Topics: Local History

HARWICH — What do Squanto, Henry David Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt and General Motors have in common? They’ve all dealt with the movers and shakers who came from the one-mile stretch from the Herring River to the Dennis town line. known as Captains’ Row. The old Indian or cow path that drew some of the first settlers of the town in the mid-17th century soon became the home to mercantile giants, ship builders and ...

CHATHAM – Isak Dinesen once said, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” Salt water, specifically from the shores of Cape Cod, is also what Paul Shibles uses to create his popular jars of 1830 Sea Salt, which he makes in Chatham the old-fashioned way. In the mid-1800s, a major industry on Cape Cod was salt harvesting. Back then, seawater was evaporated on large beds covered with point...

Harwich Church Exhibits Its Abolitionist Roots

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — It has been 175 years since the Man with the Branded Hand became a central character in the abolitionist movement on Cape Cod. Harwich resident Captain Jonathan Walker suffered the pain of a branding iron bearing the letters “SS” after been imprisoned under Territory of Florida law as a “slave stealer.” The abolitionist movement had momentum locally in those days, as was well documented with the foun...

ORLEANS — There's at least one moment in the town's history that the historical commission would prefer not to preserve. On May 14, 1996, town meeting considered amending the town bylaws to create the East Orleans Main Street Historic District for “the preservation and protection of the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places significant in the history of the town of Orleans and the Commonwealth ...

ORLEANS — Given what the Orleans Historical Society has been up to recently, it's no surprise that the current exhibit at the 1834 Meetinghouse is titled “Models of Maritime Courage and Adventure.” The OHS board has been a model of courage and adventure itself, setting out to raise $3 million to update the Meetinghouse and Hurd Chapel and purchase the Captain Linnell House while creating a new umbrella ident...

CHATHAMPORT — Before Lucky Lindy, Amelia Earhart or Howard Hughes took their places in aviation history, there was the crew of the NC-4, whose all-but-forgotten adventure began a century ago in Chatham. “Without an exaggeration, it changed the world,” retired Coast Guard Capt. Greg Ketchen said. “To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, it was a giant leap forward for mankind.” On Tuesday, Ketchen led a small assembly ...

CHATHAM – Saturday is “Free Locals Day” at two museums. As long as one person in a party has a driver's license with a Cape Cod address, the entire group gets free admission to the Atwood House and Museum and the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11. “It's our way of making the museums accessible to local families across the Cape that might not be able to come otherwise,” said Dani...

HARWICH — They might seem like a repository of dry information, but annual town reports can shed light on a community’s values, its problems and its strengths. Now, thanks to a program of the Boston Public Library, many of Harwich’s old town reports are now just a click away. Through a portal known as Digital Commonwealth, and at no expense to the town, the reports back to 1866 have been scanned and can be v...

A Secret Window To The Past

By: Alan Pollock

HARWICH — The volunteers and staff of the Harwich Historical Society regularly receive artifacts from all over town that tell the story of bygone Harwich. But their greatest find in recent months has been right under their noses the whole time: a chalkboard in one of the old classrooms, still bearing writing from 1913. Town maintenance crews are repainting the large upstairs exhibit room in advance of the su...

CHATHAM — Teaching middle school students about heroic figures in history can be a dry proposition; after all, it was a long, long time ago that Washington crossed the Delaware. But working with local first responders and the co-author of “The Finest Hours,” Monomoy Middle School teachers have found a way to bring history to life. For the second year, Monomoy sixth graders read the young reader version of th...

Ben Nickerson 'Always Left You With A Smile'

By: Tim Wood

Volunteer With 'Deep Knowledge' Of Chatham History Remembered CHATHAM – The two things you could always count on from Ben Nickerson were a smile and a kind word. “Ben always left you with a smile on your face,” said Jean Williams, who runs the FISH medical transportation service, for which Mr. Nickerson volunteered. “He was a people person, with all the best qualities, upbeat and had fun stories to tell and...

CHATHAM – In early June, while ramping up for the busy summer season, the staff at the Chatham Historical Society's Atwood House and Museum learned that within weeks, one of the largest donations the museum has received in several years would be arriving. “It happened very quickly,” said Executive Director Danielle Jeanloz. The donation came from Sears Atwood Eldredge, a Chatham native now living in St. Pau...

CHATHAM — Until about a decade ago, Andrew Fitzgerald, Jr., was known to most of his family and friends only as a loving man with a keen wit, a retired sales engineer, a volunteer at his church and an avid football fan. And way back in his youth, he had been in the United States Coast Guard. What they didn’t know was Mr. Fitzgerald’s role in the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history. He was th...

CHATHAM – If not for Chatham's unique coastal geology, our country might have a very different history. When the Pilgrims sighted land from the deck of the Mayflower on Nov. 9, 1620, it was the Nauset area that they saw, just north of Chatham. Heading south toward their original destination, they ran into Pollock Rip off Monomoy, and, sensing the danger that would drag many ships down over the coming centuries...

WEST HARWICH — On Sunday, Americans come together to honor veterans, on what will be the 100 th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. With all its witnesses now gone, the bloody battles of the Great War seem impossibly long ago and intangible. An artist, most likely a soldier in the trenches near Verdun, painstakingl...

ORLEANS — Capt. John J. Fitzgerald, like the rest of the men on the bow section of the ill-fated tanker Pendleton, never made it to safety aboard the famous Coast Guard rescue boat CG36500 in that blizzard in 1952. But more than 66 years later, his grandson Matt got to climb aboard, learning about the famous rescue and putting context to some of his own family history. “If I had to sum it up in one word I wo...