there. And yes, I remember those telephone poles on the causeway…they were there until the ’70’s or early ’80’s, although the wires slowly disappeared over the years. Don’t remember any buildings on the island, other than the military ones, which we all played in as kids in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Nice memories…I need to show my mom, who grew up there!

  12. Thanks so much for this site. I’m a relative newcomer to Westport and just took a walk out on Gooseberry yesterday afternoon (lovely sunset) and was looking for a good map to show someone about the area. Your site looks terrific and I’m looking forward to exploring it, and Gooseberry, much more.

  13. I’ve lived in westport since 1980 and have grown up playing and walking on Gooseberry. I knew some of the history of the towers but didn’t realize there had been cottages and houses there until the military took over. I’ve seen some of the foundations. And some pavement is still visible down the main path. I’ve climbed the tall tower (stairs are all corroded now) and the small tower and I remember a concrete bunker of some sort north of the large tower. There are also still pipes and cables that extend from the beach on the west side into the ocean. I haven’t explored off the beach or path since I was younger and since things have really overgrown and the ticks are awful during warm weather, but I think a trip to the island before spring comes is in order!

    Thanks so much for this article and the repost of the photos. I love learning about my town.

    • Greg Stone says:

      Thanks for the kind words – always good to know someone is reading this stuff 😉 One quick point, though. I didn’t mean to give the impression the cottages vanished when the military took over. The military had only a segment of – I think – about six acres out around the towers. Some houses – certainly tents and fishing shacks – were there before the military -which came about 1940 – and remained there after they left. What ended the residences was the state takeover of Horseneck and Gooseberry about 1955.

  14. Pingback: Gooseberry Island, Westport, MA

  15. linda says:

    I love this article like so many I have been going there for many decades and love the photos thanks for sharing great memories

  16. Gina says:

    So glad I found this site. I have been going to gooseberry island for years, usually by myself to enjoy the serenity. Live 50 minutes away and no matter what my frame of mind is during the ride I am overwhelmed and thrilled with the beauty when I get there. Every time is different … And i’ve been there three times in the past week. Today the swallows were out in mass and the sky was so blue …just incredible. It’s wonderful to learn about the history… I walked the perimeter today and now I am imagining what life was like back those many years. My dream is to move to Westport and walk there everyday.. See the sunrise and sunsets.. Thanks for bringing it all more alive! Gina

    • Greg Stone says:

      Thanks Gina – you sure picked a great day to visit – wish all summer days could be like this one. I was there early in the morning – saw lots of warblers, swallows (as you mention) and a beautiful marsh hawk.

  17. Brian Valcourt says:

    Wow great site Greg, I have lived here all my life and knew some of the history, and I remember there being a third tower to the east of the larger one when I was a kid in the 70’s, is my memory correct or am I delusional?

  18. Dede harney flack says:

    My family,Harney, had a hut across the street from the tower! Would love to here from you. Perhaps we were friends!

  19. Robin J. Linhares says:

    Just visited my mom this morning. She has Alzheimer’s and I like to talk about the “old days” when she was young. Her family (the Woods) built a duplex house on East Beach Road when she was a girl (she is now 83) and it was taken away by the hurricane of ’38. There is still a shack on the property that my father built. It has floated away and has always been brought back. The land is still owned by the “Woods girls”. When my siblings and I were kids, we had a trailer on the property and spent our summers there. Many days were spent on Gooseberry, picking berries, turning over rocks and searching for seaworms to be used as bait and trying to avoid stepping on those tiny frogs.
    So, I just found your site and am looking forward to sharing information with my mother.
    We “had a good life” is what she says..

    • Hi Peter — So interesting reading some information you recall from the island. The duplex that you mentioned belonged to a Medeiros family. They lived next door to my grandfather. I will continue reading as this is very interesting. Evelyn

  20. Pauline Desrosiers says:

    My parents, Pat & Ida Levasseur, began camping on the island around the late 1930’s. At that time , people who rented lots could camp in a tent, friends of my father had campers, and some people built small cottages. My parents lot was located just outside the military section, so they likely would have known Dede’s folks. When I was around 5 in 1948, my parents decided to build a cottage on a lot, across from that hill where the 4 cottages were (one owned by the Cabral’s who I remember fondly). Like some of you, I grew up there – I remember the two Greek brothers who owed the island – I remember they had a building across from the public beach where we could get sodas and was a meeting place for the islanders. My mother was on the island during the 1938 Hurricane and described how horrific it was to see buildings and people washed away. I am returning in July and camping at Horseneck and will be walking the island one more time, while I am able. I have so many memories, if anyone is interested, please feel free to email me.

  21. djeddieo says:

    but where does the name “Gooseberry” come from? a gooseberry is the original name of the kiwi fruit!

  22. C J Fisher says:

    I was amazed to find the old photos of the towers with their wooden structures intact. Gooseberry is one of my favorite of all places. I first found it on a very memorable day in 1982. The concrete portions of all three towers were there at that time, but the third disappeared shortly after. Here’s what I’ve dug up over the years. The smaller tower was called Cottage Station Site B, its upper level provided observation for Battery 109 near Point Judith, while the lower supported Battery Reilly near Little Compton. I believe the tall tower, Site D, was disguised as a lighthouse, hence the octagonal lantern on top. It served Battery 212 and Battery Gray. Cottage Station Site E looked like a large, gambrel-roofed house and is totally gone. The underground structure was Site C, housed a small power station and a protected telephone switchboard that routed communications to the Narragansett Bay defenses. I would love to see the declassified original plans to these structures. On Fortwiki I found elevations of a similar cottage station at Fort Greene in RI. Would anyone know how to find these old plans? Thanks again for the great pictures!

    • Greg Stone says:

      Thanks. I have never seen that information. Would oyumind sharing what the source is? I canc ertainly add some of this to my Gooseberry history. I would also love to know how many men weere stationed there, whether you found any evidence of coastal guns there ( I haven’t) and whether or not there were both Navy and army people stationed there. (I believe there were some Navy, I assume monitoring an underwater sub detection cable of some sort.)

      • Pauline Desrosiers says:

        After reading your message and Mr Fisher’s, I remember that my parents said that the bunker (the grass covered mound with the steel entrance doors had munitions stored in it. My parents were camping in a tent near the boundary fence to the compound during the War. My mother especially had a lot of contact with the soldiers coming in and out, as she always had a pot of coffee on her campstove for them and they would leave her sugar and butter for her in repayment. I would really like to know for sure what was in the bunker. As a kid on the island, early 1950’s, my friends and I would wait till low tide and get around the fencing to explore the grounds and we even made up it to the tower (Greg, has anyone approached the US Army or any military archives to learn if this info is available? Pauline Desrosiers

  23. Greg Stone says:

    Thanks. Delighted to know about your experience. Any old family photographs from those days – especially camping there in the 1940s?? That’s a neat note about your mother. I suspect the bunker may have had smalls arms munitions. Again, I’ve seen no sign or information about a large gun. I have examined some sources, but not directly from Army. Not sure where to start, but I know there’s been quite a bit of material on coastal fortifications. I also assume that the bunker was meant for shelter if under attack. Those towers would likely become prime targets. Fortunately there never was an attack and there was little or no live firing with the big guns that were being directed from Gooseberry. I think we understood quite early in the war that aside from subs raiding shipping and possible spies coming ashore, there was no serious threat of attack.

    • Pauline Desrosiers says:

      One of the pictures I saw on your journal, showed the island from the high point at the area I believe the encampment to be, with a line of WWII tents below and along the East side of the island. My parents’ tent was similar to those , but located closer to the spot where the photographer took this shot. When I lived on the island from about 1948-1954, there were large tents and some hard-sided campers near where theirs had been. There was a road accessing them. Also on the main road before you reached this branch, I remember there was a well where we got water. Not sure if anyone has mentioned this to you before.

  24. Greg Stone says:

    Thanks – I appreciate any information you have. Your mother being there in ’38 is particularly interesting. As far as I know, at that point there were very few, if any buildings. I think it was mostly tents. The causeway was severely damaged then and I don’t know who rebuilt it, though I suspect it was the Army.

    I assume you knew Peter Rosa who I interviewed for Gooseberry Summers. Again, anything you can recall and want to share with me – ina ddition to what you have already wrote here – would be welcome. I’m wondering if your parents lot was closer to the towers than that hill? I know there was at least one Quonsett Hut there during the 1954 Hurricaine and I also know several people were on the island throughout that storm. Were you? Several people – perhaps as many as 20 – took shelter in the towers. You can email me at gregstone2@gmail.com/

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