Wellfleet Massachusetts, 1890

Wellfleet is an interesting fishing and commercial town in the northeasterly part of Barnstable County, and near the middle of the outer arm of Cape Cod, 106 miles from Boston by the Old Colony Railroad. The stations are Wellfleet, (village and centre) and South Wellfleet; which are also the post-offices. The other villages are Billingsgate, Dog Town, Fresh Brook Village and Painsville.

The population is 1,687. The boundaries are Truro on the north, the ocean on the east, Eastham on the south, and Cape Cod Bay on the west. The assessed area is 5,450 acres; and nearly one half is devoted to woodland; but the actual forest, consisting of oak and pine, is but 833 acres. The territory is about 8 miles in length, and from two to four between ocean and bay. It consists of hills and knolls of sand; and in the hollows between them lie as many as fifteen fresh-water ponds. Of these, eleven are situated almost in a straight line north and south. Gull Pond, the largest and most beautiful, is a circular sheet of water about one half a mile in diameter. Great and Long Ponds are the next in size; Duck Pond, near the centre of the town, is surrounded with fine white sand. The "Pilgrim Spring" is an object of some historical interest. A line of islands, running southerly, and terminating with Billingsgate Island and a very small one adjacent, bearing a light, forms Wellfleet Bay, which occupies the western side of the southern half of the town. From this extend three harbors, having ten or twelve feet of water at high tide.

There is quite an area of salt marsh, yielding hay; and there are several large cranberry fields. The value of the product of the 66 farms in 1885 was $44,289. The largest manufacturing establishment is the Wellfleet Boot and Shoe Factory, which, however, is idle at many times. Carriages, clothing, wrought stone, boats and small vessels, metallic goods, oils and food preparations were constant products. The total value of goods made was $61,811. The curing and preserving of fish occupied 17 persons; 195 were employed in the fisheries. The latter yielded the value of $165,874; mackerel furnishing $160,627 of this amount, and alewives and bluefish most of the remainder. Thirty-six schooners, 91 dories and 42 seine-boats were engaged in this business. The commercial marine consisted of a barque of 1,138 tons, and 10 schooners aggregating 3,073 tons. The mercantile business of the town is transacted chiefly by 35 merchants and dealers. The Wellfleet Savings Bank, at the close of last year, held deposits to the amount of $336,579. The valuation in 1888 was $607,466, with a tax-rate of $15.80 on $1,000. The legal voters numbered 504; and the taxed dwelling-houses, 434.

The town sustains a high school, and others of the grammar and primary grades, for which are provided 9 school buildings, valued at about $6,000. There are a large circulating library and several Sunday-school libraries. The churches are one each of the Congregationalists, Methodists and Universalists. The Indian name of Wellfleet was Punonakanit. It was included in Eastham until June 16, 1763, when it was set apart and incorporated as a town under its present name; which, possibly, may have been evolved from the environment.

Some of the first settlers were Thomas Newcomb, Moses Hatch, William Dyer, John Doane, Thomas Gross and Ebenezer Freeman. The first church was organized, and the Rev. Isaiah Lewis ordained minister, in 1730.

In April, 1717, Samuel Bellamy, a noted pirate, was wrecked in his ship, Whidah, of 23 guns and 130 men, on the shoals off Wellfleet, after having captured several vessels on the coast; only two persons of his crew -- an Indian and an Englishman -- escaping to the shore. Six of the pirates, who had been run ashore when drunk at the same time by the master of a captured vessel, were hung in Boston in November, 1717. The iron caboose of Bellamy's vessel has sometimes been seen at low tide; and pieces of money have been found in the vicinity of the wreck. There is now a U.S. life-saving station on this shore.

Wellfleet gave 221 men to uphold the Union cause during the war of the Rebellion; and it has erected a suitable monument in memory of those who perished in the service.

pp. 671-673 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Barnstable county 1890, Gazetteer 1890