Posts Tagged ‘Cotuit’

BARNSTABLE WOMEN PART III: Early Twentieth Century

October 29, 2014

PART III: Early Twentieth Century Women of Barnstable

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 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).


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.


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.

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


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.

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


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.


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.

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).


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




November 20, 2012

James Gould
Op-Ed in Barnstable Enterprise 16 Nov. 2012.
The Quaker congregation known as Barnstable Friends meeting gathered Sunday for a silent meeting and vigil against war.
The occasion was Veterans Day Sunday, November 11, at the Cotuit Veterans Memorial in the Cotuit Park. They were joined by others who oppose war to express their sorrow at the deaths of so many soldiers, and the collateral damage of tens of millions of civilians who have died in our endless wars.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and this 94th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, the ‘War to End All Wars” is the occasion to dedicate ourselves to nonviolent ways of resolving conflict.
A nurse from Santuit called attention to the long list of Cotuit veterans, many of them from families she knew, and movingly remarked how war had torn families and caused such needless suffering.
As for me, a schoolboy 80 years ago on November 11, at 11 in the morning, we would take a minute to mourn all the soldiers who had been killed in that “War to End All Wars”. As a veteran of the next big war, I still mourn all the tens of millions of victims of uncounted wars since then. Will they never end?

Veterans Day should never be a celebration of military strength and imperial prowess, but of shame for having killed so many.

War is the greatest folly of humankind. No one ever won a war. The most just wars ended the lives of young soldiers, and took collateral damage of innocent children, women, and other civilians. War is the enemy of democracy, of prosperity, and ecological sustainability.

There are effective alternatives to war, as women like Jane Addams, Bertha von Suttner, Sarojini Naidu and Eleanor Roosevelt have shown us. Mediation, conciliation, arbitration, peacekeeping, collective security, boycott, sanctions, nonviolent resistance, all work, though with risk, but at less cost than war.

Do we have the courage to give up the greatest scourge to civilization? “Lay down your arms!” said von Suttner.”

An elderly Quaker woman who came all the way from Wellfleet insisted that we each needed to urge our congressman to reduce the spending on wars. Quakers appeared ready to send the following to our representative and senators:

It is with tears that we mourn the deaths of soldiers, freedom-fighters—babies, mothers and fathers, children, victims of endless wars,
It is with sadness that we welcome home our war-shocked veterans who take their own lives when they find a future without hope.
We live in a world of wars without end.
The longest war in the history of our nation, in a mountainous land that has never been subdued,
A seven years war of torture and destruction in the cradle of civilization,
Now a desert war of “humanitarian intervention” to save lives by killing,
And a half-war by unmanned drones that kill whole families of tribal peoples.
With all life, we suffer the pains of our precious Earth from wounds by careless missles, tanks and bombs.
We decry the wasteful destruction of finite resources that are desperately needed at home,
to house the homeless, to cure the sick, and to tutor our children in ways of peace.
We vision a world which embraces peaceful means of resolving conflict with equality and justice, where before the idea of violence is entertained, grievances are addressed with concrete steps, where conciliation, mediation, arbitration, fact-finding, adjudication, are codified international law and practices of international organizations like the United Nations.
The Society of Friends, born in the chaos of the English Civil War, has offered its testimony of peace and nonviolence.
William Penn, former warrior and statesman taught us how to meet violence:
“ We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by Love and Information. And yet we could hurt no Man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what Love will do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first, wins the Lawrel. If I am even with my Enemy, the Debt is paid; but if I forgive it, I oblige him for ever. “ Fruits of Solitude 1693, pp. 542 – 547.
Penn put this truth to test, achieving peace with the Leni Lenape, Susquehannocks and the Delaware Indians, instituting what was known in Indian terminology as a “chain of friendship.”
Let us then try what a chain of friendship, try what Love will do.

Barnstable Enterprise 16 Nov. 2012


October 13, 2012

The Regatta is one of the oldest buildings in Cotuit, and one of the most historic. It is officially known as the Rowland Crocker House on the National Register of Historic Places. It was not only the site of Cotuit’s first store, but also the first library and first post office.
One of the Regatta’s most memorable attributes is the ancient sign over the bar advertising: WINE RUM BRANDY GIN.
Some say the structure was built in 1796, but the original deed has it built in 1809. The architecture of this building is full-blown Federal classical style, characterized by the symmetrical façade and centered entryway with a pedimented triangle above a semi-circular fan window over the front door. This style became popular during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).
It was originally built for Rowland Thacher Crocker, Esquire (1772-1846), the eldest son of Alvan Crocker, and grandson of Ebenezer Crocker, the wealthy landlord who gave him the land. The house was built when Rowland Crocker married in 1809 to well-connected Rebecca Jenkins Bacon of Barnstable.
In 1796 Rowland had opened “The Store” in Cotuit, but where was it located if was not built until 1809? Perhaps it began in the Alvan Crocker Jr. house, built that year on the west corner of Main Street, and moved in 1809.
The earliest library for Cotuit opened in Rowland Crocker’s store in 1796. Rowland became the librarian, paid $2 a month to keep track of the books, and collect fines for books “detained” past the four to six week loan. The collection of 25 volumes included religious and moral tracts, as well as British novels, histories, geographies, political tracts, poetry, and collections of letters. At various times Rowland’s father Alvan Crocker Jr. took care of the library, again suggesting the earlier location.
The original post office of the village was opened in the store in 1821, with Rowland Crocker as postmaster. The stage coach called here, bringing mail and passengers from Sandwich, the connection to Plymouth and Boston, and going on to Marstons Mills and Osterville.
The Rowland Crockers had no children, and after their deaths the place was bought by Rowland’s sister’s grandson Deacon James Childs, Jr. (1796-1867). Mr. Childs was a prominent builder, who built the nearby Cotuit Church (no longer standing) in 1849, of which he became Deacon, the leading layman. Born in Cotuit, he had gone to Nantucket to build its famous Three Brick Houses (1837-1839), and perhaps also the Jared Coffin House, now a popular hotel. He was also involved moving the reconstructed Nantucket Congregational Church in 1834.
In 1882 the house was bought by Joseph Bettencourt Folger (1823-1911), the first Portuguese resident of Cotuit. He had come as a whaler from the Azores some time before 1853. The story is that he and two companions were put ashore on the Cape by a Nantucket whaling captain, whose name he adopted. It is unclear how he came to Cotuit, but he was found in a bog house in Newtown, where the owner William Stevens put him to work. He earned enough to buy the bogs, and become a prosperous landowner and many times Master of the Mariners Masonic Lodge. He ran a tavern in the Crocker mansion, perhaps having rented it before his purchase. It remained in the Folger family until 1947, probably leased out for various commercial purposes.
After World War II it had many uses, as a private residence, a gift shop, an art gallery of Richard Sparre (1973-1977), and the office of interior decorator Dennis Pendolari. In 1983 it became the Regatta Restaurant, under the management of Brantz Mayer Bryan Jr. (1927-2009) and his wife Wendy Wile, who ran a popular restaurant on Falmouth Harbor. The owners added a kitchen wing onto the rear.
In 2006 Brantz sold the property for a million dollars to Weldon Fizell, who continued the restaurant until 2012. On Oct. 10 2012 the building and furnishings were sold at foreclosure auction for $555,000 to Peter Menounos, the owner of Santuit Inn, half a mile west, on the Mashpee town line.
Who knows what the next use of this two hundred year old building will be?
Published in the Barnstable Enterprise 11 Oct. 2012


September 12, 2012


The spit of land at the entrance to Cotuit harbor, Sampson’s Island, is a favorite Cotuit beach of everyone, even, apparently, President Kennedy.

An old-timer from Cotuit told me that one summer day in the sixties he had spread out on the sandy beach, when two men in dark suits, shoes and ties told him he’d have to leave. The reason: national security.

In those days the presidential yacht “Honey Fitz” was escorted by a coast guard patrol – not against terrorists, just Russian agents. The crusty Cotuiter replied: “I’ve been coming to Sampson’s all my life, and I’m not about to leave.” The agents walked away puzzled, but returned shortly with a bottle of champagne, compliments of the president.

Who was Mr. Sampson, whose name the island bears? The answer is Squire Joseph Sampson (1754-1829), built Sampson’s Folly on Old King’s Road in Cotuit in 1809, a lavish mansion with the only bathtub and only ballroom on the west side of town. He inherited much of Cotuit, including most of the island, from his mother, Desire Crocker. Her great-grandfather, John Crocker had been given the lands by the proprietors in 1708. To the first settlers the marshes were valuable for the highly productive salt marsh hay that they fed to their cattle. When Sampson’s son sold part of the property in 1839 it produced two tons of hay.

The earliest map of Sampson’s dated 1787 shows a long island beginning at the mouth of Cotuit (Oyster) Bay, with a nearly mile-long tongue extending southwards as far as Rushy Marsh. The main entrance for ships from Osterville, Marstons Mills and Cotuit lay to the east, separating Sampson’s from Dead Neck Beach. This channel formed the boundary of the Osterville and Cotuit school districts in 1797, and persists today as the precinct line. It led out into “Deep Hole” in Nantucket Sound where newly built ships were fitted with masts and rigging brought from Sampson’s.

By 1831 storms had washed over the tongue, creating Gull Island, where cattle grazed on the salt marsh hay. Sampson’s Island itself had permanent upland at the north, beach on the east, and a saltwater creek leading into Bass Pond on the south, surrounded by fertile salt marsh. Daniel Childs, who was making salt south of today’s Old Shore Road, paid Sampson’s cousin Ezra Crocker $35 for the north 15 acres in 1837, and $70 for the more fertile south part from Josiah Sampson Jr. two years later. If Childs thought of building salt works here, we do not know, but the marshes provided fine hay until late in the 19th century.

After the Civil War, Dead Neck Beach, which stretched eastward for nearly four miles, was sold by the Osterville Lovells (who had bought it from the Indians in the forced sale of 1737) to Cotuit’s postmaster/storekeeper/architect/moderator Charles C. Bearse 80 acres for a dollar an acre. Since the 1830s there had been rumblings in Osterville about making a cut to end Osterville’s isolation, a move that Cotuit captains feared would radically reduce the flow through the Cotuit channel.

When salt hay was no longer gathered, the island became a favorite place for bird shooting by Boston Brahmin hunters like Judge Frank Lowell and Harvard’s president A. Lawrence Lowell. In 1885, a woman who summered in Cotuit paid Daniel Childs’ successors $275 for the island, which lay in view below her new house on Ocean View Avenue. The buyer was Charlotte Davidson, widow a New York merchant who traded with South America and was for ten years American Consul General in Buenos Aires and later Argentina’s Consul in New York. Schoolmaster James Morse had helped her lawyer son Charles Stewart Davison buy the Willard Slade house on the street, and turn it to face the Sound and the island in 1882. The view was perfect.

In 1891, Gull Island disappeared, after 60 years, reminding our schoolmaster Mr. Morse of Hamlet’s observation, “So runs the world away.”

Over Cotuit’s objections, Osterville finally got its “Cut” in 1899, and the next year the Corps of Engineers found only three feet of water in the historic channel, but it soon filled up, joining Sampson’s to Dead Neck to this day. It left a shallow pond, which Oyster Harbors residents call “Pirates Cove”, and Cotuit sailors call Cupid’s Cove” for its favorite rendezvous for the Moonlight Race. The Moonlight Race is an annual event of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club held under a full moon.

The tidal flow moved to the west of Sampson’s island, widening the gap to half a mile. To offset the possible damage of the Osterville Cut, the state dredged a ten foot Cotuit channel in 1910, at the cost of $27,000, of which Cotuit citizens put up $2000. Dredging had to be done again in 1917, 1928, 1949 and 1954. Over the twentieth century the westward current, which closed the old entrance, added 11 feet a year to the west end of the island, nearly closing the new channel.

In 1906 Boston textile manufacturer Horace Sears bought the Davison house and the island, and had Guy Lowell design the fine mansion that overlooks Sampson’s Island today. On his death in 1923, the estate, including the island, went to his secretary Harry L. Bailey. Alva Morrison, who built the first house on Rushy Marsh beach in 1924, was a “Global Bird Fancier” who donated his friend Henry Beston’s “Outermost House” to Massachusetts Audubon. He persuaded Mr. Bailey to give Sampson’s Island to Audubon as a bird sanctuary in 1953.

Audubon began systematic management in 1986, joined by Dead Neck’s Three Bays Preservation in 1996. The result has been a growth of nesting of endangered piping plovers to 26, and many more least terns and common terns. Many endangered roseate terns stop over here, and an oyster catcher has nested too. And Cotuiters love to picnic here, as they always have done.

Published in the Barnstable Enterprise 12 August 2012


July 21, 2012

Barnstable Historical Commission has received an application to demolish a Cotuit landmark known as Bonnie Haven, one of the last surviving homes of Cotuit whaling captains. Bonnie Haven is on lower Main Street below Loop Beach, overlooking Nantucket Sound. It was built in 1837, probably by the village housewright Quaker Samuel Dottridge, whose home houses the Historical Society of Santuit and Cotuit. At the core, Bonnie Haven is a classic Cape Cod cottage, which was expanded to accommodate the growing family. The well-preserved house is an excellent survival of vernacular architecture of the early nineteenth century.
Bonnie Haven was built for Captain Seth Nickerson Jr. (1814-1892), the best known whaling captain of Cotuit. Captain Nickerson’s story was told in a somewhat fictionalized form by his grandniece in the book The Cut of Her Jib (1953); the hero Horace is actually Seth Nickerson. He had been whaling since age 16 with his father and by the time he was 22, he had command of the New Bedford ship Massachusetts. In a voyage in 1849, he took along his wife and three children. The youngest, baby Ella, died of fever off the coast of Peru, was pickled in a barrel of rum, and was eventually– nearly two years later– brought home for burial in Mosswood Cemetery. During those two years, there was a long trip to San Francisco, where everyone went off to hunt gold, but returned to the ship, to hunt whales in Hawaii, off the tropical islands of Micronesia, into the recently discovered Japan Sea, far north to the frozen sea between Siberia and Alaska. The voyage was chronicled in a historical paper by Ken Molloy, archivist of Cotuit Historical Society. The ship returned home with a rich cargo of whale oil.
Captain Nickerson switched from whaling to the profitable trade in silk and tea with China in 1857, commanding the Boston ship Edith Rose on a voyage from Boston to Shanghai. Then he made several profitable whaling voyages to the Bering Sea, but lost his youngest son, four year old Stanley to scarlet fever in 1861, to be buried beside his little sister Ella. Still captaining whaling ships in his fifties, Captain Nickerson almost lost his end during a trip to the Azores in 1867. The captain’s leg caught in the line attached to the lance in a whale, and he got pulled under water. Captain Nickerson was rescued by his son who dived in with knife held in his teeth to cut the rope. The captain, half drowned, was rolled on a cask to get the water out of his lungs. He took a recuperative break at Mahe in the Indian Ocean’s Seycelles, and kept on captaining whaling ships until he was 63.
In 1879, after Capt. Nickerson had moved closer to the village center, the house was sold to summer resident James Herbert Morse (1843-1923), well-known New York City headmaster, literary critic, abolitionist and poet. His wife, Lucy Gibbons Morse founded the Cotuit Library, and was also an author and skilled maker of paper silhouettes. Her mother, the noted Quaker prison reformer, Abby Hopper Gibbons, spent many summers in Cotuit with her daughter and grandchildren.
It was during these years that the red-shingled Bonnie Haven became an active Cape Cod literary center. It attracted the famous actor Joseph Jefferson from his Cape Cod “Crow’s Nest” in Bourne, long visits from the popular author Frank Stockton, who wrote his tale of two shipwrecked ladies here; the Morses’ comedian cousin DeWolf Hopper, whose routine “Casey at the Bat” toured the country, and the reformer William Lloyd Garrison Jr. The red barn on the property became a popular summer theater. Mr. Morse also ran a summer prep school for Harvard students, and entertained friends from Cotuit’s “Summer Harvard” including faculty like the eminent economist Frank Taussig and president A. Lawrence Lowell.
Cotuit residents love their historic landmarks like Bonnie Haven, and have raised their voices to preserve this heritage. The Historical Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed demolition at 4 pm Monday July 30 in the Selectmens’ Conference Room on the second floor of Town Hall.
Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 20 July 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.


May 12, 2012


Every village in Barnstable had its own racetrack, according to Barnstable Town Clerk, Linda Hutchinrider. She spoke on the topic at a recent meeting of the West Barnstable Historical Society.

The village of Hyannis welcomed President Grant at its track in 1874. Marstons Mills’ straight mile across The Plains on Race Lane was a favorite.

Cotuit Trotting Park opened before Christmas 1887, two years before the track at Barnstable Agricultural Society was built in Barnstable village.

Cotuit’s track and ballpark was located near today’s Ralyn Road, off Santuit-Newtown Road, then called Lewis Pond Road. It lay at the back of the Crocker farmhouse (today still on the southwest corner of Old King’s Road), part of the 100 acre fields that lie east of the Santuit River. Until 1949 the farm belonged to the family of Rebecca Sampson Crocker, who inherited it from her uncle Josiah Sampson. After Rebecca died in 1901, the farm passed on to her son Benjamin, who lived until 1929. Benjamin Crocker’s daughter, Mary, inherited it, and it was sold in 1929. It is now owned by John and Patricia Pisch, but it is still called the Crocker Farmhouse.

When Rebecca Crocker owned it, the dairy and the production of grain and hay were managed by Howard Goodspeed, who evidently persuaded Mrs. Crocker to let the village use a small part of the farm for recreation.

The impetus for the trotting park came from several vigorous Cotuit leaders. Captain Ulysses Hull was famous for his love of speed. In 1879, he sailed his schooner “E.S. Gildersleeve” from New Bedford to New York, where he loaded 320 tons of coal, which he took to Boston in an amazing five and a half days. Asa F. Bearse, the keeper of the general store that was located where the Cotuit Inn Condominiums are today, had a livery stable and a fine racing horse “Duke”. James Webb, prosperous proprietor of the Santuit House, raced his fast horses named “Jack” and “Rex”. The Sturgis and Phinney families also raced.

Captain Hull raced the famous champion “Dandy Eastman”, shown in our picture. After winning the Cotuit Thanksgiving Day race in 1891, Dandy went to the Cape’s most important track, the Riverside in Dennis. He woon all the prizes for over fivc years, and so was called “the fastest horse on Cape Cod”.

Cotuit’s racing season ran from July Fourth all the way to New Year’s Day. The first big track meet was held on August 28, 1888 with racing of sulkies (two wheelers with driver’s seat), buggies, mustangs and a footrace.

Soon, the Fourth of July became the biggest day of the year at the park. On July 4, 1895 there was an event that may have been the start of the now famous Cotuit parade. At 8 AM “the Horribles”, the name given to those dressed up in frightening masks and costumes, gathered at the Santuit School (now the post office) to start a grand parade to the trotting park.

Admission to the grounds cost 10 cents, which suggests the grounds were fenced against all but enterprising boys. At 10 AM at the grandstand there were traditional patriotic oratory and songs, a flag drill by a dozen young women. Horse races took place, as well as bike races; a bike parade, races on foot and with sacks as well as potato races, in which the contestants run to collect potatoes in a basket; and also games and sports. At 2 PM, a baseball game was played; sometimes the teams would be Cotuit vs. Santuit. Then came the clam chowder dinner, with accompanying meat, bread, cake and ice cream, all for 50 cents and half price for children under 12. And finally, fireworks.

The automobile bought an end to racing of horses on the Cape by 1905. Capt. Hull, who had become County Sheriff, pursued his quest for speed with one of the first Stanley Steamers. The Cotuit ball team moved to the present field at Lowell Park. By 1894 one of Cape Cod’s first golf links was laid out on the Crocker Farm. And Fourth of July was still celebrated here. Francis Rennie, who died in 2008, remembered a big bonfire of old lumber that blazed in the center of the old trotting track when he was a boy in the 1920s.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 11 May 2012


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


April 7, 2012



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