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A daily almanac of Massachusetts history courtesy of Mass. Moments
First Missionaries Leave for Hawaii: October 23, 1819

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articles & blogs: history

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  • Housing Problem
    The early Cape houses varied greatly, according to men’s means, and became more elaborate from generation…
  • The First Wireless
    How many Americans know that the world radio system was given rise on the Cape? Marconi, in 1903, on the oceanside of Wellfleet got through the first wireless message. It was a greeting from President…
  • Provincetown Monument
    High Pole Hill has been a lookout for the sailors of Provincetown for many years. From a high pole to a windmill, from a town hall to a monument, there has always been some mark there to guide the ships…
  • When The Cape Salted America
    During the War of the Revolution, salt for American tables was nearly as scarce as hens’ teeth. To an imaginative Cape Codder named “Sleepy” John Sears, a sea captain hailing from…
  • Hard Workers
    Don’t get the idea that those who lived in the early days on Cape Cod were all farmers and fishermen. There were others.
  • Branded Hand of Harwich
    Harwich was one of the first big fishing ports of the Cape, but as other ports lured away the fishing business, as early as 1845, she began to cultivate the lowly cranberry.
  • Doubting Barnstable
    Barnstable with its fine old houses and stately air has a strangely mixed history. James Otis was born here, the fiery orator…
  • Aye, Remember When
    A bookful—aye, dozens of bookfuls have been written and well-written about the good old days on Cape Cod. What in the world was there that so much could be written about?
  • The Crew of 102
    One hundred and two men, the crew of a pirate ship, were once buried on the beach at Welifleet. They were the crew of the Whydah, a ship of about 200 tons. It was armed with twenty-three guns…
  • Lecture Day
    Not only did the colonists suffer through day-long Sunday sermons, but on Thursdays they attended a weekly lecture which was to the seventeenth century what the opera was to the nineteenth.
  • Oil Clothes
    Before the days of sewing machines, the fisherman’s clothes were made by outfitters. They bought the cloth, cut the pants, the jacket and the barvel (which was a large apron), and laid them out…
  • Where They Sleep!
    Here and there the old Cape Cod villages are dotted by little cemeteries. Some of the cemeteries are very small. In them there are perhaps not over a score of graves.
  • Resurrected Ship: The Sparrowhawk
    Nearly four hundred years ago a shipload of would-be colonists set out from Liverpool, England, on the ship Sparrowhawk. These people were not bound for the Cape. They intended to go to the colony…
  • Abandon Ship!
    If this thrilling cry had sounded throughout the Mayflower in the fury of some storm or even in the dark of a calm night at sea, what a predicament her people would have been in!
  • John Alden Settles the Matter
    The Pilgrims and the Indians got along very well. There were a few arguments but none was serious. In 1657 the inhabitants of the Town of Yarmouth had a disagreement with the Indian sachem Yanno, or…
  • Visit Antique Shops
    Cape Cod’s many antique shops offer an excellent chance for the collector of old furniture, pictures and knick-knacks. For hidden at the rear of one of those barns with the large sign “Antiques”…
  • The Indians Saved the Day
    An incident of historical significance was the part Yarmouth took in the expedition against the French, and the capture of the Canadian stronghold. In 1745, forty white men and thirteen Pawkunnawakut…
  • Colonial Cure for Insomnia
    It was not quite so easy for the victims of insomnia in Colonial times to obtain sleep remedies as it is now. Perhaps there was less need for them then.
  • Sea-Jug Post
    The “sea-jug post” was established many long years ago by the old sailing ships. Vessels that had long been at sea could not always be certain of meeting other vessels homeward bound, and…
  • Reminders Of Whaling Days
    It is said that one hundred and fifty sea captains lived in Dennis in 1837; and Brewster in 1850, boasted of having more skippers than any other port in the country.
  • Sea Captains’ Mansions
    The square Georgian mansions of Cape Cod were built by the old-time sea captains. Like everything else on the Cape, they are modest and in good taste.
  • Vikings at Dennis?
    Was it at Dennis that “Vinland” of the Norse sagas was located? Over 50 years ago, under the supervision of the Massachusetts Archeological Society and the Cape Cod chamber of commerce,…
  • The Cape Cod Cottage
    An aged Cape Cod house is the first preference of every inlander who dreams of establishing a home here. Either a Half-House,…
  • Jeremiah Mayo, Famous Skipper
    Jeremiah Mayo, born 1786 in Brewster, was typical of the many Cape Cod blue water captains who left their mark on American nautical history. Mayo was one of nine big brothers who, when laid end to end,…
  • In Barnstable Bay
    Typical of the hundreds upon hundreds of shipwrecks that have occurred along the great hook of Cape Cod is the sinking of the schooner Almira.
  • Least Known Of All Cape Cod Towns
    Mashpee, once an Indian reservation and once one of the least known of all Cape Cod towns, is bordered by Sandwich, Barnstable, Falmouth, and Vineyard Sound.
  • When a Whaler Weighed Anchor
    The object of weighing anchor was, of course, to get a ship under way, and not to find out how much the anchor weighed. One must not think, either, that weighing anchor and getting sail spread and the…
  • Eastham Settled By the Pilgrims
    Eastham was settled in 1644, by Pilgrims who had grown disillusioned by the agricultural prospects of the parent colony at Plymouth.
  • The Front Door was for the Minister
    Traditionally, a visitor to a Cape Cod style house did not announce himself at the front door. He would conform to one of the oldest native customs and go around to the kitchen or side door. (Most old…
  • Cape Shoals Made History
    Think some time of the difference in American history there would have surely been were it not for Cape Cod and its great shoals. Captain Jones of the Mayflower, with a shipload of men and women…
  • Peddling Over The Ocean Roads
    There were few roads in early New England. Travel was slow and difficult. But there was always the ocean. And there were always men to build ships that could trade along the coast.
  • Silver and Pewter
    Silverware, rare during the initial period of colonization in New England, became plentiful even in the poorer homes at the start of the 18th century.
  • Daniel Webster Loved Cape Cod
    Barnstable, the county seat of the Cape, was once known as the Great Marshes. The reason for this is quickly seen as one comes Eastward down Route 6A and enters the township of Barnstable. Off to the…
  • The Norse Wall
    Thorwald Ericson, Leif Ericson’s brother, was said to be exploring the coast of Cape Cod about 1,000 years ago, when his ship was driven ashore at Provincetown in a terrible storm, in which the…
  • Captain Kidd’s Pirate Treasure
    Captain Kidd, according to local tradition, buried his gold at Money Head on Hog Island in Pleasant Bay, off Orleans.
  • Nauset’s Big Boulder
    As you drive out to Nauset Light, keep an eye open for Nauset’s Big Boulder. You will spy it roosting in a grove of trees to your right. Wonder how it got there?
  • Captain Shrimpe
    The travels of Myles Standish took him over much of the Massachusetts wilderness and he knew something of the Cape as well as the immediate area of Plymouth.
  • Canal Will Fail, They Said
    The building of the Cape Cod Canal was not accomplished in a day — nor without a great deal of controversy. Skeptics asserted that it would be a failure and would never make enough money to achieve…
  • Cure By Cod Fishing
    Cape Cod parents, if they had a son who was either sickly or wild, sometimes sent the boy
  • The Mormon Movement
    A number of Cape Codders became Mormons during the early 19th century, and shared prominently in the persecutions and struggles of the Mormon movement as it trended toward its final home in the West.…
  • Where Did They Get Those Names?
    The names of Cape Cod towns and villages make a deep impression on minds curious about such matters. Are you one of those who wonder where the names come from?
  • Colonial Christmas
    Santa comes to the Cape at Christmas time now just as merrily as to any other part of the country, and the Cape Cod kids keep as close a watch and are as impatient, too, as other kids for the time of…
  • Interesting Old Tavern
    In North Falmouth there is a structure known as “the Old Tavern.” It was built over two hundred years ago (1785) and has an interesting historical background.
  • Cape Cod Canal II?
    Is the present Canal the second canal that Cape Cod has had? In one sense, yes. For, back in 1717, and doubtless before then, there was a narrow passage of clear water that found its way through “Jeremy’s…
  • Yo! Ho! The Jolly Roger!
    This rousing tale of a pirate attack was told by a Wellfleet descendant of Captain Samuel Snow of Truro, Cape Cod.
  • Eastham Was Once Nauset
    The Town of Eastham on Cape Cod was first known as Nauset. The early history of the town shows that it once also included Wellfleet, Orleans, and certain parts of Truro and Harwich.
  • Half A Chimney Half A Door
    We hope that the two persons who first owned the Cahoon House in Osterville got along well together. They would have been an unhappy pair had they not, for they were bound together by the house which…
  • The Oldest Windmill
    The oldest windmill on Cape Cod stood at the road to West Yarmouth. The owner sold it to Henry Ford of automobile fame. He moved it from the Cape to his Dearborn Greenfield Village Museum.
  • A Ship Captain At Twenty-one
    When we think of today’s huge ships, we think of vessels with very complex machinery. It takes schooling, college-going and maritime training to know how to captain or “skipper” such…
  • Wooden Chimneys
    Since, even today, our well made chimneys are often sources of fire risk, it is astonishing to learn that early Cape Codders once used chimneys of wood.
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