Orleans Massachusetts, 1890

Orleans is a farming, fishing and manufacturing town in the outer line of Cape Cod, in Barnstable County, 94 miles from Boston by the Cape Cod Division of the Old Colony Railroad. The town is about five miles north and south, and three east and west. The assessed area is 5,025 acres. From Eastham, on the north, it is separated by Rock River, flowing into Cape Cod Bay; and by Town Cove and Nauset harbor, opening into the ocean. On the ocean side is Nauset Beach, a long and narrow strip of land enclosing Pleasant Bay, which separates it from Chatham on the south. It has many creeks and inlets containing pleasant islands. Brewster lies on the southwest, and Cape Cod Bay on the northwest.

The creeks and bays abound in clams, quahaugs, tautogs, bass and eels. In 1885, 77 persons were reported as fishermen, and the product of the business amounted to $6,256. The largest items of the catch were in order as follows: clams, quahaugs, bluefish, cod and mackerel. One schooner and three sloops were engaged in this industry, and one schooner of 30 tons did a coastwise carrying business. The chief manufacture is pantaloons, for which there are two establishments, employing about two hundred persons, including both sexes. Other manufactures are boots and shoes, carriages, leather, metallic articles, wrought stone, wooden goods, salt and other food preparations. The windmill has been the main power depended upon here. The visible rocks of this place are called granite. The soil is rather light and sandy in some parts, and in others clay and loam. The soil on Barley Neck, Sampson's Island and Pocket [Pochet] Island is superior. The product of the 244 farms in 1885 was $96,106.* The apple crop was valued at $2,556, and that of cranberries at $5,746. There are 2,092 acres having a growth of oak and pine. The population was 1,176, including 364 legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $466,692, with a tax of $10 on $1,000. The number of taxed dwelling-houses was 318.

Orleans has a good town-hall and four school-houses, the latter valued at some $5,000. There are a high school and the lower grades of grammar and primary. The Snow Library, having nearly 1,700 volumes and a building valued at $3,000 is sustained by a fund, for the benefit of the town. The East Orleans Library Association has upwards of 1,500 volumes, and is sustained by assessments. There is one church each of the Methodists, Congregationalists and Universalists. The post-offices are Orleans, East Orleans and South Orleans. Other villages are Barleyneck, Namequoit, Namskaket, Pochet, Portnomequot, Rock Harbor and Tonset.

This place was called Namskaket by the Indians. It originally belonged to Eastham; from which it was detached, and incorporated as a town, March 3, 1797; the naming being in honor of the Duke of Orleans. The Rev. Samuel Osborn, ordained in 1718, was the first minister. Orleans furnished 127 men for the Union cause in the late war, of whom 45 were residents**; and of the latter, 5 were lost.

The shore line and inlets of the outer section of the cape are continually changing, from the force and varying direction of the waves and currents. The wreck of the Pilgrim ship "Sparrow-Hawk," lost in "Potanumaquut" harbor, in the midst of this town, in 1626, and covered by the waters with mud and sand, was, by their different action, disclosed in 1863; and the parts were rescued, combined, and exhibited in Boston.

pp. 525-526 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

*The number of farms per capita is disproportionately high, and the product per farm disproportionately low, compared to other Cape towns, so these figures may be in error.
** what does this mean?
Barnstable county 1890, Gazetteer 1890