The Project Gutenberg eBook of Old Cape Cod

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Title: Old Cape Cod

the land, the men, the sea

Author: Mary Rogers Bangs

Release date: April 6, 2023 [eBook #70480]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1920

Credits: Bob Taylor, Steve Mattern and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)











The Riverside Press Cambridge



S. A. B.


I. The Land 1
II. The Old Colony 19
III. The Towns 56
IV. The French Wars 97
V. The English Wars 118
VI. Theology and Whaling 158
VII. Storms and Pirates 176
VIII. Old Sea Ways 203
IX. The Captains 221
X. The County 259
XI. Genius Loci 291


The Old Figurehead Frontispiece
The Shore Road 6
A First Comer 58
The Creek 112
The Fish-House 164
The Cap’n’s 222
The Meadows 270
The Pasture Bars 294

The end-paper maps are (1) a modern map of Cape Cod and (2) a facsimile of a part of Captain Cyprian Southack’s map (see page 300)



[Pg 1]



Cape Cod had its Age of Romance in a half-century best placed, perhaps, in the years between 1790 and 1840. Then certainly the picture of it was charming: a picture unblemished by the paper-box architecture of a later period, or the alien hotels, the villas, bungalows, and portable-houses of to-day. Then roads, with no necessity laid upon them to be the servants of speed, were honest native sand, and, gleaming like yellow ribbons across hills and meadows, linked farm to farm and went trailing on to the next township where houses nestled behind their lilacs in a sheltered hollow, or stood four-square on the village street. As if by instinct, the early settlers from Saugus and Scituate and Plymouth, accustomed as their youth had been to the harmonies of Old England, hit upon a style of building best suited to the genius of the country. And if, consciously, they only planned for comfort and used the materials at hand, the result, inevitably, bears the test of fitness to environment. Their low slant-roof wooden houses were set with backs to the north wind and a singularly wide-awake[Pg 2] aspect to the south. The watershed of the roof sometimes ran with an equal slope to the eaves of the ground floor; but as frequently, yielding barely room for pantry and storeroom at the north, it lifted in front to a second story. And in either case the “upper chambers,” with irregular ceilings and windows looking to the sunrise and sunset, were packed tautly into the apex of the roof. Ornament centred in the front door—a symbol, one might think, of the determination to preserve, in the enforced privations of pioneer life, the gentle ceremonials of their past; and however small or remote, there is not such a house to be recalled that does not thus offer its dignified best for the occasions of hospitality. The doors are often beautiful in themselves: their panels of true proportions framed in delicately moulded pilasters with a line of glazing to light the tiny hall; frequently a pediment above protects the whole from the dripping of eaves. And before paint was used to mask the wood, the whole structure, played upon by sun and storm, wore to a tone of silver-gray that made a house as familiar to the soil as a lichen-covered rock. The square Georgian mansions came later, with the prosperity of reviving trade after the Revolution. They were built to a smaller scale than those of Newburyport or Salem or Portsmouth; and the Cape Cod aristocrat seems to have been content with two stories to live in and a vast garret above to store superfluous treasure. There was not a jarring note in the scene; and the old houses, set in neighborly fashion on the village street or approached by a winding cart-track “across the fields,”[Pg 3] with garden and orchard merging into pasture, suit to perfection the gentle undulating configuration of the land, which is never level, but swells into uplands that recall the memory of Scotch moors or some denuded English “Forest,” and sinks away into meadow, or marsh, or hollows overflowing with the warm perfumes of blossomy growth.

And everywhere there is color: in hill and lowland, in circles of swampy bush, in salt creek and dune. Even the motorist, projected through the country with a slip, a flash, a change too swift for the eye to note its intimate charm, is caught by the cheerfulness of green and blue and dazzling white, and more blue, the blue of salt water, clasping all. One may concede at once that it is a country adapted to the pleasure of summer folk, if they be not set upon taking their pleasure too seriously where there are neither mountains to climb nor big game to hunt, and the soft air does not invite to endeavor. But the wind sweeps clean from ocean to bay and picks up in passing resinous scents of the pine; sands reflect magic lights of rose and pearl; the townships to the north, as Robert Cushman reported of Plymouth, are “full of dales and meadow ground as England is”; and the long sweep of the outer shore, south, east, and north, is extraordinarily varied and broken; deep inlets cool the air of the warmest months, islands that yesterday were not and to-morrow may be destroyed by the tides interlace the coast with shallow lagoons where children sail their boats, bluffs carry the eye out to the clear distances of the ocean, and there are harbors[Pg 4] where, on a misty day, buildings loom like “tower’d Camelot.” Tides rise and fall in the salt rivers that wander through marshlands to give changing beauty to the scene; lakes tempt the fisherman; and for more ambitious sport one may put to sea and return at night, whether lucky or not, with the fine philosophy engendered by a ravenous appetite and the sure prospect of excellent food to stay it.

But perhaps the ultimate charm of the Cape is that, like a child, it is small enough to be loved. For the native-born, returning here in middle age, there is the delight of coming back to little things that memory had held as stupendous: a dim foreign township that used to be reached in a day’s journey with “carryall and pair” is only five miles distant by the Lower Road; the Great Square proves to be within the swing of an hour’s stroll; the “cap’n’s” a modest mid-Victorian mansion with library and drawing-room that had the remembered vista of Versailles. Yet, in their degree, this charm is free to the stranger. The Cape has a whimsical and endearing smallness: its greatest amplitude can boast but a few miles; and the most tortuous wood road that promised a day’s excursion through an uncharted wilderness will soon show you, from some gentle eminence, the true north to be reckoned by the curve of the bay.

It is such a jaunt inland to the woods that should invite the traveller, in any season, to forsake his motor-car for a sober “horse and team” as the better equipment to circumvent obstacles of unbridged stream or fallen tree. If even as he threads the[Pg 5] crowded village street he can occupy his imagination with the leisurely past that matches the rate of his progress, his pleasure will be the greater; and the effort prove not too difficult when, as of old, poplar and willows shade the road and elms droop impartially over gray homesteads and the passer-by, or behind decent screens of shrub and hedge houses blink with a modest air of being sufficient for all desirable comfort. Farther afield wayside tangles of wild rose and cherry, and scented racemes of the locust-tree, in their season, make the air sweet; or in a later month, bright companies of orange lilies are drawn up at attention by the rail fence that has worn to a beautiful silvery hue, and Joe Pyeweed nods at thoroughwort in the swamp. Fields of warm-toned grass roll down to the blur of willows in a meadow; in pastures intersected by crumbling stone walls stalwart purple and white blooms rout the fading mists of succory. And there on the outskirts of the village, hills are dressed in homespun woven of sparse grasses and crisp gray moss buttoned down with clumps of bayberry and juniper, adorned in summer by the filmy lace of the indigo-plant, and in autumn with a lovely cloak of dwarf goldenrod and asters.

Far to the north, now, lies the silver shield of the bay; inland, beyond the hills, deep-set in wooded banks is a glint of blue water, and near at hand a farm guarded by the spear of a pine that tops the roof twice over. The road dips sharply to a brook that bubbles along with a force that once turned mill[Pg 6] wheels, and rises again in a graceful curve to a hill where stands a weather-beaten house as if a-tiptoe to survey in the meadows of the farther view the secret beauties of a lake. A few miles more, and there, among the wooded uplands that make the watershed between sea and bay, lies a network of interlacing roads: “blind roads” where scrub oaks and pines lash the traveller and the horse proceeds with a careful foot among the springes of a vigorous younger growth; narrow tracks that lead to the cul-de-sac of a cranberry swamp or a woodlot where the axe has been busy with its work of denudation; or long arched aisles of green, with here a little bay a-dance with ferns washing out into the woodland, and there a vista of hills opening through mullioned windows built by the straight trunks of the pines. And here are the great ponds with bold sandy bluffs and curves that cheat us into believing them larger than they are. They are pictures of security as their waves sparkle in the sun and break idly on the miniature beaches, but quick squalls may come cutting down from the hills to lash them into a sudden ugly fury that bodes ill for any stray craft plying these waters, where, even to-day, there is never traffic sufficient to disturb the pleasing atmosphere of solitude. On a wooded shore there may be a shooting-lodge or a bungalow, a pier with a few boats bobbing at anchor on one lake or another; but for the most part they seem more remote from man than when Indians followed the forest trails and beached their canoes under a shelving bank.


[Pg 7]


There are riches enough for all who love the land: for those who come to play, and those who come chiefly to refresh their memory of the past; for those of the fine old stock who live here year in and year out on the modest competence inherited from seafaring ancestors; and those who fish, or farm, or engage in the important modern industry of ministering to the “summer people.” The quality of the riches, as in any community, may vary with the individual. But save among a negligible few of the idlers—where there is a sinister strain of vice in a “petered-out” neighborhood, or a foolish and incongruous display among some visitors—there is a recognizable inheritance from the men who settled the land: an atmosphere of simplicity, a sturdy instinct of judging one for what he is rather than for what he has, a predilection for healthy pleasures. It is folk of this kind whom the Cape attracts—plain people, if you will; and it is perhaps significant that potent as the land might be to stimulate the imagination, it is only the beguiling “foreign” atmosphere of Provincetown that has fostered anything like a School.

Cape Cod: a sandbar, one may have the more excuse for judging, as the land lifts to the wind-swept plains of Truro. There is a change in the aspect of the Cape as it turns due north to brace itself against the thunderous approach of the Atlantic. Straight and defiant, it holds its own to the Clay Pounds at Highland Light, the Indians’ Tashmuit, and then, little[Pg 8] by little, the ocean pushes it back and folds it over in the graceful curve of the tip at Provincetown. From the frayed edge of Chatham on the south shore—broken as it is into deep bays with outer shoals and beaches that may alter their whole contour in a winter’s storms—and on the north the snug village of Orleans where the by-roads are the prettiest, we enter upon a new country. It may be remarked in passing that Orleans offers something of martial interest to the traveller there: for at Rock Harbor on the bay was fought the famous Battle of Orleans, an engagement of 1812; and at Nauset Harbor, in the Great War, a German submarine, with some idea, apparently, of defeating a tow of empty coal barges, planted a stray shot on the sandbar at its mouth to the considerable alarm of cottagers in the vicinity.

At Nauset Beach we look out over the ocean, and turning, see behind us the Harbor that lies there as if bent upon offering every variety of inlet—bay, lagoon, cove, and salt river threading the marshes—that may be crowded into a small compass of miles. In its progress it all but meets the equally erratic inlets of Chatham, and also the waters of Cape Cod Bay, with the result that any breeze there is from the sea. To the south stretches the Beach, a low straight wall of sand between Harbor and ocean, moulded by the Atlantic, worried by its storms, yet somehow withstanding the impact, and linking up at the sharp apex of Chatham with the sands of Monomoy that, again, are in line with Nantucket Shoals and the Island. It needs a wary seaman to know the safe[Pg 9] entrance to Vineyard Sound. To the north the shore rises steadily to the great bluffs at Highland Light—the Norsemen’s Gleaming Strands, a name best appreciated by the seafarer proceeding, on a fair morning, to the port of Boston, when the hours spent in running by that line of golden cliffs may be the pleasantest of his voyage. And wherever one may penetrate to the coast—unless one has the enterprise of Thoreau to tramp along shore, he must return to a town and take the next road eastward—there is always a difference in the scene. Perhaps at no point is it more lovely than at Wellfleet, where the bluffs curve gently to a promontory and the surf, touched by a stray shaft of sunlight, breaks into crystal and jade. In and out, they trend away again to the north; and the sea at our feet, forward flow and backward clutch, even on a cold day of spring sounds the whole gamut of blue, light, dark, bewilderingly mingled, out to the intense purple of our farthest reach of vision—literally, the Purple Sea. There is little break in the line of bluffs, but sometimes one of the valleys, that now begin to cut transversely across the Cape, persists to the coast; and one of the prettiest drives is to Cahoon’s Hollow by way of a typical Cape Cod wood-road, winding up hill and down, with vistas of blue ponds glinting through the trees. The road debouches on dunes, covered with a low, shrubby growth; and everywhere there has been an amazing quantity of the wild cranberry covering acre after acre with its glossy green mat of leaves. The land billows down to the water’s edge, yielding flashing[Pg 10] glimpses of blue water long before we reach it, and rises then on either hand into deeply indented cliffs.

The country, as we follow the main road inland once more, swells into rounded hills that seem under bonds to crowd as many of their company as possible into the narrow confines between sea and bay. The deep valleys among them conceal many snug homesteads built there by the First Comers; and the atmosphere is indescribably pure blending, by the winds that always blow, the bracing qualities natural to ocean and upland. It is easy to share the enthusiasm of a physician travelling this way who exclaimed: “It’s the best air in North America.” The hills now merge into high moors that narrow to the Clay Pounds where Highland Light finds a firm foundation. One overlooks both sea and bay and walks poised aloft as on a roof-tree. Thoreau is master there, and has written discursively of flora and birds and humans, and, with the wonder appropriate to an inlander, of the sea. In truth “a man may stand there and put all America behind him.” As for the name, a triangular plot of some ten acres composed of a blue clay cuts transversely through the sand; “pounds” is variously explained as a corruption of ponds or as suggested by the pounding of the surf. The land slopes up from the inner bay to the great shining bluffs that are singularly bold and picturesque, with escarpment and overhang, bastion and turret built by their architect, the sea. Below them on calm days the polished surface of the Atlantic breaks into foam on the ivory beaches.[Pg 11] But in winter there is a different story of savage surf and an ocean that flings up its spume near two hundred feet to the starved grass of the upland. Such clamor is unbelievable in the pearly haze of summer; but even then an infrequent nor’easter may whip the Atlantic into a hungry rage as if to send it leaping over the puny barrier that divides the outer uproar from the gray dogs of the bay that are showing their teeth to the gale.

Provincetown is a story in itself. The village, with its ingredients of old Cape Cod and a large proportion of handsome, gentle-mannered folk from the East Atlantic Islands, is curled comfortably about the edge of its harbor. It has been said that Provincetown has the “privilege of turning to look at itself like a happy child who has donned a long train,” and there is an evening picture of the “circlet of lights with a background of slender spires and hills, a friendly beacon shining over the narrow spit of land at Wood End.” Picturesque and picturesque: one wears the words threadbare—picturesque in summer, with the flicker of shadow and sun, sharp-cut, exotic, the brightly dressed folk thronging the streets or hailing one another from the windows above; picturesque, with a difference, in the less exciting atmosphere of winter when the town is comfortably full of its own people busy about their affairs, which more often than not means preparing for the harvest that summer is to bring them. The harbor is a picture at high tide or low, with the boats anchored in the roadstead or moored to the wharves; or the[Pg 12] sun slanting across the sandflats where a dory is stranded by the tide, and its master, dark-ringletted, slouch-hatted, a red kerchief knotted at his throat, a red flower in his shirt, strides shorewards with his catch dripping in its creel. The fish-wharves make a painter’s fingers itch to be at work, and many are those who respond to the impulse. No small part of the vivacity of the summer scene is furnished by the artists and their easels and their colors—artists who express what they see after a method that would horrify the ladies of the earlier era that is our particular affair.

The soil is sand, and it is said that the gardens of the town were imported by returning shipmasters who, in more fertile regions, steved their holds with loam for ballast and dumped it in their own front yards. However that may be, the little gardens are as pretty as in any English village; a vista harborwards through bright plantations of hollyhock is something to remember. And there are many trees sheltering the houses and yards: silver abeles, and elms, and willows,—the old willows “Way up along.” The scene to-day is perhaps unduly dominated by the Monument, which with time may develop a closer familiarity with its environment. Springing from clustering trees on a low eminence above the town, graceful in itself, it is as much a memorial to the indefatigable will of one of the last of the deep-water captains as to his forbears, the Pilgrims. In season and out he worked for its accomplishment, with the result that a colossal Sienese bell-tower, supplementing as it were[Pg 13] the enterprise of Columbus, the Genoan, pins firmly in place the sands of Cape Cod.

The village is bounded by wooded hills, and a drive oceanward brings us to the dunes where the State, year after year, has waged war with the drifting sand of its Province Lands. Life-saving stations and beacons are set at short intervals, and are needed, on this shore, and out there lie the great shoals of the Peaked Hill Bar, the cruellest of all the coast, where ship after ship has piled her bones, and men by the hundred have gone to their death. To the eye, in a crisp north wind, they present only lines of vivid jade-green water set in the wide field of blue; and here sea and shore give such promise of variety as makes one long to watch the seasons through in sun and storm and shrouding mists. The dunes that are no other color than that of sand, ever responsive to the changing mood of the atmosphere, are covered now and then by carpets of growth that run from dull green to the purple of winter; and they and the bluffs beyond them are no more constant in aspect than their neighbor the sea. Far from depressing the spirit, they stimulate keen anticipation of what the hour shall bring forth and a sense that whatever its fruit one shall be great enough to share it. Of all the places one has seen here it is most fitting that man should dare to be free.


From the slender tip of Champlain’s Cap Blanc to Wareham one is never out of sight of water: salt here[Pg 14] and salt there, ocean and inlet and bay; and the great ponds of the uplands, or deep in its swampy covert a lake dropped from the jewelled chain among the hills. In the towns nearer the mainland are creeks and brooks and tiny runlets, flooded cranberry swamps, a ditch choked with the lush growth it nourishes; or near the beach a peat bog may wink unexpectedly from its bosky rim where a colony of night heron have nested to be near their feeding-ground in the bay. And when the tide is at ebb they and the seagulls wheel out there in airy platoons that manœuvre as if to catch the light on their ermine or sleek surtouts of gray. On the drying sands the gulls teeter about like high-heeled ladies on an esplanade until a stranded minnow changes the play and they pounce and cuff and scream like boys greedy for a penny. There are rich harvests for the hungry on these wide reaches of the sandflats, and even a glutton bird could gorge his fill upon the prey entrapped in the fish-weirs that dot the inner coast.

There, at one point, the tide marches out a long mile to the Great Bar and back again, by appointed channels, unhurrying, punctual to the minute, to keep its tryst with the shore. Sailors, unless they have a care to the time, are likely to be “hung up” on the Bar; but for one ashore who looks out to the white line of breaking foam, every moment of the ebb and turn has its special beauty. In bright days the shoaling waters show a lovely interlacement of greens and blue; but when the sky is shrouded in gray, fold upon fold, and the sun, invisible, steps softly westward,[Pg 15] their surface is like burnished metal, although a painter’s eye would discern there a pastel of mauves and pink and blue and a whole chromatic scale of green. White sandflats, disclosed by the ebb, are carved in whorls like a shell by the hand of the tide. Inshore plumy grasses fringe them; here and there infinitesimal forms of life stain them amethyst or green. But the wide sweep of them responds to some subtile quality in the day, and they are plains of pearl where cloudy shadows drift, or, in certain golden hours, they burn with color like some jewelled marquetry of the East. A flaming sunset walks them with feet of blood. And day after day they, or the waters above them, surprise us with some new sweet diversity.

A scarf of gray tops the sand bluffs of the opposite shore, and when the land looms, miragelike, scattered villages appear; or on certain clear evenings we may catch the twinkle of friendly lights. And in summer days when the languid creeks threading the marshlands add a brighter blue to the picture that throbs in the sun—water and sky and the dazzling collar of sand that yokes land and sea—the bay, seeming all but landlocked in its honey-colored bluffs, deceives us with a look of inland waters and lies as softly there as Long Pond among the hills. Above the beaches, now and again, stand groves of pines, homely thurifers that incense the breeze as it passes. And where the line of shore dips to a lowland, the salt marshes, with their exquisite adjustment to the season, are a treasury of beauty—rich greens flushing and dying to the bronze, studded with haycocks[Pg 16] like the bosses of an ancient shield, that challenges encroaching autumn tides.

Winter drains the scene of color, but salt winds cheat the lower temperatures of their rigor, and it is a hard season when snow lies in the meadows through consecutive weeks. Then there are days of brave sunlight when whitecaps feather over the surface of the bay, and ice-cakes churn in with the tide and pile up like opals on the beach: days when the air is wine-clear, and the land is dressed in its best of warm russet brown, and hoofs strike the frozen roads with the resonance of Piccadilly pavements. Then sunset jewels woodland interstices with mellow cathedral light; high on a bluff above the crystal plane of a lake regiments of militant pines salute the dying day; and up in the south, when night hangs the stars low, Orion will be calling his dogs for the hunting. But more beautiful are the gray days in winter when earth meets heaven with the justly modulated values of a Japanese print, and the hills, clothed in the soft fur of leafless woods, crouch under a pale sky; when in swamps the lances of dead reeds clash, and by a stagnant pool stands a cluster of brown cat-tails like candles that have lighted some past banquet of the year.

In spring, long before the tardy oaks unsheathe their foliage, the sudden scarlet of swamp maple flames in a hollow, and we are off to the woods to hunt the stout fresh leaves which betray hiding-places of the arbutus, the mayflower, under the waste of a dead year. Near by, wintergreen in sturdy companies[Pg 17] shoulders the red berries that have eluded hungry winter birds, and graceful runnels of wild cranberry flow through the open spaces. Here pretty colonies of windflowers will soon be swinging their bells, ladies’-slipper and Jack-in-the-pulpit dispute the season’s clemency; and when summer brings red lilies to surprise the eye in some green chamber of the wood, our journey should end at the beach of an inland lake where spicy sabbatia sways delicately in the warm air and genesta grows on the bank.

From spring around to winter, the months are packed with flowers—roadside beauties, shy little creatures of the fields, waxen Indian-pipes in the pine groves; even on the dunes are flowering mosses, the yellow lace of the poverty-grass, the pretty gray velvet leaf of “dusty-miller,” pink lupin, wild grapes and roses crowding a secret hollow where the soil is enriched, perhaps, by an ancient shell-heap of the Indians. And among the depressions of the hills are swamps where a lovely progression, exquisitely disposed as if by conscious art, walks through the year. Color dies hard in these sheltered nooks, and hardly is dun winter lord of all, with stripped bushes huddling like sheep in the hollow, than spring breaks his rule and

“Along an edge of marshy ground
The shad-bush enters like a bride.”

Again the march begins: huckleberry, Clethra, honeysuckle, the dull smear of Joe Pyeweed, the white web of elderberry blossoms turning to fruity umbels that promise homely brews, swinging goldenrod and[Pg 18] feather-grass, the decorative intent of cat-tails that, with certain engaging brown velvet buttons nodding on their stems in a swamp and the firm coral of alderberries, brings us around to winter again.

And there are choristers a-plenty: the remote sweet piping of hylas piercing the velvet darkness of a night in spring, the melodious booming of bull-frogs, the challenge of Bob White; and all the dear homely New England birds, twittering, chirping, chattering, pouring out their hearts in song as they swing with the trees that the wind sweeps into endless motion. And in summer and winter, from north, south, east, or west, the wind brings us news from the sea: the savor of salt, gray billows of cloud and fog, clear stark bright days following one another through a season. The southwest gales of summer beat down ripe grasses in the field and feather willow and poplar with silver; the great autumn gales go trumpeting through the land; the nor’easter sends surf thundering on the outer shore; and there are the soft moist winds that relax the high-wrought tension of humans, and melt the rigors of winter.

The free winds,—and contour, sound, color: with nothing superfluous, yet satisfying and ever present. And from flowers and fruit and woodland and the sharp tang of the sea there is distilled a draught corrective of morbid humors and the wandering will,—a stanch pledge of sobriety.

[Pg 19]



It is a welcoming country, and easily enough some of the Pilgrims, after they had established their settlement at Plymouth, returned to the sandy shores, the woods and meadows that had first offered them the possibility of home. They must have had a peculiar sentiment for the place: for here began their adventure in the great free country of the wilderness, and the chronicles of Bradford and Winslow show an ingenuous pleasure in the recital of it. They were for the most part yeomen and farmers, exiles from the pretty valley of the Trent, who for some eleven years had lived restricted in small Dutch cities; and for sixty-seven days all of them, yeomen and artisans, men, women, and children, many more than the Mayflower could well accommodate, had been buffetted about the Atlantic by autumn gales. Driven out of their calculated course to the southward, they made their landfall at Cape Cod, “the which being certainly known to be it,” no wonder that they were “not a little joyful.” “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land,” writes William Bradford, “they fell upon their knees and blessed ye God of Heaven, who had brought them over ye vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles[Pg 20] and miseries thereof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente.”

Nor was it a country unknown to them. Since Cabot’s voyage of discovery more than a hundred years earlier, the whole coast from Cape Breton to the Hudson had been increasingly visited by French and English seamen who were attracted chiefly by the rich fishing-grounds. It is even said that the great Drake was the first Englishman to set foot in New England, and that it was upon Cape Cod he landed. There are stories of ancient adventurers voyaging, as it might be, to the rhythm of Masefield’s Galley-Rowers:

“... bound sunset-wards, not knowing,
Over the whale’s way miles and miles,
Going to Vine-Land, haply going
To the Bright Beach of the Blessed Isles.
“In the wind’s teeth and the spray’s stinging
Westward and outward forth we go,
Knowing not whither nor why, but singing
An old old oar-song as we row—”

Madoc of Wales, Saint Brendan the Irishman, Icelanders, Phœnicians even; and, more certainly, a company of Norsemen who set up a wrecked boat on the Cape Cod bluffs, the Long Beaches, to guide the landfall of later visitors to their Keel Cape.

French, Dutch, Spanish, English, all had their names for the Cape, but in 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold, examining the coast of New England with a view to colonization, was to give it the predestined and[Pg 21] only right name: “Cape Cod.” Making across Massachusetts Bay “with a fresh gale of wind,” writes his chronicler, “in the morning we found ourselves embayed with a mightie headland” with “a white sandie and very bolde shore,” where, landing, they met an Indian “of proper stature, and of a pleasing countenance; and after some familiaritie with him, we left him at the seaside and returned to our ship.” Another scribe of the party remarks that the Indian had plates of copper hanging from his ears and “shewed willingness to help us in our occasions.” “From this place, we sailed round about this headland, almost all the points of the compass,” and so on to Cuttyhunk, “amongst many faire Islands.” But the significant point for us is that they “pestered” their ship so with codfish that they threw numbers of them overboard, and thereupon named the land Cape Cod.

In 1604, and for several years thereafter, Champlain was much upon the New England coast, helping Du Monts in a colonizing scheme under a charter of Henri Quatre; had they succeeded, New France would have reached Long Island Sound. Champlain landed at Barnstable and named the harbor “Port aux Huistres,” “for the many good oysters there.” He judged, also, that it would have been “an excellent place to erect buildings and lay the foundations of a state, if the harbor were somewhat deeper and the entrance safer.” The tip of the Cape he called “Cap Blanc,” the treacherous shoals at the elbow “Mallebarre,” and at Chatham he was like to have been swamped[Pg 22] in the shoals had the Indians not dragged his boats over into the harbor—“Port Fortune” he called it. But it held no good fortune for him: for his men quarrelled with their rescuers, and after two of them had been killed, he sailed away. Champlain, a scientific man, the king’s geographer, wrote interestingly of the savages, their appearance, customs, agriculture, dwellings, and weighed the advantages of colonization there, but French the land was not to be.

After Gosnold came several Englishmen, Martin Pring among them, searching for sassafras, which he knew was to be found in sandy soil, and was then much esteemed in pharmacy as of “sovereigne vertue against the Plague and many other Maladies.” Pring coasted along to Plymouth, where at last he found “sufficient quantitie” of his sassafras, and camped for several months. There one of his company played the “gitterne” to the joy of the savages who danced about him “twentie in a Ring, ... singing lo la lo la la and him that first brake the ring the rest would knocke and cry out upon.” Henry Hudson spent a night off the Cape and had some difficulty with shoals and tides and mists; but he testified that “the land is very sweet,” and some of his men brought away wild grapes and roses; as did also Edward Braunde, who hoped to discover “sertayne perell which is told by the Sauvages to be there,” and found near Race Point, where he landed, only some “goodly grapes and Rose-Trees.” It should be noted that as Hudson cruised thereabouts, Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayney of[Pg 23] his crew saw “the mermaid.” And in 1614 Captain John Smith set sail for these shores to look for whales and gold-mines, failing which they would take “Fish and Furres,” as the event proved to an amount of some fifteen hundred pounds. Smith, with eight men in an open boat, explored and charted the coast and dedicated his map to Prince Charles, with the request that he change “the barbarous names” thereon. “As posteritie might say,” writes Smith, “Prince Charles was their godfather.” New England, the river Charles, Plymouth retain the royal nomenclature. But his Stuart Bay and Cape James are still Cape Cod and Cape Cod Bay, and Milford Haven is Provincetown Harbor. Cape Cod, “a name, I suppose, it will never lose,” said Cotton Mather, “till the shoals of codfish be seen swimming on the highest hills.” “This Cape,” wrote Smith, “is made by the maine Sea on the one side, and a great Bay on the other in forme of a Sickell.” “A headland of high hills, over growne with shrubby Pines, hurts [huckleberries] and such trash, but an excellent harbour for all weathers.”

And while Smith was engaged in his scientific expedition, Captain Thomas Hunt, whom he had placed in command of the larger boat, after lading her with fish and furs, put his time to profit by capturing twenty-four savages, Nauset and Patuxet Indians among them; and setting sail for Malaga, he sold the cargo for his masters and the savages at twenty pounds the head for the advantage of his own pocket. “This vilde act,” wrote Smith, “kept him ever after from any more[Pg 24] employment in these parts.” But such commerce was not unknown: in 1611, Harlow, sailing for the Earl of Southampton, with “five Salvages returned for England,” and one of these men “went a Souldier to the Warres of Bohemia.” The Cape Cod Indians seem to have been a gentle, even a forgiving race, but they had a long memory for such perfidy, which was to prove a bad business for all later visitors to the region. Yet more often than not whites and natives fought, however friendly the first overtures might have been; and Smith reports, as a matter of course, of the Indians about Plymouth: “After much kindnesse wee fought also with them, though some were hurt, some slaine, yet within an houre after they became friends.” But kidnapping seems to have been the unforgivable offence.

Only the summer before the Pilgrims arrived came Thomas Dermer, sailing for Fernando Gorges, Governor of Old Plymouth, and returned the Indian Tasquantum or Squanto, captured by Hunt and survivor of many vicissitudes, to the end that he might serve as interpreter and find out the truth about tales of treasure in the country. Dermer thought favorably of Plymouth for a settlement, and rescued a Frenchman who had been wrecked three years before on Cape Cod and was living with the Indians. He brought back, with Squanto, Epenow, one of Harlow’s victims, who, however, succeeded in escaping at Martha’s Vineyard. Epenow, during his exile, had been something of a personage: “being of so great stature he was shewed up and downe London for money as a wonder,[Pg 25] and it seemes of no lesse courage and authoritie, than of wit, strength and proportion.”

It is reasonably certain that some of these adventures, perhaps all of them, were known to the Pilgrims. They would have been common talk in Plymouth, the city of Fernando Gorges, and in London; and the Pilgrims were come to a region familiar at least to their captain or his pilot, who is said to have sailed once with Dermer. But every man aboard the Mayflower, as they rounded the tip of Cape Cod, knew that they were about to land beyond the bounds of their permission to colonize, which lay within the jurisdiction of the North Virginia Company and “not for New England, which belonged to another government”; and “some of the strangers amongst them had let fall mutinous speeches—that when they cam ashore they would use their own libertie.”

Not for such liberty had Brewster, Bradford, Winslow, Carver, come upon their pilgrimage; they were men who meant to be free only within lawful bounds; and they were true pioneers, men who in an unforeseen perplexity could make a just decision. Hardly had they sighted the golden dunes of the Cape, and fetched short about to escape its treacherous shoals, than they were meeting their first test. As they made the “good harbor and pleasant bay” of Provincetown, “wherein a thousand sail of ships might safely ride,” the famous Compact was written, and forty-one men of the company signed it ere they set foot to land. It was a simple act, and none could have been more amazed than the Pilgrims had they[Pg 26] known its historical significance. But because they meant to be both free and obedient, their Compact contained the germ of all just government: “It was thought good that we should combine together in one body, and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose.”

“In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne, King James, ... haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king and countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutualy in ye presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves togeather into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of ye ends aforesaid, and by vertue hearof to enacte, constitute and frame such just and equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for ye generall good of ye colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.”

There is the Compact. Freedom within due limits set by the consent of the governed, these men who had chosen exile rather than submission to a tyrannous reading of the law proclaimed as the rule of their future, a principle vital to the spirit of the nation that was to be. And their Compact signed, and John Carver chosen governor for the ensuing year, the[Pg 27] captain anchored offshore and they proceeded upon the next step of their adventure.

After the cramped wretchedness of the Mayflower, they must have been eager for release. “Being pestred nine weeks in the leaking unwholsome shipe, lying wet in their cabins, most of them grew very weake and weary of the Sea,” John Smith wrote of their passage thither. In any case there could be no question as to the necessity of landing: they must have wood and water; the women wanted to wash, the men to stretch their legs and replenish the larder with fish and game and corn. If in the process they found a spot suitable for settlement and offering a prospect of fair return on the investment made by their financial backers, the “Merchant Adventurers” of London, so much the better.

That first day, November 11, Old Style, after the Compact was signed, some fifteen men landed rather to gather firewood than to explore. They saw no Indians, and found the “sand hills much like the downs of Holland, but better, the crust of the earth a spit’s depth excellent black earth all wooded with oaks, pines, sassafras, juniper, birch, holly, vines, some ash, walnut; the wood for the most part open and without underwood, fit either to go or ride in.” Comment which would ill describe the present appearance of Provincetown and Truro; but then the whole inner shore of the Cape, at least, seems to have been wooded to the water’s edge. The party returned with a boatload of juniper, “which smelled very sweet and strong.” The Sunday they kept aboard ship, with[Pg 28] what thankful hearts for their “preservation on the great deep,” and steadfast hope of the future as we may imagine. On Monday the men went ashore to do some boat-building, and the women to wash. These landing parties had an uncomfortable time of it, for the water was too shallow to beach a boat, and they “were forced to wade a bow-shot or two in going a-land, which caused many to get colds and coughs, for it was many times freezing weather.”

On the fifteenth an exploring party set off under the command of Captain Miles Standish. For drink, wrote Edward Winslow, there was “a little bottle of aqua vitæ—and having no victuals save biscuit and Holland cheese—at last we came into a deep valley full of brush, wood gaile [bayberry] and long grass through which we found little paths or tracts; and there we saw a deer, and found springs of fresh water, and sat us down and drank our first New England water with as much delight as we ever drank drink in all our lives.” They sighted a few Indians, who “ran into the woods and whistled their dogge after them”; and William Bradford, lagging behind to examine a deer-trap, was caught by the leg for his pains. “It was a pretty device made with a rope of the Indians’ own making which we brought away with us.” They were as eager as boys on a Scout trail; and when they came upon an old palisado, they were sure it must have been the work of Christians; and on what is still known as Corn Hill they found a cache of corn packed in baskets, and an old ship’s kettle. Whereupon they took a kettleful of corn along with[Pg 29] them—they meant to pay for it when they found the owners, they said, and, moreover, many months after, they did so. They saw flocks of geese and ducks, and also three fat bucks, but would rather have had one. And they camped in the open near Stout’s Creek at East Harbor, and next day kept on to Pamet Harbor in Truro. Altogether a satisfying expedition for Miles Standish and his men who had been cooped up for so many weeks in the Mayflower, but they had found no spot to their taste for a settlement. They wanted not only good farm lands, but an adequate harbor for the trade that was to be: Pamet Harbor they dismissed on account of the “insufficiency of the place for the accommodation of large vessels and the uncertainty as to the supply of fresh water.” These way-worn stragglers were entirely sure they were to need accommodation for large vessels; fresh water, by the way, was there a-plenty, although they did not find it.

On the twenty-seventh they set out on their Second Discovery, this time by boat under the command of Master Jones, the Mayflower skipper, who landed them short of their destination at Pamet River. They camped in a freezing sleet, and taking boat again in the morning kept on to Pamet. That night they camped under some pines and supped on “three fat geese and six ducks which we ate with souldiers’ stomachs, for we had eaten little that day.” Next morning, on the way to Corn Hill, they killed a brace of geese at a single shot. “And sure it was God’s good providence that we found the corn, for else we know not how we should[Pg 30] have done.” Again they camped in the open, and again marched on by Indian wood paths until they came upon a broad trail leading to a settlement. And although they saw no Indians—no doubt keen eyes were watching them from woodland coverts—they poked into the wigwams that were low wattled huts with doorways scarce a yard high hung with mats; and they noted the wooden bowls and trays, earthenware pots, and baskets of wrought crab-shells, and “harts’ horns and eagles’ claws.” They seem, here and there, to have taken a sample of the best, and regretted that they had nothing to leave in exchange. “We intended to have brought some beads and other things to have left in their homes in sign of peace and that we meant to truck with them, but it was not done; but as soon as we can conveniently meet with them, we will give them full satisfaction.” They discovered the grave of a white man, they thought, decently buried, with his sailor’s clothes and treasures beside him, and a child’s grave, from which they took a few pretty ornaments. Some burial mounds they left undisturbed, saying sententiously that “it might be odious unto them to ransack their sepulchres,” which very likely was no more than truth. And still they found no place to strike root.

But the Third Discovery was to have a better result. On December 6 they set out, again by boat, and rounded Billingsgate Point before they landed to camp for the night. About five in the morning, their picket rushed in with cries of “Indians! Indians!” and they roused to savage war-whoops and arrows[Pg 31] rattling down upon the camp. But when they fired their muskets the Indians, probably some of the Nausets whom Thomas Hunt had despoiled of men, ran away as they had come, with no one harmed on either side. The place, situated near Great Meadow Creek in Eastham, was named “The First Encounter.” Again the explorers took boat, and passing the harbor and fertile lands of Barnstable in a driving northeast gale and snowstorm, drenched with the freezing spray that made their clothes “many times like coats of iron,” they pressed on to Plymouth Bay. So thick was the weather that their pilot, who had probably sailed with Smith or Dermer, lost his bearings. “Lord be merciful, my eyes never saw this place before,” cried he as they passed the Gurnet. He would there and then have beached the boat, but one of stouter heart shouting, “About with her, or we are all dead men,” they turned and ran under the lee of Clark’s Island where they landed. There, in storm and wet, they miserably bivouacked over the next day, a Sunday; and on the Monday exploring the mainland and finding harbor, meadow, and brook to their mind, they determined to make here at Plymouth their permanent settlement. Very likely they had bethought them of Dermer’s commendation of it to Fernando Gorges, although they seem not to have been amenable to advice from John Smith, who cites them as a warning in his “advertisemente to Unexperienced Planters.” “For want to good take heede,” writes he of them in 1630, “thinking to finde all things better than I advised them, spent six or seven weekes in[Pg 32] wandering up and downe in frost and snow, winde and raine, among the woods, cricks, and swamps.” On December 16, Old Style, the whole company, reunited at Plymouth, set about the building of their new home.

The Pilgrims had been little more than a month at Provincetown, but, beside the great achievement of the Compact, history had been making to open the annals of Anglo-Saxon New England: Edward Thompson, Jasper Moore, and James Chilton had died; Dorothy, the young wife of William Bradford, had fallen overboard to her death; and Mrs. William White had been delivered of a son, fittingly named Peregrine, the first born of English parents in New England. Not unreasonably does Cape Cod claim precedence of Plymouth when homage is paid the Pilgrim Fathers.


The Compact sprang into being by no magic of inspiration: it was the fruit of minds that had fostered the intention to be free through years of just living, and the winning simplicity of the Pilgrims’ several declarations of faith was the natural outcome of the spirit that framed them. For eighteen years or more their leaders had believed and practised the precepts of John Robinson whom they had chosen as pastor of their little congregation at Scrooby; and Robinson charged them, according to Edward Winslow, to keep an open mind: “for he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy word. He took occasion, also, miserably to bewail[Pg 33] the state of the Reformed Churches” who stuck where Luther and Calvin had left them. “Yet God had not revealed His whole will to them.... It is not possible ... that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.” Men who held that concept of life—the progressive revelation of truth—were as little likely to cramp the just liberties of other men as they were to submit themselves to the unjust imposition of law. And when England persecuted them, it was fitting that they should flee to Holland, the country of William the Silent, who had declared: “You have no right to trouble yourself with any man’s conscience, so long as nothing is done to cause private harm or public scandal.” That might have been the motto of their new government. It has been truly said that the Plymouth Church was “free of blood.” They never hanged a Quaker or burned a witch, and refugees from the Massachusetts Bay Colony constantly found asylum with them. It must be remembered that they were so-called “Separatists,” the Independents, men who set religion above any church, a very different folk from those uncompromising protestants of the Church of England, the Puritans. Yet, wisely, John Robinson had counselled them to be “ready to close with the godly party of the Kingdom of England and rather to study union than disunion” with their neighbors in the New World. That “union” was meant to include no abandonment of principle, and when unwillingly enough they were forced to merge with the richer colony of Massachusetts Bay, they were sufficiently powerful[Pg 34] to expand somewhat its rigid theocracy; though the Puritan influence, in turn, did much to curdle the early tolerance of the Pilgrims.

In the seventy years of their independence, the Pilgrims worked out, by sober and deliberate progression, a plan of government that was a model of statehood, and they had the advantage over other colonies that they were constrained by no formal royal patent. When their agents had gone over from Holland to obtain the king’s consent to their undertaking, James was ready to concede that “the advancement of his dominions” and “the enlargement of the gospel” were an honorable motive; the idea of fishery profits was no less to his liking. “So God have my soul,” quoth he, “an honest trade. ’Twas the Apostles’ own calling.” But a formal grant to the despised Separatists was another matter, and they had to be content with a hint that “the king would connive at them and not molest them provided they behaved themselves peaceably.” They were willing to take the chance that the king’s word was as good as his bond: for if later there should be a purpose to injure them, they shrewdly reasoned, though they had a seal “as broad as the house floor,” there would be “means enow found to recall or reverse it.” And they secured financial backing in London, obtained permission from the North Virginia Company to settle on their coast, then “casting themselves on the care of Divine Providence, they ventured to America.” Divine Providence, apparently, decreed that they should be free of even such slight restraint as the permission of the North Virginia Company, and[Pg 35] instead of settling near the Hudson they were driven to the New England coast.

But they took care in the Compact and in all succeeding legislation to affirm their loyalty to the English Government. Though England had been none too tender in her treatment of them, they recognized and meant to abide by the essential justice of English law, and to profit by the stability that a strong bond with the Home Government could give them. Moreover, in these men flourished the British instinct to make whatever spot of the globe they should elect as home “forever England.” They themselves for eleven long years had fretted as expatriates in an alien land. “They grew tired of the indolent security of their sanctuary,” wrote Burke of them, although as a fact they had worked hard enough for their daily bread, “and they chose to remove to a place where they should see no superior.” In any case they meant that their children should be English rather than Dutch, and they had refused overtures from Holland to settle in Dutch territory.

The machinery of their government was of the simplest, and expanded, as necessity came, with their growth. As provided in the Compact, the Governor was elected yearly by general manhood suffrage. His one assistant was soon replaced by a council of seven. For eighteen years the legislative body, the General Court it is still called, was composed of the whole body of freemen; and the qualifications of a freeman were that he should be “twenty-one years of age, of sober, peaceable conversation, orthodox in religion [as a[Pg 36] minimum, belief in God and the Bible], and should possess rateable estate to the value of twenty pounds.” By 1639 the colony had grown to require a representative form of government; and the two branches, the Governor and Council and the town representatives, sat as one body to enact laws. But save in a crisis, no law proposed at one session could be enacted until the next, so that the whole body of freemen could have opportunity to pass upon it—a clear case of the “referendum.” As early as 1623 the community had outgrown its custom of trying an offender by the whole body of citizens, and substituted trial by jury. Capital offences were six as against thirty-one in England—treason, murder, diabolical conversation, arson, rape, and unnatural crimes—and of these only two came to execution. No one was ever committed, much less punished, for “diabolical conversation.” Smoking was forbidden outdoors within a mile of a dwelling-house, or while at work in the fields: evidently there was to be no gossip over a pipe with the farmer next door. In time this law was eased; and though in the early days the clergy alluded to tobacco as the “smoke of the bottomless pit,” they soon came to use it themselves and “tobacco was set at liberty.”

In 1636 they first codified their law; in 1671 was printed their Great Fundamentals. Hubbard, in his “General History of New England from the Discovery to 1680,” writes: “The laws they intended to be governed by were the laws of England, the which they were willing to be subject unto, though in a foreign land, and have since that time continued of[Pg 37] that mind for the general, adding only some particular municipal laws of their own, suitable to their constitution, in such cases where the common laws and statutes of England could not well reach, or afford them help in emergent difficulties of place.” They were loyal Englishmen to the bone, and in the first codification of law affirm their allegiance: “whereas John Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, William Brewster, Isaac Allerton and divers others of the subjects of our late Sovereign Lord James ... did undertake a voyage into that part of America called Virginia or New England thereunto adjoining, there to erect a plantation and colony of English, intending the glory of God and the enlargement of His Majesty’s dominions, and the special good of the English nation.” Yet they never waived a jot of their rights as freemen; and in 1658, toward the end of Cromwell’s Government, they prefaced the General Laws with a note that the advisers of George III would have done well to heed: “We the Associates of New Plymouth, coming hither as freeborn subjects of the State of England, endowed with all and singular the privileges belonging to such, being assembled, do ordain, constitute and enact that no act, imposition, law or ordinance be made or imposed on us at present or to come, but such as shall be made and imposed by consent of the body of the associates or their representatives legally assembled, which is according to the free liberty of the State of England.”

At the Restoration they gave allegiance to Charles;[Pg 38] in 1689, bridging the chasm of revolution, to William and Mary: the significant point that they held themselves loyal to England, whatever its government might be. And it is interesting, in their address to William and Mary, that they felt entirely free to pass judgment upon the hated Royal Governor, Andros: “We, the loyal subjects of the Crown of England, are left in an unsettled state, destitute of government and exposed to the ill consequences thereof; and having heretofore enjoyed a quiet settlement of government in this their Majesties’ colony of New Plymouth for more than three score and six years ... notwithstanding our late unjust interruption and suspension therefrom by the illegal arbitrary power of Sir Edmond Andros, now ceased, ... do therefore hereby resume and declare their reassuming of their said former way of government.” But that, to their great disappointment, was not to be, and the royal charter of William and Mary united definitely the colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay.

The advantage of their “quiet settlement of government” had been a double benefit: for it seems to have been a fact that liberal Plymouth was free of any interference from England, while the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, on the contrary, were in continual hot water with the Home Government. England probably did not love the Separatists better than she had ever done, but she had no notion of quarrelling with sober, reasonable men who, in consideration of a personal latitude that cost her no inconvenience, were willing that other men, provided they were “civil,”[Pg 39] should live according to their individual right; and thereby saved her the trouble of playing arbiter in colonial disputes. England, moreover, was deriving considerable profit from the lusty young colony that, by its enterprise, was tipping the scales in her favor in the trader’s game she was playing with Holland and France.


The Pilgrims had been no visionaries seeking Utopia. They were members of a well-constructed joint-stock company which, as occasion offered, they adapted to the changing needs of the colony; and they were prepared to earn not only a home for themselves, but a return on the money invested in their enterprise by their financial backers, and, if they prospered, a sum sufficient to buy out such interests. It is true that they were, first, religious men seeking religious freedom for themselves, and, if God willed, they would be the bearers of good news to others. Beyond all other reasons pushing them to their adventure, wrote Bradford, was “a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagation and advancing of the gospel of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

Yet money as well as zeal was necessary for such an undertaking as theirs, and the Holland exiles were poor. But arrangements were concluded with a company[Pg 40] of promoters in London, “Merchant Adventurers” was their more romantic title then, to supply the larger part of the necessary capital, while the Pilgrims as “Planters” should furnish the man power. Their agreement set forth that: “The Adventurers and Planters do agree that every person that goeth, being aged sixteen years and upward, be rated at ten pounds, and ten pounds be accounted a single share”; that “he that goeth in person and furnishes himself out with ten pounds either in money or other provisions be accounted as having twenty pounds in stock, and in the division shall receive a double share”; and “that all such persons as are of this Colony are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all other provisions out of the common stock of said Company.”

Doctor Eliot, in his speech at the dedication of the Pilgrim monument at Provincetown, lucidly described the working-out of the Agreement: “It was provided that the Adventurers and Planters should continue their joint-stock partnership for a period of seven years, during which time all profits and benefits got by trading, fishing, or any other means should remain in the common stock.... At the end of seven years the capital and profits, namely, the houses, lands, goods, and chattels, were to be equally divided between the Adventurers and the Planters.... Whoever should carry his wife and children or servants should be allowed for every such person aged sixteen years and upward one share in the division.... At the end of seven years every Planter was to own the house and garden then occupied by him; and during[Pg 41] the seven years every Planter was to work four days in each week for the Colony and two for himself and his family.... Before the seven years of the original contract with the Adventurers had expired the Pilgrims had established a considerable trade to the north and to the south of Plymouth, and had found in this trade a means of paying their debts and making a settlement with the Adventurers, which was concluded on the basis of buying out their entire interest for the sum of eighteen hundred pounds. Eight of the original Planters advanced the money for this settlement, and therefore became the owners of the settlement, so far as the Adventurers’ liens were concerned. It was then decided to form an equal partnership, to include all heads of families and all self-supporting men, young or old, whether church members or not. These men, called the ‘Purchasers,’ received each one share in the public belongings, with a right to a share for his wife and another for each of his children. The shares were bonded for the public debt, and to the shareholders belonged everything pertaining to the colony except each individual’s personal effects. These shareholders numbered one hundred and fifty-six, namely, fifty-seven men, thirty-four boys, twenty-nine women, and thirty-six girls.” Probably the heads of these families were the men referred to as Old Comers or First Comers; namely, those who had arrived in the first three ships that brought colonists from England—the Mayflower, the Fortune, and the Anne and her consort. “The Purchasers put their business into the hands of the eight men who had become the Colony’s[Pg 42] bondsmen to the Adventurers, and the trade of the Colony was thereafter conducted by these eight leading Pilgrims, who were known as Undertakers.”

There is the framework of their polity; its sure foundation that they were “straitly tied to all care of each other’s good and of the whole by everyone; and so mutually”—the bedrock requirement for the successful working of any coöperative scheme. There was no playing of favorites: each man worked; each man, if for no more than his own sake, must work with good-will. “The people,” Robinson had written of them, “are for the body of them industrious and frugal, we think we may safely say, as any company of people in the world.” He knew intimately the men of whom he spoke. They were “common people” as compared with some of the aristocrats of Massachusetts Bay; yet on the Mayflower roster appeared “masters,” “servants,” and “artisans”; and each in his degree contributed to the public welfare. Action they constantly matched up with their professed attitude to God, with the result that if the expression of their belief were of an ancient pattern, the practice of it would stand well with the liberalism of to-day.

The first year of the little colony was difficult enough, and before the winter was over they might have starved had it not been for the fisheries and the kindness of their Indian neighbors. Yet of their neighbors’ good-will they were not too confident, and they levelled the graves of their dead lest the number should be known to the Indians, and for the discouragement of prospective colonists. Before the spring was[Pg 43] over, one half of the one hundred and two souls that sailed by the Mayflower had died, and of the eighteen women only four survived the hardships of the first six months. Yet they would not lose heart. “It is not with us as with other men whom small things can discourage or small discontentments cause to wish themselves home again,” William Brewster and John Robinson had declared. “If we should be driven to return, we should not hope to recover our present helps and comforts, neither indeed look ever for ourselves to attain unto the like in any other place during our lives.” Wherein one may read how bitter had been the years of their exile, how constant their longing for freedom and the abiding comfort of justice. They meant now to hold on and succeed, and if possible to encourage others to join them, in the place where their own courage and initiative had set them; for it seems to have been a fact that the Pilgrims displayed not only indomitable spirit in their optimistic reports to correspondents in the old country, but also the considered policy of shrewd men who would enlist recruits for their enterprise. Even their critic, John Smith, was moved to admiration for these men who, to be sure, had invited trouble by “accident, ignorance, and wilfulness,” yet “have endured, with a wonderful patience many losses and extremities.” And he marvels that “they subsist and prosper so well, not any of them will abandon the country, but to the utmost of their powers increase their numbers.”

Somehow, in spite of sickness and death and short rations, they won through the dark months of that[Pg 44] first winter, and fortunately for them the spring broke early. On March 19 and 20, “we digged our grounds and sowed our garden seeds”; and these Yorkshire farmers, at any cost, must have been glad to be out in the open again planting their seeds. “I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have here enjoyed,” Winslow had the courage to write in his “Brief and True Declaration.” “For the temper of the air here, it agreeth well with that in England, and if there be any difference at all, this is somewhat hotter in summer. Some think it to be colder in winter, but I cannot out of experience so say. The air is very clear and not foggy, as hath been reported.” It is a cheerful report, persuasive reading for would-be colonists, that Winslow sent back to England by the Fortune which, in the autumn of 1621, brought over the Pilgrims that had perforce remained behind when the Speedwell broke down. And among the new colonists was one William Hilton, who was so pleased with the prospect that he sent back post-haste for his family.

“Loving cousin,” wrote he, “At our arrival ... we found all our friends and planters in good health, though they were left sicke and weake with very small meanes, the Indians round about us peaceable and friendly, the country very pleasant and temperate, yeelding naturally of itself great store of fruites. We are all free-holders, the rent day doth not trouble us; and all of those good blessings we have, of which and what we list in their seasons for taking. Our companie are for the most part very religious honest people; the[Pg 45] word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath: so that I know not anything a contented mind can here want. I desire your friendly care to send my wife and children to me, where I wish all the friends I have in England, and so I rest Your loving kinsman.”

William Hilton had arrived in time for the celebration of their first Thanksgiving Day, which was kept after the kindly manner of the Harvest Home in Old England. Here is Winslow’s description of the festivity: “Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four in a day killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the company almost a week. At which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoyt, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us; yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” A memorable feast; and twenty-five years later Bradford wrote: “Nor has there been any general want of food amongst us since to this day.” The fine healthy temper of the pioneers shines out in these simple words—the words of men who could pass lightly over the uncertainties and privations of that first[Pg 46] difficult winter, when more than once it must have seemed to them that all their hope and labor were in vain and their adventure doomed, to emphasize only the good things that had come to them.

And Robert Cushman who, with his family, arrived by the Fortune, sent report back to his “loving friends the Adventurers of New England” that New England it was not only because Prince Charles had named it so, but “because of the resemblance that is in it of England, the native soil of Englishmen; it being much the same for heat and cold in summer and winter; it being champaign ground, but no high mountains, somewhat like the soil in Kent and Essex; full of dales and meadow ground, full of rivers and sweet springs, as England is.”


The country was sparsely settled by natives: for some four years earlier an “unwanted plague,” an act of God the pious might have been excused for judging it to sweep the country bare for the uses of white immigrants, had all but depopulated the coast from the Penobscot to Narragansett. The vicinity of Plymouth, in particular, had been affected, and when Squanto was returned there by Dermer, he found all his kinsmen dead. It is said that a short time before the calamity, the Nausets, making reprisals on a shipwrecked French crew for the kidnapping activities of the whites, had been promised by one of their victims the vengeance of the white man’s God who would surely destroy them and give over their country to his[Pg 47] people. “We are too many for him to destroy,” boasted the Indians. But when the plague wasted them, and the arrival of the Mayflower might be held as confirmation of the prophecy, their assurance may have weakened. It seemed that the white man’s God might have more power than they supposed; and perhaps that futile flight of arrows at the First Encounter was no more than a half-hearted protest at the decree of fate. The natives had some pretty superstitions of their own—as to the discovery of Nantucket, for instance, which, they told the Englishmen, had been quite unknown until many moons earlier when a great bird had borne off in his talons so many children from the south shore that a giant, one Maushope, moved with pity, had waded out into the sea and followed the bird to the island where he found the bones of the ravished children under a tree. Whereupon, recognizing the futility of regret, he sat him down to smoke, and the smoke was borne back across the waters he had traversed—the true origin of fog in the Sound. And Indians, as it drove in from sea, would say: “There comes old Maushope’s smoke.” Another story has it that Nantucket was formed of the ashes from Maushope’s pipe; but that the island was discovered by the parents of a papoose that was borne off by an eagle. They followed fast in their canoe, but not fast enough, for they were only in time to find the bones of their child heaped under a tree in the hitherto unknown land of Nantucket.

The Plymouth settlers seem to have encountered no great opposition from the natives who, although[Pg 48] shy and suspicious as might be any creatures of the forest, were responsive to the just dealing that was the considered policy of the Pilgrims; and on both sides there was an impulse to friendliness tempered, however, by the ineradicable racial instinct to be wary of whatever is strange. Within a few months the settlers had concluded a treaty with Massasoit, the great overlord of the region. And Samoset, who had learned a little English from traders, soon presented himself with his friendly greeting: “Welcome, Englishmen, welcome.” And Squanto, from the first, was their faithful interpreter. The remnants of the Cape tribes, the Cummaquids, the Nausets, and Pamets, scattered among their little settlements from Sandwich to Truro—Mashpee, Sacuton, Cummaquid, Mattacheesett, Nobscusset, Monomoyick, Sequautucket, Nauset, and Pamet—were, save the Nausets possibly, a singularly gentle race. Nor were the Nausets, when it was well within their power once, disposed to take vengeance upon a boy.

In July, 1621, young John Billington set out from Plymouth to do some independent exploring; nor was this the first escapade of the Billington family. Back there at Provincetown, one morning, John’s brother Francis was like to have blown up the Mayflower by firing off a fowling-piece in the cabin where there was an open keg of powder. “By God’s mercy, no harm was done.” The Billingtons seem to have been among the undesirables of the Mayflower: the father “I know not by what friends shuffled into our company,” Bradford writes of him. And later, in 1630, the man[Pg 49] was hanged for murder. But the settlers were not men to leave young John to his fate; yet search as they would, they could find no trace of him until Indians brought in rumors of a white lad roaming about the Cape. Ten men, with two Indians as interpreters, set sail for Barnstable Bay, and asked news of the boy from some natives catching lobsters there. Yes, such a boy was known to be with the Nausets, and the company was invited to land. They were welcomed by Iyanough, sachem of the Cummaquids, “a man,” wrote Edward Winslow of him, “not exceeding twenty-six years of age, but very personable, gentle, courteous and fair-conditioned; indeed, not like a savage except in his attire. His entertainment was answerable to his parts, and his cheer plentiful and various.” And here at Cummaquid they saw a woman, upwards of a hundred years old, who was mother of three of Hunt’s victims and bewailed the loss of her sons so piteously that the visitors sought to comfort her not only with futile words, but with a gift of “some small trifles which somewhat appeased her.” And after partaking of the “plentiful and various cheer,” they set out again, with Iyanough himself and two of his men as a guard of honor, and grounded their boat near the Nauset shore. But they did not land, and after some cautious interchange of civilities, Aspinet, the sachem there, brought the boy, whom he “had bedecked like a salvage,” and “behung with beads,” out to their boat. And through Aspinet, the Plymouth men arranged to pay for the seed corn they had taken from his cache on Corn Hill in the previous[Pg 50] November. Returning with Iyanough to Cummaquid, there was further “entertainment”: the women and children joined hands in a dance before them; Iyanough himself led the way through the darkness to a spring where they might fill their water cask; he hung his own necklace about the neck of an Englishman. And the party set out for home with due reciprocation of courtesy, but were hindered by tide and wind, and again returned, and again were welcomed by the natives. Truly, a fine adventure for young John Billington.

This expedition seems to have cemented a friendly understanding with the Cape Indians. In November, when the Fortune was sighted off the Cape and the Indians feared she might be a hostile French ship, they warned Plymouth in time for the townsmen to prepare for possible attack. And the natives were always ready to supplement the settlers’ scanty stock of food, which, but for them, would have had no other variety than game from the forest and fish from the sea. Not that the pious were unmindful of such mercies. “Thanks to God who has given us to suck of the abundance of the seas and of treasure hid in the sands,” was the grace said over a dish of clams to which a neighbor had been invited. But for the fruits of the earth they were chiefly dependent upon the savages. “The cheapest corn they planted at first was Indian grain, before they had ploughs,” runs the record. “And let no man make a jest at pumpkins, for with this food the Lord was pleased to feed his people to their good content till corn and cattle were increased.”

[Pg 51]

“We have pumpkins at morning, and pumpkins at noon.
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undone.”

The first harvest was not sufficient for the winter’s need, and in November a company under William Bradford set out in the Swan—a boat lent by their neighbors of Weymouth, who had had no small share in depleting their supplies—for a coasting trip around the Cape to trade knives and beads for corn. With them was their interpreter Squanto; and this was to prove poor Squanto’s last voyage, for at Monomoyick (Chatham) he was taken ill and died. At Monomoyick eight hogsheads of corn and beans were stowed away on the Swan; at Mattacheesett (Barnstable or Yarmouth) and Nauset an additional supply was had. But at Nauset, where a few men had run in shore in the shallop, their boat was wrecked, and caching the stores, the party procured a guide and set out overland for Plymouth, while their companions in the Swan proceeded by sea. In January Standish took the lead in another expedition by boat, recovered and repaired the wrecked shallop at Nauset, brusquely demanded restitution of the Indians for “some trifles” he charged them with stealing, and then and afterwards at Mattacheesett where he made a like charge, received the articles and ample apology from their chiefs.

All visitors to these shores seem to be agreed on the thievish propensities of the natives: Gosnold’s chronicler remarks that they are “more timerous” than those to the north, but thievish; Champlain thought them of “good disposition, better than those[Pg 52] of the north, but they are all in fact of no great worth. They are great thieves and if they cannot lay hold of anything with their hands, they try to do so with their feet.” He adds, charitably: “I am of opinion that if they had anything to exchange with us, they would not give themselves to thieving.” The fact seems to have been that these children of nature could not resist the lure of any unguarded bits of treasure; but Miles Standish was not the man to enter into psychological elucidations of behavior, and at Mattacheesett, as at Nauset, he suspected the natives of treachery as well as thieving, and kept strict watch while they filled his shallop with grain.

In the following month, March, he had still more reason, he thought, to question the friendly intention of the chief Canacum at Manomet, or Bourne, who, however, one bitter cold night had suitably entertained Bradford’s party and sold them the corn which Standish had come to fetch. Standish’s suspicions increased to certainty when two Massachusetts Indians joined the company and one of them began a tirade to Canacum which afterwards was known to be a complaint of outrages committed by the English at Weymouth and a plea to cut off Standish and his handful of men. Winslow writes that there was also “a lusty Indian of Pawmet, or Cape Cod, there present, who had ever demeaned himself well towards us, being in his general carriage very affable, courteous, and loving, especially towards the captain.” But “this savage was now entered into confederacy with the rest, yet to avoid suspicion, made many signs of[Pg 53] his continued affection, and would needs bestow a kettle of some six or eight gallons on him, and would not accept anything in lieu thereof, saying he was rich, and could afford to bestow such favors on his friends whom he loved.” Now a kettle was one of an Indian’s most precious possessions, and very likely the Pamet, when he heard the treachery afoot, offered it merely as an extravagant pledge of friendship; but when he demeaned himself to help the women whom Standish had bribed to load his cargo, the captain merely saw there another proof of perfidy. The Englishmen spent an anxious night in their bivouac on the beach; but when morning broke embarked safely, and with their corn made the return trip to Plymouth.

Whether or not incited thereto by intolerable wrongs, Indians of the mainland had begun to make trouble, and information now came to the Pilgrims, through their ally, Massasoit, of a plot against the whites in which not only Indians near Weymouth, but some of the Cape Indians, were said to be implicated. Weston’s colony of adventurers there had from the first been a thorn in the side of Plymouth; but when one of the Weymouth men, eluding the Indians, made his way across country to report the dangerous conditions there Standish waited not upon the order of his going. With eight whites and an Indian guide, he set sail for Weymouth, where he seems to have met with little resistance, and having slain a due number of the savages, returned to Plymouth with the head of their chief, Wittaumet, “a notable insulting villain,” as a trophy. Very likely thereby a[Pg 54] serious rising of the natives was averted. To Wittaumet’s men a white was a white; it was all one to them whether he were blameless Pilgrim or Merrymount royster; and as for the Patuxets and Pamets and Nausets, we know they had old scores to settle. It is true, moreover, that any long contact of Indians and whites was fairly sure to end in a quarrel and bloodletting. And if the purpose of Standish’s expedition was to create terror, it was a success. Natives of the seacoast, whom the plague had spared, innocent and guilty, fled to the swamps and waste places, where disease attacked them more effectually than the English could have done, and many of them died; among them Canacum of Manomet, Aspinet of the Nausets, and even the “princely” Iyanough, who seems to have been blameless in intention and act. More than two hundred and fifty years later, the bones of a chief were discovered near a swamp in East Barnstable, and, believed to be those of Iyanough, were encased suitably and placed in Pilgrim Hall near relics of Miles Standish who had as surely done him to death as if slain by his hand. The name of Iyanough is preserved in that of the modern town of Hyannis.

How much fault in all this deplorable business may be charged to Miles Standish, one may not say. He was not a “Pilgrim,” nor of their faith, but from the first, on account of his experience and skill, had been chosen for their military leader. Hubbard writes of him: “A little chimney is soon fired; so was the Plymouth captain, a man of small stature, yet of a very hot and angry temper.” And when wise John Robinson,[Pg 55] at Leyden, heard of Standish’s bloody reprisals, he wrote the brethren at Plymouth that he “trusted the Lord had sent him among them for good, but feared he was wanting in that tenderness of the life of man, made after God’s image, which was meet; and thought it would have been better if they had converted some before they killed any.”

[Pg 56]



Whether just or not, the summary punishment dealt out by Standish all but destroyed the natives’ confidence in the whites; and as such a situation was particularly bad for trade, the whites, too, got their reward. Yet the Indians, when occasion offered, were ready to be kind. In December, 1626, the ship Sparrowhawk, London to Virginia, as far out of her reckoning as the Mayflower had been, bumped over the shoals of Monomoyick and grounded on the flats. Her master was ill, crew and passengers knew not where they were, and being out of “wood, water, and beer,” had run her, head on, for the first land that hove in sight. Night was falling, and as canoes made out from the shore, “they stood on their guard.” But the Indians gave them a friendly hail, asked if they were “the governor of Plymouth’s men,” offered to carry letters to Plymouth, and supplied their needs of the moment. Plymouth duly notified, the Governor led out a relief expedition, and, it being no season to round the Cape, landed at Namskaket, a creek between Brewster and Orleans, “whence it was not much above two miles across the Cape to the bay where the ship lay. The Indians carried the things we brought overland to the ship.” The Governor bought corn from the natives for[Pg 57] the strangers, loaded more for his own use, and returned to Plymouth. But hardly was he there than a second message came that the ship, fitted out to proceed, had been shattered by a great storm; and the upshot was that the travellers, bag and baggage, came to Plymouth and visited there until the spring. The region of the wreck was called “Old Ship Harbor,” men had forgotten why until, two hundred and thirty-seven years later, shifting sands disclosed the hull of the Sparrowhawk. And at another time the natives had opportunity to show their good-will when Richard Garratt and his company from Boston, which was rival of Plymouth for the native corn supply, were cast away on the Cape in a bitter winter storm; and all would have perished there had it not been for the savages who decently buried the dead, though the ground was frozen deep, and, having nursed the survivors back to life, guided them to Plymouth.

Plymouth trade, not Only with the mother country, but with other colonies, grew apace. As early as 1627, in order to facilitate communication to the southward with the Indians and with the Dutch settlement on the Hudson, the Pilgrims may be said to have made the first move toward a Cape Cod Canal. “To avoid the compassing of Cape Cod and those dangerous shoals,” wrote Bradford, “and so to make any voyage to the southward in much shorter time and with less danger,” they established a trading post with a farm to support it, and built a pinnace, at Manomet on the river flowing into Buzzard’s Bay. Their route lay by boat from Plymouth to Scusset Harbor, where[Pg 58] they landed their goods for a portage overland of three or four miles to the navigable waters of the river and the coasting vessel there. And in September of that same year, Isaac de Rasieres, secretary of the Dutch Government at New Amsterdam, landed at Manomet with sugar, stuffs, and other commodities, and was duly convoyed to Plymouth in a vessel sent out by the Governor for such purpose. De Rasieres entered Plymouth in state, “honorably attended by the noise of his trumpeters,” and wrote a fine account of the town which is preserved for our interest.

The colony, by 1637, had grown to comprise the towns of Plymouth, Duxbury, and Scituate; in no long time it included the present counties of Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable, and a bit of Rhode Island. Traders, fishermen, an adventurer now and again had visited the Cape, even a few settlers, unauthorized by Plymouth, had broken ground there; but up to 1637 its early history is indissolubly bound up with that of Plymouth. In April of that year the first settlement was organized at Sandwich when certain men of Saugus, who were of a broader mind than their neighbors of Massachusetts Bay, wished to emigrate to the milder rule of Plymouth. Under due restrictions, they were granted the privilege to “view a place to sit down, and have sufficient land for three score families.” They chose Sandwich. And with the first ten of Saugus came fifty others of Saugus and Duxbury and Plymouth. All was duly regulated; and two men who were found clearing ground without permission, and without [Pg 59]having fetched their families, were charged with “disorderly keeping house alone.” If the Saugus men expected a free hand in their new home, they were to be undeceived: the chief ordering of their affairs was from Plymouth, and in 1638 certain prominent townsmen were fined as “being deficient in arms” and for not having their swine ringed. It was the law of the colony “that no persons shall be allowed to become housekeepers until they are completely provided with arms and ammunition; nor shall any be allowed to become housekeepers, or to build any cottage or dwelling, without permission from the governor and assistants.” Rightly, no doubt, Plymouth meant to avoid the danger of any such disorderly element as had infested Weymouth.


In March John Alden and Miles Standish were directed to go to Sandwich, “with all convenient speed, and set forth the bounds of the land granted there.” In October Thomas Prince and again Miles Standish were appointed to pass upon questions affecting land tenure. Complaint, however, seems to have been then not so much in regard to the division of land as to certain members of the community who were deemed “unfit for church society.” And for the adjustment of future dangers, “evils or discords that may happen in the disposal of lands or other occasions within the town,” it was agreed that some one of the Governor’s Council should sit, in an advisory capacity, with the town committee to determine who should be permitted to hold land. John Alden and Miles Standish served many times as such advisers; in 1650 Standish received[Pg 60] a tract of some forty acres for his trouble in settling land disputes. It is interesting that Freeman, historian of Cape Cod, claims Priscilla Mullins for Barnstable, and allows us to suppose that the visits there of Alden and Standish led to the acquaintance that ended in the discomfiture of Standish, and to the particular glory of Priscilla, with her thrust: “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” Another love story is told by Amos Otis, in his “Barnstable Families,” of Thomas Hatch, who was among the first landowners in Yarmouth and Barnstable, a widower and rival with another for the hand of a neighbor’s daughter. All three were expert reapers, and Grace agreed to marry the man who should worst her in the field. Three equal portions were set off and the contest began; but when Grace saw that she was likely to come out ahead, with Thomas a bad third, she slyly cut over into his plot; and he, fired by such encouragement, justified her favor.

The system of government and land tenure in the later settlements were patterned after Plymouth: there were individual holdings of land and common lands which from time to time were apportioned to the townsmen, not only in accord with “necessity and ability,” but “estate and quality”: fertile ground, one might guess, for difference of opinion. By 1651, at Sandwich, “the conditions on which the grant of the township was made having been fulfilled, a deed of the plantation was executed by Governor Bradford to Mr. Edmund Freeman, who made conveyance to his associates,” a process which resembled the taking over[Pg 61] of Plymouth from the Merchant Adventurers of London.

Within a few years, on the general conditions of settlement granted to Sandwich, the four original townships of the Cape came into being. Scattering colonists had broken the ground. In 1638 “liberty was granted to Stephen Hopkins [one of the Mayflower men] to erect a house at Mattacheese and cut hay there this year to winter his cattle—provided, however, that it be not to withdraw him from the town of Plymouth.” Two other men were granted a like privilege. The rich salt meadows of the Cape were coveted by Plymouth for cattle, which seem to have been brought over from England first by Edward Winslow in a voyage made in 1624; and it was not uncommon later for cattle to be sent out to the colony as a speculation, for one half the profits of their increase.

In the early winter of 1637-38 an attempt at settlement was made in a portion of Barnstable known as “Old Town,” by one Stephen Batchelor, who for some twenty years was a stormy petrel among the clergy of New England. In 1632, at the age of seventy-one, lured no doubt by the hope of freedom—there were not lacking those who accused him of license—he had arrived in Boston and went on to Lynn, where he was soon in trouble with the authorities. “The cause,” writes Governor Winthrop, “was for that coming out from England with a small body of six or seven persons, and having since received in many more at Saugus”—in short, his flavor of liberalism did not[Pg 62] please the elders, and after a long wrangle, upon his “promise to remove out of town within three months he was discharged.” It is said that among the settlers at Sandwich were some relatives of his little flock; and whether for that reason or not, in the bitter cold of an early winter, he led them, on foot, the weary hundred miles from Lynn to Mattacheesett. But the settlement, rashly undertaken, was not a success, and in the spring Batchelor was off to Newbury. Thence he went to Hampton and Exeter, and at eighty was formally excommunicated by the Puritans. His life here had been “one constant scene of turbulence, disappointment, discipline and accusation,” and home again in England, in peace we may hope at the last, he died at the age of ninety.

In 1639 came the formal permission to settle Yarmouth. Stephen Hopkins’s farm was incorporated in the new settlement, and the group of undertakers was headed by Anthony Thacher, who four years previously had been cast away on Thacher’s Island, Cape Ann, in a memorable storm. His children were among those lost; but he and his wife, and, quaintly, a covering of embroidered scarlet broadcloth that is still an heirloom in the family, were saved. Thacher had been a curate of Saint Edmund’s, Salisbury, and after his tragic entry into the country, had settled first at Newbury and then at Marblehead.

In the early part of 1639 lands in Barnstable were granted by Plymouth on the usual terms; and in October of that year some twenty-five families, under the leadership of the Reverend John Lothrop, came[Pg 63] there from Scituate that had become “too straite for their accommodation,” a phrase which meant probably that in the growing settlement grazing land was becoming restricted. Lothrop was of notable personality. A man of Christ Church, Cambridge, he had taken Anglican orders and then had gone over to the Independents and had become the second pastor of their church in London. After eight years there, he and fifty of his congregation were arrested and imprisoned for two years; but in 1634, in company with some of his former parishioners, he came to New England on the same ship, as it chanced, with the famous Anne Hutchinson, whose chief offence, in the days before persecution swung her mind awry, seems to have been a disconcerting personal charm. It is reasonable to suppose that Mr. Lothrop may not have enjoyed his long voyage the less by reason of such a fellow-traveller. In December, 1639, there was held at Barnstable, the first thanksgiving service, which resembled an earlier celebration of the same congregation at Scituate, when after prayer and praise, so Mr. Lothrop informs us, there was “then making merry to the creatures.” At Barnstable, likewise, “the creatures” were enjoyed when the congregation divided into “three companies to feast together, some at Mr. Hull’s, some at Mr. Mayo’s, and some at Brother Lumbard, senior’s.” Lothrop was a man of vigorous mind, with some worldly wisdom as befitted a pioneer, “prudent and discreet”; he was learned, tolerant, kindly, typical of the early leaders in town affairs. It was those of the second and third generation, when the fires of[Pg 64] consecration had burned low and the influence of Massachusetts Bay was potent, who baited their heretics; and then men said of old Elder Dimmock of Barnstable that he kept to the teachings of his beloved pastor, John Lothrop, and “if his neighbor was an Anabaptist, or a Quaker, he did not judge him, because he held that to be a prerogative of Deity which man had no right to assume.” Lothrop’s church members needed to sign no creed or confession of faith: they professed belief in God and promised their endeavor to keep His commands, to live a pure life, and to walk in love with their brothers.

Lothrop’s ministry at Barnstable had its smaller difficulties that are not peculiar to his time. Of a jealous, backbiting woman he writes: “Wee had long patience towards her, and used all courteous intreatyes and persuations; but the longer wee waited, the worse she was.” The woman, “as confidently as if she had a spirit of Revelation,” kept to her slanders: “Mrs. Dimmock was proud, and went about telling lies,” so did Mrs. Wells; and Mr. Lothrop and Elder Cobb “did talk of her” when they went to see Mr. Huckins. At their wits’ end to stop her slanders, they very likely held counsel regarding her. She was “perremtorye in all her carriages,” the harried parson affirms, and finally, in 1649, milder measures exhausted, she was excommunicated. Another trouble-maker had come with the first settlers from Scituate. He had the training of a gentleman and knew some Latin, we are informed, but was a vulgar creature and obstreperous of manner. He, too, was excommunicated, among[Pg 65] the lesser reasons given therefor that he was “much given to Idleness, and too much jearing,” and “observed alsoe by some to bee somewhat proud.” Lothrop, in his record, adds that William Caseley “took it patiently,” which, belike, was but another manifestation of William Caseley’s arrogance.

Lothrop kept in touch with affairs across the water; and on March 4, 1652, appointed a day of “thanksgiving for the Lord’s powerful working for Old England by Oliver Cromwell and his army, against the Scots.” He loved his books, and by his will, in 1653, gave one to each child in the village, and directed that the remainder be sold “to any honest man who could tell how to use it.” His house is still used for a library.

Another bequest of public import was that of Andrew Hallett, of Yarmouth, first of the name, who left a heifer and her progeny, from year to year, to the use of the most needy in the town, no mean loan at a time when a cow was worth a farmstead. Hallett, in the precise classification of the day, was rated among the few “gentlemen.” He speculated in land as did the best of his neighbors, from parson to cobbler, and was no stranger to contests at law. His son Andrew, though a gentleman’s son, did not learn to write until he came to Yarmouth. He bought of Gyles Hopkins a house which without doubt was that built by Stephen in 1638, the first built here by whites—a poor thing, very likely: for it was said that some of the Indian wigwams were more comfortable than many houses built by the English. But in no long time Hallett was building another house more in keeping with his estate;[Pg 66] and of one of his descendants in the mid-eighteen hundreds the gracious memory was preserved that he delighted in keeping “great fires on his hearth.” Andrew Hallett, the younger, unlike his father, seems to have kept clear of legal entanglements, and though a member of the Yarmouth church, preferred at times to sit under the gentler teaching of Mr. Lothrop of Barnstable.

The Reverend Marmaduke Matthews, first minister of Yarmouth, was a fiery Welshman, witty, but indiscreet in his speech, who kept his parish in hot water for the six years of his tenure. He quarrelled with the constable; again, four of his opponents were haled before the court as “scoffers and jeerers at religion and making disorders at town meeting,” and were acquitted. Some schismatics tried to form a new society under Mr. Hull, who had been supplanted in the Barnstable church by Mr. Lothrop, but was still a member thereof; whereupon, perplexingly, Barnstable excommunicated him for “wilfully breaking his communion with us, and joining a company in Yarmouth to be their pastor contrary to the counsel and advice of our church.” Hull made an “acknowledgment of sin,” was reinstated, but soon after went to Dover. Lothrop was now supreme at Barnstable, but Yarmouth was not at peace, and under Matthews’s successor, John Miller, another Cambridge man, matters came to the pass of calling a council of conciliation drawn from the distinguished clergy of the two colonies—John Eliot of Roxbury among them—to pass upon these ecclesiastical difficulties.

[Pg 67]

In 1644 came the settlement of Eastham: indeed, there had been some talk of transferring the seat of government thither. There had been growing dissatisfaction with Plymouth; some said that they “had pitched upon a spot whose soil was poor and barren,” and Nauset had long been known to them as a granary whence they drew many of their supplies. On further reflection the place was judged too cramped and too out of the way for a capital town; but seven families of Plymouth adhering to their wish to remove there, land was purchased from the Indians, and a grant was made to them of “all the tract of land lying between sea and sea, from the purchasers’ bounds at Namskaket to the herring brook at Billingsgate, with the said herring brook and all the meadows on both sides the said brook, with the great bass-pond there, and all the meadows and islands lying within said tract.” Among the men coming to Eastham was Thomas Prince, who had come over in the Fortune, and married for his first wife the daughter of Elder Brewster. Prince took up a farm of two hundred acres, that ran from sea to bay, and later when he was elected Governor a dispensation was made in his case, as the law held that the Governor should be a resident of Plymouth. In 1665, however, public affairs forced him to return to the capital, but he still held his Eastham farm. Those who knew Prince testified that “he was a terror to evil-doers, and he encouraged all that did well.” Among “evil-doers” there is reason to believe he included men of other theological views than his own. But the colony elected him three times its[Pg 68] governor, and the Plymouth Church set the seal of its approval on his administration. “He was excellently qualified for the office of Governor. He had a countenance full of majesty.”

Here, then, were the original four townships, extending from Buzzard’s Bay to the Province Lands; and it is particularly fortunate, no doubt, that these settlements sufficiently isolated the Indian communities of the Cape before the great conflagration of King Philip’s War, when any concentration of fire there would have been a troublesome matter for the colonists to handle. In 1685, when the colony was divided into its three counties, four more villages—Falmouth, Harwich, Truro, and Chatham—are mentioned, but not until some years later were they set off and incorporated as towns. Later still Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, and Wellfleet were divided from the mother townships, and in 1727 the Province Lands at the tip of the Cape were incorporated as Provincetown, with certain peculiar rights therein reserved to the Government.

The setting-off of Brewster, previously the North Parish of Harwich, in 1803, led to an amusing complication that illustrates the fine stiff-necked obstinacy of these men of “the bull-dog breed.” A battle royal was waged between those who did and those who did not advocate the division; and finally the best possible compromise to be had was that he who would not budge from his old allegiance should be permitted his citizenship there, though his estate should lie in the new. Harwich was divided; in the process the[Pg 69] new town was splashed with angry patches of the old, and more than one conservative of the North Parish found his freehold tied to the mother town only by a ribbon of winding road. Such a one looked from his windows across jewelled marshes to the alien waters of the bay; and on election day, turning his back on home, crossed the trig waist of the Cape, and cast his ballot in the town set on the sandy inlets of the sea.


The general grounds of contention, ecclesiastical and political,—questions of land tenure and fishing rights, the division and government of parishes,—remained for the children and grandchildren of the first settlers. It was not that they were a quarrelsome people, but, rather, that they had a healthy, vivid, proprietary interest in the civic and religious development of their common life. Every man in a town had his criticism for each act of the General Court, for the management of his neighbor, and the religious slant of his minister; every man expressed his personal view of the general comity in no uncertain words, with a result that sometimes presented a picture of confusion when it was in reality no more than the process of boiling down to a good residuum. Nor has this early spirit died. The strongly protestant temper of the Pilgrim Fathers has survived in their descendants; even to-day if one alien to the community penetrates beneath the tranquil surface of things commotion may be discovered. And from time to time, one may venture to suppose, a spirit of joyful wrangling has swung through[Pg 70] this town or that when the pugnacious Briton has cropped out in men finer tuned by a more stimulating atmosphere, who waged the combat not always for righteousness’ sake, but for pure pleasure of pitching into the other fellow.

In the early days, at any rate, there was some scope for the talent of an arbiter, and in the Reverend Thomas Walley who, after a stormy interval of ten years, followed Mr. Lothrop in the pastorate of Barnstable, his people had cause for gratitude as “the Lord was pleased to make him a blessed peacemaker and improve him in the work of his house.” In 1669 Mr. Walley carried his peacemaking farther afield, and preached before the General Court a sermon entitled “Balm of Gilead to Heal Zion’s Wounds.” Among other wounds were listed the “burning fever or fires of contention in towns and churches.” Occasionally outside powers took a hand in these difficulties and the Boston clergy were called into council. And shortly after the incumbency of Walley, when one Mr. Bowles seems to have officiated at Barnstable for a time, John Cotton wrote thus to Governor Hinckley at Plymouth: “This last week came such uncomfortable tidings from Barnstable hither, that I knew not how to satisfy myself without troubling you with a few lines.... It does indeed appear strange with men wiser than myself that such discouragements should attend Mr. Bowles.... I need tell you, worthy sir, that it is a dying time with preachers ... and there is great likelihood of scarcity of ministers.” And so on, in favor of Mr. Bowles.

[Pg 71]

Schism, pure and simple, sometimes clove a church asunder, and the dissenters, under the man of their choice, retired to form a new parish; but natural division came about as a settlement spread to the more remote parts of a township. Such a group might remain a subdivision “within the liberties” of the mother town, but as frequently the younger parish became the nucleus of a growing settlement that might, in turn, be duly incorporated as a town. Nor was the process likely to be consummated without some heartburning. In 1700 the Reverend Jonathan Russell of Barnstable sent a tart communication to the town meeting that had divided his parish and desired his pleasure as to a choice of churches. “On divers accounts,” wrote Mr. Russell, “it seems most natural for me to abide in the premises where I now am; yet since there is such a number who are so prejudiced or disaffected or so sett against my being there”—in short, being a wise man, he elected peace and chose “the Western Settlement if it may by any means comfortably be obtained.” And Mr. Russell took occasion to remind the parish that he should require some provision for “firewood or an Equivalent, having formerly, on first settlement, been encouraged by principal Inhabitants to expect it.”

These early clergymen were usually Cambridge or Oxford men, the liberals of their time, sure to stand for the encouragement of learning among the simple people with whom they had cast their lot. And whether or not by their influence, the sons of those who had set their names to the Compact were ready in 1670 to[Pg 72] make some provision for schools. Looking about for a source of revenue, they perceived that “the Providence of God hath made Cape Cod commodious to us for fishing with seines,” and thus encouraged the General Court passed an act that taxed the fishing, and, further, contained the germ of our public school system: “All such profits as may and shall accrue annually to the colony from fishing with nets or seines at Cape Cod for mackerel, bass, or herring to be improved for and towards a free school in some town in this jurisdiction, for the training up of youth in literature for the good and benefit of posterity.” And the colony continued its work by requiring that children should be taught “duely to read the Scriptures, the knowledge of the capital laws, and the main principles of religion necessary for salvation.” Idleness was punished as a vice; wilful ignorance was an offence against “the safety and dignity of the commonwealth.” Read into the simple precepts what modern interpretations you will, and one finds the elements necessary for training the citizens of a state to be justly governed by the consent of the governed.

Less significant laws reached out to regulate the personal life of the people: a talebearer was liable to penalty; a liar, a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, a profane man might be whipped, branded, imprisoned, or put in the stocks. It cost Nehemiah Besse five shillings to “drink tobacco at the meeting-house in Sandwich on the Lord’s day.” For the man taken in adultery there was a heavy fine and whipping; the woman must[Pg 73] wear her “scarlet letter,” and for any evasion the device should be “burned in her face.” And to curb the spirit of “divers persons, unfit for marriage, both in regard to their years and also their weak estate,” it was decreed that “if any man make motion of marriage to any man’s daughter or maid without first obtaining leave of her parents, guardian or master, he shall be punished by fine not exceeding five pounds, or by corporal punishment, or both at the discretion of the court.” As a sequence, it is written that a Barnstable youth was placed under bonds “not to attempt to gain the affections” of Elizabeth, daughter of Governor Prince. In Eastham a man was mulcted a pound for lying about a whale; elsewhere one paid five pounds for pretending to have a cure for scurvy. Men were had up for profiteering when beer was sold at two shillings a quart which was worth one, and boots and spurs which cost but ten shillings were sold for fifteen. Certain leading citizens were licensed to “draw wine”: Thomas Lumbert at Barnstable, and Henry Cobb; Anthony Thacher at Yarmouth; at Sandwich Mr. Bodfish, and “when he is without, it shall be lawful for William Newlands to sell wine to persons for their need.” Constructive work was done in the way of building roads and bridges, for which Plymouth was willing the towns should pay; and a committee of the four Cape towns was appointed to draw therefrom, for such funds, “the oil of the country.” Representative government in the growing colony was practically coincident with the incorporation of the Cape towns, which sent representatives to the General Court and[Pg 74] had local tribunals to settle disputes not “exceeding twenty shillings.”

The people neither had nor needed sumptuary laws: gentle and simple, they dressed in homespun. As late as 1768 a letter from Barnstable tells of the visit of some ladies “dressed all in homespun, even to their handkerchiefs and gloves, and not so much as a ribbon on their heads. They were entertained with Labrador Tea; all innocently cheerful and merry.” Men worked hard, and “lived” well: wild fowl and venison, fish in their variety throughout the year were to be had for the taking; and the farmers had homely fare a-plenty—seasoned bean broth for dinner, an Indian pudding, pork, beef, poultry. It was a life meagre, perhaps, in the picture of it, but all deep concerns were there—love, loyalty, birth, death, a conviction of personal responsibility for what should follow—and the whole web of it was shot through with a rich, racy humor. They could be neither driven nor easily led, these people; and justice they meant to exact and cause to be done. In the old time their fathers had turned misfortune to the profit of their souls, and in the new country the natural energy of the children led them to succeed in what they might undertake.

The Independents were men who, if they had not loved many luxuries, had loved one with a consuming zeal; and it was perhaps excusable that those of the second generation should dole out with a more sparing hand the freedom that had been purchased at so great a price. Yet were they, again, for their time, liberals;[Pg 75] and it seems to have been true that the prospect of universal salvation brightened in proportion to the distance from Salem and Boston. Plymouth, at any rate, even in its “dark age,” between 1657 and 1671, was a bad second to Massachusetts Bay when it came to the persecution of heretics or witchcraft hysteria, although for the latter there might be people here and there who indulged themselves, without fear of molestation, in playing with the idea of magic.

There is a story of Captain Sylvanus Rich, of Truro, who, shortly before getting under weigh in a North Carolina port, bought from an old woman a pail of milk, and no sooner was he at sea than the ship was as if storm-bedevilled. The hag who had sold him the milk, declared Captain Rich, had bewitched him and his craft. Every night, he told his mates, she saddled and bridled him and drove him up hill and down in the Highlands of Truro. Far out of their course, they swept on to the Grand Banks and were like never to make port, when, by good luck, they fell in with a vessel commanded by the captain’s son who supplied their needs and as effectually broke the spell of the witch.

James Hathaway of Yarmouth was a stanch believer in “witchcraft and other strange fantasies”; but Hathaway was no puling mystic, and lived out ninety-five hale, hearty, vigorous years. A kinsman of his could give proof of the family strength by picking up a rum barrel in his own tavern and drinking from the bung; and the family eccentricity he evidenced by quietly dropping out of sight to save himself the trouble of defending a suit brought against[Pg 76] him for embezzlement by a sister, and as quietly, after an interval of twenty-one years, returning to his wife and home. It had been thought he was drowned in the bay and to no avail “guns were fired, sweeps were dragged, and oil poured on the waters.” This same sister was a clever, well-read, witty creature, who married well, and for many years “associated with the intelligent, the gay and the fashionable.” She contributed to her popularity in the drawing-rooms of Boston and Marblehead by recounting with a lively tongue stories of witches she had seen and known, their tricks, their strange transformations. To the end, she vowed, she was a firm believer in witchcraft.

At Barnstable, one Liza Towerhill, so called because her husband came from that region of London, was reputed to be a witch, able at will to transform herself into a cat, and having constant commerce with the devil even though to the casual eye she were industrious, hardworking, and pious.

The colony does not have so clean a slate in respect of the persecution of Quakers. As early as 1656 the trouble began at Massachusetts Bay; but Plymouth lagged in the enactment of prohibitive laws against heretics, the execution of which, in the end, were more often than not evaded. Yet Plymouth had drifted far from the teachings of old John Robinson, who had charged his flock to keep an open mind “ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you.” The First Comers, who had heard and followed his words, were succeeded by men less well disciplined in mind and spirit, who were the[Pg 77] more inclined to the strait doctrine of Massachusetts Bay. Then Rhode Island, under Roger Williams, became the citadel of tolerance; but Quakers, exiled from the north, continued to stream into the colony, to the no small discomfiture of its officers. The visitors, maddened by their wrongs, were not too courteous with those of high estate, and Winslow, particularly, was irritated by their demeanor, “sometimes starting up and smiting the table with a stick, then with his hand, then stamping with his foot, saying he could not bear it.” “Let them have the strapado!” cried he. Norton, arraigned by the General Court, had, in his turn, arraigned the Governor, whose “countenance full of majesty” in this instance, at least, availed him nothing. “Thomas, thou liest,” cried the Quaker. “Prince, thou art a malicious man.”

But, for the most part, the Quakers did no more than describe, in Biblical terms as was the custom of the day, the soul-state of their persecutors. They had been bred Puritans, and spoke the Puritan language. If Mary Prince called Endicott, as he passed her Boston prison, “vile oppressor and tyrant,” she spoke the truth mildly. “There is but one god, and you do not worship that god which we worship,” fulminated Juggins, the magistrate, in the trial of Lydia Wright. “I believe thou speakest truth,” returned the accused calmly. “For if you worshipped that God which we worship, you would not persecute His people.” “Take her away!” cried the court. “Away with him, away with him,” had been the only recourse left an earlier tribunal.

[Pg 78]

It was natural that the seemly magistrates of Plymouth objected to these new citizens who, when summoned “for not taking the oath of fidelity to the government,” announced that they “held it unlawful to take the oath”; and they flatly refused to pay tithes for the support of a clergy they despised. Nor were they without sympathizers in that contention. “The law enacted about ministers’ maintenance was a wicked and devilish law,” declared Doctor Fuller, of Barnstable. “The devil sat at the stern when it was enacted.” And for his vehemence, though a true believer, he was fined fifty shillings by the General Court, which at the same term had the even mind to elect him, for his ability, one of the war council, and later to appoint him surgeon-general of the colony’s troops.

Quakers held parsons in light esteem, yet not one of the Cape clergy could have conceived such a plan as Cotton Mather, in 1682, spread before Higginson of Salem. “There be now at sea a skipper,” wrote he, “which has aboard a hundred or more of ye heretics and malignants called Quakers, with William Penn, who is ye scamp at ye head of them.” Mather went on to recount that secret orders had gone out to waylay the ship “as near ye coast of Codde as may be and make captives of ye Penn and his ungodly crew, so that ye Lord may be glorified, and not mocked on ye soil of this new country with ye heathen worship of these people.” Then the astounding proposition: “Much spoil can be made by selling ye whole lot to Barbadoes, where slaves fetch good prices in rumme[Pg 79] and sugar. We shall not only do ye Lord great service by punishing the Wicked, but shall make gayne for his ministers and people.” The precious scheme somehow miscarried, the threatened engagement off “Codde” did not take place, and Philadelphia was founded.

When the Quakers Holden and Copeland, driven from Boston and whipped at Plymouth, came to Sandwich, they found soil ready tilled for their planting. The church there, said to have been “the most bigoted in the county,” had been wrecked by the bitter feud between liberals and “hard shells,” and its minister, a graduate of Emmanuel, Cambridge, “a man of great piety and meekness,” had retired to the more congenial atmosphere of Oyster Bay, Long Island. But the churchmen of Sandwich, as was the custom of their race, thirsted for religion, and in reaction against the old doctrines, the liberals there went over in a body to the simple tenets of the Quakers. In a year no less than eighteen families professed the new faith; but in the meantime authority had not slept.

The marshal of Sandwich, Barnstable, and Yarmouth, was one George Barlow, a renegade Anglican priest; nor had his colonial record been a savory one. At Boston, in 1637, he had been “censured to be whipped” for idleness; at Saco, on complaint that he was “a disturber to the peace,” he was forbidden “any more publickly to preach or prophesy”; and later when he turned lawyer at Plymouth, it was affirmed in open court “that he is such an one that he is a shame and[Pg 80] reproach to all his masters; and that he, the said Barlow, stands convicted and recorded of a lye att Newbury.” When Copeland and Holden arrived at Sandwich, Barlow had been prompt to hale them before the selectmen, to be duly whipped. But the village fathers, “entertaining no desire to sanction measures so severe towards those who differed from them in religion, declined to act in the case.” Nothing daunted, Barlow presented his prisoners at Barnstable before Thomas Hinckley, then assistant to Governor Prince and later to succeed him in office.

Hinckley was the best-read lawyer in the colony, just and honorable some held, others that he was apt at running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. He had his enemies, Otis admits, and adds: “Barren trees are not pelted.” All are agreed that his second wife who was his helpmeet for more than forty years, was a beautiful and accomplished woman, and possessed, moreover, of “a character excellently suited to correct the occasional impetuosity of his own.” Whether or not that impetuosity had been galled by the Quakers, Hinckley permitted Holden and Copeland to be whipped, and in his presence. The scene, described by Bishop with simple eloquence, is typical of many a Quaker punishment by the magistrates in the presence of a more compassionate people. “They being tied to an old post, had thirty-three cruel stripes laid upon them with a new tormenting whip, with three cords, and knots at the end, made by the marshal, and brought with him. At the sight of which cruel and bloody execution, one of the spectators (for[Pg 81] there were many who witnessed against it) cried out in the grief and anguish of her spirit, saying: ‘How long, Lord, shall it be ere thou avenge the blood of the elect?’ And afterwards bewailing herself, and lamenting her loss, said: ‘Did I forsake father and mother, and all my dear relations, to come to New England for this? Did I ever think New England would come to this? Who would have thought it?’ And this Thomas Hinckley saw done, to whom the marshal repaired for that purpose.”

Barlow was a ready tool for the hand of the reactionaries. Sent by the Court to Manomet to apprehend any refugees who might come there by sea—it was a law of the colonies that any captain bringing heretics should deport them at his own expense—Barlow included the more lucrative affair of raiding well-to-do farms. At East Sandwich a man was mulcted eighty-six pounds, and in default of payment, eighteen head of cattle, a mare, and two colts: in effect, all his property save his house, his land, one cow and a little corn, “left out of pity for his family.” But on a second visit Barlow, being warm with liquor, regretted his leniency, and took the corn, the cow, and the only remaining copper kettle. “Now, Priscilla, how will thee cook for thyself and thy family?” jeered he. “George,” she retorted, “that God who hears the young ravens when they cry will provide for them. I trust in that God and verily believe that the time will come when thy necessities will be greater than mine.” The event proved her right, and in his old age, brought low with drink and evil ways, Barlow[Pg 82] often craved charity of Priscilla Allen, and was never refused.

As in the old days, the “blood of martyrs was the seed of the church,” and persecutions, petty or great, did but serve to increase the number of heretics, who as time went on not always practised the pacifism they preached. Two women were sentenced to be publicly whipped for “disturbance of public worship, and for abusing the minister”; there were fines for “tumultuous carriage at a meeting of Quakers.” There were fines, also, for sheltering Quakers; Nicholas Davis, of Barnstable, and others, were banished on pain of death. A Cape man, chancing to be at Plymouth when Nicholas Upsall, the aged Boston Puritan who had been outlawed for protesting against the persecutions, was driven thence, took compassion on him and brought him to Sandwich only to be ordered to “take him out of the government.” In no long time, however, reaction set in; the fair-minded of the community were roused to protest at the senseless persecution; and men were beginning to say that such intolerance was not in accord with the spirit of their faith. Mr. Walley, the parson, and Cudworth, driven from Scituate for his liberalism, and Isaac, the third son of old John Robinson of Leyden, spoke up for the oppressed. Edmund Freeman and others, of Sandwich, were fined for refusing aid to the marshal in his work. And later, when Quakers resisted the payment of tithes, it even became the custom to make up the required sum by levying an additional tax upon churchmen. Nor were the Quakers, for the most part,[Pg 83] strangers, though refugees were harbored: for converts were many among the first settlers of the region, and we are told that after the laws against them were relaxed they were “the most peaceful, industrious, and moral of all the religious sects.” And in 1661, when King Charles sent his injunction against the persecutions by the hand of Samuel Shattuck, the Quaker who had been banished from Massachusetts Bay on pain of death, Plymouth welcomed the occasion to restore those whom she had disfranchised, and returned to the milder government that better suited her temper.


In these years of the early settlements the Indians had given little trouble, and they had been willing enough to sell their lands for considerations that were valuable to them and not ruinous to the whites. The matter of the natives’ claim to the soil was reasoned out in certain “General Considerations for the Plantation in New England.” “The whole earth is the Lord’s garden and he hath given it to the sons of Adam to be tilled and improved,” ran the ingenuous document. “But what warrant have we to take that land which is, and hath of long time been possessed by others of the sons of Adam? That which is common to all is proper to none,” is the answer thereto. “This savage people ruleth over many lands without title or property.... And why may not Christians have liberty to go and dwell amongst them in their waste lands and woods (leaving them such places as they have[Pg 84] manured for their corn) as lawfully as Abraham did among the Sodomites?” Fortified by such doctrine, the settlers took up the waste lands, paid for the corn, and went on, when need arose, to pay for the cleared land; though later Andros, characteristically, was to declare that these Indian deeds were no better than “the scratch of a bear’s paw.” Prices were easy of adjustment. “A great brass kettle of seven spans in wideness round about and one broad” fell to one Paupunmuck, of Barnstable, who, however, reserved “the right freely to hunt in the lands sold, provided his traps did no harm to the cattle.” And of Monohoo, the Reverend Mr. Walley, lover of justice and peace, bought some threescore acres for “ten yards of trucking cloth, ten shillings in money, one iron kettle, two knives, and a bass-hook.” And so were matters arranged to the satisfaction of all concerned: to the settler his farmland; to the Indian a brass pot and bass-hook, and often a small plot was reserved to him for tillage. But his right to hunt or fish was inevitably encroached upon as the settlements absorbed more and more of the wild lands, and before 1660 Richard Bourne, of Sandwich, perceived that some special reservation should be made for the fast dwindling tribes.

The settlers had lived comfortably enough with their pagan neighbors; and so busy were they about their own affairs, temporal and spiritual, that they were not annoyingly zealous in proselyting. But when John Eliot, apostle to the Indians, came down from Boston to arbitrate the parochial troubles of Sandwich, he improved the occasion to forward the work[Pg 85] nearest his heart. An Indian of the Six Nations shrewdly observed to a Frenchman that “while we had beaver and furs, the missionaries prayed with us; but when our merchandise failed they thought they could do us no further good.” No such charge could be brought against Eliot. “We may guess that probably the devil decoyed these miserable salvages hither,” set forth the “Magnalia,” “in hopes that the gospel should never come here to destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them. But our Eliot was on such ill terms with the devil as to alarm him with sounding the silver trumpets of heaven in his territories and make some noble and zealous attempts ... to rescue as many as he could from the old usurping landlord of America.” The silver trumpets sounded in vain at Sandwich. Eliot was baffled by the difficulties of the local dialect, by the too pliant acquiescence of one sagamore, and by the ironic compliance of a huge sachem known as Jehu who stalked into meeting, stood silent at the door, and, silent still, went forth again never to reappear there. Eliot returned to Boston, but it is probable that his hope was the inspiration of much good that followed.

Richard Bourne took hold of the matter by the right handle: he was “a man of that discernment that he conceived it was in vain to propagate Christian knowledge among any people without a territory where they might remain in peace.” And he proceeded to obtain for his wards a tract of over ten thousand acres on the “South Sea,” where in time, as birds to the safety of some southern island, flocked[Pg 86] Indians from far and near; and where still, though of deteriorated breed, may be found a few Mashpee Indians. “There is no place I ever saw so adapted to an Indian town as this,” wrote the Reverend Gideon Hawley in 1757. “It is situated on the Sound, in sight of Martha’s Vineyard; is cut into necks of land, and has two inlets by the sea; being well watered by three fresh rivers and three large fresh ponds lying in the centre of the plantation. In the two salt water bays are a great plenty of fish of every description; and in the rivers are trout, herring &c. In the woods, until lately, has been a great variety of wild game consisting of deer &c., and adjacent to the rivers and ponds otters, minks, and other amphibious animals whose skins have been sought for and made a valuable remittance to Europe ever since my knowledge of these Indians.” The description of the land on the thickly settled south shore of to-day is clearly recognizable; there are trout in the brooks, and fish in the sea, though the Indian and the “amphibious animals” be rarer denizens.

Mr. Hawley had been deflected by the French wars from work among the Iroquois, in contrast to whom the Mashpees “appeared abject,” he thought. “A half naked savage were less disagreeable than Indians who had lost their independence.” But he might better have been thankful for that civilization which his predecessors had made possible: for the less trouble was his, and his Indian parishioners gave him, moreover, valid title to two hundred acres of their best land. He lived among them for fifty years, and is said[Pg 87] to have “possessed great dignity of manner and authority of voice, which had much influence.” And his Indians, though “abject,” did him credit. In 1760 one Reuben Cognehew presented himself at the Georgian court with a protest against the colonial governor, and returned with orders to treat the Indians better; and in the Revolution, Hawley said, more than seventy of the Mashpee women were made widows. In his old age he wrote a letter full of a humorous philosophy that must have stood him in good stead through his long ministry: “Retired as I am, and at my time of life I need amusement. I read, but my eyes soon become weary. I converse, but it is with those who have my threadbare stories by rote. In such case what can I do? I walk, but soon become weary. I cannot doze away my time upon the bed of sloth, nor nod in my elbow chair.” He contemplates his fowl and observing “how great an underling one of the cocks was made by Cockran and others of the flock I pitied his fate, and concluded to take an active part in his favor.” Whereupon Master Cockerel “gathered courage with his strength, sung his notes, and enjoyed his amours in consequence of my action. But alas! to the terror and amazement of the whole company he in his turn became an intolerant tyrant. The Archon had better understanding than I and I have determined not to meddle in the government of hens in future, nor overturn establishments. Cocks will be cocks. As the sage Indian said, ‘Tucks will be tucks, though old hen he hatch ’em!’” As for other animals, though “Milton, full of his notions, supposes that a change in consequence[Pg 88] of Adam’s fall passed upon them,” Mr. Hawley notes them much of the “same nature that they had before the Revolution in this country, and that important one now regenerating the Old World, as it is called; and under every form of government and dispensation, men will be men.”

But to return to Bourne: having obtained for the Indians their land, in 1665 he furthered their “desire of living in some orderly way of government, for the better preventing and redressing of things amiss among them by just means,” and a court was set up consisting of six Indians, under his guidance, reserving, however, that “what homage accustomed legally due to any superior sachem be not infringed.” In 1670 Bourne was ordained by Eliot as their pastor. And his son, following the father’s example, procured an act of the Court guarding the tenure of their land, which might not be “bought by or sold to any white person or persons without the consent of all the Indians.” And in the ministry Bourne was succeeded by men, sometimes Indians, sometimes whites, who had due regard for their charges, “the Praying Indians,” they were called.

At Eastham, the Reverend Samuel Treat was at pains to learn the language of his Indian neighbors, and translated the Confession of Faith into the Nauset dialect. Mr. Treat was an old-school Calvinist, whose chief means to grace was the threat of eternal damnation. “God himself shall be the principal agent in thy misery,” he could thunder out in the little meeting-house with a voice that carried far beyond its[Pg 89] walls. “His is that consuming fire; his breath is the bellows which blows up the flame of hell forever; he is the damning fire—the everlasting burning; and if he punish thee, if he meet thee in his fury, he will not meet thee as a man, he will give thee an omnipotent blow.” Whether Mr. Treat dealt out such red-hot doctrine to his Indians, we cannot know; perhaps they were warmed by the fervor rather than alarmed by the tenor of his words. At any rate, they loved him; and when he died during the Great Snow of 1716, they tunnelled a way to the grave and bore him to his rest.

There were old ordinances forbidding the whites to give or sell firearms, ammunition, canoes, or horses to Indians. There was also a provision that “whoever shall shoot off a gun on any unnecessary occasion, or at any game except at an Indian, or a wolf, shall forfeit five shillings for every shot.” Evidently all was not love and trust between the races. The Indians steadily dwindled in numbers until at Eastham in 1763 there were but five Indians, and at Truro in 1792 only one family, although an old lady then remembered that there used to be as many Indian children at school as whites, and “sometimes the little Injuns tried to crow over ’em.” Early in the nineteenth century the pure-breed Mashpees were extinct; but in 1830 William Apes, an “Indian” preacher, succeeded in enlarging their religious liberties; in 1842 their common lands were apportioned in sixty-acre lots; in 1870 Mashpee became a town with full self-government, though still with some special grants of state aid for schools and highways.

[Pg 90]

“Rum” here, as elsewhere, played its important part in undermining the stamina of the natives; and its evil, as in any age, exhorters to virtue were prone only too vividly to depict. “Mr. Stone one very good preacher,” commented a Mashpee, “but he preach too much about rum. When he no preach about rum, Injun think nothing ’bout it; but when he tells how Injun love rum, and how much they drunk, then I think how good rum is and think no more ’bout sermon, my mouth waters so much for rum.” And when asked whether he preferred Mr. Stone or “Blind Joe,” a Baptist, he said: “Mr. Stone he make best sermons, but Blind Joe he make best Christians.” And as in other and later times the whites made their profit in selling drink to the Indians. As early as 1685 Governor Hinckley writes of the Indians: “They have their courts and judges; but a great obstruction to bringing them to more civility and Christianity is the great appetite of the young generation for strong liquors, and the covetous ill-humor of sundry of our English in furnishing them therewith notwithstanding all the court orders and means used to prohibit the same.”

The Indians were inveterate gamblers, and although they could sit solemnly enough through a church service, they were as likely to go forth to game away all they had even to their precious knives and kettles. And the whites, as in the early days before they had made good Christians of the “salvages,” were ready to suspect them of petty thievery: for which, however, the savages were not without examples[Pg 91] to imitate. An Indian, reproved for taking a knife from an Englishman’s house, retorted: “Barlow steals from the Quakers. Why can’t I steal?” At Yarmouth, late in the seventeen hundreds, near the mouth of Bass River, was a little cluster of wigwams; and whether for reason or not, an irate deacon, suspecting some of the community of robbing his henroost, visited them in the early morning, only to be abashed by finding them at prayer. He stole away without further inquiry about his hens. And the Indian deacon, one Naughaught, nettled, perhaps, by such suspicions, upon finding a purse of money one day, would not open it save in the presence of witnesses at the tavern. “If I were to do so,” he told them, “all the trees of the forest would see and testify against me.” And this same Naughaught had a marvellous adventure that must have made a fine story for drinkers at the tavern. Walking one day far from the habitations of man, went the tale, he was set upon by a great number of black snakes—a common and harmless reptile in the Cape Cod meadows to-day, but going about their business there in smaller companies. Unarmed, Naughaught saw that his defence lay only in a steadfast spirit. He quailed not when the snakes writhed up his body, even to the neck; and when one, bolder than the rest, faced him eye to eye, he opened his mouth and straight snapped off its head. Whereupon its companions withdrew and left Naughaught master of the field.

It is matter of record that the Cape Indians were more friendly to the whites, more humane, and more[Pg 92] easily converted to Christianity than their brothers of the mainland, and in like measure were the more despised by them. “The Praying Indians were subjects,” said Philip, son of the great Massasoit, when there was question of taking the oath of fidelity to the English sovereign. But not he or his fellows; his kinsmen had ever been friendly with the Plymouth Government: his father and brother had made engagement to that end, but it was only for amity, not subjection. And by 1662 Philip was ready to defy Plymouth. “Your government is only a subject of King Charles II of England,” he told them. “I shall treat only with the king, my brother. When Charles of England comes, I am ready.”

As early as 1642 rumored unrest among the Indians and a well-grounded fear that the mother country might draw the Plantations into her quarrels with the Dutch or French, had knit the colonies closer together, and in 1643 a protective league that was the prototype of the later confederacy of states was formed among the New England colonies. Two commissioners from each colony, six of the eight to make a majority rule, were to meet annually in September; a common war chest and a colonial militia were provided for; but none were to fight unless compelled to do so, or only upon the consent of all. The Plymouth quota, under command of Miles Standish, was to be thirty men, of whom the Cape should furnish eight.

In 1675 trouble with the Indians came to a head in King Philip’s War, in which the Cape, although criticised by Plymouth, bore her due share. It was charged[Pg 93] of Sandwich that “many of the soldiers who were pressed came not forth.” As a fact, Sandwich, the frontier town of the Cape, was well occupied in seeing to her own defences that must separate the Praying Indians from the hostile natives of the mainland; nor was the town of Richard Bourne, with its large Quaker element, likely to be as eager to fight the Indians as Plymouth or Massachusetts. The Cape Indians were restive enough to cause apprehension, and the towns were constantly on watch for attack without and treachery within. Restriction upon the Indians was tightened, account of them was kept the easier by providing that “every tenth Indian should have particular oversight over his nine men and present their faults to the authorities.” The five or six hundred men capable of bearing arms could have made trouble enough for the whites if they had had the will; but whether for gratitude or lack of spirit, they were loyal—some even joined the troops. Mr. Walley, who was ever friendly to the Indians and ready to give them their due, observed that so well did they fight that “throughout the land where Indians hath been employed there hath been the greatest success,” and pondered how affairs might go without their aid. “I am greatly afflicted to see the danger we are in,” he wrote Mr. Cotton, of Plymouth. “Some fear we have paid dearly for former acts of severity.” Nor were there lacking heavenly portents of disaster: in 1664 a great comet had appeared, and three years later, “about an hour within the night,” another “like a spear,” and again another in 1680. “When[Pg 94] blazing stars have been seen,” said Increase Mather, “great mutations and miseries have come upon mortals.”

The price which Mr. Walley apprehended was sufficiently heavy, yet the outcome was as might have been expected. In August, 1676, when Philip of the Wampanoags was killed, “Thus fell a mighty warrior,” and then ended his war. In the sparsely settled colonies six hundred men were slain, twelve or thirteen towns destroyed, and a huge debt contracted. Plymouth shouldered a burden that exceeded the entire personal estate of the citizens, which she met by vigorous taxation and partly, it may be said, by the sale of lands that had belonged to the exterminated Indians. The aftermath of war meant peculiar suffering for the devastated districts; the Cape, fortunate in its remoteness, offered asylum, which was, however, gratefully declined, to Rehoboth, Taunton, and Bridgewater. It is interesting that “Divers Christians in Ireland” sent over a relief fund of something over a hundred pounds. It is also interesting that no encouragement or aid had been received, or asked or expected, from the mother country; and another useful lesson in self-dependence had been learned by the colonies.

The Cape forces had been ably led by John Gorham, of Barnstable. A letter to the council, written in October, 1675, shows something of his temper as a man: “Our soldiers being much worn, having been in the field this fourteen weeks and little hope of finding the enemy, we are this day returning toward our[Pg 95] General, but as for my own part, I shall be ready to serve God and the country in this just war so long as I have life and health. Not else to trouble you, I rest yours to serve in what I am able, John Gorrun.” Three days later the Court appointed him captain of the second company of Plymouth, of which Jonathan Sparrow, of Eastham, was lieutenant.

The commander-in-chief was James Cudworth, of Scituate, who had been a member of John Lothrop’s flock, and had lived for a time in Barnstable and owned salt-works there. He had been disfranchised for his sympathy with the Quakers, and bound over in five hundred pounds to appear at court “in reference unto a seditious letter sent to England, the coppy whereof is come over in print,” which, however, was no more than a full setting-out of the unlawful persecutions. But he was too valuable a man to lose: Scituate was nearly unanimous in his favor, as were Barnstable and Sandwich. In 1666 the Scituate militia, against the will of the Court, chose him captain; in 1673 he was unanimously made captain of the Plymouth forces in a contemplated expedition against the Dutch. His declination of the honor, which he was later to undertake in the Indian war, was not, he declared, “out of any discontent in my spirit arising from any former difference. I am as freely willing to serve my King and Country as any man, but I do not understand that a man is called to serve his country with the inevitable ruin and devastation of his own family.” Cudworth pleaded the care of his farm and his wife’s illness. “She cannot lie for want of breath,”[Pg 96] wrote he. “And when she is up she cannot light a pipe of tobacco, but it must be lighted for her. And she has never a maid. And for tending and looking after my creatures; the fetching home of my hay, that is yet at the place where it grew; getting of wood, going to mill; and for the performance of all other family occasions I have now but a small Indian boy, about thirteen years of age, to help me.” “So little of state was there,” is Palfrey’s comment on the artless narrative, “in the household economy of the commander-in-chief in a foreign war.” And again: “It is amusing and touching at once to see how hard, in those days, it was to induce men to be willing to be great.”

[Pg 97]



The so-called French and Indian Wars, a series of conflicts reflecting the entanglements of England overseas, lasted well on to seventy-five years after the accession of William and Mary in 1689. Political history in Massachusetts was making in the meantime: Andros had reigned and been deposed; the Earl of Bellamont, a good friend of King William and a just man popular with the colonists, had served a brief term, wherein he had captured and shipped to England for trial the notorious Captain Kidd; and Sir William Phips, a native of New England acceptable to the people, was the first Governor under the charter of William and Mary that, in 1692, formally united Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. Plymouth had fought well for her independence as against absorption either by New York or Massachusetts Bay; but when the skill of Increase Mather won her as prize, Governor Hinckley had the good sense to thank him for his work, as Massachusetts was preferable to New York. Maine, Massachusetts, and Plymouth, then, were united under the rule of Governor, Deputy Governor, and Secretary appointed by the king, and twenty-eight Councillors chosen by the people. On Cape Cod, at the time of the union, there were about[Pg 98] four thousand whites grouped in six towns—Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Eastham, Falmouth, and Mannomoit—which sent nine representatives to the first Provincial Assembly.

It is interesting that at about this time began the advent of men of Irish blood, who, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, have been among the most thrifty and prosperous of the Cape people. Early in the reign of William and Mary laws were put afoot to turn Ireland from manufacturing to agriculture. Swift gibed at the policy of “cultivating cattle and banishing men”; Lord FitzWilliam protested that a hundred thousand operatives were forced to leave the country. Many, the vanguard of a mighty host, came to the American colonies. Few of these early immigrants, probably, were of pure Celtic blood: they were the Scotch-Irish of the north, the Anglo-Irish and the French of the south, artisans rather than farmers, who were to play an enormous part in the development of our country. Among the early settlers of the Cape were many Irishmen: Higgins, Kelley, Belford, Delap, Estabrook, Wood, and the Reverend Samuel Osborn who succeeded Mr. Treat at Eastham. Mr. Osborn taught his parishioners the use of peat as a fuel and some improvements in farming; but, alas, in that orthodox community, he was suspected of liberalism. Thoreau says: “Ten ministers with their churches sat on him and spoiled his usefulness”—but only for Eastham. In Boston he became a successful schoolmaster, and lived there to be near a hundred years of age.

[Pg 99]

Life at the Cape flowed on with simple annals to mark its course. In 1687 a mill for grinding corn was set up at Barnstable, to the wonder of the Indians who took it for a monster with arms—the precursor of the winged mills that once dotted the Cape from shoulder to tip and played no small part in the charm of its picture. At Barnstable, too, was the first mill to “full and draw the town’s cloth on reasonable terms,” to the satisfaction, one may suppose, of busy workers at spinning-wheel and loom. And the erection of a mill at Yarmouth was even celebrated in verse:

“The Baxter boys they built a mill,
Sometimes it went, sometimes stood still;
And when it went, it made no noise,
Because ’twas built by Baxter’s boys.”

In 1694 Harwich was set off from Eastham, and it is said that Patrick Butler walked all the way to Boston to secure the act of incorporation. In 1709 Truro, also, with the usual stipulation that it “procure and settle a learned and godly minister,” was set off from Eastham, which, indeed, as Pamet, it had long antedated in settlement. In 1705 there had been an abortive attempt to incorporate this district as Dangerfield, and in 1718 there was a motion to set off the future Wellfleet as Poole; but nothing further was heard of these names. There had always been wrangling over the settlement at Mannomoit, at the elbow of the Cape: first attached to Yarmouth, then to Eastham, in 1688 it was made an independent “constablerick,” and in 1712 was incorporated as Chatham. In 1714 the Province Lands became the Precinct of Cape Cod[Pg 100] under the “constablerick” of Truro, and there was a tax of fourpence for the upkeep of a minister there. But evidently Truro had trouble with her ward—the population was a drifting one, for the most part irresponsible fishermen and adventurers—and in 1715 she petitioned the General Court that the new Precinct be “declared either a part of Truro or not a part of Truro, that the town may know how to act in regard to some persons.” From the beginning, with a care to the preservation of crops, householders were required to kill blackbirds and crows, and there was a large bounty on wolves. In 1717 there was even talk of building “a high fence of palisades or boards” across the Cape between Sandwich and Wareham “to keep wolves from coming into the county.” But there were two points of view for that question, and the scheme, opposed by some within on the score of expense and by others without who did not “wish all the wolves to be shut out of the county upon their own limits,” was soon abandoned. In 1721 there was a fearful epidemic of smallpox throughout the State; and Cotton Mather, who favored inoculation, was held by the pious to prefer “the machinations of men to the all-wise providence of God.”

As the Cape became more closely settled, men of the pioneer spirit were again feeling themselves cramped for room; and in 1727 certain lands which the Government had been ready to give as bounty to veterans of King Philip’s War, were, at length, granted to their heirs—a township ten miles square to each one hundred and twenty persons where claims[Pg 101] thereto were established within four months of the act. Seven townships were taken up. Number Seven, in Maine, assigned to the heirs of men who had served under Captain John Gorham, was named after him, and his grandson, Shubael, ruined himself in promoting the enterprise. Amos Otis writes that “he lost his property in his endeavors to secure to the officers and soldiers in King Philip’s War, or their legal representatives, their just dues. In his strenuous efforts to do justice to others, he was unjust to himself, and involved himself, for the benefit of others, in liabilities which he was unable to meet.” Of John Phinney, one of these pioneers of Gorham, a son of one of the conquerors of the Narragansetts, it is recorded that “he disembarked from his canoe on the Presumpscot River, with his axe and a small stock of simple provisions, attended by a son of fourteen years of age, with a design to make a home for himself and family in the then wilderness. Having selected a spot for his future dwelling, that son Edmund, afterwards distinguished as a colonel in the war of the Revolution, felled the first tree for a settlement.” Nearly every town on the Cape sent men to the new country, and here the old Cape Cod names were perpetuated: Bacon, Bangs, Bourne, Freeman, Knowles, Paine, Sturgis.

In 1727 the Precinct of Cape Cod was incorporated as Provincetown, with important reservation of rights to the Government in exchange for which the inhabitants were held exempt from all but local taxes and from military duty. The Province held title to the[Pg 102] land; and it was not until 1893, when the State surrendered its holdings in the village that a Provincetown man could be said to own his home, or give more than a quitclaim deed for its transfer. In 1740 Provincetown seems to have added some grazing to her activities by sea, and is presented for so carelessly herding cattle that the “beaches were much broken and damnified, occasioning the moving of the sands into the harbor to the great damage thereof.” The French wars were working havoc in the fortunes of her fishermen and the population melting away until, in 1755, there were not more than three houses in the village and then increasing until the Revolution, when there were twenty. In 1763 that part of Eastham known as Billingsgate—Poole it never was to be—became Wellfleet. And a year earlier the Mashpee Indians, feeling the push for fuller political rights, petitioned for and obtained their Mashpee District, eight miles by five or six, comprising two hundred and thirty-seven souls and “sixty-three wigwams.” To the Yarmouth Indians had been granted the greater part of South Yarmouth on Bass River. Mr. Freeman records that 1749 was known as the year of the Great Drought which destroyed the early crops of hay and feed; but in July the weather broke, the bare earth miraculously put forth its green, and there were as many thanksgivings as there had been intercessions for Divine aid.

Martha’s Vineyard had been found particularly adapted to sheep-raising, and wool was ferried over to Falmouth to keep the Cape women busy at their[Pg 103] looms. In 1738 a Barnstable man founded Marston’s Mills, and a letter from Newport in a later year speaks of the woollen factory at Barnstable which receives from the spinners it employs sometimes five hundred skeins a day and clears in a year three thousand dollars, “which is the most profitable of any business now carried on in America according to the stock improved in it”; broadcloth “selling for three dollars a yard in London may be had here for a dollar and a half.” This public industry supplemented the one that a family conducted on its own account: for nearly every farm had its sheep, and homespun was the wear. The moors of Truro were dotted with sheep, and very likely some of its surplus wool was sent to the Barnstable mills.

That the Cape people, in parsonage or farm, followed the custom of the day and kept slaves is evidenced, among other ways, by many wills. Mr. Bacon, of Barnstable, for instance, directs that in case his negro Dinah be sold, “all she is sold for be improved by my executors in buying Bibles,” which are to be distributed among his grandchildren. Mr. Walley had his slaves; the Reverend Mr. Avery, of Truro, whose farm and forge were near Highland Light, was able to bequeath a considerable estate to his children; and among the assets were his negro “girl named Phillis,” his Indian girl named Sarah, and the negroes Jack and Hope who were never to be sold out of the family. Old Totoo, slave to Mrs. Gorham, of Barnstable, survived her eight years and, dying, begged that he might be buried at his mistress’s feet. In 1678 two[Pg 104] Indians of Sandwich, convicted of stealing twenty-five pounds, were sentenced to be sold, for the profit of their victims, somewhere in New England as “perpetual slaves.”

And that apprenticeship in the early days was sometimes practical slavery is shown by the case of Jonathan Hatch, a Yarmouth lad, bound out at the age of fourteen to a Salem man, from whose harsh service he fled only to be caught in Boston, sentenced to be severely whipped, and returned as a slave to his master. Again escaping, he reached Yarmouth where he was arrested, condemned to be whipped, and passed from constable to constable back to Salem. Appeal was made to the Plymouth Court which made an excuse of “doubting its jurisdiction” to evade the issue, and the boy was “appointed to dwell with Mr. Stephen Hopkins” at Yarmouth. In due time he married and went to live at South Sea, near the sachem of the Mashpees, with whom he became on very good terms. In 1652 he was had up for furnishing an Indian with gun and ammunition, and later befriended the Indian Repent who was charged with threatening to shoot Governor Prince. From the South Sea, with Isaac Robinson, he became a squatter at Falmouth, but soon was duly granted a plot of eighty acres. He was to act, moreover, as the land agent of the proprietors, and ended the career that had begun as a runaway slave by becoming a respected measurer of metes and bounds.

For these early farmers slavery seems to have been the solution of their problem of trying to tie a laborer[Pg 105] to his job. While land was available in practically unlimited amount and money was scarce, any man might find himself a proprietor, a point illustrated by an amusing story of Winthrop’s. A certain man, lacking cash, paid off his farmhand by giving him a pair of oxen. The laborer was willing to continue such service. “But how shall I pay you?” asked the man. “With more oxen.” “And when the oxen are gone?” “Then you can work for me and earn them back again.” But in the North, as time went on, and land was taken up in comparatively small farms that could be profitably worked by owners who could pay for necessary labor, the convenience of slaves was easy to forego, and the public conscience began to work for abolition. As early as 1733 Sandwich voted: “that our representative is instructed to endeavor to have an act passed by the Court to prevent the importation of slaves into this country; and that all children that shall be born of such Africans as are now slaves among us, shall after such act be free at twenty-one years of age.” Five years later selling slaves in the American market was prohibited at Boston. It is at Truro, one may believe, that one of the last slave trades on the Cape was consummated when, in 1726, Benjamin Collins bought from a neighbor Hector, aged three, for thirty pounds, and in due time made a Christian of him, as the parish records show. Hector grew to a great age, and evinced confidence in salvation, among other ways, by praying in loud tones as he went to his labor in the fields of the Truro Highlands where, sure gage of notability,[Pg 106] certain expressions to commemorate him crept into the vernacular—“Old Hector,” “black as Hector,” “Hector’s Nook,” “Hector’s Stubble,” “Hector’s Bridge.”

In the later years, preceding the Civil War, it was natural that among a people which had always counted many progressives, there should be Abolitionists. They were kindly folk, it is said, “with strong convictions, never attending church because the sermons did not condemn slavery”—the early racial touch cropping out, it seems, in this later generation. Some of the ships of an Osterville owner even landed runaway slaves on the south shore whence they passed along by “underground railway” to a certain house in Barnstable. One remembers that as a boy he used to go there to teach them their letters; and he also remembers that “they were treated as equals; but sometimes they made their way to ‘Mary Dunn’s Road’ where they found rum and congenial companions.”

Finance, swinging from stringency to inflation of the currency, was an ever-present problem in the colony during the French and Indian Wars. In the mid-eighteenth century, a land bank was proposed in the hope of using land as the basis for credit in a country where gold and silver were so lacking, with a result disastrous to many farmers on the Cape. In 1748 paper was called in and the “piece of eight,” or Spanish dollar, made the standard; but again the easy issue of paper was too great a temptation, again there was depreciation and instability, again the struggle back to a standard dollar. In 1749, after “King George’s[Pg 107] War,” England liquidated the war debt of the Province by paying into the treasury at Boston a fund of some one hundred and eighty thousand pounds that were carted through the streets in seventeen truckloads of silver and ten of copper. Henceforth it was provided that all debts should be paid in coined silver, which is said to originate the term “lawful money.”


All these fifty years since the accession of William and Mary had been complicated by more or less participation in the foreign wars of the mother country; and the hereditary hatred of France and England lived on, with new occasions, in their colonies. Those of France had been planted and fostered by the crown; those of England largely by her rebels; Catholic France never could sympathize with the English heretics; and now that the power of Spain was broken, French and English traders and fishermen were the chief rivals for domination of the new countries and the seas, east and west, north and south, the world over. In 1689 the principle of colonial neutrality had been proposed by France and rejected, to her considerable subsequent cost, by England. And at the beginning of “King William’s War,” so-called, Massachusetts, commanded by the Governor, Sir William Phips, set forth on her adventure for the reduction of Port Royal and Quebec. Port Royal fell, its loot paying for the expedition, but was retaken by the French. France’s reply was an invasion of the border, assisted by her Indian allies; and now and thereafter[Pg 108] throughout the French wars there was great apprehension, particularly by Cape Cod in its defenceless state, of French sea-raids on the New England coast. After the Peace of Ryswick, in 1697, France claimed all the fisheries east of the Kennebec and all English boats there found were forfeit by order of the king—fruitful cause, one may suppose, for fresh quarrels. And no later than 1702 “Queen Anne’s War” revived the Indian raids, and the sacking of Deerfield roused the colonies to a holy war. On the Continent, meantime, “Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre” and in 1713 the Peace of Utrecht ended the French wars for thirty-three years’ breathing space; in the new world France lost forever Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson Bay Territory.

In these wars five expeditions had been fitted out by the colonies to attack the enemy on the east, under Colonel Benjamin Church, and in his command were found the Cape Cod men. Thomas Dimmock, of Barnstable, fell, fighting gallantly, at the battle of Canso. He would not shelter himself, as did the other officers, but stood boldly out in the open cheering on his men—a conspicuous mark for sharpshooters. Major Walley, son of the old minister, was another officer—a gallant figure, handsome and debonair, as a portrait of him, in fine surtout, ruffles and periwig, testifies; and there was Caleb Williamson in command of the Plymouth forces, and Captain Gorham, later lieutenant-colonel, son of the old Indian fighter of Philip’s War. And Gorham, especially, did unique and valuable service in command of the “whaleboat[Pg 109] fleet.” These light-draft boats, manned by whalemen and Indians, could transport men and supplies up the shallow bays and rivers to the spot where they were most needed; and without such a device, the enemy, stationed for the most part where the transports could not land troops, would have been hard come at by marches overland through the wilderness. At night, or in bad weather, the boats were taken ashore and turned over to serve as shelter. In 1704 Church called for fifty of these boats, and that winter visited every town on the Cape to recruit men. “For years after,” writes Amos Otis, “these old sailors and soldiers, seated in their roundabout chairs, within their capacious chimney-corners, would relate to the young their adventures in ‘the Old French Wars.’”

In 1739 there was an abortive war with Spain when Cape men enlisted for an expedition to the Spanish Main where many died of disease, and there was no result beyond a further impoverishment of the country. And by 1745 England and France, drawn as they were into the War of the Austrian Succession, were fighting out in America “King George’s War.” In April of that year thirty-five hundred troops, chiefly “substantial persons and men of beneficial occupations,” sailed from Boston under another fighting Governor, Sir William Pepperell, to attack Louisburg, the “Gibraltar of America.” In this force the Seventh Massachusetts was known as the “Gorham Rangers” under the command of a Gorham of the third generation. With him, as it chanced, was a descendant of Richard Bourne, William by name, whom an Indian[Pg 110] medicine-man had cured in childhood when white doctors had given him up as dying. William came scathless through the wars to die in old age, rich and respected, at Marblehead.

In the following June Louisburg fell. Colonel Gorham commanded a whaleboat fleet as had his father under Churchill; and the first man to enter the Grand Battery, was one of the thirteen Indians in Captain Thacher’s Yarmouth contingent, who, for the bribe of a bottle of brandy, crawled through an embrasure and opened the door to the besiegers. The exploit was the less glorious as it was apparent that the enemy had evacuated the place.

Great was the joy throughout New England at the successful outcome of the siege, and not least in the Old Colony which had contributed so many men to the enterprise. Pæans of praise ascended from the pulpits; bards broke forth into verse. “The Wonder-working Providence” recites the prowess of certain heroes from the Cape:

“Lieutenant-Colonel Gorham, nigh of kin
To his deceased Head, did honor win;
Unite in nature, name, and trust, they stood—
Unitedly have done their country good.
May Major Thacher live, in rising fame
Worthy of ancestors that bear his name,
And copy after virtuous relations
Who so well filled their civil, sacred, military stations.
Now Captain Carey, seized with sickness sore,
Resigned to death when touched his native shore;
And Captain Demmick slain by heathen’s hand
As was his father under like command.”

[Pg 111]

Rejoicing was shortly tempered by wholesome dread of reprisals. As a fact France, enraged at the loss of her stronghold, was sending out a great armament under command of the Duc d’Anville, not only to retake Louisburg, but to ravage the New England coast. There were eleven ships of the line and thirty smaller vessels, as well as transports for three thousand men. But Providence was to intervene for the humbling of French pride and the salvation of the faithful. Storms reduced the armada one half before it could even make port, disease swept away most of the troops, the two commanders died suddenly, by suicide men were ready to say, and the remnant of the fleet, without striking a blow, sailed back to France. The Cape, especially, had been alarmed at the prospect of such a punitive expedition: she urged the danger to her long coast-line; Truro petitioned the General Court for protection, and received a four-pound cannon, some small arms and ammunition.

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, ended the general conflict, and in the negotiations overseas hard-bought Louisburg, to the great displeasure of the colonists, was traded for more valuable considerations elsewhere. In America guerrilla warfare, a raid here, a raid there, continued; and in three years’ time, the greatest conflict of the series, when Washington and other young officers got their training for a greater war to follow, was raging all along the border. It terminated, in 1763, with the Peace of Paris, when France gave over to England her last American holdings. The colonies had learned painfully lessons to their[Pg 112] great advantage in the struggle with the mother country that was even then beginning; and when the clash came, France was glad to range herself with the colonists for another blow at her old enemy England.

It was during this war that England broke up some of the French communities that had remained unmolested since Nova Scotia was ceded to her by the Peace of Utrecht; and the “neutral French,” as they were called, were scattered throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia. Longfellow’s poem of “Evangeline” tells the story of those pathetic exiles; and we know that in July, 1756, a little band of Acadians, ninety souls in all, men, women, and children, landed from seven two-mast boats at Bourne. They were tenderly received, we may believe, by the people who had never refused shelter to the unfortunate. Silas Bourne wrote to James Otis asking what should be done with them, and eventually their boats were sold and they were distributed among the neighboring towns. It is not improbable that Peter Cotelle, of Barnstable, was of this company—a Frenchman who lived in a gambrel-roofed cottage set in a pretty garden. He was a tinker by trade, and made shrewd use of his imperfect English, it is said, in driving a bargain.


The Cape seems to have furnished no leaders in this war where so many famous men fought, but, steadily, she gave her quota of men and her money; and Amos Otis has preserved for our delectation the stories of many of the humbler folk of the time. There was a Barnstable man who had shipped as carpenter aboard [Pg 113]a privateer which soon brought into Boston as prize a Spanish ship laden with dollars and bullion. By some means the ship was made out to be French property, and the Yankee captain offered each of his men for prize money as much silver as he could carry from Long Wharf to the head of State Street, with the chance of forfeiting the whole if he stopped to rest by the way. Barnstable, apparently, cut his cloth to fit his stature and came off with some two thousand dollars and a little hoard of silver to boot which he discovered in a ship’s boat he had purchased. At any rate, he had enough to lay the foundation of a snug fortune which he augmented by becoming something of a usurer in his native town. As a young man his marriage had been delayed from year to year through a difference with his sweetheart as to where they should live. He preferred the village where he had learned his trade, she, being well-to-do, her own good farm at Great Marshes. In the end she prevailed; and no doubt, as one who knew her will and practised effective methods to obtain it, contributed her due share to the family fortune. The grandchildren, Otis implies, “having no reverence for antiquity or love of hoarding,” made the dollars fly.

A Gorham of this generation seems to have had an over-supply of such “reverence for antiquity”: he was so wedded to the customs of his fathers that he would not use a tipcart because they had none, and drove his team with a pole as they had done; he farmed by their methods, and made salt, though it were bad salt, by their mode of boiling. He had other oddities,[Pg 114] such as fastening his shirt in the back with a loop and nail, and eschewing rum in a time when the best kept tavern and drank thereat; he lived on salt-meat broth, bread and milk, hasty-pudding and samp; he was honest, industrious, a good neighbor and citizen, as valuable to the community, perhaps, as his more brilliant kinsmen.

A somewhat younger man than he, born in 1739, a doctor by profession, who seldom practised, had no such antipathy to rum, though it is said he never got drunk save at another’s charge. At such times he obliged the company with “Old King Cole,” his only song, and also with well-worn stories of some earlier adventures in Maine. There is record of a certain Christmas party at Hyannis when at midnight, song sung and story told, he was helped on his old gray mare for the journey home. Left to herself the mare would have taken him safe there, but he must needs turn into a narrow lane, where, in the brilliant moonlight he spied the mild phosphorescence of a rotten log. A fire, thought he, very likely his own fire, and drew off his boots to warm his chilled feet. Resuming his journey, at dawn he came upon the highway and lashed his mare to the gallop, but, as it chanced, in the wrong direction. “Gentlemen,” cried he, drawing up to accost some early travellers, “can you tell me whether I am in this town or the next?” They answered cavalierly enough: “You’re in this town now, but ’t won’t be long before you’re in the next at that rate.” And perceiving his state, they saw to it that he straightway had breakfast and[Pg 115] boots. Nor was this the end of the affair, which the village boys improved for their amusement. A ring at his bell: “Doctor, just wanted to ask if you’d found your boots.”—“Doctor, am I in this town or the next?” And they never failed to dodge the lash of his whip which he kept handy to the door for such visitors. He was the first village postmaster, and during the wars, when men were eager for the news which came bi-weekly from Boston, it was on mail nights that the boys and men of the village gathered about his fire and listened to his old stories of Maine. He was a genial soul, a little simple-minded, one who liked to make a show of business by laying out spurs and saddle-bags of a night as if ready for a call. The village library was kept at his house, and administered by his daughter.

The stories go on, with a touch here and a touch there to accent the village flavor. The Bodfishes, huge father and huge sons, lived a patriarchal life on their farm; for more than seventy years their estate was held in common, the father acting as trustee and granting his sons only as much as would qualify them for voters. And a scion of the less illustrious branch of a prominent family was ready to argue his claim for preëminence: “We’ll discuss that,” he would thunder with swelling port. And won the sobriquet of “Scussion Sam” for his pains. There was another member of the same family whose shrewd humor served as well as roguery. He was master of the little packet nicknamed Somerset after the British man-of-war, which carried to Boston onions, among other cargo, for the[Pg 116] West Indies market. “Gentlemen,” said he persuasively to some possible buyers, “these are what are called ’tarnity’ onions; they’ll keep to all eternity.” But a week out of port on their way to the south, the onions had to be thrown overboard. At another time he outsailed a neighbor who was shipping onions to a Salem trader, and presented his own cargo in their stead. “But how about Huckins?” asked the trader. “My son-in-law,” returned the captain glibly. “Here are the onions.” One may fancy that tavern and living-room buzzed with the news of this trick when the discomfited Huckins made the home port. Still another member of the family was of different mould—one who gloried in the ease his poverty gave him. “I’m thankful I don’t own that number of cattle,” commented he, watching a neighbor laboring over his stock on a snowy day. “Squire and I,” said he again genially, “keep more cows than any other two men in town.” Squire, his brother, had twenty cows, he one.

But the account of Barnabas Downs best typifies, perhaps, the tranquil village life that flowed on amid the outer turmoil of war and politics and finance. He was born in 1730 and lived long and laborious years on his thirty-acre farm, which supported some cattle, a horse or two, a large flock of sheep, and produced sufficient grain and vegetables. His stock ran at large through the summer; his winter hay he cut in the salt meadows. His clothing was made from the wool of his sheep; the surplus produce of his farm he traded for groceries at the village shop, and exchanged labor for labor with blacksmith, shoemaker, and carpenter.[Pg 117] Sometimes he shipped onions to Boston; but he had little money, and needed little. And at this time his class of small farmers made perhaps more than half the population in any one of the Cape towns except those, like Truro, where practically every man in the community “went to sea”—simple, industrious creatures, who lived comfortably by another standard than ours, and were not unmindful of larger interests than their own. “He was the most independent of men,” is the comment of Otis. “Six days he labored and did all his work, and the seventh was a day of rest.”

[Pg 118]



The difficulties incident to the French wars had given the colonies useful training to prepare them for concerted action against the stupid enactments of the mother country in the reign of George III. England, fully occupied with the great continental wars of which the American conflicts were only a by-product, had been forced largely to let the colonies fend for themselves. When border hostilities were growing to the final French and Indian War, she had suggested the expediency of their coöperating for defence; and just twenty-two years before the Declaration of Independence came into being, Benjamin Franklin had been ready to present to a Colonial Council, called to parley with the Six Nations, a plan of confederation which, being objected to by some as giving “too much power to the people” and by others as conceding “too much to the king,” came to naught. But the fact was established that all the colonies, and not only those of New England, were learning to act together. And the great drift away from mutual understanding with England, which in the beginning, one would think, might have been so easily checked, increased. The colonies knew that by their valor chiefly had been established in America the supremacy of[Pg 119] England, and their youthful pride was quick to take offence. In 1760, when a Royal Governor, in his inaugural, cited “the blessings of subjection to Great Britain,” the Massachusetts House was careful to express their “relation” to the Home Government. His predecessor, who had been more sympathetic to the genius of the colonies, lived to warn Parliament that never would America submit to injustice. Yet year by year was injustice done. As early as 1761 oppressive trade acts had brought out the flaming eloquence of young James Otis, of Barnstable. “I argue in favor of British liberties,” cried he in the Massachusetts Chamber. “I oppose the kind of power the exercise of which in former periods of English history cost one king of England his head and another his throne.” For four hours, spellbound, the Court listened to his plea; and well might John Adams, who heard him that day, aver: “American independence was then and there born.” And for the next ten years by his pamphlets, “The Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives” and “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved,” by his letters, and other writings, it has been truly said that Otis “led the movement for civil liberty in Massachusetts.”

As if urged on to foolishness by a decree of fate that America should be a nation, England continued to blunder: she sought to extinguish the military spirit that had been so useful to her by creating a standing army which, although independent of them, the colonies should support; she obstructed manufacturing[Pg 120] that the colonies might be dependent upon British markets; by prohibitive foreign duties she restricted trade to British ports, and even taxed trade between colony and colony for the benefit of the imperial treasury. No wonder the colonies were assured that England meant to get an undue portion of the war expense from them. And when Englishmen complained that rich colonists lived like lords while they were impoverished with taxes, the colonists were ready to retort that England had appropriated Canada, the prize won largely through their efforts, and that they had already taxed themselves to the limit to pay their own way. But England, undeterred by warnings at home and plain signs of storm in the colonies, still pleading “the vast debt” incurred “in defence of her American possessions,” in March, 1765, passed the obnoxious Stamp Act which prescribed the use of stamped paper for business and legal documents, newspapers and pamphlets: an annoying enough provision in itself, but the crux of the difficulty was that England, without the consent of the colonies, imposed the tax.

In October a congress of deputies met in New York to “consult on the common interest,” and was presided over by Timothy Ruggles, who had married the Widow Bathsheba Newcomb, of Sandwich, and lived there for some years as lawyer and tavern-keeper. He is said to have been a man of charm and wit, a clever politician, and a patriot who later turned Tory. The congress set forth in no uncertain terms “the rights and liberties of the natural-born subjects[Pg 121] of Great Britain ... which Parliament by its recent action has invaded.” And pre-dating the Boston Tea Party, it was another man with Cape affiliations, Captain Isaac Sears, who, in other fashion, defeated the excisemen. “Hurrah, boys,” cried he at the head of a New York mob, “we will have the stamps.” And have them they did, and burned them, too. Sears became head of a Committee for Public Safety, and when Gage was trying to buy material in New York, warned the citizens that America best keep her supplies for her own use. His sobriquet of “King Sears” tells us something of his personality.

England, against the advice of her ablest men, proceeded on her ruinous way. Some parliamentary bombast about “these Americans nurtured so carefully by the motherland” was neatly punctured by Captain Barré, a member who had lived in the colonies: “Planted by your care? No, your oppressions planted them in America,” thundered he. “Nourished by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect. Protected by your arms? They themselves have nobly taken up arms in your defence.” “They are too much like yourselves to be driven,” was his parting shot. And in the Lords, Camden was announcing: “You have no right to tax America; I have searched the matter. I repeat it.... Were I an American, I would resist to the last drop of my blood.” Asked in what book he found such law, he proudly answered: “It has been the custom of England; and, my lords, the custom of England is the law of the land.” At Boston, as in antiphon, James Otis declared: “Let Great[Pg 122] Britain rescind; if she does not, the colonies are lost to her.”

A convention of towns, those of the Cape included, calling upon the king for redress, appealed to “the sovereign people.” The king’s ministers answered by garrisoning Boston with four thousand royal troops which the Whigs were now ready to view as a foreign aggression. Non-importation associations, under the motto, “United we conquer; divided we die,” were formed—Boston leading, the Cape towns following close. In the general excitement Massachusetts boiled hottest: for in her capital were the royal troops and here, naturally, was the first clash of arms. The year 1770 brought the “Boston massacre”; and in the same year, under Lord North, all duties were remitted save those on tea—England had bound herself to the East India Company there: to no avail, since the right to tax was reserved. Yet the repeal was welcomed as a partial victory by all but the hot-heads who were determined on separation; and Englishmen, who had taken a burning interest in the struggle of the colonies, rejoiced. London celebrated the event with clash of Bow Bells and dressed ships on the Thames.

Then, in 1773, came the little fleet of tea ships to Boston; and Boston, though she liked tea, promptly threw it into the harbor. Captain Benjamin Gorham, of the Barnstable family, was master of one of the ships, with a cargo of “Bohea”; and it was solemnly reported that “this evening a number of Indians, it is said of his Majesty of Ocnookortunkoog tribe, emptied[Pg 123] every chest into the dock and destroyed the whole twenty-eight and a half chests.” And Cape Cod had her private Tea Party: for one of the fleet had run aground on the “Back Side” at Provincetown. John Greenough, district clerk of Wellfleet and teacher of a grammar school “attended by such only as learn the Latin and Greek languages,” busied himself about the task of transferring the cargo to Boston; but no Cape captain, though several were idle, would undertake the job, and boats were had down from Boston for the purpose. The Boston Committee of Correspondence, meantime, sent out a circular letter reporting their Tea Party, and adding: “the people at the Cape will we hope behave with propriety and as becomes men resolved to save their Country.” For it was suspected that not all the wrecked tea had been shipped to Boston; and indeed it soon transpired that Master Greenough, seeing no harm since the Government got no duty, had thriftily retained two damaged cases for himself and a friend. Brought to see his error, his due apology was spread upon the records: “I do declare I had no intention to injure the liberties of my countrymen therein. And whereas the Committee of Correspondence for this district apprehend that I have abused them, in a letter I sent them, I do declare I had no such intention, and wish to be reconciled to them again and to forget and forgive on both sides.” Other tea than Greenough’s hoard was being hunted out. A Truro town-meeting records: “Several persons appeared of whom it had been reported that they had purchased small quantities of[Pg 124] the East India company’s baneful teas, lately cast ashore at Provincetown. On examining these persons it appeared that their buying this noxious tea was through ignorance and inadvertance, and that they were induced thereto by the villainous example and artful persuading of some noted pretended friends of government from the neighboring towns.” There is evidence enough that some tea floated into the channels of trade; but any one guilty of the traffic, when apprehended, was quick to place the blame elsewhere.

The Cape was drawn into the great sweep of events. Town meetings were held to consider the alarming conditions; yet, even in the general pinch for money, maintenance was steadily voted for schools and clergy, though it was suggested that a minister might abate his salary “because of the scarcity of money and the difficulties of the times; or wait for the balance.” And one parson, we know, did give up fifty pounds of his stipend. Business was at a standstill, and many persons, for financial rather than political reasons as yet, left Harwich, Chatham, and other towns for Nova Scotia, the better there to trade and carry on the fisheries. “Sons of Liberty” were organized everywhere; each town must report its strength “on the side of liberty.” Yarmouth would have no tea brought into the town; in Chatham “a large number signed against tea”; Wellfleet pledged itself to the “defence of liberty”; Barnstable, Sandwich, Eastham had their resolutions of protest. Falmouth, in 1774, ordered every man from sixteen to sixty years of age to be[Pg 125] given arms. Harwich voted to buy arms; Truro voted sympathy with the common cause. And Chatham, in 1772, had declared “civil and religious principles to be the sweetest and essential part of their lives, without which the remainder was scarcely worth preserving.”

England had gone beyond unjust taxation and had dared meddle with the courts—the trial by jury, the appointees to the bench—which was held to vitiate their function. “I argue in favor of British liberties,” had been James Otis’s clarion call; and at Barnstable, in September, 1774, a fine comedy was played out with the connivance, it was suspected, of James Otis, senior, who was chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He was to be charged with “holding office during the king’s pleasure” and receiving pay from revenue derived by an “edict of foreign despotism.” On the day preceding the opening of the court men from as far away as Middleborough came flooding into Sandwich; and next morning a small army marched thence to Barnstable to make their protest to the court. At their head was Doctor Nathaniel Freeman, a young hot-head of a Whig, who was leader in many a demonstration against the Tories, and later was to put his martial spirit to good use as brigadier-general in the Federal Army. He was a gallant figure, an eye-witness of the day’s doings remembered, in “a handsome black-lapelled coat, a tied wig as white as snow, a set-up hat with the point a little to the right: in short, he had the very appearance of fortitude personified.” Joined now by Barnstable men, the patriots took their stand in front of the courthouse. They[Pg 126] improved the interval of waiting for the court to receive the recantations of several Tories who had been arrested by the Commissioners and when it came to a public declaration of sentiment were disposed, for the most part, as a current doggerel had it, to

“... renounce the Pope, the Turk,
The King, the Devil, and all his work;
And if you will set me at ease,
Turn Whig or Christian—what you please.”

Now, behold, the court: Otis, Winslow, Bacon, led by the sheriff with a white staff in his left hand and a drawn sword in his right. “Gentlemen,” demanded Otis, “what is the purpose for which this vast assemblage is collected here?” Whereupon Freeman, from the steps of the courthouse, replied in a fine speech, the upshot of which was that they proposed to prevent their honors from holding court to the end, particularly, that there should be no appeals to the hated higher court of the king’s council, “well knowing if they have no business, they can do no harm.”

“Sirs, you obstruct the law,” thundered Otis. Then, more mildly, “Why do you leap before you come to the hedge?” He ordered them to disperse, and cited his “duty.” “We shall continue to do ours,” countered Freeman. “And never,” cries one who saw the play, “never have I seen any man whatever who felt quite so cleverly as did Doctor Freeman during the whole of this business.”

The court withdrew, and, waited upon later by a committee, signed an agreement not to accept any[Pg 127] commission or do any business dependent on those acts of Parliament that tend “to change our constitution into a state of slavery.” The protestants crowned their work by calling upon all justices and sheriffs of the county to sign the agreement, and by adjuring all military officers to refuse service under the captain-general “who is appointed to reduce us to obedience to the late unconstitutional acts and who has actually besieged the capital of this province with a fleet and army.” Barnstable and Yarmouth, having been interrogated as to whether they had dropped the legislators voting against the Continental Congress, their affirmation was received with cheers. That night some damage was done the new Liberty Pole, which was surmounted by a gilt ball, one of the “miscreants” blazoning thereon:

“Your liberty pole
I dare be bold
Appears like Dagon bright,
But it will fall
And make a scrawl
Before the morning light.”

Business ran over into the next day, when one of the suspects in the affair of the Liberty Pole, whether or not the poet is not recorded, was made to apologize. Again the assembly, in committee of the whole and “attended by music,” waited upon Otis, who was lodged at the house of Mr. Davis. Adjured in writing not to sit in the king’s council, but rather as a “constitutional councillor of this province” in the elected General Court at Salem, in writing he expressed[Pg 128] gratitude “for putting me in mind of my duty; I am determined to attend at Salem in case my health permits.” To the reading of his message listened “the whole body with heads uncovered and then gave three cheers in token of their satisfaction and high appreciation of his answer as well as esteem and veneration for his person and character.” In final session the company again repudiated the hated acts of Parliament and pledged themselves to the sacred cause of liberty, registered their abhorrence of mobs and violence, warned off any other molesters of the Liberty Pole, and agreed to use their “endeavors to suppress common peddlers.” The last a matter of some mystery until one knows that peddlers were prone to sell tea, and were perhaps suspected of being spies. Barnstable had entertained the host gratis, and the hottest patriot there must have welcomed its withdrawal to Sandwich, where it proceeded to take like action against Tories and possible meddlers with the town’s Liberty Pole. Then, amid cheers for everybody, Doctor Freeman’s company broke up and sifted back to their homes, but he himself was not to come scathless out of his adventure.

Suspecting a ruse when, a few nights later, he was summoned to a dying patient, he was not to be disappointed: for as he passed the tavern, three of the “recanters” appeared as a “Committee of the Body of the People” and demanded his presence within to answer for his actions. Ignoring them, he walked on, but on his return he was set upon by the “Committee,” it is said, and crying out that his sword-cane[Pg 129] was his only weapon he laid about him valiantly, but was knocked senseless, and would have been in hard case had he not been rescued by friends. The whole community, it seemed, was against such lawlessness. The so-called Tories who had not fled were arrested, and on the plea of Freeman got off with a fine of one hundred pounds “lawful money.” But the people showed no such clemency. Sandwich, after an indignation meeting of the citizens, rearrested the culprits and forced them, on a scaffold under the Liberty Pole, to sign a confession acknowledging that their conduct was such as “would disgrace the character of a ruffian or a Hottentot,” and engaging themselves in future “religiously to regard the laws of God and man.”

The Tories, for the most part, were no such “Hottentots.” It was natural in such a settlement as Cape Cod that there should be many conservatives: men descended from those who had never failed in loyalty to the English Government, were it Stuart or Roundhead, who had been taught to love England as the home of their fathers, and the source of law and light. As late as 1766 even Franklin was declaring before a parliamentary committee that “to be an Old England man was of itself a character of respect and gave a kind of rank among us,” and “they considered Parliament as the great bulwark and security of their liberties.” There were as a fact four parties: the ardent Whigs like Nathaniel Freeman, who were separatists at all costs; the irreconcilable Tories who, when war was imminent, fled behind the British lines in[Pg 130] Boston or New York, or to Nova Scotia and Canada, or to England, and, in the case of Cape Cod, often to the islands southward where they could be in easy communication with British ships. And there were the moderates of both camps: Whigs whose sensibilities were offended by the extreme methods of the radicals; Tories, chiefly men of the older generation, who lacked pliancy and vision to respond to a newer order; and with the latter were ranged, at any rate at the beginning of the trouble, those who loved freedom, they could swear, yet loved better present securities and feared conflict with the might of Britain. As time went on the number of moderate Whigs steadily increased, especially in the Old Colony as befitted the sober temper of the Pilgrim inheritance; even Joseph Otis, of Barnstable, who had rivalled Doctor Nathaniel Freeman in fervor, was to join them, and the lukewarm, patriots or Tories, were ready to declare for the colonies. Even a Tory in exile could be secretly elated by the prowess of his countrymen; and one such in England confided to his diary that “these conceited islanders” may learn to their cost that “our continent can furnish brave soldiers and judicious expert commanders.” It speaks well for the Federalists that after the war was over and many extreme Tories who had left their homes petitioned to return, they were reinstated upon pledge of loyalty to the new State: whether restored as generously to the affection of their neighbors history does not record, but one may fancy children’s gibes to the third generation. In Sandwich there were many Tories who[Pg 131] were brought to conform; but it is said there was still much disaffection, and when the Declaration of Independence was read out by the parson on a certain Sunday, a Tory who was much esteemed in the neighborhood “trooped scornfully and indignantly out of meeting.”

At Cape Cod the feud between Tory and Whig took on a comedy aspect in comparison with the vindictive civil war which it presented in many counties of New York and in the southern colonies. At Truro, as late as 1774, the house of a Whig doctor was attacked, and many still refused to employ him; a parson, for receiving a number of prominent Whigs, was admonished by some of his parishioners. At Barnstable the parties had their headquarters in rival taverns; and at Sturgis’s, where Whigs met every evening to comment on the news, the discussion, running high between moderates and radicals, sometimes slopped over into action. After one such meeting a man who had criticised the system of espionage that wasted energy in ferreting out old women’s secret stores of tea, had his fence destroyed by his irate neighbors. Otis and Freeman, it seems, were not popular with the militia who, at a review one day, clubbed muskets instead of presenting arms. “The Crockers are at the bottom of this,” cried Joseph Otis. “You lie,” gave back Captain Samuel Crocker. A fight between the two naturally ensued; in the midst of which Freeman, who was not the man to be an inactive spectator, turned upon another Crocker, a moderate Whig in politics, followed him[Pg 132] into his house, slashing at him harmlessly enough, and in his turn was like to have been murdered by a younger member of the Crockers thirsting for vengeance. Freeman’s cutlass took effect only upon the “summer beam” of the house; and years afterwards, when it was used as a tavern, Freeman, who had come from Sandwich to attend court, was refused entertainment there. “My house is full,” quoth Madam Crocker. She pointed to the scars of the “summer beam.” “And if it were not, there would be no room for Colonel Freeman.” “Time to forget those old matters, and bury the hatchet,” protested Freeman. “Very like,” said she, “but the aggressor should dig the grave.”

A certain young woman, suspected of disloyalty, and asked by the Vigilance Committee whether she were a Tory, answered in four emphatic words which the record leaves us to imagine from the dark comment: “The Committee never forgot them and ever after treated her with respect.” This woman, Amos Otis tells us, never lost her youthful vivacity; even in old age she was gay, responsive, able to discuss with equal zest the latest novel or parson’s sermon. Her wit was keen, and the point “never blunted in order to avoid an allusion which prudery might condemn.”

There was a more serious business in the tarring and feathering of the Widow Nabby Freeman of which the towns-people were sufficiently ashamed, evidently, to charge it in turn to Whig and Tory. Freeman, in his history, says she was a Whig, the victim of Tory spite; Otis, with convincing detail, that she was a[Pg 133] Tory. She kept a small grocery, and refused to surrender her tea to be destroyed by the Vigilance Committee. She was “a thorn in their sides—she could out-talk any of them, was fascinating in her manners, and had an influence which she exerted, openly and defiantly, against the patriotic men who were then hazarding their fortunes and their lives in the struggle for American independence.” Both narratives agree in the fact: she was taken from her bed to the village green, smeared with tar and feathers, set astride a rail and ridden about the town. We may fancy the tongue-lashing her persecutors received in the process. At last they exacted from her a promise that in the future she would keep clear of politics. The men who carried through this cruel comedy were not eager to be known; yet it is said feeling against the Tories ran so high that even in Sandwich, which had lamented the harsh treatment of Quakers, a strong party justified the act. But that public sentiment did not approve such rowdyism is proved by the fact that it stands out alone in unlovely prominence.

It is probable that many a private grudge was worked off in this cry of “Tory, Tory.” When Joseph Otis, brother of the patriot, cited a prominent townsman for disaffection, the court held the accusation to proceed “rather from an old family quarrel and was the effect of envy rather than matter of truth and sobriety, or any view to the publick good.” And when as a deacon he had been haled before the church for his political opinions, the church decided that it had “no right to call its members to an account for[Pg 134] actions of a civil and public nature,” that the protestants “did not charge the deacon with immorality” and that it “begged leave to refer them to a civil tribunal.” It is further recorded in a later month that the affair between the deacon and “the brethren, styled petitioners, was happily accommodated.”

Until the actual clash of arms, many believed that there might be found some ground for reconciliation; but England was blinded by jealous tradesmen and foolish politicians, hot blood in the colonies was all for separation. Events swept beyond the control of statesmen, and all were carried on to the vortex of revolution. In a speech from the throne George III asserted that “a most daring resistance to the laws,” encouraged by the other colonies, existed in Massachusetts. Again Camden spoke in defence of the colonies: “They say truly taxation and representation must go together. This wise people speak out. They do not ask you to repeal the laws as a favor; they claim it as a right.” But Parliament charged the Americans with “wishing to become independent” and as for any danger of revolt, determined “to crush the monster in its birth at any price or hazard.” They were to have a good run for their money.


In no long time the king’s men were marching out to Concord and Lexington; and with the actual shedding of blood, messengers, on the Sunday, rode out post-haste to rouse the country. “War is begun,” cried they at church doors. “War, war,” broke in[Pg 135] upon hymn or parson’s prayer; and from pulpit and people rose the solemn response: “To arms: liberty or death.”

The radicals were jubilant. Mr. Watson, of Plymouth, wrote to his friend Freeman congratulations upon the spirit of Sandwich, where Freeman had ordered the royal arms burned by the common hangman. “We are in high spirits,” wrote Watson, “and don’t think it is in the power of all Europe to subjugate us.” “The Lord of Hosts fights on the side of the Yankees,” averred he. “I glory in the name.” Yet Watson, an ardent patriot, in the course of a political quarrel of later years, was denounced to Jefferson as an old Tory, and was conveniently removed from office.

But sober men were preparing to meet the cost of choosing between a man’s way and a child’s. Cape Cod, in particular, with a defenceless coast and the probable interruption of her fisheries and commerce, faced ruin; but, four-square, she stood for freedom. Immediately upon the news of fighting, two companies of militia from Barnstable and Yarmouth took the road, but returned on word that the royal troops were held in Boston. With them, that day, piping them out with fifes, were two boys who, when they were sent back, “borrowed” an old horse grazing by the roadside to give them a mount homeward. One boy became solicitor-general, the other a judge, and one day there chanced to be a case of prosecution for horse-thieving between them. “Davy,” whispered Judge Thacher, leaning from the bench, “this puts[Pg 136] me in mind of the horse we stole that day in Barnstable.”

As the militia had marched down the county road, an old farmer halted them. “God be with you all, my friends,” said he as one who would consecrate their enterprise. “And John, my son, if you are called into battle, take care that you behave like a man or else let me never see your face again.” A Harwich father, when he had heard of the first blood spilled, cried out to his son: “Eben, you’re the only one can be spared. Take your gun and go. Fight for religion and liberty.” And that boy and others who joined on the instant were ready to fight at Bunker Hill.

Yet there had been no open declaration of cutting loose from the mother country; and the colonists seem to have had no more deliberate intention of founding a nation than had the Pilgrims of declaring a new principle of government. The second Continental Congress had recommended a day of prayer and humiliation “to implore the blessings of Heaven on our sovereign the King of England and the interposition of divine aid to remove the grievances of the people and restore harmony.” The Cape, a sturdy inheritor of the Pilgrim spirit, seems to have been an early advocate of state rights. In 1778 Barnstable appointed a committee to pass upon the proposed union. “It appears to us,” said Barnstable, “that the power of congress is too great.... But if during the present arduous conflict with Great Britain it may be judged necessary to vest such extra powers in a continental congress, we trust that you will use your endeavors[Pg 137] that the same shall be but temporary.” “The Plymouth spirit, which nearly a century before had been shy of a union with Massachusetts,” writes Palfrey, “was now equally averse to a consolidated government which should implicate the concerns of Massachusetts too much with those of other states.”

Bunker Hill was fought, and by July Washington, as commander-in-chief, was in residence at Cambridge. When he called for troops to man Dorchester Heights, Captain Joshua Gray marched through Yarmouth with a drummer, calling for volunteers, and eighty-one men responded. The night was spent in preparation, the women moulding bullets and making cartridges, and by dawn the little company, equipped for war, was ready to take the road. As was natural, fishermen and sailors, when they could, enlisted in the infant navy. But the call for men pressed until even Joseph Otis protested: “We have more men in the land and sea service than our proportion,” and “there is scarcely a day that the enemy is not within gun-shot of some part of our coast. It is like dragging men from home when their houses are on fire, but I will do my best to comply.” An additional grievance lay in the fact that the Cape troops seem to have been sent largely to Rhode Island. And Otis added that it was unreasonable “to detach men from their property, wives and children to protect the town of Providence in the heart of the State of Rhode Island.”

Wellfleet, deprived of its fisheries, was all but ruined; Provincetown, with its few inhabitants who[Pg 138] had not fled, was entirely at the disposal of the enemy fleet when it rode snugly at anchor in the harbor. But even these towns struggled to furnish their quota to feed the desperate need; and Mashpee Indians, as we know, played their part so nobly that the war’s end saw seventy widows in the little community.

But there were malcontents enough to induce precaution, and the Provincial Congress had immediately provided for disarming the disaffected. In Barnstable there had been so many of little courage that in 1776 it had voted against supporting the Congress if it should declare for independence rather than stand out simply for constitutional liberty; and when the draft was resorted to and some men “refused to march,” their fines and costs were paid by the loyalists of Barnstable and Sandwich. In August Colonel Joseph Otis and Nathaniel Freeman were appointed to round up suspects on the Cape, a task, we may guess, much to their liking. In December Major Dimmock, who had fought at Ticonderoga in the French War, was commanded to “repair to Nantucket and arrest such as are guilty of supplying the enemy with provisions.” Tories from the mainland had fled thither, and they were not only in constant communication with British ships, but manned many of the ships that harried the coast.

The Cape made a brave attempt to keep up its trade, and voyages were made with the permission of the General Court, “always provided that the said fish &c., shall not be cleared out for any of his Britannic[Pg 139] Majesty’s dominions.” But affairs were in desperate case, and loyalists plotted with some show of reason that they had chosen the winning side. Otis reports on October 2: “Yesterday the Tories in the Sound, about a league off Highano’s harbor, took a vessel bound out of said harbor to Stonington and drove another ashore on the eastward part of Falmouth. In short the refugees have got a number of Vineyard pilot-boats (about twenty) and man them, and run into our shores and take everything that floats.” Nevertheless, he engages to get two small vessels, if they will give him guns, and “scour the Sound.” On October 12 the head of “a refugee gang in the Sound” sent a flag of truce to ask an exchange of prisoners. And in this same month the General Court appropriated money for four cannon, four to nine-pounders—no formidable armament for the long coast-line of the Cape. But the Sound, especially, was the scene of many an adventure, and enemy raids upon its shores seem to have been prompted largely by a desire for fresh meat. In 1779 marauders drove away some cattle from farms near Wood’s Hole, but were surprised and put off to their ships without their booty; an attack in force was planned against Falmouth, but was received by such hot fire from the shore that the ships were driven out into the Sound; at Wood’s Hole, again, they met with a like reception. But the Sound the Britishers succeeded in making their own. Nevertheless, one hundred men, under Colonel Dimmock, were sent over for the defence of Martha’s Vineyard; and among other[Pg 140] exploits Dimmock captured an enemy vessel in Old Town Harbor, and took her crew, under hatches, to Hyannis whence they were sent overland to Boston. A Federal grain vessel, as it entered the Sound one day, fell into the hands of the British; but its captain escaped, roused Captain Dimmock, who got together twenty men and three whaleboats, next morning retook the prize from under the nose of the British at Tarpaulin Cove, and made safe harbor at Martha’s Vineyard.

The outer coast was blockaded, but sometimes a boat from Boston or the fishing-grounds would slip through; sometimes, even, such a one would be allowed to pass. None other than the great Nelson—Lieutenant Nelson he was then, in command of His Majesty’s Ship Albemarle stationed that year in Cape Cod Bay—released the Schooner Harmony, Plymouth owned, to its captain “on account of his good services,” as pilot, we may guess. Nor was the relation of fleet and mainland wholly unfriendly. These straight Britishers were much better liked by the people than the loyalist refugees that, for the most part, manned the hostile boats off Wood’s Hole and Falmouth. English officers often landed and called upon the people, or attended church; one ship’s surgeon even found opportunity to fall in love with a Truro girl, and win her, too; and after the war, he resigned His Majesty’s service, married his sweetheart, and settled down to the village practice. The Reverend “William Hazlett, a Briton,” baptized several children at Truro in 1785. Rich thinks he may have been[Pg 141] a retired navy chaplain, but it seems quite as reasonable to suppose that he was the father of William Hazlitt, the essayist, who, at about that time, happened to be in Weymouth. As early as December, 1776, a committee was appointed to “acquaint his excellency, General Washington, with the importance of Cape Cod Harbor and consider with him on some method to deprive the enemy of the advantage they now receive therefrom.” But to the end of hostilities the English fleet continued to enjoy that advantage, though, as we have seen, they were content to use their ships for blockade purposes rather than their men to molest the inhabitants. The British seem to have been able to get needed supplies by purchase instead of bloodshed, although there is some evidence of disturbance ashore. Mr. Rich in his history of Truro tells us of a man who, one fine evening, was enjoying a pipe under an apple-tree on his farm near High Head when stray shots from a man-of-war came ploughing up the ground near him. And once the militia captain at Truro, believing a raid imminent, used the clever ruse of boldly parading his tiny “cornstalk brigade” in and out among the dunes near Pond Village for two hours; and he frightened off the British, he averred, by such a demonstration of strength.

By sea Truro men did not get off so easily. In 1775 David Snow and his son, a lad of fifteen, were fishing off the “Back Side” one day when they were captured by an enemy frigate known, significantly, as “the shaving-mill.” They were taken to England and locked up, with other Yankee prisoners, in the Old[Pg 142] Mill Prison near Plymouth, where they set their wits at work on methods of escape. Mr. Snow, one night, proposed a dance, when the fiddle squeaked its loudest and the dancers shuffled noisily in heavy brogans, to drown the noise of the file that willing hands kept hard at work eating at the bars. Thirty-six men, under cover of the hilarity, succeeded in slipping out into the yard, overpowered the guard, walked the fifteen miles to Plymouth Harbor, boarded a scow, and before daylight were afloat in the Channel. There they captured a small boat, and set sail for France where they sold their prize for hard cash, Snow and his son receiving as their share forty dollars. The French Government, when occasion served, set them on the shore of Carolina whence they finally worked their way overland to Boston, took boat for Provincetown, and so home again to Truro. Seven years had been consumed in the adventure, and they had long been mourned as dead. The boy was now a man, but a quick-eyed girl cried, as she saw him: “If that isn’t David Snow, it’s his ghost.” And the father found his wife “spending the afternoon” with her sewing, at a neighbor’s. Another Truro lad was of the crew that rowed Benedict Arnold out to the Vulture, and when he knew the significance of that night’s story, fearing that he might be implicated in a charge of treason, he fled straight to Canada. There he married, and it was forty-eight years before he returned to visit his old home. A Yarmouth man was one of the gallant André’s guards the night before his execution, and lamented his unhappy fate. And Watson Freeman, of[Pg 143] Sandwich, who in 1754 at the age of fourteen had joined the expedition to Canada, fought in the Revolution, and was present at the taking of Burgoyne in 1777. The next year he was stationed with General Sullivan on Long Island, where, being one of a “foraging party” that was surprised by the enemy in the relaxation of attending a ball, he received a sabre-cut on the forehead that scarred him for life. Later, having joined an uncle who commanded a privateer, he was taken prisoner by the enemy, wounded in an encounter between them and a French boat, invalided to a hospital at Portsmouth, England, and discharged as incurable. Wandering about the country, he came upon an old herb-woman who proved wiser than the doctors, and he lived to amass a fortune in Boston as an “importer of English goods and concerned also in navigation.”

Nor did the British cruisers have things all their own way. Swift-sailing privateers were fitted out—Cape Cod sailors we may be sure eager for such service—and in the two years between 1776 and 1778 nearly eight hundred prizes had been captured; while during the war nearly two hundred thousand tons of British shipping were taken by privateers that were manned largely by fishermen.

Certainly, whether of men high in council or of the rank and file, Cape Cod furnished her due share in the conflict: unnamed sailors and soldiers, brave men all; Nathaniel Freeman, Joseph Otis, Dimmock; and, greater than all, the James Otises, father and son. From the evacuation of Boston in 1776 to 1780 when[Pg 144] the new government was established, Massachusetts affairs were in the hands of the Council that was elected annually as provided by the charter of William and Mary; of this Council Colonel James Otis, as senior member, was presiding officer and virtually the Governor of the Province. James, the patriot, never entirely recovered from the effects of a dastardly assault in 1769, and in 1783 he was killed by a stroke of lightning as he stood in his doorway at Andover. The last years of his life were dark with tragedy. His daughter, to his great grief, had married an English officer, who was wounded at Bunker Hill; his son, James, third of the name, had enlisted as a midshipman and died, at twenty-one, on the notorious British prison-ship Jersey. But the patriot had accomplished his great work. And of him John Adams well said: “I have been young and now am old, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent and sincere—never one who suffered so much—never one whose services for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”


Affairs moved on toward peace, and on April 19, just eight years after Lord Percy had set out on his expedition to Concord and Lexington, Washington proclaimed an armistice. But joy in the victory was tempered for thoughtful men: if it had cost England a hundred million pounds and fifty thousand men to[Pg 145] lose her colonies, the relative price they paid for independence was far greater. The currency was practically worthless, the soldiers and their families were destitute, the salaries of public officers and clergy but a pittance. Each State wanted to secure its revenue to its own use, which ensured conflict with the Federal Government; the individual, in his meagre circumstances, grudged any contribution to such revenue, which ensured conflict between the State and its citizens. That the general unrest was present in Barnstable County is evident from a proclamation of the Government calling upon “the good people of said county for their aid and assistance” in handling a rumored attempt to “obstruct the sitting of the Court at Barnstable.” But in the main the people who had broken the might of Britain now, war ended, applied themselves with like energy to recovering from its effects. And in spite of war and threatened ruin the Cape had continued its healthy growth.

In 1793 Dennis, which had long functioned as a separate town, was incorporated; its name derived from that of the first minister of the East Precinct of Yarmouth, the Reverend Josiah Dennis. In 1797 Orleans was set off from Eastham; and in 1803 the North Parish of Harwich, the older in point of settlement, became Brewster. It was then that argument for and against division hit upon the extraordinary compromise that irreconcilables of the North Parish, “together with such widows as live therein and request it, have liberty to remain, with their families and estates, to the town of Harwich.” No less than[Pg 146] sixty-five persons, including two widows, stiff-necked old conservatives we may guess, filed such request with the town clerk and the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Here was an arrangement well calculated to nourish old animosities, which, in the natural course of things, had to be abandoned. Nor was the new town slow in making her voice heard: in 1810 she was remonstrating against the appointment of a certain postmaster, “he being a foreigner and in the opinion of the inhabitants an alien.” A little later she was petitioning “the Postmaster General, praying him to fix the day of the week and the hour of the day in which the post-rider shall arrive at Brewster on his way down the Cape, and also on his return, and that the Committee of Safety attend to this matter.” And she was one of the loudest to protest against the Embargo Act of 1807.

America had been making no small profit during the Napoleonic wars that wrecked Europe. By wise federal legislation trade and credit gradually righted, and the neutrality of the United States permitted lucrative intercourse with all the belligerents. But American traders took their risks, and by no means came off scatheless: England and France had established mutual blockades; their ships preyed upon the Yankee blockade-runners, their captains impressed captured American seamen. England by the British Orders in Council, France by the Berlin and Milan decrees, all but put an end to our commerce, and the coup de grâce threatened when, in 1807, the United States hoped to save her ships by declaring an embargo[Pg 147] on all outgoing shipping. As between England and America, there were accusations and counter-accusations that the other country was not carrying out the provisions of their peace treaty, nor had the old Tory and Whig animosities of the Revolution had time to die; and the whole exasperating state of affairs worked out to a formal declaration of war against England in 1812.

Brewster, in solemn town-meeting assembled, had inveighed thus against the Embargo Act: “That imperious necessity calls upon us loudly to remonstrate” against the embargo laws “as unjust in their nature, unequal in their operation, a cruel infringement of our most precious rights.” In impassioned words she memorialized the General Court: “Whilst the mouth of labor is forbidden to eat, the language of complaint is natural. With ruin at our doors, and poverty staring us in the face, we beseech, conjure and implore your honorable body to obtain a redress of the oppressive grievances under which we suffer.” And Brewster, having thus recorded her protest, felt herself free to join in the sport of evading the new law. It was a boat owned there, captured by a revenue cutter and taken into Provincetown, that was recaptured by the owners who had hurriedly fitted up a packet as a man-of-war, and cleared off for her port of Surinam, while the United States Marshal whistled for any satisfaction he could get.

A more complicated adventure befell two Cape men, Mayo and Hill, who were of the crew of Captain Paine, of Truro. In 1811 they cleared for Mediterranean[Pg 148] ports with a cargo of fish, but off the coast of Spain they were boarded and searched by a French corvette, and for some reason Mayo and Hill were taken prisoner and landed in Lisbon. There they were attached to a French force that was to convoy a rich pay train through the enemy country, the most dangerous point of which was a deep defile in the mountains some three miles in length. There a murderous fire was opened upon them from the overhanging cliffs, every officer and all but a handful of men killed, and the rest marched off to a Spanish prison. And among the prisoners were Mayo and Hill who had come through the engagement without a scratch. The Frenchmen were inclined to make game of their Yankee fellow-captives, and something of a race war developed. But Mayo “was, like Miles Standish, small of stature but soon red-hot.” He whipped several “Frenchies,” and offered to fight the lot, an invitation, courteously declined, which left him master of the field. Whether by intrigue or not, Hill was condemned as a spy and marched out to be shot when, in the approved style of romance, a horseman in the nick of time dashed up with a reprieve; and Hill had earned his title to “scape-gallows.” In a few months the two Cape men managed somehow to make their way to Flanders, and, after years crammed with adventure, reached home. “Mr. Mayo,” says Rich who tells the story, “died in good old age, in the peace of Christ, having raised a large family of enterprising boys. Like the patriarch, he saw his children’s children to the fourth generation.”

[Pg 149]

Captain Isaiah Crowell, of Yarmouth, had successfully run the blockade at Marseilles after the French decrees were in force; and in 1812, knowing that a strict embargo of ninety days, preliminary to war, was imminent, he loaded hastily at Boston with a cargo for Lisbon, cleared for Eastport, where he gave the first news of the embargo, and cleared there for Lisbon. War having been declared, on his return he was captured by an English cruiser, taken into Saint John’s where his ship was condemned, and he was being returned to the United States on the British sloop-of-war Alert when it was captured by the Yankee Essex. But if Crowell lost in this venture, he was to gain by his skill and daring in many another; and he retired from sea with a comfortable fortune, to live out many humdrum years ashore as a bank president and legislator.

When it came to this second war with England, although the United States now proved herself a nation, there was no unanimity of opinion among the people; and as a fact the Americans had been nearly as indignant with their own government for its embargoes as with England and France for their unjust decrees and their seizure of American seamen and ships. Politics seethed hot in New England as elsewhere, and men for or against the war wrangled in high place and low. The majority on the Cape were anti-war. Chatham, remembering old wars and fresh wrongs, addressed the President expressing “the abhorrence of the people to any alliance with France.” Other towns were, at best, lukewarm. Yarmouth never ceased to[Pg 150] be bitterly anti-war, and many who had fought devotedly in the Revolution refused to fight now, or only so far as it might be necessary to prevent the invasion of their soil. Yet the county was strongly Federalist, and a powerful minority were able to push through a fine resolution: “It becomes us, in imitation of the patriots of the Revolution, to unite in the common cause of the country, patiently bearing every evil, and cheerfully submitting to those privations which are necessarily incident to a state of war. We consider the war in which we are engaged as just, necessary and unavoidable, and we will support the same with our lives and fortunes.”

The fine old breed of American seamen flocked into the navy, and success on the ocean did much to offset reverses on land. During the first seven months of the war, five hundred British merchantmen were taken; and the Essex, the Constitution, the Wasp had made their kill of English men-of-war. In 1814 Great Britain, relieved from the pressure of continental wars, was ready to turn her full attention to America, Washington was burned, and again a British fleet rendezvoused in Provincetown Harbor and harried the coast of the Cape. A landing party at Wood’s Hole was driven off by the militia; Falmouth, after due notice to remove non-combatants, was bombarded, with considerable loss to buildings and salt-works, but none to life. The contention had been that Falmouth had been annoying British ships with her cannon which Captain Weston Jenkins, the Yankee commander, had thereupon dared the British to come[Pg 151] and get. The determined attitude of his militia seems to have discouraged any landing and the British withdrew without their cannon. Several months later Falmouth was to have her revenge. Captain Jenkins, with thirty-two volunteers, set sail in the sloop Two Friends for Tarpaulin Cove, Wood’s Hole, where H.M.S. Retaliation lay at anchor. Brought to by a shot from the ship, Jenkins concealed all but two or three of his men to encourage a boarding party of the enemy. This it was easy to overcome; whereupon he trained his guns upon the ship, overcame all resistance, and returned in triumph to Falmouth with the Retaliation, its crew of twelve men, its plunder, and two Yankee prisoners.

Meantime Yankee merchantmen were running the blockade with even more zest than they had enjoyed in evading their own embargo. At Hyannis, the Kutuzoff, with a full cargo of cotton and rice, came bowling into port followed close by a British privateer-schooner. The cargo safe landed, one hundred militia gathered to repel possible invasion and trained a four-pounder on the enemy who, after an unsuccessful attempt to destroy a beached British prize, prudently withdrew. At Hyannis, again the Yankee landed “upwards of a hundred packages of dry goods”; other boats, without benefit of revenue officers, landed stores of spirits and wine and other products from the South. Coasting vessels tried to keep up a desultory trade with Boston, though Boston was so thoroughly blockaded it was easier to make the run to New York. Fleets of whaleboats followed the old[Pg 152] route that Bradford and De Rasieres had used, by way of Sandwich and Manomet, and so, on, hugging the shores of southern New England to their destination. Two Eastham captains, safely landing a whaleboat cargo of rye at Boston, were encouraged by success to exchange for a larger boat and cargo for the homeward voyage. At the Gurnet, however, they were brought to by a “pink-stern” schooner that was masquerading as a fisherman, but proved to belong to H.M.S. Spencer. One captain was sent to Boston for three hundred dollars ransom of their boat; the other, Mayo, was retained aboard the prize as pilot, and orders given him to cruise about the bay. In a stiff gale Mayo counselled taking shelter in the lee of Billingsgate Point, forthwith grounded the schooner on the Eastham flats, quieted criticism with assurance that they would soon be floating over the bar into the safety of inner waters, and advised the officers to go below that their number might not excite suspicion on shore. He had previously secured two pistols for himself and provided for the helplessness of the crew by giving them a gimlet to tap a barrel of rum. He then threw all available firearms overboard, and, when the officers presented themselves in alarm as the boat canted with the receding tide, held them off with his pistols, coolly walked ashore over the sands, and roused the militia who took boat and crew as prize. The crew, later, was allowed to escape to their frigate and the boat was awarded to Captain Mayo, who released it to its owners for two hundred dollars. But the town was not to come off so easily in the affair: for[Pg 153] the British commander, in reprisal for the indignity to his men, threatened to destroy boats, buildings, and salt-works, if twelve hundred dollars were not forthcoming as the price of immunity and as recompense for the prisoners’ baggage. The town fathers decided to pay the sum, and made no such bad bargain as their receipt promised to hold Eastham scatheless for the duration of the war.

Brewster, prudently, chose a like alternative, although here the price was raised to four thousand dollars. An emergency town meeting was held in the church to consider the question, scouts sent out to neighboring towns to sound opinion as to the likelihood of help in resisting the demand, the artillery commander directed to “engage horses to be in readiness for the ordnance; and there being a deficiency in that branch of the service a committee should ascertain how many exempts from forty-five to sixty in each school district could be brought to enlist therein.” The scouts returning with the disheartening news “that the town of Brewster can make no dependence on any of our neighbors for assistance in our alarming and distressed situation,” it was decided to employ arbiters rather than ordnance, and that “the committee of safety who went on board his B.M. Spencer, go again this night and make the best terms possible with Com. Ragget.” Ragget held to his demand, and the committee, though they “used their best endeavors,” “could not obtain the abatement of a dollar,” the sum to be paid in specie in two weeks’ time. The tribute money was borrowed, and to reimburse[Pg 154] the lenders a tax levied on “salt-works, buildings of every description, and vessels owned in this town of every description frequenting, or lying on, the shore.” It is interesting that the sixty-five irreconcilable alien residents who had adhered to the jurisdiction of Harwich managed to evade their share of the tax, although their property was thus secured from the British guns. The faithful of Brewster bore the burden none too willingly one may guess: three years later they petitioned the legislature to refund the sum paid “Rd. Ragget, Esq. as a contribution,” but received no redress. And when, as a crowning wrong, they were upbraided by fireside patriots for paying tribute to the enemy, they had the valid excuse that since Government and neighbors had left them to fend for themselves, they were justified in saving the town.

Orleans, of bolder kidney, it would seem, rejected a like demand, and repulsed several landing parties. It may be said that the village of Orleans lay inland at a safer distance from ship’s guns. In December the British frigate Newcastle ran ashore near Orleans, and, floated with some difficulty, sent a four-oared barge into Rock Harbor and captured therein a schooner and three sloops, two of which, being aground, were fired but were saved by the natives. Prize crews were put aboard the other sloop and the schooner, and anchor weighed for Provincetown. But the schooner, under command of a Yankee pilot who emulated the example of Captain Mayo, of Eastham, ran her ashore on the Yarmouth flats,[Pg 155] and the crew were sent prisoners to Salem. Meantime the Orleans militia had driven off the landing force; and sixty years later the surviving heroes or their widows received a bounty of one hundred and sixty acres of public land for their prowess at “the battle of Orleans.” Boat after boat in the bay was taken by the British, and usually released after the captors had replenished their stores from the cargoes. The Two Friends of Provincetown, taken off Gloucester, was sent to Nova Scotia, as, also, was the Victory of Yarmouth. But the master of the Victory saved his captor, the Leander, from being wrecked on some dangerous shoals and received as reward an order on the Governor of Halifax for his schooner and a safe-conduct home for himself and his crew.

On the other side of the account, many Cape Cod captains made successful ventures in privateering. Captain Reuben Rich, of Wellfleet, captured an East Indiaman on the first day out, and cleared seventeen thousand dollars for his share in the transaction; men from Brewster, Truro, Eastham likewise made satisfactory cruises under letters of marque. Cape Cod fishermen served in these privateers and in the navy, and sometimes were captured, and many a man from Cape Cod was familiar with the interior of Dartmoor Prison. The last survivor of them, at Truro, lived well into the opening of a new era, and died in 1878 at the ripe age of ninety. Two Harwich men were in the fight between the Constitution and Guerrière, and no doubt could sing with gusto:

[Pg 156]

“You thought our frigates were but few,
And Yankees could not fight,
Until bold Hull the Guerrière took,
And banished her from sight.
“Ye parliaments of England, ye Lords and Commons too,
Consider well what you’re about and what you mean to do;
You are now at war with Yankee boys, and soon you’ll rue the day
You roused the sons of Liberty in North America.”

The “sons of Liberty,” although consecrated by no such spirit as won the war for independence, had considerable ground for exultation.

But British ships dominated Cape Cod Bay, and the flagship, anchored off Truro, sometimes used the old mill on Mill Hill for a target. On such occasions, says Rich, the inhabitants preferred the eastern side of the hill. Again British seamen used Provincetown as their own, and, individually, established friendly relations ashore; officers often landed to buy fresh provisions for which they paid hard British gold to the considerable profit of the natives; and although some timid farmers kept their cattle in the woods, there is no record of any looting. Mr. Rich remembers an old lady who confessed the girls liked to watch the British barges come in; another recalls that on the way from school one day with a bevy of her mates, they encountered a squad of the British, and making as if to turn aside, were accosted gallantly by the officer. “Don’t leave the road, ladies,” cried he, touching his cap, “we won’t harm you.” It is[Pg 157] probable that more than once youth and bright eyes managed some amelioration of the rigors of war.

It was a futile war, growing out of old animosities at home and the great Napoleonic conflicts overseas, and all were ready for peace when it came about through the Treaty of Ghent in December, 1814. Yet the war had served Americans well by clearing obstacles in the way of a further development of trade, which again leaped forward with the building of the clipper ships that beat the lumbering East Indiamen on the oceans of the world, and were ready for the swift voyages around the Horn to the gold-fields of the Pacific. For America now had a navy: in the years between the Revolution and the Embargo War, our growing trade, unprotected as it was then, had been at the mercy not only of the European belligerents, but of the Mediterranean corsairs and pirates. For many years regular tribute was paid the Barbary States to buy exemption from attack; and even so it was no unusual thing for offerings to be asked of a Sunday in some Cape Cod meeting-house to defray the ransom of a sailor captured by the Barbary pirates. It was not until after the War of 1812 that the nuisance was stopped by sending a squadron to the Mediterranean under Decatur, when the Dey of Algiers was compelled to a treaty forbidding his profitable exaction of tribute, and Tunis and Tripoli promised to hold our commerce exempt from the depredations of the corsairs.

[Pg 158]



During the political upheaval of the eighteenth century, interest in theology was by no means quiescent, and in the seventeen-forties the colonies were roused by the religious agitation known as the Great Awakening. Puritans had fought with equal rancor any dissenter from their doctrine, were he Antinomian or Anabaptist, Anglican, Papist, Gortonist, or Quaker; the Pilgrim Independents had soon lost something of their liberalism; but whatever the particular slant of opinion, men of the later generations in the vigorous young country were bound to think for themselves. Jonathan Edwards crystallized the tenets of the old faith into a flawless theology; Chauncy led the liberals from doctrines dealing with eternal damnation to something like Universalism; but George Whitefield, brushing aside contentions involving the supremacy of the intellect, made that direct appeal to the heart for which men hungered. He infused fresh warmth into Calvinism and his adherents were known as the “New Lights,” his opponents the “Old Lights.” Pulpit, press, and people were stirred to frenzied interest. Whitefield, preaching up and down the country with a flame of eloquence and a sympathetic understanding of the poor and distressed that drew men to[Pg 159] him by the thousand, was denounced as an “itinerant scourge.” As early as 1745, ten of the Cape clergy arraigned the new method of salvation in terms that betray some anxiety. “It tends to destroy the usefulness of ministers among their people, in places where the gospel is settled and faithfully preached in its purity,” they complain. “That it promotes strife and contention, a censorious and uncharitable spirit and those numerous schisms and separations which have already destroyed the peace and unity, and at this time threaten the subversion of many churches.”

But it was not until 1794 that the first Methodist meeting-house on the Cape, and the second in the country, was built at Truro. Provincetown had made the first move toward building, perhaps roused thereto by the eloquence of one Captain William Humbert, who, “while lying windbound in Provincetown Harbor,” had improved the occasion to exhort the towns-people for the good of their souls. But at Provincetown there was much opposition to the New Lights, and when the faithful, under cover of night, had landed timber for the proposed edifice, their enemies promptly reduced it to kindling wood, and tarred and feathered the minister in effigy. Jesse Lee, a visiting elder, writes temperately enough of the scene: “I felt astonished at the conduct of the people, considering that we live in a free country. However, I expect this will be for the good of the little society.” A prophecy to be justified: nothing daunted, the New Lights, in 1795, built their church. “Keeping guard at night and keeping their weapons by them[Pg 160] while at work, in about four months they erected a chapel with songs of praise.” And in their songs of praise it is remembered that John Mayo, the Truro man of hairbreadth escapes in the Peninsula War, once joined to his advantage. With a companion he had gone to Provincetown with a cargo of clam-bait; and night-bound there, they were unable to find lodging among the villagers. To occupy the evening hours before camping out in their boat, they went to prayer-meeting where they stimulated the singing with their full rich voices to the great pleasure of the worshippers. With the result, Rich tells us, that instead of sleeping in the open, they were “abundantly lodged and breakfasted, and in the morning sold the balance of their clams to a good market.”

In the meantime Truro, with the coöperation of Wellfleet, Provincetown, and Eastham, and a money outlay of only eight dollars for nails, had built the first church. On a Sunday people from twelve miles north or south flocked to meeting, and those more favorably situated were happy in being able to attend three services a day. The Reverend Mr. Snelling, who fostered the faith there for twenty years, avers that “the congregations were large and the Word ran and was glorified.” And Rich has preserved for us a picture or two of the local exhorters. Dodge, who “could make more noise in the pulpit with less religion, and spoil more Bibles than any man I ever saw”; another, of gentler spirit, “in a tender, trembling, but earnest voice, loved to tell what religion had done for him and persuade others to accept[Pg 161] Christ as their Lord and Saviour.” And another would “force home his rugged reasoning, and vivid personal experience, with an energy and eloquence that swept like a torrent. Sometimes when wrought upon with his theme, his heart on fire, his face aglow, his tall form bent, his long arm outstretched, his impetuous utterance fairly breaking through his pent-up prison-house, the Spirit rested like cloven tongues upon the audience.” And there was fine old Stephen Collins whose “soul basked in the sunshine of all the privileges of God’s people. He loved the songs of Zion, Lenox was his favorite: he was the author of Give Lenox a pull. His exhortations were full of fire, his pungent logic carried conviction to the mind.”

In 1808 Barnstable, as had Provincetown, threatened a Methodist minister with mob violence. The old Pilgrim faith had tolerated Quakers; Baptists were established at Harwich in 1756 and at Barnstable in 1771; but Methodists were held as the great seceders, and it took them fifty years to soften the asperity of the prejudice against them. The new century was to end the old homogeneous theocracy and with it the paramount influence of the clergy. Quaker, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Methodist worshipped according to individual temperament, and participated in all civil rights; “Come-outers” practised ritual despised of aristocrats; camp-meeting grounds, where the Methodists improved a summer vacation for the soul’s profit, were established in the groves of Eastham and then at Yarmouth, when[Pg 162] “men of power and deep religious experience,” says Mr. Rich, “made these green arches tremble with their eloquence.” A local bard sings, with some particularity:

“We saw great gatherings in a grove,
A grove near Pamet Bay,
Where thousands heard the preached word,
And dozens knelt to pray.”

In 1821, “a Pentecostal year,” during the Great Revival in Wellfleet and Truro, over four hundred “professed religion,” and two hundred and thirty-six joined the Methodist church.

As early as 1813 began the Unitarian schism in the orthodox Congregational churches. A split in the First Parish of Sandwich served as a test case in the division of “temporalities,” when the schismatics, being in the majority, were awarded the church estate and the Old Lights, with the parson, withdrew to form a new parish. No doubt the people entered upon these new discussions with something of the gusto they had displayed in past controversies.

And in the meantime the nation was laying the solid foundations of its future prosperity; the Cape, with its shipping, its fisheries, and the indomitable spirit of its people, was to recover early in the struggle to right the chaos that war had induced and that might have ruined a young state less vigorous in its vitality. And on the Cape, at least, there was one industry that had been fostered by embargo and blockade. Settlers there, from the first, by one device or another had extracted salt from the sea for their[Pg 163] use. Cudworth, friend of the Quakers, was called a “salter” and had set up works at Scituate which he visited frequently after he removed to Barnstable; and whether owned by Cudworth or not, Barnstable also had an early “saltern.” As early as 1624 a man was sent to Plymouth to manufacture salt by the evaporation of sea-water in these artificial salt-ponds, a process not favored by Bradford, and though tedious and not too successful seems to have been followed for more than a century. During the Revolution, when no salt could be imported, and the country must rely upon the domestic produce, salt became so scarce that a bushel sold for eight dollars, and a state bounty of three shillings a bushel was offered for salt “manufactured within the State and produced from sea salt.”

Here was a fine promise of reward for ingenuity, and the low dunes of the north shore of the Cape offered ground made for the enterprise. Men there “tinkered” and “contrived” and improved one upon the work of another, until in 1799 Captain John Sears, of Dennis, who had been early in the field with a device known as “Sears’s Folly,” patented the perfected machine to obtain pure salt by means of sun evaporation which was to bring wealth to many of his neighbors. The industry ran well into the next century when importation became the cheaper method, and at its height companies from Billingsgate to Yarmouth employed some two millions of capital in the business. Many an old sea-dog, also, ran “salt-works” for his private profit, and the dunes of the[Pg 164] inner bay were dotted with groups of the surprising peaked-roof structures on stilts that had the look of Polynesian villages. These roofs capped shallow vats into which the water was pumped by tiny windmills. A simple mechanism borrowed from ship-lore that could be worked by the turn of a hand swung a roof back to expose the vat to the sun, and into place again to protect it from rain and dew. Provincetown made the salt for its fish-curing, and it is said that the crescent shore of the harbor was lined for miles with the whirring windmills. Not many years ago a few of the picturesque little buildings and their mills could still be seen on the dunes; but before the mid-eighteen hundreds, the business, as such, was at an end.


The First Comers, after they had established their farms, quickly turned to the sea for the profit there was in it: for since Cabot’s voyages, and before, men had known of the riches that lay there, and the earliest history of the Atlantic coast is that of its rival fisheries. Cabot encouraged English fishermen by report of “soles above a yard in length and a great abundance of that kind which the savages call baccalos or codfish.” France exploited the Newfoundland fisheries, and by 1600 fully ten thousand men were employed catching, curing, and transporting the fish: one old Frenchman boasted that he had made forty voyages to the Banks. Holland pushed into the trade to such effect that men said Amsterdam was built on herring bones and Dutchmen made of [Pg 165]pickled herring. The law of the road, at sea, was a hard law, and fishermen fought out their quarrels there without benefit of clergy. In 1621, when the Fortune made her landfall and Nauset Indians warned Plymouth of a strange boat rounding the Cape, it was because of the suspicion that it might be a Frenchman bent upon mischief. The Old Colony was to bear no small part in England’s game of edging out competitors on the sea. Plymouth was quick to estimate the value of those rich fishing-grounds in the lee of Cape Cod, where Gosnold’s chronicler Brereton was “persuaded that in the months of March, April, and May there is better fishing and in as great plenty as in Newfoundland,” and, as we have seen, used the revenue therefrom for the maintenance of a free school. Until well up to the middle of the next century the catching of mackerel, bass, cod, and herring, duly regulated, was conducted from shore by seines, weirs, pounds, and “fykes.” And then men put to sea for voyages to the Banks, and prospered. And in 1850, when codfishing was at its height, more than half the capital invested in it by Massachusetts came from the Cape. The deep-sea voyaging of the clipper ship era has been dead these sixty years, but still fishermen from the Cape, though in smaller numbers now, join up for a cruise to the Banks. They are more frequently swarthy newcomers from Cape Verde and the Azores than the English stock of the early nineteenth century when the Reverend Mr. Damon, of Truro, surveying with delight the arrival of a fleet of four or five hundred mackerel schooners, cautiously modified[Pg 166] his emotion and exclaimed: “I should think there must be seventy-five vessels! I never saw such a beautiful sight!” And it was good Mr. Damon, perplexed in his petition for fair winds, whether men should be sailing north or south, who thus trimmed ship: “We pray thee, O Lord, that thou wilt watch over our mariners that go down to do business upon the mighty deep, keep them in the hollow of thy hand; and we pray thee that thou wilt send a side-wind, so that their vessels may pass and repass.”


Mr. Rich gives a lively description of the old fishing days, when “all Yankees fished with hand-lines from the vessel.” “The model fisherman keeps his craft snug and taut. He has tested her temper and strength through storm and calm. He will defend her sea-going and fast-sailing almost with his life. A larger fleet and finer manœuvring have never been seen than in a fleet of fishermen. Sometimes three or four hundred sail, from forty to perhaps one hundred and forty tons, all sea-going, well equipped and well-manned, haul aft their sheets in a freshening breeze to reach a windward harbor. Codfishing on the Banks was considered tough work. The boy who could graduate from that school with full honors, could take care of himself; fight his own battles. It was kill or cure; few, however, were killed; he was sure to come home hale and hearty.” But sometimes the fare ran short on a long cruise, and the staple bean soup grew thin. “What in creation are you doing?” a skipper asked a little Dutch sailor who was peeling off his jacket as he surveyed the scanty meal. “Tive for the bean, by[Pg 167] Cot,” answered Dutchy. “Going to the Grand Bank meant leaving home in April for a three to five months’ trip, with no communication till the return. It meant besides the usual sea casualties, to be shut up in the fog, exposed to icebergs and cut off from the world as if alone on the planet. Do not imagine, however, that these men felt they were prisoners, or even dreamed of being unhappy. It was their business and they were more happy and content than the average working-man I have met on land. Day by day, and week by week, a more cheerful company, kind, pleasant and accommodating, it would be hard to find. Saturday night was a happy hour. At sunset the lines were snugly coiled, the decks washed, and a single watch set for twenty-four hours. Sunday was a day of rest. The bright, unfaltering star that never set or dimmed, that robbed the voyage of half its discomforts and terrors, was going home. How pleasant the anticipation, how glad the welcome, how lavish the store!”

Mackerel-fishing was a separate art acquired in its perfection by the progression of many devices. Here, again, we quote from Rich. “Laying-to, or a square dead drift, throwing bait freely, coying the fish, was found the most successful. By this way, with a moderate breeze, a school could sometimes be kept around a vessel for hours. As many as one hundred and fifty wash barrels have been caught by hook and line at a single drift. A fleet of hundreds of sail, laying-to and beating up to the windward to keep on the school is a fine marine picture. ‘High-line’ is the highest degree[Pg 168] conferred in this school. It outranks all others. The fishermen of Truro were among the first to follow the mackerel business and Truro has had a remarkable succession of leading or lucky skippers.” It is a delight to read Mr. Rich’s history, and we must repeat two of his stories of “fisherman’s luck.”

A certain Captain Ryder was one of a large fleet of fishermen that were lying wind-bound in Hampton Roads. The young captain, in the face of probability, determined to try for a breeze outside. There he took “a fairish wind so he could slant along and saw no more land nor sky till he struck the shore in Portland Harbor. Here he had quick despatch as vessels were scarce,” and returned to Hampton Roads to find the fleet weather-bound as he had left them, waiting still for fair conditions to put to sea. Another Truro fisherman, who had the name of making fortunate voyages, once shipped a seaman with the opposite reputation. “I hear, skipper, you’ve shipped Uncle Wiff,” protested one of the crew. “I won’t go with him. He’s a ‘Jonas.’ You won’t make a dollar.” “I’ve told Uncle Wiff he may go, and go he shall, make or break, whether you go or not,” returned the cap’n. The result justified his courage. “We made that year the best voyage I ever made,” he was pleased to recall, “and Uncle Wiff was one of the best men I ever saw.” The comment of Mr. Rich is sufficient: “Lucky men are most always bold, brave men; and fortune favors the brave.”

Whaling was a business distinct: the great seasport, to ordinary fishing as a lion-hunt to a partridge-shoot.[Pg 169] Early in the seventeenth century Purchas, in his “Pilgrimage” wrote a brave epic of the whale that must have roused many a stay-at-home to hunger for adventure: “I might here recreate your wearied eyes with a hunting spectacle of the greatest chase which nature yieldeth; I mean the killing of a whale.” Freeman says that the method thereof was but “slightly altered during upwards of two centuries.” Here, substantially, is Purchas: “When they espy him on the top of the water, they row toward him in a shallop, in which the harpooneer stands ready with both hands to dart his harping iron, to which is fastened a line of such length, that the whale may carry it down with him; coming up again they again strike him with lances made for the purpose about twelve feet long, and thus they hold him in such pursuit, till after streams of water, and next of blood, cast up into the air and water, he at length yieldeth his slain carcass to the conquerors.” “The proportions of this huge leviathan deserves description,” chants Purchas. “His head is the third part of him, his mouth (O, hellish wide!) sixteen feet in the opening, and yet out of that belly of hell yielding much to the ornaments of our women’s backs. This great head hath little eyes like apples and a little throat not greater than for a man’s fist to enter. They are swallow-tailed, the extremes being twenty feet distant.” He labors for accuracy: “The ordinary length of a whale is sixty feet, and not so huge as Olaus hath written, who also maketh the moose as big as an elephant.”

In 1620 the leviathan was familiar enough to Cape[Pg 170] Cod Bay to forestall any necessity of hunting him in the far seas. The schools of mackerel and cod there made rich feeding for the whales which not infrequently met their death when greed tolled them to shoal waters and they were left high and dry by the receding tides. Then Indians or whites made their kill, and the rights in these “drift-whales” were a fruitful source of trouble. In 1662 the agents of Yarmouth had appeared at court “to debate and have determined a difference about whales”; and in 1690 an order was passed “to prevent contests and suits by whale-killers.” But contests there were between one man and another, and town and province, as evidenced in 1693 by a dispute with a county sheriff who had seized two whales for the Crown; and in 1705 by a letter from William Clapp to “Squier” Dudley, of Boston, a better testimony to Clapp’s business enterprise than to his scholarship. “I have liveed hear at the Cap this 4 year,” wrote Clapp, “and I have very often every year sien that her Maiesty has been very much wronged of har dues by these country people.” And he would be willing to remedy the evil “if your honor see case to precure a commishon of his Exalency for me with in strocktions I shall by the help of god be very faithful in my ofes.” And that Clapp got his appointment is shown by the Governor’s endorsement on his letter: “Commission for William Clapp, Lt. at the Cape. Warrant to prize drift whales, a water baylif.” But the towns were tenacious of their rights, and usually assured the parson’s salary from their profit. Mr. Cotton of Yarmouth[Pg 171] looked there for his forty pounds a year; Mr. Avery of Truro, for his larger stipend; and some of the whaling-profits were also used for school maintenance.

Waiting for stranded drift-whale ill-suited the spirit of the pioneers at Cape Cod, and soon duly commissioned watchers gave notice when a whale spouted in the bay, and men put off in small boats to give chase. It is said that a “Dutchman” from Long Island, Lopez by name, taught Barnstable men the art of killing, and that Lieutenant John Gorham, who made a tidy fortune out of the business and whose son was to use his whaleboat fleet to good advantage in the French wars, “first fixt out with old Lopez a whaling in ye year about 1680.” Ten years later Nantucket sent to Cape Cod for Ichabod Paddock “to instruct them in the best manner of killing whales and extracting their oil.” At Yarmouth a tract of land was set off as “Whaling Grounds,” where a lookout was kept and the crews lodged ready to put off at the instant’s alarm. Cotton Mather comments upon a great kill there of a whale fifty-five feet long. “A cart upon wheels might have gone into the mouth of it. So does the good God here give the people to suck the sea.” And as late as 1843 a monster whale was captured near Provincetown by a small “pink-stern” schooner. Its estimated value in oil and bone was ten thousand dollars, of which, owing to lack of facility in the salvage, only a small part was realized.

The Indians, who were particularly expert in the art, were always employed largely both in bay and[Pg 172] deep-water whaling; and they, too, were jealous of their shore rights. In 1757 the Indians of Eastham and Harwich complained to the General Court of the encroachment of whites, especially on “a certain neck or beach in or near Eastham called Billingsgate Point or Island, the place most convenient for the whale-fishery in the whole county, and always before so improved.” And it is noted that “certain inhabitants of Harwich” were prosecuted for such “whale fishery at Billingsgate.”

It was in Wellfleet Harbor that the Pilgrims had seen Indians at a kill of blackfish, and named it “Grampus Bay.” These blackfish, only less valuable for oil than whales, down to recent times were occasionally beached in great shoals on the Cape, and the stench of the rotting carcases carried for miles. Mr. Rich tells of a Truro captain who, as he drove his cows to pasture one fine morning, descried on the shore as he took a squint seaward seventy-five huge fish, which before nightfall he had sold for nineteen hundred dollars. And in 1874, over fourteen hundred, the largest school ever known, were stranded at Truro and cut up to twenty-seven thousand gallons of oil. Even boys were adept at the game; and one urchin, having prevented several great fish from escaping to deep water, fought one with hatchet and knife, made his kill, and was discovered deftly stripping it of blubber. It was in 1834, as ill chance would have it on a Sabbath, that a vast school of blackfish was beached at Truro. Here was temptation for the devout that was to divide, in the eyes of all men, the[Pg 173] sheep from the goats. Many fishermen happened to be offshore; the news reached the churches at the close of morning service. It is said honors were even as to Sabbath-breakers from church-goers and seamen. But one young sailor, though he was no “professor,” refused to take part in the chase because, forsooth, his father had kept sacred the day. He was a conservative by nature, and winter after winter studied his sums in a tattered old book. “My father and grandfather cyphered out of that arithmetic,” was his retort for criticism. “I should think it divilish strange if I can’t.”

From hunting the whale offshore in small boats, Cape seamen, when the prey grew more wary, pursued it to the farthest reaches of the ocean, and brought back prosperity to the home ports. Wellfleet was a great whaling town; Truro also, and Provincetown. Then the bulk of the business went to the islands to the southward and to New Bedford. Captain Jesse Holbrook of Truro, who killed fifty-four sperm whales on one voyage, was employed for twelve years by a London company to teach English lads his art, and it was two Truro captains, on the advice of an English admiral stationed at Boston, who were the first to go whaling about the Falkland Islands. Captain William Handy, of Sandwich, was another famous whaling-captain during and after the Revolution, sailing from New Bedford and also from Dunkirk by some engagement made with Napoleon. On one such voyage he and a single companion, both unarmed, had a desperate encounter with a huge[Pg 174] polar bear where they had landed on an icy shore; the ice bore up them and not the bear, or even their courage would have availed them little in the unequal conflict. Captain Handy retired to become a shipbuilder, but was impoverished by “the French spoliations,” as well as from the War of 1812, and at the age of sixty returned to the sea to make good his fortune and “to show the boys how to take whales,” when “he accomplished in fifteen months a most successful cruise to the admiration of all.” In 1771 no less than seventy-four vessels had been engaged in such ventures; and Mr. Osborn, the versatile Eastham parson who taught his people how to use peat, celebrated their prowess on the sea in a whaling-song that opened with appropriate detail:

“When Spring returns with western gales,
And gentle breezes sweep
The ruffling seas, we spread our sails
To plow the wat’ry deep;
For killing northern whale prepar’d.
Our nimble boats on board
With craft and rum (our chief regard)
And good provision stor’d;
Cape Cod, our dearest, native land,
We leave astern, and lose
Its sinking cliffs and lessening sands
Whilst Zephyr gently blows.”

But it is Edmund Burke, in the British Commons, with the magno modo of the time but commendable accuracy, who pronounced the panegyric of the New England whalers: “While we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice, penetrating into the[Pg 175] deepest recesses of Hudson Bay; while we are looking for them beneath the Arctic circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of Polar cold, that they are at the Antipodes, and engaged under the frozen Serpent of the South. Falkland Island, which seemed too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of natural ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of their victorious industry. While some of them draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude and pursue the gigantic game along the shores of Brazil.”

[Pg 176]



The sea that was at every man’s threshold, combing down the beaches of the outer shore, lapsing from the sands ebb-tide and flood again in the bay, formed such a part of the day’s experience as would be inconceivable to one of inland habitude. It was a friend to be loved, an enemy to be fought, a giver of food, and a solemn harvester that brought dead men to the door. Memorable storms have ravaged the shore: it is amazing that anything so delicate as the charming curve of Champlain’s Cap Blanc could withstand the pull and push of the Atlantic surges; Gosnold’s Point Gilbert and Tucker’s Terror have been torn away and moulded elsewhere in other form; and the shoals of that cruel outer strand might be piled high with their wrecked ships. Nor has tragedy been all oceanwards.

In 1827 there was a lowering capricious winter when with more than common malice the wind, “bringing cold out of the north,” would swing to the melting south and back again to freeze and destroy. It was on such a day that the schooner Almira, loaded with wood, put her nose out of Sandwich Harbor. The rain had stopped at noon, the air was thick with vapor, and high overhead, as if seeking their shepherd wind, scudded little anxious clouds. Then, change about, by nightfall the iron hand of the north had[Pg 177] stripped the heavens bare and stars looked coldly down upon the scene. The air had filled with needles of frost to cut the faces of the miserable crew, and drenched as they were with spray they froze as they stood. The boat was headed for Plymouth Light; but Plymouth lay directly in the eye of the wind, and it was tack and tack again with sails slowly shredding to rags and every rope unyielding steel. The boat still answered her helm, but it was useless to drive her longer against wind and tide, and they turned her about for home. Into Barnstable Bay she swept, and in the moonlight that was more relentless than shrouding storm the master could see his own comfortable white house. The boat travelled as “if intent on some spot where it might be wrecked,” and there on the teeth of a cruel ledge, less than the turn of twenty-four hours since she had set sail in the languorous south wind, the land once more received her. At the helm, his hands frozen to the tiller, his feet set fast in ice, pitiful rescuers found the only man who breathed: the others of that little company had made the cold port of death.

There have been historic wrecks, historic storms. As early as 1669 a quarrel over the salvage of a wreck was settled in court. Bradford, in 1635, records such a storm “as none living in these parts, either English or Indians, ever saw, causing the sea to swell above twenty feet right up.” “Tall young oaks and walnut trees of good bigness were wound as a withe.” And “the wrecks of it will remain for a hundred years.” It was this storm, raging up and down the coast, that[Pg 178] threw Anthony Thacher and his little family upon the rocks of Cape Ann. And some Connecticut colonists, wrecked in Manomet Bay and wandering for days in the snow, finally reached Plymouth and were hospitably entertained there for the winter. Bradford’s storm “took the roof of a house at Manomet and put it in another place”; and Rich reports the great gale of a later year that washed a house from its moorings on the Isles of Shoals and landed it at Truro so far intact that a box of linen and some papers were preserved to tell its story. He seems to think that if the family had had the courage to stand by their house, they might have made the voyage to Cape Cod in safety. After a savage September gale in 1815 that centred in Buzzard’s Bay, a coasting schooner was found upright in some large trees, and another, lifted clean over a bluff, blocked the door of a house. Everything ashore was laid waste; even springs became brackish; but some land was enriched by its flooding and where only moss had been grass was to grow.

In 1703 the body of Captain Peter Adolphe, cast upon the shore at Sandwich, was there decently buried; and his widow, in grateful acknowledgment, presented the town with a bell cast in Munich and inscribed, “Si Devs pron bvs [sic] qvis contra nos 1675,” which was later sold to Barnstable where it is preserved as a relic.

In 1723 “The Great Storm” that “raised the tide three or four feet higher than had been known aforetime,” was reported by Mather to the Royal Society of London. In 1770 and 1785 were similar storms.

[Pg 179]

Bradford records that “the moon suffered a great eclipse” the second night after his storm; there were comets, portents of evil, during the Indian troubles, and earthquakes—in 1638 one so violent that “people out of doors could scarcely retain a position on their feet”; and the dating of subsequent events as so long “after the earthquake” was “as common for many years as once with the Children of Israel.” In 1727 a heavier shock still was “reformatory of some loose-livers in America who became apparently devout penitents”; and in 1755 was the worst earthquake that ever was known.

In November, 1729, one Captain Lothrop, Boston to Martha’s Vineyard, espied off Monomoy a vessel in distress, and boarding her discovered shocking evidence of her state. Of the one hundred and ninety souls who had set sail from Ireland for the port of Philadelphia, no less than one hundred, including all the children but one, had died of starvation. Twenty weeks they had been afloat, and were out of both water and food. “They entreated him to pilot them into the first harbor they could get into, and were all urgent to put them ashore anywhere, if it were but land.” Lothrop would have taken them to Boston, but, when they threatened to throw him into the sea, landed them hastily with some provisions, at Sandy Point where there was but one house. A writer in a current number of the “New England Weekly Journal” remarks that “notwithstanding their extremity, ’twas astounding to behold their impenitence, and to hear their profane speeches.” Their captain proceeded[Pg 180] to Philadelphia where he was arrested for cruelty to passengers and crew, sent in irons to Dublin, and met his just deserts by being hanged and quartered. The one young survivor of that wretched company, James Delap, found his way to Barnstable, and was apprenticed to a blacksmith there. In due time he married Mary O’Kelley, of Yarmouth, and in winter practised his trade, in summer was a seaman on the Boston packet. This Irishman was something of a Tory, and in 1775 emigrated to Nova Scotia where he died. A son, master of a vessel in the king’s service, perished on Nantucket where his boat was wrecked in a furious blizzard; two of his daughters married in Barnstable.

When the emigration of loyalists was well under way, boat after boat, crowded far beyond safety, set out from Boston and New York for Nova Scotia, where, as one such traveller said, “it’s winter nine months of the year, and cold weather the rest of the time”; and where, even were they fortunate enough to escape disease or starvation or wreck on the voyage, they were to suffer privations beyond any the early Pilgrims endured. In March, 1776, “a sloop loaded with English goods, having sailed from Boston for Halifax, with sundry Tories and a large number of women and children, some of whom were sick with smallpox,” was cast ashore at Provincetown. Nathaniel Freeman was one of a committee appointed “to repair forthwith to the place and prevent the escape of the passengers and crew and secure the vessel and cargo,” and the selectmen of Truro shared[Pg 181] in the task. What became of the sick women and children we are not told, but we may be reasonably certain that the rancor of the Whigs was not vented on them. Another of these Tory refugee ships was wrecked on Block Island, and it was said that for years after the ghosts of those who perished there could be seen struggling in the surf and their cries heard by men ashore.

English ships, in these days, were raking the coast of the Cape from their stations at Tarpaulin Cove and Provincetown, but in November, 1778, a sorry landing was made when “The Somerset, British man-of-war,” sung by Longfellow in his “Landlord’s Tale,” struck on the murderous Peaked Hill Bar off Provincetown and, lightered of guns and ammunition, at high tide was flung on the beach. For two years, patrolling the coast or “swinging wide at her moorings” in the harbor, she had been a familiar sight to patriots ashore, and now, without observing too closely the letter of the law, they were to take what the sea gave them. Rich records some preliminary amenities between the captain and a company of visitors from Hog Back, one of whom, “a short old man with a short-tailed pipe,” asked for the captain, and Aurey, supposing him in authority, received him civilly. “Well, cap’n,” drawled Cape Cod, “who did you pray to in the storm? If you called on the Lord, he wouldn’t have sent you here. And I’m sure King George wouldn’t.” Whereupon the captain: “Old man, you’ve had your pipe fished.” An anecdote that goes to show not unfriendly relations between adversaries.[Pg 182] In due time the captain and crew, to the number of four hundred and eighty, were marched to Boston to the exultation of all beholders, and the Board of War stripped the ship of her armament. But before and after this was accomplished, the neighborhood engaged itself with plunder, and there seems to have been some confusion in the right to loot. “From all I can learn,” wrote Joseph Otis, of Barnstable, “there is wicked work at the wreck, riotous doings.” He excused himself from the duty of regulating matters there as his father, the old chief justice, lay a-dying. “The Truro and Provincetown men made a division of the clothing, etc. Truro took two-thirds and Provincetown one-third. There is a plundering gang that way.” Certainly Barnstable was too remote to share in the largess. Mr. Rich had seen canes made from the Somerset’s fine old English oak, and cites a certain silver watch, part of the “effects,” that was still keeping good time at Pond Village. Drifting sands piled up to conceal the wreck, a century later swept back to disclose her to the gaze of the curious, and then again buried the bones of her.

In December of 1778, the Federal brig General Arnold, Magee master and twelve Barnstable men among the crew, drove ashore on the Plymouth flats during a furious nor’easter, the “Magee storm” that mariners, for years after, used as a date to reckon from. The vessel was shrouded in snow and ice, men froze to the rigging, others were smothered in the snow, a few were washed overboard; and when, after three days, succor came to them, only thirty-three[Pg 183] men lived of the one hundred and five who had sailed from Boston so short a time before. Of the twelve Barnstable men only one survived. Bound in ice, he lay on deck as one dead: conscious, but powerless to move or speak. By one chance in a thousand, the rescuers caught his agonized gaze; they bore him ashore, nursed him back to life, and when he was able to travel sent him home over the snow-blocked roads in an ambulance improvised from a hammock slung between horses fore and aft. The Plymouth folk, unlike the looters of the Somerset—who, to be sure, looted only an enemy—not only buried the dead and sheltered the living, but guarded the property aboard the General Arnold for its owners. As for Barnstable, he lost both his feet from frost-bite, but could ride to church on the Sabbath as well as another. He busied himself about his garden in summer, and in winter coopered for his neighbors; with considerable skill, also, he cast many small articles in pewter and lead.

In 1798, the “Salem Gazette” reports: “seven vessels ashore on Cape Cod, twenty-five bodies picked up and buried, probably no lives saved.” In 1802, there was another memorable wreck on the Peaked Hill Bar when three Salem vessels richly laden, one for Leghorn, two for Bordeaux, foundered there in a blinding storm. And, slow as the posts then were, not for nearly three weeks were full details of the loss received at Salem. For many years, every great snowstorm following a fine day in March would revive the story of “the three Salem ships.” During the[Pg 184] Embargo War, a Truro man fitted out an old boat to trade with Boston, and on one such trip was overtaken at nightfall, below Minot’s Ledge, by a furious northeast snowstorm. It seemed probable that there would be one embargo-dodger the less to harry the revenue officers. The crew consisted of a solitary seaman noted for good judgment, his only oath milkmild. “Well, Mr. White, what would you do now?” inquired the skipper. “By gracious, sir,” returned White, all unperturbed, “I’d take in the mains’l, double reef the fores’l, and give her an offing.” Laconic direction for the one course that offered hope, and the event justified its wisdom. In 1815 a September gale that equalled Bradford’s Great Storm swept Buzzard’s Bay, piled the tides higher than had ever been known, and all but excavated a Cape Cod Canal. Trees were uprooted, salt-works destroyed, and vessels driven high on land. In 1831, to vary the story, unprecedented snows were fatal to deer in the Sandwich woods where they fell easy prey to hunters on snowshoes who brought in no less than two hundred, forty of them trapped alive.

All up and down the Cape, in every village and town, as the years passed, the sea took its toll of men. In 1828 some thirty of them, mostly from Sandwich and Yarmouth, small merchants and artisans who had spent the winter “prosecuting their business” in South Carolina, were lost on their homeward voyage. That was a disastrous year for many a man who followed the sea, and in Truro, especially, the number of grave-stones grew. Of all these memorials the most[Pg 185] tragic is that “Sacred to the memory of fifty-seven citizens of Truro who were lost in seven vessels, which foundered at sea in the memorable gale of October 3, 1841.” Fifty-seven men of Truro, ten of Yarmouth, twenty of Dennis “mostly youngsters under thirty,” never made port in that gale. They were fishing on George’s Bank when the storm broke, and “made sail to run for the highland of Cape Cod,” we may read. “But there were mighty currents unknown to them before which carried them out of the proper course to the southwest. Finding they could not weather by the highland they wore ship and stood to the southeast but being disabled in their sails and rigging—the strongest canvas was blown into shreds—they were carried by wind and current upon the Nantucket Shoals.” A few boats did succeed in rounding Provincetown; others never made even the Nantucket Shoals; one was found bottom up in Nauset Harbor, “with the boys drowned in her cabin.” A captain, whose seamanship and indomitable pluck saved him that day, lived to write the record. “I knew we had a good sea-boat; I had tried her in a hard scratch, and knew our race was life or death.” Somehow, where other masters failed, he won. By a hair’s breadth he escaped the shoals. “We hung on sharp as possible by the wind, our little craft proving herself not only able but seemingly endowed with life. In this way at 3.30 we weathered the Highlands with no room to spare. When off Peaked Hill Bar the jib blew away, and we just cleared the breakers; but we had weathered! the lee shore was astern, and Race Point under our lee,[Pg 186] which we rounded and let go our anchor in the Herring Cove.” Rich chronicles the almost incredible feat of another boat that turned turtle and around again and survived. The Reform lay-to “under bare poles, with a drag-net to keep her head to the wind. As it was impossible to remain on deck on account of the sea making a breach fore and aft, all hands fastened themselves in the cabin and awaited their fate, at the mercy of the storm. A moment after a terrific sea fairly swallowed them many fathoms below the surface. The vessel was thrown completely bottom up. The crew had no doubt it was her final plunge. A few seconds only, she was again on her keel. Two or three men crawled on deck; they found the masts gone and the hawser of the drag wound around the bowsprit. She had turned completely over, and came up on the opposite side.” For weeks after the storm, a vessel cruised about seeking disabled boats or some trace of their loss; but save the schooner in Nauset Harbor, not a vestige of boats or men was ever found. It is said that a Provincetown father, “who had two sons among the missing, for weeks would go morning and evening to the hill-top which overlooked the ocean, and there seating himself, would watch for hours, scanning the distant horizon with his glass, hoping every moment to discover some speck on which to build a hope.”

In 1853 another Great Storm swept away wharves and storehouses on the bay, and wrecked a schooner at Sandy Neck, with “all hands lost” to add to the tale of disaster on the outer shore. And so walks the procession of storms down to the one of yesterday when the[Pg 187] coast-guard fought hour by hour through the night to save the crew of a boat pounding to pieces in the surf a scant two hundred and fifty feet from shore. And before the days of the coast-guard, men had worn paths above the cliffs where they paced on the lookout for wrecks. “Thick weather, easterly gales, storms,” and on such nights men, even as they ate, kept an eye to the sea. One Captain Collins, of Truro, called from table by the familiar cry, “Ship ashore, all hands perishing,” within the hour had laid down his life in a fruitless effort at rescue—he and a companion whose widow had lost all the men related to her by the sea. By differing methods the same spirit has worked through all the years: “Ship ashore, all hands perishing,” and it is the business of men who might be safe to risk their lives in the fight with death.


The sombre tale of wrecks will never be done, but pirate stories no longer incite youth to possible adventure. In the old days Cape Cod men had plenty of chances to show their prowess against such adversaries, and likewise against the privateersmen who sometimes made use of their letters of marque in highly personal ventures. Nor was danger from out-and-out piracy unfamiliar to peaceful folk ashore. The Earl of Bellamont, Governor of Massachusetts and New York, was “particularly instructed to put a stop to the growth of piracy, the seas being constantly endangered by freebooters”; and the achievement of his short incumbency was the apprehension[Pg 188] of Captain Kidd. Kidd, duly commissioned a privateer, was one of those who turned to the more lucrative trade of pirate. Then, pushed hard, he buried his profits, to the incitement of many future treasure hunts, and thinking to escape detection through sheer boldness, appeared in Boston. But he was recognized, laid by the heels, and packed off to London where he was duly hanged. An earlier pirate of our coast with better fortune died in his bed, a respected country gentleman, no doubt, at Isleworth, England, in the year 1703. He had been pilot on a pirate-chaser appointed by Governor Andros to clean up the seas off New England, and in process of pursuing the pirates had opportunity to observe the ease of their methods.

In 1689 this Thomas Pound, in partnership with another master-mariner and duly commissioned to prey upon French merchantmen, set sail from Boston. But they had proceeded no farther than the Brewsters when they were holding up a mackerel sloop for supplies, and fifteen miles out they neatly exchanged their own boat for a better one Salem-bound, whose crew, save one John Derby who joined the adventurers as a “voluntary,” was to turn up at home and give news of the lately commissioned privateer, Thomas Pound, master. Pound, meantime, with a long advantage in the chase, was off for Portland and Casco Bay. Fully equipped from the Portland militia stores with clothing, powder, musket and cutlass, carbines and brass cannon, he made for Provincetown and again changed to a better boat whose master was sent back to Boston[Pg 189] with the saucy message to probable pursuers that: “They Knew ye goot Sloop lay ready but if she came out after them & came up wh them shd find hott work for they wd die every man before they would be taken.” Boston, nevertheless, sent out its sloop, with orders to take Pound, or any other pirate, but quaintly, in so hazardous an enterprise, “to void the shedding of blood unless you be necessitated by resistance.” Perhaps Boston had heard the rumor that Richard, brother to Sir William Phips, Governor, was of the pirate company. Pound rounded the Cape, picked up a prize in the Sound, was blown out to sea, and returned to the rich hunting about the Cape by way of Virginia. Off Martha’s Vineyard, again, he drove a ketch into the harbor and would have followed and cut her out, if the inhabitants had not risen in force. In Cape Cod Bay he held up a Pennsylvania sloop that was such poor prey he let her go scot free; but off Falmouth he got a fine stock of provisions—which very likely was needed by now—from a New London boat. Then he lay-to for several days in Tarpaulin Cove where, at last, the merry cruise was to end. Boston was sending out another boat, under command of one Samuel Pease, with instructions to get the pirates but, again, “to prevent ye sheding of blood as much as may bee,” and with better luck this time for the avengers of the law. In Tarpaulin Cove they surprised the pirate, with the red flag at her peak. Shots were exchanged, and called upon to strike to the King of England, Pound answered in true pirate rodomontade. “Standing on the quarter-deck[Pg 190] with his naked sword in his hand flourishing, said, come aboard, you Doggs, and I will strike you presently, or words to yt purpose.” Firing was renewed, and “after a little space we saw Pound was shot and gone off the deck.” Quarter was offered, and refused. “Ai yee dogs we will give you quarter,” yelled the pirates. Pease was also wounded, but his men boarded the pirate sloop, and “forced to knock them downe with the but end of our muskets at last we quelled them, killing foure, and wounding twelve, two remaining pretty well.” This ended the Homeric battle of Tarpaulin Cove. Pease, the king’s captain, died of his wounds, and offerings were made in church for his widow and orphans. The pirates were taken to Boston jail where they were visited for the good of their souls by Judge Sewall and Cotton Mather. In due process of law they were condemned to be hanged on indictments for piracy and murder. But the sequel proved that fashion and the elders, whether or not by reason of the claims of consanguinity, were interested for the scapegraces. Justice was appeased by the hanging of one lame man of humble origin, and Pound was taken to England, where later he was made captain in the navy and died, as we have seen, in the odor of respectability. Some say that his brief piratical career was induced by politics rather than a criminal taste. He and his men were royalists, it was said, and, siding with Andros in the colonial quarrels, meant to draw out of Boston Harbor for their pursuit the royal frigate Rose which the colonists were holding there. But if that were their game, it was spoiled by the sending[Pg 191] out of the Province sloop under Captain Pease and the genuine fight at Wood’s Hole. In any case the Salem and New London boats they had looted were not disposed, probably, to distinguish them from pirates.

A close perusal of the “Pirate’s Own Book,” published at Portland in 1859, would no doubt reveal further adventures involving Cape Cod; and in 1717, at any rate, there was an encounter with pirates off the “Back Side” that was brought to a successful conclusion by the wit of a Cape Cod seaman. The Whidah, Samuel Bellamy, captain, of some two hundred tons burden with an equipment of twenty-three guns and one hundred and thirty men, while cruising offshore had the good fortune, which turned to ill, to take seven prizes. Seven prize crews were put aboard to take the vessels to port there, presumably, to sell them at a price. The master of one, seeing that his captors were drunk, took his boat straight into Provincetown and gave the pirate crew into custody. Nor was their chief to meet a better fate. One of his prizes was a “snow,” and seeing a storm coming up, he offered its skipper the boat intact if he would pilot the Whidah safe around to Provincetown Harbor. The bargain struck, a lantern, as guide, was hung in the snow’s rigging. Some say the skipper, trusting to the lighter draft of his boat, ran her straight for shore, the heavy pirate craft floundering after; another story has it that he put out his mast-light and flung a burning tar-barrel overboard to float ashore and lure the Whidah to her doom. Be that as it may, the sequel was successful. The Whidah and two of her attendant ships were[Pg 192] dashed on shore near Nauset, and only two men of the crews, an Englishman and an Indian, escaped drowning. As for the storm, it was sufficiently heavy to furrow out the first Cape Cod Canal, the ocean making a clean break across the Cape near the Orleans line, and “it required a great turnout of the people and great efforts to close it up.” Captain Cyprian Southack, sent from Boston to inspect the wreck and landing on the bay shore, refers in his report to “the place where I came through with a Whale Boat,” and adds that he buried “one Hundred and Two Men Drowned.” Having buried the pirates, Southack set a watch over their property, and had some complaint to make of the inhabitants, who came from twenty miles around to share in the spoils. As usual, there seems to have been a clash between government and individual rights; but Southack advertising retribution for any private profiteers, several cartloads of the stores were retrieved and sent to Boston. And there is a story of the right pirate cast in regard to a man “very singular and frightful” in aspect who, every season for many years after, used to revisit the neighborhood of the wreck. Taciturn and uncommunicative in his waking hours, his dreams were perturbed as needs must be, and then such ribald and profane words passed his lips as proved him in league with evil spirits with whom he communed on past bloody deeds. Plainly he was the one English survivor of the Whidah returned to the scene to dig for buried treasure; and to prove the case, when he died a belt filled with gold was found on his person.

[Pg 193]

In 1772 there was a pirate story less well authenticated which served chiefly as a bone to worry between Tory and Whig. A schooner flying signals of distress was boarded off Chatham, and the single seaman found there, appearing “very much frightened,” said that armed men in four boats had overhauled the craft and murdered the master, mate, and a seaman; himself he had saved by hiding. He supposed the men, he cunningly said, came from a royal cruiser, a story ridiculous on the face of it. At any rate, a royal cruiser, the Lively, under command of Montague, the admiral who had advised the two Truro captains to undertake their whaling voyage to the Falklands, set out in pursuit of a possible pirate, with no result; and the upshot was that the whole story was suspected to be an invention of the survivor to conceal his own guilt. The jury sitting in the case disagreed, and in the fevered state of public opinion, it was used in mutual recriminations by Whig and Tory: the Whigs contending that the English navy had committed the footless outrage, the Tories, more reasonably, that the seaman was a liar and murderer. But controversy could not restore the dead, who had all hailed from Chatham.

The Cape, as it reached out for its share in the commerce that developed after the Revolution, was as intimately concerned in pirate adventures off the Spanish Main as it might have been in Cape Cod Bay. By 1822 our shipping was so harried by pirates in those southern seas that the Government sent out armed boats to protect our merchantmen, among them[Pg 194] the sloop-of-war Alligator. And a story, in which the Alligator is concerned, typical of many another of the time, is told by one of the last of the old Cape Cod sea-captains who died some twenty years ago. He sailed, as cabin boy, for the Spanish Main in the brig Iris commanded by a Brewster man and carrying a crew of eleven and one passenger. As the Iris neared the Antilles, two suspicious ships were sighted, and suspicion turned to certainty when they hoisted the red flag, put out their “sweeps,” and one pirate made for the Iris, the other for a Yankee schooner Matanzas-bound. The Iris was no clipper, and was quickly brought to by a shot over her bow. The passenger and captain had meantime gone down to the cabin to hide their valuables; and the cabin boy also, he tells us, “went down and took from my chest a little wallet, with some artificial flowers under a crystal on its front, in which were three dollars in paper money and a few coppers. This I hid in the bo’sun’s locker and went on deck again.” The lapse of seventy years had not dimmed his memory of the precious wallet.

The pirate ship, bristling with guns, was now alongside, her deck crowded with men dressed in white linen and broad straw hats, quite like Southern gentlemen, and soon a yawl filled with men armed to the teeth put off from her side. The Iris, with forced courtesy, lowered a gangway for their reception, and six of the strangers climbed on deck. Their leader inquired of the cargo, and was told that the Iris was practically in ballast.

[Pg 195]

“Have you any provisions to spare? We’re a privateer out for pirates. Seen any?” asked the officer.

“No,” answered the captain, looking him in the eye. “I can let you have some salt beef and pork.”

The play at civility was soon ended, the ship searched, and the stranger, reappearing on deck dressed out in the captain’s best clothes, cried jovially: “Well, sirs, we’re pirates, and you’re our prisoners.”

The Iris under her new command tacked back and forth toward the shore, and the prize crew found some rum for their refreshment, and thought, by threatening the cabin boy, to find treasure concealed in the ship. Trembling, he climbed up to the locker, and produced his wallet, but so far from being placated by this offering one pirate knocked him down and made as if to skewer him with a cutlass, while another vowed to throw him overboard. Then they ordered him off to bed, and he crept into the sailroom. Next morning all were called up to man ship, and captor and prize beat down the coast to “Point Jaccos” where the boats lay-to and the pirates spent the night in drinking and the Yankees in keeping out of their way. The captain and the cabin boy hid under the longboat. In the morning they put into a bay, a true pirate rendezvous, with mangroves growing down to the water’s edge. The cargo was transferred to the pirate ship, and their captain, boarding the Iris, ordered his officer to get money from the Yankees or kill all hands and burn the brig. But the Yankees understood his Spanish, and Captain Mayo, averring[Pg 196] still that he had no money aboard, offered if the pirates would send him into Matanzas to return with any ransom they should name.

“Very good,” said the pirate. “I give you three days. If you aren’t back then with six thousand dollars, I’ll kill all the crew and fire the brig.”

Then they gave him back his best clothes and his watch, and put him aboard a passing fishing-smack with orders to land him at Matanzas. There he was not too generously received, and all but despairing of help, as he walked on the quay next morning he spied an American man-of-war coming in—a schooner with fourteen guns and well manned—in short, the Alligator. Captain Mayo aboard, the Alligator put about, and on the morning of the third day, with no time to spare, sighted the pirate rendezvous and four vessels at anchor, the two pirates, the Iris, and the schooner that had been Matanzas-bound, her fellow-prisoner. The pirates were brave fighters of unarmed men, but had no taste for warships. At sight of the Alligator, the men on one boat fired a gun to warn their comrades on the prizes, took to their sweeps and made off to sea. The Yankees on the Iris had been confined in fo’c’s’le and cabin, and were awaiting with some perturbation the dawn of the third day that was to bring them Captain Mayo and the ransom or death, when they were startled by a cannon shot that was succeeded by a stillness above decks. Rushing up, they saw their captors making off, the first pirate schooner showing a clean pair of heels well out at sea, the second rounding the harbor point with three boats in chase. The[Pg 197] sun rode high in the heavens, the sea was like glass, and it seems that Lieutenant Allen, of the Alligator, unable to handle his vessel in the calm and eager to secure at least one of the pirates, had attacked from his small boats, with disastrous results. The pirate escaped, he himself was mortally wounded, several of his men were wounded, and a retreat was ordered to the Alligator, which withdrew, Captain Mayo and the ransom still aboard, without further casualties. But the second pirate craft remained, a speck to the sight, at the head of the bay, and as the cabin boy was pouring coffee for the meal that had been laid on the quarter-deck, a boat was seen to put off from her and pull toward the Iris. The Iris hailed her sister captive, the Matanzas schooner, which begged her to take off the crew when they would make common cause against the pirate. Nothing was more certain than that the boat that swiftly drew nearer was intent on their destruction. The first mate of the Iris and one sailor jumped into a boat and, pulling for the schooner, took off her crew, but instead of returning, made for the shore. Now, indeed, all seemed lost for the hapless men and the boy aboard the Iris. He and the sailors fled for the hold, while on deck the second mate and the passenger awaited what should come. The pirates, once aboard, slashed at the mate and threw him overboard, the sailors were haled on deck and forced to run for their lives, forward and aft, the pirates cutting at them as they ran. Poor Crosby, the mate, half drowned and weak from loss of blood, clambered aboard again, sank down on the windlass,[Pg 198] and gasped out: “Now, then, kill me if you like.” Perhaps thinking him worth a ransom, the pirates ordered him into their small boat alongside.

Meantime the boy, half dead with terror, had stowed himself away in a corner of the hold; nor was his terror lessened at the appearance of a pirate, cutlass in hand, slashing right and left in the darkness. He was about to cry for mercy when the man gave up his search; and an old sailor, who had been pals with the boy, now advised him to go boldly on deck as the pirates were sure to have him in the end, and in any case were likely to burn the brig. No sooner was he there than the pirates began a cruel game, making a circle about him, cutting at him with their swords, some crying to kill him, others to let him go, he was only a boy. They called for powder; he told them there was none. They called for fire; he told them he could get none. They threw a demijohn at him and told him to fetch them water. They knew well they had finished the rum. As the boy went below, he met his old sailor, who, offering to fetch the water, turned back, and was seen no more. The boy, reappearing, was ordered into the boat where the wounded mate, the passenger, and the sailors were already seated, the pirate muskets piled up astern, and a pirate standing there on guard. The mate, seeing his chance, heaved the pirate overboard, and pushed off. The pirates on deck pelted the boat with anything at hand, but the Yankees had all their firearms. And Crosby, seizing a musket, cried: “There, damn you, throw away!” The Yankees bent to their[Pg 199] oars. “Are we all here?” cried Crosby to his men. But the old sailor who had gone to get the water was missing. They pulled up at a safe distance, hoping in vain that he might jump overboard, and then, when needs must, made for Matanzas, rowing along shore to provide for escape in case of pursuit, a distance they supposed of some thirty-five miles. A freshening breeze favored them, and by nightfall they made the harbor, rowing in with muffled oars as they wished to avoid Spanish vessels there and the fort. They were soon hailed by a friendly English voice, clambered aboard ship, the captain there got out his medicine chest and dressed their wounds, the sailors spread their mattresses on deck, and the refugees “lay down to such peace and rest,” said the cabin boy, “as you may well appreciate.” As for the ill-fated Alligator, having returned to Matanzas with her dead and wounded, she was ordered to Charlestown with the boats she had captured on her cruise, and the second night out grounding on a Florida reef, which has been named for her, was lost. The captain of the Iris, in the general settlement at the home port, bought for each of his crew, as a memento of their adventure, a pirate musket and a pirate sword.

Cape Cod sailors were in like degree, and with varying success, using their wits to elude pirates of the farther seas, swift Chinese lorchas, and low-hung craft in the Malay Straits. A Truro captain, commanding the Southern Cross, was shot by pirates in the China Sea in the presence of his wife. A Falmouth whaling captain, by his skill and coolness, saved his[Pg 200] men from massacre by natives of the Marshall Islands. A Dennis captain, in 1820, had been murdered by pirates off Madeira. Another Dennis captain, of the barque Lubra, lost his life as late as 1865, when, one day out of Hong Kong, he was overhauled by so large a force of pirates that resistance was hopeless. Some of the crew took to the rigging, and two of them were shot there; others jumped overboard and were picked up by the pirates, who boarded the barque and proceeded to ransack her. The captain, whom they found in the cabin with his wife and child, they shot dead. Then, having stolen all valuables, destroyed the boats and nautical instruments, and set fire to the ship, they made off, leaving the crew to their fate. But with true Cape Cod pluck, the survivors of the tragedy managed to save the ship and somehow navigated her back to Hong Kong.

They were now sailing seas the world over, these Cape Cod men: farmers, fishermen, whalers as they had been, they were manning merchant ships that were carrying the American flag into every port. Yet from the first they had furnished some seamen for the traders: for as early as 1650, it is said, both at Saint Christopher’s and Barbadoes, “New England produce was in great demand”; and Gorhams and Dimmocks of Barnstable had acquired fortunes in the coasting and West Indies trade. An interesting little industry, in addition to fishing on the Banks, was carried on by a few boats that were fitted out to go to the Labrador coast to collect, on the rocky islands offshore, feathers[Pg 201] and eider-down for the Cape Cod housewives. There, in the nesting-season, were held great battues, when the birds were killed wholesale with clubs or brooms made of spruce branches. Rich tells us that the sack that left home filled with straw returned filled with down for bed and pillows, “the latter called ‘pillow bears,’ and apostrophized by the old people as ‘pille’bers.’” Mountainous beds of feathers or down were then in order, and “boys used to joke about rigging a jury-mast and rattle down the shrouds to climb into bed.” Two Barnstable men, we know, coopers and farmers by trade, went on some of these “feather voyages,” which, however, were not long continued, as the merciless slaughter made the birds wary of their old haunts.

As early as 1717 hundreds of ships in the year were clearing from Boston and Salem for Newfoundland and “British plantations on the continent,” for “foreign plantations,” and the West Indies and the Bay of Campeachy, for European ports and Madeira and the Azores. And when all Europe was exhausted by the Napoleonic struggle, the United States, neutral and safe three thousand miles away, snapped up the carrying trade of the world; from fish cargoes for the hungry combatants the transition was easy to more varied commodities. Their own wars, French and English, had been good training schools for men of enterprise, and immediately the Cape Cod sailors were to prove their mettle in this new era of adventure. They bought shares in the ships they sailed, and profited, and bought more. Some of them, shrewd[Pg 202] traders by instinct, gave up the sea for an office ashore, and as East India merchants laid the secure foundation of more than one snug urban fortune that survives to-day.

[Pg 203]



Sixty years ago the thread snapped in that fine sea-piece of the American foreign trade, and now the calling and time of those deep-water sailors are dead as Nineveh. But Old Cape Cod was one with the illimitable seas and the spot most loved by men for whom the ocean was a workroom where fortunes might be made to spend at home. No picture of these men could be complete without the background of their life afloat. For five decades Yankee ships were weaving at the great loom of the Western Ocean to set the splendid colors of European adventure into new patterns of romance. Their tea-frigates raced around the “Cape” to the Far East; they took the short cut about Scotland to bargain with Kronstadt and Hamburg and Elsinore; barques and brigantines and full-riggers caught the “brave west winds” at the right slant and made record voyages past old Leeuwin, the Cape of Storms, standing out there to give them a last toss as they “ran down by” to Port Philip and “Melbun” and Sydney; clipper ships, the fastest under sail that have ever been known, winged their way around to “Frisco” in the great days of ’49. Cargoes sold there at a fabulous price, and then, short-handed, perhaps, because of desertion to the[Pg 204] gold-fields, the great ships rushed by San Diego and Callao, rich ports enough for other times, and, storm or shine, swung ’round the Horn,

“... the fine keen bows of the stately clippers steering
Towards the lone northern star and the fair ports of home,”

to load again, and return by the path they had come.

Yankee captains who crowded on sail every hour in the twenty-four had soon out-raced stolid John Company’s ships in the Far East; but back in the seventeen-hundreds, before Maury had written on navigation, they thanked England for their sailing texts, and notably the “English Pilot,” printed by Messrs Mount & Page on Tower Hill, to show “the Courses and Distances from one Place to another, the Ebbing and Flowing of the Sea, the Setting of Tides and Currents.” “We shall say no more,” cry Mount & Page, “but let it commend itself, and all knowing Mariners are desired to lend their Assistance and Information towards the perfecting of this useful work.” Every inch of water is charted, the land invites with names of eld; the black letterpress, with the long lisping s, tells of the great Western Ocean, water and rim, from Barbary to Hispaniola, from Frobisher’s Meta Incognita to the “Icey Sea” of the Far South. There are burning mountains and cliffs, castles and towns, treacherous rocks and tides; and west of a certain “white mount” on Darien three peaks are sharply etched, and the legend, “Here hath been Gold found.” Due regard is had to eastern and western variation, and the line of no variation at[Pg 205] all that springs from the coast of Florida; and it should be noted that Sir Thomas Smith’s Sound is “most admirable in this respect, because there is in it the greatest variation of the compass, that is in any part of the world, as was discovered ... by divers good observations made by that judicious artist Captain Baffin.” One Captain Davis, no less judicious, had observed the same phenomenon on his third voyage to the North in the year 1587. And those who sailed the Western Ocean had learned painfully other facts than variations of the compass: the sharp path about the doldrums, the way of Gulf Stream and trades, and of the great west winds that sent them bowling along through the Roaring Forties.

From the beginning of things men of the Old World, with the salt of adventure in their blood, had passed “the forelands of the tideless sea” to look upon the green distances beyond; those more greatly daring had swept through the gate and brought back stories of the Hesperides. Phœnicians seeking trade, ocean thieves their prey, poet adventurers they knew not what, had sighted on the Barbary Coast the “Pilot’s” “little Hommock which appeareth like a Castle,” and sailed perhaps down by Arzille and Lavrache, Fedale and Azamoor, names of sorcery with the soft purr of Eastern tongues. Another and another slipped by Spartel, “shooting far into the Sea, the very Point guarded with a Rock,” the “Pilot” tells us, and circled northward through stormy cross-currents to Britain, or southward by the treacherous coasts where “the grown Sea cometh[Pg 206] rowling in so hard.” Then sailors, north and south, put the land behind them, and turned their prows due west: here lay the great adventure for men who loved to play at chance, and they won, beyond dreams, a new world. Norsemen, Portuguese, Basque, and Briton found, not Cathaia, but the fishing-banks of Newfoundland, or boundless forests where men might be free, or those magic islands of the South where Spain was the first to gather her fleet of plate-ships for the homeward run to Cadiz, where secret landlocked harbors sheltered evil, and simple natives, bearing gifts, were kidnapped for their pains. Other mariners, whose thirst for gold was not to be slaked with a New World, made for the Far East by the Cape of “Buena Esperanza.” Slipping down the coast of Africa beyond Blanco, they skirted a sullen coast where the shore is broken by distorted trees and rocks and the mouths of great rivers that cast their freight from the sinister entrails of the land far out into a protesting ocean.

These men, and others, nameless and forgotten mariners, with a keen eye for coast configuration and accurate soundings, made calculations and drawings and passed them on to their mates, until Messrs. Mount & Page winnowed out something of the truth of it all and constructed their “English Pilot.” And now should you devise a voyage about the seas of old romance, here is the chart for your venture. Swashbuckler pirates sailed this way, and discreet men who would elude them; slavers skulked down malign African coasts; clean, hardy voyagers, who sought[Pg 207] only glory and the Northwest Passage, battered frail ships against the everlasting barriers of ice; adventurers in quest of gold worked their way down the Spanish Main; and, turn about, our fine young seamen of the New World wrung their vantage from the Old.

A certain navigator from the Cape, we know, used his “Pilot” on sober trading voyages to the West Coast of Africa, or London, or the Spanish Main, and sailing days over pushed his great sea-chest back under the eaves of the trim house he had built after a rich voyage to Russia. He had sailed for pure love of churning blue water, and the sweep of wind through the rigging, and great clean distances, and a fine manly sense of mastering the tools of fate: wind and water and cloud, and men, and the job of making a good trade. Yet never had he been at sea that he was not homesick for the land, and his adventurous youth was no more than the price he paid for plenty ashore. He had met chance as it came and turned it to gold; and here in the “Pilot,” forgotten for a generation in the cavernous depths of his worm-eaten coffer, were notes for the story he had been too simple to read as romance. Its worn leather covers open out comfortably, and within, a cabin boy, perhaps, idling about while the master was on deck, had scrawled “Sloop Maremad of Boston,” and for another try “The Sloop Mairmad,” and knew his hornbook no better than a merman. Some leaves are burned through by a coal that smouldered there how many years ago, on this good sloop Mermaid, at a guess, in[Pg 208] the year 1789, and silver-moths now plunge among the pages like cachalots in southern seas.

When the captain had set out for Africa, with a cargo of cloth, iron kettles, and such-like trifles to barter for ivory and gold, the “Pilot,” by word and chart, painted the chances before him. Over there among the Cape Verdes lay Saint Jago, “rich in products, so that were it not for the continual Rains in the Times of the Travadoes, which render it unpleasant to the Inhabitants, it would without doubt be as delightsome an Island as any in the world”; and Garrichica, in the Canaries, is no winter port, for then “the grown Sea out of the North West comes running in there sometimes so forcible and strong, that it is not possible to hold a Ship, although she had ten Anchors out.” South and east now the sullen mainland lowers, and there “lying under the Tropick of Cancer,” is a country “high and stony, so that there is nothing to be had hereabouts, ... and with the Sun’s heat, continuing sometimes thirty and forty Days together ... it is so intolerable hot in the Valleys, that it blinds and deafens those that travel this Way.” But knowing skippers that “sail near this Coast, pass along, none go a-shore, for ’tis not worth their while.” At a shoal called “the Goulden Bark, much Fish is taken at sometimes of the Year,” and there’s trading at last on “the great River Senega”: “several Commodities, as Amber, Elephants Teeth, with Abundance of Wax and Skins.” But on Serbera is the Traders’ Paradise, whose delights the “Pilot” accentuates by a printer’s slip: “When you come[Pg 209] into the heaven, you may anchor where you will, but commonly they run towards Madra Bombo, as being the chief Place for Traffic; though there is Merchandizing on the Right Side of the River, where you may run with Sloops and Boats. The Place affords all Varieties of Refreshment, as Hens, Rice, Lemons, Apples, with several merchantable Commidities.”

Happy Madra Bombo! thrice happy Trader! And let him refresh himself well before proceeding to the unfriendly Coast of Malegate where the “Rains begins with May, and continues till October; during which time, they have great and terrible Thunder and Lightning,” and “mountainous Billows rowl to the Shore, so that ’tis in effect impossible to approach the same in Boats, without danger of splitting. But these Seasons once over, from October to May, the Weather proves pleasant and dry; ’till indammaged by the fiery Heat of the scalding Air.”

The lean coast is marked by trees and blasted rocks: “a high tree called Arbor de Castacuis”; “a few Trees, appearing like Horsemen”; a white rock, with a look, “afar off, like a Ship under Sail”; and at Setra Crue, “high and bare Trees which raise themselves in the Air like masts of Ships laid up”; and “on a Cliff a crooked Tree appearing like an Umbrella.” Slight landmarks for a man, less imaginative, perhaps, than the “Pilot,” who shall sweep the coast with his spyglass and debate with himself whether a grove looks rather like a mizzen-sail than like a horse; and madness for the skipper to whom a tree is but a tree, no more, no less. But here is trading again with[Pg 210] the Ivory or Tooth Coast and the “Gold Coast of Guiney,” and solid English forts where “in coming off Seaward ... you must brace your Sails to the Mast, and let it drive; firing off a Shot as a Token of yielding before the Castle.”

Now through the great Bights of Benin and Biafra, and all along to Cape Lopez Gonzalez, must a captain keep a sharp weather eye to “mind which way the Travadoes drive the Water, for the Sea Flowes from whence they arise,” and be ready to run before the tornado, “which when you see it it is best to hand all your Sail except your Foresail which you may keep in your Brails to command your Ship.” But, above all, must you “weigh with all Speed and get off.” And these are the sinister coasts where men were sold and bought; brave John Hawkins shamed England by trading here; Spain and America loaded the scales that must be balanced with blood. “About thirteen Leagues up River Benin, on the East-side thereof, stands the great Town of Gaton or Benin, ... doubly pallisado’d with huge thick Trees, and on the other Side ’tis strongly fortified with a great Ditch and a Hedge of Brambles. Here the King of Benin keeps his Court, having there a stately Palace.” But the high words cloak a reality sordid enough when the great King of Benin sat in his house of logs and sold meat for the slavers. And peril lurks here at every turn, “for the Ground is so very foul, and the Inhabitants such Brutes, that there is no coming near it.” Peril, again, in possible confusion of the rivers Forcades and Lamas: for many pilots, thinking they[Pg 211] are near Forcades, where there is “Fairing in twelve Fathoms good Anchor-ground,” make for Lamas, “running into it till they become shoal, then perceiving their error, but too late, the Ship is lost, and the Men endeavouring to save themselves from being swallowed up by the Sea and Mud, are devoured and eaten up by the greedy Negroes.” Such, for a slaver, should be the proper adventure of the river Lamas. May the dinner of his “greedy Negroes” sit light!

Slaves, slaves, and more slaves are all the “refreshment” here, and an honest Yankee trader, who has exchanged his “silesia linnen and basons” for ivory and gold dust, best be off for home by way of the Amboises, Fernando Po, and Prince’s Island, high, wooded, beautiful, and “affording good Refreshment in Abundance”; or, down by Lopez, the “Island Annebon,” where “those that return Home from the Cape are supplied with Abundance of choice Oranges and Pomegranates, as also good fresh Water.”


The “Pilot” of Messrs. Mount & Page was contrived from the reports of some who “put more westing into their navigation” to sail for plunder rather than trade; and in Volume IV, on the “West India Navigation from Hudson’s Bay to the River Amazones,” they step down easily from Terre de Labrador, where lay, they thought, the chance of that short-cut to Cathaia, to the treasure-house of the Spanish Main. The Yankee captain, laying a northern course to Europe would need only to reverse the sequence of[Pg 212] procedure in the “Pilot’s” voyage thence. “When a voyage is intended from the river Thames to those Northern Parts of America, you may go out of the North Channel by Scotland or else through the West Channel by the Lands End of England, according as the winds may favour you.” Martin Frobisher, of will as stubborn as the impenetrable North, had set sail by the West Channel to prove his “plaine platte” that Frobisher’s Straits should make a broad highway to the East by the other way round of the world. He sailed by Greenland, where “you will have the sea of divers colours, in some places green, in some black, and in others blue”; and there is Cape Desolation, “the most deformed land that is supposed to be in the whole world,” where the water is “black and thick, like a standing pool.” It was Warwick Sound “where Sir Martin Frobisher intended to lade his supposed gold ore,” says the “Pilot,” and within his “Streits” lies “a whirlpool where ships are whirled about in a moment; the waters making a great noise and are heard a great way off.”

So much for their Meta Incognita, where the old mariners dug worthless ore, and fished, and killed whale, and made poor trading with the wretched natives; and never breaking through to Cathaia, they were swept up and down, among “strange rocks and overfalls and shoals.” Caught by winter, they bivouacked somehow in the snows, and in June nosed their way out to free water, or, undiscouraged, beat ahead for their Northwest Passage. The “Island of God’s Mercy” and “Hold with Hope” tell of some[Pg 213] cockle-shell sailor’s escape from “many points and headlongs” and “broken ground and shoals, worse than can be expected.” Captain Bayley, Captain Zacchary Gillam, in his “Nonsuch Ketch,” Henry Southwood, and William Taverner cruised here, and their findings are printed in the “Pilot.” And as to Newfoundland and the fishing-banks, if we go astray, it is by our own obstinacy: for the reporter here is a peppery old party who “informs those that are bound for that coast that they may not be deceived, as I myself had been like to have been in going to Saint John’s on the 29th day of June, 1715, at 8 o’clock in the morning, ... having been just a month that very day from Plymouth Sound,” by reason of “a very great error in those charts which have hitherto been published.” And he sets us right as to computing “the true Distance between the Lizard and Cape Spear,” where other navigators “would still continue the old erroneous Way; because, they say, when I argu’d with them, it is the custom; they might as well have persuaded me, that old custom could oversway Reason.”

Yankee cruisers to the southward found profitable advice, again: for “such as are bound for Virginia or Maryland will find many times on the coast of America various winds and weathers, and streams and currents also, therefore they must take the more care, and not trust with much confidence to dead reckoning.” (Mr. Rich tells us of one Truro skipper who “could keep a better dead reckoning with fewer figures than any sailor ever known. A few chalk marks on the cabin[Pg 214] door or at the head of his berth, and he knew his position on the Western ocean, whatever wind or weather, as well as if in his father’s cornfield.”) “For by experience,” the “Pilot” goes on to say, “has been found sometimes in twenty-four hours such currents as hath carried them either to the Northward or Southward, contrary to the reckoning beyond credit.” But we are off for the Caribbees, and as we leave “those northern parts of America,” Saint Vincent and Domenica, Marygalante, “Guardaloupa,” and all the jewelled drops of the Antilles, from Bermuda to the Isle of Pearls, slip by on the blue ribbon of the summer seas; and the wind, whether or no, veers back to the “spacious time of great Elizabeth,” when Hakluyt is the master. Yet may we as well sail by the “Pilot,” who also knows “Franky Drake,” and tells us that the “Islands of the Virgia Gorda were ever accounted dangerous, but we find by the worthy Sir Francis Drake, in his relation of them, that they were not so, who sailed through and among them. There is good shelter, if you are acquainted with going in among them, for many hundred sails of ships.” And here, with Drake, sailed Martin Frobisher to recoup his fortunes blasted by the north, and returned to England with sixty thousand pounds in gold and two brass cannon as profit.

All is war and pillage, surprise and counter-manœuvre. On Hispaniola, over against the two islands Granive and Foul Beard in the Bay of Jaguana, “the Spaniards have made three or four ways through the Krenckle woods against time of war, that they may[Pg 215] convey their merchandise thro’ the same woods without being discovered.” “In a little bay near Cape Tiburon the English used to lie, waiting for the Saint Domingo fleet, and the reason why they laid there was, because there was refreshment to be had from the shore.” And at Veragua, where is “good fresh water, and almost anything you want,” we hear of Drake again: “It is said that on this island Sir Francis Drake fell ill and died, and was there buried.” But here the “Pilot” trips, for Drake, sick with rage and disappointment, died when the fleet lay off Porto Bello, and was buried from his ship. There are treacherous keys among the islands where many a great ship has laid her bones; the Coffin Key, dreaded of sailors, where after sundown walk the ghosts of murdered men; and quiet little bays for “cruizing ships to anchor, when they want to heel or boot top, or to refit any of their rigging.” Saona is “a fruitful island abounding in cassava ... so that it hath oftentimes been to the Spaniards as a granary whereby they have been sustained.” And practical directions for the navigator run with the allusion to old report: at Illuthera you may look out for two white cliffs “called the Alabasters”; “along shore you will see a hill resembling a Dutchman’s thumb cap”; and one Captain Street tells of the “Colloradoes” pricking out “where we saw to the eastward of us three hommocks on Cuba,” with “flocks of pelican sitting on the red white sand.” “Take this one more observation of the Colloradoes,” says Captain Street, “when you think you are near them, keep then your lead going,[Pg 216] for there is good gradual shoaling on them, at first coming on them, excellent sticking oazy ground and then sand.”

Down the slope of Campeachy Bay the whole coast is fever-stricken and bare of all comfort; nor is there brook or fresh water, unless you dig deep in the sand, save one spring about two hundred yards from the shore, where “you may see a small dirty path that leads to it through the mangroves.” Forests rise from the marshes, rivers skulk behind great sandbars; the place smells of pirates, and their light-draft brigs thread the innumerable salt lagoons, that Laguna of the Tides, perhaps, where “small vessels, as barks, periagoes, or canoes may sail.”

Turning, we are for “the Amazones,” and then back again, up the great coast of the mainland. Here is the “Oronoque” and many a lesser stream: the Wannary, “shallow, craggy and foul, the land soft and quaggy,” and “therefore thereabouts not inhabited but with that vermin Crocodile, of which there are in this place abundance”; and the Caperwaka with an island in it where there is rich quarry for fo’c’s’le hunters—“such multitudes of parrots and other fine feathered fowls, that you cannot hear each other speak for their noise; there are many apes on this island, and other creatures, which I omit here to mention.” At the Roca Islands “are no beasts but some few fowls, which they call Flamingoes, having long legs almost like storks, with orange-coloured feathers, and great crooked bills.”

All along to Caracas a captain must be on the[Pg 217] alert because of “the boisterous winds that blow there,” the “Turnadoes,” that “cause a great overflowing of water.” And “the land is very high, some say as high as Teneriffe. You have there an extraordinary hollow sea, therefore those that would anchor on this coast do best to run a little westward ... where you may lie quiet and secure.” Down through the “Gulph of Venezula” “the country is full of brooks and rivulets; the people, ugly, thin, and ill-favoured, going naked, are frightful to behold.” But “there is much gold brought from thence, and some costly stones of several virtues,” and “in the country are many tygers and bears.” Rio de la Hacha, as we know, was “formerly a rich place by reason of the pearl fishing and other trading. On the east side of the river lies a bank which must be shunned,” as was successfully accomplished by Captain John Hawkins when he outwitted the Don and watered his ship at the enemy’s wells—perhaps that Jesus of Lubec he was to lose by Spanish treachery at San Juan d’Ulloa. And the river Trato, with its mouth blocked by “march land and Sea Cows,” runs “South a long way into the bowels of the country near the golden mines of Canea.” Gold and more gold, and here, in the old days, was bloody work done by Spain which, in turn, was pillaged by England and France. One Captain Long made a smug show of setting up “English colours by consent of the Indian natives,” but on a certain reef “Captain Long had like to have lost His Majesty’s Ship the Rupert prize.” And between the keys called the Sambello and main “used to be the[Pg 218] rendezvous of the French buccaneers,” as off Andero and Catalina “the French used to lie with their privateers and plague the Spaniards to leeward, especially those at Porto Bello and Nombre de Dios.” At Lake Nicaragua “is a thing may be called a wonder; some of the trees can scarcely be fathomed by fifteen men; that is the body of the tree; which thing is confirmed by many.” And it was such a tree that Drake climbed when first he looked upon the slow surge of the Pacific and swore the oath that was to disturb Spain’s comfortable looting of the South Seas.

Mexico is coasted about in short order. An island off Vera Cruz comes in chiefly for “extraordinary remarks”; for “in this place the Spanish fleet used to lie, and bring their loading from all parts, until the month of March, from whence they sail to the Havannah, where they always make their fleet to depart for Spain.” And “now we come to the wild coast of Florida, of which take brief account,” says the “Pilot,” because, forsooth, there was then little trade or plunder to be had. Even the mighty Mississippi appears only as the Bay of Spirito Sancto, with, inland, a shadowy “mishisipi.” Steering out by Florida, we discover the Gulf Stream, “an extraordinary strong current, without rippling or whirling, or any other distinction than in the main ocean, always setting to the northward, occasioned by the northeast winds, which there always blow, not altering till you come as far as the Canaries or Salt Islands or thereabouts.”

But we turn back toward the “Northern Parts of[Pg 219] America,” and the good ports of Baltimore or Boston or New York, and leave John Hawkins and Francis Drake and their mates who, after all, were only seeking gold at as good a bargain in blood or adventure as fortune sent, and were traders no less than the man who owned our “Pilot” and pored over its charts and quaint letterpress while the shores of Africa thundered in the offing or, down by the Spanish Main, his lookout watched sharp for the lurch of a pirate brig. Nor was he less adventurer than they, though he travelled the Western Ocean by roads that were as undeviating, for a good seaman, as those built by Rome, and knew the way of the currents there and the steady sweep of the trades. More than once he had anchored at Prince’s Island for a cargo of sugar and oil, more than once he had weighed and run before the “Turnado” and crept back to his anchorage when the commotion was past. He had traded at Matanzas and Surinam; he knew the trick of the Spaniard at “the Havannah” and Cadiz; and down at Rio he rode fast horses on the beach and steved his hold full of precious woods. He was no scholar, yet could calculate his position at sea by the latest mode of the navigator; he was no linguist, yet could bend Frenchman, or Russian, or the wily Chinese hong to his will. Like the Elizabethans, he loved gold: for that meant home and honor and dry land under foot. And he plunged into seafaring with all the strength in him only to win through to that career ashore when he should own the ships that other men sailed. He showed an unaffected, outspoken piety that would be impossible[Pg 220] to the young blood of to-day, and he and his calling are no more. Yet the type persists, the type of all true adventurers old and new: the men who steer for free waters, but first of all are masters of the ship.

[Pg 221]



Stories of the Cape Cod captains would in themselves make a volume. One is tempted here and tempted there in choosing which should be typical of the “brave old times,” and fears to overlook the most significant. Among the more interesting of those who have not been already mentioned was Elijah Cobb, born in 1768 at Brewster—the home of deep-water sailors. From the memoir which he began to write in old age, we know that his first voyage, presumably as cabin boy, netted him the profit of a new suit of clothes and in money twenty dollars which he brought home intact to his mother, “the largest sum she had received since she became a widow.” By the time he was twenty-five he had made several voyages as captain, had married him a wife, and a year or two later was to run afoul of the French Revolution. As both French and English men-of-war were making no bones of holding up neutrals, he had cleared for Corunna: to no end, for he was taken by a French frigate and run into the harbor of Brest. “My vessel was there,” he writes, “but her cargo was taken out and was daily made into soup, bread, etc., for the half-starved populace, and without papers”—his captors had sent his papers to the Government at Paris—“I[Pg 222] could not substantiate my claim to the ship.” He appealed to Paris, and had the cold comfort of hearing that “the Government will do what is right in time.” In the meantime he was treated courteously, and he and some of his men lodged at a hotel at the Government’s expense. After six weeks the word came that his case had been passed upon: “without my even learning or knowing I was on trial. The decision, however, was so favorable that it gave new feelings to my life.” A fair price was offered for the cargo of flour and rice which Brest had already devoured; payment in bills of exchange on Hamburg, fifty days after date. Cobb sent his ship away in ballast, and set out for Paris to get his papers and his bills of exchange.


“In about two days I was under weigh for Paris,” writes Cobb, “with the national courier for government. We drove Jehu-like without stopping, except to change horses and mail, taking occasionally a mouthful of bread and washing it down with low-priced Burgundy wine. As to sleep I did not get one wink during the whole six hundred and eighty-four miles. We had from ten to twelve mounted horsemen for guard during the night, and to prove that the precaution was necessary, the second morning after leaving Brest, just before the guard left us, we witnessed a scene that filled us with horror: the remains of a courier lying in the road, the master, postillion, and five horses lying dead and mangled by it, and the mail mutilated and scattered in all directions. However, the next stage was only five miles and not considered dangerous, and we proceeded on. We reached [Pg 223]Paris on a beautiful June morning.” But here was the beginning of fresh trouble: matters there were moving too fast for much attention to be given a young American shipmaster in quest of papers. Cobb writes that it was in “the bloody reign of Robespierre. I minuted down a thousand persons that I saw beheaded by the infernal guillotine, and probably saw as many more that I did not minute down.” He was surfeited with horrors and despairing of his mission as time passed swiftly on toward the termination of his fifty days of grace, when a friendly Frenchman at his hotel advised him to appeal direct to Robespierre, “saying that he was partial to Americans.” On the instant a note was despatched: “An American citizen, captured by a French frigate on the high seas, requests a personal interview and to lay his grievances before the citizen Robespierre.” And within an hour came the answer: “I will grant citizen Cobb an interview to-morrow at 10 A.M. Robespierre.” The event proved Robespierre to be sympathetic, and, moreover, that he spoke very good English. Cobb told him of his unavailing visits to the “Office of the Twenty-third Department.” “Go again to the office,” said Robespierre, “and tell citizen F. T. that you come from Robespierre, and if he does not produce your papers and finish your business immediately, he will hear from me again in a way not so pleasing to him.” Such a message, with the guillotine working overtime in the Place de la Concorde, was likely to produce results, and the affair was concluded with despatch. But Robespierre was near his eclipse; and hardly had[Pg 224] Cobb received his papers than, to his horror, he was to see Robespierre’s head falling into the basket. He waited not upon the order of his going, but fled from Paris, and arrived at Hamburg the very day before his bills became due. “The fortunate result of this voyage increased my fame as a shipmaster,” is his sole comment upon the adventure, “but allowed me only a few days at home.”

He was off again in the Monsoon, a new ship then, that was to prove a famous money-getter for more than one Cape Cod captain. His owners gave him a valuable cargo with directions “to find a market for it in Europe”; for certain hogsheads of rum, however, they advised Ireland. Permission to land it there was not forthcoming. “Matters were arranged, however,” writes Cobb, “so that between the cove of Cork and the Scilly Islands eight hogsheads of New England rum were thrown overboard, and a small pilot boat hove on board a bag containing sixty-four English guineas.” Again a good sale was made at Hamburg, but a later venture there proved more difficult of achievement than the rum transaction on the Irish coast: for by that time the English blockade extended to Hamburg, and he was turned back to England where, at Yarmouth, he received permission to proceed to any port not included in the blockade. But Cobb meant to sell his cargo in Hamburg. He cleared for Copenhagen, landed his goods at Lübeck, and transported them overland to Hamburg where another profitable exchange of commodities was effected. Hardly was he at home again for a[Pg 225] visit at his Cape Cod farm than a messenger arrived with orders for him to proceed to Malaga. And at Malaga he was informed that the British Orders in Council went into force that day forbidding vessels taking a return cargo. “Of course this would make such a cargo very desirable,” Cobb remarks. He needed no further incentive to “manage the affair.” “The American consul thought there would be but little risk if I hurried, and in eight days I was ready to sail.” He made for Gibraltar, and was promptly overhauled by a frigate. “Whereupon,” says Cobb, “I told them the truth: that I was from Malaga bound for Boston; that I had come there to avail myself of a clearance from a British port and a convoy through the gut. And after I had seen the principal, placing on the counter before his eyes a two-ounce piece of gold, I was permitted to go with my clearance to the American consul. A signal gun was fired that morning and I was the first to move, being apprehensive that some incident might yet subject me to that fatal investigation. How it was managed to clear out a cargo of Spanish goods from Gibraltar, under the British Orders in Council, was a subject of most intense speculation in Boston, but I had made a good voyage for all concerned.” It is not remarkable that he was allowed no long interval for farming before he was off again for “a voyage to Europe.” His owners had learned to their great gain that it was best to give Cobb the freedom of the seas and the markets ashore. He proceeded to Alexandria, Virginia, loaded with flour that sold well at Cadiz, and returned in[Pg 226] ballast to Norfolk where he found orders to load again at Alexandria. But America was now ready to clamp down her Embargo Law which every Yankee captain worthy of the name was prepared to evade. Mr. Randolph from Congress had sent news of it to a ship merchant at Alexandria who passed on the word to Cobb. “What you do must be done quickly, for the embargo will be upon you at 10 A.M. on Sunday.” Cobb tells the story of his achievement. “It was now Friday P.M. We had about a hundred tons of ballast on board which must be removed, and upwards of three thousand barrels of flour to take in and stow away, provisions, wood, and water to take on board, a crew to ship, and get to sea before the embargo took possession. I found that we could get one supply of flour from a block of stores directly alongside the ship, and by paying three-eighths of a dollar extra, we had liberty if stopped by the embargo to return it.” But Cobb meant to regain for his employers that three-eighths of a dollar, and the tidy additional profit that was to be made on a cargo of American flour at Cadiz. “Saturday morning was fine weather. About sunrise I went to the ‘lazy corner’ so called, and pressed into service every negro that came upon the stand and sent them on board the ship, until I thought there were as many as could work. I then visited the sailors’ boarding-houses, where I shipped my crew, paid the advance to their landlords, and received their obligations to see each sailor on board at sunrise next morning. It had now got to be about twelve o’clock, and the ship must be cleared at the[Pg 227] custom house before one. ‘Why Cobb,’ said the collector there, ‘what’s the use of clearing the ship? You can’t get away. The embargo will be here at ten o’clock to-morrow morning. And even if you get your ship below, I shall have boats out that will stop you before you get three leagues to sea.’ Said I, ‘Mr. Taylor, will you be so kind as to clear my ship?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said he. And accordingly the ship was cleared and I returned on board and found everything going on well. Finally, to shorten the story, at nine that evening we had about three thousand and fifty barrels of flour, one longboat on board in the chocks, water, wood and provisions on board and stowed, a pilot engaged, and all in readiness for the sea.” The tide served at eight in the morning, the sailors were aboard, the pilot had come, and down the narrow, winding river they started with a fair wind that helped them on the first leg of their journey. But at Hampton Roads, in a dead calm, the government boat hove in sight. “Well,” said Cobb to his mate, “I fear we are gone.” But it was never his way to give up hope while a move in the game remained to him: when the boat was so near that with his glass he could descry the features of its crew, a breeze came puffing along, and he made for sea. In about ten minutes the boat gave up the chase, Mr. Taylor, of Alexandria, satisfied, no doubt, that he had discharged his duty.

Cobb gave the first notice of the embargo at Cadiz. “The day before I sailed,” he writes, “I dined with a large party at the American consul’s and, it being[Pg 228] mentioned that I was to sail next day, I was congratulated by a British officer on the safety of our flag. Well, I thought the same, when at the time war between England and America was raging. I sailed from Cadiz on the twenty-fifth of July, 1812, bound for Boston, and I never felt safer on account of enemies on the high seas.” But for once his confidence was not justified. Hardly had he entered the Grand Banks than he was overhauled by an English cruiser, with whose captain he proceeded to bargain on the point of ransom for his ship. “What will you give for her,” asked the Britisher, “in exchange for a clear passport into Boston?” “Four thousand dollars,” replied Cobb at a venture. “Well,” said the other, “give us the money.” “Oh, thank you,” said Cobb, “if it were on board, you’d take it without the asking. I’ll give you a draft on London.” “No, cash, or we burn the ship.” “Well,” said Cobb coolly, “you’ll not burn me in her, I hope.” The upshot was that a prize crew was put aboard, and Cobb had the pleasure of being convoyed by the frigate into Saint John’s, where he joined a company of about twenty Yankee masters of ships and their officers, at the so-called “Prisoners’ Hall.” Twenty-seven American prize ships were in port; and in a few days the Yankee prize Alert came in, with a British crew and American officers, under the protection of a cartel flag, to treat for an exchange of prisoners. The old admiral of the port was in a rage because of the irregularity of making the cartel on the high seas. “I’m likely to join you here,” said the Yankee captain to his countrymen at Prisoners’ Hall.[Pg 229] However, in a few moments along came a note from the admiral saying that “he found that the honor of the British officers was pledged for the fulfilling of the contract, and as he knew his government always redeemed the pledges of its officers, he would receive the [British] officers and crew on the Alert, and would give in exchange every American prisoner in port (there were two to one) and we must be off in twenty-four hours. Now commenced a scene of confusion and bustle. The crew of the cartel were soon landed, and the Americans as speedily took possession.”

At twelve midnight, in due course of time thereafter, Captain Cobb arrived at his home, and tapped on the window of a downstairs bedroom where he knew his wife to be sleeping. At first she thought it a twig of the sweetbriar bush. Then, “‘Who is there?’ cried she. ‘It is I,’ said I. ‘Well, what do you want?’ ‘To come in.’ ‘For what?’ said she. Before I could answer I heard my daughter, who was in bed with her, say, ‘Why, ma, it’s pa.’ It was enough. The doors flew open, and the greetings of affection and consanguinity multiplied upon me rapidly. Thus in a moment was I transported to the greatest earthly bliss a man can enjoy, viz: to the enjoyment of the happy family circle.”

With these cheerful words Mr. Cobb ends his record. For a year or two thereafter he remained at home, and then was off again to sea. In 1819 and 1820 he made trips to Africa, and on the second voyage returned with so much fever aboard that the ship, as a means to disinfecting it, was sunk at the wharf. Then[Pg 230] he retired from sea—he had built a fine Georgian house in 1800—and filled many offices ashore. His youth was crammed with adventure; he followed the sea longer than some of his mates; yet at the age of fifty-two, when he left it with a modest fortune, he showed as much zest in the management of more humdrum affairs: in due sequence he was town clerk, treasurer, inspector-general, representative to the General Court, senator, justice of the peace, and brigadier-general in the militia; no town committee seems to have been complete without him; he was a steadfast member of the liberal church which had taken possession of the old North Parish. And on one of those foreign voyages he had had painted a portrait of himself: a gallant, high-bred youth, with “banged” hair and curls, in Directoire dress, rolling collar, muslin stock and frills. The lovely colors of the old pastel hold their own, the soft blue of the surtout, the keen eyes, the handsome, alert face. A young man who knew something of his worth, Captain Cobb, and a young man who made exceptional opportunity to put that worth to the test.

A contemporary of Cobb’s was Freeman Foster, born in 1782 at Brewster before its historic division from Harwich. At the age of ten he was off on fishing-voyages with his father, who had been a whaler; at fourteen he had begun to work his way up to the quarter-deck of the merchant service; his schooling was acquired in the intervals ashore. Curiously, in all his seafaring, he never crossed the “Line,” but cruised between Boston, New Orleans, and the West Indies,[Pg 231] the Russian ports of Archangel and Kronstadt, and to Elsinore. At fifty-five he retired to his farm, and in the Embargo War served as an officer in the militia under his neighbor General Cobb. He had been a robust boy and grew to be a mighty man, well over six feet in height and broad in proportion. He had a family of ten children; and his record tallies with that of many another old sea-captain: he “left behind him a reputation for strict integrity and sturdy manhood.”

Jeremiah Mayo, of Brewster, born in 1786, was one of nine huge brothers who were said to measure, in the aggregate, something like fifty-five feet. His father meant to make a blacksmith of him, with fishing-voyages, in the season, as relaxation. At sixteen he had a forge of his own in his father’s shop and could shoe all the horses that were brought there. But Jeremiah had no notion of confining his adventures to shoeing horses and catching fish, and at eighteen he was off for a voyage to Marseilles when, for his ability, he received two dollars a month more than any other sailor aboard. On his next voyage to Malaga, Leghorn, Alicante, and Marseilles, his ship, the Industry, was attacked off Gibraltar by the Algerines and escaped with some casualties, among them a flesh wound for Jeremiah. The captain, Gamaliel Bradford, with his leg shot away, had to be left in hospital at Lisbon. On his third voyage he and a young cousin were first and second mate and, the captain falling ill, the two lads, each only nineteen, had to take the ship by the dangerous “north-about”[Pg 232] through the Hebrides from Amsterdam to Cadiz; and on a second voyage with the same captain, who seems to have been one of faint heart and would have given up the ship when she sprung a leak, Mayo took her safely to port, and at Bordeaux, where she was sold, sailed her for the French buyers to a Breton port with a cargo of claret, worth there twice its value at Bordeaux. By skilful manœuvre he evaded the British patrol, landed his precious cargo, and returned safely to Bordeaux where he shipped with a Yankee captain, with a cargo of Médoc, for Spain. He arrived at Corunna a few days after the historic battle there, and on a later voyage remembers seeing the monument erected to Sir John Moore. In the Embargo War he was captured by an English frigate, and if the wind had not failed him would have turned the tables by bowling the prize crew into Baltimore as prisoners. “And I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had,” he remembered as the sportsmanlike comment of his captor. Immediately after the battle of Waterloo he was at Havre, where he was approached by an agent of Napoleon with a proposition to take the emperor to America. He promptly accepted the hazard, and was disappointed when he heard Napoleon had been taken; had Napoleon been able to reach the Sally, he might have escaped Saint Helena, for she was not spoken from Havre to Boston. Mayo greatly admired Napoleon, and had seen him a-horseback at Bayonne when he was landing his army for Spain; at Paris, in 1815, he heard the shots in the Luxembourg Gardens when Ney was executed; he remembers seeing Lafayette[Pg 233] driving away from the Hall of Assembly. His vessel had been one of the first to enter a British port after the War of 1812, and the captain of an English frigate there sent him an invitation to dine and took occasion to express admiration of the American fighting quality on the seas. Mayo retired in good time to his comfortable forty-acre farm in Brewster, but by no means to inactivity. He was justice of the peace and well read in the law, a licensed auctioneer, a skilful surveyor and draughtsman, and was president of the Marine Insurance Company. It was remembered that he had “rare conversational powers,” which were well employed, we may suppose, in depicting the scenes of his eventful life. Mayo was as handsome a man as Cobb, his portrait showing a fine, spirited profile, with aggressive nose and a beautifully arched setting of the eye. He must have been magnificent with his six feet four of height.

Until the end of the clipper-ship era, Brewster was famous for its deep-water sailors, and at one time no less than sixty captains hailed its little farms as home. In the later period one of them was to rival the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and also of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine. One suspects, even, that Stockton may have heard the story. His fine clipper ship, the Wild Wave, fifteen hundred tons, with a crew of thirty all told, and ten passengers, San Francisco to Valparaiso, was wrecked on Oeno, a coral island of the Pacific about half a mile in circumference. Passengers and crew, provisions and sails for tents were safely landed. Water they found by digging for it. But[Pg 234] Josiah Knowles was not the man to remain inert, and after two weeks he took a ship’s boat, the mate and five men, and his treasure chest of eighteen thousand dollars in gold, and set out for Pitcairn’s Island which he knew to be distant some hundred miles. Safely there, he found to his amazement the island deserted and the inhabitants decamped to Norfolk Island, a notice to that effect, for the benefit of possible callers, posted in several of the houses. They had left behind them much possible provision in the way of sheep, goats, bullocks, and poultry, and there was plenty of tropical fruit such as oranges, bananas, breadfruit, and cocoanuts. But it was plain that the voyage must be continued if Knowles was to rescue his companions marooned at Oeno, and he himself be returned to civilization. By ill luck their boat, shortly after they had landed, was stove in on a reef, and their first care was to replace it. They found six axes, one hammer, and a few other tools, and some of the houses were burned to obtain nails and iron. The timber had to be felled and hewed as best could be; and their boat, the John Adams, was launched July 23, a little more than four months after the wreck at Oeno. The ensign of the new craft was fashioned from the red hangings of the chapel pulpit, an old shirt, and some blue overalls. All being ship-shape and in order, Captain Knowles again set sail with his gold, the mate and two men, and “the wind being unfavourable” headed for the Marquesas. Their destination was Tahiti, fifteen hundred miles distant. Three of his men had preferred the comfortable solitude of Pitcairn’s Island to such[Pg 235] an adventure. But fortune favored the daring, and on August 4 they made Nukahiva, where, by extraordinary luck, for no American ship had called at the island in the previous five years, they found the Yankee sloop-of-war Vandalia. Next morning, with his usual promptness, Knowles sold his boat to the island missionary, and was off on the Vandalia which sailed for the rescue of the marooned on Oeno and Pitcairn’s, dropping Knowles and his men at Tahiti. The mate joined the Vandalia as an officer. Knowles, at Tahiti, was offered passage on a French frigate to Honolulu, where he found an American barque loading for San Francisco and arrived there the middle of September. He found letters from home, but could carry news there as quickly as it could be sent, as there was no communication overland then except by pony express. Sailing for New York via Panama, he arrived there late in October and telegraphed home, where he had long been given up for lost. Fourteen years later, in his ship, the Glory of the Seas, he stopped at Pitcairn’s Island, now restored as the habitation of man, was received royally by the Governor and natives, and speeded on his way by the entire population, each bearing a gift—the island fruits, ducks, chickens, even sheep, “enough,” said he, “to load a boat.” Some years later he retired from sea to live in San Francisco, where the Governor of Pitcairn’s Island, whenever he came to town, made his headquarters at the home of Captain Knowles.

One could go on indefinitely recounting the adventures of these men, among them many pioneers in one[Pg 236] part of the world or another. A Brewster sailor went to Oregon in 1846, and a few years later sold out his frame house and saw and grist mill to his brother, while he himself, from 1854 to 1858, carried cargoes of ship-spars from Puget Sound to China, the first cargoes to Hong Kong. In 1794, John Kenrick, commanding the Columbia Redivivia, with the sloop Lady Washington as tender, was the first American master to circle the globe. He rounded the Horn and sailed up the coast to the Columbia River, which he is said to have named from his ship. That he gave over to his mate, Robert Gray, with instructions to explore the river, while he himself rigged his tender as a brig and crossed the Pacific, swinging around home again by way of the East Indies and “the Cape.” Earlier than that the Stork of Boston, under a Yarmouth captain, is said to have been the first to carry the American flag around the Cape of Good Hope; and Brewster captains were the first to fly the American merchant flag in the White Sea. A Brewster man, in 1852, carried the first load of ice, and a frame house for storing it, to Iquique. This idea of sending ice to the tropics was to net thousands of per cent profit. This same master carried, and placed, the great gun named the “swamp angel” that was expected to retake Fort Sumter, and he transported troops for Butler. In 1870 also, he carried a valuable cargo of war material to the French at Brest; and on the return voyage shipped, at London, many passengers and a lot of animals for Barnum’s circus. They were so delayed on the homeward passage that their provisions were nearly exhausted[Pg 237] and, as it was, several trained ponies and goats were sacrificed to feed the more valuable lions and tigers. Collins, of Truro, was a blockade-runner in 1812, sailing open boats from the lower Cape towns to Boston, but was captured in his first venture on the deep sea. Later he was in the coasting trade up and down as far as Mexico, and had many medals for rescue at sea; later still he established the famous Collins Line. Hallett, of Barnstable, who died in 1849, was a pioneer in this coasting trade, and also as a saver of souls: for he raised the first Bethel flag for seamen’s worship in New York and in Boston. He was a “professor” from his twentieth year, and was said to be “singularly gifted in prayer and exhortation.” In 1808 he built the Ten Sisters, the most noted packet for years running between New York and Boston. Rider, of Truro, who combined with seafaring the trade of carpenter, went West in 1837, and built “the first boat to navigate the Illinois River by mule power,” and afterwards built other famous river boats. A Barnstable captain transported Mark Twain on the first leg of his “Innocents Abroad” expedition; another was master of the beautiful Gravina, named from the admiral in command of the Spanish reserves at Trafalgar, which on her maiden voyage, New York to Shanghai, took out some of Bishop Boone’s missionaries. A Brewster man made a fortune by establishing a stage-line to the Australian gold-fields.

It was natural that, in 1849, the Cape Cod men should be among the first to start for California; and[Pg 238] it is interesting, also, that the majority of them, at least, in time returned to their life at sea. A Barnstable captain, Harris, who had received a medal from the Admiralty for saving a British crew in the North Sea, sailed, with his son, for San Francisco, where their brig was abandoned at the water-front and was used as an eating-house. Captain Harris, in due course, returned to Barnstable, and became sheriff of the county. There is testimony that he was “always young in spirit: it was a pleasure to see him dance, for he showed us more fancy steps and more of the old ways of dancing than we had ever seen.” Cape sailors were more apt to man the clippers than hunt for gold. A Hyannis captain remembered that an owner once said to him when he was looking for a berth: “The new clipper ship Spit-fire is lading for San Francisco and the cap’n’s a driver. He wants a mate can jump over the fore-yard every morning before breakfast.” “I’m his man,” retorted the seaman, “if it’s laid on the deck.” He shipped forthwith, and had a passage of one hundred and two days to San Francisco. A group of eight Brewster men and four from Boston combined seamanship and gold-hunting by buying a brig of a hundred and twenty tons and manning it themselves. They elected their officers, the rest of the owners going as common sailors. “We were all square-rig sailors except Ben Crocker,” writes one of the “seamen,” “and he was made cap’n of the main boom, as the square-rig sailors were afraid of it.” The cook worked his passage out, and there were six passengers; all ate together in the cabin. In a hundred and[Pg 239] forty-seven days they made San Francisco, where they sold the brig for half what she cost them, and “each man took his own course.” There is no record that any of them made a fortune.

One Forty-Niner, sailing for “Frisco,” was lured by richer tales of gold to Australia, whither he worked his passage only to be wrecked on the coast, and turning short-about for a trading voyage among the Pacific islands was again wrecked, and in the lapse of time mourned as dead by his family. But in a year or so news of him came from the Carolines, where he had become virtual king of one of the islands, married the chief’s daughter, taught the natives the uses of civilization in respect of houses, clothing, and the sanctity of the marriage tie, and was building up a pretty trade in tortoise-shell, cocoa oil, and hogs. For nearly ten years he ruled his little kingdom, and then was killed by jealous invaders from another island who, worsted in battle, were literally torn limb from limb by his enraged people, and thrown to the sharks, thereby losing not only life here, but all hope of the hereafter.

The missionary brig Morning Star had often touched at King John’s Island, and generous testimony was offered that “John Higgins of Brewster has done more towards civilizing these natives than any missionary could have done.” And no less than three Yarmouth captains had at one time or another commanded the several succeeding vessels of the Board of Missions, all of which were named the Morning Star.

There are records enough of mutiny and fire and of[Pg 240] disaster other than shipwreck at sea—the captain wounded and his wife quelling the insurgents; a coal cargo afire in the South Pacific, the crew taking to the boats to make the Marquesas twenty-one hundred miles distant; a captain “subduing a fire in his cargo of coals,” outward bound to Singapore, and receiving a gold watch as a reward from the underwriters for saving the ship. A Brewster captain and his mate, “taking the sun” in a stiff northwest gale, were swept overboard by a heavy sea, the mate to his death, but the captain, quick of wit, grasping a rope as he went overboard, took a double turn round his arm; the wheelman saw him, the watch ran aft and hauled him in so badly wrenched he could not stand, but with sufficient spirit to be lashed to the deck-house and command the vessel through the tail of the storm. A Barnstable captain in the Mediterranean service was fatally stabbed by a Malayan sailor, who jumped overboard and swam ashore, and the captain lived long enough to reach home. On the Sunshine, Melbourne to Callao, one of the crew poisoned the officers, who all recovered except the captain, another Barnstable man.

Nearly a hundred years ago now, the brig Polly, under command of Captain William Cazneau, and with two Dennis men, accomplished seamen both, among the crew, sailed from Boston. Just south of the Gulf Stream she ran into a fierce gale that laid her on her beam ends, and in order to right her the masts were cut away. Loaded with lumber, she could not sink, and as if invisible she floated unseen, exposed[Pg 241] to every caprice of wind and weather, in and out of the most frequented trade-routes of the sea. Provisions and water exhausted, one by one the crew died until only the captain and an Indian cook were left. They ate barnacles which by now were thick enough on the ship’s side, obtained fire by the old Indian device of rubbing two sticks together, and water by distillation. For one hundred and ninety days they managed to keep themselves alive until at last a ship sighted them; and the captain, in further proof of an iron constitution, lived to the good age of ninety-seven.

In 1855 the Titan, commanded by a young Brewster captain who lived on through the first decade of the twentieth century, alert and active in the public service to the end of his long life, was chartered by the French Government to transport troops to the Crimea. For two years he cruised back and forth through the Mediterranean in such service, and then, home again, took from New Orleans to Liverpool the largest cargo of cotton that had ever been carried, and was nearly wrecked making port in a stiff gale. Refitted and made seaworthy, she took out over a thousand passengers to Melbourne, thence proceeded to Callao for a cargo of guano for London; but homeward bound, she sprung a leak in the South Atlantic and had to be abandoned some eleven hundred miles off the coast of Brazil. Sails were set and all took to the boats which, provisioned with biscuit, canned meats, jam, and none too much water, were moored to the ship that she might serve them as long[Pg 242] as might be safe. Next morning the captain and an officer boarded her, saw there was no hope for her, returned to the boats, and cast off. They knew there was an island, Tristan d’Acunha, somewhere north of them, but as it was “too small to hit,” they decided to make for the mainland. But they were in the “belt of calms,” which might extend for ten miles or a hundred and ten, and oars must come before sails. As the men bent to their work, one cried out to look at the old Titan. A slight breeze aloft catching her sails, she had righted and seemed to be following them; but even as they looked, and wondered, she careened two or three times and went down. In a shorter time than might have been hoped, they were picked up, by a Frenchman bound for Havre who refused to interrupt his voyage for their convenience; but being provisioned for a small crew and the Titan’s men numbering fifty-three, he was soon glad to land them at Pernambuco. This same captain told of a voyage from Australia to Hong Kong when he was sailing by some old charts, “seventeen hundred and something”—the “English Pilot” for a guess—wherein certain islands were sketched in as “uncertain.” They were running into this region on a beautiful moonlight night, and the captain and a passenger he was carrying went aloft and smoked, and watched, until past midnight. But at two he was called up again, and there directly over the bow were palm-trees thick in the moonlight. They had grazed, and cleared, the island of Monte Verde, some twenty miles in length, which of course was charted on the[Pg 243] more modern maps of the day. And it was in this same southern sea that he once ran in and out of a hurricane. He could have veered out of its path, but he was in his rash youth, and the fringe of it giving a good breeze, he reefed up and went flying ahead under bare poles, through a tremendous gale that soon had him at its will. Suddenly, like a flash, there was entire calm, and stillness save for the distant roaring of the hurricane: he realized that he had got into the very centre of it, which travels ahead only some twelve miles an hour, but whirls round and round with incredible velocity. He knew that he had somehow to drive his ship out of the vortex that was sure to suck him down, and again through the outer turmoil—booming like thunder, flattening the boat on her beam ends—he, making sure the end had come, but driving her on, again won through, and the boat righting herself, continued on her way. The captain never again wooed the favoring breeze of a hurricane.

The very names of their ships stir the imagination: the Light Foot, the Chariot of Fame, the Chispa, the Rosario, named for the wife of an owner who had been a captain in his day and had loved and won a Spanish beauty. The Whirlwind and Challenger were famous clipper ships; and one man commanded successively the Undaunted, the Kingfisher, the Monsoon and Mogul and Ocean King, and the steamers Zenobia and Palmyra—and Edward Everett. There was the Young Turk and Santa Claus, the Tally Ho, the Expounder and Centaur and Cape Cod; the Agenor and Charmer and Valhalla, the Shooting[Pg 244] Star and the Flying Dragon, the Altof Oak, and, quaintly, the Rice Plant; the Oxenbridge and Kedar. Some ships were so famous that when their day was done, they passed down their names to ships of a younger generation than theirs. Masters changed from one ship to another, and discussion as to how this captain and that handled the Expounder or Monsoon on such or such a voyage filled many a long evening of their old age at home.


As captains grew toward middle age, and the children were old enough to be left at home with relatives or put into boarding-school, their wives not infrequently accompanied them on the long voyages “to some port or ports in Europe at the discretion of the captain,” as his orders might cite; or farther afield to “Bombay and such ports in the East Indies or China as the captain may determine, the voyage not to exceed two years”—or a longer matter when profit was found in cruising back and forth between the Indies and the ports “down under.” But wherever the port might be, there were sure to be Yankee ships, and many were the visits between ship and ship, commanded, perhaps, by old neighbors at home; more formal festivities ashore were offered by consignees, or the American consul, or a foreign acquaintance that was renewed from voyage to voyage.

In 1844 a Barnstable captain wrote from France: “Dunkirk and Bordeaux are fine places and contain many curiosities to us. We had more invitations to[Pg 245] dine than we wished as the dinners in this country are very lengthy, say from three to four hours before you rise from the table, and then not dry. To-day we have been to the Bordeaux Mechanical Exposition or Fair, and it is splendid. There are nine American vessels here, and five of the captains have their wives.” These Barnstable captains and their families, when in New York, used to stop at a hotel opposite Fulton Ferry, and when they went uptown of an evening to the Crystal Palace or the theatre or opera, they would charter a special Fulton Ferry ’bus for the journey. And if the voyage began with an American port of call, at New Orleans, we will say, there was plenty of gayety—balls, theatre-parties, opera, and oyster-suppers—and more than once a young shipmaster was captivated by the bright eyes of some Southern beauty.

A long voyage to Australia and India was another matter. The diary and “letters home” of a captain and his wife could tell us that; and while not brilliant in themselves, such records give us the atmosphere of these old times as could perhaps nothing else. On a February 16, some sixty years ago, a captain writes to his children who were in boarding-school: “We have had a very long and dull passage, with many calms and head winds, and are only to the equator and thirty-nine days out. It has tried my patience pretty well; but I can’t make winds or weather.” His wife was with him, and he was also taking a passenger on this voyage to Australia. “It is very warm and fine after a few days of hard rain when we caught plenty[Pg 246] of water so we can wash as much as we like, and clothes belonging to all hands are hung out drying all over the ship. While I am writing the rest are reading and sitting around the cabin with as little clothing on as possible. I imagine you at church, muffled up in cloaks and furs, listening to a good sermon while we have to do our own preaching. If I’d had a letter ready a few days ago, I could have sent it by a barque bound up to New York which I spoke. Yet it would have been difficult, as it was in the evening and I could not understand who she was, and don’t know that she understood our name. Mother busies herself sewing when she feels like it, and reads the rest of the time. I must bid you good-morning now and attend to getting an observation and see where we are.” On February 28 he continues the letter: “I am now about where I expect to pass the Sunrise, if nothing has happened to her. I look for her every day. I don’t know what poor Freeman would say if we should meet them.” Freeman was the oldest son who had insisted on going to sea to “toughen” himself in a losing fight with “consumption”; and here on the wide stretches of the southern seas his father hoped to have word with him. “Mother is sewing on old clothes of some sort,” he went on to tell them, “and if she is well I think she will have time to mend all up. Time passes rapidly, but I often think of our little home being shut up and how many happy days we spent there, and hope we may all live to spend many more.” He ends his week’s stint of writing with some excellent moral advice. March 3: “We are now going[Pg 247] for the Cape of Good Hope with a moderate breeze and good weather. Mother has been washing a little, and is now much taken up with some story she is reading. I suppose it is washing day at home, and I fancy Mrs. Lincoln hanging her clothes in our yard.” March 15: “Good-morning, my dear children. I wish I could hear you answer to it, but thousands of miles now separate us and every day still more. We are now abreast of the Cape, and have had some rough weather since I wrote last. Mother is first-rate, and can eat as much salt junk as any of us. To-day she is ironing a little, and I have been pitching quoits with the passenger for exercise. We see nothing but the blue sea now, not a vessel or anything else but some birds. We caught an albatross the other day, but we let him go again as it seemed cruel to deprive him of his liberty. We have got through all our hot weather, and I expect we shall soon want a fire while you will be having the spring—the green grass and the trees putting forth their beauty, and I hope you will enjoy it well. I shall not write any more until I arrive. Be good children is the sincere wish of your own dear Father.”

On April 25 Mother writes Nancy a letter of anxious instructions as to closing the house after vacation; because she is at the Antipodes, Mother is no less the careful housewife. “Take good care of the carpets; you need do nothing about the winter bedclothes, they are all safe. Be sure that the skylight is secure, and if it leaks more than usual get Mr. Snow to repair it. If necessary, put more platters[Pg 248] to catch the water. Have the boys attend to the underpinning of the house so that the rats or skunks cannot get in; and tell them I wish they would paint my boxes and buckets. I wish them light-colored, and put them on the old table and in the sink to dry. You will find some gooseberry and currant preserve in the cellar which you can dispose of. Do not disturb a jar in the dining-room closet. When Freeman arrives have his sea-clothes put in the barn. Take good care of Clanrick’s overcoat. If it is wet, see that it is dried as soon as possible, and if torn mend it immediately. You know it must last him another winter for his best. Do not forget to wear your rubbers”—and so on. They were entering Melbourne Bay, and Mother, having unburdened her mind of its care, was now free to close her letter, which, as a steamer was sailing next day, would be sent back by the doctor, “who will board us this afternoon.” “The boys [members of the crew, and neighbors at home] will not probably send letters this time. You will receive this a month sooner than you anticipated. Give my love to grandmother. I often think of her, and hope she will not go to her old home to live alone. Tell her father will see that her board is paid. She need not give herself any uneasiness about that. I must now bid you good-bye with much love from your affectionate Mother.”

And of course Mother had been keeping a Daily Journal, a copy of which, from time to time, she sent the children. “Just fifteen weeks from the time we left Boston we saw King’s Island,” she writes of the[Pg 249] end of their voyage. “It was a joyful sound to me when I heard the cry from aloft of Land Ho. I was almost tempted to go aloft as I had not caught a glimpse of land or even a rock since I left home. Soon after, I could see the high hills from the deck which are about one hundred and eighty miles from Melbourne. The next evening we saw the light, but the wind being fresh ahead we could not gain much, which was rather trying as we were anxious to get in. The twenty-eighth we took a pilot, and as I had an opportunity to send my letters I felt quite reconciled to my situation, it being beautiful weather and fine scenery. The land on both sides of us is covered with trees and shrubbery, fresh like ours in June, although autumn here. Arrived at our anchorage about two o’clock, and lots of people called aboard, Mr. Osborn, our consignee, among them. He invited us to go to church with him on Sunday and dine with him and go to the Botanic Gardens, and we accepted. The Gardens are beautiful almost beyond description”—but she does describe them, and charmingly too, and the birds there, and the waterfowl, “the plumage of which is superb.” And she notes that the Yarra Yarra River is “not half as wide as our pond.” “We called also at Mr. Smith’s, a brother of our former minister. He has a very pretty place and gave me a very pretty bouquet. We returned to the ship about sunset very much pleased with my first day in Melbourne. Next morning we were taken up to the wharf, and I am glad to be here where I can come and go as I please. Father is busy, and I have been unpacking and[Pg 250] arranging my clothes, room, etc. I have got my cabin carpeted and it looks quite nice. Mr. Sinclair, our passenger, called this morning, and brought me some apples and pears and grapes—a great treat. 29th: I intended to have gone to Melbourne shopping, but received an invitation from Mr. Osborn to go to tea and the opera in the evening. Some of the singing was good and the scenery was beautiful. I cannot compare it with American opera as I never went but once in my life and have forgotten about that. This is a great place for opera and theatre-going people, as well as spirit-drinking people. May 1st: To-day I presume you go a-Maying.” And now Mother had her shopping expedition, and notes that cotton cloth is cheaper than at home. “I find our last year’s goods and styles just received here, and of about the same price.” Like other Americans in foreign lands she is a little nettled that “they know in a moment I am an American.” The next week being rainy, she did little but “make a few calls upon some English ladies”; and then came a day spent at South Yarra with “the first American lady I had seen since I left home. I was delighted to see one home face, and she seemed as happy to see me. We were not long getting acquainted, and our tongues ran fast I can assure you. I informed her of the latest fashions, while she told me of the points of interest I should visit. They have a beautiful garden and I took lots of slips, and hope to fetch some of the plants home.” With the wife of a Newburyport captain she “went to Melbourne to see what there was to be seen,” and there was more gayety[Pg 251] afoot. “You will think me dissipating largely in going to operas and theatres. I think I am, indeed, but as I have no particular regard for such amusement do not think I shall be injured by going.” And she did certainly “see what there was to be seen.” Nothing escaped Mother’s observant eye. “I cannot begin to tell you of it in a letter,” she writes, “but will leave it till some winter evening when seated around our little light-stand at home. But I am resolved to see something of the world while I can.”

And on May 20, it was up anchor, and off again: “It seemed almost like getting home and we soon got under weigh and bid farewell to Melbourne. We have two gentlemen passengers for Calcutta, and I hope we shall have a quick passage. I have enjoyed myself, and have often wished you were with me to enjoy the pleasures too. Perhaps some day you may do so, if you, Nancy, catch a sea-captain; and you, Clanrick, may be a merchant here. I must now bid you good-night, with much love and kisses from Father and Mother.” The letter was off to them by the pilot, and Father and Mother for Calcutta where their visit was not as pleasant as at Melbourne. Father and many of the crew were ill. “I was very anxious indeed,” writes Mother to the children, “and was thankful to have some home friends near. Captains Dunbar and Crowell were very kind. They have done all of Father’s business they possibly could so that he need not get overdone.” The sick boys among the crew are a particular anxiety: “They are so careless and imprudent of themselves that I fear we shall[Pg 252] not bring them all home with us. They will not hear to reason, but will eat everything which comes to hand and sleep in the open air which is enough to kill any one. But the doctor says they will soon be well after getting to sea. We are obliged to wait for a steamer as by Father’s being ill we lost our turn; but I have just heard that one is engaged to take us down river Friday. I have formed some very pleasant acquaintances here, but have not met any American ladies. Captain Knowles and wife, and a Captain Smith, wife, and daughter have just arrived. I am sorry not to see them. Father is still better, and is now eating his dinner of chicken soup and toast bread after which he will ride down and see his consignee. Do not give yourself any uneasiness, but take good care of yourselves. I must now leave you in the hands of Him Who ever watches over us, and trust He will preserve us all and restore us soon to our loved home.”

Did Mother feel that the best of their voyaging was over? When Father returned to the ship that night, he had a letter “containing sad news from Freeman,” their lad who had thought to conquer the dread white plague by the hardships of a seaman’s life, and who was ill at Valencia. But Mother was not one to spend the long weeks of their return voyage to Melbourne in useless repining, and her Diary shows her alert, as ever, to “see what there was to see.” They made slow progress out to sea, as the weather was hot and calm. “It is very tedious to be lying here, although we have company near us. To-day we saw[Pg 253] what we supposed to be the Ghats Mountains on the eastern coast of Hindustan.” And steadily, week after week, they nosed their way southward again, and on October 26 she could write: “It has been really cold this week, about like the weather at home this season. I sit up on deck all the morning, and have been very busy this week turning my silk dress.” It was rough weather the last leg of their journey, “the ship rolled terribly”; and Mother was none too good a sailor. When they hove to at Port Philip Light to take on the pilot, they received orders to proceed to Sydney to discharge their cargo. And there was a letter from his captain, one of their old neighbors at home, confirming their worst fears in regard to Freeman. He had died at Valencia, and was buried there, even as Mother had been praying that another year might see them all united at the old home. There was no time to be spent in idle lamentation, and as Father must go to Melbourne, so would she go also to be near him. They landed, rode by stage twenty miles to Geelong through “a very dreary country,” thence by railway to Melbourne where they were disappointed not to find letters from home at the consul’s, nor was their friend Mr. Osborn to be found that day; but they breakfasted with him the next morning, when Father accomplished his business, and by afternoon they were on the wearisome journey back to Geelong and Queen’s Cliff where the ship was moored. Indomitable Mother writes: “It was a beautiful morning and I enjoyed the ride.” She had learned the subtlest use of life: to miss none of its beauty, though the heart were[Pg 254] breaking. That night, before they sailed for Sydney, she wrote the two forlorn children at home—a long letter, with the high heart of courage, knowing that it might be months before they should receive it and the first sting of their sorrow be past: a letter full of Christian resignation and of comfort.

And day by day, recording time by latitude and longitude at sea, ashore by day and month, she set down in the Journal for the interest of their later reading, what she did and what she saw. Wilson’s Point, as they beat round to Sydney in head winds and heavy seas, “would be a terrible place to be shipwrecked,” she thought. And at Sydney she enjoyed things, as she could, noting the weather—there had been no rain to speak of for sixteen months—living on shipboard, but taking many excursions and meeting pleasant people ashore, and remembering the sermons at the English church, and the markets, and the shops; and again, one afternoon, alone, “I went a-cruising to see what I could see”—among other things, in the Public Gardens, “some beautiful plants in the greenhouses. The greatest variety of fuchsia I ever saw, and the gardener gave me some slips to take home. There were lots of birds and animals there, and I saw a kangaroo.” And some friends took them out to Botany Bay. “It was a terrible road and dreary country through which we passed, but there was a beautiful garden adjoining the hotel and I walked on the beach and got a few shells. Saw some wild animals, and returned to Sydney at seven o’clock. I enjoyed it very much.” There is the constant[Pg 255] note. Delayed in their sailing by storms, they had Christmas dinner at the consul’s: “a very nice dinner consisting of roasted goose, boiled turkey, boiled ham, cabbage, string beans, and potatoes.” After this mighty meal the company took steamer for “a resort for pleasure parties where there is a place called the Fairy Bower which is very beautiful. The winding way to it is over rocks and through the Bush. There is a public house there in front of which is the Bay and on either side and at the back are high rocky hills. There are lovely shells on the beach. It is a very romantic spot.”

On the twenty-sixth, “Boxing Day at Sydney,” she writes, they sailed early, and by afternoon “it blew very fresh and I was obliged to go to bed, being a little seasick.” On the eighth, in a fair wind, she remembers that it is just a year since they left Boston. On the nineteenth they were rounding Cape Leeuwin, and after a week of heavy swell and variable winds “we took the trades. Very pleasant and fine steady trades, which we appreciate.” So through fair weather and storms, starlight nights and sultry days, they came to Calcutta once more, and the steamer took them upstream, and their old friends welcomed them.

And there, incredibly, plucky little Mother, who could not have believed that she would not be in the world to serve any one of them while they had need of her, sickened with the deadly cholera and died. And Father, heartsick and alone, is sailing southward once more, this time for home. As the pilot takes him downstream,[Pg 256] he is writing the son and daughter at Cape Cod. “I am seated here alone in my cabin where your mother and I have spent many pleasant hours and taken sweet counsel together, with everything around me to remind me of her. Here sets her chair, and there her trunk and clothes and everything as she left it.” (We wonder if the “slips” she had taken at Melbourne and Sydney are blooming yet.) “Oh, my dear, dear children, how much I have to feel and suffer. Your mother was thinking much of coming home to you again, but her spirit is with those in heaven. She spoke much of Nancy and Clanrick before she died, and said be sure to give Nancy my watch, and buy one for Clanrick and tell him it was his mother’s request. I hope you will find a home at the Cape somewhere till my return. Clanrick, be a good boy and kind to your sister; and try to cheer one another up in your heavy affliction. I soon expect to discharge the pilot. Good-morning, my dear children. God bless you. Your own afflicted Father.”

Father seems to have been of no such indomitable fibre as Mother. Perhaps for too many decades the sea had had its will of him, and for too many times, before this last voyage that had been so beautifully companioned, he had suffered the loneliness of long months afloat. Yet Father, in his youth, had been one of the gayest lads in town; within an hour of his arrival from sea, he was in and out of every house there, with a joke for the old ladies, and a new story for the cap’ns, a song for the girls, and a new style for the lads. Then he had taken on a steady pilot in[Pg 257] Susan, his wife, and had steered straight through all their years together. He adored his children, and gave them perhaps more pleasures than he could well afford; for somehow, although he was an able captain and trader, riches had never come his way. Men said he was a free-spender, and ought to have saved. And now, in his broken state, after a few weeks with the children in the old home among the willows and lilacs, he must be off again to earn money for them all, this time on a coasting voyage, Boston to “New-Orleens.” And at sea, with far too much time for reflection, he is writing his loved daughter: “I hoped I never should be drifting about the ocean again, but here I am, and no one but my Heavenly Father knows what my destiny is. When I look back on the past two years, it seems all a dream: our dear Freeman pining away in a foreign land, and longing to get home once more, poor boy. And your mother in her last moments perfectly calm and serene, not one murmur or complaint. I have tried to bear up the best I could, but it has been dreadful hard. Perhaps I do not realize my blessings, but I do have many—I’ve been restored to health better than I ever expected to be, and I have two fine children, and can make me a comfortable home.”

Poor tender-hearted Father, struggling to count his “blessings.” The voyage to “New-Orleens” was not one of his most prosperous, he had lost the magic touch of success; nor was health as firmly restored as he supposed: that old fever at Calcutta, the sorrows that followed, had broken more than his spirit, and he[Pg 258] returned only in time to die at home—happy, at the last, to have made that familiar haven. And fortunate beyond many of his fellows. For there was a reverse to the old tales of daring and adventure; and many a man, long before age should cool the ardors of his hot-blooded youth, had died in a foreign port, or on shipboard; and many a memorial stone records that such a one died at Panama or Madras or Bassein, at Sourbaya or Batavia or Truxillo, or at Aden. And there is the longer list of those “lost at sea,” when wives and sweethearts waited through heartsick months and years for the word that never came. Yet those at sea and those ashore found their strength in the old faith: “Ye see when the mariner is entered his ship to saile on the troublous sea, how he is for a while tossed in the billows of the same, but yet in hope that he shall come to the quiet haven, he beareth in better comfort the perils which he feeleth; so am I now toward this sayling: and whatsoever stormes I shall feele, yet shortly after shall my ship be in the haven, as I doubt not thereof by the grace of God, desiring you to helpe me with your prayers to the same effect.”

[Pg 259]



The “retired” sea-captain, if he had been too free-handed to grow rich, or had missed his chance of success through practising small shrewdnesses rather than large, often earned his living ashore as postmaster, or “deepo-master,” or he ran the tavern, or the village store that supplied the inhabitants with any obtainable commodity. In any case, as gentleman farmer or one of lower social rank, he fitted easily into the life at home which, in comparison with that of an inland town, was cosmopolitan by reason of constant interchange with countries beyond the sea. Men had a wider outlook: though they might never “go to Boston,” which was the minimum adventure of the community, they were familiar with far scenes discussed of an evening among the frequenters of post-office or store. And if all sailors did not become captains, though the contrary may seem to us to have been the fact, it was the exception when an able-bodied male had not gone at least one “voyage to sea.” The normal Cape Cod boy looked upon the ocean as his natural theatre of action. If he could wheedle his mother into consent, he was off at the tender age of ten, or as soon thereafter as might be, to serve as cabin boy with their neighbor the cap’n.[Pg 260] It is even said of one child that by the time he had reached his tenth birthday “he was old enough not to be seasick, not to cry during a storm, and to be of some use about a ship.” From the galley he might be promoted to the fo’c’s’le; from there, if luck and temper served, to the quarter-deck. A captain’s letter to his little daughter tells us something of the relation between captain and crew. Discipline was strict, but “the old man” did not forget that they were all neighbors at home. “We have plenty of music in the forecastle,” he writes, “but I wish I had you all with me and the seraphine and then we could have a good sing. There is a violin-player and one of the best players on the accordion I ever heard, and they go it some evenings, I tell you, and have a regular good dance. They have their balls about twice a week, and I can hear them calling off their cotillion and having a merry time of it. I wish you could see them going it for awhile. Daniel plays the bones and a young man from Barnstable is the musician. I like my crew very much so far and hope they will continue the voyage and improve.”

As cabin boy, forem’st hand, able seaman, mate, or captain, on merchant vessel or fisherman, every man Jack in the village was pretty sure to have had his taste of the sea, and thereby was equipped to contribute his story to the common fund of anecdote. With truth he could say “I am a part of all that I have met.” And whether they had followed the sea for one year or forty, or vicariously through the experience of others, each of them had a tang of “the[Pg 261] old salt”; and their home was set in the ocean as surely as if Cape Cod were another Saint Helena breaking the long Atlantic rollers that come sweeping down the world. Many a time, indeed, it must have seemed to swing to their stories like the deck of a ship, and the dry land under foot to be stable only because one was braced to its motion. For most of the men, all the sea ways about the world were as familiar as the village road around the ponds. Daniel Webster once wrote some friends in Dennis of a trial in their district when question arose as to the entrance of the harbor of Owhyhee: “The counsel for the opposite party proposed to call witnesses to give information to the jury. I at once saw a smile which I thought I understood, and suggested to the judge that very probably some of my jury had seen the entrance themselves. Upon which seven out of the twelve arose and said they were quite familiarly acquainted with it, having seen it often.”

Every boy had some grounding in the common branches of study at the schools which his Pilgrim ancestors had been at pains to establish; but given the three R’s, his education was expanded in the larger school of personal adventure. Rich gives a quick biography typical of the Truro fisherman: “Till ten in summer—a barefoot boy, tough, wide-awake—hoes, clams, fishes, swims, goes to the red schoolhouse taught by the village schoolmarm. After ten, on board a fishing vessel cooking for nine or ten men; at thirteen a hand; goes to the same schoolhouse three months or less every winter till seventeen[Pg 262] or eighteen; graduates. At twenty-one marries; goes skipper; twenty-five buys a vessel and builds a house, or has been looking around the world to make a change. Whatever may be the experiences of after life, the early history of Cape Cod boys could be summed substantially as stated.”

This matter of an elementary education, in the early days, was frequently undertaken by men whose work was cut out for them to keep their own knowledge a little in advance of their scholars. There was Mr. Hawes, schoolmaster of Yarmouth in the later years of the eighteenth century, who gloried in the fact that

“The little learning I have gained,
Was most from simple nature drained.”

He had worked on the farm and managed his own schooling when the only textbooks were the Bible and Catechism. “When the Spelling Book was first introduced,” he remarks dryly, “the good old ladies appeared to fear that religion would be banished from the world.” Hawes, however, undertook the pursuit of the higher learning, and once had a sum set him in the “Single Rule of Three” that cost him three days’ work in the solving of it. “I went often to the woods and gathered pine knots for candles,” he remembers. “At this time I lived with my aged grandfather, who had a liberal education, but was in low circumstances, and I could learn more in his chimney-corner with my pine candle, in one evening, than I could at school in a week.” Discipline was administered by means of an[Pg 263] apple-tree branch, and “as soon as the master retired from school, every instrument of correction or torture would by the scholars be destroyed.” In the Bible class, “while each scholar would mention the number and read one verse,” the master would be making pens, and the other children most likely “playing pins, or matching coppers.” Hawes, at the age of seventeen, had “advanced in Arithmetic about as far as Square and Cube Root,” and by his own industry “gained some knowledge of Navigation,” when the Revolution interrupted his studies, and, promptly enlisting, he served in the land force for three years, and then took to the sea. He sailed in no less than five vessels that were captured, but remarks that he was never prisoner more than two months running; and at the close of the Revolution he felt qualified to set up as schoolmaster ashore. His account probably gives an accurate picture of the public education of the day. “I commenced teaching school in Yarmouth,” he writes, “at seven dollars per month, and boarded myself, which was then about equal to seaman’s wages in Boston; and I occasionally taught town and private schools in Barnstable and Yarmouth, when not at sea. The highest wages I ever had was thirty-five dollars per month; and the last school I taught was in Barnstable, and was then in my sixtieth year. Now I will state my own method of school teaching with from sixty to ninety pupils, viz: The first and last hours were generally spent in reading, the middle hours in writing. Those in arithmetic would read with the others when they pleased. Having[Pg 264] one class in school, every scholar, at my word ‘Next,’ would arise and read in his seat, till I pronounced the word ‘Next,’ and I often stopped him in the middle of a verse. After reading around, I would order another book, more proper for the scholars present, as before, and then in four or five different books till the hour expired. Then I gave out the copies and made as many mend their pens as could. If they had no ink-stands, which was the case with many, I would send one after shells, and put cotton therein. The ink I found and charged it to the school. I likewise set at auction who would make the fire cheapest, say for one month, which would go at about one cent a day. While they were writing in the second form, I would hear the little ones read alone, who could not read in classes. Seventeen was the greatest number I think I ever had of them. When school was about half done one scholar was sent for a bucket of water,” and then, no doubt from one dipper, did they all, girls first, then boys, unhygienically drink. “Those in Arithmetic having books of different authors, got their own sums, wrote off their own rules, &c. If they wanted to make inquiries concerning questions,” Mr. Hawes goes on to say, “and the scholar next him could show him, I would request him to; if not, if I had time, I would explain the principles by which the sum was to be done. If he then met with difficulty, I directed him to take it home, and study late at night to have his answer in the morning. When I dismissed the school I would examine each one’s writing book.... I was too much in favor of the[Pg 265] Friends’ principles to require any bowing, and left that discretionary with each scholar.”

In schools as rudimentary as this were trained the men whose energy was to accomplish the greatest prosperity of the Cape. A majority of the boys were too busily employed in helping to extract the family livelihood from the soil and the sea to be allowed studies beyond those useful for such a purpose; yet almost immediately the free schools were supplemented, at Yarmouth and Sandwich and Barnstable, by seminaries and academies, where Greek, Latin, French, and the higher mathematics were taught. In 1840 the Truro Academy was founded under the directorship of a wise teacher who raised the standard of education in all the towns about. And there was the Pine Grove Seminary, conducted by Mr. Sidney Brooks at Harwich, and beloved of its scholars: for Mr. Brooks not only encouraged learning, but was a promoter of innocent pleasure. His pupils were to remember Saturday excursions to Long Pond, sailing there in summer and ice-boating in winter; and Mr. Brooks permitted tableaux and dancing in the hall, even were there a brisk revival in progress at the meeting-house across the way. The pupils of Mr. Smith, of Brewster, who died in 1842, remember that he was “successful in making the dullest learn,” and also recall that “Ferula disciplinæ sceptrum erat.”

The elegancies of the Early Victorian era—French, deportment, fine needlework, sewing and embroidery, bead and shell work, the making of wax flowers, sketching in pencil and watercolors—were[Pg 266] taught the young ladies by private instruction. Their culture was continued in the Lyceum and Female Reading Society. Anne C. Lynch and Martin Tupper were the fashion; and they read largely literature commended in the “Lady’s Book,” to which every household with any pretension to gentility subscribed. Mr. Godey averred that his magazine should be “a shrine for the offerings of those who wish to promote the mental, moral, and religious improvement of woman. For female genius it is the appropriate sphere. It will contain a new and elegant engraving in every number—also, music and patterns for ladies’ muslin work and other embellishments.” The Cape Cod female mind took on with some readiness this shining veneer, but its native vigor remained unimpaired; and women conducted their domestic affairs, or their social amenities at home and in foreign ports, as became the wives of their sailor husbands. At Barnstable and thereabouts domestic service was supplied sometimes by the village girls, sometimes by the Mashpee Indians. An old lady remembers her nurse Dinah, a tall, handsome creature belonging to the clan of “Judge” Greenough, who governed his people with wisdom and good sense; and she recalls a story of the days when the mail arrived by post-rider and an old squaw held up the embarrassed carrier to beg a ride. He permitted her to mount, but, putting his horse to the canter, hoped to shake her off before he reached the town. To no end: she clung like a leech, and called out cheerily, “That’s right, massa. Go it! When I ride I love to ride!” It is easy to be[Pg 267] diverted by such anecdotes. With all their seeming primness, the people had a rollicking humor, of which countenances hidden in coal-scuttle bonnets and chins rigid in portentous stocks were no index.

Manners were at their finest and best, and the expression of them often bears a charming simplicity of thought if not of word. Such is Mr. Freeman’s memory of an old lady who had been kind to him. In a footnote of his history he corrects a deplorable error in the text: “We were led, by intelligence communicated in good faith by one whose relations to the person gave to his announcement the assurance of authority, to state that a venerable and most estimable lady was deceased. We are grateful that it is an error. Long may that excellent woman survive, the admiration of her friends. We have remembered her with respect ever since the day she loaned to us, then a little boy, a beautifully illustrated Natural History, kindly proffered with commendations and other encouraging words; and had we the skill of a limner, we could now portray those features marked with intellectuality and benevolence when, with attaching manners, she made her little friend so happy.” Freeman says elsewhere: “If the manners of the age were simple, they were not rough; nor was the rusticity of the less influential devoid of that polish which the few who gave tone to society, unassuming and unenvied, diffused among the masses.”

All through the clipper-ship era, the importance of the Cape steadily grew. She built ships at her own wharves and docked them there, and in the eighteen-forties[Pg 268] she even had her own custom-house at Barnstable, although it cleared but one ship, and the building was turned into a town hall. Wharves, harbor improvements, lighthouses were built where they were most needed. In 1830 the Union Wharf was built at Pamet Harbor by the toil of the shareholders in the enterprise, each of whom held but one share and each of whom must wheel his proportion of sand to fill the bulkheads. A committee was appointed to supervise the work and see that there was no shirking; and Rich tells us that some of the younger members of the company were “willing to work harder than wheeling sand” to invite the charge of shirking and fasten that charge upon some man “who felt that neglecting his duty was nearly a crime.” At any price they must have their fun, and lampooned certain bumptious members of the company in doggerel that followed them to their grave. In 1825 a flint-glass factory that became famous for its beautiful output was founded at Sandwich—“glass-works to improve its sand,” is Thoreau’s gibe. The salt-works flourished, there were several cotton and woollen mills, banks and insurance companies and newspapers were established. But the Civil War put an end to this expansion: vessels that were destroyed then or had rotted at the wharves through disuse were never replaced; and in any event the war had but given the coup de grâce to trade by sailing ships that the development of steam and rails was sure to weaken. Cape Cod soldiers who had followed the sea returned from the war to find their business gone, and many energetic[Pg 269] men had to look elsewhere for careers. They found them; and there is hardly a great city in the country that does not owe something of its prosperity to these men and their children. It is interesting that to-day the old determination to succeed in the circumstances offered is reviving, and men are beginning to see that they need not travel far afield to make a living. There is one of the best intensive farms in the State at Truro; a model farm of twelve thousand acres is being developed at the other extremity of the Cape; there is a great duck-raising farm, and asparagus farms at Eastham. And why should not sheep-raising be revived on the moors of Truro, and Eastham become a granary once more?

Those men who remained at home after the Civil War became again, for the most part, farmers and fishermen, and the humble native cranberry was to do as much for their prosperity as had the salt-works for their fathers. Back in 1677 the Massachusetts colonists who had taken it upon themselves to coin the “pine-tree shillings,” sought to appease the displeasure of King Charles by sending him, with two hogsheads of samp and three thousand codfish, ten barrels of cranberries. But it was not until 1816 that their cultivation was seriously undertaken. Then Henry Hall, of Dennis, first succeeded with his artificial “swamp”; four men of Harwich closely followed, and the business grew until thousands of acres were developed, and, crowded on the Cape, it worked out to larger scope in Plymouth County. The picture of these swamps, flat as a floor, intersected by drainage[Pg 270] ditches, surrounded usually by wild hedges that teem with color, is one of the most familiar to the Cape. In winter, when they are often flooded, they add countless little lakes to the number summer gives us; or their vines offer the smooth red of eastern looms to brighten the pale northern scene until spring turns them green once more. A new swamp shows gleaming sand through the regular planting of the vines; on one that “bears,” crimson berries, in early autumn, hang thick on the glossy dark-green runnels. And then the swamps are charming centres of activity: women in bright sunbonnets, men in soft shirts and caps, move swiftly on their knees up the roped-off aisles as they scoop the berries into shining tin measures, and a good picker earns a considerable number of dollars in the day. There is the sound of talk and laughter, and the patter of berries as they are “screened” of refuse and swept into barrels. The sun brings out the last tint of color, the atmosphere is like a crystal goblet of heady wine: it is the homely festa of the Cape at its most beautiful season of the year.


From the beginning of the nineteenth century the towns were drawn into increasingly close connection with the larger world. The mails came to them first a-horseback, then by stage, then by the railway which gradually nosed its way to the tip of the Cape. Telegraph followed railway, and then, until the late war, the great Marconi station and the cable talked [Pg 271]with countries oversea. Freeman reflects upon the blessings of rapid transportation in his day when “we are now, in 1859, in more intimate and close contact with Berkshire and even Maine, in fact with New York and Pennsylvania, than the Cape was with Plymouth during all the time that it remained the seat of justice. It is easier from the extremest town on the Cape now to visit Boston and return, than it was once to perform the necessary act of domestic preparation by carrying a grist from Sandwich to Plymouth to be ground. Nor have we forgotten that important character, the post-rider, who took the entire mail in his saddle-bags (and lean they were too) and occupied the week in going down the Cape and returning. The clock could not better indicate the hour of 5 P.M., than did the regular appearance of Mr. Terry on his slow, but sure and well-fed horse (the horses of the Friends are always well kept and sleek, and possibly their capacity for swiftness of locomotion was never put to the test) with his diminutive saddle-bags that seemed to challenge the observation of every one touching the question of their entire emptiness, every Friday afternoon. The facilities now afforded by railroads, stage-coaches, cheap postage, &c., contrast strangely with former times.”


Mr. Swift, in his “Old Yarmouth,” tells us something of those facilities: “The all-day’s journey from Boston to the Cape is remembered with recollections of pleasure, in spite of its inconvenience and wearisome length. Starting at early dawn, and the parties made up of persons of all stations and degrees of[Pg 272] social life, the stage coach was a levelling and democratic institution. The numerous stopping places, along the route, gave ample opportunity for the exchange of news, opinions, and to partake of the good cheer of the various taverns.” The liquid portion of that “good cheer,” by the way, was only too liberally distributed, and in 1817 no less than seventeen retailers were privileged to quench the thirst of northern Yarmouth. Such abuse led to reform; and a temperance society was founded whose pledge was not too exacting: no member, “except in case of sickness, shall drink any distilled spirit or wine, in any house in town except ... the one in which he resides.” And the town voted “not to approbate a retailer, but to approbate one taverner for the accommodation of travellers.”

Thoreau, on his famous journey to the Cape, when inclement weather forced him to coach between Sandwich and Orleans, was pleased not at all in respect of the utilities of the towns, but bears testimony, as a philosopher, to the extenuating attributes of their inhabitants. The opinion has been quoted often, and is worth quoting again: “I was struck by the pleasant equality which reigned among the stage company, and their broad and invulnerable good humor. They were what is called free and easy, and met one another to advantage, as men who had, at length, learned how to live. They appeared to know each other when they were strangers, they were so simple and downright. They were well met, in an unusual sense, that is, they met as well as they could meet, and did not[Pg 273] seem to be troubled with any impediment. They were not afraid nor ashamed of one another, but were contented to make just such a company as the ingredients allowed. It was evident that the same foolish respect was not here claimed, for mere wealth and station, that is in many parts of New England; yet some of them were the ‘first people,’ as they were called, of the various towns through which we passed. Retired sea-captains, in easy circumstances, who talked of farming as sea-captains are wont; an erect, respectable and trustworthy-looking man, in his wrapper, some of the salt of the earth, who had formerly been the salt of the sea; or a more courtly gentleman, who, perchance, had been a representative to the General Court in his day; or a broad, red-faced, Cape Cod man, who had seen too many storms to be easily irritated.” In short, Thoreau’s Cape-Codders were cosmopolitan creatures, men of the world that he was so ready to despise.

Until the railway was continued “down the Cape,” travellers there were far more likely to make their journeys to and from Boston by the packets than by stage. “For fifty years,” writes Swift, “the arrival and departure of the packets was the important topic of North side intelligence, which was communicated promptly to the dwellers on the South side, that they might govern themselves thereby in arranging their business or their travels.” There are pretty stories of voyages on the packets: of the little girl, wide-eyed with expectation, in big bonnet and mitts, and a flowered bandbox for luggage, who is entrusted to the[Pg 274] captain for safe delivery into the hands of her kinsmen in Boston. One old lady, whose histrionic sense developed early, remembered that once when she was visiting Boston as a child there was a smallpox epidemic. “I couldn’t help laughing,” said she, “to think if I had got it and died, how grand it would have been to be brought home by the packet, me on board sailing up the harbor with colors half-mast.” There were young ladies setting out for their finishing-school in the metropolis. And on any trip there was sure to be a deep-water captain starting out to “join his ship” at Boston or New York for the longer voyage overseas; beside him, perhaps, his wife companioning him as far as she might, and when he had sailed returning to the children and the three years on the farm without him. Then, when his ship had been spoken by a faster sailer, and was due to “arrive,” she would go up to the city and wait sometimes through anxious weeks until it was sighted down the harbor. Nor were they likely to be idle weeks. “I am so busy I do not know how to stop to write except it is absolutely necessary,” she might write to the little flock at home. “It is a great misfortune to have such a busy mother, but you must make the best of it. I am improving every moment in sewing, looking forward to September when father’s home for my leisure.” And, joy to read, she has decided to let them come to town. “You must come by packet, and you better not make any visits except to grandmother as you will need all your time to prepare. Susan must have all her petticoats fresh starched; Joseph must get[Pg 275] his whitewashing done and his garden in perfect order. We shall want lots of potatoes if father is at home next winter. How does my flower garden flourish? Fix up the pigstye as I want it ready when I get home. Fasten the gates strong so the cattle cannot get in, and see to the water fence. Susan need not fetch a bonnet-box unless it rains when she goes to the packet. Hang your bonnet up on board and wear your sunbonnet. Put the things which you will need to put on when you get here in the leather bag. Remember if it is evening, stay on board all night unless there is some one on board you know to go with you. You may think you know the way, but there have been a great many changes since you were here, and the city looks very different in the evening to what it does in the daytime.” There are portraits of Susan and Joseph taken on this momentous visit: elusive daguerrotypes set in elaborately worked gilt frames. Joseph, in roundabout and Eton collar, and with the determined mien befitting a future master of ships, is seated by a table ornately covered. The other half of the old stamped-leather case, that may be securely clasped by a brass hook, is occupied by Susan: Susan shy, yet determined, too, clutching at the same table, her wool dress cut for the display of childish collarbones, her thin little arms twitched slightly akimbo by their short tight sleeves; but her necklace is picked out with gold, her cheeks with pink, and Susan’s wide-set eyes under the primly parted hair look at you straight, undaunted by the great world.

The captains of these packets that ran out of every[Pg 276] town on the north shore of the Cape had their fun racing one another from port to port; it is probable some money was lost or won on the results. Barnstable, even, produced a ballad to immortalize some of the contestants:

“The Commodore Hull she sails so dull
She makes her crew look sour;
The Eagle Flight she is out of sight
In less than half an hour,
But the bold old Emerald takes delight
To beat the Commodore and the Flight.”

Other packets had the romantic names of Winged Hunter and Leading Wind; the Sarah of Brewster was as familiar to her people as “old Mis’ Paine” or “Squire Freeman.” Truro had the Young Tell, the Post Boy and the Modena. The Post Boy may be said to have been queen of the bay, luxuriously fitted out in mahogany and silk draperies, and with a captain who had the reputation of knowing the way to Boston in the darkest night, and being able to keep his passengers good-natured in a head wind. Passengers by the Post Boy knew the quality of their company, and that the run to Boston could never be so long as to exhaust the fund of stories. “Each told his experience, or listened with interest or pleasure to the rest, and all sought with unaffected goodnature to please and profit.”


No picture of the Cape could be complete without some accent upon its men of the learned professions.[Pg 277] Teacher, doctor, parson, and lawyer might or might not have shared the universal experience of the sea: it depended, usually, upon whether they were importations or native products. But certainly the memory of them adds another note to the richness of the general hue. We have met good Deacon Hawes, the Yarmouth schoolmaster, and the more elegant Sidney Brooks, of Harwich: they exemplify, perhaps, the two types of early teachers. Young collegians, working their way through the university, were for a later generation; and very well, for the most part, did they train the boys and girls of the district schools. They were absurdly young, some of them lads not yet in their twenties; but they imparted knowledge with the same clear-minded determination with which they were pursuing their own education. Schools of the best quality that offered, the people of any time were bound to have: Truro, as early as 1716, placed schoolmaster before politician. They engaged Mr. Samuel Spear “for the entire year” for the consideration that he should receive forty pounds salary and “board himself”; then, “determined to save in some way what they were compelled to spend for schools,” they voted to send no representative to the General Court, “because we are not obliged by law to send one, and because the Court has rated us so high that we are not able to pay one for going.” Later Mr. Spear served Provincetown as minister.

Of the early physicians Doctor Abner Hersey, of Barnstable, was, perhaps, the most famous. He came there from Hingham in 1769 to study medicine with[Pg 278] a brother, who, however, died within the year of his arrival. Very likely the general knowledge he had picked up in that short association, supplemented by his native judgment and common sense, his keen observation and power of correct deduction, served his patients as well as would a more exact training in the science of the day. He became the leading physician of the Cape, and on his regular circuit through the towns, the sick were brought for his healing to every crossroads and centre. He was brusque and uncertain in temper, and was, withal, eccentric. Freeman judges him “subject to hypochondriac affections.” “He rejected alike animal food and alcoholic stimulants; his meals were fruit, milk, and vegetables. Contemning the follies of fashion, his garments were peculiar to himself—his overcoat to protect him in travel was made of seven calfskins, lined with flannel.” As a further precaution against the searching winter winds his chaise was entirely enclosed with leather curtains, pierced by two loopholes for his eyes and the reins. There is evidence that his bed was heaped high with “milled” blankets which he manipulated, up or down, in accord with the temperature. He was just, benevolent, shrewd, and his name lived after him. By his will he left five hundred pounds to Harvard University to endow a chair of anatomy and surgery; and after his wife’s death the residue of his estate was to be held for the thirteen Congregational parishes of the county, the income distributed in due proportion to the size of his practice therein. And there opened the door of temptation to the devout: for this sum,[Pg 279] amounting to some four thousand pounds, was to be managed by the deacons and the income expended for such sound doctrinal books as Dodridge on the “Rise and Progress of the Christian Religion,” and Evans on “The Christian Temper.” But the deacons made such good cheer at their annual meetings, which held over sometimes for two or three days at the comfortable tavern of Mrs. Lydia Sturgis in Barnstable, that little of the income was left for the purchase of godly literature. The matter became something of a scandal, and after the lapse of thirty years the court settled the estate and distributed the principal among the several parishes.

Doctor James Thacher, who studied with Hersey and served as a surgeon in the Revolution, died, in 1844, at the age of ninety. Doctor Leonard, of Sandwich, born in 1763 and practising for sixty years, had the enviable reputation of being patient with chronic invalids, prompt in epidemics or “occasional” diseases—in short, a good Christian and a good doctor. He was succeeded by his son, who links up the profession, in the memory of the living with Doctor Gould, of Brewster. Vast, kindly, skilful, sympathetic with his patients to his own hurt, rather silent, who can forget him on his errands of mercy as he drove from house to house or town to town in the “sulky” that was so exact a fit for his bulk the wonder was he must not always carry it upon his back as the snail his shell. It was an ordeal then for a child to be stood on a chair and have that Jovine ear applied to back and chest in lieu of a stethoscope. “Have you a[Pg 280] phial?” inquired Jove of the parent after one such test. Later a terrified infant was abstracted from the depths of a broom-cupboard. “O mother, mother, what is a phial?” cried the victim of his fears.

The early parsons were often, as we have seen, of a fine type—English university men usually, who had travelled far in their quest of freedom. They were perforce, in the new country, farmers as well as clergymen, and one of them, the Reverend John Avery, of Truro, practised, in addition, the arts of doctor, lawyer, and smith. It is written of him that he “manifested great tenderness for the sick, and his people very seriously felt their loss in his death.” He came to them in 1711, and lived active, beneficent years among them until his death in 1754. These Cape pastorates frequently covered a great span of years. In its first century the West Parish of Barnstable had but two ministers. In 1828 died the Reverend Timothy Alden, of Yarmouth, after a tenure of fifty-nine years. Alden was more truly of the soil than many of his brethren, as he was in direct line from John of the Mayflower. He was a man of wit in the choice of his texts: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out,” brought forth on the Monday his stipulated firewood that had been lacking; and to a critic he gave answer on the following Sabbath: “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Mr. Freeman remembers that Alden was the last to wear the Revolutionary costume. As late as 1824 he saw him at an ordination: “his antique wig conspicuous, in small clothes, with knee and[Pg 281] shoe buckles, and three-cornered hat lying nearby—objects of interest to the young.” “He sat there as sometimes stands a solitary, aged oak, surrounded by the younger growth of a later period. It was to us the last exhibition of the great wigs and cocked hats; it left also impressions of a bygone age long to be remembered.”

The pastorates of Mr. Avery, Mr. Upham, and Mr. Damon, of Truro, covered one hundred and eighteen years. It was Mr. Upham who rebated fifty pounds of his salary during the hard times of the Revolution, and gave further evidence of public spirit by travelling to Boston to aid in adjusting “the prices of the necessities of life.” His people were ready to raise one hundred dollars for his expenses. Mr. Upham “left behind him a poem in manuscript, the subject of which was taken from the Book of Job. He was ever attentive to the real good of his people, and exerted himself with zeal and fidelity in their service.” The Reverend Jude Damon was ordained in 1786, and some notion of the festivity may be gathered from the fact that Captain Joshua Atkins was voted forty dollars (Spanish Milled) to defray the expense of entertaining the council. Mr. Damon was voted two hundred pounds “settlement,” and, annually, seventy-five pounds specie, the use of the parsonage, fifteen cords of oak wood, three of pine, and five tons of hay delivered at his door. And Mr. Damon’s comments upon certain of his parishioners, deceased, are preserved for our pleasure in his private memoranda. One Mary Treat, dead at ninety-five, “came from England[Pg 282] at the age of fourteen, and was a person of fine mind and robust constitution. She gave me a tolerable account of London and Westminster bridges, and likewise observed that the distance from Dover to Calais was so small that in a very clear day linen might be seen from one place to another.” Samuel Small was “a pious and good man whose great desire was to be prepared for another and better world and to have an easy passage out of this.” Of the Widow Atkins her “usefulness and activity in sickness and midwifery will be remembered, and her memory will be embalmed with a grateful perfume in the minds of all who were within the circle of her acquaintance.” Another “had a taste for reading both sacred and profane history.” Another, of enterprising spirit, was “greatly prospered in his secular affairs, tender-hearted to the poor.” Vivid little portraits flash out from his page: the husband, “tender and affectionate, as a father distinguished for his talent of governing his children, tempering indulgence with prudence; as a neighbor pleasant and obliging, as a magistrate he was a peacemaker, as a deacon of the church he magnified his office. He came to his grave in full age, like a shock of corn cometh he in season.” Mr. Damon himself was beloved for his tolerance and sweet spirit: of a welcome guest one could say no more than “I would as soon see Mr. Damon.” But his memoranda reveal that Mr. Damon had a keen eye. Of one female parishioner who in her last illness “frequently expressed her desire to be with her Redeemer,” he remarks, “It is to be hoped she was as really pious as[Pg 283] she seemed.” And of one deceased “professor” he wrote that he “was possessed of good abilities and powers of mind. These were, however, much eclipsed by his selfish spirit and avaricious disposition.” To Mr. Damon’s cure belonged a local astronomer, unlettered and untaught, a dreamer, who loved the stars. He knew them all and called them by name, and, meeting with scant sympathy in his star-gazing, scorned not the humblest disciple. “I swear,” he had been known to exclaim, “half the stars might go out of the sky, and nobody here would know it, if it wasn’t for me and Aunt Achsah.”

The pastorates of Mr. Dunster, Mr. Stone, and Mr. Simpkins in the North Parish of Harwich included its transfer to Brewster, and covered a span of one hundred and thirty-one years. Mr. Dunster married Reliance, daughter of Governor Hinckley, who is said to have been baptized on the day of the memorable “swamp fight” that ended King Philip’s War, and received her name in “token of firm reliance in Divine Power” held by her mother for the safety of the father who was fighting that day. Mr. Stone, in 1730, inveighs against “a sad failing in family government—a wicked practice of young people in their courtships which I have borne my public testimony against”—an allusion, no doubt, to the ancient betrothal custom of “sitting-up.” There are interesting cases of parish discipline recorded. In Mr. Dunster’s time, “the church met to hear a charge examined against a sister, brought by another sister in the church, the pushing her out of a pew, and hunching[Pg 284] another in time of divine service in the meeting-house.” And as late as 1820 a committee was appointed “to keep the meeting-house clear of dogs, and to kill them if their owners will not keep them out”; boys, likewise, the committee were to “take care of and keep them still in time of meeting.” No light task, we may guess, where the boys were segregated in a balcony apart as if for the special incitement of mischief; nor were boys the only ones who were irked by those long services. It was the sexton’s duty to turn the glass at the beginning of the sermon, which must be ended with the sand, and Freeman remembers the “early preparation for a determined stampede from the meeting-house the moment that the benediction was pronounced. Coats were buttoned, canes and hats were taken in hand, pew-doors were unbuttoned, and diligent and full preparation was made for a general rush to ensue as soon as the closing Amen should begin to be articulated by the minister. And such a babel of tongues and noisy scattering of devout worshippers as followed was memorable.” Nor is it remarkable that men should have welcomed the Amen as a blessed release when pews must have been stools of penance for a full-bodied sailor, or for a child whose short legs must dangle unsupported, so narrow was the seat, so hard and straight did the back rise therefrom. Mr. Freeman recalls other points of the service, that of the choir “tuning their voices—often with the aid of the bass viol and sometimes violin, during the reading of the psalm,” and the slamming of the hinged seats of the pews when the[Pg 285] congregation rose for the prayer. It would have been papistical then to kneel in the house of God, and a man addressed his Maker stoutly upon his feet; the monotony of the service was further varied, when the last hymn was given out, by standing with backs to the parson as if, his contribution duly delivered, full criticism might be turned upon the choir.

Mr. Simpkins steered Brewster through the troubled times of the Embargo War, and aided with his intercession the deliberations of the town as to paying war tribute to the British. Grandmothers of not many years ago could tell stories of Parson Simpkins, a stately gentleman for whom the best New England rum was kept on the sideboard to cheer his parochial calls. But the parson, on such visits, was not infrequently the herald of disaster: for when a ship arrived with captain or seaman missing, drowned or dead in some foreign port, the minister was first notified, and even if his call were only for pleasure, the wife or mother who saw him coming would have a pang of dread, and the neighbors say: “There goes Mr. Simpkins—bad news for some one.”

One of the last of these long cures, running through thirty-five years, was that of the Reverend Thomas Dawes, worthy successor of his prototypes, a fine, scholarly gentleman of the old school. The rounded periods of his sermons were sometimes applied to the case of his parishioners with a directness that offended sensitive ears, but is valued rightly in the stock-in-trade of many an urban preacher of to-day. “We of Brewster,” he would roll out with melodious emphasis.[Pg 286] His reading of hymn and Scriptures was a remembrance to be treasured, his presence in the pulpit a benediction, and who that had seen him there could forget the shining glory of his face as he “talked with God.” For the children of his parish, through a long season, he made Saul of Tarsus a living personality, and the coasts of the Mediterranean as familiar to them as Cape Cod Bay. He illustrated his instruction by crayon sketches in color, and the scholars saw how Gamaliel’s pupils were grouped about their master’s feet; they knew how a man should adjust his phylactery; and though there were derision of the High Priest’s countenance, there was no confusing the style of his breast-plate with that of a centurion. As he aged, the good pastor became something of a recluse. He loved his books, and through the years amassed in his little study a collection that was typical of the best in his day and generation, with a queer alien blot now and then: for it was said that he could never resist the blandishments of the canvasser and the appeal of the book in his hand. Dying, he left his treasure intact to the village library; nor did he see the necessity for any such stipulation as old John Lothrop’s that his books were only for those who knew how to use them.

The temporal affairs of these good men not infrequently needed mending, nor, as time went on, were the clergy usually recruited from among the natives: Cape Cod men, pursuing their vocations by land and sea, were likely to depute to aliens the less lucrative cure of souls. Versatile Mr. Avery, of Truro, seems to[Pg 287] have come out well in the struggle and to have bequeathed a tidy fortune to his heirs. But Jonathan Russell and Timothy Alden, as we have seen, needed to have a care to their firewood; and Oakes Shaw, the successor of Russell and father of the great chief justice, even had recourse to the constable to adjust the arrears of his stipend. Mrs. Shaw, debating with her son his choice of a profession, was betrayed into some ironical appreciation of the clergy which she was quick to regret. “I hope you will not mistake your talent,” wrote she. “I could name several that took upon them the sacred profession of divinity, this profession so far from regulating their conduct, that their conduct would have disgraced a Hottentot. Others we have seen in various professions who have been an ornament to the Christian religion. I was not aware till I had just finished the last sentence that you might construe it into a discouragement of entering upon the study of divinity. This is not my intention, for I do most sincerely hope that you will make it your study through life whether you ever preach it or not.”

Her son chose the law, and gave us one of the two great men, both of them lawyers, whom the Cape has produced. Palfrey quotes one who went so far as to affirm that “no spot has made such a gift to the country as Great Marshes in Barnstable.” There lived James Otis, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in the troubled times of the Revolution, and there James Otis the patriot was born. James Otis, the younger, when he grew to maturity, removed to Boston,[Pg 288] but he may be counted a son of the Old Colony and an inheritor of its genius. He was far more than a fiery orator whose eloquence was the inspiration of other men’s work; but on a flood of enthusiasm induced by that eloquence he was carried into the House of Representatives. “Out of this election will arise a damned faction,” commented a royalist judge, “which will shake this province to its foundation.” His prediction fell ludicrously short of the event. Otis conducted the patriots’ cause with such “prudence and fortitude, at every sacrifice of personal interest and amidst unceasing persecution,” that the “History of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts” can declare that: “Constitutional government in America, so far as it is expressed in writing, developed largely from the ideas expressed by James Otis and the Massachusetts men who framed the Constitution of 1780.”

And the man who more than any other in Massachusetts was to perfect their work, who stands beside the great Marshall in the history of American jurisprudence, and by the wise decisions of a temperate mind established the flow of justice through the channel of the common law, was also a native of Great Marshes. There, in 1781, when the work of the earlier patriots was accomplished, Lemuel Shaw was born. Slowly, irresistibly, by sheer force of worth and capacity, he advanced to fame. He was graduated from Harvard, he entered the law, and for twenty-six years practised his profession in Boston. At one time and another he served in the General Court, he was firewarden,[Pg 289] selectman, a member of the school committee, and of the constitutional convention of 1820; and in 1830, when he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, his sane inheritance, his tempered judgment, his wide experience of law and of men, had forged a mind perfectly adapted to his opportunity. In his thirty years upon the bench he enriched incalculably the sparse records of the common law. In the opinion of a fellow jurist, “The distinguishing characteristic of his judicial work was the application of the general principles of law, by a virile and learned mind, with a statesman’s breadth of vision and amplitude of wisdom to the novel conditions presented by a rapidly changing civilization.” The Pilgrims had brought here and practised the Anglo-Saxon conception of such freedom as is commensurate with justice to all. “They brought along with them their national genius,” wrote Saint John de Crèvecœur in his “Letters from an American Farmer,” in 1782, “to which they principally owe what liberty they enjoy, and what substance they possess.” It was the great American jurists who developed and adapted that conception of justice for the due guidance of the new nation.

Shaw lived in Boston, but, unlike James Otis, he never gave up his hold upon his native town. He loved the village roads and Great Marshes and the sea. And, curiously, as if again the magic of the sea’s charm persisted in the fortunes of its children, Shaw’s daughter married Herman Melville, the author of “Typee” and “Omoo.” Shaw was fond of children,[Pg 290] and used to drive his little granddaughter about Boston in his old chaise; there is a story of his being caught by a visitor at a game of bear with the children. But he could be stern enough on the bench; and a sharp practitioner, complaining of his severity, was tartly reminded by a fellow lawyer that “while we have jackals and hyenas at the bar, we want the old lion on the bench with one blow of his huge paw to bring their scalps about their eyes.”

Shaw spoke again and again at local celebrations on the Cape. At one such banquet he might have proposed, or answered, the toast to “Cape Cod Our Home: The first to honor the Pilgrim ship, the first to receive the Pilgrim feet; the first and always the dearest in the memory of her children everywhere.” But it was at Yarmouth that he expressed best, perhaps, the loyalties of his great heart: “There is not one visitor here male or female whose heart is not penetrated with the deep and endearing sentiment, at once joyous and sad, which makes up the indescribable charm of home.”

[Pg 291]



Otis and Shaw were great, and the qualities that made them so, particularly those of Shaw, were indigenous to the soil. It is interesting to look through a book like Freeman’s “Cape Cod,” and study there the portraits of the men who built this unique community. They are often singularly handsome, with a fine, well-bred, upstanding air. They, preëminently, are not villagers, but men of the world who know their world well and have considered its works. Perhaps in every face, whether it has beauty of line or the homely ruggedness graved by generations of positive character, the dominant feature is a certain poise of mind: these men would think, and then judge; they would look at you straight, and it would be difficult for you to conceal your purpose. It would be easier to be persuaded than to persuade them; and in the end it is probable that your yielding would be justified in wisdom. From such characters could be drawn a composite that might fitly be the genius loci; and lest its secret charm elude us and Cape Cod appear no more than a pleasing sandy offshoot of New England, we should do well to learn of him. He is, as we see him, in essence a follower of the sea: one who pursues romance to mould it to everyday use. For a closer aspect it may be convenient to place him in the[Pg 292] eighteen-forties, or earlier, at latest the fifties, in the great days of the clippers.

On the old sailing-vessel there was a constant duel, to challenge the temper of him, between a man’s wit and the lambent will of the sea. And although the steamship has a romance and daring of its own—a puny hull that carries forth upon the waters a little flare of flame to wage the old warfare—it was with sails aloft and no wires from shore that a lad then, who had the gift of using the decisive moment, would best find a career. The master of a ship was master in the markets ashore, and there, or afloat, he must be quick to seize fortune as it came. It is said of such a one that “he had the air, as he had the habit, of success.” He was no reckless adventurer, but aimed to earn an honest living as soberly as any stay-at-home, for whom, and also, perhaps, for fishermen on the Banks, he may have had some easy condescension. He was the aristocrat of the sea. When adventure met him by the way, so much the better if young blood ran hot; but the majority were shrewd cool merchants who sold and bought where their judgment pointed them. They were expert in seamanship because that was one of the tools of their trade; and when they turned a tidy profit on some voyage, they bought shares in the ships they sailed, or others, investing in a business whose every turn was familiar to them, until they could leave the sea to become farmers, or ship-chandlers, or East India merchants. If the seaman founded a house in the city, he sent his boys to college, and took one or two of them into his[Pg 293] office to train them as merchants; and in not many decades the same absorbing hazard of trade was to be carried on by other means, or, if by ocean traffic, “steam-kettle sailors” were servants of the counting-rooms ashore.

But our genius loci, who was familiar with the cities of the world, chose for his home the town where he was born. When fortune warranted, he married a wife, and built in the village a house that was adorned, voyage after voyage, with a gradual store of treasures from Europe and the East. His women-folk wore the delicate tissues of foreign looms, and managed the farm when he was away, and practised intellectualities; they cooked, sewed, painted, accomplished a dozen small arts with exquisite care. They were ready for the relaxations of society when ships made port, and the village swung to the tune of a larger world. The seafarer loved them with a reticence called for by the custom of the day, and with a tender chivalry that might be the envy of any time.

There is a pretty story of one old captain—men commanded their ships at twenty and were old at forty—whose treasure was a little daughter. She had a maimed foot that must undergo a cruel cure, and for a bribe she had been promised dancing-lessons, the dearest wish of her childish heart. Her ordeal passed, the captain kept faith with her. Through a long winter, while he waited for his ship, in starlight or snow he set the child upon his shoulder and bore her to the hall where the old fiddler taught the boys and girls their steps, and there danced with her,[Pg 294] envied because of such attendance, until the foot grew strong and she, who had been shy from the misfortune that had marked her difference in the children’s world, blossomed into the merriest little jade of all the company.

And for him, all the watery highways he must travel were only the road to lead him home. There, his adventure achieved, he lived healthily upon the produce of his farm; poverty, the city kinsman was ready to aver, his only fault. But he had more than enough for the life he had chosen; his manners were as polished and his speeches fine as if he trod the pavement instead of driving about his beloved country roads—he had paced too many miles of deck to walk a rod ashore. He had rich memories, and discrimination in choosing the elements essential to happiness. What should a man need more? And when the end came, and in the graveyard with an outlook to blue water from the hillside where the willows drooped low, he lay beside her whom he loved best, the epitaph there might be, for her: “During a long life she performed all her duties with fidelity and zeal, and died in the triumph of Christian faith and resignation.” And for him: “His integrity of character gave him an honorable distinction among his fellow citizens: his private virtues endeared him to all: his end was peace.”


We do well, now and again, to make friends with another time than our own; and by good fortune some of us, then, may find a path to the Cape of pines and [Pg 295]dunes where lay a township recreated for us in twilight stories by the nursery fire. Here peaked-roof houses look out over “the lilac trees which bear no fruit but a pleasant smell,” willow and silvery poplars meet above the road, and here genial spirits populate the brave old time—days when deep-water sailors hailed the little town as home, and women, demure, pure-faced, neat-footed, kept the houses as spotless as their hearts.


From month on to month, the village might have been a colony forsworn by world and men; but when the Flying Cloud or Halcyon made port, it brimmed with life eager to have its due before next sailing-day. From the cap’n’s mansion on Main Street to the low-eaved house whose oldest son swung his hammock in the fo’c’s’le, doors opened with an easy welcome. This home had sent a mate, that a cabin boy, another would never see again the brave fellow who had been lost off Mozambique. They had been as sons to the “old man,” who on the planks of his ship was patriarch or despot as character should determine; but now all were equal by the freemasonry of home. Sea-chests gave up their treasure, and bits of ebony and jade were added to mantel curios, an ivory junk spread its crimson sail beside the Tower of Pisa, a spirited portrait of the Leviathan entering the port of Malaga was hung opposite the waxen survival of Aunt Jane’s funeral wreath. And in shaded parlors the fragrance of sandalwood and attar-of-rose and the spicy odor of lacquer mingled with the breath of syringa wafted in from the garden.

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Then there was an interchange of high festivities among the cap’n’s families when French china, latticed with gold, set off Belfast damask, and the silver tea-service, which Cap’n Jason had brought from Russia in ’36, stood cheek by jowl with East Indian condiment and English glass. Amid the rustle of lustrous satin and silk the guests gathered about the board, and cups were stood in cup-plates while tea was sipped from saucers poised in delicately crooked fingers. Conversation swung easily around the world, from adventures in the Spanish Main to a dinner at “Melbun” on the English barque whose captain they had greeted in every harbor of the globe where trade was good; and they recalled with Homeric jest the ball at Singapore when many friendly ships rode at anchor in the bay.

But it was on a Sunday that the town blossomed as sweetly as any rose in June, when wives and sweethearts, in silks and fairy peñas and wraps heavy with patient embroideries of the East, made their way to the village church where a second mate led the hymns with his flute and the cap’n droned after on a viol. “There is a land mine eye hath seen” swelled into a joyous chorus of treble and rumbling bass, while men thought of the sultry day at Surinam when they had longed for the “blissful shores” of home. And as the parson made his prayer for “those who go down to the sea in ships,” they pitied the poor fellows whose guidepost was a compass as cheerfully as if they themselves were to dare no perils greater than the Big Channel in the bay. Church over, the road was aflutter with[Pg 297] rainbow color. And sunburnt beaux in tight white trousers, blue coats, agonizing stocks, and top-hats rakishly a-tilt, peered under the arc of leghorn bonnets where moss-rosebuds nestled against smoothly banded hair, while beneath his surtout and her mantilla or pelisse the hearts beat out their mating-tune.


All of us have our land of refuge: for one it is a town, or a house endeared by its remembered atmosphere of simplicity and health; another needs but to cross the threshold of a room where sits the being who has been the best friend of every year; a third has only the land of dreams to people at his will. And one refreshes the ideals of his youth, perhaps, or seeks to wipe out with forgetfulness the scar of some old sin; others, faint with terror for the fate of ships that drift in black seas of hate and lust, find the comfort of cleared vision and steadier brain.

The nation has its land of renewal in the genius of our fathers. Those early Pilgrims, the first immigrants, had by nature the spirit of democracy. They recognized what one man owes another: they were “tied to all care of each other’s good.” They were prepared for growth and change. With good John Robinson, they kept an open mind, nor did they believe that God had “revealed his whole will to them.” “It is not possible,” they held, “that full perfection of knowledge should break forth all at once.” For their Fundamentals, they took over the best body of law that the time afforded, but with no rigid mind: they adapted and[Pg 298] added to the law of their fathers with a flexibility that gave genuine freedom to men of their day and promised freedom to the future. The laws they passed were calculated to ensure a man’s loyalty, and to help him live straight. “Government exists that men may live in happy homes,” might have been their dictum. They were entirely human: they enjoyed the free life of the open, and feasting, and the sober perfection of their dress; they liked a fair fight and no favor; they liked best of all a man’s job, and labored unswervingly to bring to pass their ideal of what life should be. Their feet were on the ground, and they exulted in the fact that their vision reached beyond the clouds. If it be true that “no country can escape the implication of the ideas upon which it was founded,” it were well that our feet should be set on that same ground of vigorous simplicity and faith, our vision, though with another aspect than theirs, reach above the clouds. They passed on an inheritance of sane and clear and just thought that we should do well to use: that, and belief in the progressive revelation of truth. And by happy chance the spot they chose for home—New England, Plymouth, the dunes and meadows of the Cape—typifies their very spirit: the homely beauty, the invigorating atmosphere, the health of salt winds and cleansing of the sea.


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The Riverside Press
U . S . A



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Transcriber’s Notes