Dennis Massachusetts, 1890

Dennis is a somewhat crescent-shaped town in the midst of Barnstable County, extending from one shore to the other of Cape Cod. Its east side is a straight line to near Cape Cod Bay, on whose margin the township has an eastward projection. Brewster and Harwich bound it on that side, and Yarmouth on the west. The assessed area is 6,864 acres. This includes 870 acres of oak and pine woods; the latter having been extensively planted here on tracts which would otherwise have been sandy wastes.

The Old Colony Railroad has a station near the middle of the town, and one at the eastern line. The post-offices are Dennis, Dennis Port, and East, South and West Dennis. Other villages are Searsville and South Village. The scenery is diversified by several beautiful ponds, which, in all, cover an area of about 450 acres. Swan Pond, of 179 acres, is the largest, and sends a little river of the same name southward into the sea. Bass River is the largest stream on Cape Cod, and furnishes some power for manufactures. It forms the dividing line between Dennis and Yarmouth for two thirds of their territory; while Chase-garden River, on the north, forms the line for nearly the remaining space. Scargo Hill, in the northerly part of the town, is the highest eminence in Barnstable County. It affords a magnificent prospect, extending from Minot's Ledge light to Martha's Vineyard.

The geological formation of the town is drift and alluvium; and many bowlders are strewn irregularly over the surface. The whortleberry, sweet fern (Comptonia asplenifolia), azaleas, and asclepias, with asters and golden-rod in the autumn, cover the fields. There is some very good land, especially in the northern part of the town,, and fair crops of the common kinds are produced. About 400 acres are now devoted to cranberries, producing, in 1885, 6,030 barrels, worth $35,013. The number of farms is 73; and the entire farm product in that year was valued at $54,767.

In manufactures, wooden goods were made to the value of $6,535; the stone and other building materials, $30,838; metallic goods, $4,971; food products (chiefly salt), $32,979; the aggregate of manufactures being $81,809. The manufacture of salt, commenced by Captain John Sears as early as 1776, has been extensively carried on The water is raised by windmills from the sea, and evaporated in large vats, leaving the salt in pure white crystals. The fisheries are not pursued to their former extent, and a loss of some 400 in population, since the previous census, has been experienced from this cause. The town had in use, in this business, in 1885, 7 schooners, 1 sloop, 18 sail-boats, 43 dories, 16 seine boats, and 2 oyster boats. The value of the entire fish product was but $47,395. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $1,244,352, with a tax-rate of $10.99 on $1,000. The population was 2,923, of whom 855 were voters; and the number of dwelling-houses was 694. The town is the home of 215 mariners; and of these 98 are master mariners.

Dennis has a good hall for meetings, five association libraries at the several villages, having altogether, with three Sunday-school libraries, nearly 5,000 volumes. The schools have a complete grading, and are provided for in five school buildings, having an aggregate value of about $25,000. There are in the town a Congregationalist, a union, and two Methodist churches; also one of the Latter Day Saints. The town has 51 residents who are over 80 years, and seven who are over 90 years of age. It furnished 220 men for the army, and 150 for the navy, during the late war.

The Indian name of this place was Nobscusset. The territory was taken from Yarmouth, and was incorporated June 19, 1793. Its naming was in honor of its first minister, the Rev; Josiah Dennis, who was ordained pastor in 1727. He was succeeded, in 1764, by the Rev. Nathan Stone. General Nathaniel Freeman, an able speaker, jurist, physician and military commander, was born here, April 8, 1741, and died at Sandwich, September 20, 1827. He was twice married, and had 20 children.

Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp. 272-273


Barnstable county 1890, Gazetteer 1890