Welcome to Truro
Truro is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. Located two hours outside Boston, it is a summer vacation community just shy of the tip of Cape Cod. It is named after Truro in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Its name among the natives of Cape Cod was Pamet or Payomet, a name that still refers to an area around the town center known as the Pamet Roads.
Following are three views of Truro's History; The first is from the modern perspective, the second from an 1890's perspective and the third from the Pamet Native American's perspective.
2,003 (2010 Census), Summer estimate: 15,000 - 20,000
FY 2010: $5.39
02666, Truro and 02652, North Truro
Truro Public Library
Truro Central School (PK-6)
Full-Time Police Department and a volunteer Fire and Rescue.
Ballston, Beach Point, Coast Guard, Cold Storage, Corn Hill, Fisher, Great Hollow, Head of the Meadow, Longnook, and Ryder
A BRIEF AND EVER GROWING HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF TRURO MASSACHUSETTS,
(TAKEN FROM SOME WRITINGS IN THE TRURO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE INFORMATION BROCHURES OF YEARS PAST, RICH’S TRURO, AND WRITINGS OF F. WESLEY GARRAN.) ……………………………
Edited by Mark Peters, July, 2007
In November of 1620, the Pilgrims sailed into Cape Cod Bay and anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor. Having lived under cramped, smelly, dirty conditions for the previous few months, many came ashore to look around. A group led by Miles Standish, (who had the nickname “Captain Shrimp”), wandered into what became Truro. There they found fresh water (Pilgrim Springs), a cache of maize (Corn Hill) and a place to camp out for the night, ( Pond Village). While tromping about in Truro the Pilgrims met a group of locals, Pamet Indians. Both sides fired on each other. Fortunately no one was hit and as honor had been satisfied, the locals and the “wash-a-shores” withdrew. A few days later the Pilgrims weighed anchor and sailed across the bay to what is now Plymouth. They would be back!
In 1709, Truro was incorporated as a town. The descendents of those Pilgrims, who had stopped by almost ninety years before, had returned. Initially Truro was part of Eastham, but Truro had some unique advantages that made settlement popular and with hard work, a good living could be realized. In those days the land which is now Wellfleet was swampy and marshy, and created a geographical barrier to the south. Communication was difficult by land and only slightly easier by sea. **
There was a good harbor at the mouth of the Pamet River and East Harbor, which is now Pilgrim Lake. In addition there was plenty of upland, which would allow for farming and pastures. With this prosperity the local citizens were able to build a church and pay a minister. Having a house of worship and supporting a minister for at least two years was a requirement to become a town. This was accomplished and on July 16, 1709, Truro was incorporated, and became an official town of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Through the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Truro both participated and prospered. Gentlemen from Truro were sent to Nantucket to teach the islanders the art of killing whales and blackfish. Small shipbuilding in the harbor, fishing, salt-works through the use of windmills, combined with large gardens made for a good life in this small hamlet.
In the middle part of the nineteenth century the Pamet Harbor shoaled in. This ended the shipbuilding and the easy access to the bay with an all weather harbor for a refuge. Beach Point threatened East Harbor, which had become accessible only at the highest tides in the Fall and Spring. Framing alone wouldn’t sustain a booming economy, so Truro started getting smaller as many of the best and the brightest moved away.
Shortly after the Civil War the railroad came through Truro with its terminus in Provincetown. Transportation and access was now available on a more reliable venue than the weather, tide and sea. Those farmers left in Truro had discovered that sandy soil was excellent for growing asparagus and turnip. Asparagus for the Boston Yankees, turnip for the Irish, a swamp garden, a few cows and chickens, a lot of hard work and a decent living could be made. Another benefit from the railroad was the arrival of the summer tourist. Summer hotels quickly appeared near Truro Center, Highland Light and Pond Road, with many of the larger older homes becoming guesthouses. These people had to be fed, watered and carted – something which still goes on today.
The biggest event in Truro’s history was yet to come. Shortly after World War II, the Federal Government straightened and rebuilt Route 6. Millions and millions of people were now a days drive away from Truro. Route 6 was wider, smooth and modern; and they came. On many days during the summer season Truro may have as many as 15,000 people enjoying the sun, the woods and the beach. Another substantial factor in today’s Truro is the creation of the National Seashore in 1960. This has preserved almost 2/3rds of Truro in its natural state. Truro is very fortunate that much of what the Pilgrims saw and the Pamets enjoyed will be there for future generations of Truro citizens and visiting guests.
Please take advantage of what Truro has to offer as it approaches it’s 300 th year.
Truro, a more formal History
History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts
edited by Simeon L. Deyo.
1890. New York: H. W. Blake & Co
TOWN OF TRURO.
(Web editors note: The following section was written in 1890, but provides a rare glimpse into the details of life on the Outer Cape during the 18th and 19th centuries)
Exploration by the Pilgrims. — Proprietors of the Pamet Lands. — Incorporation of Truro. — Boundaries. — Natural Features. — King's Highway. — Pounds. — Industries. — The Wreck of the Somerset. — The Revolution. — Gale of 1841. — Various Town Affairs. — Civil History. — Churches. — Burying Grounds. — Schools. — Villages. — Biographical Sketches.
THE territory comprised in this town was the home of the Pamets —a tribe of the Nauset nation. Its importance is advanced when the reader realizes that the Mayflower made her first anchorage within sight of its wooded hills, and that upon its diversified surface Miles Standish and his followers made their first explorations. November 15, 1620, after signing the compact in the cabin of the vessel, the captain, with fifteen men, went on shore, camping that night near Stout's creek, or perhaps nearer the Wading place where the eastern causeway now stands. The next morning they went to East harbor, marching around the Head of the meadow, and as their journal says "through boughs and bushes and under hills and valleys which tore our very armor in pieces." In this place they saw deer and found springs of fresh water, from which they refreshed themselves. The spring now near the marsh, just north of the head of the meadow, is supposed to be the place where these Pilgrims slaked their thirst. From East harbor they went to the valley now called North Truro, and at the south of this were the corn lands, embracing fifty acres, on the table land just west of the old burying ground. From here the Pilgrims went to the shore, thence to the mouth of Pamet river, on the north side, and then retraced their steps, halting at the pond in North Truro for the night.
On the morning of the 17th they went easterly to near where the present life saving station is, and here is where William Bradford, one of the company, was so suddenly caught up in the deer trap set by the Indians. A few days after their return to the Mayflower, the shallop containing in all thirty-four men, started for the mouth of Pamet river, up which the shallop went following the men who were on the shore, and spending the night in an improvised camp at or near where Rev. Noble subsequently lived. The next day the expedition,
daunted by the hills and snow, returned to the mouth of the river where, on the north side, eighteen of the men encamped and the remainder returned to the vessel. The next day Long-nook was traversed before the return to the Mayflower; and from the many favorable impressions received a council was called as to settling there. Reasons for and against the settling of the colony were given, but a decision to look further led the Pilgrims to Plymouth. Thus near did Tom's hill and Truro approach toward being the hallowed ground of New England. To one act of these explorers the Truro people can point with pride, because of the plentiful supply of grain, for upon these trips the Pilgrims took from pits or graves in the ground not only nice corn for their present needs, but their first seed corn; and this was done by them, intending to recompense the poor Indians with trinkets when they could make a better acquaintance. The territory thus trodden by the Pilgrim band was not settled as early as that nearer to Plymouth, and was really unoccupied until after the incorporation of Eastham, and then formed the seventh town of the county.
The purchase and settlement of Eastham first called the attention of the pioneers to the body of land beyond the north bounds of what was known to the Pilgrims as Nauset, and at the time the northern bounds of the latter were being fixed by the settlers and Indians, the territory of Pamet was formally declared by the whites as belonging to them. The first settlers of Nauset were subsequently the original purchasers of Truro. As early as 1689 these proprietors purchased as much of the territory of Truro as the Indians would sell, and from the first these proprietors of Eastham resolved to control the sale of its lands, as was declared in a meeting of these men, at which Thomas Paine was made an agent to purchase of the Indians from time to time all the lands obtainable. In 1696, "ordered by the proprietors of Pamet lands, that henceforth there be no cordwood or timber cut upon any of the common or undivided land belonging to Pamet, to be carried off from said land " under a penalty of 15s. for every cord or proportionable for other timber—and payable to any proprietor who may sue therefor." The names of the proprietors who subscribed to this were: Jonathan Paine, Stephen Snow, Thomas Paine, Caleb Hopkins, Ephraim Doane, John Savage and Israel Cole. These meetings were held at Eastham, where as yet these original proprietors resided.
A record of several divisions of upland and meadow had been made several years previously and very soon after its purchase from the natives, as we find in the same year a division of ten lots: one to Ensign Jonathan Bangs, on the southerly side of Eastern harbor; another to William Twining, on the south of Bangs' lot; the third to
Constant Freeman, and to be next south of Twining's; Israel Cole was to have the fourth, and next south of Freeman's; south of the last was that of Thomas Paine; south of this was the lot of Thomas Clark; Lieutenant Joseph Rogers had the seventh, next south of Clark's; John Snow, the next lot south; Thomas Paine, the next one south, and Caleb Hopkins had the tenth, and next south of the last. These lots extended from the bay easterly, and they are the first recorded of a division of any portion of the lands of Truro. Not until July 24, 1697, did these proprietors—still residents of Eastham—hold a meeting to arrange for a removal to this territory, and a settlement of the bounds of their purchases, at which meeting the bounds were set from Bound brook to Eastern harbor, and described as well as they could be in that day. A compact was also made with the Indians that the proprietors should have one-eighth of all the drift whales of both shores.
There is no doubt but that purchases were made of the Indians prior to 1689, but it was by individuals. The proprietors of Pamet were tendered a certain sum in a purchase made by Thomas Smith in 1644, which controversy was satisfactorily arranged the next day by a bid from Mr. Smith of thirty pounds for the right to the land.
June 4, 1700, the proprietors made their first declaration to remove to Pamet, the following being the record : "At a meeting of the proprietors held this day it was agreed that what land at Pamet might be conveniently divided should be divided, and that they would go thither (God willing) on the last Monday of October next ensuing, and divide accordingly." That there were people on the territory previous to this resolution of removal by the proprietors, is shown by a further agreement at the same meeting which was to give "five-and-twenty shillings " to any of the people of Pamet who would "make a sufficient fence below Eastern harbor pond to stop the sand and keep the tide out of said pond." The Eastham purchasers were the first settlers who gave to the territory its first municipal government, those previously there being fishermen principally, and all under the jurisdiction of Eastham.
No record of the removal of the proprietors was made, or, if so, it was lost; but by the records of meetings in October, 1700, it seems that they were in Pamet before the time fixed in their June meeting; and among the first acts of these sterling men lands for the support of the ministry were laid off at Tashmuit, and near Eastern harbor; a committee was also appointed to sell lands in behalf of the proprietors. The lands for the support of a learned minister were increased for three successive years, selections being subsequently made at what is now North Truro, also at Longnook.
At the proprietors' meeting of June 15, 1703, Jedediah Lombard,
jr., John Snow and Thomas Paine were appointed to run bounds between the great lots and fix the bounds; also to record the same in the Pamet books of record. The same committee laid out the first road of the town, which appears on the records of 1703, the road running from the "head of the pond to the head of Pamet." This was called a "Drift Highway," and was laid out in July of that year. The same year a division of lands near Hog's Back was made, which reveals the fact that this knoll had been previously named and was a well-known landmark. Jedediah Lombard, sr., had his lot laid out between Thomas Mulford's two lots, one of which was near Hog's Back and the other toward the pond south of Pamet great river.
The shells of the shellfish being needed for the manufacture of lime, in 1705 these proprietors enacted that after June first next no shellfish should be dug by any person not a resident of Pamet. In 1711 the proprietors voted that no wood be cut within the limits of the common lands for the burning of lime, except by the rightful owners.
October 29, 1705, the territory of Pamet was allowed by the general court the privilege of choosing its own officers, and was called Dangerfield—a name given by early navigators, but one which was not recognized by the residents in any of the records. On the 16th of July, 1709, Pamet, as it had been previously known, was incorporated as Truro, with full powers of a town of the county, but a stringent proviso was added—that they support and maintain suitably a "learned orthodox minister."
The records of the proprietors, distinctive from the records of Eastham, commenced in 1700, and in the meetings as recorded, and in the admission of freemen from time to time we find the following named persons were residents when the town was incorporated: Jedediah Lombard, senior and junior, Thomas Lombard, Dr. William Dyer, Benjamin Smalley, Thomas Newcomb, Isaac Snow, Jonathan Collins, Nathaniel Harding, Joseph Young, David Peter. John Snow, Constant Freeman, Thomas Paine, senior and junior, Nathaniel Atkins, Francis Small, Lieutenant Jonathan Bangs, John Rogers, John Steele, Thomas Mulford, Hezekiah Doane, Samuel Treat, jr., Hezekiah Purington, Humphrey Scammon, Beriah Smith, Richard Stevens, John Myrick, Moses Paine, Jonathan Vickery, Micah Atwood, Josiah Cook, Ebenezer Hurd, Samuel Small, Samuel Young, Jonathan Paine, Edward Crowell, Ebenezer Smith, Jonathan Dyer, John Savage, Israel Cole and Thomas Smith.
In 1711 we find additional settlers, as may be seen by the names of the residents who were the only cattle owners in Truro that year: Ebenezer Doane, William Dyer, sr., Jonathan Collins, Jeremy Bickford, Josias Cook, Jedediah Lumbert (perhaps Lombard), Jonathan
Vickery, Constant Freeman, Samuel Treat, John Snow, Thomas Lombard, Hezekiah Purington, Thomas Rogers, Benjamin Smalley, Richard Webber, Thomas Smith, Daniel Smalley, Christopher Stewart, George Stewart and William Clark.
May 6, 1712, the selectmen of Eastham and Truro met to review the bounds between the towns and perfect the boundary line which had been but partially made; and in 1714 the following line was set between the province lands and Truro: "Beginning at the easterly end of a cliff near the cape harbor, called Cormorant hill at a jaw bone of a whale set in the ground, thence northwesterly to a high hill on the back side, and thence to the ocean." The province lands prior to this had been under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Truro, and these lands west of the line were, in 1717, constituted as the precinct of Cape Cod.
The following year the people of Truro, from frequent difficulties arising out of the uncertain municipal powers of the new precinct of the province lands, asked the general court by Constant Freeman, their representative, to declare the new precinct either a part or not a part of Truro, that the town could know how to proceed in regard to some persons; but not until 1727, when Provincetown was incorporated a town, was the difficulty entirely overcome. Subsequently the settlers of the eastern part of Provincetown found themselves extending the long street of that town into Truro, and after frequent petitions to the general court, the present boundary between the towns was established, giving Provincetown a greater extent of territory.
The town of Truro is now bounded east by the Atlantic, south by Wellfleet, west by the bay, and north by Provincetown and the ocean. Its distance from Boston in a direct line is only fifty-seven miles, but by railroad it is 112. The form of the township from the curving of its shores, is nearly a spherical triangle, being about eleven miles between the base and apex, with a base three miles wide. The surface is very uneven, being what Professor Hitchcock calls a moraine, running nearly north and south; but its elevated ridge has been washed into conical hills two or three hundred feet high, giving a singular landscape. The township is free from rocks, and the soil is generally sandy, the ancient Tashmuit, the middle eastern portion, being the richest part.
Like other towns of the Cape, the land has been heavily wooded and fertile. The eastern shore is fringed with salt marshes, and these extend far up on the sides of the rivers and coves that exist on that coast of the town. The east shore is high above the ocean, and all waters run westerly to the bay. Small ponds having no visible outlets abound. Long pond, of twenty-eight acres; Newcomb's, of thirty-two; Higgins, of seventeen; and one of fourteen, north of the last, are
the chief ones. Mill pond, of seventeen acres, has the Pamet river for its outlet. In the extreme northwest corner of the town is East harbor, a small, shoal tide-harbor, but by drifting sands its usefulness has ceased, and the extensive salt marshes around it have been greatly diminished from the same cause. Over the dyke which the government built along the beach to the westward of the harbor the present railroad runs, effectually cutting off as an anchorage this body of water from the bay. High Head, southeast of this harbor, was a conspicuous settlement in the early history of the town, but now contains only three residences. East Harbor village, also a prominent community a century ago, was adjacent at the south, but not a residence remains. From this little village of twenty-three houses twenty-eight brave men were killed or died in the service of the colonies during the revolutionary war. South of the last ancient village is the former Pond village, now called North Truro. One mile south of this is Great Hollow—another small community, and still southward is the Pamet river and the community known as Truro village. In the southwest part is another little village known as South Truro, where may be found the heaviest wood land in the town. The healthfulness of the town compares favorably with any of the Cape, and with the accommodations and advantages presented at the Highlands, the influx of visitors increases.
In 1715 the present King's highway was laid out through Truro— to connect from Eastham to and through the province lands. It was really the continuation of the old county road along the Cape. It ran along the back side of the town, around the heads of the rivers, and, although only used in portions at the present day, its tortuous course is well known through the town.
In 1718 the town ordered the erection of a pound in a central place, and Joseph Young was appointed its keeper. This institution, unlike the stocks and whipping post erected about the same time, has been kept up to the present, there being at this writing three separate pounds, one at each village.
The early industries of the settlers were fishing and agriculture. It is claimed by some writers that Truro was the first and most prominent town in the whaling business, but that after a few years Falmouth, Wellfleet and Provincetown excelled. The whalemen of Truro were distinguished for their success and enterprise, and as late as the beginning of the present century the town had nine large vessels in the business, one of which was the Lydia and Sophia, built in Truro, on the Pamet river, and her timbers were cut from the land of the town. The town records of 1720 speak of Joshua Atwood's lance " that he hath made on purpose to kill fin-backs," describing the pecularities and mark. Captains David Smith and Gamaliel Collins
are recorded as the first whalemen from here who pursued the whale near the Falkland islands. The Truro captains were also largely employed in the merchant service. Fishing—the present status of which is given in the village histories, has since been largely engaged in. The bay coast has been the scene of the slaughter of the blackfish in considerable schools, the largest being that of 1874, when 1,405 were driven ashore. They lay along the shore for a mile between Great hollow and the Pond landing, and the school yielded twenty-seven thousand gallons of oil.
At a meeting of the town of Truro, December 11, 1711, it was agreed that if Thomas Paine would set up a grist mill within said town, he could take three quarts in toll for Indian corn and two for "English corn " (probably the other grains), and the town would give him sixty pounds toward the construction of the mill. The town subsequently had three other wind mills built—one on the hill where the present town hall stands, owned by Freeman Atkins, Allen Hinckley and Samuel Rider, one at South Truro near the Wellfleet line, and another at the Highlands. The latter still exists as a connecting link between the past and present, being built by Isaac Small and owned later by his sons, James and Joshua. It is a dismantled relic used as a lookout. Its creation does not date back to that of the ocean, but their first companionship dates back of the memory of man—the huge sails of the mill serving for a welcome sight to the watching mariners of past generations, and its hulk of a tower now serving the present for an elevated sight of ocean and land. Some of the old residents have a dim tradition of yet another wind mill at East harbor, which was erected by Gamaliel Smith, and was demolished before the dawn of the present century. Later than these wind mills—in the later part of last century—a water mill, for grinding, was erected on the south side of Pamet river, and in 1844 a better one was erected upon the site, which in its turn was abandoned before 1860 and taken down. The dam is now, in part, a profitable cranberry bog.
The town in 1754 gave permission to Jonathan Paine to build the first wharf of the town, on the shore of Indian neck, at the foot of the Thomas Paine lot. The wharves erected since at the mouth of Pamet river, have been ample for the uses of the people, and a century ago the harborage here was good. In 1837 a stock company built the North wharf, which was in active use for many years, and previous to this, in 1830, the Union wharf on the south side of the river had been built. Of the latter some of the piers yet remain. Lower wharf was subsequently built into the harbor at the mouth of the river, and about 1837, where the Old Colony railroad bridge now crosses Pamet harbor, these wharves were at the height of their usefulness, crowded
with fishing vessels, fifty of which have been seen moored to the wharves during a single season.
The stores, sheds and flakes gave this portion of the town a village-like appearance. All told, the town had sixty-three vessels in the cod and mackerel fishing, which yielded annually 20,000 quintals of cod and over 15,000 barrels of mackerel, giving employment to over five hundred men. Here at the mouth of the river fifteen brigs and schooners were built between the years 1837 and 1851. Henry Rogers was the master builder, assisted by Nathaniel Hopkins, the former a resident of Boston and the latter of Provincetown. The Malvina, built in 1837, was lost with all on board within one year. The names of the fourteen others were: brigs, Eschol, John A. Paine, Odeon, E. Paine. 2d, N. I. Night, David Lombard, Laurena, B. A. Baker, L. B. Snow, Tremont, E. M. Shaw, Mary Ellen, Modena and Allegany. The Modena, built in 1850, was framed from oaks cut within the town, and more or less of the timber used in the others was cut there. Standing now on the railroad bridge over the very site of the busy wharves, and where the fifteen fishing and coasting vessels were built, and seeing the present sandy, desolate shores and choked harbor, it requires a stretch of imagination to realize that so great a change could occur in a single half century.
Soon after the war of 1812 the packet lines to Boston were thought to be a wonderful advance of improvement in communication; but in 1858 the Cape Cod Telegraph Company was a greater step, and soon after the Marine Telegraph Company was organized, which flashed to the Boston merchant the news of the safe return of vessels as soon as they were visible from the Highland.
In 1839 the Truro Breakwater Company was incorporated with an idea to benefit the harbor ; but failing to secure aid from Congress, the undertaking was abandoned. The harbor at Pond village received the attention of the government and the Truro people very early, and as late as 1806 another attempt was made to improve it, but the drifting sands rendered every expenditure useless. The dyke across East harbor is now used by the railroad, and the high embankments of the road erected in 1873 across the heads of the remaining harbors of the bay shore seriously interfere with the usefulness of the inside anchorage. The government provided a light for Pamet harbor in 1849, which was discontinued in 1855 ; and during the latter year rebuilt the Highland lights. The life saving station near these lights was erected in 1872. In the south part of the town is another station.
Salt was manufactured along the bay side of Truro, and was an extensive industry in its day. Among the first to manufacture was Dr. Jason Ayres, who erected works south of the pond at north
Truro, which were subsequently owned by Samuel Coan. Captain Elisha Paine had works next to Coan on the south, and John Smith erected a plant next north, also purchasing that of John Grozier adjoining. Next north were the works of Edward Armstrong, and still further north Colonel Joshua Small owned a plant which is said to have been the first in town. On the bay shore south of Elisha Paine's were the works of Sylvanus Nye, and adjoining were those of Jonah Stevens. On the north side of Little harbor meadows were located the works of Michael and Thomas Hopkins, the latter works passing into the possession of Doane Rich, who owned a plant on the south side of the meadows, and both of which were subsequently sold to Solomon Paine. South of Paine's were Reuben and Jesse Snow, and on the north of the Pamet river, near the present railroad depot, were the extensive works of Michael Snow. Along up the north side of Pamet river were Lewis Lombard, Ephraim D. Rich, John Kenney, David Lombard, Shubael Snow, David Smith, Elisha Paine, Levi Stevens, Hinks Gross, Jonathan Whorf, Joseph Collins, Freeman Atkins and Samuel Ryder. On the south side of the river, commencing near the depot, were Allen Hinckley, Michael Collins, Benjamin Hinckley and Leonard P. Baker; and further up the river, John Smith, Ephraim Baker and Solomon Davis. On the bay between Pamet river and South Truro Elisha Newcomb had works, also Benjamin Hinckley; Perez Bangs' works were about half way between the river and South Truro, and Nehemiah Rich had a very extensive plant at the latter place. In 1837 Truro had thirty-nine of these works, and the decline of the business commenced soon after.
Along the King's highway were the usual taverns of last century, also the old-fashioned stores of that time, where the few necessaries, of a solid and liquid nature, were kept.
The early fishing was profitable, and the manner in which it was conducted engaged more men and vessels than now. The vessels now engaged are few and small. Weir or trap fishing has become more profitable and along the bay shore are twelve large weirs. The most northern weir is at Beach point, and S. B. Rich is the agent. There are six very extensive ones along the shore to the south, the business of which, as well as positions, centers at North Truro. Of these No. 1—off from the present depot—was built in 1881, and is owned by Atkins Hughes, John G. Thompson and T. L. Mayo & Co. In 1882 No. 2 was erected by the same parties one mile north of the depot. Ten shareholders in 1883 erected No. 3, one mile south of No. 1; and the same year No. 4 was erected one mile north of No. 2. In 1885 No. 5 was erected between the first and third, and is owned by over a score of stockholders; and No. 6 was sandwiched between the others, forming a combination of companies under the superintendence
of Atkins Hughes, who, with J. G. Thompson, is a shareholder in each. These weirs, the cost of each of which was about six thousand dollars, are each 2,500 feet long, extending into deep water. The pound increased the expense to $8,000. Some wonderful catches are reported from these weirs, and no doubt the same occasional good luck attends others on the Cape. From No. 5 of these traps, one morning in the season of 1887, forty tons of pollock were taken, and on another lucky occasion the same weir furnished in one day 330 barrels of mackerel. South along the bay are four more weirs, of which Richard A. Rich, S. B. Atwood, N. K. Persons and William F. Baker are respectively the captains. At South Truro is still another, of which D. B. Rich is agent. These weirs give employment to seven persons each, and the salting and packing houses, and boats, with the necessary appendages for the business, give a more active appearance to the shore than any other part of the town; and it is well to say that at the present time this fishing is the town's most important industry.
The ocean side of Truro is probably the most dangerous shore to mariners that the Cape presents, and into the history of Truro many shipwrecks of home and foreign vessels could be interwoven. That of the British man-of-war, Somerset, in 1778, will not be forgotten by the residents, for the hulk occasionally is unearthed by the action of the waves upon the sands; and canes and other relics are made from the oaken timbers. The 480 men captured from this unfortunate vessel were marched through Truro on their way to Boston. She previously lay at anchor half way between the Pond landing and Provincetown for nearly two years, and the residents had been distressed by the exactions of the men, so that when the vessel was finally cast ashore on the other side of the town, the opportunity for remuneration for past injuries was welcomed by the Truro people. General Otis said it was the occasion of riotous work at the wreck. The state took proper measures and the sheriff sold the effects, reserving the cannon.
Truro was greatly bereaved by the gale of October, 1841. The records say: "On the night of that memorable day, October 3, fifty-seven of our brave seamen were swept from the shores of time, their remains sinking into one common watery grave." These were young and middle-aged fishermen, mostly engaged at the time of the storm on the George's bank. They undertook to sail to the Highland, but were carried to the southeast upon the Nantucket shoals.
A breakwater and wharf was petitioned for in 1848, the first to be 800 feet long and 550 feet from high water mark, and the wharf 400 feet long. This would have afforded shelter for boats and small vessels, but a portion only of the work was constructed, when it was
found that the wood work was being almost immediately destroyed by worms, and the work was abandoned. Pamet harbor in 1853 received a supposed benefit by the driving of spiles, that the current might deepen the channel; but after an expenditure of two thousand dollars, this project was also abandoned.
After years of discussion, in 1840 cart bridges were built across Great and Little Pamet rivers, and have since been kept up and greatly improved. These and other advantages of access led to the arrangement for a town hall at Truro village, the church having been previously used for public gatherings. Sometime prior to 1850 a society of Odd Fellows erected a hall by the formation of a stock company, and this was purchased by the town for town purposes. The records yet recognize in the clerk's minutes the old name of Union Hall. It stands on the north bank of the Pamet river, near the churches—a good landmark for seamen and landsmen.
The poor house now in use, erected between 1840 and 1845, is also on the north side of Pamet river. The house previously used by the town was a dwelling, at South Truro, which was sold to John B. Cooper after a larger one was completed, and he now resides in it. These town buildings and the office of the clerk and treasurer are situated at Truro village, where the town business has centered. When the fishing business was at its height, the enterprising citizens of Truro, in the winter of 1840-41, instituted the Truro Marine Insurance Company. The losses in the gale of October, 1841, seriously crippled the association, and after another year of unprofitable business, the affairs were wound up. The Truro Benevolent Society, established in 1835, has had better fortune and still exists, with a fund of several hundred dollars in its treasury. It is similar to an insurance in principle, and by the payment of a small sum annually, the member has a certain amount in sickness, or at death. This society, well administered, has done much good.
The first colonial census, in 1765, gave 924 souls in Truro, and that of 1776 increased the number to 1,227. The United States census of 1790 gave 1,193, and in 1800 the population had decreased forty-one. In 1810 the salt and fishing interests had increased the number to 1,200, and then the growth of the population was more rapid. In 1830 it was 1,547, in 1840 it was 1,920, reaching its highest number, 2,051, in the census of 1850. From this date the decline was as rapid as the increase; being 1,583 in 1860, only 1,269 in 1870, and in the state census of 1885—the last general enumeration of the inhabitants—the number was 972.
The descendants of the early proprietors still occupy similar positions in the affairs of the town, and in part, the same estates of those sterling ancestors. In 1800 there were twenty-six families of the
name of Rich, fifteen of Lombard, fifteen of Snow, ten of Paine, and ten of Dyer. There are many old houses of these settlers still extant, although newly covered and perhaps modernized beyond recognition, the oldest being one on the northerly side of Longnook, built in 1710 by Lieutenant Jonathan Paine, and now the John Atkins place. Here Lieutenant Paine resided when he sold, in 1726, his negro boy, Hector, to Benjamin Collins, which was the last bill of sale of slaves made in Truro. The present valuation of the town is about three hundred thousand dollars, of which two-thirds is real estate. The yearly expenses of the town are over five thousand dollars. It contains 262 dwelling houses, and an appearance of thrift, without ostentation, prevails. The financial condition of the town for the year ending December 31, 1889, was very favorable and pleasing. The close of the year 1886 showed a town debt of $1,724.74, with a tax of twenty dollars on the one thousand dollars. In 1887 the debt was reduced to $286.05, on the same tax rate. On the last day of December, 1888, the debt had been cancelled and the town had money in the treasury, on a tax rate of $16.20 on one thousand dollars. The report of December, 1889, showed a balance of $808.06 in the treasury, and tax rate reduced to $14.50.
Civil History.—The action of the proprietors prior to 1705 cannot be considered as the acts of the body politic, so that the civil history of Truro really dates from 1709, when, by incorporation, the town commenced its municipal government. Many acts had been voted by the proprietors prior to the incorporation for the preservation of shell fish, the sedge from the salt marshes and the setting off of lands for the support of the ministry; but the order of the general court, that town officers be elected on August first of that year, commenced the civil history of the town. At the February town meeting, 1710, several freemen were admitted, and Jedediah Lombard and Thomas Paine were appointed as a committee "to buy all the lands of the Indians when, and so often as any of said Indians shall see cause to sell." The crows and blackbirds were voted out of the pale of Puritan society because they pulled up and destroyed the young corn, and in 1711 every housekeeper was compelled to bring eight blackbirds' heads and two crows' heads to the selectmen or pay a fine of three shillings, for the benefit of the poor; a premium upon the heads of additional birds was also voted. The same year several roads were laid out throughout the town. In 1713 the first bounty on a wolf's head was voted, and three pounds per head was a sum that greatly tended to diminish the number of these thieves in the town.
The first burial ground—mentioned with the churches—was ordered in 1714. The entry was, that "a convenient piece of ground on the north side of the meeting house be cleared for a burial
ground." In 1715 Thomas Paine and Thomas Mulford were appointed by the town to meet a committee from Eastham to settle the bounds between the towns, and in 1716 voted " not to send a representative to general court." In 1721 the town meeting voted "that the swine belonging to said town might go at large under such regulations as the law has provided." The receipt of the bills of credit loaned the town by the province was voted upon in 1728, and a committee of three was appointed to receive and loan it out again.
In 1732 there were thirty-six freemen in the town, and it will be remembered that all heads of families were not freemen, or voters. The bounty on wolf scalps had been continued, and this pest had been diminished in number; but the value of the last wolf or two was the foundation of the vote in 1739, for a large reward to any one who "shall kill the wolf that of late has been prowling about." It seems that as early as 1745 the boys were not attentive listeners to the long sermons of the day, for that year the town appointed a committee, in open town meeting, "to take care of the boys that they don't play in meeting on the Sabbath." This important town office was continued and filled by various personages for many years, and the power to castigate these restless young sprouts was subsequently given to these officers.
The use of the common lands for keeping and feeding cattle was made a topic of discussion and vote in 1745, and the cutting of trees at East harbor within 160 rods of the high water mark was prohibited. Many of these town enactments look quite superfluous to the reader, but the time and circumstances made them necessary. Why any boy under ten years of age should not be engaged to drive blackfish or porpoises seems a strange law, but the town ordered it so in 1753.
Year after year the regular and special town meetings provided for the schools, the roads, the election of officers and the proper care of the meeting house until 1773-1774, when the taxes of the mother country became a matter of discussion and vote, and the town appointed Captain Joshua Atkins, Isaiah Atkins, Dea. Joshua Freeman, Dr. Samuel Adams, Ephraim Harding, Thacher Rich, Nathaniel Harding, Benjamin Atkins and Hezakiah Harding, a committee to prepare a proper resolve concerning the introduction of teas subject to duty. This committee reported a long preamble and resolution which stand on the records as a lasting memorial of the loyalty of the town during the dark days of the revolutionary war. It is worthy of the town to know that this strong resolution was passed without a dissenting voice. The town in its meetings organized military companies appointed watches and guards, provided powder and other munitions of war.
The seamen of Truro filled an important part in the capture of British privateers during the revolutionary war, and many Truro men were captured and imprisoned by the enemy. The fleet of the enemy constantly menaced the town, which must be protected by its own citizens. One incident worthy of record occurred near Pond landing. One day the enemy were about to land a body of men to plunder the town, when the exempts and town militia resorted to stratagem to ward off a blow which could not otherwise be averted. A small body of these citizens marched to the shore, keeping behind an elevation of land until prepared to carry out the ruse, which was to continuously march around the knoll, giving the impression to the marauding party that a large force of soldiers were congregating to oppose them. The apparent assembling of company after company had the desired effect upon the British commander, who judged it prudent not to land. The town was among the most loyal to instruct its representative "to fall in with the Continental Congress."
The records of the town are filled with the resolves and proceedings of the town meetings during the war of 1812, and the war of the rebellion; and the standing of the town in the scale of duty during these struggles is one of which the present generation may justly be proud.
The town was not represented in general court until five years after its incorporation, and during the period it was entitled to a representative it did not always send one. The following list gives the names of the representatives the first year of election, and the number of years each served if more than one: 1714, Thomas Paine, 5 years; 1715, Constant Freeman; 1717, Thomas Mulford, 2; 1721, John Snow, 3; 1723, Jonathan Paine, 3; 1757, Barnabas Paine; 1761, Isaiah Atkins; 1774; Benjamin Atkins; 1775, Samuel Harding; 1776, Reuben Higgins, 2; 1779, Sylvanus Snow, 2; William Thayer, 2; 1785, Ephraim Harding, 3; 1791, Anthony Snow, jr., 6; 1800, Levi Stevens; 1810, Israel Lombard, jr.; 1824, James Small, 8; 1831, John Kenney, 2; 1833, Shubael Snow, 4; 1834, Eben L. Davis, 2; 1835, Joshua Small 2; 1836, Henry Stevens, 2; and Solomon Davis 2; 1837, Jonas Stevens, 2; 1838, Freeman Atkins, 2; 1839, Jedediah Shedd, 3; 1840, Michael Snow; 1842, John Kenney, jr.; 1843, Hugh Hopkins; 1844, Richard Stevens; 1845, Ebenezer Davis, 3; 1848, Levi Stevens; 1849, Daniel Paine, 2; 1852, James Small; 1853, John Smith; 1855, Samuel H. Smith, jr.; and in 1856, Adin H. Newton.
In August, 1709, selectmen for the remainder of the year were first elected by the town, and the following list contains the names of those who have since served in that capacity, giving the year of the first election of each and the time of service when over one year: In 1709, John Snow for 12 years, Thomas Mulford for 9, and Jedediah
Lombard, 5; 1710, Benjamin Small, Isaac Snow and H. Scammon; 1711, Eben Doane; 1712, Thomas Rogers, and Thomas Paine, 6; 1713, Nathaniel Atkins, and Josiah Cooke; 1714, Hezekiah Purinton; 1715, Constant Freeman, 7; 1720, Francis Small, 10, Andrew Newcomb, 3, and Richard Stevens; 1723, John Myrick, 15; Jonathan Vickery 3: 1726, Samuel Eldred, and Jonathan Paine, 30; 1727. Elkanah Paine, 10, Ezekiel Cushing and William Sargent; 1730, Jeremiah Bickford; 1731, Thomas Smith, 3; 1734, Edward Covel; 1744, Samuel Rich, 4; 1748, Thomas Cobb, 2, Barnabas Paine, 7, and Eben Dyer, 3; 1750, Zaccheus Rich, 11; 1751, Isaiah Atkins, 20, and Jonathan Dyer, 2; 1753, Joshua Atkins, James Lombard, and John Rich, 2; 1754, Paul Knowles, Anthony Snow, 3; 1763, Job Arey, 3; 1766, Ephraim Lombard, 3, Eben Rich, 7; 1767, Daniel Paine, 2 ; 1769, Ambrose Dyer, 7, and Benjamin Collins, 7; 1776, Ephraim Harding, 13, and Jedediah Paine, 5; 1777, Barzillai Smith; 1778, Israel Gross, 3; 1781, Benjamin Atkins,Thomas Paine, 2; 1782, Timothy Nye, 4; 1783, Sylvanus Snow, 5; 1785, Benjamin Hinckley, 2; 1787, Fulk Dyer, Nathaniel Atkins, 9; and Jesse Rich, 8; 1795, David Dyer, 3; 1796, Caleb Hopkins, 8, and Benjamin A. Upham; 1797, Ambrose Snow, 13, and Levi Stevens, 9; 1802, Jonathan Rich, John Gross, 2, and Isaac Small; 1804, Joseph Small, 3; 1807, Barnabas Paine, 11; 1809, Paul Dyer, 5; 1810, Israel Lombard, 4; 1811, John Rich, 14; 1812, Allen Hinckley, 2; 1814, Sylvanus Nye, 3; 1816, James Collins, 4, and Eben Atkins, 4; 1818, Reuben O. Paine, 2, and Benjamin Hinckley, jr.; 1819, Barnabas Paine, 4, and James Small, 10; 1822, Joshua Small, 5; 1823, Asa Sellew, 9; 1824, John Kenney, 24; 1833, John Smith, 4; 1835, Freeman Atkins, 2 ; 1836, Jonas Stevens, 9; 1837, Jedediah Shedd, 11; 1839, Nehemiah Rich, 2; 1841, Solomon Davis, 9; 1843, Daniel Paine, 4; 1846, Solomon Paine, jr.: James Hughes, 13; 1847, Samuel Dyer, 2; 1849, Atwood Rich, 5; 1855, Sears Rich, 3; 1858, Freeman Cobb, 3; 1861, William T. Newcomb, 2; 1863, Abraham C. Small, and Amasa Paine; 1864, John Kenney, 5, James Collins 3, and Nathan K. Whorf; 1866, Smith K. Hopkins, 7, and Ephraim Rich, 8; 1869, Thomas H. Kenney, 6; Elkanah Paine; 1874, Isaac M. Small, 5; 1875, Jesse S. Pendergast, 2; Samuel Dyer, 5, and Obadiah S. Brown, 2; 1877, Benjamin Coan, 2, and Isaac C. Freeman, 5; 1879, Jeremiah Hopkins, 2; 1880, Josiah F. Rich, 11; 1881, Joseph Hatch, 4; 1887, Asa C. Paine; 1888, Samuel Dyer, jr., 2; 1890, Henry B. Holsbery and Edward L. Small.
The town treasurers from first to last are given with the year of election, each serving until his successor was elected: 1709, Constant Freeman; 1710, Thomas Paine; 1721, another Thomas Paine; 1724, John Snow; 1726, Moses Paine; 1745, Joshua Atkins; 1755, Ephraim Lombard, 1763; Richard Collins; 1767, Job Avery; 1770, Israel Gross, 1777; Richard Stevens; 1779, Benjamin Rich; 1780, Elisha Dyer; 1782,
Joshua Freeman; 1787, Sylvanus Snow; 1791, Anthony Snow; 1817, Lewis Lombard; 1835, Barnabas Paine; 1848, Samuel C. Paine; 1879, John B. Dyer.
The town clerks have sometimes filled the office of treasurer, but as it has not always been so the following list of clerks is given, each serving until the election of his successor: 1709, John Snow; 1710, Thomas Paine; 1721, another Thomas Paine; 1745, Moses Paine; 1764, Barnabas Paine; 1769, Daniel Paine; 1785, Sylvanus Snow; 1788, Benjamin A. Upham; 1797, Levi Stevens; 1799, Anthony Snow; 1817, Lewis Lombard; 1835, Barnabas Paine; 1849, Samuel C. Paine; 1880, John B. Dyer.
Churches.—When the people of Truro asked the general court for the privileges of a town incorporation, it was granted upon condition that " they procure and settle a learned and godly minister." This condition was fulfilled as soon as possible, and the year of the incorporation of the town Rev. John Avery came, and was ordained November 1, 111, at which time the Congregational society was organized with seven members. Some historians assert that the first meeting house was erected at North Truro (known formerly as Pond village) near the site of the present Union church. This matter we have thoroughly investigated, and find that the graves near the Union church, which are so well remembered by old settlers, were those made before a regular burial place was laid out, and from all the facts in the case we conclude that the first meeting house was at the south of North Truro, on the hill of storms, in the southwest corner of the present burying ground. Here a primitive meeting house had been erected, which was succeeded by a new and better one, commenced in 1720 and completed the following year. In the new meeting house spaces for pews were sold at prices varying from £5, 10s. to £1, 15s. In 1765 this meeting house was enlarged and remodeled and the pews were sold at enormous prices. In 1792 more pews were built in the gallery, and here upon the hill, as a beacon for the tempest-tossed mariner, the old church remained until 1840, when, after several years of disuse, it was taken down. The old burying ground with its first head stone of 1713, remains to mark the site of the first meeting house and first laid-out ground of Truro.
Mr. Avery preached in the house until his death in 1754, and was succeeded by Rev. Caleb Upham, ordained October 29, 1755, who was pastor forty-two years, departing this life in November, 1828 [9 Apr 1786 in fact, thus minister 30 years, and followed in office by Jude Damon until 23 Nov 1828]. Rev. Stephen Bailey supplied about five years until the ordination of Silas Baker, in March, 1832. Mr. Baker was dismissed in 1834, and was succeeded in March, 1836, by Charles Boyter until 1843.
In 1827 a new church edifice was erected at Truro village, southwest of the old meeting house, and in which the present distinctive
Congregational society worships and claims to be a continuation of the old. Edward W. Noble was ordained in December, 1849, and continued until 1883, succeeded by Joseph Hammond for three years. Hiram L. Howard and J. K. Closson successively supplied each a term, and in the autumn of 1889 Rev. T. S. Robie was settled as pastor.
A portion of the original society organized themselves into a new society, May 22, 1842, calling themselves the Second Congregational church, but the society soon after united with the Methodists in building a meeting house and the two societies were formed into one, called the Christian Union Society, the pulpit to be supplied one half the time by a pastor of each of the original societies. This was done according to the terms of the union, but during the last twenty years the pulpit has been mostly filled by a Methodist pastor. The pastors have been: 1840, Seth H. Beals; 1842, Benjamin M. Southgate, and Osborn Myrick; 1845, John D. King; 1847, Arnold Adams, and Thomas Smith; 1849, George W. Rogers; 1851, Samuel J. M. Lord; 1855, Franklin Sears; 1856, Job Cushman; 1859, Abram Holway; 1860, Malcomb D. Herrick; 1861, Joseph C. Barlett; 1863, Philander Bates; 1866, Charles Stokes; 1869, Jacob W. Price; 1871, Henry W. S. Packard; 1873, Joel Martin; 1874, Isaac Sherman; 1878, Charles Morgan; 1882, Samuel Morrison; 1884, Benjamin K. Bosworth; 1887, Frederick C. Crafts; 1888, Christopher P. Flanders.
The present meeting house, owned by the Methodist Episcopal Society of Truro, was erected on the high ground on the north side of Pamet river in 1826, by the society already organized. In 1845 the house was remodeled, and again about fifteen years ago the galleries were removed and the inside of the house more or less changed. Since 1876 this society and that of South Truro have been served by the same pastor. The names of the ministers and the year they commenced are: 1827, Warren Wilbur; 1828, Benjamin Keith; 1829, Abraham Holway; 1830, William R. Stone; 1832, William Ramsdell; 1834, Enoch Bradley; 1836, Thomas W. Giles; 1838, J. R. Barstow; 1840, Levi Woods; 1841, Reuben Bowen; 1843, Thomas Patten; 1844, Charles A. Carter; 1846, Henry Mayo; 1847, Samuel Beadle; 1849, O. Robbins; 1850, T. B. Gurney; 1851, Thomas D. Blake; 1853, E. B. Hinckley; 1854, L. E. Dunham; 1855, John W. Willett; 1857, William E. Sheldon; 1858, N. P. Selee; 1860, J. B. Washburn; 1863, Lawton Cady; 1864, A. H. Newton; 1865, Joseph Geery; 1866, H. S. Smith; 1867; Jason Gill; 1870, Isaac G. Price; 1871, Isaac Sherman; 1874, Richard Burn; 1876, Virgil W. Mattoon; 1879, Charles N. Hinckley; 1880, J. S. Fish; 1883, Charles T. Hatch; 1886, John Q. Adams; 1889, John S. Bell.
The Universalists in 1846 had acquired sufficient strength to
undertake the erection of a suitable building for their services, but a severe storm completely demolished the newly-raised building and the project was abandoned.
Very early the members of the Methodist faith were actively engaged in Truro, and after the days of circuit preachers one society embraced all of that faith. After the erection of the meeting house at Truro, the members of the society at South Truro found it inconvenient to go regularly there for worship. This led to the organization of the South Truro Methodist Episcopal Society on the 29th day of April, 1829. A church edifice was dedicated December 15, 1831, by Presiding Elder Benjamin F. Lombard. In 1851 the society had outgrown the house, and a new one erected just west of the first, is the one now occupying a prominent position upon the hill north of the little village of South Truro. Since 1876 this society and the First society at Truro have been supplied by the same pastor.
The first pastor, Rev. Benjamin Keith, was largely instrumental in the organization of Methodism in Truro, and after many years of service on the circuit was settled as the pastor of this church in 1831; but a modest monument in the old burial place of this society, and near by the site of the old house in which he had so faithfully labored, marks the place of his burial in 1834. He was succeeded in 1833 by Joseph B. Brown; in 1834 by Thomas Dodge for three years, 1839 by Joel Steele; 1841, James Bignall; 1842, Henry H. Smith; 1845, Lozian Pierce; 1846, William Leonard; 1848, Adin H. Newton; 1850, Ira M. Bidwell; 1851, Anthony Palmer; 1852, William Keller; 1854, William Leonard; 1856, F. A. Loomis; 1857, Josiah C. Allen; 1860, A. Lathan; 1861, S. B. Chase; 1862, George S. Alexander; 1864, E. M. Anthony; 1866, Messrs. Bowditch and Ayer; 1867, B. L. Sayer; 1870, Wetherbee, Miller and Macomber; 1876, Mr. Butler; the pastors who have since served are given in the list of the Truro church.
Of the early preachers and exhorters in the rise of Methodism in Truro many pleasing things are recorded. Earnestness and, perhaps, eccentricity were marked in their labors. The local exhorter was a prominent factor in the life of the primitive church, and with these the Truro society was well supplied. Ephraim Doane Rich, Ebenezer L. Davis, Stephen Collins and others will not be forgotten for their good works in the cause of Methodism. The logic of these plain exhorters was incontrovertible, although presented in a rude and uncultivated manner.
After the camp meeting of 1819 at Wellfleet the societies of that town and Truro united in 1826 in pitching their tents in Truro, a short distance south of the bridge, on the hill where was a beautiful grove, and where Joshua Smith afterward built a house. These meet-
ings resulted in the incorporation of the Eastham Camp Meeting Association, and still later of the present Yarmouth association.
Burying Grounds.—The oldest burial place of the town is that south of North Truro, where the first Congregational meeting house was erected. This religious society later opened one at Truro, and more recently have opened still another there. The Methodists have one at Truro, and the South Truro society have another at South Truro. The Catholics instituted a burial place at Truro a few years ago, being the sixth in the town.
Schools.—The first mention of any provision for the support of schools in Truro was in the town meeting of 1715, when it was voted "that Rev. Mr. Avery and the selectmen be a committee to procure a suitable person to keep a town school." This order was not successful in its result, for the very next year the town was presented for its delinquency in not providing a teacher, and Jonathan Paine was appointed to appear at the court of general sessions in the town's behalf. In 1716 the town school began, the sum appropriated being twenty pounds for a half year. The teacher, Samuel Spear, was hired for the year 1717, having given satisfaction the first six months. His salary was forty pounds and " board himself."
To the credit of the town, let it be recorded that the citizens preferred a school for the young, to sending a representative to general court, and as the expense of both was thought to be onerous the school went on and the representative remained at home. In 1719 Samuel Winter was hired for twelve months for forty pounds, and the school was to be moved around. The first three months it was taught in the house of William Dyer, jr.; the next six months at Captain Constant Freeman's or in his neighborhood, and the last three months of the year at a suitable place near East harbor. No school houses were yet erected, and for many years the schools were kept in private houses.
In 1821 Mr. Winter was engaged for one year and three months, the term to commence after his engagement for 1720. The prosperity of the schools and the increase in pupils led to the purchase, in 1724, of two school house sites, one near the residence of Richard Stevens, and the other at the northerly side of Longnook. School houses were built on these lots, and the last named site at Longnook was used for school houses until 1855.
From the 26th of June, 1728, Solomon Lombard was the teacher for a year, and after a term of years Mr. Gibson was hired, as we find a complimentary vote in 1737 in the town records which explains itself: "Voted to give Mr. Gibson the rate of £55 a year in consideration of his support of the ancient people with whom he lived the winter past." In 1747 sixty pounds was voted for the schools.
In 1757 Mr. Woomley was employed, and although the times were stringent the schools progressed. In 1765 it was thought expedient to ask the general court to be excused from providing a grammar school, and to be permitted to substitute a good school for reading and common branches; but after a few years this error was corrected by a vote that Barnabas Paine, Joshua Atkins and Ebenezer Dyer be agents "to get a learned grammar master at once." In 1798 two hundred dollars was paid for schools and forty dollars for singing to be taught.
In 1840 the school fund from the state gave fresh impulse to the school interests and §750 was appropriated for schools. From this a visible improvement was discernable, the appropriation in 1853 being $1,300, and $1,450 in 1855. The next year $1,500 was set apart for their support, suitable rules were made for the better regulation and attendance of the seven schools then kept in as many nice houses throughout the town. Six of these houses had double rooms, were commodious, and better provided with teachers than when left to each district to build the houses and provide the necessary equipments. The interest has continued. Gradation followed, and the eleven districts were reduced to seven, and from seven to the present system of four houses in the town. North Truro has one of two departments; Truro one with two rooms; Longnook has a good house and South Truro another. The annual appropriation is now $1,600. The committee in charge are efficient school men, and the standing of the schools is a worthy result of the continued care and expense bestowed.
Villages.—The town has no large villages, but in the past, as well as present, the several communities have possessed the elements of New England villages. The East Harbor village was situated south of the harbor of that name, and last century it was the important one of the town. From East harbor southerly to the Pond this settlement extended, and there in the enjoyment of rural avocations, a large community of peaceful, contented citizens dwelt. As soon as the fishing interests clustered at the Pond, and a post office was established there, then Pond village was the center of the northern part of the town; and north of that there are but few residences at the present time. It is now called North Truro. The high banks along the bay are intersected by a valley, making from the shore, and this dividing into two parts, forms a pretty and secluded spot for a village. Early in the century the entrance to the valley afforded a convenient landing from the bay, and the circuitous bend of land that forms the harbor of Provincetown sheltered this landing place from the winds, making a chosen spot for the fishing vessels. At this point the Cape is very narrow, and across to the ocean shore the cheerful
homes of the villagers extend, so that the lights and the life saving station may be considered as in the village of North Truro. The situation and surroundings of this pleasant hamlet excel any other of the town. The first graveyard of the town, and the site of the first church are visible to the south, and from the surrounding hills may be seen Provincetown and Plymouth.
In 1835 a post office was established here, the entire town having had but one office prior to that, and which was in the center of the town. David Ayres, appointed June 18, 1835, was the first postmaster, keeping the office at his residence. Isaiah M. Atkins was appointed September 26, 1836, followed October 25th of the same year by James Small, who kept the office at the Highlands. July 29, 1841, Edward Armstrong was appointed, removing the office to his house, opposite the present office. He died, and his widow, Hannah, was appointed April 24, 1846. John Grozier was appointed June 8, 1847, and kept the office about a quarter of a century in his residence, near the pond. June 23, 1873, Captain Edwin P. Worthen was appointed, and he kept it several years in his house, then in a store building just west of his present home. In October, 1889, Lillian J. Small, the present incumbent, was appointed, who removed it to her store, where, with an addition to the building for its accommodation, the new case of boxes and drawers are neatly kept.
The original store building in which the post office is kept was erected in 1856 by A. C. Small, who in 1857 began trade in groceries, continuing until 1881, when his daughter, Lillian J. Small, commenced in dry goods, drugs and fancy articles. The post office is in the front part—all new except a standing desk that has been in use in the office for fifty years. Marshall Ayers had an old store when he was postmaster. It stood near Mr. Thompson's present store, and was moved to where John Francis lives. Anna Small kept an old store in it after it was moved. That part of the village south of and near the present Union church contained several stores early in the history of the village. Johana Mercy had one in her house where Jeremiah Hopkins lives, near the church. Sylvanus Nye had another in the house now the residence of Atkins Hughes, and prior to that he kept one where Caleb Eastman lives. Frank Small had one south of the present village, and Eleazer Collins another where Charles Collins lives.
David D. Smith began, in 1846, a store in a small building near John G. Thompson's present place of business. In 1851 he erected Thompson's store, where he continued business till April, 1864, when he sold to Samuel Knowles. In 1865 Sylvanus Hughes purchased the property, and began a store in June, 1866, which he sold out to John G. Thompson in September of the same year. It was in 1849 that
Frank Small opened his store opposite the church, which he continued twenty-one years, and then sold to J. W. Small, who, after a year, moved the building across next to the church. In 1873 John G. Thompson purchased the goods and moved them to his store. Mr. Thompson has recently erected a large grain and flour store-house nearly opposite his store, and is conducting the largest trade in the north part of the town.
Taverns were formerly kept on the King's highway, in the eastern part of the village, but the keepers' names cannot be recalled. The present hotel, owned by I. Morton Small, is more especially for summer visitors, and has been liberally patronized. It is properly named the Highland House, from its elevated site on the clay pounds near the lights. Hiram Hatch was engaged as proprietor for 1890. Near the depot a summer hotel is kept by Mrs. Atwood, and just east Mrs. Green has opened another.
The railroad track runs across the mouth of the valley that opens into the hills, and the high embankment has cut off the tides that formerly made the Pond a safe anchorage for small craft. On the north side of the valley stands the neat depot of the Old Colony railroad, of which Isaac Green was the first agent until his death, when Isaac Smith, his son-in-law, the present agent, was appointed.
The village has a neat and thrifty appearance, and since the establishment of the several fishing weirs, of which Atkins Hughes is agent, it has assumed considerable commercial importance.
Truro village, sometimes called Truro Center, is the principal community of the town. The town house, two churches, clerk and treasurer's office, and the continuation of the oldest post office of the town have centered here, and give to the scattering community the sobriquet of a village. The valley and banks of the Pamet river, Indian neck, and Longnook are considered within the limits of the village, and constitute an area of several square miles of hills and downs, traversed by sandy, winding roads. The dyke over which the public road passes has stopped the influx of the tide: and above this the marshes along the river bear English hay, and afford better farming land. On the old stage route around the head of the marshes were taverns, but none are extant. Of the old stores in which molasses, rum and tobacco were the staples, none are left, those of the fore part of this century being the connecting link between the past and present.
In 1820 Daniel Paine started a store at Longnook where he had the post office. Captain Samuel Ryder prior to 1830 had a store on the bank north-east of the present post office, which he closed in 1851 when he went west. In 1833 Josiah Wilder started a store near the lower foot bridge, on the south side of the river, and years afterward
moved the building to where Daniel W. Oliver lives, where he continued until 1864. John Smith in 1837 started a store near the present depot, and on the north bank near the embankment Snow & Paine started another. These were fitting-out stores in connection with the fisheries. Lewis Lombard and Solomon Paine, jr., continued these' stores until the decline of the fishing business. John M. Gill had a tin and hardware store near Union wharf in 1840, and Nathan K. Whorf also kept a variety store there. Near this wharf two sail lofts and one rigger shop were run successfully for years, for it was here that vessels were built, and here were wharves for vessel and boat building other than has been mentioned in the town history of Truro. The harbor was excellent between the years 1830 and 1845, tut in 1860 the sand had so choked it that the industries clustered there were discontinued. Then the business naturally moved a mile up the river, where it is continued, but not so extensively as formerly.
Samuel C. Paine started a store at Longnook in 1855, and in December, 1860, moved the building and goods to his present place at the north end of the dyke, where in March, 1861, he opened his present business in drugs and medicines.
About 1855 Benjamin Dyer opened a grocery store near the present post office, in which he was succeeded by Amasa Paine and Nathaniel Dyer as the firm of A. Paine & Co. In 1879 William I. Paine, son of Amasa, took the business, which he continued until 1886, when he was succeeded by J. L. Dyer, who continues business.
In 1888 Daniel W. Oliver moved the school house from the place called Castle to his present place of business—the south end of the dyke. The store had been a skating rink when that craze spread over the Cape, and it made an excellent grocery and dry-good store in which he continues business.
The last stores at the wharves, where the railroad embankment is, were company stores, the very latest being run by Elkanah Paine under the name of E. Paine & Co. He was succeeded in 1856 by a company composed of Nathaniel Dyer, Amasa Paine and Sears Rich, as N. Dyer & Co., which dissolved after a short time. These gentlemen, as did the company composed of Josiah Wilder and Joseph Whorf, moved up the river, and in some individual cases opened other places of business at the present center. The high embankment now overlooks the sites of these busy wharves and stores of fifty years ago, and hardly a vestige of the former industries remain. The railroad passed through in 1873, when George S. Hamilton was appointed the depot agent, which position he filled until 1885, when Isaac C. Freeman was appointed.
The first postmaster of Truro was Ephraim Harding, appointed April 1, 1798. July 1, 1803, he was succeeded by Benjamin Harding,
who was followed by Sylvanus Nye, at the Highlands, February 25, 1809. The next incumbent was Daniel Paine, appointed December 16, 1820. He kept the office at Longnook. December 24,1830, Hincks Gross was appointed, succeeded March 8, 1847, by Josiah Wilder, at his store. April 9, 1859, Edward Winslow was made postmaster, but he resigned in 1861 to enter the army, and Samuel C. Paine was appointed. Mr. Paine kept the office at his store until 1888, when Daniel W. Oliver was appointed, and he removed the office to his store. In June, 1889, Samuel C. Paine was re-appointed, and the office was removed to the old place.
The Union Hall Association was instituted May 1, 1848, by the usual legal warrant issued by Barnabas Paine. Ninety-six of the one hundred shares of stock issued were taken and by an assessment of $22.78 on each share the Union Hall was erected. The lower floor was constructed for public use and the upper for the Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and Cadets, all of which societies were discontinued after a few years. This building was sold to the town as has been stated.
The social circles are well attended and of these this village has its proportion. The Iron Hall, Branch 984, organized February 15, 1889, has fifty members.
The Truro Library Association, with a good collection of books, and its literary entertainments given in public, is indicative of the taste of the residents. The societies and associations, although meeting at the center, are composed of members from the entire town.
South Truro has been so designated only since the advent of the railroad, and since the citizens of the south part of the town asked for and received postal facilities. It is situated in the southwest corner of the town, adjoining Bound brook, and has some commercial importance in the affairs of the town. The pleasant little depot of the Old Colony railroad is now kept by S. W. Rich, who was appointed in 1882. Walter N. Elliott was the agent for several months previous, and John Elliott was the first appointee, serving from 1873 to 1881. A post office was asked for, and in March, 1874, the South Truro office was instituted with John Elliott as postmaster, who kept it at the depot while he was agent and then at his store. It is now kept by him in his store a few rods from the depot.
There had been a small community here from the early settlement of the town, but the first store within the memory of the present residents was that of Nehemiah Rich, who started it prior to 1835 and continued to about the year 1848. In 1849 some thirty citizens formed a stock association and opened the Union store, which was continued until about 1860, when Joseph Whorf, Elisha Rich, Ephraim Rich and Samuel Rich purchased the business. In 1862 Samuel Rich 60
bought out the others and ran the store until 1864, then moved the building to Provincetown. About 1854 the Union Store Company built a wharf on the bay shore where a fishing business was carried on, but when the company business at the store was discontinued the wharf was taken up and reconstructed at Provincetown. Three of the members of the Union Store Company—Atwood, Ephraim, and Elisha Rich—each had a small store at their houses subsequent to the dissolution of the company business.
In 1846 Joseph S. Cole started a store in a room at his house, and after three years erected a small store building where Richard T. Cobb lives. After about two years the store was moved across to his residence, then to the site of the Union store, and a few years ago he again moved the building to the present site near his house, where he continues his business.
This post hamlet enjoys a daily mail, and has the religious advantages of the Methodist Episcopal church half way between this and the center.
by Richard F. Whalen
THE PAMET INDIANS,
AN IDYLLIC LIFE ABRUPTLY ENDED
By all accounts, the Pamet Indians were remarkably healthy, strong and happy, living an almost idyllic life for many centuries on the land that would become Truro. They fished off Truro’s shores, gathered shellfish from its tidal flats, planted crops in its fields, gathered nuts, berries and roots, hunted deer in the hardwood forests and lived in harmony with Nature. Their food was varied, plentiful and nutritious.
Families lived in loose clusters of dome-shaped wigwams that could be easily taken down and moved. Favored sites for their sojourns in Truro were at High Head, Great Hollow, Corn Hill, along the Pamet River and at the end of Tom’s Hill overlooking Pamet Harbor. (Truro, Ch. 1) They may well have set up dwellings at other spots, wherever there were waters to fish, berries to harvest and open spaces to till.
They numbered probably in the low hundreds. When Captain Martin Pring and his men spent seven weeks at Pamet Harbor in the summer of 1603, Indian men appeared several times in groups ranging from ten to nearly two hundred. (Truro, Ch. 2) The larger groups were probably Pamets joined by Indians from elsewhere on the Outer Cape who were curious to see the strange visitors from the two big sailing ships.
The Pamet men were tall, strong, swift and well-proportioned, according to Pring’s narrative, which contains one of the two earliest—and best—descriptions of New England Indian people and culture. (Truro, App. A) They appeared to him to have darkened their skin to a “tawny or chestnut color,” probably done with body-oil or paint or both over a tanned skin. They braided their long hair in four parts and tied it up in back, “in which hair of theirs they stick many feathers and toys for bravery and pleasure,” according to Pring. Indian men had no beards; if any hair happened to sprout, they pulled it out.
Their summer clothing was minimal. “They cover their privates only with a piece of leather drawn betwixts their twists [thighs] and fastened to their girdles behind and before whereunto they hang their bags of tobacco,” says Pring. Belts were of snake skin, mocassins of leather. In winter, they would wear capes of deer hide or other animal skins. English settlers marveled at the Indians’ tolerance for cold. William Wood, who studied the ways of New England Indians, tells of Indians in winter wearing “a deep-furred cat skin, like a long, large muff, which he shifts to that arm which lieth most exposed to the wind.” Apparently, the Indians did not wear headgear.
Pring saw only two women; he thought the men were “somewhat jealous” of them. The two women wore “aprons of leather skins before them down to the knees and a bear’s skin like an Irish mantle over one shoulder.” Other explorers and settlers in New England found the Indian women good-looking, graceful, well-proportioned, and modest. Wood says the “women’s modesty drives them to wear more clothes than their men.” Although Pring was understandably wary of the many Indians he saw at Pamet Harbor since he and his men were interlopers on Indian territory, both he and Wood found them quite friendly. Wood called the New England Indians “kind and affable . . . rather naturally cheerful.” (Excerpts in Selected Readings)
Pring, Wood and other English observers might have expected the Indians to be dirty and unhealthy because in their view the Indians were unlettered, uncivilized savages living a semi-nomadic life in the forests. But they did not. They almost always described the Indians as healthy, happy and generally agreeable unless they were provoked.
Their nutritious diet “contributed to a lithe and healthy body, vigorous and with stamina,” says Howard S. Russell in his book, Indian New England Before the Mayflower. “All explorers who visited New England shores testify to this, and the English who associated with the natives after colonization comment on the great agility and endurance of the natives. An Indian runner could cover as many as a hundred miles in a single day, and on the second day afterward return in the same time.” Their teeth, even those of the elderly, were strong and regular. Russell examined the jaw-bone remains of forty pre-colonial Indians and found that few showed signs of decay. Indian children were also in excellent health, exhibiting high spirits and vigor in contrast to the hard life of many English children. Too much freedom and a lack of discipline were the only criticisms made by early English observers.
The Indians did not entirely escape illness and injury, but they had a pharmacopeia considered more comprehensive than that of the English. They derived scores of remedies from roots, barks, and berries—and the tobacco plant. Tobacco was used as an antiseptic on wounds and as a pain killer, especially for toothaches. Usually smoked in a wooden pipe or lobster claw, recreational tobacco was only for the men, and it appears they smoked the addictive substance fairly often, not just as medicine or a “peace pipe.” The Indians’ pharmacologists were not “medicine men” but elderly women who passed on their knowledge from generation to generation. In addition to drugs, the sweat lodge was a popular treatment. The ailing Indian sat in a wigwam filled with steam from water poured on heated rocks. Relatives and friends crowded into the wigwam and joined in chants and singing. Then they all plunged into a cold stream.
Most of the Indians could look forward to a long and healthy life, probably longer than a European’s, according to Russell. Wood saw no Indians with birth defects and very few who were “decrepit.” They were not subject to the many infectious, devastating diseases that plagued Europeans for centuries. Historians suggest that the Indians in North America were less prone to these diseases because, unlike the Europeans, they did not live in densely populated towns or close to domesticated animals.
A rich stew or thick soup with a variety of ingredients was the Pamet Indians’ usual meal. Into the earthen pot went corn and beans and whatever else was at hand—squash, pumpkin or other vegetables, pieces of fish or venison, turkey; duck or some other game birds; perhaps some groundnut root for a thickener; sometimes roots of other plants, such as the yellow pond lily or the Jerusalem artichoke (which is neither an artichoke nor from Jerusalem). The women had dozens of ways to combine ingredients. Their cooking oil came from seals and pilot whales.
In one form or another, Indian corn was in almost every meal, often mixed with beans to make succotash. The cook also roasted corn and pounded the kernels into flour to make a thick porridge or dough that was baked in leaves in hot ashes or on stones near the fire. She also made nut bread from walnuts, hickory nuts, beechnuts and chestnuts. Cornmeal from kernels parched in hot embers was their only food on hunting trips or when they were moving their dwellings to a new site. They mixed it with water or snow and ate it uncooked. The Pilgrims found a quantity of parched acorns in a wigwam on Corn Hill. (Truro, Ch. 3)
For fruit, the Indians had wild strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes and beach plums. They pressed them for juice, ate them raw and cooked and dried them for the winter. Although they did not cultivate berries, the Indians seem to seem to have at least maintained the larger strawberry patches by weeding them and clearing around them. Pring made special mention of strawberries, calling them “very fair and big,” and the Pilgrims saw “a great store of strawberries” on Corn Hill. Although not mentioned by Pring or the Pilgrims, there probably were grape vines in Truro. Indians elsewhere sometimes cleared bushes and tree limbs from encroaching on Nature’s vineyard.
Pring’s men dined on peas and beans with Indians at Pamet Harbor, but he adds that the Indians’ own food was mostly fish. Fish and shellfish were in the pot or on the plate almost everyday. The Indians ate oysters, clams and other shellfish raw, cooked in their stews and soups, and dried in smoke for winter. In the Corn Hill wigwam, the Pilgrims found pieces of fish and some broiled herring. They also found pieces of venison, which was 90 percent of the Indians’ meat. Other meat came from rabbits, raccoons, woodchucks, turtles, even skunks and frogs; also from game birds—ducks, geese, partridge, quail and the wild pigeons so abundant in those days but now extinct. If not put into the pot, fish and meat could be broiled or smoked. The Indians had neither salt nor any sugar or sweeteners for their meals; briny oysters and clams put some salt into their diet. Fruits provided fructose. Their drink was water, sometimes flavored with the juice of a fruit. They had no fermented drinks, no wine or alcohol from grapes or corn. At mealtime, they sat on the ground and ate with their hands and wooden spoons from wooden bowls. They had no knives or forks. William Wood says that they ate “without trenchers [plates], napkins, or knives . . . impatient of delays . . . without scrupling at unwashed hands, without bread, salt, or beer, lolling in the Turkish fashion, not ceasing till their full bellies leave nothing but empty platters.”
Although their food and table manners might have seemed primitive, the Indians’ diet is considered to have been just as nutritious as that of the Europeans and perhaps better, given their physical appearance and stamina. Even without any dairy products, they had a diversified and balanced diet of protein and carbohydrates, which contained, says Russell, “all essential calories, vitamins, minerals, acids, and trace elements necessary for healthy, enduring bodies and active, ingenious minds.”
In contrast to the popular image of the Indian with bow and arrow stalking a deer, the Pamet Indians were primarily fishermen and tillers of the soil. Cape Cod Bay was full of cod, bass and great schools of mackerel and herring that could be trapped in weirs. The men snared them with purse nets in streams and estuaries and caught them offshore and in Truro’s ponds with a wooden or bone hook baited with lobster and fastened to a line made of hemp. They trapped eels in pots and weirs set in the Pamet River and Eastern Harbor. They harpooned sturgeon from canoes, and when the big fish were migrating up streams they caught them in strong netting. Wood says the shoals off Cape Cod were one of the best places to harpoon sturgeon: “Some of these be twelve, fourteen, eighteen feet long.” An Indian harpoon point was found in 1967 in shallow water off North Truro’s bayshore. It was barbed and made of bone, probably from a pilot whale. Fifteen inches long, it is one of the largest found in southeastern New England.
“There be a great store of salt-water eels,” says Wood, “especially in such places where grass grows.” The Indians caught them at night in traps they made out of osiers and baited with bits of lobster meat. They ate them fresh and salted some for use in winter. Wood did not think the New England eels tasted as good as those in England, but eels would be a favorite dish for Americans until the late 1800s.
The Indians fished offshore from canoes, both dugout and birchbark. Pring was impressed by the birchbark canoes he saw at Pamet Harbor. He described one as seventeen feet long and four feet wide, pointed at both ends and with the bow “a little bending roundly upward.” He said that although it could carry nine men, it weighed only sixty pounds, “a thing most incredible in regard to the largeness and capacity thereof.” The Indians propelled canoes “very swiftly” with six-foot paddles of ash or maple.
The Indians could easily net the herring migrating up the Herring River to ponds near South Truro. Many of the fish went straight to the Indians’ fields as fertilizer. Squanto, whom the Pilgrims met at Plymouth, would become famous for having taught them how to put a fish into the seed hole when they planted corn and beans.
Many generations of Pamet Indians harvested great quantities of oysters, clams and other shellfish from the flats of Cape Cod Bay. Oysters could be up to a foot long. The women did the shell fishing, using a large clam shell tied to a stick for a clam rake. Wood says that when food was in short supply the Indian women would “trudge to the clam banks when all other means fail.” The Pamet Indians left large piles of empty shells in Truro. At High Head, some were three feet deep.
Deer, the Indians’ primary source of meat, also provided hides for clothing, rawhide for cordage and bone for tools. They stalked deer but more often trapped them so they could get closer for the kill. The Pilgrims came across a rope snare baited with acorns and tied to a bent-over sapling. William Bradford unwarily triggered the snare and was caught in it by a leg. The Pilgrims also found a pathway, probably funnel shaped, that the Indians used to drive a deer to the narrow end where they could shoot it at close range from hiding places. To attract deer and make it easier to hunt them, the Indians regularly burned the old undergrowth in hardwood forests. The deer would graze on the new growth. The day before Pring left Pamet Harbor, the Indians set a fire that burned for “a mile space.” He seemed to think it was some kind of threat, but the fire was probably a controlled burn of undergrowth.
Pring admired their bows and arrows. The bows were five or six feet long and made of “Wich-hasell” wood (perhaps American elm) painted black and yellow. Three strands of rawhide twisted together made a bow-string thicker than that of the English. Their arrows were about four and half feet long and were “made of a fine light wood very smooth and round with three long and deep black feathers of some eagle, vulture or kite.” Their large, woven-rush quivers, a yard long and tapered, were decorated with diamond-shaped designs of red and other colors.
The Indian women did the farming. They planted and cultivated the fields of corn, beans and various kinds of squashes. Their tools were wooden mattocks and spades to loosen the soil and a clam-shell hoe for weeding. They had no metal for tools, no beasts of burden, no wheels for carts. If a wife had a baby, she worked with the baby strapped to her back. Older children, who also gathered berries and nuts, guarded the ripening crops against birds, deer, raccoons and other predators. Pring saw an acre under cultivation near Pamet Harbor. The Pilgrims noted five fields on Corn Hill that had been cultivated, one of them in fifty acres of open space “fit for the plow.” No one saw any Indians in or near the fields; they kept out of sight.
In the spring, the Indians used fire to prepare land for cultivation. They burned their fields and spaded the ashes into the top soil as fertilizer. To clear forest land for cultivation, they burned standing evergreens completely and spread the ash. In stands of hardwood, they sometimes girdled trees to kill them and let sunlight reach their crops.
In the fall, after the harvest, the women dried vegetables, fruits, roots and fish. Winter provisions were packed in woven bags and baskets and buried in underground storerooms lined with rush mats and covered with mats and earth. The Pilgrims dug up a basket with thirty-six ears of corn, “some yellow and some red and others mixed with blue” and a bag of beans. In their second “borrowing” on Corn Hill, they took ten bushels of corn from an underground granary.
Tobacco was the only crop cultivated by men. Planting tobacco seeds was a religious rite. The dried leaves, chopped or powdered, were not only a curative for pain but a sacred drug that was smoked during religious ceremonies and important social occasions. Pring noted tobacco growing with corn and squash near a deserted wigwam on the Pamet River, and the Pilgrims found tobacco seeds in the Corn Hill wigwam.
Their wigwam was not the tall, conical teepee of the western Indians. It had a rounded roof, like an arbor. The Pamet Indians made their wigwams of woven mats of rushes lashed to a frame of thin, flexible saplings or limbs driven into the ground and bowed over to make walls and the roof. Mats lined the inside walls, too. The door, about three feet high, could be closed with a mat. In the center of the earthen floor, under the smoke hole in the ceiling, was the cooking fire and spits for broiling meat and fish. Around the sides were platforms and mats for beds. Their blankets were animal skins. Wood said the wigwams he saw “denied entrance to any drop of rain, though it come both fierce and strong.” He claimed they were tight against the cold wind, too: “They be warmer than our English houses.”
The Indians had dogs to clean up garbage after meals and to retrieve game birds. Whether they were pets in the modern sense is not clear. A dog was with a half dozen Pamet Indians sighted by the Pilgrims at a distance; the Indians ran away, they said, “and whistled the dog after them.” Not only did the women and girls do the farming and shell fishing, they also did all the work around the wigwam. Besides the cooking, they gathered the rushes and made the mats for their dwelling, installed them for siding and roofing, and hauled them to the next building site when it was time to move. They were the potters and basket weavers. They gathered fire wood and fetched water. They butchered deer with sharpened stones and the edge of clam or oyster shells. They made the family clothing from animal skins. And they took care of their babies and brought up the young children.
The English were surprised at the ease of childbirth for Indian women compared to Europeans. Infants were laid in a bed of cattail, milkweed fluff, duck feathers or sphagnum moss. A mother nursed her baby for about two years and carried the baby strapped to a board on her back. Baby food was a paste of nuts, squash and perhaps ground meat
Her husband and the young Pamet men hunted, trapped, fished, and felled trees. They made stone and wood tools, fish traps and weirs, bows and arrows, harpoons, dugout canoes and birchbark canoe frames. (The women sewed the bark onto the birchbark canoes.) Indian men seemed idle and selfish to the English because they spent so much time hunting, trapping and fishing in ponds and offshore, which the English considered sports. Russell says “they were emphatically not sports but often exhausting, body-wracking, tedious tasks and deadly earnest,” and, he says, there is little evidence that Indian women felt overburdened.
The Indians did have their sports and games. In contrast to the popular image of the grim-visaged Indian, they danced, played games and gambled. Pring described how they danced and sang to the music of a cither played by one of his crewmen. The Pilgrims at Plymouth also found Indian dancing noteworthy. Unable to understand its significance, Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim leader, compared their singing and dancing to the antics of English clowns. On his travels with them, he complained about their nighttime “barbarous singing” when, he said, they sang themselves to sleep.
Games ranged from an early version of lacrosse and something resembling soccer to dice-like games using stones, beans, small bones and bits of wood. Wood says they played their “football” on a flat, open surface of sand along a beach. The goals were up to a mile apart, and a game could last for several days. He notes their “swift footmanship, their curious tossings of their ball, their flouncing into the water, their lubberlike wrestling, having no cunning at all in that kind, one English being able to beat ten Indians at football.”
A Pamet family did not “own” its plot of land. The band of Pamets had their traditional territory on the Outer Cape, and there seems to have been plenty of land and resources for all to share peacefully and without encroaching. Rarely did the early commentators on the Indians note any evidence of crimes against person or property. The Pamets were no doubt like the other southern New England Indians, who “neither secured their wigwams nor concealed their personal possessions, and had no laws against theft,” according to Neal Salisbury in his book, Manitou and Providence. In addition to this remarkable honesty and morality, they were noted for their generosity and their sharing of goods and labor among themselves and with the English.
The Pamets were one of about thirty bands of Indians that were part of the Wampanoag, or Pokanoket, tribe, in southeastern Massachusetts. A tribe was governed by a sachem, usually an older man, sometimes a woman, who acted more as a coordinator, council moderator and ceremonial leader than as a autocratic ruler. The sachem governed through strength of character, ability to work with counselors and eloquence at council meetings rather than through physical strength or political maneuvering. The position was hereditary, sometimes “descending through the mother, perhaps to a sister’s offspring,” according to Russell. Nothing is known about the leaders of the pre-historic Pamets. In any case, they would have resolved disputes and made group decisions through councils of elders, both women and men.
The Indians saw spiritual values in all aspects of Nature, which was the great provider. They had various gods “to be pleased or appeased, not worshiped like idols,” according to Russell. Their ceremonies were elaborate and loud as they prayed to their gods to make rain for their crops, give them success in hunting or cure them of illness. They danced and chanted and smoked their sacred tobacco. They mourned the dead with “doleful cries,”according to Wood, and buried them with cherished possessions for the afterlife, their heads pointing to the southwest. The Pilgrims opened a grave on Corn Hill and found many artifacts, including a bow and some dishes.
Contagious diseases, advanced European technologies and zealous missionary work combined to doom the Indian way of life in New England. They had not built up immunities to European diseases ranging from measles and diphtheria to smallpox and the bubonic plague that the English explorers unwittingly brought with them to America. Their sweat-bath curatives perversely served only to spread the new and deadly diseases to everyone in the community. An estimated 70 percent of the Wampanoag Indians died during plagues in New England from 1616 to1619, fifteen years after Pring’s summer at Pamet Harbor and a year before the Pilgrims arrived. The remaining Indians had no idea that the advanced technologies of the English—plows, metal knives and saws, fabrics, guns, the wheel and beasts of burden—would overwhelm their culture so quickly and completely. Their belief in their gods was rapidly eroded by settlers who believed it was their religious duty to convert the Indians, teach them English and civilize them, that is, make them sober and docile citizens whose behavior would conform to the English way of life
Greatly outnumbered by the newcomers from Great Britain who bought their land for trifling amounts, the Indians in New England were expected to quit their everyday way of life, which the English considered primitive, even savage, and adapt to the ways of the English settlers. In Truro, Indian grandparents in the mid-1600s saw their grandchildren abandoning their centuries-old culture under the pressure and attraction of new ways of living brought by the settlers. The Pamet Indians’ way of life in what would become Truro disappeared in fewer than two generations.
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