Archive for June, 2012


June 29, 2012


At the end of the nineteenth century the house on Old Shore Road in Cotuit that we know as “the Ropes House” was called “Pine Bluff” and was the year-round residence of the powerful politician General John “Jack” Reed.

Jack Reed’s friend, the New York schoolmaster James H. Morse described him as “red-faced, bluff old Squire Reed”, “a high liver evidenced in his rubicund face and his gout.”

John Hooper Reed was born in 1827, the son of a wealthy Boston merchant who made a fortune in the Russian flax trade and American railroads and steel, and who founded the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.

Jack Reed’s mother was Elizabeth Hooper, elder sister of Cotuit’s first summer resident, Samuel Hooper. Jack was with his uncle on Hooper’s first visit to Cotuit in 1849, when he bought a house overlooking Cotuit Bay that was built in 1783 by Ebenezer Crocker.

The story behind the purchase of the house is that Samuel Hooper could find no captain to go to China for him since all had gone off to California. He heard there might be an available captain in Cotuit, and approached the postmaster Captain Alexander Scudder. Captain Scudder was attracted by Mr. Hooper’s generous offer to take a ship to China but asked who would take care of his house and farm. Mr. Hooper paid for the farm and house, and became the first summer resident of Cotuit, and perhaps of Cape Cod.

Mr. Hooper made his nephew, Jack Reed, his assistant in the China trade, and later in national politics when Mr. Hooper became congressman. About 1851 Reed became partner of Samuel Hooper and William Appleton in the profitable trade in silver (and perhaps opium) for tea and silk, on clipper ships such as the “Courser” and “Nabob”. Young Mr. Reed made a voyage to the Orient, probably as supercargo, or financial manager, for the voyage. He was part owner of the clipper ship “Living Age” which left Hong Kong with a cargo of tea and silk but ran up on Pratas reef in the South China Sea in an account by its second mate Frederic Hinckley of Marstons Mills.

In his early thirties John Reed became aide to two Republican governors of Massachusetts, Nathaniel Banks and John Andrew. He also had military experience in Boston’s Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest militia unit on the continent which began in 1638). On the outbreak of the Civil War, as the company’s colonel, he was promoted to brigadier general as quartermaster of the state militia. General Reed went to Washington to inform President Lincoln of the state of preparedness for the war.

He was most proud of his actions after he was appointed Quartermaster General in charge of outfitting the state’s regiments in the Civil War. He equipped the first troops sent off to battle, 27th Mass. Infantry Regiment, trained at a camp in Springfield named for him. The regiment  was transported to Baltimore to chase out rebel units, and relieve the siege of the nation’s capital. At Baltimore, Confederate sympathizers had attacked another Massachusetts unit, the Ninth Regiment, causing the first bloodshed of the war. When it was learned that the Union’s first prisoners of war at Ft. Monroe had no blankets or clothing for the cold winter of 1861, he shipped off 850 blankets, along with coats and other winter clothing.

General Reed’s profile is commemorated on the bronze plaque on the Soldier & Sailors Monument in Boston Common.

After the war, while he was treasurer of his father’s steel foundry in South Boston, he was active in national Republican politics, living at 178 Beacon Street facing the Boston Common. His wife died in 1877 and General Reed moved to Cotuit full time, living in his uncle Samuel Hooper’s house at 49 Old Shore Road. He improved “Pine Bluff” by adding the second story gable facing the water, which a later owner Harriet Ropes Cabot called “the nose”. In 1880, Cotuit’s minister married him to his housekeeper, Martha Synette, from Liverpool, a woman not fully approved by Brahmin society..

James Morse described General Reed’s life in Cotuit as having “qualities of an English sporting ‘squire’”. One time president of the county agricultural society, he grew record crops of carrots and produced roses in November. He was a leader in the Cape Cod Historical Society and the 250th celebrations of the town. Above all, he dominated Republican politics in a Republican region, even serving as elector of President Harrison in 1888. Cotuit knew him as the leader of the Republican faction in its biggest political battle over the lady postmistress, and the election of the first Indian, Watson Hammond, to the state legislature. (Both stories have been told in past columns).

China trader, Civil War general, steel rail manufacturer, powerful politician, country squire, and justice of the peace, John Hooper Reed died in 1899, and rests in America’s first garden cemetery, Mt. Auburn.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 29 June 2012.



June 2, 2012


Watson F. Hammond was the first Indian ever to serve in the Massachusetts legislature, representing both Barnstable and Mashpee in 1885.

He was son of John Hammond, a Montauk Indian of Sag Harbor, Long Island, a port which had pioneered whaling in the Russian Bering Sea. John held over 50 acres of land on Mashpee Neck. Watson was born in Boston’s North End in 1837, his father died when he was seven, and he joined an uncle in Mashpee, staying at the Attaquin Hotel, whose famous innkeeper Solomon Attaquin he remembered as “Sol”.

At age 14 he sailed on the New Bedford whaling ship Liverpool to the north Pacific, as a greenhorn (an inexperienced novice) under Capt. Weston Swift. Twenty months out they were hunting bowhead whales in the Bering Sea, between Siberia and Russian Alaska. 70 miles north of the Arctic town of Nome, in the bay of Port Clarence, the ship struck a reef, and began to sink. They were rescued by Capt. Charles West’s bark Helen Augusta out of Holmes Hole on the Vineyard, which towed the wreck 167 miles to the tiny Russian port of St. Lawrence in the middle of the Bering Sea. Unable to repair the damage, the cargo was unloaded onto the Helen Augusta, and the Liverpool was set afire and sunk. The Helen Augusta took Watson home, after three years away.

At age 17, he began service as a seaman for 15 years, and returned to Mashpee in 1869 to marry Rebecca C. Amos. She was the daughter of the famous Baptist preacher “Blind Joe” Amos, who ousted the Harvard appointed minister to the Mashpee church, and led the “Woodlot Revolt”of Indian independence in an act of civil disobedience by dumping wagon loads of lumber which had been cut by white men. The ouster has a story of its own. The Reverend Phineas Fish of Santuit had been appointed by Harvard to be minister of the Mashpee church, but he was so unpopular that he was locked out by his parishioners, led by Reverend Joe Amos.

Rebecca and Watson had seven children, the oldest being Mashpee teacher and Town Clerk Charles Hammond. Watson was a keen observer of nature who showed naturalists the location of unusual pink lilies. He was also a successful cranberry grower of bogs on the Mashpee River, including Pine Grove and Tumtum bogs.

He was also a gifted inventor. In 1883 he patented a cranberry separator. In 1880 he drilled a well big enough for a ten inch pipe on Main St. in Cotuit for Capt. Jarvis Nickerson in 1880. He passed this skill on to his son, Lorenzo Hammond, also known as Chief Little Bear.

Watson held every Mashpee town office: town clerk, moderator, selectman, surveyor, and long-time treasurer, and effectively leader of the Mashpee tribe. He was also longtime deacon of the church, and onetime manager of the popular hunting lodge Attaquin Hotel in Mashpee where President Cleveland stayed on fishing vacations.

His greatest achievement was his election as the first Native American in the Massachusetts legislature. This came about when Mashpee nominated him as its most prominent citizen to serve at Beacon Hill. Mashpee’s votes were solidly Republican, the party of Lincoln, who had freed the slaves. But the voters of Barnstable far outnumbered those in Mashpee. The incumbent representative, popular clipper ship Capt. Zenas E. Crowell of Hyannis was in his last term. He died the next year. Cotuit’s Republican leader General John H. Reed may have seen a chance to bring Mashpee’s votes to the Republican cause.
Watson Hammond beat the Democratic candidate “Cranberry King” A. D. Makepeace by 77 votes out of 432. The victory celebration was held in Cotuit at the Samuel Hooper house, hosted by the Republican boss, General John Reed, with Representative Capt. Crowell graciously attending.

Massachusetts’ first Indian representative is buried near the Mashpee Indian Meeting House.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 1 June 2012.