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History and Lore
A Guide To South Wellfleet
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HISTORY and LORE
WRITTEN FOR THE
South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association
MARGARET T. DOOLEY
South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association
WE ACKNOWLEDGE with sincere appreciation the kindly assistance of Professor Frederick C. Hicks, Dr. Spenser B. Meeser, Mr. C. F. Cole, Mr. J. E. Hopkinson, Mr. Charles Paine, Mrs. Asenath Hicks, Mrs. Florence Cook, Mrs. Frank Crowell and Mrs. E. A. Davis.
1—Site Marconi Towers.
16—Smalley's Bar Buoy.
18—Magnetic North (N14°W)
20—Site Old Wharf.
21—Social Union & Library.
25—Birth Place Isaac Paine
31—Beech Hill Cove.
To South Wellfleet.
C. F. Cole
WE LOVE your woods of whispering pine,
Their winding paths mid shrub and vine,
Where pink tinted mayflowers lovely and sweet,
And the nodding foxglove bloom at our feet,
Where at dusk hoots the owl his solemn "Whose who,"
And so mournfully threatens the whippoorwill too,
Where the crow greets the dawn with his friendly "caw,"
And still holds his birthright in spite of the law.
We love your bleak dunes of wind drifted sand,
Where the child loves to burrow with eager hand,
And the nearby thickets of scrub oak and pine,
Where deer seek covert and foxes mine.
We love the sparkling waters of your tidal bays,
Where sea birds float when the soft wind plays,
And above when the Ice King fetters them fast,
The gulls still soar on the wintry blast.
We love old ocean's thunder and roar,
As its white foaming breakers dash on your shore,
And the beetling cliffs, your guardians hoar,
Seem to echo a challenge, "Thus far, no more."
We love your song birds that wake us in Spring,
The swifts and the swallows that glide on the wing,
The robins and bluebirds that nest in your trees,
And the gold-breasted hang birds that swing to the breeze.
We love this place by nature so blest,
Where many come for healing and rest,
And with health renewed they go on their way,
With hopes of return on a future day.
The Dunes—Back Shore
The Highway—from the Fire Tower
THE SOUTH WELLFLEET NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION THE ASSOCIATION was organized August 26, 1937. To quote from the Constitution: "The purpose of the Association is to promote the social, economic, material, and any other interests of the community, and to foster a spirit of friendly cooperation among the temporary and permanent residents of South Wellfleet."
President: Professor Frederick C. Hicks. Vice-President: Mrs. Mildred C. Bacon. Secretary: Mrs. Abbott C. Paine. Treasurer: Miss Margaret T. Dooley.
Mr. George Barker, Mr. Emanuel Davis, Mrs. Asenath Hicks, Mrs. Florence Cook, and officers ex-officio.
Mrs. Frederick C. Hicks, Chairman
Mrs. Harry Handy, Miss Edna Canning, Miss Anna Coffey, Mrs. Chelise Cardinal, Mrs. Warren Seyfert, Mrs. Maud Robbins.
Miss Margaret T. Dooley, Chairman
Mr. Robert Baldwin, Mr. Harry Handy, Miss Alice MacNab.
Mrs. Harold Jones, Chairman
Mrs. Abbott Paine, Mrs. Marshall David, Mrs. Harry Handy, Mrs. Helen Richardson.
THE SECTION of the Cape known as Billingsgate, separated from Eastham in 1718, and became in 1781 the Town of Wellfleet. The Indians called it Punnonakit. The inhabitants called it Wellfleet from Wallfleet, after the English black water oyster beds. The section adjoining Eastham was called South Wellfleet, which extended to the railroad track crossing the Highway. Beyond the track was called North Wellfleet, now known as Wellfleet.
South Wellfleet for years was the centre of the fishing industry on the Cape. In the early days the small boats went out after whales as they came near the shore. Later the boats were larger and followed them over the seas. The peak of this industry was reached during the Revolutionary War.
This in turn was replaced by cod and mackerel fishing. The latter fish was the favorite food of the Indians, and was abundant in the vicinity when the first white men landed here. It became important enough for Batelle & Batelle of Boston to build a wharf for the business on the South side of Blackfish Creek, where today are to be seen stumps of spiles showing at low tide.
The wharf had a number of sheds for salting, packing and sail-making, under the management of Richard Arey, who lived at what is now known as the "Bowed Roof." There was a grocery store and a general store at which everything could be bought.
At that time twenty schooners landed their fish here, employing two hundred men during the mackerel season of five or six months. In 1840 a fire damaged the wharf, but it was repaired, and business continued to flourish.
In 1871, one hundred schooners with fifteen hundred men headed for the Grand Banks from this wharf. These were busy times. On sailing days, a free dinner was served on all outgoing boats, which the town's people and small boys sampled freely.
In the late seventies it was found that Blackfish Creek became too shallow for the larger schooners, built for the additional use of bringing oysters from Chesapeake Bay, for seeding, and fruit from the West Indies (the latter under the L. D. Baker Company, which formed the original United Fruit Company), and therefore the boats had to land at Wellfleet or Boston. When the industry failed, the people moved their homes to Wellfleet. Today five small summer cottages mark this former-industrious section.
THE SALT WORKS
AN ADJUNCT of the fishing industry in South Wellfleet was the salt works. Arey's was at the foot of Cannon Hill, on Blackfish Creek, known as the Mill Ditch and used today by the Summer people as a bathing beach. Townsend's was at the foot of Paine Hollow, and Lewis's was East of the Highway. These were the largest: the last taking two windmills to pump the salt water over the dunes into the vats, where the evaporation from the sun did the rest. This coarse salt was used at the wharf for salting fish, and the finer table salt had to be refined from it. Salt making, therefore, was another industry that went out with the fishing industry.
The Second Congregational Church
removed to WELLFLEET
The Parsonage with the Marconi Towers in the distance
THE SECOND CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
IN 1833, this Church was built in the grounds adjoining the cemetery. A few devout inhabitants held a meeting and decided that fifteen-hundred dollars would be necessary. They sold sixty shares at twenty-five dollars per share, and no person could buy more than two shares. Its spire was the first and last object seen by incoming and outgoing sailors. When the fishing industry failed, the necessary funds for the upkeep of the Church failed and it was closed. It was later purchased by the Historical Society of Wellfleet as a memorial, and moved there. The proceeds of the sale put the iron fence around the cemetery.
Today the Church stands neglected in the centre of the Town of Wellfleet, no longer the property of the Historical Society, but has passed into private ownership. A boulder now marks the spot where the Church once stood. On it is a brass plate, with a replica of the Church and the names of the founders. In the cemetery lies the body of John Taylor, one of George Washington's bodyguard. Another early patriot, Daniel Young, is also interred there. The government erected tombstones over both. This cemetery is kept in condition today by some of the public-spirited women of South Wellfleet.
SOCIAL UNION HALL
IN 1857 there were four schoolhouses in South Wellfleet, two south of Blackfish Creek, and two north. The one at Pond Hill being too small to accommodate all of the pupils of the district, the town bought an extra strip of land, fifty feet wide, and erected a larger two-story building, the present Social Union Hall. It was finished in 1858, the lumber having been brought from Maine. It was used as a schoolhouse until 1880.
In 1889, the South Wellfleet Social Union bought it from the Town of Wellfleet for one hundred dollars. They fitted it up as a hall for religious services downstairs, and a meeting place upstairs, until the Public Library was given the use of the upper part.
Of the other three schoolhouses, one was at Dogtown, one at Monkey Neck, and one East of the Highway called the Silver Spring School.
Today the Town of Wellfleet adopts the system used in all small towns, and sends a school bus from door to door to collect the pupils and convey them to a centrally located school.
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY
TWENTY-FIVE years ago, Mrs. Mary E. Paine started the South Wellfleet Library with a few books from the Wellfleet Library. Today it has over three thousand volumes, with a circulation of fifteen hundred books.
Mrs. Paine, now retired, is succeeded by Mrs. Charles Robbins. With the assistance of the South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association, undoubtedly it will rank eventually among the best of town libraries.
Billingsgate Lighthouse in 1888.
A School of Blackfish Stranded on the South Wellfleet Beach
BILLINGSGATE was one of three Islands stretching from Wellfleet out into Cape Cod Bay nearly to Orleans. It has however practically disappeared into the sea. In 1822, the third lighthouse on the Cape shore was built on this Island.
In 1890, the Island sheltered a prosperous community of fishermen, their homes, a schoolhouse, the light, and was about fifty acres in extent. Today perhaps an acre can be seen at low tide, and no trace whatever at a good high tide.
SCHOOLS of blackfish, a species of whale, have for years, several times each Summer, found themselves stranded at low tide at the mouth of Blackfish Creek. In the past, the fishermen drove them in for the oil, found in the melon in the head, which was considered valuable for lubricating watches.
South Wellfleet was visited by one hundred seventy-five of these great hulks at one time, many of them measuring twenty or twenty-five feet in length and weighing two tons.
The removal of these carcasses becomes a burden, and since there is no longer a market for the oil, these visitations are no longer desirable. However, they still continue to visit these shores, and when they do, it means that they must be disposed of in one of two ways: either they must be buried above the high tide mark, or roped together and towed out to sea. If allowed to remain twenty-four hours, the odor becomes very offensive.
THE MARCONI STATION
MORE than thirty years ago, the first wireless station in the United States was located on the dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, at South Wellfleet, known as the Back Shore, and built by Guglielmo Marconi. All that is left today is a cement floor and some twisted wire cables.
The first Station was equipped with single masts which could not withstand the ocean winds. After these masts were blown down by a severe North Eastern storm, they were replaced by four square, steel bowers, two-hundred feet tall, which appeared from the distance like oil derricks. These were erected at the corners of a great cement foundation, with the power house and the radio room in the centre.
While it was in operation, there was only one fatality, and that was a young man, twenty-three years old, who experimented on his own, against orders, and was electrocuted.
Marconi stayed in Wellfleet for three days during the experimentation. When the first flash came through on the bitter, cold January 19, 1903, Mr. Charles Paine, the Station Master, was stationed outside the Marconi Station, with his express wagon, where he had waited the greater part of the day. Suddenly Marconi appeared with his two hands full of paper tape. This was the message. He entered the office next door, and reappeared with two envelopes which he handed to Mr. Paine, instructing him to drive like mad to the Wellfleet Railroad Station, where was the nearest telegraph station.
One envelope was for President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other for New York. There were several newspaper reporters present, who immediately rushed to Provincetown, in the only available vehicles, to get their stories out, and to tell the nation that the experiment was a success.
In its infancy, it was believed that the Station must be at the edge of the sea, in a direct line from the European Station in Wales. As the invention improved, this was found not necessary. Great was the thrill
among the inhabitants of the Cape when that first message came through, for they had watched the building of the Station foot by foot.
The Station call was WCC, and in an interview, one of its old managers had this to say: "Eventually there was a Western Union office at the Station and the traffic was received during the day. They would begin at 9:30 P.M. to send the messages, stopping every five minutes. When traffic was heavy, it would take the worker until daylight to finish."
On clear, cold nights, the spark could be heard five miles away on the beach. The masts could be seen for miles out to sea. This Station was used for fourteen years, but was closed during the World War, and taken over by the Naval Radio Station at Highland Light. It was dismantled in 1920. The South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association is planning to mark this historical spot with a suitable tablet.
THE GLIDER SCHOOL
THE DUNE upon which the Glider School was built is known as Dallinger Heights, named for Senator Dallinger. In the Spring of 1929, a New York syndicate leased this property for the purpose of establishing a Glider School, with the possibility of manufacturing Gliders later.
A number of buildings were erected and were ready for operating August first. The Summer of 1930 saw a continuation of the experiment but the depression finished it.
The Glider is an engineless aeroplane, depending on the winds for its motive power. The Germans are said to be very successful with these Gliders, so the syndicate sent to Germany for officers from the German Air Force to do the teaching.
Today, these buildings are operated as the Cook Summer Camps.
LUTHER CHILDS CROWELL
PERHAPS the most prominent of these was Luther C. Crowell, the inventor, who spent many years of his life in South Wellfleet, and died there in 1903. The Commissioner of Paterits in his 1900 report placed Mr. Crowell as fifth in rank among those who have secured over one hundred patents since 1872, the number being two hundred ninety-three. The principal of these had to do with the printing press, and was first used by the Boston Herald. His son, Mr. F. Luther Crowell, is. living in South Wellfleet.
Mr. Isaac Rich, who was born in Paine Hollow, and made his fortune, selling fish in Boston, left his money to found Boston University.
Mrs. Howard Atwood, the mother of one of our youngest war heroes, Albert Edward Scott, lives quietly in South Wellfleet. Albert Scott died across his gun at the age of sixteen, in the World War.
President Grover Cleveland came to South Wellfleet for fishing and hunting. Today may be seen the fishing rod that he presented to his guide, Alton Atwood.
"The Bowed Roof," built in 1808 by Reuben Arey (born 1778) is a perfect example of the Cape Cod "whole house," with a slight convex bow in the roof. It is now owned by Professor Frederick C. Hicks, of Yale University.
THE SUMMER HOMES
THE SOUTH WELLFLEET residential sections are situated on Cannon Hill, Drummer Pond, Pleasant Point, Indian Neck, and Back Shore.
These points are easily reached from the Highway. Pilgrim Spring Road leads to Indian Neck Heights, and is so named because it passes the first spring at which the Pilgrims found good drinking water. At one time there was a bottling factory beside it.
Fifty years ago, the sandy County roads wandered from Homestead to Homestead. The Causeway leading to the Post Office was a wooden foot bridge. The State used sections of these roads where it could, for its Highway, and the rest are now overgrown foot paths.
THE OLD HOMESTEADS
ENTERING South Wellfleet, the original types of Cape Cod architecture are to be seen, all of them over one hundred years old. On the left is one of the oldest in the town, the former Arey Homestead, now owned by Professor Frederick C. Hicks. Adjoining is the home of Mr. Isaac Paine. Adjoining that, is the Summer home of Dr. Spenser B. Meeser of Pittsburgh. Back of the Post Office, the large square house was the Cole homestead, said to be the oldest in the town. Continuing on the right, is the homestead of Mr. Charles Paine. Across the road is the Clarence Hicks homestead, and across on the same hill is the Smith house, now owned by Mrs. Dorr. An eighth of a mile on the right, is the homestead of William Rich. The distinguishing marks of these centuryites, are the bowed gable ends and the two tiny windows under the eaves.
THE HOUSE WITH THE ORANGE BLINDS
The Summer Home of Dr. Spenser B. and Lillian B. Meeser
'Twas a seaman's fond dream of a home-port,
As he sailed o'er the ocean's broad leas,
As he dipped into harbors in south lands,
Or weathered the storm-tortured seas.
He dreamed of the bride of his youth time,
So often left 'lone "back on shore,"
He would build her a bold seaman's palace
And revel in true lovers' lore.
He pictured a cottage, this dreamer,
By a wide spreading salt meadowside,
In sight of tall sails in the offing
On the full and the ebb of the tide.
He could see it anesting near pine trees,
At the foot of a low sloping mound,
Where lacey leaved locust and spruce boughs
Fling sheltering shadows around.
He could see flocks of fluffy birds flutter,
With the swallows on swift dipping wing,
Where robins made nests and the thrushes
Along with the orioles sing.
Since that dream into home was transmuted,
Nigh a hundred full years have slipped by,
The seaman and mate have passed onward
In yon churchyard together now lie.
But the cottage still stands by the roadside,
And fronts the King's Highway which winds
Over hill into vale at South Wellfleet,
The House with the Orange Blinds.
There art and some artistry patterns
Within the old house are displayed.
Some greeting cards, paintings and etchings
With block-prints also arrayed.
The visitor always is welcome,
The artist is glad to see all.
The lovers of beauty in color,
To purchase or just make a call.
—S. B. M.
ENTERING the Highway from Eastham, one sees the sign, "Ornithological Research Station." This is where birds are snared, banded, and sent on their way for further report, and is the property of Dr. Austin.
Yearly the Audubon Society sends its representatives to study the bird life in this section.
In one day, the following birds visited one bird bath: chickadees, robins, orioles, bluebirds, cat birds, blue jays, vireos, pewees, king birds, song sparrows, cedar wax wings and flickers.
IN THE latter part of May, the road side is a picture when the beach plum is in bloom. That is the time when we look for the trailing arbutus (mayflower). The picture changes when the meadows and dunes are carpeted with yellow moss. As the early Summer advances, the cinnamon scented, spicy, wild pink, the lady's slipper, and wild phlox have their turn.
Early Autumn comes in with its glory. The first to turn a deep red is the huckleberry. Here and there are the white and purple asters, and the fifty varieties of golden rod. The dunes are covered with the hog cranberry vine, covered with its little red berries, nature's method of holding its sands from shifting, while over all are the pines, scrub oak, and locust groves.
THE REASONS for these peculiar names seen to be quite hazy in the minds of many of the oldest inhabitants. On the other hand, some are quite logical.
Dog Town was named from the number of dogs in the vicinity.
Indian Neck was named from the number of Indian relics found in the vicinity.
Paine Hollow was so named because at one time, every family from that road to Cannon Hill was named Paine.
Back Shore was so called because in the day of the fishing industry, all the activities were carried on in the vicinity of the old wharf, which was the front shore to the inhabitants. Naturally, the Atlantic shore would be the Back Shore.
French Village was named because of the number of French people who settled there at one time.
Drummer Pond was at one time the anchorage for the fishing fleet during the Winter months, because it was so completely land-locked. Its shore was a beautiful sandy beach, with numerous small landings for their small boats. Today it is a salt meadow, but the reason for the name is lost in the shadows of the past.
Hinckley's Corner was named for the school master who owned the property in that vicinity.
Pleasant Point was so named because its location is so blessed by nature.
Cannon Hill had at one time two cannons. One was a Revolutionary relic. The other was on the hill at Drummer Pond, beside the flagstaff, and for years its firing was the signal for the Fourth of July festivities. It became a bone of contention between the boys of Wellfleet and South Wellfleet. Repeatedly, the cannon was stolen by the Wellfleet boys, only to have it reclaimed by the South Wellfleet boys. Finally, to put a stop to the marauding, the South Wellfleet boys buried it on Cannon Hill. No one of the present inhabitants seems to know the spot. Some one in the future, digging the foundation for his Summer home, will probably unearth it.
Monkey Neck and Skunk's Misery still have their origin shrouded in mystery.
Drummer Pond at High Tide
THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD SERVICE
THIS name was given to the service created by an act of Congress in 1915, merging the Revenue Cutter service and the Life Saving service. The duties are to save life and property of vessels wrecked on the coast, and to assist the Revenue Cutter service in refloating the stranded vessels if possible. A patrol is maintained from dusk to dawn along the beach, in order to be able to render assistance to vessels, as soon as possible, after they are stranded, and prevent loss of life.
The South Wellfleet shore comes under the patrol of the Cahoon's Hollow Station.
The shoals, high winds, and treacherous ocean currents are responsible for the many wrecks on the South Wellfleet Atlantic shore, and many tales of valor can be recounted by these Coast Guard crews.
The Castagna, the Messenger, the John McManus, and others too numerous to mention all came ashore at the Marconi Wireless Station. In 1870, the sailing vessel Palmer came ashore at South Wellfleet, laden with palm oil. About sixty men and boys gathered on the shore to salvage it, and received one-hundred eight dollars apiece as their share. One young man, peeved because it was his duty to light the school house fire, returned later, scooped up the sand, heavy with the oily drippings, brought it home and received thirty dollars for his share.
The motto of the Coast Guard is "Semper paratus," and the history of the service shows that this motto has always been lived up to.
ATTRACTIONS OF SOUTH WELLFLEET
1. All parts are easy of access throughout the year. It is 48 miles from the Canal.
2. Cool Summer nights and mild Winters prevail.
3. The water and air are pure (no malaria or hay fever).
4. The hills and valleys are covered with groves of pine, oak and locust.
5. There is surf bathing in the ocean and warmer bathing in the waters of Cape Cod Bay, where the water temperature averages 72 degrees all Summer.
6. There is a landlocked harbor for pleasure boats.
7. There is fine salt water fishing of mackerel, bluefish, tautog, sea bass and cod.
8. Shell fish abound: clams, quahogs, oysters, and scallops.
9. Hunters come here for deer, ducks and other shore birds.
10. It has electricity for all modern improvements.
11. It is not too near a large city.
12. There is a Public Library.
13. There are nearby golf links and tennis courts.
14. It is also a convenient point from which to visit the many historical sites and points of interest on the Cape.
15. There are many lakes in the vicinity, for those who enjoy fresh water bathing.
With the above conditions, South Wellfleet is ideal as a Summer resort, or as a permanent home, for recreation, health, comfort, contentment, and a long life, where
"One can go forth under the open sky, And list to Nature's teachings."
Summer Home of Miss M. T. Dooley, Drummer Pond
Summer Home of Mr. J. E. Hopkinson, Drummer Pond
The Summer Home of Mr. Harry Grant, Cannon Hill
The Summer Home of Miss Alice MacNab, Pleasant Point
Compliments of ....
Acme Laundry Company, Inc.
Launderers - Dry Cleaners - Rug Shampooers
Compliments of ....
Timmy and Tony Austin
Compliments of ....
Open All Year
Cape Cod Oils, Water-Colors and Photographs
The Bowed Roof Studio
South Wellfleet F. C. Hicks
Cook's Overnight Camps
South Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Wellfleet & Truro Grain Co.
Hay, Grain, Coal, Fuel Oils,
Paints and Varnishes
R.R. Freeman, Mgr. Tel. Conn.
Holbrook's Filling Station
Kings Highway, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
E. A. Davis
General Store ~ Filling Station
Nickerson Lumber Company
Phone 200 Wellfleet
Luther A. Crowell
Contractor and Builder Interior and Exterior Decorator
Phone 148-4 South Wellfleet