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Kendall intro & index
Travels through the northern parts of the United States in the years 1807 and 1808
by Edward Augustus Kendall
Volume 2; chapters XLVI-LIII; pp. 127-176
XLVI, p 127-141: Sandwich, Barnstable, Chatham, salt-making, Cape Malebarre
XLVII, p 142-156: Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown, making fish
XLVIII, p 156-171: suspicions of British, Highland Light, Truro, fishermen in debt, Capt. Collings, Eastham
IL, p 172-176: American English
next 4 chapters, on Mashpee, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Bristol county
SANDWICH adjoins Plymouth, and is the westernmost town on the peninsula of Cape Cod, as it is also of the county of Barnstable. It occupies the whole breadth of the peninsula, which is here deeply indented on the east, by Buzzard's Bay. Two small streams, one falling into Buzzard's Bay, and one into Barnstable Bay, make the peninsula nearly a perfect island. A subdivision or second parish of Sandwich lies in Buzzard's Bay, of which the Indian denomination is Pokeset or Poughkeeste. Of the town of Sandwich, which was incorporated in 1639, a very particular description, written by Mr. Wendell Davis, is printed in the Historical Collections, a work published in occasional volumes, by the Historical Society of Massachu-
setts. A short canal has been proposed to be cut, by which the navigation of the bay on the west would be united with that of the bay on the east.
The first parish or society of Sandwich lies on the west side of the peninsula, and contains a village of respectable appearance, through which there runs one of the streams just mentioned. A small proportion of the salt-works of the county of Barnstable is in this town.
Below Sandwich is Barnstable, the county-town. The distance between the two villages is twelve miles. The county, thus far, is sufficiently fertile in its appearance, and is high; but, as I descended to the village of the latter name, a broad expanse of salt-marshes discovered itself, walled in, however, from the ocean, for the most part, by a border of sand-hills. On the level, were innumerable hayricks, of a small size, and appearing, at the distance from which I saw them, like haycocks.
Barnstable has two societies; in each of which there is a village and church. The sea is on the north and on the south. The marshes are on the north, forming the west margin of the harbour, which is about one mile in width, and four in length, and is accounted the second-best on the peninsula, commonly called the cape; but a bar prevents the entrance of large vessels. Its superior
is that of Provincetown. On the south, Barnstable has the harbours of Lewis's Bay, Hyanis Road or Harbour, and Oyster Bay. The vessels belonging to the town are coasters and fishing vessels. Maize, wheat, flax and onions, are sown here, and of the last many thousand bushels are exported; and, besides the superintendance of some large salt-works, the other occupations of the inhabitants arc fishing and navigation: the same individuals are often both farmers and fishermen. Barnstable is a port of entry. The town is about nine miles long, and five broad ; and the village is distant about sixty-five miles from Boston. The Indian name is Mattacheese or Mattacheeset.
I breakfasted at a public house near the court-house, which is small, but surrounded by several lawyers' offices. Only the female part of the family were in the house, the men of all the neighbourhood being at work in the marshes, making salt hay. The former told me that they were at a second breakfast, having taken a first at three o'clock in the morning, when they made tea for the men, before their going to work.
From the court-house in Barnstable, to the church in Yarmouth, the road is lined with houses on both sides; but, at this latter spot, commences the peculiar scenery of Cape Cod, a soil of white
sand, generally covered with sward and with forest, while in a state of nature, but naked and drifting before every wind, when once laid bare to the elements: for, if a small opening allow the winds to enter, they speedily tear up whole acres. The plain, around the church, in this part of Yarmouth, exhibits the effects of this violence; for, with exception of some portions, hourly diminishing in extent, it is one sea of sand.
But the houses between Barnstable and Yarmouth, constitute the largest collection on the peninsula, and they are no sooner past, than the road enters a wood, and the sand disappears, except for the exact width of the road. The trees are small; and in most places of so young a growth as to afford no shade; but the traveller is at least relieved from the drifting sand, and from the general glare. One phenomenon presented itself, produced chiefly by the particular quality of the road. It was the crowds of caterpillars, vainly toiling, in the ruts of the last wheels, to ascend their sides, and pursue their journey through the opposite woods. As they toiled, however, every grain of sand, upon which they successively placed a foot, gave way, and thus they were left always in the hollow. Though the dryness of the sand may in part account for their numbers, yet it was certainly the nature of the road, that arresting their journey, made
them thus conspicuous. Hosts of caterpillars march in all directions in New England; but, on ordinary surfaces, they proceed with ease, celerity and comparative secrecy. In some parts, there is water, loam, and woods of a respectable magnitude. In one, with trees of this description in the front ground, I had an extensive prospect of grass-land, terminated by a line of houses in North Yarmouth, and a church.
At noon, I came to Brewster, a new town, formed out of Harwich, in order to advance, (according to some) the antifederal interest at the elections. Parties run high here, and I heard of griefs on both sides: what appears to be certain is this, that here, as in every other part of the United States, there are persons always able to govern the votes of the poor. Political animosities reach, too, as usual, to the church ; and not only to the church, but to the graves of the dead: the antifederalists want to enclose the burying ground; but the federalists are for continuing a free access to the hogs. The merits of the question do not admit of being stated with the brevity in this place required.
On the fifth of September, I reached the easternmost extremity of the peninsula, and the point whence it turns to the north and north-west. This is the seat of the town of Chatham, from a principal inhabitant of which, Mr. Richard Sears,
and from his lady and family, I received particular civilities.
Mr. Sears is the owner of extensive salt-works, a species of manufactory to be met with in all the towns on the peninsula, and in which they are encouraged, chiefly by their connection with the fisheries, but in part by what shall be explained below—the favourableness of the soil.
The manufacture, of the process of which the following is the outline, is sea-salt, obtained from sea-water, by evaporation, artificially forwarded. The water, being raised by a pump that is placed a little below high-water mark, is led by troughs into a range of vats or rooms, distinguished by the name of water-rooms. In these, it remains for a longer or shorter period, accordingly as the atmosphere happens to be more or less favourable to evaporation, till at length it arrives at the state that satisfies the judgment of the manufacturer: under the best circumstances, the usual period is three days; but, under others, it is six. From the water-rooms, it is drawn into a second range of vats or rooms, called pickle-rooms, the strength of the water being now such as to constitute it a brine or pickle. Here, it deposits a large proportion of lime and other earthy matter; and here small cubical crystals of salt, resembling fine grains of sand, begin to form upon the surface. This appearance is the
signal for a third remove ; and the water is now drawn into the last range of vats or rooms, called salt-rooms. Here the crystals, conglomerating, continue to form, and compose large and heavy cubes, which sink to the bottom or floor of the vat.
The salt, which is now complete, having accumulated on the floors, it is raked together, taken out of the vats, and deposited in a dry warehouse. The entire period of the process is usually about three weeks. In the spring, the same water, or, as, after leaving the pickle-rooms, it is called, the bittern, will yield two or three rakings. The bittern, after the sea-salt or muriate of soda is withdrawn, is still impregnate with Glauber's salt, and the manufacture of this latter article which is effected in the winter, by boiling, is therefore a concomitant of the former. The bittern is of so penetrating a quality that no cask will hold it. The sea-salt thus obtained, is of a good colour, and said to be superior in strength, by one-fifth, to the best imported salt. The weight of a bushel is eighty pounds.
The vats are oblong vessels, with upright sides, nine inches deep, and eighteen feet in breadth, by thirty-six feet in length, and stand from two to six feet from the ground, on piles or tumbles. Soft white-pine plank is used for-
the floors, the harder woods injuriously increasing the weight of the vat, and being at the same time apt to warp. The height at which the vat is placed from the ground is regulated, in great part, if not entirely, by the quality of the soil beneath; and it is in this article, as above intimated, that the shores of the peninsula are favourable. If the soil is loamy and wet, the vats are placed on lofty piles, to allow of a free circulation of the air between the inner floors and the surface ; for the dampness not only retards the process, but injures the wood-work of the vats: but if, on the contrary, it is a deep sieve-like sand, from which no moisture rises, it assists, rather than retards the evaporation, and the vats are consequently but little raised above it.
In this manufacture, the capital invested on the peninsula is said to amount to four hundred thousand dollars; and the annual return is a hundred thousand bushels of salt, sold at four shillings currency or two-thirds of a dollar, per bushel.
The relative magnitude of the salt-works, at present established in the several towns of the county of Barnstable, are given as follows; those, however, of Falmouth and Sandwich not being included in the return. The extent of a salt-work is determined by the superficial
feet contained in its vats; but by a superficial foot is understood a space of a foot wide by ten feet in length:
* The following is a list of the several salt-works in Chatham, reckoned by their superficial feet:
Reuben Ryder, 69,000 Ezra Crowell, 50,000 Stephen Smith, 19,000
Salathiel Nickerson, 15,000 Zenus Ryder & Co. 25,000
Joseph Young, 10,000 Edward Kemp, 10,000
Jonathan Crowell, 18,000 David Crowell, 13,000
Ensign Nickerson, 20,000 Jonathan Eldridge, 6,000
Leonard Nickerson, 9,350 Simeon Nickerson, 18,000
Timothy Loveland, 10,000 Joseph Doane, 19,000
Caleb Nickerson, 18,000 Benjamin E. Dunbar, 6,000
Zenus Taylor, 12,000 Richard Sears & Son, 48,000
Richard Nickerson, 10,000 John Ryder, 10,000
Three hundred superficial feet of works are adequate to the production of a hundred bushels of salt per annum. The expense of erecting them is estimated at from a dollar to a dollar and a quarter per superficial foot; in which the labour makes one-third, and the plank two-thirds of the whole. The price of labour for attendance is from a dollar and four cents to a dollar and a quarter per day, provisions and lodging found; and this article, which is equal to about a fourth of the salt produced, is usually paid for in salt.
Exclusively of one hundred thousand bushels, said to be made annually in the county of Barnstable, fifty thousand are made in its vicinity, including the works near Boston. In Kingston, there are about five thousand feet; and New Bedford has a large proportion.
This extensive manufacture is of much importance to the United States, particularly in its relation to the export of fish and other provisions. Before the peace of 1783, salt had
risen, in these countries, to the price of eight dollars per bushel, and it has reached seven, during the present interdiction of commerce, notwithstanding a large supply, obtained by those who went for it into Canada. It might be supposed, that in these circumstances, every encouragement would be given by congress, to the domestic production of an article of so much necessity; but this is so far from being the case, that the salt, manufactured as here described, is subject to duties, amounting together to twenty cents, or the fifth part of a dollar, per bushel. The regular profits of the manufacturer are variously stated at from fifteen to thirty-three per centum; but, under the operation of the acts of congress levying the duties, they are presented, as very small indeed: Salt-works, of the value of 1,000 dollars, will produce yearly 250 bushels of salt, value, at the usual price of sale, four shillings currency, or sixty-six cents and two-thirds, per bushel,
$ 166 67
Deduct duty on 250 bushels, at
8 cents per bushel,
Deduct additional duty, at
twelve cents per bushel,
Total net profit, on a capital
of 1,000 dollars,
Beside the attendance implied by the foregoing account of this manufacture, it is also requisite that the covers or roofs of the rooms and vats should be removed and replaced with a judicious regard to the evaporation. When rain is threatened, the roofs are put on ; but, when this is not the case, the vats, to advance the process, are left open at night: if a sudden and heavy rain happens at that season, the attendants must hasten to the works, and put on the roofs. There are various modes of constructing the roofs, and the apparatus for moving them, none of which I believe, are allowed to have the perfection desired.
In regard to the evaporation of the aqueous parts of the sea-water, and to promote which evaporation, is the main concern of the manu-
facturer, several contrivances have been brought into practice, and, among others, that which I have described as existing at the salt-works in the neighbourhood of New London. The first cause of evaporation is heat, and the second is extension of surface. But the sun's heat is in this case the maximum; and the only problem that remains is how to extend the surface. The ordinary resource is that of spreading the water in broad shallow vats; and, except the moving cylinders, of hempen twine, above referred to, I have been informed of no other variation than one that was once tried in Dorchester, the town adjoining Boston. This consisted in the use of an engine, by which the water was repeatedly thrown upon an inclined plane of wood, whence it returned into the pump-well. An increased exposure to the atmosphere necessarily attended this process; but, neither this, nor any other improvement upon the ordinary saltworks, has been found to remunerate, by increased profits, an increased expense.
From the eastern extremity of the town of Chatham, a narrow tongue of sand projects to the southward, in length about eight or ten miles, and terminating in a point, called Sandy Point and Cape Malebarre. The latter is the name understood to have been given to it by M. de Champlain, in the year 1605; a name having allusion to a
bar, on which he narrowly escaped losing his vessel. On this point is a house and other accommodations, provided in case of shipwreck, by the Humane Society of Massachusetts.
That Sandy Point is the Cape Malebarre, (erroneously spelt Malabar,) of the French, is a settled truth, with the geographers of New England,* except that I find one or two who make it synonymous with Cape Cod.+ But, if the French historian, Charlevoix, has not misapprehended M. de Champlain's narrative, Cape Malebarre can be neither the Sandy Point nor the Cape Cod of the English, but their Cape Ann, which is to the north of Cape Cod, called, by M. de Champlain, from its white sands, Cape Blanc; a position to be denied, only after disproving the facts stated.
In the year 1604, the French, under M. de Monts, established themselves, as it is said, on a small island, twenty leagues to the southward of the river De Saint-Jean or St. John's, and gave to the island the name of Ile de Sainte Croix. The situation, however, was found to be unfit for the establishment of a colony; and, early in the spring, M. de Monts re-embarked, in
* American Universal Geography,
+ American Gazetteer, article Cape Cod; and the American Annals, 2d edit. vol. ii. p. 124. note.
search of one that might be better. He ran southerly along the coast, which he found lying east and west for eighty leagues, or from the river De Saint-Jean to the river Kinibequi or Kennebec. Beyond, or to the southward of the Kennebec, he followed the coast, which here lay north and south, as far as a point of land which M. de Champlain, who, during the winter, had employed himself in exploring the country, had named Male-barre, because his vessel was nearly lost at the place.— He had even taken possession of it, continues the historian, as well as of Cape Blanc or Cape Cod, which is beyond it, though the English did not suffer themselves to be restrained by this circumstance from settling upon it, shortly after.* Cape Malebarre is therefore to the northward of Cape Cod or Cape Blanc, and is no other than Cape Ann. Cape Ann and Cape Cod are respectively the north and south points of Massachusetts Bay.
* "Il prit sa route au sud, rangea la cote, qui court est et ouest le'space de quatre-vingt licues, depuis la riviere de Saint-Jean, jusqu'a Kinibequi ; puis nord et sud, jusqu'aune pointe, que Champlain, qui pendant l'hyver s'etait occupe a visiter le pays, aruait nomme Male-barre, parceque sa barque y avail couru risque d'echouer. Il en avait meme pris possession au nom du roi, aussi bien que du Cap Blanc ou Cap Codd, qui est au dela; ce qui n'a point empeche les Anglais de s'y etablir, peu de " terns apres.
Charlevoix, Hist Gen. de la Nouv. France, liv. iii.
THE lands in Chatham are in part of moderate elevation, but in part also both low and sandy. In some of the open spaces, where the wind has swept away the turf, it has also carried with it the soil, to the depth of three feet or more, leaving only here and there some diminutive banks, of the height of the original surface. The sub-soil, thus discovered, exhibits a thick stratum of shells, lying at about two feet below the turf.
A sandy road carried me into the town of Orleans, through which I was to pass, in my way to Provincetown, at the end of the peninsula. The landscape is far from unpleasing, being diversified with hills and woods, and small bodies of water, and (though Orleans has no good harbour,) with frequent inlets of the sea. Many of the houses are well built; and at one of this description, in the town of Eastham, I breakfast-
ed, on Sunday morning, the sixth of September. Behind it was an inlet, on the shore of which were mounted two or three pieces of cannon.— These were part of the guns of a merchant vessel, stranded, not many years since, upon the coast; and in my further progress toward the cape, I had occasion to see additional monuments of the same kind, of the shipwrecks frequent on this dangerous coast. A little further on the road, a group of girls and children, washing clothes in the water, ornamented for a short space the region of deep sands that surrounded them. Further on, I found extensive plains, in part covered with wood, and in part employed as pastures. Both woods and pastures are here of a very humble quality, except where there is an immediate proximity of water. The timber consists almost exclusively in black pine and oak, generally intermixed, but sometimes, for large tracts, in separate woods. Where the oak is alone, and where it predominates, there is much underwood; but where the pine only is found, the ground beneath is nearly bare, sustaining but dwarfish plants, such as the partridge-berry, sometimes called the tea plant and Indian tea, and some other diminutive creepers. It is a fact commonly asserted, in this part of the country, that if a natural growth of pine be removed, a natural growth, not of pine, but of oak, will invariably
follow; and the same of oak, the second growth being always different from the preceding one* The actual condition of the woods appeared to bear testimony to the fact; and other facts, of a like nature, are elsewhere stated. Some, however, go so far as to say, that the growths will continue to come in alternate order; that the oak which has succeeded pine, will itself be succeeded by pine again; but, upon this point, fewer speak with confidence than upon the other.—Eastham has been able to export fifteen hundred bushels of maize in a season.
Below Eastham is Wellfleet, rich in salt marshes, which feed large numbers of black-cattle and horses; and rich, too, like all the other towns in the neighbourhood, in fish and in sand-clams, (sabella granulata.) In Wellfleet, after ascending and descending many sandy excavations, such as form the roads on the sides of the hills, and after leaving behind me many green shady dells, I reached a vast region of sand, in the midst of which is its church or meeting-house.
At a mile or two before I reached it, I had been joined company by one of the inhabitants, who, with a civility always promptly offered in New England, accommodated me with a seat in his pew. None of the churches below Brewster have spires; a circumstance that gener-
ally bespeaks poverty, in this and all the country that I have passed through; but spires can be but of new introduction, and the fashion may not yet have reached these districts. Opposite the church is a range of covered stalls, for horses ; a common appendage to the churches in all the towns, and particularly needful here, and in this season, where and when the animals are obliged to stand in a deep sand, exposed, but for this shelter, to a burning sun.
In the church, which is of modern carpentry, two particulars most attracted my notice; one, a violent and thundering noise, such as threatened the fall of the roof, and of which I did not discover, but on a repetition, the cause. This took place, whenever the congregation, after standing up, sat down; and resulted from a contrivance in the seats, of abundant ingenuity. As, in standing against the side of a pew, the knees may be vexed by the edge of a projecting seat, the seats are all composed of two parts, joined together by hinges. Now, when the congregation rises, every member lifts his seat; and when it prepares to sit down, he puts, or rather throws down the seat; and this throwing down not being performed with all the gentleness possible, the effect produced was such as I have described.
The other particular consisted in the appearance of the leader of the choir, who sat in a large gallery, together with some twenty singers; and who, arrayed in a printed cotton morning-gown, had placed himself on the top of the partition of the pew, one leg being supported by the front of the gallery, and the other lying along the top of the partition.—In all this, there is no mention of the rural beauties, nor of the bonnets; and yet it is highly proper that the reader should be enabled to figure to himself both beauties and bonnets worthy of praise, even amid the sands of Wellfleet.—But, the service came to an end; the beauties ascended their pillions; their horses waded through the sand; and I went to a short distance to dinner,—There is a harbour adjacent, for fishing vessels.
As, on this road, which is no thoroughfare, the appearance of a stranger is a little remarkable, my travelling acquaintance had abundant employment, both before and after divine service, in relating, to successive knots of auditors, the most prominent particulars concerning me, either that he had received from myself, or that he had been able to conjecture; and as these auditors then retired to their respective homes, I soon found myself known, even in the remoter parts of the town. In one instance, a man took the trouble to halloo to me, informing me
that I was an Englishman, with the addition of some small opprobrious language that has escaped my memory. The comment of a native of New England would probably be, that there must be a deficiency of schools in the place; but I mention the circumstance chiefly for its singularity. With scarcely another exception, I have found every individual, of whatever domestic party, more forward, in all personal addresses, to flatter, than to insult the English name;
The country, in Truro, is great part hilly, with a soil of gravelly loam, supporting lofty woods, and hollowed into verdant and well watered vales; but with tracts of sand, near the inlets of the sea, either drifting in the wind, or supporting a thin coat of beach-grass. Several rivulets and pools present themselves, and the whole landscape has much in it that is romantic. Night approached, and I passed some houses of respectable appearance; but I had no introduction to any person in Truro, and was therefore to seek a lodging at hazard. As is usual, not only in this but other little-frequented parts, there are no regular inns or public houses, but a large proportion of the inhabitants lay themselves out to give entertainment. Among those who do not, some few are prevented by their wealth; but the greater number by their poverty. It is requisite therefore, to be directed to a householder of some
substance. In paying for the accommodation received, your host or hostess commonly declines to name any sum, telling you, that though they entertain people they do not keep tavern; but that you know what you pay elsewhere.
It was my fortune to be directed this evening to the house of Captain Obadiah Rich, an obliging, industrious, and apparently a thriving mariner, with a young family, a house, of which the dimensions were increasing, and a good tract of land. In the morning I went from Truro to Provincetown.
For a short space, the road lay over hills, on which were crops of maize, now nearly ready for harvest. The favourite manure is the king or horseshoe-crab, of which there are great numbers on the coast; and to each hill, that is to each three plants, there is allotted one crab, devested of its shell. The sand, thus nourished, yields an adequate return for the labours of the husbandman ; the grain filling well, though the plant is of very low stature, and in a great degree without its broad and ornamental flag-like leaves.
At the foot of these hills, I entered a tract of salt-marsh, inclosed at its head by a fence, and open, at the opposite extremity, to Provincetown harbour. In all the lower part, the road lies along its edge, and is more or less commo-
dious as the tide is higher or lower ; the flood tide driving the traveller into the loose sand, and upon the sand-hills; while the ebb gives him the use of the lower part of the beach, itself but soft, and thrown into transverse ridges of sand, and interrupted by rills of fresh water, flowing from the springs in the hills. The length of this salt-meadow is about nine miles.
I had the company of an inhabitant of Provincetown. As we approached the mouth of the inlet, the vertebres of a small species of whale, here called black-fish, became frequent on the beach, together with other signs of fisheries, the sole objects of pursuit at Provincetown. Soon after, at the distance of half a mile, on the sandy flat from which the sea was now fast retiring, we discovered a boy, and, near him, what appeared to be a great fish. The solitary condition of the boy, and the smailness of his size, compared with that of the fish, formed a combination sufficiently remarkable to draw us to the spot, and, on our arrival, we found our fisherman, of about the age of ten years, astride a porpoise of about ten feet long, in the middle of a sea of blood, collected in the hollow of the sand. Alone, and with a table-knife for his instrument, he was cutting the blubber from the ribs of the monster, a task which he performed in a very workman-like manner.
Upon our inquiring of him who had killed the porpoise, he replied, that he had killed it himself; and gave us the following account of his adventure. His employment, in the morning, had been that of attending his mother's cows; and from the hills on which he was, he had seen a shoal of porpoises enter the inlet. As the tide was ebbing, and the shore flat, many of them were soon embarrassed by the want of sufficient water to move in; and he flattered himself, that by leaving his cows, and coming down to the beach, he should be able to make a prize. Arrived at the water's edge, or rather going into it as far as he dared, he selected a porpoise, already embarassed by the sand, and struggling to gain deep water. Him he boldly caught, from time to time, by the tail, thereby increasing his difficulties, till, in the end, the water, running fast away, left him upon the sand. The conquest so far effected, the boy had staid by his fish, to frustrate his efforts to escape, till escape had become quite impossible; and he had then gone home (a distance of a mile) to fetch a knife. Armed with the knife, he had proceeded to wound and kill the porpoise, a task of some labour and danger; and, according to the description, he had accomplished it only by watching for opportunities, and by alternately striking and retreating. The fish was now dead ; and my companion suppo-
sed that it would yield ten gallons of oil, giving the little cowherd, at one dollar per gallon, ten dollars for his exploit.
Provincetown possesses an excellent harbour, land-locked on the east, west and north; for the peninsula terminates in a sort of hook, the pointof which, called Race Point, looks to the southward. It was a station for the British navy in the rebellion, greatly to the profit of the few inhabitants then in the harbour; and a similar benefit is expected in the town, should the course of events unfortunately lead at any future period, to hostilities. The harbour is spacious and deep; but the town can supply nothing but fish, its own consumption in vegetables, and all the produce of the earth, being supplied by Barnstable and Boston.
The name of the town appears to have been given it by the ancient government of Massachusetts, which, while yet provincial, was desirous of establishing a few inhabitants on and about Race Point, for the succour of the shipping, and particularly of vessels and their crews when in distress. Fifteen years ago, that is, at the beginning of the French revolution, there were not more than three houses in the harbour; but there are now a hundred and eighty, with a small church, and a building containing both a town school and a freemason's hall. Forty-four sail of fishing vessels, belonging to Province-
town, were said to be now at sea, fishing in the Straits of Belleisle; and, about a month after I left the place, the whole number was reported to be safely arrived, with cargoes, amounting, in the aggregate, to fifty thousand quintals. The houses are built on the water's edge; that is, on the outside of the ridge of sand-hills that every where border the inner side of the peninsula. Here, therefore, there is nothing under the foot but a deep white sand, which is driven by the wind into banks, like snow. Heaps are sometimes driven against the houses; and it appears that they would be buried under them, but for the contrivance of raising them on piles, and thus allowing a passage for the drift, beneath their floors. Two or three willows are planted; and it is probable that much benefit might be derived from increasing the number of these trees. Their roots strike deep, attracted by the water below; and springs are very numerous beneath the sand; for all that is received from rains or dews, upon the hills, filters immediately to their base. The roots of the willows would give stability to the sand, and their shade and humidity would encourage the growth of the herbage; and if they should injure the taste of the water, this element might be derived from wells at a small distance from the houses.
Behind the border of sand-hills is a continuation of the main land of the peninsula, here about a mile and a half in breadth. This is composed of small hills, covered with scrubby woods and shrubs, among which latter is the whortleberry. In the hollows are pools and morasses; but some houses are scattered round them, whose situation is thought to be at least as healthy as that of the houses on the beach, of which the atmosphere, in summer, is extremely heated by the reflection of the sand, and on which there is no vegetable corrective. From the hills, the eye has a near prospect of the ocean, on the opposite side of the peninsula ; but, between this and the wood-land, is a broad white margin of sand. On one of the shrubby hills, we found a woman, with her son, employed in looking through a telescope for the fishing vessel of her husband. No vessel had yet arrived, and the whole town was filled with expectation.
Formerly, the cod-fishery was pursued on the Banks of Newfoundland, as, at a still earlier period, it was pursued immediately about this cape, for which the abundance of the fish procured its name; but at present all the vessels go to the Straits of Belleisle, which seem to be here called Straits of Labrador. When they went to the Banks of Newfoundland, they were accustomed to make three voyages, returning from each respectively
in the months of May, July and October. It is remarkable, that among the grounds of preference mentioned for the fishery of the Straits, above the fishery of the Banks, the fish of the latter are said to smell ill, and the former otherwise. If this be so, the curing, or as it is called, the making of the fish, must be less offensive in this town than in some others engaged in the fisheries. The flakes or frames on which the fish are dried are here intermixed with the houses, as indeed they are elsewhere; and the effluvia that escapes during the process is generally of the most unpleasant description.
The making of the fish is the employment of the women. The fishermen throw out their cargoes upon the beach, and the women spread and turn the fish upon the flakes. The flakes are stands of ten or twelve yards in length, three or four in width, and about two feet high. Branches of trees are spread on them; and the fish, being previously opened, is laid on the branches to lose their moisture. As the phrase of making appears to be borrowed, though with obvious impropriety, from the art of hay-making, so the fish, when made, is stacked in the same manner as hay; each side of fish being laid horizontally and neatly, with the tail inward, in a circular pile.
The little porpoise-killer is a fair specimen of the children of Provincetown. The boys are commonly taken to sea at the age even of six or seven years ; and at ten they are expert fishermen. At sea, the fishermen live in some measure in a manner peculiar to themselves; and it is supposed that the hardness of their lives almost precludes competition in their trade : they take on board but a small quantity of pork, and for the rest depend upon fish. Other fishing voyages are said to be more expensively found; and so far the Cape-Cod men may have advantages ; but, in the privations they endure, there are pursuits in which they are equalled.
The salt meadow, by which I arrived at the village, is of great importance to the inhabitants, as affording pasturage and fodder for their cattle. Horses and cows, that are not accustomed to the taste of salt hay, refuse it; but such as have been for a short time reduced to eat it, eat it readily, and thrive upon it; and it releases the farmer from the necessity of providing his stock with salt in any other form. As the meadow is scarcely susceptible of division into portions by fences, it is held as common property; each inhabitant being entitled to pasture a certain number of animals, and take away a certain quantity of hay. According to law, there can be but a certain number of animals permitted to graze within the
town; but the law is disregarded: the object of the restriction is that of preventing the destruction of the turf; from which, as I have before described, very serious injury follows, in these sandy and exposed situations. Plants of beach-grass are sometimes set in rows, in the sand, to stop the progress of the ravage, and even reclaim the naked sands; and, where they flourish, their spreading and matted roots effect the purpose.
MY journey to Provincetown occasioned some speculation, not only in Wellfleet, but in the towns below; and I afterward learned, both in Provincetown, and on the road by which I returned, that its object had been positively ascertained.
There lay, at this time, in the harbour of Provincetown, a vessel, that for six weeks had filled the country with surmises, and even apprehensions. She had come to an anchorage in the harbour, and there remained, without discovering the smallest disposition to depart. Her captain
had taken lodgings on shore; but it was reported that there were passengers on board, who never disembarked, but for whom provisions were daily sent on board. She was said to have no freight, and the passengers were a gentleman and his wife and family.
These particulars, came at length, however, to be doubted. No very particular account could be obtained, concerning the gentleman and his wife ; where they were born, or how long they had been married ; and no reason whatever was assigned for their choice of this floating castle, the ship, for their country-house. Then, as to the nullity of freight, contrary rumours had gained ground, and it was said that the hold was filled with great guns and stands of arms; that, in short, she was a British vessel, manned by British seamen, and commanded by a British officer; that she had been sent in anticipation of the war that was expected to follow the seizure of the deserters on board the United States' frigate Chesapeake; and that her object was to seize upon Provincetown and all its flakes of fish, when the fish should arrive. In the interim, the state of defence of the place was considered with a gloomy eye; almost every male was absent; and the hills were strengthened but with two swivels, resting their trunnions only on heaps of sand.
The alarm increasing, despatches had been sent to the collector at Barnstable, and to Boston. The collector had long delayed his visit; and it was confidently whispered, that it had been said in the ship, that the collector would not be allowed to come on board, and that his boat would be received with a broadside. Under these circumstances, the captain's accommodation on shore had become a source of complaint; but the family in which he lodged had resisted the popular discontent; and, declaring that he behaved very well, and that they had no doubt all was right, had permitted him to remain : in consequence, there was another rumour, that a quantity of arms had been secretly carried into the house ; that the doors and windows were barricadoed every night; and that the collector, and every other officer of government, would be opposed by small arms on shore, not less than by heavy metal in the harbour.
It was to this dangerous service that I had had the honour of being appointed by the public voice; for though a circuitous route by land was the least obvious method of arriving at Provincetown, yet neither this nor any other circumstance, (not even the story, at Wellfleet, that I was an Englishman,) had robbed the people of the hope, that I should bring the British plot to light, or at least perish in the attempt. Happily, there was so
much apparent union in the operations devised against the ship, that I arrived on the beach at the very instant when the collector, at length arrived from Barnstable, put off from the shore, to attempt his visit; and, whether from this coincidence or not, he met with no opposition, and was induced to come away in the firm belief that the vessel was an American bottom, and had nothing but what was American on board.
I had the pleasure of drinking a glass of wine with the captain, a native of New England, who told me that his vessel had been chartered at the southward, by the gentleman on board; that he had lain at anchor for some time in a cove on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and that he had come into Provincetown Harbour for better security from the winds. The gentleman, by whom he was chartered, was a merchant from the southward; and his motive, for living thus, might be that of temporarily avoiding his creditors.
In returning up the peninsula, I crossed the salt-meadow lower down than where I first entered it; and gained the main road at a spot near the light-house, in Truro. The intervening country was in part a light loam; and, as to its surface, consisted in open downs.
A heavy rain commencing early in the after noon, I took shelter in the house of a farmer, who is also a miller, and the keeper of the light-
house; and did not leave it till the following morning. The light-house is built at a small distance from the edge of an eminence, on the lofty table-land that runs along the peninsula. This eminence is part of a remarkable vein of blue clay or marl, not more than two hundred yards broad, where it terminates abruptly on the beach, and growing narrower as it recedes inland, where, at the distance of half a mile, it contracts itself to a point: on each side, all the country is a sand. This vein of clay or marl was long regarded as the proper place for a lighthouse on the coast; and its solidity, not less than the high level of its surface, recommend it for this purpose : it is not, however, without a serious inconvenience. The impenetrable nature of the soil occasions the vapours that strike against it to remain on its surface; and the springs, on each side, arrested in their course, issue at its feet: hence a thick bank of fog frequently rests on it; and though this bank is not so lofty as the lanthorn of the light-house, yet, according to the laws of optics, it becomes an intervening object at a short distance (perhaps only twelve miles) from the shore. This light-house is also injured by an ingenious contrivance, introduced into its lanthorn. It is of importance to the mariner, that one light should be distinguishable from another light; so as that,
in the manner of a telegraph, the light may acquaint him, not only with the existence of the coast, but with the particular part of the coast. For this purpose, several modes of varying the appearance of lights have been contrived; and, among others that adopted at the light-house of Truro. This consists in a semi-circular skreen, placed on a circular frame, which being moved by clock-work, performs continual evolutions about the lanthorn, each evolution occupying a certain number of minutes—I believe eight. By this machinery, the light is made alternately visible and invisible, and presents various phases, like the moon; and this is the distinctive mark : but the practical result is not so favourable as must have been contemplated, before the plan was admitted into use. We see, that as the skreen is continually turning, the light is full only for a single moment in the course of each evolution; it is also totally eclipsed but for a single moment; but, during all the time between, it is no more than an obscure and imperfect light, with greater or less difficulty distinguished : the cotton and oil in the lanthorn are employed to give the greatest possible light; and the skreen is at the same time employed to hide it ; and this, while there are circumstances enough, at sea, to obscure the best
lights, without any contrivances on shore, to assist this misfortune ! A light that should appear, not steadily, but by incessant flashes, would be useful; but this cannot be the case with one, the fullness of which returns so slowly,
Truro is said to lie between 41° 57' and 42° 4' north latitude, and between 70° 13' west longitude.* Its only harbour is a tide-harbour, at the mouth of a valley, called the Great Hollow, which declines toward the sea, and has the Indian name of Pamet. From the harbour, the adjacent county was by the colonists called Pamet, till, in the year 1700, it was settled, and called Dangerfield. In 1709, it was made a town, and named as now. In the year 1790, it contained one thousand one hundred and ninety-three souls, supported chiefly by the great fisheries, and by the fish of the coast. The men and boys are employed, not merely like those of Provincetown, in the cod-fishery, but in the more arduous pursuit of the whale,—In every account of the fisheries, great profits are represented as accruing; but, if the happiness of the bulk of the people, in all this country, depends upon the profits of their toil, it is, like their profits, both precarious and little.
* American Gazetteer.
One of those visionary writers, of whom we are acquainted with so many, might easily give to Truro and its vicinity the most inviting description. He might say, that the youth and strength of the country are employed, for two-thirds of the year, in obtaining, by hardy and audacious toil, the wealth of seas beyond the line, and even on the further side of Cape Horn; and while these (in the phrase of a New England writer) are thus cultivating the ocean, their blooming wives and daughters might be exhibited as deriving an easy subsistence from the bounteous hand of nature, that fills every bay and creek with fish : nay, even the decrepitude of age, and the feebleness of infancy, might be drawn as capable of finding, at the common table, a daily, luscious, and abundant food. The truth is, that early habits of life, and the lure of voyages occasionally prosperous, induce the male population to devote themselves to the fisheries. They begin destitute of every thing, and engage upon shares with the shipowner and merchant. Before they embark, they must have an outfit of clothes and necessaries, all which the merchant retails at a profit; and next their wives must have credit given them at a store, on the credit of the merchant or holder of a share in the ship, unless such holder be in her neighbourhood, and be himself the keeper of
this store, or country-shop. Here, they obtain rum, molosses, wares and clothing, all at a high price. Meanwhile, their daily subsistence, and the subsistence of all the family, young and old, depends almost exclusively on fish taken with a line, or on shell-fish, raked out of the sand. In such an employ, in angling for hours from a punt, paddled out from shore, or in raking in the sand of the beach, the weakest, the oldest, and the youngest, may indeed employ themselves; and their prey, when they have caught it, they may eat. But, in this pursuit of food passes their hours; except, when by the light of lamps of fish-oil, they sit down to the wheel or loom. Their persons are frequently squalid; their hair hangs often in dirt over their eyes; and their dress is marked by poverty. And how can it be otherwise, among a race that depends for its subsistence upon a search after food, directed almost by the immediate cravings of the stomach; and whom a stormy day may deprive of a dinner, or send shivering, when the tide is out, to prowl upon the beach for food? The land that they possess, and which might be manured both with sea-weed and with fish, is but negligently cultivated; and indeed nothing, the fish for food excepted, is seriously their care. It is certainly in their power to do better; but, for the poor and destitute, the temptation is strong
to seek food at free cost to-day, and, having found it, to seek it so again to-morrow. The facility encourages the practice, and encourages indolence ; and, indolence once become habitual, it is easier to suffer than to labour. Life is protracted and spent amid small expectations, and expectations that are often not smaller than they are vain.
The whaling-voyage is terminated, and the men and boys return to their cottages. Do they come laden with the profits of the voyage ? Do they come to close a period of privation, and to open one of plenty ? Do they come—to speak of plain life, and of plain facts—do they come to wipe off the debt at the store, and at least to begin a new account upon even terms ? Far from it! I was assured by practical men, by dealers or merchants, and by farmers who have spent many years of their lives in these voyages, that it does not happen, oftener than once in ten years, that the shares amount to enough to relieve a whaler from his debts. In all the intermediate period, the close of every voyage leaves him on the books of the ship-owner, whose summons for the next voyage he must obey, or answer for the debt in gaol. While at home, he digs for sand-clams, and warms himself in the smoke of his hovel. For a new voyage, he must have a new outfit, and his wife new credit; and the result of eve-
ry voyage is almost certainly an addition to his debts :—he lives, however, and his wife and children live; and this is all. Nay, we have thrown out of the account all the subtractions from human welfare, incident to misfortune and to folly. No allowance is here made for hurts, for sickness, for thoughtless extravagance, nor for intemperance ; but each of these occasionally adds shade to the picture, and, in its effects on the resources of the fisherman, commonly counterbalances the luck that may reward his perseverance, one year in ten.
As I travelled the road through Eastham, on my journey downward, I left on my right a glittering mansion, white and black, that rose conspicuous over the level champaign by which it was surrounded, and appeared to be the chateau of the domain. On making inquiries concerning it, I learned that it belonged to Captain ——- Collings, and that I might be well entertained in it on my return. I found, too, that the road, leading from the light-house, passed its door.
I stopped, therefore, at Captain Collings's, to dine. The house stood by itself, except that a barn, and a small building, the captain's store. were on the opposite side of the road. The hour was early ; and, as the family was about to dine, I was to dine with it, a practice, in
the less populous parts, most congenial with the manners of the country at large, though into which it has seldom happened to me to fall. I found the table very respectably set, and (though not before I had discovered my host to be a little talkative) sat down to dinner.
At table, Captain Collings placed himself by my side, having many questions to ask:—" Did I think that that bl—dy Admiral Berkeley would be hanged ? What! not hanged ?" then he knew the consequence—" the United States would have Halifax and Canada and the West Indies, and show the Yankee spirit to —— George!"
As I am never alarmed by the threats, so I am never disturbed by the invectives of the politicians of the United States; nor do I think it necessary to betray much impatience at any thing that foreign demagogues or partizans may utter, concerning England's policy or England's prince:
The blood of Douglas will protect itself.*—
By way, however, of experiment, upon my host's power of checking his volubility, and in the weak hope of obtaining some respite from
* Home's Douglas.
his interrogatories, I stopped him, at the end of a few words of this kind, observing, that I was an English subject, and that if he intended I should eat my dinner, he must not abuse the king. —It was in vain—he did not lose a moment, even in apologizing;—"Oh! God bless me," sir, I did not intend to say a word against the king ! I have the greatest respect in the world for His Majesty! But, you are an Englishman ! Well, when you first came into the house, I took you for an Englishman: you look like an Englishman; but you do not speak like one;—you speak a great deal too well ! You must have been a long time in this country ? You must have come over when you were quite a child ?"
My assurances to the contrary very much perplexed Captain Collings; he had never known an instance of an Englishman that spoke the language as well as a native of the United States. He pressed me hard to confess that I had acquired what I knew of the beautiful in it, at some spot not very distant from Cape Cod. Not succeeding in this, he returned to politics, and renewed his assurances of attachment to the king—only, He was for liberty and equality—Ought the poor to be starved ? Ought the rich to have every thing ? And it was only these and twenty other equally difficult questions that he required to have answered—and
that before dinner, or rather instead of dining. There are various styles of argument; but it happened, unfortunately for me, that the captain's was the Socratic—or art of putting questions. Had it consisted simply in postulates, or even in syllogisms, I could at once have dined and listened; even though, like a philosophical epicure, on an occasion somewhat similar, I had found reason to complain, that I could not taste what I was eating;—but, to have a gentleman at my elbow, resting his knife and fork, and looking me in the face, till I should so far disembarrass myself of the last mouthful as to be able to answer, Whether or not the poor ought to be starved, was a situation that constantly divided me, between my regard for his dinner and for my own.
Dinner over, the captain continued ; I affected to sleep, but he still talked; and good nature required me to wake. The captain's lands afforded the next topics; and I was taken abroad, to admire the improvements already made, and imagine the beauties of those to come; for the captain is an improver, and a lover of good taste. Then, I was led up stairs, to view the apartments of the house, the new painting, and the wainscoats; and lastly we ascended the gallery on the roof, carrying with us a telescope. In our way, the captain called my
particular attention to a small bed-chamber, which he described as an exceedingly desirable lodging-room. On the roof, he made me observe all the flat and naked land adjacent, with its hollows and tracts of marsh; and then the blue ocean, by which, to the southward, the whole is bounded: "Now, sir," said he, "if you know any gentleman of fortune, that has travelled a great deal, and wishes to enjoy retirement, I should be very glad if you would recommend this spot to him; you see what a comfortable bed-chamber there is below; and we have plenty of fishing, and plenty of snipe and plover." —Accordingly, I promised the captain to recommend, to gentlemen of fortune and travel, Cape Cod for the seat of their retirement, and by this present writing I shall keep my word: it is but fair, however, as is usual on such occasions, that I should add something on the salubrity of the place, and this I can do in the impartial words of another native : "The cape is a healthy situation, except for those constitutions which are too delicate for the piercing winds that come from the sea. The inhabitants in general live as long as in the other parts of the northern states."* Moreover, such gentlemen will have the conversation of the captain, who is a very sociable and good-humoured man, and who, if not a traveller,
* Massachusetts' Magazine, 1791.
is at least a voyager himself, has boldly pursued the whale, through the billows of the Pacific Ocean, and is now enjoying the honourable reward of a youth of industry.
Eastham was settled in the year 1644, by some of the more respectable colonists of Plymouth, who were become dissatisfied with the situation of that place. It contains but one parish or society, and has no diversity of religious persuasion; all the inhabitants attending the pulpit of the Reverend Mr. Philander Shaw, the fifth clergyman that has been settled in the place. I had the pleasure of seeing this gentleman, but only for a very few minutes; partly because my stay was short, and partly because, with zealous kindness, he employed himself, almost from the moment of our meeting, in writing letters for me to his friends, a service from which I reaped the most agreeable and valuable benefits.
CAPTAIN Collings is not singular in his opinion, that it belongs to the United States alone, to excel in speaking the English language; and this is only one of the directions in which these too-fortunate republics have already risen above the level of their fountain. They not only speak, but write the English Language, better than England herself; or so at least it has been said in print, by a writer of Pennsylvania;—and I once heard it strenuously asserted, in a large company, by a great law officer of Massachusetts, that "America is five hundred years beforehand with Europe, in arts, sciences and civilization."—The opinion was condemned and ridiculed by the particular company in which it was uttered, composed as that company was, with the exception of myself, of natives of the United States ; but the author was only unlucky in the circle in which
he happened to be, and in very many others would have found friends and plaudits.
"The English Language is undoubtedly written better in America than in England," says the Pennsylvanian critic that I have alluded to; but, lest it should be supposed (as by some readers it might) that I have taken in earnest that which was said only in jest, I find myself under the necessity of extracting the whole context. It fortunately happens that the whole is sprightly; and, that for its illustration, I need only subjoin, that it is part of the postscript of a satirical novel, in which much humour is displayed, though chiefly upon local topics. The author begins, as he ends, by declaring that his book is written with a view to "language only, not in the least regarding the matter of the work."*
"The truth is, as I have said, I value this book for little but the stile. This I have formed on the model of Xenophon, and Swift's Tale of a Tub, and Gulliver's Travels. It is simple, natural, various, and forcible. I hope to see it made a school book; a kind of classic of the English language.
* Modern Chivalry: containing the Adventures of Captain John Farrago and Teague Oregan, his Servant. By H. H. Brackenridge, Philadelphia, 1792.—Mr. Brackenridge is a native of Great Britain.
"In looking over it, I find in the whole work, but one word I would alter; it is near the beginning ; where I say figure on the stage, instead of appear, or make a figure on the stage. I have carefully avoided the word unfounded instead of groundless, a word in vogue, among members of congress especially. The word commit is good, but being lately introduced, and too much hackneyed, I have not used it.
"Language being the vestment of thought, it comes within the rules of other dress; so that as slovenliness on the one hand, or foppery on the other, is to be avoided in our attire ; so also in our speech and writing. Simplicity, in the one and the other, is the greatest beauty.
"We do not know at what time the Greek language began to be written as it was by Hesiod or Homer. But we find it to have continued with little or no change from that time to the latest writers among the Byzantine historians, a period of more than 3,000 years. The Roman language is considered as improving from the time of Ennius to the Augustine age. The language of the orators, poets and historians of that time is the standard. It was not so much in the use of particular words, as an affectation in thfe thought, that Seneca is censured as corrupting the language of the Ro-
"mans. But Tacitus, after him, writes in a pure stile; and I have found but one conceit in expression, in his whole history: meaning to give the geography of a country of a certain tribe of the Germans; they are, says he, separated from the Sequani by Mount Jura, from the ——by the lake ——, from the —— by the river —, and from the Atabani by mutual fear. I do not find so much fault with the stile of Pliny, as the heaviness of his thoughts and expressions. However, the Latin stile of writing retained its propriety and other excellencies tolerably well, till the monks got possession of it, and brought it down to a jargon that is now exploded; and we recur to the pure originals of Horace, Virgil, Cicero and Sallust.
"The French language is corrupting fast; and not in the use of words, but in the affectation of surprise, in the structure of the sentence, or the turn of the expression. Mirabeau was free from this ; but not the Abbe Raynal. To give an example: meaning to say, which he might have done in a simple manner, that about this time the English cast their eyes upon Goa, as a place where, &c. stating the advantages of such a port; he begins by telling you, that the English had occasion for such a port, which, &c. enumera-
"ting the advantages ; and after this, with surprize comes upon you, and tells you, They wanted Goa. Enfin, says he, that is, In fine, they wanted Goa.
"The English language is undoubtedly written better in America than in England, especially since the time of that literary dunce, Samuel Johnson, who was totally destitute of taste for the vrai naturelle, or simplicity of nature.
"The language of the Scots writers is chaste, but the structure of the sentence of the academic Dr. Robertson, especially offends in this particular; his uniformity of period striking the ear with the same pulse, as the couplets of our rhyme, in Dryden and Pope. Hume is before him in this respect, writing as naturally as a man speaks ; his stile rising and falling with the subject, as the movements of the mind themselves."