|CHAPTER 1: WEST GLOUCESTER AND MAGNOLIA|
Stage Fort Park
At Stage Fort Park, climb the twisting path up the stone steps to the highest elevation of Tablet Rock, the whaleback of granite that marks the first settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at this spot in 1623, and take in the glorious view of Gloucester and its harbor.
What a harbor and what a history! There is the Atlantic to the south; to the west of that the North Shore; Eastern Point directly across; Ten Pound Island, and the old city, to the northeast. John Mason was making the first proper survey of the waterfront one autumn day when he dropped everything to take a count and ink it on his map: "1833 14 October four hundred and forty-three Vessels at anchor in the harbour besides what lay at Wharfs."
That was a hundred and fifty-six years ago, and two hundred and ten years after the fourteen men of the Dorchester Company landed at our feet, here from England to see if this fabulous New World they had heard such tales of would support a fishing and farming expedition. Look at the forested hills of West Gloucester behind you, and the rocks all around, and the pitiful soil of Fishermen's Fieldand then back at this harbor againand you will know in a flash how matters developed that John Mason counted four hundred and forty-three vessels out there, and why those fourteen failed, and why one of the organizers back in England, John White, would write it off thus: "First, that no sure fishing-place in the land is fit for planting, nor any good place for planting found fit for fishing; at least, near the shore: and, secondly, rarely any fisherman will work at land; neither are husbandmen fit for fishermen, but with long use and experience."