Archive for the ‘Barnstable History’ Category

BARNSTABLE WOMEN: PART IV: MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY

November 5, 2014

PART IV MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY BARNSTABLE WOMEN

Nita1
Nita Morse Crawford 1890-1975  Owner and manager of popular Pines Hotel in Cotuit for 48 years 1910-58; founded Historical Society of Santuit and Cotuit 1951, donating Dottridge Homestead for museum and headquarters.

Floss Rapp 1918
Florence “Floss” Rapp 1891-1974 First historian of Cotuit “Looking Back (Bits of History Its Founders and their Homes)” 1974; co-founder of Historical Society 1951.
photo courtesy of Rosemary Rapp

WorrellDorothy
Dorothy Worrell 1892-1983 Cape Cod historian, founded Tales of Cape Cod pioneering recording of oral histories of Cape Codders;  author and journalist.

putnam
Dr. Marian Cabot Putnam 1893-1972.  One of first child psychologists in America, grew up summers in Cotuit; founded 1943 Putnam Childrens Center, where Terry Brazelton began work.

SawyerSally
Marian “Sally” Sawyer 1894-1996 One of founders of Barnstable Comedy Club;  partner of:
Helen MacLellan 1895-1981 Started first radio station on Cape Cod, WOCB, called “The Voice of Cape Cod”; niece of Richard Winfield, developer of Grand Island, Osterville. She made her home in The Place which she rescued after the death of President Lowell.

The Place

Taussig by  KarshDr. Helen Taussig 1898-1986 Cardiac surgeon who developed procedure to save “blue babies” ; grew up sailing in Cotuit, and summered here all her life.

BARNSTABLE WOMEN PART III: Early Twentieth Century

October 29, 2014

PART III: Early Twentieth Century Women of Barnstable

ora
Ora Adams Hinckley 1857-1943   First full-time librarian Hyannis Public Library 1909 to 1943. Wrote of  50 “Women Who Went to Sea” for Trayser’s Barnstable.

clara

Clara Jane Hallett 1858-1959.  Hyannis historian was still writing her weekly column at age 100. 40 years weekly column in Barnstable Patriot; Born and died in Hyannis; lived on Ocean Street house noted for its rambler roses, with friend Hattie J. Frost; suffragist president League of Women Voters; prolific poet, including song for opening of Idle Hour movie theater: “Hyannis—dear Hy-an-nis//we’ve dreamed of halls like this, where we might spend an “Idle Hour”//learning of the great world’s power” (Patriot 4 Aug. 1912).

DixonSarahAnn

Rev. Sarah A. Dixon 1866-1939 born and buried Cummaquid. Methodist minister, Cape Cod poet; friend of Rev. Anna H. Shaw; first pastor of  Hyannis Federated Church 1921, uniting Universalists and Congregationalists; photo Schearer-Gober-Seale.

beach

Amy Beach 1867-1944 Most famous American woman composer and pianist.  Summered Long Pond Main St. Centerville 1897 ff.  Most of her most popular works were composed after she came here.Photo Hampsong Fdn.
Adelaide Crowell Wyer 1867-1919 T 321 seagoing wife of SS Capt. William Wyer Boston-Phila.

lincoln
Mary Edward Lincoln 1868-1955 “Old Spice” Centerville character whose home is now Centerville Historical Museum.  (Zuniga 92, Herberger 144-5).

MaryBarton.tif

Mary Lowell Barton 1868-1957 Cotuit conservationist. Her will protected forest around Eagle Pond from development; Mary Barton Trust saved 108 acres, and added additional land that became part of Barnstable Land Trust 2013.

Fanny Huntington Quincy Howe 1870–1933 Essayist who wrote under pseudonym Wilmer Price. Summered in Cotuit, mother of monologist and author Helen Howe (see below) grandmother of poet Fanny Howe and playwright Tina Howe, and great-grandmother of author Danzy Senna.

BakerMabel
Mabel Kimball Baker 1871-1965 Founded Colonial Candle company, “The Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” of Lights 1909, starting in her kitchen on East Main St. in Hyannis, making  bayberry candles for Christmas gifts; 1921 candle factory to 2003.

Amy

Amy Lowell 1874-1925  Pulitzer Prize winning poet, guest of  her brother Harvard President  A. L. Lowell in Cotuit. (photo Carl Rollyson).

kirkman

Mary “May” Lewis Kirkman 1875-1956 Benefactor of cemeteries and libraries who left $1.5 million of her soap inheritance to “town” of Cotuit, which court interpreted as the whole of Barnstable.

JenkinsElizabeth

Elizabeth Crocker Jenkins 1876-1956 “The Woman Who Saved a Church”, the 1717 Rooster Church in W. Barnstable; also restored Shaw homestead, and co-co-co-founded the Barnstable Historical Society 1939.

Pearlstein
Annie Pearlstein 1878-1945 Marstons Mills widow who began successful women’s clothing store in Hyannis, and donated the torah for the first Jewish religious service on Cape Cod, held at her home on Ocean St.
Mary Sampson Crocker 1882-1951 Concert pianist, accompanist to Mary Garden, the famous operatic soprano, who was called “the Sarah Bernhardt of opera”; see obit in Patriot.
Mary Almy 1883-1967 Pioneer woman architect, her first house built in Cotuit on the Narrows. Partner of  women’s architectural firm of Howe, Manning and Almy. Her most notable project was the Charles Almy House, a Georgian Revival style, in Cambridge (Cole & Taylor, 45-52).  She was involved with building the Laughlin House in Hyannis Port (1929), the Morse House in Cotuit (1928), the McGiffert House on Bayberry Point in West Falmouth (1929), faculty housing at Stevens Institute of Technology,  low-cost housing and slum clearance during the Depression (1933).

Zion

Harriet I. McCoy “Ma” Grace 1884-1966.  Founder 1909 and Pastor Zion Union Church, Hyannis.
Elnora Pinkney Rose 1886-1963 Black woman, daughter of slaves, who founded popular Roseland Dance Hall in Marstons Mills.
Frieda Landers 1889-1991 German-born entrepreneur who established turkey farm in Little River, Cotuit, supplying the Kennedy family their Thanksgiving turkey.


Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy 1890-1995 Summered Hyannis Port 70 years 1926 until death there at age 104; mother of the President (photo biography.co.uk).

NEXT:  See PART IV MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY BARNSTABLE WOMEN

BARNSTABLE WOMEN Part II Late Nineteenth Century

October 26, 2014

BARNSTABLE WOMEN PART II: late Nineteenth Century.

Lucretia
Lucretia Crocker 1829-1886 Born in West Barnstable, she was the first woman supervisor of the Boston Public Schools 1876, famous for pioneering the discovery method of teaching mathematics and the natural sciences; professor of mathematics and astronomy Antioch College 1857-9;  long bio in Boston Women’s Heritage.

Maria L. Bearse  1829-1913 T 318 went across US to join husband Allen Bearse’s ship     Radiant for Japan.
Sarah L. Lothrop 1830-89. T 318 At sea on husband Sylvester’s Rambler.
Abbie Lewis Baker 1830-77 T 319 At sea w/ husband Elnathan.
Susan Crowell 1831-1908 T 315 H 79. At sea w/ husband Elkanah III, on near-clipper Air Wind 1300 tons to China; record sail SF-Honolulu; child born at sea..
Ellen Bursley  1831-95 T 315 Hyannis wife of deepwater Capt. Francis A. Bursley—at sea
Mary “Sam” Hallett 1834-1900 T 317 H  122 Hyannis to sea w/ deepwater Capt. Samuel—rounded both capes; Turkish rug.
Arabella Crowell 1835-1903 T 320 went South with steamer Capt. Sidney Crowell, took 2 daughters to school there.

ellowell

Elizabeth Gilbert Lowell (Jones) c. 1839-1904 daughter of founder of New York Times, married 1877 historian Edward Jackson Lowell.  She raised the three children of his first wife: Alice 9, later wife of Prof. James H. Ropes, the famous architect Guy 7, and impressionist artist Frederick 3. They summered in Cotuit, first at the Andrew Lovell (Dr. Putnam) house, then 1893 in the Ebenezer Crocker (Hooper) house.  In 1906 her heirs  donated to the town of Barnstable the land and building of the Elizabeth Lowell High School.

 

Lucy Gibbons Morse 1839-1936 daughter of famous Quaker prison reformer Abbie Hopper Gibbons who often visited her daughter in Cotuit; Lucy founded Cotuit Library 1885. Noted for her cutout silhouettes, which decorated the Harvard dorms.

morse

Eleanor Knowles Thacher 1839-1913 T 318 went on 2 clipper trips on Chariot of Fame with father Allen Knowles.
Mary L. Peak 1839-1918 T 319 many trips w/ husband deepwater (to Mediterranean) Capt. Samuel on brig William Robinson.
Josephine Crowell Wilcox 1839-1917 T 322 storm off Texas with father SS Capt. Abner Crowell of Merchants & Miners Line.
Juliet A. Hallett Lewis 1840-1917 T 317 H135 to sea w/ Capt. Wm. Penn Lewis on Hooghly 105  days from Singapore-Boston 1888. 3x Cape/ Hope; Hurricane.
Lydia Goodspeed Landers 1841-1921. Cotuit petticoat sailor, born Little River, whaling wife of  Capt. Landers, master of today’s  oldest wooden ship, Charles W. Morgan. Since the ship’s owners opposed taking women aboard, she traveled 5000 miles on steamships from NY, Panama, Acapulco, San Francisco to join his ship in Honolulu 1865, at an estimated cost of $425.  For her comfort on board her husband made her a gimbel bed to relieve seasickness, and gamming chair to visit women on other ships.  Her son Arthur was born Guam 1865.

landers

Amelia Parker 1841-88 T 322 trip with SS captain Josiah of Merchant & Miners Line.
Mary “Edwin” Baxter 1842-1939 T 320 to sea with father Capt. Edwin Baxter.
Lucie Stone Crocker 1842-1900 H 74. To sea w/ husband Alexander Crocker, to Zanzibar & Madagascar?

clover
Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams 1843 – 1885 Niece of Samuel Hooper at whose home in Cotuit she grew up, and honeymooned there with her husband Henry James; she was a pioneer woman photographer, novelist; remembered in famous statue of grief by the sculptor St. Gaudens.

grief

 

.
Josephine Crowell Frost Howe  ?1843-1913?  T 316 honeymoon to China 1876 w/ deepwater Capt. Wallace W.. Not sure of her dates.
Elizabeth Ann Baxter 1844-1923 T 312, H 33.  2 children born en route to Burma on ship John N. Cushing: Annie Malacca Baxter 1873 and Davis Baxter; daughter born Bombay; mutiny. piano; Capt. Ezekiel Baker’s mongoose.
Imogene Peak Crocker 1846-1900 T 314 born Pt. Gammon lighthouse; at sea w/ husband Capt. William Crocker, incl. Surinam.
Caroline “Carrie” Frost 1846-1906 T 316 wife of coasting Capt. George, Hyannisport.
Caroline E. Bassett 1846-1915 T 320 took 3 sons on trip to S. America w/ husband coaster Capt. Ferdinand Bassett.
Anna Howard  Shaw 1847-1919 National leader of women’s suffrage movement; Methodist minister; medical doctor; born in England, raised in Michigan log cabin; came to Cape Cod 1876 as substitute minister; 7 years minister E. Dennis 1878-85, also in Dennis; bought land Wianno Beach in Osterville 1892, built cottage “The Haven” on Seaview Av. where women scandalously bathed in men’s bathing suits; gave the house 1916 to her lifelong partner Lucy Anthony, niece of Susan B.  Died campaigning for League of Nations with Cotuit neighbor Harvard president Lowell and former President Taft.

shaw
Photo Iowa State U.
Elizabeth Buffum Chace 1847-1929 Osterville suffragist leader.
Adeline S. Brown 1847-1909. T 319 15 coaster trips with ice from Maine to W. Indies w/ husband Allen H. Brown.
Emma Coleman 1848-1922 T 322 went with Metropolitan Line steamer husband Capt. Albert with 2 daughters, Lizzie Esther 1888-1953..
Ida Pitcher Frost 1849-1921 T 316.  Wife of Capt. John H. Frost, Capt. of Conqueror & clipper Agenor; she  went to SF to sail to China & Japan—not sure what ship; adopted dau. of Dr. Pitcher of Castoria medicine.
Sylvia Baxter Crowell Allyn 1850-1923   T 308-9, H 9  6 trips around the world, ending in wreck of the Titan in hurricane off Yucatan; rescue by rope to Norwegian ship 1894; husband Capt. H. Howard Allyn.
Sallie Crowell Bassett 1851- 1945 T 320 Last of the seahens, to sea with father deepwater Capt. Abner Crowell and husband coaster Capt. Jacob P. H. Bassett.
Mary Elizabeth Donnell Case 1855-1921 T 320 Munching drawer on Independent, husband coaster Capt. Willis L. Case.
Fostina Bassett Baker 1857-1943 T 319.  Next to last  of the seahens: wife of Capt. Eleazer Baker of SS General Whitney and H.F.Dimmock; storm on SS Glaucus.

NEXT: Barnstable Women: Part III Early Twentieth Century

Celebrating Barnstable Women: Part I. The Early Years

October 24, 2014

Although women have been half the population of Barnstable, and often the most influential, historians have almost completely ignored their contributions to 375 years of the town’s history.  For the first time, Cotuit Historical Society’s Historian Jim Gould illustrates the significant role of Barnstable women with photos and stories of their achievements.
To read the history of Barnstable, one would suppose that everything was exclusively done by men. Although women have been half the population of Barnstable, and often the most influential, historians have almost completely ignored them.   With the exception of the famous Mercy Otis Warren, they have been forgotten.  No article or book or scholarly thesis has ever told the story of their contributions to the 375 years of the town’s history.  Here, for the first time,  Cotuit Historical Society’s Historian Jim Gould illustrates the significant role of Barnstable women with photos and stories of their achievements.  He hopes that this presentation will encourage the audience add other women to the lost history of Barnstable women.

women

Syucy  c. 1710 In the Massachusetts Archives there is a document recording that a native American woman was allocating farming plots on Grand Island, between Cotuit and Osterville.  The  island appears to have been part of the land which the local Wampanoag leader Poppmonuck reserved for Indian use, and protected  from white men’s cattle by a promised fence.  We do not know if she was related to Poppmunuck, but her responsibility indicates a leadership role that we expect from native women. (Photo Daily Life; Wamp. Women).

Lisa Towerhill/Elizabeth Blatchford 1711-90.  Legend has it that Lisa Towerhill was a witch. Ansel Wood of West Barnstable falsely accused her of putting a bridle and saddle on him at night and often riding him to Plum Pudding Pond in Plymouth to join witches in nocturnal orgies. Although Wood was clearly hallucinating such wild stories were widely circulated.  Others claimed she could change into a black cat.  A party to which she was not invited was disgusted when the butter turned rancid, the tea undrinkably bitter and the pie stuffed with sheep’s wool.  A man who could detect witches (a seventh son according to legend) saw her come in and smoke her pipe by the fire; all the others saw only a black cat. Liza, called Towerhill because her husband’s family came from the part of London near the Tower, led a perfectly respectable life according to church records, but she was a strong woman.  As a widow she raised seven children, ran the farm, sold cloth she wove. At age seventy she was out plowing a new field and ran into a stump. Thrown down, she got up and finished the job.  Amos Otis partly accounts the accusations of witchcraft to the isolation of her farm, in the forest that is still remote, beyond the Yarmouth Campground, then wolf-infested and passed by an Indian trail.  (Amos Otis, Genea. Notes 99-102; Patriot 19 March 1860.  photo Salem witch coolinterestingstuff).

salem-witches
Desire Crocker Sampson 1727-1804.  Inherited much of Crocker estate in Cotuit, including grist mill and main house on road to the mill; married Cornelius Sampson of Rochester 1747, bringing in the Sampson family, who inherited it from her.
Mercy Otis Warren 1728-1819 “Muse of the Revolution”. In 1772-5 she picked up the cause of protest against British impositions which her brother had pioneered, Mercy wrote three political plays which criticized the colonial government.  She wrote poetry celebrating the Boston Tea Party and criticized women who supported British rule.  During the Revolution she published patriotic poetry and plays, and wrote a political pamphlet  on the Constitution calling for a bill of rights.  In 1805 she published one of the first histories of the Revolution.  Photo the  federalist papers

index
Abigail Freeman 1729-1788.   Widow Nabby Freeman paid the price for talking about politics.  She ran a little grocery next to the Court House on the town green in Barnstable village.  In the midst of the Crocker Quarrels of 1776 she made the mistake of talking about loyalty to the king.  She refused to let the “Patriots” burn her store of the hated tea.  So a gang of men took her out of bed and gave her a more humane punishment than the traditional dunking in the pond, which too often drowned the offender.  They poured hot tar over her head, covered her with feathers, and held her on a fence rail carried by two young men until she promised not to talk politics. (Trayser 124, Otis 233-4. photo women tar & feather Jane Longley afflictor.com).

425px-Retribution_-_tarring_and_feathering_-_or_-_the_patriots_revenge_by_James_Gillray-1
Mary Dunn 1778-1850  Gave her name to town’s westernmost road and Mary Dunn Pond, where the endangered flower Plymouth Gentian blooms.  Falsely rumored to be a witch who died with a snake entwined on her neck, she was a fortune teller, an Indian with Negro ancestry, who lived at Tip-top Farm at the north end of today’s Hyannis Airport. (art. By Jack Braginton-Smith and Duncan Oliver.
photo native plants of Cape Cod.

dunn
Sophia Lovell Baker 1799-1875  T 310  Honeymooned to Jamaica w/ husband Seth, where they were picked up for palanquin ride to plantation palace of acting Gov. Arojah, after whom they named their first son Edward Arojah Baker.
Martha Coleman 1812-89.  Founded first resort hotel on Cape Cod, popular Santuit Inn 1864. This was expansion of her boarding house at Hooper’s Landing providing accommodation for passengers on Nantucket packet.

SANTUITHOUSE
Eleanor Baxter 1818-75 T 311 Wife of Rodney 18 month trip with son to Bombay, bought 4 doz. Shirts for grampa.
Bethia Baxter Bearse 1819-95   T313  trip across US and Pacific to join husband Allen in China; first toilet; 2 pianos, one on ship.
Bethia C. Bassett 1819-93. T 320 took 5 children on coasting trips w/ husband Capt. Gerry.
Azubah B. Handy Cash 1820. Named for first wife of Little River shipwright Bethuel Handy’s first wife, the first burial in Mosswood cemetery.  Working for the village tailor, she slipped a note into the suit ordered by a handsome sailor from Nantucket, whom she later married and took their first son to sea.  One of the few whaling women who kept a journal, she recorded the birth of their son at Hilo, Hawaii in 1851 and mutiny aboard ship Columbia.  (Edw. Snow, Women of the Sea Ch. 8).


Rozilla C. Nickerson 1821-86.  Cotuit woman who went on long whaling voyage with husband Capt. Seth Nickerson.  Daughter Ella born Lahaina, Maui 1849 died off coast of Chile, embalmed in cask of rum, taken to San Francisco Gold Rush, long whaling trip in Pacific before she was buried in Mosswood cemetery Cotuit.

rosilla

Teresa Eldridge Crowell 1821-1901  T 315, H86.  wife of clipper Capt. Zenas.  Built Hyannis house around mosaic table she bought in Liverpool.
Lydia B. Hallett 1823-1871 T 317 to sea with deepwater Capt. Allen S. Hallett d. 1881.
Sally Ann Hallett 1824-1916 T 321 to sea with steamer Capt. George H. NY-Baltimore.
Julia A. Crowell Hallett 1827-1882 T 316 wife of deepwater Capt. Robert died 1867—many voyages with him.

GENERAL JOHN H. REED

June 29, 2012

JOHN HOOPER REED

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.

COTUIT’S INDIAN CHIEF LITTLE BEAR

April 21, 2012

The most distinguished Indian resident of Cotuit was Lorenzo “Len” Tandy Hammond, also known as Little Bear, chief of the Wampanoag nation. About 1928 he succeeded the pioneer chief Red Jacket (Eben Quippish).

He was born in Mashpee in 1871, son of Rebecca C. Amos, who was daughter of the famous Baptist preacher “Blind Joe” Amos. His father Watson Hammond, was a leading cranberry grower who held almost every Mashpee town office, as well as being the first Indian to serve in the state legislature.

In 1910 Len bought the 1846 house of Capt. Ensign Nickerson at 93 School St. in Cotuit, where he lived for the next 50 years. He had earlier Cotuit connections in Cotuit. His father had drilled a ten inch well on Main St. in Cotuit for Capt. Jarvis Nickerson in 1880, a skill he passed on to his son.

Before moving to Cotuit Len worked as licensed master plumber for Cotuit plumber Victor Nickerson, who had a booming business of installing the first running water in village homes and businesses. Everyone remembered Len riding his bike to jobs around the village, and over to Mashpee.

Len inherited his father’s inventive genius, patenting a bicycle brake, and “The Economist”, “a simple, light, handy and self-cleaning” cranberry separator, which was sold for $25. Len’s greatest accomplishment was to invent the famous Victor well point. Leonard Peck describes it in his book, “For Golden Friends I Had” (2000), as a device driven down to water table to filter out sand. Mr. Peck mentions that Nickerson patented the idea, but does not credit Hammond. The well point was sold widely around the country for $300, and marketed in a cheap version by Sears Roebuck. Chief Vernon Lopez also credits Len with another device run down the side of a well pipe to shut off flow so that it didn’t freeze.

He was also an artist, achieving some local fame for his oil and watercolor paintings, and for sculpture in wood. At one time, Chief Earl Mills had an oil color portrait of Len’s son, Cecil. (I hope people who know of other examples of his work will let me know).

He was married to a remarkable Indian elder and leader. Lilian (Avant) Brown, known as Princess Wood Fawn was born in Mashpee in 1875 to John Avant and Susan Lowe, from two distinguished old Indian families. “Miss Lillie” was remembered by historian friend Ernestine Gray as a woman with a very even temper, ready to laugh, and sweet to all. She was always stylishly dressed, in latest hats and outfits, and modeled for the press in native garb. Their only child, Cecil, born in Cotuit in 1914, died tragically in a motorcycle crash in Quincy, but left Len and Lillie with three grandchildren, Brian, Hartley and Linda Hammond.

Lillie lived with Len in their School Street home until she died of complications of diabetes in 1954, at age 78. Len lived there alone until his tragic death five years later. On a cold winter night shortly before Christmas of 1959, Len lit his kerosine space heater, and it exploded, catching fire to his pants. He died in the hospital two days later of burns of the lower body.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 20 April 2012.

Photo of Chief Little Bear and his niece, Ethelind Pells

RUSHY MARSH REVIVED

April 7, 2012

RUSHY MARSH REVIVED

 

Work began this week to bring Cotuit’s Rushy Marsh back to life.

 

Two centuries ago, the first Nickersons came to Cotuit. In May of 1810 the brothers Samuel and Seth Nickerson, who were fishermen frrom Harwich, and their sister Polly’s husband David Rogers, joined with another Harwich fisherman Benony Spinks to buy 115 acres around a small harbor in the south end of Cotuit called Russia Marsh.

 

In 1812 the four partners divided Russia Marsh into four parts, where they built their homes. The families grew, and the first baby, Eliza Rogers, was born in 1811. There were eventually nine more Nickerson siblings joining Samuel, Seth and Polly in Cotuit.

 

Forty years ago an old-timer showed me a sketch of this “Oreginal Settlement”, but that was before copy machines, and is now lost. Osterville insurance broker Phil Leonard said the timbers of a wrecked schooner “Oregon” could be seen on the beach in the 1960s, and John Flender repeated the story as folklore he’d heard in the 1930s. Mr. Flender was the nephew of the Morrisons who built the first house alongside Rushy Marsh beach in 1924. I have never been able to find a wreck of that name, so I settle for Oreginal as the origin of the name.

 

The Great September Gale of 1815,.one of the five greatest storms ever to hit New England, flooded shores from Providence to Dorchester. We have no record of damage to Cotuit, but Russia Marsh homes must have been under water. That began the flight of the Nickersons to “Highground”. Highground, or Highlands, is the area of Cotuit on high ground between Rushy Marsh and Cotuit Port.

 

The triple hurricanes of 1830 may have flooded the marsh again, but the October Gale of 1841 wrecked the Grand Banks fleet and Cape Cod’s saltworks.

 

The first public road from Highground to the marsh was built in 1849 across the dike that extends eastward across the top of the pond, now overgrown with poison ivy. A winding creek led out of the pond to the sea.

 

It was not until 1910 that anyone dared build here. In that year Frank Wesson, the Springfield arms manufacturer, built “Rippleside” just high enough that it has not flooded in the past century’s hurricanes. But the public road was so close to the house that the Wessons persuaded the town in 1930 to move the road westward onto the present causeway built on fill trucked in from Santuit.

 

In 1924 the first house was built on the beach by Alva Morrison, who was described as “global bird fancier, ex-banker”. In the the first year the house burned down, and rebuilt as it is today, enjoyed by the Bragdon family.

 

The shore of Rushy Marsh changes constantly. About 1910 the opening to the sea closed, related to radical interventions of the Osterville Cut and dredging. Frank Wesson laid a ten inch pipe to drain the pond. Popponesset spit crept up the coast as far as the Wessons’, until it was breached by Hurricane Carol in 1954. A new spit formed from the north, broadening the beach in front of the old entrance and enclosing a small saltwater pond. In 1956 the town installed a gated wooden sluice into the south end of the pond below Dr. Helen Taussig’s summer cottage. This was soon buried by sand.

 

Due to street flooding and robust mosquito nesting in the marshes, the town replaced Wesson’s pipe with a 24 inch pipe in 1973.

 

In 1999, over 50 neighbors and villagers formed the Friends of Rushy Marsh Pond. Barnstable Conservation Commission gave fundamental support to the restoration of the pond. Scientific and technical studies proved that re-introduction of a sluice way should have multiple environmental benefits—restoring fisheries, improving species diversity, improving mosquito control, and providing relief from storm flooding.

After a decade obtaining required permitting and funds, the project is underway, to be completed in May. It reflects a successful collaboration between concerned citizens and responsive government. When it is done it will not be big enough for the fishing boats that the Nickerson seamen sailed into Russia Marsh Harbor, but it will be saltier, cleaner, and healthier.

 

Published in Barnstable Enterprise 6 April 2012

THE TAUSSIG GENIUSES OF COTUIT

March 19, 2012

THE TAUSSIG GENIUSES OF COTUIT

For most of the twentieth century Cotuit enjoyed the presence of the Taussig family.

In 1896 Mary T. Gorham, heiress of the famous silver company of Providence, bought a new shingle style house in the south end of Cotuit.

Mrs. Gorham enjoyed having her daughter Edith and her children spend their summers on the beach and sailing here. Edith had married the famous Harvard economist Frank W. Taussig (1859-1940) in 1888. His classic “Tariff History of the U.S.” came out the year of his marriage, followed by books partly written in Cotuit, the standard American textbook “Principles of Economics” (1911) and “International Trade” (1927).

Professor. Taussig said of himself, “In politics I am a disgusted independent, awaiting a new party.” But he served President Wilson as first chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission 1917 tp 1919, reforming the antiquated system of customs and introducing free ports and free zones. Most importantly, he was adviser to President Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference where many economic issues of the postwar period were determined.

Prof. Taussig’s remarkable father, Dr. William Taussig (1826-1913) was a frequent summer visitor. An immigrant from Czechoslovakia, he had half a dozen successful careers, as a chemist, a pistol-packing doctor who called on patients on horseback, mayor and top judge in St. Louis, banker who financed the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi, the longest in the world, and railroad operator. One story he told in Cotuit was how he turned down a share of a venture of Andrew Carnegie, but remained a friend of the multimillionaire until they vehemently disagreed about the character of an acquaintance. Taussig apologized, but Mr. Carnegie would never forgive him.

The Taussigs’ son and three daughters grew up summering in Cotuit, sailing with of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club from its beginning in 1906, winning 11 championships in the skiff named “Swastika”, which was then an ancient good-luck symbol before it was used by the Nazis.

The most famous of these children was Dr. Helen Taussig (1898-1986) whose discovery of a cure for blue babies in 1944 saved the lives of thousands of children. Honored as “The First Lady of American Medicine”, she won all of the highest awards in medicine, and President Lyndon Johnson gave her the national Medal of Freedom.

Helen Taussig was dyslexic, and developed deafness, handicaps that increased her powers of observation. She wanted to become a doctor like her grandfather, but her father said public health was more suitable for a woman. When she applied to the Harvard School of Public Health, the dean said she could study, but not get a degree. She told him angrily: “Who is going to be such a fool as to spend two years studying medicine and two more years in public health and not getting a degree?” The dean said “No one, I hope”, to which she replied “Doctor, I will not be the first to disappoint you.”

After graduating from Johns Hopkins Medical School, Helen Taussig asked the head of the heart institute, Dr. E. P. Carter, what form of heart disease was least understood. He said congenital heart disease. She told him she intended to learn more about that than anyone in the world. She did.

Dr. Taussig made medical history in 1944, beginning a whole new area of cardiac surgery with the Blalock/Taussig procudure that restored oxygen to failing children’s hearts. In 1960 she played a major role in warning of the dangers of the sedative thalidomide which caused babies to be born without limbs.

Never married, Dr. Taussig retired to her beloved summer home in Cotuit, where at age 88 she wrote a paper on hearts of birds, seeking to reveal the origins of congenital heart disease.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 9 March 2012

OLD SELECTMEN’S BUILDING

March 2, 2012

OLD SELECTMEN’S BUILDING

 

The Old Selectmen’s office built in West Barnstable in 1889 is the closest thing we have to our first town hall. It’s the last surviving building of its kind on Cape Cod, and perhaps in Massachusetts. It is architecturally significant as a rare example of the Stick style, sometimes called the first truly American style.

 

In July 1888 the three town selectmen sweltered over the annual town assessments in a tiny room in the old Alms House in West Barnstable. They asked town meeting for $1000 to build the first town hall. Money in hand, they designed a fine comfortable office. The three designers were Charles C. Crocker, lumberman and co-founder of the Barnstable Brick Co., Eben Bacon Crocker, and “the Cranberry King” Abel Makepeace.

 

Noah Bradford Jr. of Hyannis, also a brick company founder, contracted to build it, bringing the frame from B.F.Crocker’s lumber yard in Hyannis. A fine building was finished by May 1, 1889 on Meeting House Way, just north of the Almshouse, which had been built for the poor in 1769 on the land of the Lombard Trust.

 

Walter Muir Whitehill, the noted architectural historian of the Boston Athenaeum called it “a charming example of the shingle style.” The unusual stick features were a decorative truss in the gable, fish scale and diamond shingles on the facade, painted olive green with dark green trim. The foundation 22 x 28 was Barnstable brick. The front door had a colored glass window.

 

Inside, on the left side of the entrance was a tiny toilet room with wash basin; on the right a cloak closet. The main hall had two windows on each side to let in cooling breezes. At the west end was a fireplace with a pier-glass (mirror) over a fancy mantle. The walls were fitted with glass-fronted bookshelves for the town library. At the northwest corner was a steel vault. The floor was hard pine, the ceiling stained white and cherry color.

 

Selectmen began work on town business in June 1889, which continued there for 36 years until the new town hall was built in 1926 on Main St. Hyannis, now the Kennedy Museum. By World War II electricity and plumbing had been installed in the Old Selectmen’s building. After the war it became a community center where the West Barnstable Fire District met. In the 1970s it served as the office of the Conservation Commission. In the 1980s, it was a storeroom for the town’s tables and chairs. It was placed on the National Register of historic places in 1988, but it was falling down, with souvenir hunters mining the Barnstable brick foundation.

 

Barbara Birdsey and Betty Nilsson organized a community effort to restore it to original appearance. The town historical society took a lease of $350 from the Lombard Trust for a year. The Dacey brothers put on a new roof; Tom Bednark of Cape Cod Bat Co. restored the signature sticks, Dick Kiusalas of West Barnstable Table Co. carved a new mantle. The community put in about $35,000, given as a present to the town on its 350th anniversary on June 10, 1989.

 

Since 1991 the Old Selectmen’s Building has been host to exhibits of creations of local artists, bringing an income for maintenance of the building.

 

Every historic building must be maintained, and after nearly a quarter of a century the old town hall needs a new foundation and roof, painting, handicap access, and lots of minor repairs. All of this will cost about $145,000. Neighbors have already collected $60,000 from art exhibits and donations. We’re counting on the Community Preservation Committee for the rest.

 

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 2 March 2012.

Grand Island from Cotuit

February 25, 2012

Grand Island seen from Cotuit. Courtesy Historical Society of Santuit & Cotuit

C