Frederick C. Hicks, South Wellfleet Summer Resident

By the time Professor Hicks bought the oldest of the Arey homesteads in 1936 he had become an accomplished professional. Born in Auburn, New York, October 14, 1875, the son of an immigrant English gardener, Professor Hicks graduated from Colgate University in 1898. His first position was in the Map Division of the Library of Congress, an assistant at first, and then as Assistant Chief of the Division. While working there, he studied at Georgetown University’s Law School, receiving his degree in 1901.

He returned to Auburn to practice law, but soon moved back to librarianship when he took the position of librarian at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While there, he also attended Brown University, where he earned a Master’s Degree in 1907. In 1908, he became the Assistant Librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. In the 1910 federal census, he is living in Brooklyn. Soon he moved to Columbia University, where he was Superintendent of reading rooms, and then promoted to Assistant Librarian. By 1915, he was promoted to Law Librarian of Columbia Law School, beginning his career as one of America’s premier law librarians.

Hicks married Susan Morgan on April 24, 1912. In the 1920 federal census, they are living at 530 West 123 Street on Manhattan’s west side, near the University. In 1924, on his passport application, he notes a two-month European trip in 1912, perhaps a wedding trip. On his 1924 trip to a number of European countries he both represented the University and traveled for pleasure.  Professor Hicks and his wife traveled to Europe several times in the 1920s.

In 1928, Hicks was appointed Law Librarian of Yale University’s Law Library, and also appointed a Professor of Legal Bibliography; later, he was promoted to Professor of Law.

Professor Hicks is known today as “The Dean of Law Librarians.”  He recognized early in his career that law students needed assistance in their work as the casebook system of legal instruction developed, and lawyers became university-trained instead of apprenticing to a practicing attorney. A 1913 Hicks publication “Aids to the Study and Use of Law Books” became, by 1923, his important book, “Materials and Methods of Legal Research” published through three editions. You can still find the 1942 edition on Amazon today.

Hicks wrote many other books – more than twenty in all. He also wrote 52 journal articles that appeared in more than twenty publications. Furthermore, he developed a course that taught legal research.

A Renaissance man, Hicks had many other interests as well. His photographs won several prizes in the New Haven Camera Club competitions. He was a skilled painter in both watercolors and oils, and he played the flute in the Business and Professional Men’s Orchestra of New Haven. A glowing essay on his life, cited below, describes Frederick Hicks as “a quiet gentleman of Napoleonic stature but minus the pomp, imbued with human interest and understanding, and with a kindly nature. He was a man of zeal for learning and progress.”

Professor Hicks married twice. Susan Morgan Hicks died in 1926. In 1930, when the federal census was taken again, Frederick’s wife is listed as Helen Morgan Hicks, and they have a son, F. Morgan Hicks, noted as adopted.  Possibly Hicks had married his first wife’s sister, but this could not be verified.

With his busy work life, and steady employment through the Depression, Frederick and Helen Hicks were able to purchase the oldest of the two South Wellfleet Arey houses, across from the South Wellfleet Cemetery. The owner at that point was Albert Arey of Roslyn, New York, the son of Oliver Arey, whose father was Reuben Arey. The Arey family was the subject of an earlier blog piece.

Professor Hicks and his wife made their purchase in January, 1936. For a total of $2300, they now owned the house, its furnishings and its outbuildings, over eight adjoining acres, and another parcel of eleven acres! The label of the adjoining land as “the Taylor lot” suggests that this was the land that Lydia Ward Arey Taylor (second wife of the first Reuben Arey) owned with her second husband.

In a 1938 letter to Albert Arey, Hicks states that he had “spent a great deal of money” to restore the Arey home, and was taking a “great deal of pride in the place.” He had become curious about the exact year the house was built, and was urging Arey to get back to him with more information about the dates of the two Reuben Areys, so he could figure out the date when the house was built. Arey had told him that the house was built in 1808 “of timber cut on the premises and the floor boards as well.” But others who had examined the house thought it was older. Hicks was trying to find the answer, but there’s no record if he did.

As I’ve researched South Wellfleet, several historians have noted that the original timber growth on the outer Cape was pretty much used up by the early eighteenth century for houses, boats, fuel, and wood for the fires for trying whales. Telling the Professor that local timber was used for the house sounds like a sales pitch.  To answer the Professor’s questions about the two early Reuben Areys, the first was born in 1750 and died in 1801. This first Reuben Arey married for the first time in 1773, and married his second wife, Lydia, in 1777. He is on the Wellfleet tax roll for 1798. This house was probably built for either his first or second marriage, but definitely earlier than 1808, unless it was a replacement structure.

The Hicks’ next-door neighbor was Isaac Paine, known as Ikie, and his wife, Mary. Ikie lived in the second Arey home, built for the second Reuben Arey.  A number of years later, Professor Hicks wrote an essay about Ikie which will be posted here soon. (My thanks to a couple of neighbors who passed this essay along to me.)

Professor Hicks became an active member of South Wellfleet’s summer community. He was one of the founding members of the South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association in 1938. Their booklet includes a photograph of the Arey house, which Hicks named “The Bowed Roof.”  I have an early memory of its green sign posted on Route 6, just before the turn onto Old Wharf Road. That sign is now in the old barn/garage still on the property.

Thanks to our neighbors, I had a tour of the Arey house. Its beautiful restoration includes the traditional central chimney providing fireplaces on three sides. A very steep stairway climbs to the upstairs rooms. It’s a very snug Cape Cod House that would have been close to the South Wellfleet church and its graveyard, and not far from the Kings Highway, east of the cemetery.

Another of our neighbors remembers going to the Hicks house as a boy when musical evenings would be offered, with Professor Hicks playing his flute.

Professor Hicks also played a role in the effort in 1939 to create a “Marconi Park” on the site where Marconi sent his first wireless message to England in 1902. This effort did not succeed, as the military use of the site increased in the 1940s, and the site was kept inaccessible to the public. Finally, with the installation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, this part of South Wellfleet’s history could be visited at last.

Professor Hicks’ hobby as a photographer seemed to blossom as he explored the Cape landscape. The Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum has several Hicks photographs in their newly-digitized collection.

Professor Hicks also took photos of his home and surrounding places. He made a brochure about his home, and may have rented to roomers for a while. Here are a few photos I have:

HICKS brochure on his home

HICKS brochure on his home

HICKS photos of his home

HICKS photos of his home

HICKS photo of Cook's Camps

HICKS photo of Cook’s Camps

Hicks also took a number of photos in other towns. Here is an image of the Orleans Movie Theater in 1946 when this Tarzan movie dates from.  Looks like there was a gas station across the street then, as there is now, but the building now houses the CVS store.

HICKS Photo of Orleans Theater 1946

HICKS Photo of Orleans Theater 1946

Professor Hicks also sold a number of his photographs to Boston’s Tichnor Company which produced thousands of images printed with a linen texture from the 1940s to the 1960s. His images of “the Thoreau House,” Main Street Wellfleet, Holiday House, “Captain Tim’s Bridge” (now Uncle), the Wellfleet Congregational Church, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church are part of the Tichnor collection. His photo of “The Colonial Hall” in Wellfleet gives us a picture of the former South Wellfleet Congregational Church, after it was moved to Wellfleet and restored, but before it became the Town Hall.  He also photographed the Old Mill in Brewster (which we now call “the Grist Mill”), the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, and the Nauset Coast Guard Station for the company. The Boston Public Library owns the collection but has made it available here.

Hicks printed many of his Wellfleet photographs as small images on heavy cream stock, possibly looking to sell them to vacationing visitors.

Helen Morgan Hicks died in 1947. In that year, Professor Hicks had a stroke. He was never able to speak again, and lost the use of his right arm, so he could not write. He spent the last years of his life with these severe disabilities, and died on April 30, 1956, at age eighty.

His obituary in The Cape Codder in early May that year noted his multiple accomplishments as ”a student, lawyer, author, legal biographer and bibliographer, editor, musician, painter and outstanding contributor to the progressive advancement of the legal profession.” His adopted son, Morgan Hicks, was living in Seattle, Washington at that time. He died in 1989, and is buried in a cemetery in Westerly, Rhode Island, alongside his mother, Helen, and his wife, Mildred. Professor Hicks is buried in the Soule Cemetery in Sennett, Cayuga County, New York, with his parents nearby.


“Frederick C. Hicks: The Dean of Law Librarians” Stacy Etheredge. Published by Association of Law Libraries, 2006, and available

The Cape Codder online at

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at

U.S. Federal Census and U. S. Passports collection at






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Mosquitoes in South Wellfleet, and Green Heads too

This post explores my memory of a small plane flying over Blackfish Creek’s marshes, creating a cloud, while spraying for mosquitoes. There’s a new focus now on mosquitoes as the Zika virus spawns the current global health crisis. Here are some highlights of the mosquito’s history in Wellfleet and events that led to the spraying.

There are more than 3500 species of mosquitoes. In the Cape Cod towns that are surrounded by extensive marshland meadows it is the common eastern saltmarsh mosquito (Aedes sollicitans – later reclassified as ochlerotatus sollicitans). With the numerous freshwater ponds and wetlands, there are other species also, but distinguishing one from another was not done until the science of entomology developed. Until the late nineteenth century, these pests were simply something to be endured, although it was common knwledge that they were breeding in the marshes. The saltmarshes also produced the greenheads that become pesky by early summer.

Mosquito at work

Mosquito at work

Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford wrote about mosquitoes and their effects on people in his history of the colony, although his comment was a bit of a sarcastic remark: “They are too delicate and unfit to begin new plantations and colonies who cannot endure the biting of a mosquito. We wish such to keep at home until at least they be mosquito proof.”

Endurance lasted for more than two hundred years, although there may have been some useful efforts to follow native people’s solutions of smoking the area or the application of bear grease. The Barnstable Patriot suggested that a camphor bag hung in “an open casement” was a solution (1861) and an open bottle of Penny Royale in a room created the fumes to drive the mosquitoes away (1872).

For the greenheads, the marshes would be burned in the fall after the salt hay was brought in. The greenhead females lay their eggs on the tall marsh grass. Perhaps the name our family called them, “horse flies”, came from the early farmers’ knowledge to not bring their horses close to the marsh when the flies were hatching, since the animal would become uncontrollable when the pests started to bite. The familiar blue boxes in the marsh that we see today were first set out in 1970 by workers from the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project. The boxes trap female flies prior to their mating, seeking a “blood meal” before laying their eggs.

In the late nineteenth century, Dr. Walter Reed and the entomologists confirmed that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria had been worked on somewhat earlier by British doctors, and the connection to mosquitoes was established. Dr. Reed’s work was spurred on by the 114-day Spanish-American War when more than 5,000 men died, but fewer than 400 in actual battles. Malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and dysentery caused most of these deaths, and now the United States had tropical islands to manage, as well as the Panama Canal Zone.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were also a period when leisure time became available, for some people, and tourism developed, especially around mountain and coastal towns. It took a little longer for the tourist economy to reach the outer Cape towns. In Wellfleet, it was supported by Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, whose banana-importing business provided the capital to develop Wellfleet in this new way. He opened the bayside Chequessett Inn in 1902.

Much of the land Captain Baker owned was along the bayside, so the solution was to dyke and ditch the two thousand-acre Herring River marsh, a project undertaken in 1909 and just today is being “undone.” Captain Baker donated the land, with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Wellfleet splitting the remaining $20,000 needed to build the dike. Even The New York Times reported in 1909 on this successful effort in Wellfleet.

Captain Baker, with his international interests, would have been knowledgeable about the urgent work around the world to eradicate disease-carrying mosquitoes. In 1903, the American Mosquito Extermination Society was formed, with the help of Henry Clay Weeks, a sanitary engineer working in New York City. In New Jersey, an entomologist from Rutgers University helped create success stories along the Jersey Shore, an effort reported in Massachusetts. In 1905, Henry Clay Weeks produced a short report on how to eradicate the mosquitoes in Wellfleet—this appears to be a study Captain Baker paid for, to help convince Wellfleet’s Town fathers to support this work.

In addition to eradicating mosquitoes, dike-builders saw their efforts as “reclaiming” useless marshland for potential agricultural uses, including cranberries and other fruits. In the United States, the urgent work to stop the spread of disease became strongly tied to the effort to increase “personal comfort.”

For more information on the re-working of the Herring River in Wellfleet, the Friends of Herring River website has an excellent paper on the importance of saltmarshes, and the natural processes that create and sustain them, as well as the history of the Herring River project in Wellfleet.

There were two other methods for eradicating mosquitoes: ditching and draining the marshes, and the application of kerosene to the marsh pools where the insects breed. At first this effort was town-by-town, as reflected in the appearance of mosquito-eradication funding in the annual Wellfleet Town Reports, beginning in 1903.

Ditching the salt marshes wasn’t a new strategy. There’s evidence that a modest effort was made by North American native people. But after European settlers arrived and saw the potential for pasturing livestock in the midst of the salt hay, more extensive ditching was adopted, especially in places where “gondolas” were used to gain access for harvest. (Here’s my earlier blog post on salt hay.)

By the late 1920s, mosquito control measures became a county-wide concern. In 1930, all the Barnstable County towns joined in an effort called the Mosquito Control Project, raising $200,000. By December of that year, the Barnstable Patriot reported that 216 miles had been ditched, an effort worked on by 28 men. They were digging trenches 100 feet apart, 10 feet wide, and 24 inches deep, believed to drain low places and prevent breeding. In addition, heavy oil was applied to the pools of water that collected in the marsh.

The privately funded effort became part of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture’s Division of Reclamation during the Depression years, with the work providing much-needed jobs for Cape men. Some of the marsh-ditching work may have been done by the federally-funded Civilian Conservation Corps, as was the building of Nickerson State Park in Brewster. One report implied that the ditching took on a life of its own, and was directed more at creating jobs than eradicating mosquitoes. This effort peaked in 1934, with over 3,000 linear miles of ditches dug in the Massachusetts marshes.

While I cannot verify it, it seems that the marshes of Blackfish Creek must have been worked on. In the 1950s, my older brother would maneuver our dory through the marsh to tie it up near the highway, probably on an old post left at Stubbs landing, where we would cross over to the General Store. He remembers that we were following a channel in the marsh. However, by the time of this childhood adventure, the ditches of the 1930s may have already been filled in.

During this period also, the kerosene applied by hand by several Wellfleet workers would have been a seasonal activity. The oil on the water’s surface prevented the mosquito larvae from emerging from the water.

The Audubon Society in South Wellfleet reports that their marsh was never ditched, due to an agreement between the Massachusetts Project and the original owners, Oliver Austin and his son, who established the Sanctuary in 1930. (Here’s a blog post I wrote earlier about the Sanctuary.) Of course, now the Audubon-owned marshland is greatly expanded from what once was Lieutenant Island saltmarsh.

Mosquito eradication methods changed after World War II. A Swiss chemist, Paul Muller, looking for a way to protect woolens against moths, discovered an insect-killing chemical. His company shared it with a Department of Agriculture entomology research station in Orlando, Florida, that was charged by the U.S. Army to find new pesticides. In 1942, these scientists experimented and discovered that DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was not particularly harmful to humans. The Army was desperate for pesticides to help control the lice that carried typhus, and the mosquitoes that carried yellow fever and malaria. DDT appeared to be the “miracle drug” right up in importance with penicillin and the vaccine for polio. One of the stellar achievements of World War II was the U.S. Army’s successful effort to prevent a catastrophic typhus epidemic in Naples in 1944. More than a million people were dusted with DDT powder. In 1948 Paul Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize.

After the War, DDT was the wonder product for controlling pests. That was how the plane with the dusting cloud came to be flying over Blackfish Creek. On May 4, 1950, The Cape Codder posted a brief note in their “Wellfleet” column that the C-47 would be resuming operations “from where it left off last year.” The article notes that a wind sock meant to be used by the crew was placed high in a tree. The Cape Cod Mosquito Control workers would also be busy “down in the meadow and the marshes.”

Even by the late 1940s, however, some were warning about the dangers in the growing use of DDT. After the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, it was yet another ten years before the federal government banned it use, although Massachusetts had put some controls on its use prior to that. Massachusetts’ Silent Spring Institute, organized in the early 1990s, has paid particular attention to the Cape Cod population who may still be dealing with the consequences of the DDT spraying on its marshland, cranberry bogs, and golf courses. Since development occurred in these same places, lasting effect of DDT in the soil is a subject of their studies. According to the Silent Spring Institute, Wellfleet was sprayed in 1950, confirming the newspaper account noted above.

Wellfleet Pesticide use, a map from the Silent Spring Institute website

Wellfleet Pesticide use, a map from the Silent Spring Institute website

Today, the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project, one of nine districts in Massachusetts, is still actively working. (Their contemporary methods are spelled out here.) For four generations, the Doane family has led the Project. Their ancestor, John Doane, helped settle the Plymouth Bay Colony, played an active role in the settlement of Eastham, and became an assistant to Governor Bradford. Hopefully, he was able to withstand the mosquitoes as the Governor demanded.

Now, mosquito control in the salt marshes involves controlling water flow and making sure that fish that eat mosquito larvae can gain access to pools. They also implore everyone to eliminate containers that allow for any standing water, and urge homeowners to keep their screens in good repair. Most organizations—from the Audubon Society to the National Park Service—recommend spraying yourself with a repellent containing DEET before you take that summer hike.


William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, available online at:

The Cape Codder available online at

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Mosquito Killer” written for The New Yorker in 2001 and posted on his website:

Patterson, Gordon, The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day (partially available on Google)

“Sensory Guide” publication of the Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, Massachusetts Audubon Society

Paper “Massachusetts Mosquito Control: Open Marsh Water Management Standards” May 2010 published here:

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The Target Ship in Cape Cod Bay

The SS James Longstreet, known as the “Target Ship,” was anchored off the coast of Eastham in 1945. Bombing raids conducted by the U.S. Navy became part of the scene in all the nearby towns, including South Wellfleet. Just as the guns of Camp Wellfleet echoed in the background of many of our childhoods, so too were the flashes of the nighttime bombings in Cape Cod Bay that lit up the sky.

In April 1945, the ship was run aground on “New Found Shoal” and anchored in place, loaded with scrap metal and steel drums. The United States Navy needed to use the ship to practice bombing over water. For 30 years or more, planes bombed the ship in both day and nighttime raids.

This naval military action on the bay side was matched by the Army’s military actions on the ocean side at Camp Wellfleet, as citizens of this relatively isolated area adjusted to military maneuvers during and following World War II.

Fishermen used the ship to locate fishing grounds, and as a site marking their way home. Numerous fishing columns in the Cape Codder indicate that the stripers were biting off the target ship. Phil Schwind, the writer of a popular fishing column, told stories of fishermen tying up on the target ship and climbing aboard to have lunch. During one such lunch break, bombing ensued and the fishermen had to duck below deck to avoid being hit!

The SS James Longstreet was constructed in 1942 by the Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation at the Houston Ship Canal between the City of Houston and Galveston Bay, Texas. She was one of many such Liberty ships built from a standardized model under conditions that allowed quick and inexpensive production during the early years of World War II. She was the 25th of 208 ships produced at this facility.

Major General James Longstreet was a Confederate General, with successes at a number of Civil War battles. He argued with General Lee over strategy at Gettysburg, and came to be blamed for losses there. After the Civil War, he had a career with the U.S. Government as a diplomat and civil servant, becoming friendly with President Grant, and a member of the Republican Party. This did not make him popular in the South, but may be the reason the U.S. Navy named a ship for him. His second wife, who married him when she was 26 and he was 76, worked hard during her lifetime to revive his reputation. She lived until 1962, so she may have been present at the launch of the SS James Longstreet in October, 1942.

The ship made three trips, to Australia, India and Ceylon, to Liverpool, England, and to Southampton, England, in 1943, but late that year was blown aground off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, in a severe nor’easter. She was pulled free, her hull repaired, but remained quarantined, and then assigned to the graveyard.

In 1944, the U. S. Navy was looking for “target ships” for secret experiments involving early air-to-surface guided missile systems. The Longstreet was painted chrome yellow and delivered for duty to a secret location in the summer of 1944. She ended up in Norfolk, Virginia, for repairs, and sent back to the target area where she broke free of her mooring during a November gale, and drifted 80 miles out to sea. After recovery, she was next sent to Cape Cod Bay.

In early 1945, the James Longstreet was chosen again for target practice, this time for new air-to-surface guided-missile experiments involving a heat-seeking system known as the Dove. By the middle of 1946, the ship was no longer required for this program, but continued to be used periodically by the Navy and the Air Force for live ammunition target practice until 1971.

Starting in the 1950s, the residents of Eastham with homes on the bayside would complain from time to time about the “errant bombs” landing near their Camp Ground cottages, as pilots mistakenly released their load too soon. Hard to believe in today’s world that the Navy could apologize, promise not to do it again, and keep up the bombing program near homes with children playing outside.

The Target Ship in Cape Cod Bay

The Target Ship in Cape Cod Bay

The bombings were suspended in the early 1970s as they were useless for modern weaponry. With so many more people on the Cape, there were safety considerations as well. So it sat for more than twenty years, a rotting hulk in the bay, good for sunset photos, and a spot to snag a lobster.

Over the next few years, there were numerous news reports about the Target Ship. It was a spot to grow marijuana, an idea that developed as other wind-born seeds settled onto the ship and plants thrived. Then there was the winter of 1977 when four young people decided to walk across the iced-in bay, to see the ship up close, but then had to be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter before they fell through the ice.

By the 1990s, the Longstreet hulk was nearly in two pieces, with only a small portion of its structure above water. It completely disappeared in a storm in the early 2000s, and now is submerged at high tide. Sometimes its bones can be seen during very low tides under the right conditions. The Coast Guard has put a lighted buoy near it.

Some want to lop off its high points to provide clearance between the highest point of the wreck and the water surface at low tide, but spending money on making changes now to the Longstreet appears to be a low priority. The State Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources recommends that it be left alone.


Noel W. Beyle, The Target Ship In Cape Cod Bay The Longstreet Preservation Society, Orleans, 1992

Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, Spring 2014 newsletter

Cape Codder online at Snow Library, Orleans

Another blog post about the Target Ship:

The Cape Cod Times.

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The Guest Houses of South Wellfleet’s Cannon Hill

South Wellfleet’s Cannon Hill stands near the head of Blackfish Creek, overlooking Drummer Pond where a fulling mill once stood. Cannon Hill is yet another Cape Cod Bay Land Company development. Robert W. Howard and Edward Reed acquired the land in 1889, just as they did for their developments at Pleasant Point, Lieutenant’s Island, and the Old Wharf.

Through most of the nineteenth century, Captain Isaiah Hatch owned Cannon Hill, although it wasn’t named as such until much later. Captain Hatch and his son Isaiah captured a degree of local fame, as I’ve written about previously. Captain Hatch — aged, widowed, and with his son to look after — sold his property to George and Susan Rogers of Orleans in 1879, keeping only the income from a cranberry bog “located near the railroad station at the head of Blackfish Creek.”

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers kept the Captain and his son at the family homestead, as the 1880 federal census shows both families in the same dwelling. Captain Hatch died at age 94 in 1893, and his son died at age 63 in 1894. That family homestead still stands today as one of South Wellfleet’s oldest homes.

Robert Howard moved quickly on developing the twelve acres Mrs. Rogers sold to him in March 1889. By the following month, according to the deeds, people were buying lots according to a plan developed by Tully Crosby in April 1889. The lots that sold first were on the top of Cannon Hill. Two can be traced to the side of the hill that heads down to the Creek, although, without today’s trees obscuring them, all sites had Blackfish Creek and Drummer Cove views. This early photograph shows the treeless hill.

Treeless Cannon Hill

Treeless Cannon Hill

Later, in the 1890s, Susan Rogers sold additional land to Howard, and another plan — this one labeled “Cannon Hill” — was created that incorporated the first plan.

The name of the hill derives from the oral history of South Wellfleet about the rivalry between the South Wellfleet and Wellfleet boys in the nineteenth century, played out as each group “stole” the Fourth of July cannon from each other. Charles Cole, in his memory piece of mid-to-late nineteenth century history, tells us that Captain Hatch loaned his wagon to the South Wellfleet boys so they could drag the cannon to South Wellfleet. Wellfleet’s Cannon Hill is at the southern end of what is today Uncle Tim’s Bridge which takes you over the Duck Creek marsh to the hill.

We do not know exactly when the theft of the cannon came to give today’s name to the land. In the early 1970s the cannon was dug up, in time for the Bicentennial, and put on display near Town Hall. Myra Hicks, daughter of Clarence Hicks, whose family owned the Hatch/Rogers homestead after 1906, learned of the location of the cannon before her father died. It appears that the secret of the buried cannon was a significant part of the property in South Wellfleet, and came then to bestow the name to the hill.

One of the differences between the development of Cannon Hill and the other bayside developments in South Wellfleet — perhaps because of its proximity to the railroad station — was the development of guest houses in the early structures. Even Mrs. Rogers saw this potential, as she turned her homestead into a guest house named “The Willows.”

We know about the guest houses on Cannon Hill thanks to researchers’ notes from the early 1980s documenting historic houses in Wellfleet, and available at the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum. The collection of 1890s homes on (now named) Cannon Hill Road, at the top of the hill, all still standing, appears to have served as “Cannon Hill Camp,” as articles in the Barnstable Patriot noted.

The Hambletts and the Sawyers bought lots on Cannon Hill in 1891. The Barnstable Patriot noted in May, 1891, that Mr. Hambletts and Mr. Sawyer were both looking forward to putting up their cottages that summer.

Joshua and Hannah Sawyer lived in Boston, where they had established a boarding house with nineteen lodgers, as shown in the 1900 federal census. Mr. Sawyer was a carpenter. Their plan was to have a summer boarding house in South Wellfleet — which must have happened immediately after construction, because one of the Boston papers mentions Fred Dallinger staying at Cannon Hill House in August 1891, a few years before he became an elected official. Senator Dallinger later stayed in South Wellfleet on the ocean where Cook’s Camps is located today.

In 1899, Joshua Sawyer advertised in a Boston paper that his summer boarding house was available to rent for the season. Although Mr. Sawyer died in 1901, his widow seems to have carried on with the “Cannon Hill House” until she sold it in 1910. Based on advertisements in 1901–1904, a Mrs. Adie, along with Mrs. Hamblett, were the Cannon Hill House operators. In 1903, an ad noted the proximity of the Marconi Telegraphy station, taking advantage of the publicity of Marconi’s first wireless transmission earlier that year.

The Sawyer’s house came to be known as “Cannon Hill House.” The two cottages next door, belonging to the Hambletts, expanded the number of guests, and meals were served at Cannon Hill House. Another house nearby, owned by two sisters, served the same purpose.



There were two Hamblett brothers, Albert and Arthur. Albert acquired his property through his own purchase, plus a lot transferred to him through his wife’s mother, Mary Thissell. The Hamblett family of Dracut, Massachusetts, had a long history in Lowell/Dracut; today many members are buried in an old family cemetery that bears their name. Albert and Arthur were stonemasons, as their father had been. Albert and Henrietta had a son Charles, who married Jennie Hilton in 1890, and had one child, Alta Hamblett, born in 1893.

Sometime after 1900, Charles and Jennie divorced. Since there was a stigma to divorce, Jennie Hamblett is often referred to as a “widow” in the census and in news articles. Charles Hamblett married again and spent the rest of his life in Los Angeles. Jennie Hamblett’s in-laws appear to have kept their relationship with her, and she appears regularly in the Barnstable Patriot as arriving in South Wellfleet each summer to open “Cannon Hill Camp,” the two Hamblett cottages next to Cannon Hill House.

Jennie Hamblett and Hannah Sawyer kept their relationship through the merging of the Hamblett and Sawyer houses into a single summer operation. The Barnstable Patriot has regular coverage of Jennie through the second decade of the 1900s. Hannah Sawyer sold her property in 1910.

An artist named Anne Wells Munger of Worcester, Massachusetts. purchased Cannon Hill House in 1912. She subsequently bought other property in South Wellfleet, but kept Cannon Hill House through 1923 when she sold it to Annie Gardner. Perhaps she allowed Jennie Hamblett to manage the guest house through those summers. In Barnstable Patriot articles in the 1920s, Annie Gardner is mentioned as welcoming guests to Cannon Hill House, so the tradition lived on for a few more years.

In 1913, Jennie Hamblett advertised in the Springfield Republican:

South Wellfleet, Mass. Cannon Hill Camp opens June 15th, country and seashore combined; excellence of table board well known. $9 per week. Mrs. J. Hamblett

Jennie Hamblett’s daughter, Alta, married Wellfleet’s Simeon Atwood, Jr., in October 1914, with the wedding taking place at her aunt’s home in Maine. Soon the Barnstable Patriot was reporting her visits to her mother’s in South Wellfleet.

Simeon Atwood’s father had relocated to the Boston area where he had a fish business, and the younger man was born in Dorchester. He was educated at Groton and Phillips Exeter, according to his 1949 obituary. Simeon Atwood, Jr. was helped by his father to have his own fish company. He got into legal trouble during World War I when he was convicted, along with many others, of price-fixing during wartime. It wasn’t until the 1920s that he actually served some prison time, and then resettled with Alta and their son (Simeon Atwood III) in Orleans.

The Hamblett in-laws died in the early 1920s, and the Cannon Hill property was sold. Simeon Atwood, Jr. had a real estate business in Orleans and became a well-respected member of that community. The son, Simeon Hilton Atwood, died in a plane crash in Texas in 1943, where he was in training for the Army Air Corps.

The Wellfleet historic house researchers noted that Cannon Hill House came to be called “The Ark,” perhaps at a later date, and provide details as to how it was managed as a guest house. Visitors and their trunks were taken to the houses from the railroad station by Charlie Paine, famous for not hurrying his horse from the Marconi Station the night of the famous first wireless transmission.

Food was supplied by wagon from the Wellfleet Market. A fish wagon came twice a week and ice came daily. Mr. Hicks (now in the former Rogers/Hatch house) supplied milk. Isaac “Ikey” Paine, who owned the South Wellfleet General Store at that time, also supplied fresh vegetables from his garden, and eggs. All water was pumped, and all the cooking was on an old black stove. There was a two-hole privy in the shed behind the house.

Another early house on Cannon Hill, originally built by the Cliffords, also became a guesthouse which used Cannon Hill House for meals. Two sisters divided the house, making it available to two families at one time. According to deeds, Abbie Clifford of Lowell purchased the property, and then either sold or financed it with Ann Haseltine. Abbie Clifford’s marriage record reveals that her maiden name was Haseltine, so presumably these are the two sisters who owned the house. This Dickerman postcard shows the house somewhat separate from the three on top of Cannon Hill. (Dickerman postcards, printed in either black-and-white or color from 1907 to 1936, dominated the Cape Cod market.)

Cannon Hill Camp postcard from the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum collection

Cannon Hill Camp
postcard from the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum collection

Later, the sisters’ house was sold to Alice Stacy, and while her arrivals and departures were reported regularly in the Barnstable Patriot, the house ceased operation as a guesthouse.

Not every early settler on Cannon Hill took in boarders. Jabez Stanley of Lowell built another of the cottages researched in the 1980s, down the hill toward Blackfish Creek. Born in England, he and his wife Ada, and their daughter Bertha, enjoyed summers there until one August day in 1903, when Captain Stanley died of a heart attack while walking up the hill to Cannon Hill House. Wellfleet’s doctor, Edward Perry, also the Medical Examiner, signed the death certificate. Captain Stanley’s body was removed to Lowell on the next day’s morning train. Bertha Stanley continued spending her vacations at the cottage for several years.

George Stedman and his wife built their “Bayview Cottage” in 1891, and it still stands today overlooking Drummer Pond.

Another Cannon Hill house is one that I’ve been looking at my whole life, across Blackfish Creek. It sits on the bluff of Cannon Hill, as shown in this view in the 1940s from our family album.

House on Cannon Hill across Blackfish Creek

House on Cannon Hill across Blackfish Creek

In 1889, Charles W. and Mary French of Milford, New Hampshire, purchased the lots of land on the bluff. At the same time, they also purchased a couple of lots on Lieutenant’s Island. By 1900, according to the federal census that year, Charles and Mary French were living in Wellfleet. That census reported their offspring: the five French children at their farm in 1880 only two were now living, a son and a daughter. A June 1891 article in the Boston Globe notes that Mr. French was using the cottage he built on the bluff to enjoy Wellfleet’s gunning and fishing. When they moved to Wellfleet they lived in a more substantial home; one article referred to their home as the “Harding House.” Mary French died in 1915 from a broken leg that never healed properly. Mr. French sold his property later that year and went to live with his daughter back in New Hampshire.

The Cannon Hill bluff property was sold by the Frenchs in 1907 to John E. Hopkinson. When it was sold, there were buildings on the property. The researchers of the Cannon Hill historic houses indicate that the owner worked for the Old Colony Railroad; indeed, Mr. Hopkinson is listed in various census documents as railroad brakeman, and then a conductor.

According to the researchers, this cottage was used by employees of the railroad for fall gunning parties, a popular Wellfleet activity, when groups of men would gather to shoot birds. Railroad employees also used the cottage in the summer when they could bring their families.

Mr. Hopkinson only owned the bluff cottage for two years, and then resold it. He moved to Wellfleet and had numerous real estate dealings, including establishing his own home overlooking Drummer Cove, property that his daughter and great-granddaughter enjoyed. This house is one of three historic South Wellfleet homes located between Route Six and Drummer Cove which I hope to cover in another post.

By the 1930s, it seems that the houses on Cannon Hill ceased serving as guesthouses for various boarders, and were owned by families staying for their summer vacations.


Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum: Massachusetts Historical Commission historic house listings, known as Form B

U.S. Federal Census collection at

New England Historical and Genealogical Society, online publication of Mass. Vital Statistics

Newspaper archive online at

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at


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The Goodspeeds and Cheevers of Old Wharf Road

When I was young, my family would usually spend a Memorial Day weekend opening our Prospect Hill cottage for the season. As we left for home and followed Old Wharf Road to Route 6, my mother — who had spent part of her childhood there — would ask my father to pull over so she could clip a bunch of lilacs from a cellar hole alongside the road. She explained to us that there “used to be a house here.”

The old cellar hole with lilacs on Old Wharf Road.

The old cellar hole with lilacs on Old Wharf Road.


Today, that cellar hole is less evident, but it’s still there, and the lilacs were blooming again last spring! I remembered this location when I began my South Wellfleet research, seeing the name “Goodspeed” on the 1858 Walling Map, on Old Wharf Road. When I cited it for Chet Lay on the Prospect Hill Development Map, he confirmed that this had been the Goodspeed property.

With not much more information, I’ve explored the Goodspeed family using public land records, census documents, and Massachusetts Vital Records of births, marriages and deaths, along with newspaper accounts. There’s no diary to fill in the drama of these lives, but there’s enough information from extant records to reconstruct a 19th century life.

As I’ve written previously, the Wiley farm was nearby the Old Wharf Road cellar hole where Mrs. Goodspeed’s home was noted on the 1858 map. On the 1910 map, which also includes property-owners’ names, the same location is labeled “Cheever,” which I’ll soon explain. The South Wharf, built in 1831, was nearby, along with the Barker homestead where Isaiah Barker, who’d married an Arey widow, was a cooper, making the barrels for the fish brought into the wharf.

Lydia Wiley was the second child of David and Ruth (Arey) Wiley. Lydia married Ezra Goodspeed, a mariner, who came from a long line of Goodspeeds, one of the founding families of Barnstable. Lydia and Ezra married in April 1817, when Lydia was 17 years old and Ezra was 24.

Ezra Goodspeed served in the War of 1812 as a Private in Captain Crocker’s Company of the Massachusetts Militia. He served a total of five days between January 28 and October 5, 1814, and saw action in the Battle of Falmouth. That designation led me to research that battle – which occurred on January 28, 1814, when the British ship HMS Nimrod shelled the town of Falmouth for 24 hours in an attempt to force the town to give up their cannons. After evacuating the women and children, the town fought back, a point of pride in Falmouth even today. The stand-off is still noted and celebrated, and the cannonballs from that day can still be seen embedded in the walls of a local restaurant named Nimrod.

Ezra and Lydia must have settled in Barnstable for a while because their first three children were born there: Joseph in 1818, Temperance in 1821, and Samuel Arey Goodspeed in 1824. Their four other children were born in Wellfleet: Alvin in 1827, Ezra Jr. in 1828, Merinda in 1833, and Lydia in 1835. They may have settled in South Wellfleet because the South Wharf was operating so close to Lydia’s home, and economic opportunities were available.

The house on the road to the wharf (named “Old Wharf” long after the wharf closed down) may date from that time. It was not unusual for a father to transfer some land to a daughter when she married. It may be that Ruth Arey received land from her father when she married David Wiley, and Lydia also received land from her father. In 1833, Ezra Goodspeed mortgaged his “dwelling house and three acres” to neighbors Solomon and Reuben Arey for the sum of $508 — perhaps to buy a boat or some other need for funds.

On August 9, 1835, a few months before his youngest child, Lydia, was born, Ezra Goodspeed drowned during a storm “while attempting to land on the back of the Cape”, as his death record indicates. (A man named Sylvanus Jones also died that day, although two other mariners were saved.) Lydia Goodspeed became a widow at age 35. Unlike many widows of the nineteenth century, she never remarried, and so is referred to as “Widow Lydia Goodspeed” in various records. Her mother, Ruth Arey Wiley, did remarry in 1822 to widower and neighbor Major John Witherell. Wellfleet records show multiple marriages for many of the town’s residents.

One wonders how Lydia managed. Her husband had recently mortgaged their property. Perhaps because her mother was nearby — Major Witherell’s property was just to the north of the Barkers — or because she had a 17-year-old son, she managed to support herself and her children. The Wellfleet Benevolent Society did not begin until 1836. When I searched for a possible widow’s pension for her husband’s War of 1812 service, I found that when she was widowed, Lydia was not eligible, since she and Ezra married after his service. Nevertheless, by 1871, a new law included her, and there is evidence that she did receive a pension much later in her life.

Lydia Goodspeed on lower right side, from the Goodspeed family history

Lydia Goodspeed on lower right side, from the Goodspeed family history

In 1839, the Town of Wellfleet declared the road to the South Wharf a “town road” and, in so doing, paid Lydia Goodspeed $8 to compensate her for a small piece of her land taken for the road.

Lydia’s eldest son, Joseph, married Content Atwood, a girl from the South Wellfleet neighborhood, in 1843. Their first child, John, was born six months later — an event that in an earlier time would have meant a severe fine by the town congregation. Their second child died of cholera infantum at nine months.

Lydia’s second son, Samuel Arey Goodspeed, lived a long life, first settling in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then Rhode Island as a fish dealer, one of the many mariners who saw the fishing heyday ending, and settling off the Cape. Samuel served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

The third son, Alvin Goodspeed, remained in Wellfleet and married Meltiah Young in 1849, and then a second wife, Eusebia Doane, in 1882. Both women grew up in the South Wellfleet neighborhood. Alvin is buried in the South Wellfleet cemetery close to his first wife.

Lydia’s fourth son, Ezra Jr., had a turbulent life that ended early. He married Maria Smith of Wellfleet in 1852. In 1857, she died of consumption. Their four-year-old son, Winslow, died in August 1859 “while his uncle was tending him.” The news account of Winslow’s drowning was fairly stark:

On Friday last the son of Ezra Goodspeed age 4 years was left in a boat on the beach while the uncle went on board of a vessel. Fifteen minutes afterwards, the uncle saw the boy on the flats with his life extinct. There were three inches of water where he was drowned.

In 1869, Ezra Jr. was killed on board his vessel “on his way from New Orleans to Boston while jibing the main sail off the Delaware breakwater.” He had remarried by this time, and was quite well-off, leaving an estate of nearly $12,000, including property in Bridgewater, Massachusetts where he lived. He and his wife had a son, Ellery, who died while still a child.

Lydia Goodspeed’s daughters, Temperance, Merinda, and Lydia, married also. Merinda married, but then soon died, at age 20, “of childbirth fever.” Lydia, the youngest, married a Wellfleet man, Jesse Wiley, in 1853, and was living in the home of her sister Temperance and brother-in-law John Cheever in 1855. Sometime after 1860, Lydia and Jesse left Wellfleet, as many did at the time — and I found them next in Salem, Massachusetts, where Jesse was operating an “oyster saloon.” Shortly after 1880, Jesse died, and the widowed Lydia stayed in Salem until dying in 1897. Of interest: her daughter Sophronia married a member of the Arey family in Salem.

Temperance Goodspeed remained in South Wellfleet. In 1846, she married John Cheever, a mariner from Newburyport, Massachusetts, who grew up with seven siblings. There were many Cheevers in Essex County, Massachusetts, including the famous author, John Cheever. Our Wellfleet John Cheever had previously married another Wellfleet woman, Susannah Daniels. They married late in 1843, and, by June 1844, Susannah died of consumption. She is buried in the Duck Creek Cemetery, her grave inscribed with a typical 19th century gravestone:

 Here lies my body with the throng

Who from this earthly world have gone

My spirit freed from earthly care

Of heaven’s bless’d share a glorious heir

John and Temperance Cheever are living in the home of the neighboring Isaiah Barkers in the 1850 census — the Barkers gave their third son the middle name “Cheever” so the two families must have been close. In 1855, John and Temperance have their own household, and a 2-year-old daughter. John and Temperance had a first child, John, who died when he was 4 days old. A second son, Ezra Newel, born in 1851 is not listed in the 1855 State census, an indication that he died at a young age. Their third child, a girl named Maltime, was born in 1853 and appears in the 1855 census, but not after that, so she may have died very young also. A fourth child, Chester Greenwood Cheever, was born in 1860 and managed to grow up.

John Cheever was a mariner through most of his working life, and in later censuses is listed as a “laborer.” In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, Lydia Goodspeed is living with the Cheevers. Chester, their son, is occupied as a mariner in 1880.

John Cheever is mentioned fondly in the Charles F. Cole memory piece I’ve quoted often. Thanks to Mr. Cole we have a description of John, and a sense of his personality. John fished with Mr. Cole’s father, and was very fat and clumsy, according to the older Mr. Cole. The locals would say that if he fell overboard, he wouldn’t sink because he was very fat.

John Cheever was the janitor of the South Wellfleet Congregational Church where, at Christmas, a tree was placed near the pulpit. Mr. Cole remembers:

John Cheever always acted as Santa Claus, and he would give a rhyme as he distributed the presents, as ‘Here is something round, for Mrs. Betsy Bround. It weighs more than a pound.’ Another gift, for a new un-named baby, ‘ Here’s for the baby without a name, that belongs to Alvin and Elisa Paine.’

Cole describes a funny moment involving John, who usually dozed during the Sunday sermon. One cold winter day, when a visiting preacher used the words “These doors must be opened” John jumped up, thinking he’d been ordered, and opened all the doors, letting in the cold wind!

John Cheever also used his rhyming skill in making a grocery order for Mr. Paine, who was running the South Wellfleet General Store:

Dear Mr. Paine: Please send to me

                One-half pound of your best tea,

                One pound of rice, two loaves of bread,               

                Monroe’s tobacco also a head,

And if your team should come along.

                Please leave me a bag of corn.

                Take my eggs if I’m not there.

                Yours Truly, John Cheever, Esq.


Mr. Paine and Mr. Cheever served as jurors in Barnstable in 1884, according to a news post. By the 1880s, there are further news posts about Chester visiting his parents, and Lydia Goodspeed coming to town with her daughter Alice to visit her mother. In 1883, the local teacher, Mary Smith of Dover, New Hampshire, was boarding at the Cheever house.

Lydia Wiley Goodspeed died in 1884 after fracturing her hip, living to age 84, quite an accomplishment in the 19th century. Her daughter, Temperance Cheever, died in 1885 of pneumonia at age 68. John Cheever died in 1887 at age 69 of “gangrene of the foot.”

There’s no record of what happened to their home on what became “Old Wharf Road.” Chester may have sold the structure, leaving the cellar hole we have today. Perhaps the house is still standing somewhere else in Wellfleet today.

Chester married in Boston in 1890 — the marriage record names a Lizzie Hall, a waitress, as his wife. He is listed as a bookbinder. Much later, in 1914, I located his death record. He was divorced and in Highland Park, Michigan, where Henry Ford’s automobile plant was located. I like the idea that Chester had moved into a 20th century industry, from mariner to “steel tester.”

So many stories of 19th century South Wellfleet lives from just one cellar hole.


For evidence of the Goodspeed pension

History of the Goodspeed Family, Volume 1, W.A. Goodspeed 1874 (on Google Books)

U.S. Federal Census collection at

New England Historical and Genealogical Society, online publication of Mass. Vital Statistics

David Kew’s Cape Cod history site:

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at






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Accusing German Spies at Pleasant Point

On August 28, 1918, Maude Chase wrote a letter from her home in Evanston, Illinois, to the Bureau of Investigation, the precursor agency to the FBI that investigated real or perceived threats to the citizens of the United States. In her letter, Mrs. Chase said she felt it “her duty as a loyal American” to report that her Pleasant Point neighbor, Harry Rapp, might be a German spy. This may have been a sign of the times, as described further here, or she may have had a personal grudge, perhaps through her husband Edward’s property sale to Mr. Rapp.

In her letter, Mrs. Chase cited Rapp’s German ancestry, his having “plenty of money,” his fine auto and big motor boat, and his engine business “near the Boston docks.” He’d been overheard making “intensely pro-German remarks before America entered the war.” She said he was “well known in Boston, at least in certain circles,” and “a very intelligent, very cunning man” who would “not hesitate to do anything mean against the U.S. for Germany’s gain.”

He’d been overheard speaking to the local Catholic priest, Father Erkerling, although he (Rapp) was not a Catholic nor a religious man. Further, he came to Pleasant Point off-season, between December and March, while people visited normally only between May and October. She was concerned about his proximity to the wireless plant there. His brother-in-law, an associate in his business, had traveled to Tahiti Island to see if there might be business opportunities for their marine engine company there.

Mrs. Chase asked that her name not be used, as she expected to return to Pleasant Point the following summer.

The letter about Mr. Rapp appears to have caused an inquiry into activities of Father Erkerling as well, and an agent spent time in Wellfleet inquiring as to the priest’s activities. The priest also had a motorboat capable of going out to sea, and the agent wondered if information could be transferred this way to German ships. There was a report of the priest sending money to help certain refugees in Europe, as well as a report that he had been “seen at the monument in Provincetown.” The priest had been friendly to Rapp.

The six-page investigative report about Father Erkerling concluded that the suspicions about him were not of enough concern to continue. His case was helped by strong positive statements by Channing Cox, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts legislature, who spent considerable time in Wellfleet as he was married to a Wellfleet woman. (Cox’s residence is now Winslow’s Tavern on Main Street in Wellfleet.) The local doctor, F. S. Canedy, also spoke up supporting Father Erkerling. They cited his enthusiasm for the Liberty Bond Drive, and that his background as a Belgian immigrant was behind his sending money orders to Europe to help refugees of the war. These two prominent men appear to have offset a few others in Wellfleet who were either anti-Catholic or concerned that Father Erkerling was an immigrant. The fact that he had a Belgian refugee priest assisting him seemed enough to cause him to be lumped together with Germans.

What was happening at the Cape that caused such suspicion? In April 1917, Congress voted to declare war on Germany, a “war to end all wars.” This happened after three years of trying to stay out of the conflict, as many thought it was emblematic of the rottenness of old Europe. President Wilson had won re-election in 1916 by vowing to keep the U.S. neutral. But neutrality became impossible following German actions, especially the sinking of the British liner Lusitania in May 1915, when more than 250 Americans died, including one of the Freeman sons, Richard R. Freeman, from an old Wellfleet family.

The first American troops under General John Pershing arrived in Paris in the summer of 1917.

On the Cape and its surrounding waters, just like all the other U.S. wars, Cape Codders were affected by the declaration of war. German submarines attacked fishing boats randomly. In August of 1918, a group of Gloucester fishermen specifically identified a German sub commander as a skilled navigator who had fished the same waters as they did, and owned a home in Maine — he had returned to his country to help out them with the war effort.

In March 1917, the playwright Eugene O’Neill and his friend, Harold DePolo, were arrested on suspicion of spying for the Germans. The Provincetown Town Constable arrested them while they were having dinner at a Provincetown hotel. They had spent the afternoon walking near Highland Light where there was a U.S. government radio station, and were rumored to have the station’s plans in their pocket — an allegation later proven false.

In another Cape incident, Frederick Grigg of Newtonville, an amateur botanist, was taken into custody on a train between West Barnstable and Sandwich, but released after an examination in Boston. He had a notebook with strange numbers and letters and “government maps”— seen by someone — which turned out to be his botanical notes and field maps.

Finally, what may have truly shaken Mrs. Chase was the July 21, 1918, attack off Orleans. The French Cable terminated there and was used by General Pershing to communicate with Washington, D.C. The French sent a ship to guard the cable off Nauset Harbor. Besides breaking the cable, the German submarines dispatched to the coast were also part of a general campaign to disrupt the Atlantic fishing fleet.

On Sunday morning, July 21, a German submarine, U-156, fired upon a tugboat, the Perth Amboy, that was towing four barges. One of the barges, the Landford, loaded with granite blocks, sank. Some of the shells hit the East Orleans shore, thus making Orleans the only place in the U.S. to receive enemy fire during World War I. The Coast Guard launched a rescue boat to help save those aboard the tugs, and the Naval Station at Chatham sent two planes over, firing back at the sub, but their bombs were duds. Two of the surfmen who helped with the rescue were from Wellfleet, Ralph B. Cook (of the family that established Cook’s Camp’s that I’ve written about) and Zenas Adams. This incident truly brought the war “home” to Wellfleet.

Boston GLobe headline story on the Orleans attack

Boston GLobe headline story on the Orleans attack


All of this submarine activity along the Cape Coast prompted President Wilson to declare on July 25, 1918, that the Cape Cod Canal would now be operated by the federal government.

Harry and Celia Rapp came to Wellfleet in 1908. The following year they purchased the largest of the seven cottages that line the bluff at Pleasant Point. The Queen Anne style on the western end was a rather grand structure for Wellfleet where cottage owners usually put up smaller wood-shingled structures with porches, and sometimes a little tower room. Their land had originally been owned by Ferdinand and Isabella (?!) Sage, and there are early references to a Sage cottage. But Isabella died, and Ferdinand sold a portion of his two lots to Mr. Lovering of Medford, Massachusetts, who was a contractor and builder. That may explain why he took on building such a large structure, floating the materials across the bay to Wellfleet.

The Rapp House is the Queen Anne on the far left

The Rapp House is the Queen Anne on the far left

Soon after it was built, Mr. Lovering sold the big house to Edwin Paine. He was able to secure the remaining Sage property and sell both the house and a large lot to the Rapps in 1909. Harry Rapp may have been too much “fast company” for the other Pleasant Point residents. He owned Rapp-Huckins, specializing in gas engines, based in Boston at 47 Haverhill Street. He and Celia sometimes traveled across the bay to South Wellfleet by their fast boat. They did not have children and often spent the winter months in Florida. One news report mentions Alton Atwood, a local Wellfleet man, taking their boat down to Florida to meet them, heading down the coast and through the Inland Waterway, that small craft used to avoid the rough Atlantic waters.

Father Joseph Erkerling was a Belgian-born Sacred Heart priest who had been assigned to Wellfleet’s Lady of Lourdes parish. He was responsible for acquiring the land and constructing the parish’s new church and rectory on Main Street,

Our Lady of Lourdes as built on Wellfleet's Main Street

Our Lady of Lourdes as built on Wellfleet’s Main Street

dedicated in 1912. Father Erkerling also had a boat and had invited Harry Rapp to go fishing with him. The investigation of Erkerling, a fairly short report, cites this connection to Rapp as the reason why a file was opened on the priest.

The investigation of Harry Rapp, Case Number 277818, a “possible Hun spy,” was forwarded to the Boston office of the Bureau of Investigation. The report is a mix of reported conversations that Special Agent W. A. Winsor had with a variety of people about the possible sightings of the Rapps. Even little observations are written down, such as a comment by someone in Wellfleet, regarding the size of a boat, said “You should see the size of the one Rapp started for Florida in.” A fishtrap man in Sandwich had spoken with a man and a woman with a large boat near Sagamore Beach who said they were from Wellfleet and then headed off in that direction. Another noticed a man and a woman who’d slept “on a piazza” of a house near Sagamore Beach, leaving their boat anchored near the Canal, and then headed toward Boston. The same investigator handled the inquiries about Father Erkerling; while conversations did not identify those speaking with the agent by name, Channing Cox and Doctor Canedy were willing to be identified.

Nothing seems to have come of these inquiries. The Rapps continued to spend time at Pleasant Point and, in the late 1920s, sold their Queen Anne house to Carl Parks and his family, who owned it through the 1970s until it was purchased by its current owners. Rapp had bought a second property on the bluff at Pleasant Point, and he sold that one also, to the Downer family, who subsequently opened the Ma Downer’s restaurant in South Wellfleet.

The Rapps remained on Pleasant Point until they retired in the late 1920s when they bought a year-round home in Wellfleet’s center on East Commercial Street. Harry joined Wellfleet’s Masonic Adams Lodge. He served on the Wellfleet Board of Health, and worked with a committee of citizens concerned about repairing the clock dial of the Congregational Church—an upstanding citizen.


“Bureau of Investigations – Old German Case Files 1909-1921” on

Whelan, Richard F., Truro: The Story of A Cape Cod Town The History Press, 2007

U.S. Federal Census collection at

David Kew’s Cape Cod history site:

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at

Cape Codder available at




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The Early Settlers of Pleasant Point

Pleasant Point’s summer colony in South Wellfleet marks the beginning of the change of Wellfleet’s economy from maritime pursuits to tourism. The land developers Robert Howard and Edward Reed simultaneously promoted land sales on Lieutenant’s Island and the Old Wharf, but lot buyers did not build as many cottages there as were developed on Pleasant Point from 1890 to 1910. Pleasant Point and the Cannon Hill developments — perhaps because they were closer to the South Wellfleet Depot — created groups of summertime residents who began to have an impact on Wellfleet’s economy and its residents who provided services to them. Wellfleet’s population was at its lowest level in these years, with barely 800 people left in the town that had been abandoned by its maritime population.

By 1910, there were 25 cottages at Pleasant Point. Middle-class families began to come either for the summer — or the women and children did — while the men commuted. Some owners rented their cottages to families that began to make annual visits, establishing another group of summer visitors who appreciated Wellfleet’s summer charms. In contrast, up to 1910, Lieutenant’s Island had only six cottages developed, and there were four out on the Old Wharf, with only one, my great grandfather’s, on Prospect Hill.

This twenty-year period of cottage building came just before the development of automobile tourism, when day-trippers in automobiles added another layer to the servicing of visitors, with tourist camps for motorists. Of course, not everyone who sought a summer residence built a cottage. Many purchased old Cape homesteads from families whose children could no longer make a living in the town.

The social changes that made a “vacation” possible for many more people came after the Civil War, as Massachusetts industrialized in its urban locations. Even the conservative clergy came to recognize that humans needed a break from work, preferably in the fresh air of the mountains, on a farm, or at the seaside. By the 1870s and 1880s, other parts of New England and the upper Cape were developing the facilities — hotels, tours, trains — that got people out of the cities and to their countryside destinations. A growing middle class began to accept that this break in routine was needed, and they had the funds to pursue it. The Old Colony Railroad’s extension all the way to Provincetown was an important precursor to the Cape’s tourism development.

While the leafy towns on the upper Cape developed their hotels and Methodist camps in the 1870s and 1880s, the outer Cape towns – those past Orleans — took a bit longer to gain appeal. When Thoreau took his outer Cape walk in 1849, he wasn’t the first to describe the barrenness of the landscape, the poor soil, and the lack of trees. In the early postcard views of Pleasant Point offered here, the lack of green in the landscape seems not to have mattered to the cottage owners, as they faced their summer cottages toward the tidal Blackfish Creek. Like other Cape towns, Wellfleet developed its “vibe” – the fishing village with elderly sea captains, the industrious people that represented Yankee thrift and hardiness, and even the salty characters that lived there. I’ve written about “The Little Man” of South Wellfleet previously.

Pleasant Point’s Walker Plan

It is in this context that Howard and Reed established their Cape Cod Bay Land Company around Wellfleet’s bayside, with plans of cottage lots laid out for each area. Pleasant Point’s plan was named the “Walker Plan” for the previous owner, Thomas Walker, Jr. Thomas’ father, Thomas Sr., settled in Wellfleet after growing up in Maine, marrying Wellfleet girl Mary Hatch, daughter of James Brown Hatch and Jane King. Thomas was a fisherman, and perhaps selected his land, purchased in 1829 from the Doanes, because he was just across Blackfish Creek from the South Wharf. Later, he purchased woodland from Nathaniel Bell. The 1829 purchase refers to the “Old Mill Pond” which is today’s Drummer’s Pond, the site of a fulling mill that I’ve written about previously.

There isn’t a map that would show the site of the Walker homestead. The lives of the Walker children are a sad tale, but somewhat typical of 19th century childhood. Thomas Jr. was born in 1824. A sister, Jane King Walker, was born in 1821 and died in 1822. John Wesley Walker was born in 1830, but died in 1832. Like other families, the same name was given to another male child, born in 1835, but he died in 1838. Sally Walker, born in 1839, died at age 25 in 1846. All of them are buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Wellfleet, the Methodist Cemetery. Their mother, Mary, died in 1867 and is buried there also, as are both Thomas Walker Sr. and Jr.

The Walker family is listed in the Federal censuses in Wellfleet in 1830 and 1840; in 1838, a newspaper article lists Mr. Walker as one of Wellfleet’s Democrats. By 1850, the family is living in Boston, with Thomas as the only child. In Thomas Jr.’s obituary, it mentions the successful firm of Walker & Rich, fish dealers, at the Quincy Market, established in 1842. Leaving Wellfleet to become a fish dealer in Boston was a common choice for Wellfleet men. According to the Boston City Directory of 1872 and 1879 the Walkers were in business with an Abram Rich who was from the Truro Rich family.

After Mary died, Thomas Sr. married again, to a woman named Susan, who appears in the 1870 census. In 1868, Thomas Walker Jr. married Emma Stidder. His prosperity as a Boston fish dealer supported his purchase of two cottages at the Lakeview Association in South Framingham, part of the New England Chautauqua organization, affiliated with the Methodist Church.

In August, 1890, when Thomas Walker Jr. signed over the land that became Pleasant Point, his wife Emma signed the deed, as well as his stepmother, Susan R. Walker.

Pleasant Point Develops

In the early 1890s, Howard and Reed purchased the adjoining land east of the “Walker Land,” from the Paine family, and created a second area of cottage lots, “The Walker Plan Addition,” and another portion, “The Paine Plan.” These lots are part of the Pleasant Point community today.

The 1890 “Walker Plan” laid out by Tully Crosby, like the other South Wellfleet development plans, gives street names to the area that are a bit more creative than the numbered and lettered streets on Lieutenant’s Island. One of the main streets, Pleasant Point Avenue, ran behind the lots on the bluff where several cottages were built. This street name soon gave the growing colony its overall name. In newspaper reports in the earlier years, it’s referred to as “Point Pleasant;” but the designation of Pleasant Point was given pretty much after 1910.

The Cape Cod Bay Land Company ran advertisements in print publications in the Boston area, with their Boston office listed at 230 Washington Street. “Sea Shore Cottage Lots” were advertised at $25, or $5 down, and $5 per month for a lot of 2800 square feet. They advertised “fine gunning” for hunters, and boating, fishing and bathing. The lots were near the depot, the post office and a store. Applicants got a “testimonial from well-known businessmen who have bought lots and from the town’s Selectmen.” Of course, not everyone traveled to South Wellfleet to make their purchase. One writer has commented that for those who did travel to the Cape on the train, and subsequently purchased land, their rail fare would be reimbursed.

Sales of lots on the Walker Plan began in 1890. Earliest sales were closest to the water — the bluff with the seven houses that are still there today where the grandest house was built. The large Queen Anne-style house on the western end deserves its own story, which I’ll write about in my next post.

There is no evidence of which cottage was built first. By studying deeds of early purchasers and noting their transfers of property, the existence of a building is noted, telling us that the owners built a structure. On the 1907-1910 map of Wellfleet, a map detail, shown here, notes on which lot a cottage occupied; there are 25 structures, including three to the east, where the owners must have enjoyed a view of Drummer’s Pond.

Detail of 1907-1910 map showing cottage lots with owners

Detail of 1907-1910 map showing cottage lots with owners

Most early cottage builders chose a simple wood-shingled style of one and sometimes two stories. From time to time, a little “tower section” made the cottage distinctive. Very often, names were bestowed upon the small building: Gull Cottage, Valley View, Sea Breeze, Bay Vista, Bay Pines, and so on.

The early cottages were lit with kerosene lamps, had outhouses, and used ice to keep food cool — one step away from camping, for the most part. Bathing, boating, and fishing were daily activities, and perhaps reading for leisure, playing games, and visiting with neighboring families. The key was to relax, to enjoy the sea air, the release from the work day, and the constraints of city living.

Bathing Costumes turn of the century. Photo courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Bathing Costumes, turn of the century. Photo courtesy Museum of the City of New York









Just after 1900, a Pleasant Point Water Company association was formed and it purchased a small triangular lot from Mr. Reed, and gaining his permission to put up a windmill and another small building. The lot was turned over to Wellfleet resident James Chandler in the summer of 1897. A news report from 1904 mentions Frank Fisher “erecting” a galvanized water tank for the “water system” at Pleasant Point. There is still a “pump house” lot listed under “Pleasant Water” on the Wellfleet Assessor’s Database. Today, the Pleasant Point Water system serves about forty cottages.

Early summer visitors to Pleasant Point had access to supplies both at the General Store at the Railroad Station, as well as a seasonal store that Mr. Newcomb eventually established at “Hinckley’s Corner” which is where “Way 112” is today. Wellfleet purveyors came around with wagons to sell meat, fish and fresh vegetables. The South Wellfleet Congregational Church was pretty much out of operation by the time Pleasant Point was developed, but churchgoers may have found the remaining congregants meeting at the nearby Pond Hill School. The Ladies Social Union was in operation at Pond Hill during those early years, and they developed a summer sale of homemade items to generate a bit of income from summer visitors. In 1914 the South Wellfleet Public Library was established on the second floor of the Pond Hill School, thanks to Mary Paine, perhaps in response to the burgeoning summer community. The Wellfleet Public Library made it an official branch in 1923.

South Wellfleet Congregational Church early 1900s

South Wellfleet Congregational Church early 1900s

Starting in 1902, and led by Edward Reed, there were petitions to the Town to layout, build, and harden a road to Pleasant Point. The records of road making are a bit sketchy, but in the 1914 Town Report, an appropriation was spent and reported on to create a “Pleasant Point Road.”

William and Carrie Hill

Another way to determine if a cottage was built on a purchased lot is to rely on news accounts in the South Wellfleet column in the Barnstable Patriot. The paper’s earliest mention of the Hill cottage is in 1894. William Hill, an engineer from Springfield, Massachusetts, and his wife, Carrie, purchased a lot on Lieutenant’s Island in 1889. In 1892, he sold that lot back to Edward Reed, and instead purchased a Pleasant Point lot from him, not on the bluff, but a bit further back. The Hills are mentioned again in 1900. In 1903, they sold the cottage, and it passed from one buyer to another in 1913, 1917, 1927, and 1955. One of the owners purchased additional land and settled elsewhere in the summer colony. The “Hill cottage” is still there, with a family enjoying it today.

Another post card view of the smaller cottages set back from the bluff

Another post card view of the smaller cottages set back from the bluff

Miss Marsh and The Trueworthys

Another early cottage owner is Miss Matilda Marsh from Lowell, Massachusetts, who purchased her land in 1892. One of the news articles mentions her cottage in 1903. By 1908, she had passed away and her property passed on to the Trueworthy family, Alden and Helen, a married couple from Lowell with a number of children. They may have had a connection to Miss Marsh, as there is a record of her loaning money to Alden in 1894; that loan was backed up by additional property he owned north of Pleasant Point. Mr. Trueworthy was a carpenter and is said to have built a number of summer cottages in South Wellfleet; I plan to write more about him in a separate post. He remained in South Wellfleet throughout the year, while his wife was in Lowell, raising their numerous children. She came to the Pleasant Point cottage in the summer.

A Byron Trueworthy also purchased two properties on the bluff at Pleasant Point but sold them to others before 1900. Mr. Trueworthy was from Ellsworth, Maine, as was Alden Trueworthy, so they may have been brothers. Byron Trueworthy returned to Maine and is listed there in the Federal censuses of the early 20th century.

Miss Martha Orne and The Knowles Family

Another summer visitor was Miss Martha Orne, a teacher, who purchased her lot in 1891 with Adeline Jordan, a dressmaker. Miss Orne is mentioned in numerous news articles. She adopted a girl, Ethel Herrick, first taking her in as her “ward” and then apparently formalizing her adoption. Ethel married Walter Davis in 1912, and, after Miss Orne died in 1915, inherited the Pleasant Point property. Tucked away behind the seven “bluff houses” the property today is owned by the same family that owns the cottage developed by Nancy Goodwin, described further on.

Postcard of Pleasant Point Cottages

Postcard of Pleasant Point Cottages

The Reeds

Mr. Howard’s partner, Edward F. Reed and his wife, Mary, and their three children, Edward, Arthur and Carlotta, soon established their cottage on the bluff at Pleasant Point, as did Edward’s brother James and his wife, Ida. Edward F. Reed was born in 1843, and, as a young man, apprenticed to a West Bridgewater cabinetmaker, where he can be found in 1860. In 1880, he was working in a shoe factory and living with Mary in his in-laws home. We don’t have evidence of how he switched to selling real estate, or how he met Mr. Howard, but by 1900, when the census taker came to his home in Chelsea, his occupation became “capitalist.” Eventually, the Reed property came to one of Carlotta’s children, Dorothy LePage, whose name appears on deeds on Lieutenant Island in the 1950s. The two Reed cottages on the bluff are still there.

Frank Stacy Family

Another lively character in the Pleasant Point summer community was Frank Stacy of Springfield, Massachusetts. His parents bought their first Wellfleet property on Lieutenant Island and must have built a cottage there because, in 1903, Mr. Trueworthy moved it to Pleasant Point. Their son, Frank, eventually became the owner of the Stacy Pleasant Point property. From news reports of his career, Mr. Stacy appears to have had a “day job” of running the family hardware business, although he also directed the DeSoto Orchestra. He became a City Councilmember, and then an Alderman in Springfield. In 1910, when minstrel shows were still in vogue, he performed as “Bones” in the Men’s League of the Waverly Congregational Church at the New England Hardware Dealer’s Convention. He was elected President of the New England Hardware Dealers (perhaps due to his minstrel performance?) and then used his role to bring the convention to Springfield in their new convention hall.

The seven houses on the bluff

The seven houses on the bluff

Stacy’s political career was helped by his boosting his hometown, and, in 1914, he was elected Mayor of Springfield, with a campaign costing $637.64. The “genial Mayor” was reported as sending bushels of Wellfleet oysters back to Springfield. In 1919, six weeks after leaving office, Frank Stacy died. However, his wife and children continued annual summer visits to Pleasant Point, with their daughters and son maintaining their contact through the 1950s. Their youngest daughter, Madeline Stacy, must have had some of her father’s personality, as she organized dance classes in 1929 and a season-ending show at the South Wellfleet Ladies Social Union – the building we again call “The Pond Hill School” today.

Louise Shepard

Mrs. Shepard was a widow with two children from Lowell, Massachusetts, the city where many early Wellfleet buyers came from. She purchased one of the bluff lots in 1897, next to the Reeds. In the 1900 census, she describes herself as a “real estate agent,” an unusual occupation for a woman at the turn of the century. In 1914, she sold the Pleasant Point land and its buildings — evidence that she’d built a cottage —to Frank and Jennie Rogers of Springfield, and they owned it until 1938.

The Lovejoys and The Bracketts

In 1897 John and Grace Lovejoy bought two lots on the Blackfish Creek shore in the Paine Plan. Mr. Lovejoy was a grocer in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, although later he bought a farm in Franklin, Massachusetts. The Lovejoys purchased two adjoining lots from Mr. Reed in 1898, but sold them soon after. By 1903, the Barnstable Patriot was regularly reporting their arrivals and departures from the Pleasant Point community, usually mentioning their son, Sefton. In 1901 and 1904 they had two more children, Clarice and Richard. One of the early plans to create a road to the summer community mentions “Hinckley’s Corner to the Lovejoy Cottage.”

The Lovejoys must have enjoyed many years of Wellfleet summers, because it wasn’t until 1950 that Grace Lovejoy passed the property on to her son, Sefton, and his wife, Ethel, who then enjoyed more years there with their daughters Mabel and Priscilla. In 1972 Sefton sold to the family that now owns the property, located on Crest Avenue. Today the remodeled structure is called “Sandune” cottage.

The Bracketts were close by to the Lovejoys — their cottage was called “Camp Norton” — Mrs. Lyman Brackett’s maiden name. The family’s visits were often mentioned in The Barnstable Patriot. They purchased from Robert Howard in 1902 — land and buildings, the same structures he referenced in the deed as purchased from the Paine family. In the deed, Alma Norton Brackett was charged with paying for the repairs Howard had put into the buildings. The Bracketts owned the home until the 1940s, when it passed on to others; notes on the structure indicate that a Reverend John Williams renamed it “Wide Horizons” after extensive remodeling in the 1960s.

Daniel and Jennie Runnels, The Dodges, Jeremiah F. Rich, and Professor and Mrs. Merrill

Another of the more distinctive structures I’ve watched on Pleasant Point for many years is the farthest house on Pleasant Point Road (now labeled Pleasant Point Landing) – a road that was originally named Pond Avenue. The house always seemed to be dangerously close to Blackfish Creek, especially when there was a big storm, with waves breaking against the seawall there. The Runnels were from Lowell, Massachusetts, and he was a house painter. The Runnels purchased many parcels, including the one at the Pleasant Point Landing. In 1903, they sold a bluff lot to the Stacy family, and another to the Trueworthy family. Their own cottage was further back from the water’s edge, on what became Chief Street. Jennie died in the 1920s, and Daniel sold the cottage to Charles Pillsbury, who was his sister’s husband.

Post card of the road approaching Pleasant Point

Post card of the road approaching Pleasant Point

In 1911 the Runnels sold the waterfront land to Winifred and Hayward Dodge who then built a cottage, because later deeds refer to a building. Mr. Dodge was a hardware dealer in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The Dodges only stayed for five years, and sold their property in 1916 to a “J. Frank Rich,” who turned out to be Jeremiah Franklin Rich who, with his wife Euphemia Adelaide Rich, were longtime residents of South Wellfleet, perhaps affected by the loss of fishing. Perhaps they thought they might enjoy a bit of profit from the growing Pleasant Point community. The Richs only owned it for a year, and then it passed to Professor and Mrs. Merrill. By the 1920s, Mr. Rich was supplying ice in the summer months. Interesting to me, the Richs were housing Frank Fisher in 1920, one of the South Wellfleet characters I remember from my childhood — “Frankie” pumped gas at Mr. Davis’s General Store.

Professor Alleyn Merrill was a senior professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. The Merrills became a fixture in the Pleasant Point community for years, until he retired in 1934, and they moved to Maine. In 1937, Mrs. Merrill, then a widow, sold the Wellfleet property. From there, the property changed hands several times until the present owners purchased it.

The Moodys and the Sacketts

Lillian and Frank Moody built another of the original cottages sometime after they purchased Pleasant Point land from Reed in 1895. The Moodys sold a portion of their lots with a building to George and Ellen Sackett of West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1911 and 1913. Meanwhile, the Moodys purchased land in South Wellfleet near Doctor’s Hill and retired there.

The Sacketts with their two children, Charles and Elizabeth, appear to have enjoyed many years at Pleasant Point. George Sackett died in 1939, and his daughter must have died as well, since it was her husband, Murray Root, who sold the property to the next owner in 1945. The cottage is still there today.

The Oxfords

Mary and Joseph Oxford lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Joseph was a furniture dealer. In addition to purchasing their Pleasant Point lot, in the Paine Land Addition, they also bought lots in the Ocean Plan and the Nauset Beach Plan. Their cottage is further back from the shore, and is still there, although extensively renovated in the 1940s.

The Davenports

The Davenports of Ludlow, Massachusetts, purchased lots of land from Mr. Reed in the late 1890s and held it in trust for their son and daughter, Edwin and Alice Davenport. News reports as early as 1904 mention their summer visits. Their cottage remains today, called Gull Cottage, and known for its unusual hip roof.

The David Buitekans

Annie Ross Buitekan and David Buitekan came to Wellfleet sometime between 1910 and 1920. In the 1910 Census they are living in Brooklyn, New York, where David was a printer. David was born in 1872 in Boston to parents born in Holland; Annie Ross has Scottish parents. They were married in Manhattan in 1903; they did not have children. Their earliest purchase of property in Wellfleet was in 1908, when they bought an older home in South Wellfleet. In 1912, George Sackett sold them Walker Plan land near the shore at Pleasant Point Landing. David Buitekan built a cottage that’s still there, offering it for summer rentals. Eventually, the Buitekans settled in South Wellfleet and became the owners of Isaac Paine’s general store in 1923, as I’ve written about in an earlier post.

Nancy Goodwin

I’ve been looking at a white cottage with green shutters on the shore of Blackfish Creek all of my life, and now know who built it. In 1897, Nancy Goodwin, a widow from Wrenthem, Massachusetts, bought her first lots of land to the east of the bluff, on the nearby shore, from Howard and Reed’s Cape Cod Bay Land Company. She added to her holdings in 1917. Nancy Goodwin lived with her sister Ella, and her brother-in-law as listed in the censuses from 1900. Since women’s abilities to earn money were limited, I thought that her purchase might have been funded from a family legacy or from her husband. However, in 1880, I found her with her brother and sister, already a widow, living in Providence, Rhode Island, where both she and her sister listed their occupation as “waitressing in a restaurant.” However she did it, Nancy Goodwin she was able to buy this summer place, and keep it until 1923 when she sold it to Lillian Givan.

An added note: thanks to a note from Jude Ahern, here’s a 1934 photo of Pleasant Point Cottages with the “water shed” in the foreground.

Cottages at Pleasant Point 1934 -- note water shed in foreground

Cottages at Pleasant Point 1934 — note water shed in foreground

My photograph of Pleasant Point in the 1970s

My photograph of Pleasant Point in the 1970s


Brown, Dona Inventing New England: Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century. Washington, D.C.,       Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995

U.S. Federal Census collection at

David Kew’s Cape Cod history site:

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at

Cape Codder available at

Wellfleet Town Reports at the Wellfleet Public Library

Historic house reports at the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum

Atlas of Barnstable County, Walker Lithographic and Publishing Company, Boston, 1910

The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Henry F. Walling, re-published 2009, OnCape Publications.



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