Archive for the 'Cape Cod' Category

Jul 14 2014

The Charles W. Morgan Comes to P-Town

I NEVER go to Provincetown in the summer. In 56 years the thought of driving a distance equivalent to a trip to Boston, down perilous two-lanes of distracting tourist drivers to visit the clogged streets of the zoo that is P-Town has never even crossed my mind. But yesterday, in lieu of beating over to Martha's Vineyard in southwesterly breezes gusting to 30 knots, I easily agreed with the suggestion we show my daughter's boyfriend the "real Cape" and head to the outermost tip of the peninsula. As we walked down from the parking lot behind the high school at the Pilgrim Monument I looked out over the harbor for the masts of the Charles W. Morgan, the oldest floating commercial vessel in the United States, the last of the wooden whaling ships, recently restored at Mystic Seaport and now on its 38th voyage, the first time it has sailed in decades.

"I knew there was a reason he agreed to do this," said my wife, long ago having resigned herself to a lonely marriage of antisocial, agoraphobic behavior by me, the man-who-does-not-dance. There were masts abounding, but none of a New Bedford whaling ship. I had followed the progress of the Morgan from Mystic up to Buzzards Bay and then through the Cape Cod Canal, and knew she would be in Provincetown.  I've been aboard the ship a few times in the past at Mystic Seaport, where she has been the main attraction since 1941, but always assumed she was just an exhibit, too fragile to risk the sea.

The six of us walked to the end of the town pier, bustling with little shops, visitors arriving from Boston on the fast ferry, charter captains hosing off their decks and getting ready for their next set of sports. At the very end of the quay was a replica of a merchantman from the 1700s -- a Mayflowerish sort of thing -- and a not very pretty schooner, but no Morgan. A big inflated sperm whale was tethered down, nose into the southwest wind pushing white caps out in the bay into the Wellfleet and Truro shores.

"There's a ship," my daughter said. Out of the harbor, on the other side of the little flat-sided lighthouse at the tip of Long Point, were the masts of a bark-rigged ship slowly sailing in from Cape Cod Bay.

It was the Morgan, returning from a day sail out to Stellwagen Bank, a fertile marine sanctuary a few miles north of Race Point where right whales and finbacks cavort all summer. The ship was in port for some sort of whale awareness event, and around the inflated whale on the pier stood an helpful young woman answering questions about the state of the whale preservation movement. The exhibit had a sense of apology about it, that yes, this was a magnificent ship that embodied a rich part of America's maritime past, but all those whales the Morgan helped slaughter were, well.....in the past when people didn't know any better and petroleum hadn't been discovered yet.

The ship rounded Long Point and tacked around into the wind to pick up a mooring a half mile off the end of the pier. She was not coming dockside. I was a little disappointed, the sight of an actual whaler riding at anchor was such an anachronism I turned to my son and said, "Imagine hiding in the bushes in Samoa in 1850 and seeing that arrive and drop anchor."

"With a crew of syphilitic, dregs-of-New-England sailors," he cracked wisely. The rest of my entourage was profoundly bored by the fact that a piece of American history was riding at its anchor in front of them in the same harbor where the Mayflower arrived in the late fall of 1620. They headed back to the insanity of Commercial Street where a man in an orange skirt and orange cat-in-the-hat hat was riding bicycle hawking tickets to an appearance by Baltimore's pencil-moustached auteur and director of Pink Flamingos, John Waters. My son and I sat on edge of the pier, legs dangling down, and appreciated the view. Being a pedantic bore, I started the history lesson of the Morgan.

She was built in New Bedford in 1841, at the height of the American whaling fishery, a time when Nantucket and New Bedford whaling ships were exploring every corner of the Pacific from New Zealand to the Arctic, from Baja to the Okhotsk Sea of Siberia. This was the world of Herman Melville which he captured in the two books that made him a best selling author -- Oomoo and Typee -- an account of his voyage to the South Pacific and desertion with another sailor to live among the Polynesians.  This was a time when New England whalers were the most well-traveled people in the world.  Pushing  into uncharted waters -- literally -- at huge risk and discomfort to fill their holds with whale oil, bone and baleen.

The ships were slow. Built big and heavy to hold a lot of barrels of oil, a crew of 35 men, and the brick fireplace -- or "try works" -- that sat amidships where the big blankets of whale blubber were cut into chunks and rendered over the flames into big iron kettles into oil like big blobs of fishy Crisco. The decks were soaked in oil: slippery, rancid, foul and treacherous.  Only the Captain and the officers got rich. They worked for the ship owners -- the Coffins of Nantucket or the Howlands of New Bedford -- and received a share, or fraction of the profits. The crews were drunks and petty thieves, sea sick farm boys, Wampanoags and Pequots trying to work off debts, escaped slaves, Irish immigrants, veterans of the War of 1812. The only things that kept them in line were the fists of the officers and their ignorance of celestial navigation. Oh there were mutinies, but for most whaling voyages -- generally lasting three years -- the biggest risk was falling overboard, being killed by an angry whale, or merely suffering an accident on deck in a pre-OSHA era.

The Morgan was of a classic type of ship; a couple thousand were built in Mattapoisett and New Bedford. This is the type of ship the Pequod -- Captain Ahab's ship in Moby Dick -- was. Melville wrote in the novel, published in 1851 -- ten years after the launching of the Morgan: 

"... a rare old craft...She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old fashioned claw-footed look about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like a French grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts...stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett bled. But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed...She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the Sperm Whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe...A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that."

The Morgan escaped the fate of most whaling ships. A lot were lost at sea, sunk by storms, wrecked on uncharted reefs, driven onto lee-shores, unable to beat their way to the open sea. One, the Essex, was rammed and sunk by a pissed-off whale.  A bunch were lost in the arctic, done in by greedy crews who overstayed their welcome and were frozen into the pack ice. The Civil War took its toll when the "Great Stone Fleet" -- about 40 whaling ships -- were filled with rocks and scuttled by the Union Navy in an attempt to blockade Charleston, South Carolina. The end of the age of sail and the rise of steam did in the rest, but somehow the Morgan escaped the wrecker and even found a second career in the early silent movie era as a prop in three movies. She was rotting in New Bedford harbor in 1924 when a steamer caught fire and nearly destroyed her in the process. The fire -- which was extinguished by the firemen of Fairhaven -- raised awareness that the Morgan should be preserved, and eventually the one-legged Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green, son of the notorious "witch of Wall Street," Hetty Green, was persuaded to pay to have her restored and towed to his seaside mansion in Dartmouth, Mass. where she was pulled into the mud and put on display.

Green, who lost his leg in childhood when his miserly mother refused to pay a doctor to set a broken bone, was the heir to the great Howland whaling fortune and kept the Morgan in decent shape until his death in 1934. Four years later the Great Hurricane of 1938 demolished New Bedford and the Morgan was damaged.

In 1941 she was dug out of her mud and sand berth, towed back into New Bedford harbor, patched up, and eventually towed to Mystic, Connecticut to become the nucleus for Mystic Seaport, an amazing maritime museum (where I spent many month in the late 1970s while majoring in American maritime history at Yale).

She was patched up and put into another muddy berth, and over the years millions of visitors explored her decks and learned about the amazing history of whaling. But she never sailed again.

Occasionally they'd unfurl her big sails at the dock -- sometimes one could see them luffing uselessly as they sped by in a car on Route 95 -- but she was basically beached. I never expected the Morgan to sail again.  A few years ago, at the Coastweeks rowing regatta, my son and I explored the Seaport after my race. It was his first visit and we had a lot of fun exploring the exhibits, the old rope walk, the sheds of catboats and sharpies, skipjacks and pinkys. The Morgan was in dry dock to be rebuilt from the keel up. We were able to go aboard even though work was being done, and poked around the decks, me droning on about his great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Chatfield's ship, the Massachusetts, and speculating what life must have been like for a Cotuit man in his early 20s to be given command of a 100-foot long ship and sail it from Edgartown to Siberia and back. And then do it four more times before the outbreak of the Civil War.

So yes, there's an ancestral connection to these ships. A reminder that somewhere in my DNA is the stuff that made a man run away from home, go to sea, and live a life killing huge beasts in strange oceans on a floating fireplace.

The fact I actually saw one of those ships under sail yesterday -- not being ceremoniously towed around like the USS Constitution is every summer  (the Constitution is the oldest floating American ship, the Morgan the oldest commercial one) but actually sailing-- was very emotional and more than worth the long drive from Cotuit to see. I'd give a lot to experience such a thing. A few years ago I organized an expedition of a couple dozen friends down to Newport to sail a pair of America's Cup 12-meters, and those five minutes I spent at the big wheel made me smile all over.

The Morgan heads to Boston, then back through the Canal. She'll be n display at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on July 26 and 27.

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Jun 12 2014

If the Kettleers had a mascot….

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Opening day in Cotuit today but I went to Hyannis last night for the season opener against the Hyannis Harborhawks and witnessed the unveiling of their new mascot, a person in a bird suit.  The mascot's name is "Ossie"  as in Osprey. Hyannis has an identity crisis. They used to be the "Mets" but then the Cape Cod Baseball League's teams who were borrowing the names of major league teams had to stop because of trademark and licensing stuff. So the Mets became the Harborhawks, a nod to the ospreys that next on top of the light poles around the field. They kept the uniform colors of the Amazing New York Mets but the name was changed.

The real birds were there last night, making their screechy osprey peep sounds from their nest on top of the light pole behind the visitor's bleachers. Ossie was introduced to the crowd. This made me ask the guy next to me on the bleachers why they weren't called the "Hyannis Ospreys" in the first place.

The Hyannis Harborhawks are guilty of the same name confusion as Cape Cod Academy which has adopted the "Sea Hawk" as its mascot. There are no such things as Harbor Hawks and Sea Hawks.  Yes, "sea hawk" is blessed as a possible synonym for osprey by Wikipedia, but the Britannica Killer also says it can refer to the skua. Then there is the Sea Eagle -- a synonym for that classic crossword puzzle three-letter word: "Ern" -- but no Harbor Hawk exists except in Hyannis.

Personally, I'd embrace the Osprey and be done with it. Ospreys are cool. Ospreys are survivors.  And the frigging new mascot is running around calling itself "Ossie". Besides they named a really expensive controversial but bad ass helicopter-plane after the species:

I think Hyannis is at the vanguard of a dangerous trend in Cape Cod Baseball:  more mascots. I won't speculate what Wareham would come up with, since they are the Gatemen (maybe a security guard would work).  Chatham (the original "quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem") has the Mariners -- so some guy stuffed into some waders with an 11-foot long surfcasting rod could be easily pressed into service and cast t-shirts into the bleachers in between innings. Brewster has the Whitecaps. Tough one there.I guess a custom costume that looked like a Big Wave, give the thing a Supersoaker, have it blast kids. Blow off a tsunami warning horn after every home run?

But Cotuit.... We have a kettle to thank for our name. The kettle that Myles Standish used to "pay" the Wampanoags for the land that became Cotuit, which with a garden hoe thrown in to sweeten the deal, gives us the name of the local tavern, The Kettle-Ho (which lost in the early rounds of the recent Real Cape dive bar contest).

The Kettle-Ho's mascot is a mermaid (arguably a "ho" herself as the bar's motto is "Not the 'Ho You Used to Know") ,  holding a hoe and cuddling a black kettle with her tail.  The sign hangs just a few doors down from the offices of my insurance broker, Mycock Insurance (the Cape Cod Baseball League's championship trophy is named after longtime Cotuit Kettleer manager, Arnold Mycock).

Other than the baseball team and the bar, the kettle thing doesn't have a lot of legs in the village. But, if Cotuit were to get a mascot, what would we get? They pass plastic kettles around the stands to raise some cash every game. And I've seen a fan show up with a brass kettle and bang on it like a Swiss ski fan ringing more cowbell on the slopes of the Matterhorn, I guess it would have to be somebody running around in a kettle specific version of the Kool-Aid Man.

My neighbor at last night's game agreed with the Kool-Aid guy idea, but suggested there would also need to be a "hoe" which of course led to inappropriate speculation about how a "hoe" would be represented in a costume.

Any way, Cotuit lost last night, 3-2 and stranded something like a dozen baserunners, keeping us on our toes with the bases loaded in the ninth. But alas. It was not to be for the 2013 Cape Cod champions. Today at 5 they open at home against Hyannis, game two of the Patriot Cup. Without a mascot but with nice new home stands.

 

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Jun 06 2014

Cape Cod Modern

Published by under Cape Cod

I live in an old house built in the 1820s, passed down through five generations thanks to a lot of childless great-aunts and the strange coincidence of only-child status enjoyed by my father and his father. It was added onto over the years in a haphazard marriage of outbuildings, barns, porches and what-not all tacked together into a big mess I have been told is an example of "Greek Revival."  My architectural antenna isn't very sharp. I know what I like and I know what I don't like, and I'd say my tastes run towards more to an old New England sensibility than anything else. But I've always loved modern architecture from the 50s and 60s ever since my rowing friend Steve moved to Cotuit and his parents built a very cool concrete and glass house in the pine woods overlooking Shoestring Bay. There isn't a lot of modern examples around Cotuit. A few are scattered along the waterfront, looking tired and overwhelmed by the trend towards wedding-cake ostentation that polluted the views of Osterville and Cotuit in the go-go years of the early 1990s and can be attributed to a local architecture (who shall go unnamed) who had an affinity for faux widow's walks and lighthouse-like turrets and a love affair with round windows, as if her designs were catalogue models for the Pella Window Company. Whatever, there was a nice little stink when former local TV celebrity carpenter Bob Vila threw the offending architecture under the bus in an interview with a local newspaper.

Reading the Wall Street Journal yesterday I learned something about Cape Cod architecture I never knew before. The outer Cape, especially in Wellfleet and Truro, is renowned among architects as a trove of very innovative designs from the 50s and early 60s. There is a group devoted to saving these places as they grow dilapidated and face being torn down. The Cape Cod Modern House Trust ... 

hatchhouseFrom the WSJ:  "Cape Cod was ... a stronghold of architectural experimentation, where the aesthetics of Europe's progressive-thinking designers dovetailed surprisingly well with the casually built oyster shacks, saltbox houses and seaside piers that dotted the woods and dunes."

I was so smitten by some of the designs on the CCMHT's website I ordered a copy of their coffee table book. Some of the designs are absolutely awesome, especially when you consider some of them are close to 70 years old and look as fresh as anything designed today.

That "recent old Cape" of the last century -- when the outer Cape was a haven of bohemian intellectualism beginning with the writers and painters of Provincetown, then the summer stock theater scene around the Falmouth and Cape Cod Playhouses .... followed by the reputation of Wellfleet as a summer writers' colony for New Yorkers -- gave a lot of flavor to the place before subdivision disasters of the 70s and 80s when the woods were turned into so many Levitttowns and the the seashore became a stage for the Masters of the Universe in their trophy homes with their trophy wives.

It's cool to see these modern classics lovingly restored.

kugel

 

 

 

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May 28 2014

Cotuit Fire District Annual Meeting tonight: Vote Yes on Article 19

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Update: The article passed 75-3.

Tonight the village holds is annual meeting at Freedom Hall (7:30 pm) to work through the budgets of the fire and water departments and the prudential committee (which takes care of Freedom Hall.) The warrant is pretty much the same from one year to the next -- some years the fire department needs a new ambulance (they need one this year) or the water department wants to build a new water tower (which they did a few years ago in Santuit) -- but most of the items are standard items such as salaries, a small stipend to the library, money for the village street lights and some modifications to the bylaws to bring them into the Internet age so meeting notices can be posted on the district's web site.

This year a special article is on the warrant -- placed there by citizen petition -- to ask the village tax payers to purchase a conservation easement for the 19-acres of woodlands behind Lowell Park -- home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. The price tag is $235,000, about $67 in additional taxes for the typical homeowner.

The highlighted fore4st shows the 19-acres to be preserved. (photo from the blt.org by Rick Heath)

Ordinarily I would say it isn't the village's "municipal duty" to preserve open space -- that's a charitable effort usually promoted through the good efforts of the Barnstable Land Trust and private donors -- but this is a crucial investment towards preserving the character of the village and keeping intact an extraordinary greenway that runs from Little River Road past the Bell Farm conservation lands, past Mosswood Cemetery all the way up to the wonderful curve at the Ropes Field. It saves the pristine, uninterrupted outfield of the best ballpark in the Cape Cod Baseball League and it will present a good buffer for the well field. This is the sort of thing my grandparents and great grandparents would have done and I say it is our duty to dig into our pockets and do the same for future generations. Cotuit has a proud history of doing the right thing and this is the right thing to do.

The Barnstable Land Trust is pushing for a Yes vote on Article 19 and with good justification. First of all, this keeps nine homes and their septic systems away from one of the most important sources of our drinking water. Last summer Cotuit had its first "boil order" after the drinking water failed a test. Across the street from Lowell Park, is a dilapidated home that has been a battleground between a local developer and residents -- he wanted to subdivide the property into condos, but eventually gave up after letting the place deteriorate into an eyesore. It also abuts a well field and the village has purchased the conservation restriction to insure no septic systems get built too close to the water supply.

I'd argue that this is the sort of thing that improves property values in the village and is a great investment in our future. The article is going to come to a vote later in the meeting (it is 19 out of 24) and it's the duty of any concerned property owner with an interest in the village to get off their butts and show up. Cotuit's Fire District is essential to keep the village's individual identity intact and to give its residents a truly local voice in the management of the place. While the calls for consolidation into a single Town of Barnstable system continue to be heard in the name of efficiency and economy, we Cotusions need to keep in mind that our Fire District -- granted to us by the legislature in the 1920s -- gives us a degree of sovereign autonomy and control over our affairs that once given up, can't be regained.

 

 

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May 21 2014

2014 Cotuit Kettlers – Google Calendar Schedule

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Here is this year's Cotuit Kettleer's schedule for adding to Google Calendar. This is unofficial, handtyped by me, complete with any inadvertent errors. Home games are designated in blue, away games in red. You can get to it with this link

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May 14 2014

“I hope someone makes them pay…”

Published by under Cape Cod,General

So the response to my screed over the shenanigans in Popponesset Bay drew a lot of traffic into this blog -- about 20X the normal flow over several days and setting the all-time traffic record for this blog since I started it ten years ago as a way to scratch my occasional itch to write. I generally try to avoid politics on this blog. Three years in the statehouse press gallery in the early 1980s sort of washed the taste for Massachusetts legislative politics out of my mouth for life, and as a former bartender, I knew well that religion and politics are the third-rails of civilized conversation. I also am very turned off by the perversion of the medium into very crazed "hate" blogs used to slander local politicians. There are more than enough moon-bats blogging and I don't intend to become one.

statsBut, as the tongue-in-cheek tagline of this blog says, this is a blog about clamming, an attempt to blend my personal and professional writing under one umbrella. A wise man -- Stephen O'Grady -- warned me long ago not to try to maintain multiple blogs. One is enough of a greedy child to feed, let alone several. The result has been a muddy mix of local stuff that I like -- history, sailing, fishing -- and pedantic digital marketing stuff ranging from Olympic sponsorship to tech trends. I avoid blogging about causes or using this to advance some personal agenda. The habits of an old reporter are hard to break, and it would have been unthinkable ten years ago for me to write with the kind of outraged invective I did last week when the news broke that the democratic process was being perverted by some pompous wealthy dickheads.

The story is amusing though. I have to tip my hat to ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the law firm of Mintz Levin for going beyond the pale and buying off a lameduck State Rep to pull a classic Beacon Hill maneuver of sticking bizarre midnight amendments onto massive things like state budgets. This crap has been going on forever in Massachusetts. The corruption level of the Massachusetts legislature -- especially during my days there when Billy Bulger ruled the senate like some Roman tyrant, and Tom McGee fought reform in the House with every dirty trick in the book -- should never be underestimated. Your average state rep is less likable than a used-car salesman and half as honest.. Massachusetts politics should become the official spectator sport of the Commonwealth, as fun and mind blowing a spectacle as the Bruins or the Celtics.  That some rich guys wrote a wicked big check to keep the groundling proles from cluttering up their oceanfront view is the least of our problems. This is a state of bagmen and angles.

But still, people ask me "what can we do?" I've done my time at the microphone at Conservation Commission hearings opposing rich people's applications to build their piers into the harbor. I've written letters and earned the enmity of countless gaping buttholes who have more money than sensibility. Yet I also know people on the waterfront with hearts as big at the Ritz.  Some give their beaches to the local yacht club for thirty years to use for a sailing program; others make special attempts to minimize their impact on the environment by banning lawn fertilizers and peeing and pooping into composting toilets.Then there are those who put creepy surveillance cameras disguised as bird houses on their beaches, and make our days just that much shittier by posting stern "PRIVATE BEACH" signs to discourage the kind of free access I knew on the Cape 40 years ago.

I've been rattled by screaming homeowners flipping out at me to GET OFF THEIR GODDAMN BEACH, even though I'm within my rights with a fishing rod or a clam license. I know cases where ancient public ways to water -- little paths designated as a way for the public to get to the water to dig a clam or catch a fish -- are obscured by abutting property owners deliberately planting shrubs, or sliding a kid's swingset over the path, knowing as the years go by that the old timers who know those paths will eventually die or forget and the public won't be trudging through their backyards ever again.

The problem on the beaches and the sense of entitlement started in 1650 when the colonists granted waterfront property owners in Massachusetts the unique right to own all of the land down to the "mean low water mark" allowing public access only in three circumstances: navigation, fishing/shellfishing, and fowling. That means you can't walk on any part of the sand, including the wet sand exposed at low tide. You can swim in front of their beach (as long as your feet don't hit the bottom above the nebulous "mean low water" mark. You can wade in the water if you have a fishing rod. You can dig clams. But you can't sit and technically you can't stroll.

Some beaches say "Private Beach. Walkers Welcome." That's nice of the property owner but also a way to forestall an "adverse possession" or taking by granting the public access through neglecting or abandoning their rights. I empathize with them not wanting some family of recent Russian emigres camping on the beach, tossing dirty pampers into the beachgrass and leaving behind their bait boxes while the men folk surfcast. But -- if we want to get back at these jerks for throwing around their money demanding docks, fighting clammers, posting security guards, and erecting creepy spy cameras we need to repeal the waterfront property laws.

And that is not going to happen. The most powerful advocate of repealing the Colonial beach rights was Billy Bulger, who was outraged when some Chauncy Wigglesworth Ass Clown bellowed at him to get off his beach. Bulger filed legislation from 1976 to 1991 to change the law to permit walking between the high and low water marks and finally succeeded in 1991, only to have the state courts overrule the change as an unfair taking of private property without compensation.

If you want the full story about the shitshow that is beach rights in Massachusetts, take the time to read this superb article about the situation on Martha's Vineyard.

I think the only way to take away the tyranny of the waterfront and to stop owners from building jetties, sea walls, hiring guards, posting signs, intimidating strollers and generally being douchebags is to make beach reform a referendum question and let the voters decide whether or not to take it away from them. The legislature is in their pocket so don't expect a letter to the editor and your state rep to have any impact. Both of them are totally in the service of these people along with the massive real estate industry that encourages them to build commission inflating add ons like piers and cabanas. We just need around 70,000 signatures to force the question onto the ballot the way the bottle bill and Prop 2 1/2 and medical weed were voted in and get ready for a well funded counter-campaign the likes of which the state will never see.

Still, it's a nice fantasy to imagine the democratic process truly having the last word on who owns the berm between shore and sea.

 

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May 13 2014

Squids

Published by under Cape Cod,Fishing,General

Cousin Pete and I hit the squid off of Osterville on Friday and brought in a bucket of the cephalopods. He was outcatching me two-to-one but hey, we got the skiff nice and stinky with a coating of angry ink and had the wonderful experience of listening to a guy on a nearby boat keep up a loud, unbroken soliloquy of f-bombs that was so utterly Masshole that it started to sound right, until the f-word was so worn out by overuse that it became like a meditative "Ommmm"

Back at the kitchen I cleaned half a dozen in the sink, cut em into rings and followed Jasper White's recipe for "greasy and spicy Rhode Island calimari" which is basically exactly what it sounds like. Soak the rings and tentacles in a couple cups of buttermilk, roll them around in a flour-cornmeal-corn starch-cayenne mixture and deep fry until golden brown. Then toss that in a garlic butter/hot Italian cherry pepper bath and eat with a habanero remoulade. Take a Lipitor.

Hunter-gatherer season is underway. As the lilacs are out and as yours truly was born 56 years ago today, the bluefish must be back and cruising the flats around Submarine Rock. I see tautog in my future.

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May 06 2014

The Greedheads of Popponesset Bay

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming,WTF?

House leaders tucked a controversial and little noticed item into the budget - Metro - The Boston Globe.

Today the Globe published a jaw dropping story out of Mashpee. Read it. I am almost too pissed off to type. I am so pissed off I shouldn't type but when I heard about it on a Boston public radio talk show  during a drive to Boston today I did something I've never done before and I actually called and vented (my venting begins around 1:09) like that old guy at town meeting who rants about how the fluoride in the water is causing him to have erectile dysfunction and who smells a little bit like pee in his dirty cardigan and who writes long letters to the editor.

Here's the sordid tale of midnight legislation snuck in the back door on behalf of the rich and mighty. It's the latest in a saga I've been blogging about for a while now.

So there's been an ongoing stink for the past couple of years in Mashpee as a bunch of  waterfront-owning McMansion-squatting greedheads have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to block a commercial oyster grower named Richard Cook from turning a two-acre stretch of Popponesset Bay into an oyster farm. The town, the state, the courts -- all have given the guy the go ahead, but in a classic piece of scumbaggery by a hack State Rep from Newburyport (easily 100 miles away from Mashpee) an amendment was tacked onto the state budget last week that would declare a "marine sanctuary" not in Mashpee specifically, not even on Cape Cod to read the amendment, but at some undisclosed location defined by frigging GPS coordinates. The coward didn't have the spine to actually name the town -- he thought he could cloak it with some frigging latitude and longitude numbers. I'm sure it was an honest mistake. Here's the offending amendment.

And the crowning indignant play by the esteemed Representative Michael Costello is that he further lacked the balls and courtesy to tell the Cape Cod delegation who were actually elected to represent Mashpee -- State Senator Dan Wolf and State Rep David Vieira -- that he was dropping the little turd of an amendment affecting their districts onto the budget. Thank god the Globe got curious and punched the numbers into Google Maps. (Thanks to reader Aaron Welles for checking the numbers in Google Earth and sending this screen shot below)

Costello was recruited to do the deed by ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the Boston law firm of Mintz Levin, the pettifoggers who represent the abutters who live along the shore where Cook's submerged farm would go.

Costello claims he did it for the environment. Who he did it for was a bunch of pricks who include the owner of the New England Patriots. Who wants to bet Costello gets spotted quaffing a frosty Sam Adams in the owner's box with Gisele at Foxboro Stadium this fall?  What Costello really did when he committed his ethical breach was try to preserve a million-dollar waterfront view, a great view indeed -- across the bay at Cotuit's pristine Ryefield Point courtesy of the Barnstable Land Trust.

Stand in Cotuit and look back at them and what you see looks like a row of tacky beached ocean liners, lit up to beat the band, their chemical lawns, big piers and cesspools poisoning the very bay this guy's oysters might actually help clean up.

These people have no souls. None. They remind me of the time as a Cape Cod Times reporter covering the waterfront when I watched in amazement as a Lily Pulitzer-wearing ehisshewle of a grand dame (btw: great job missing this story Cape Cod Times, yet again the Globe has kicked your butt in your own back yard) tell a Barnstable shellfish committee in 1980 that commercial quahoggers in Osterville's Eel River were a blight on her view and worked close enough to her house that she could "hit them with a nine-iron shot." She wasn't the last of the Littoral Leeches. Then the Ostervillians of Imposterville went after the aquaculture guys in West Bay for daring to float bags of seed oysters in front of their houses. "A menace to navigation!" They lost that fight too.

If I only possessed a Mashpee clamming license I would do my level best to invite all my clammer friends to join me in sitting on these jerks' beach on Popponesset Bay every afternoon around cocktail hour in front of their guests (in a pink Speedo of course) and dig their goddamn clams.  I would fish nowhere else. I would fowl nowhere else. I would do everything in my power to get that now sad but familiar sight of some poor policeman trudging down the sand in his brogans, towards me, telling me, "Please buddy. I know what the law says, but can you just do this someplace else? Please?"

I used to say "yes, sure, don't want to cause a problem." But never again. Take back the beaches and give Mashpee back to the original wampum tycoons, the Wampanoags. They at least took decent care of the place and appreciated a fine oyster.

Cook said it all to the Globe:

“All the way along through the process, I’ve done what the agencies and regulators have asked me to do in filing for permits and et cetera,” said Cook. “And I don’t understand how at this point someone can come in the back door from off-Cape and without any knowledge of local authority and residents, try and create something like this in order to stop my proposal from moving forward.”

34 responses so far

Apr 21 2014

Getting underway

I launched the motorboat yesterday afternoon after two weeks of working on it in the middle of the yard. Some years the boat manages to go in early, other years it goes in late. This year was late because of the winter-that-wouldn't-end. Some years the boat needs multiple visits to the mechanic, other years I get her running on my own. This year I tackled a few overdue projects and one nasty recurring problem which required a sledgehammer. As my Cousin Pete (who lives across the street in the western half of the Chatfield family compound) likes to to say, watching a Churbuck with an internal combustion engine (lawnmower, pressure washer, automobile, chainsaw, outboard motor) is like watching a monkey with a hand grenade. I know he likes to sit on his front porch with a cocktail and laugh at my best efforts to destroy anything that lives on gasoline and I am sure he noted my application of a sledge hammer to my Honda 40 horsepower outboard for future retelling.

Back in March, in a fit of optimism, I dragged the boat out from behind the garage, cut off the useless blue tarp that collapsed during the first snow storm, noted that the trailer's ten year-old tires are still hanging in there (which is good because the wheels are rusted onto the axles forever), and started the familiar recommissioning process which is becoming second nature now that the boat is twenty-two years old and on engine #3.

springlaunch

The calm before the failure

The battery went onto the charger.  I grabbed a broom and swept out the sticks and leaves, sand and shells, dragged out the clam rakes and baskets, and winced at the beard of dried slime along the waterline and the crust of barnacles on the keelson -- proof I didn't do much of a job last fall when I yanked the boat for the season. I had a feeling my neglect would mean the boat would bone me so I drove up to see Dow Clark, my mechanic and asked him if he could tune things up. He pointed out that there was a blizzard coming (this was last month), and he wouldn't work on the boat if the temperatures went below freezing because he needed to run a hose through through engine's water intakes in the parking lot and didn't want to turn it into a skating rink for the other tenants in the little row of garages behind Peck's and the Domino's Pizza place.

The blizzard came and went, I returned to the boat (glad I hadn't launched her in time for an evening of 60 mph gusts out of the north), replaced the battery, and lowered the engine. The first boat problem of 2014 emerged immediately: the steering was frozen, a common occurrence which meant the push rod system that pushed and pulled the motor on the transom was seized. Inside I went to Google and YouTube, read about the problem, watched about a dozen different possible solutions, and returned armed with a propane torch, a hacksaw, a length of rebar, a cold chisel, a ball-peen hammer, a mason's hammer, a grease gun, and a spray can of white lithium grease, another can of "PB Blaster, and finally, a can of carburetor cleaner. I disconnected the motor from the steering assembly, got rid of all nearby gasoline, lit the torch, and started heating the steering tube. For the next six hours I feebly tapped at the end of the stainless steel ram with the hammer, tried a 2"x4" lever, reapplied heat, sprayed various fluids, and finally, in a fit of total despair and destruction, broke out a sledgehammer and started whaling away at the end of the pernicious steering gear.

That did it. If it is stuck, whack it. A couple applications of the precision tool and the ram started to budge a tiny bit with every smack. I finally drove the thing all the way into the tube, then continued the brutal repair with a piece of rebar, clocking my knuckles so hard when the sledgehammer missed that I was convinced I'd broken my hand.  After countless attacks on the piece of precision Japanese machinery, the steering ram popped out and I performed a little Dave Dance of Happiness on the brown lawn. I reamed out the tube with brushes and carburetor cleaner, cleaned the ram piston off and regreased it, then reassembled the whole mess until the steering wheel spun back and forth with silken, greased ease. Success. I spared myself a new $125 steering cable and a trip to the mechanic.

A past winter launching which ended in a rescue after water in the gas killed the expedition.

A past winter launching which ended in a rescue after water in the gas killed the expedition.

Then to the greasy manual for a refresher in changing the engine oil and lower unit lube. I siphoned whatever water I could find out of last year's gas and drained the fuel lines, changed the fuel-water separator, and tightened the drain holes on the three carb bowls. New spark plugs followed, a change in the fuel filter and I was ready to test it. Professional mechanics use these "headphone" sort of clamps that attach to the water intake of the motor and then run a hose through them so they can work the running motor on dry land. The last time I did that I melted the water pump. This year I hooked the trailer up to the car and drove the boat down Old Shore Road  and backed the trailer in deep enough to lower the motor without launching the boat (I have learned that launching prematurely always means the boat will not start and will need to be paddled back to the trailer, winched back on, and taken up to Dow Clark two miles inland on a trailer with no lights and an expired registration that is one flake of rust away from collapsing.

I climbed aboard, lowered the motor, inserted the key, said a prayer, and started cranking. It astarted after 15 seconds, a feeble, barely combusting ignition that I nursed to life like a freezing man lighting a fire in a Jack London story. I let it strangle and shudder, then dared to give it a bit more gas, let go of the choke and it LIVED! Do another Dave Dance of happiness, feel like a master mechanic.

I let it run for 15 minutes on the trailer, relishing the opportunity to hog the entire boat ramp by myself on a Saturday afternoon ; a ramp that in three months would have a line of impatient boaters waiting for their turn to launch or haul their boats while some ass clown clogged things up by deciding to clean his Bayliner while everyone waited and honked their horn. The off-season in Cotuit is the season of the Townie Prerogative: when those of us stupid enough to live here from January to April get to put out our dinghies on the prime spots, get to hog boat ramps for as long as we want, drive fast in areas of the harbor usually confined to 6 mph, and then clam in places that get closed on May 1.

I let the motor run for a quarter hour because the second rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that a motor that runs well near the beach will fail as soon as it is about 500 feet away from the beach -- generally because of water in the system, or a failed water pump that sets off the dreaded alarm sound which means a $500 repair bill is coming soon. A sub-rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that failure in the off-season means there aren't any other boaters around to come to one's rescue and the possibility of being stranded and having to swim in 40 degree water is very real. These are the lessons learned over 22 Cape Cod Springs, proof that wisdom is nothing more than the accrual of repeated failures.

I resisted the temptation to back off of the trailer and bomb around the bay. The bottom was unpainted and there was more work to do. Driving an unpainted boat would definitely draw the curses of the Gods of Maritime Failure and I only get superstitious when I am on the water.

Back to the yard and then off to the marine supply store for the annual BOHICA* (nothing will trash a bank balance faster than a can of bottom paint or any sort of marine hardware). The harbormaster nearly wrote me a ticket last August for being on the water without navigation lights.  I had to invest in a new sternlight and green-and-red bow light, wire, connectors, switches, etc.. Back to the boat and my favorite liquid after a smoky peaty single malt scotch -- Hull Cleaner -- an evil solution that is swabbed around the waterline of the white hull which turns brown over the course of a summer like a smoker's lungs. Hull cleaner must be washed off, so down into the cistern under the grape arbor I go -- through a manhole cover into a dank dirt floor chamber under the birdfeeders to turn back on the outdoor faucets. Then back into daylight in search of the hoses, replacing washers and finding a working nozzle while the birds act inconvenienced because I dare interrupt their springtime binge diet.

Hull Cleaner magically bleaches everything  away like a blessing from the Pope, but it also eats into the trailer's galvanized frame one whiff of the stuff and the disconcerting sensation of burning lungs makes me believe it is an evil fluods. I hose it off, get the bottom wet, and drag my 55-year old ass under the boat with a scrub brush and scraper to vanquish 2013's barnacles and slime. This results in my being crippled later in the evening, forced to lay on my back on the floor while watching 60 Minutes and moaning that I have strapping sons who should be crawling under boats on wet grass littered with stinky evicted barnacles.

The next day my son thoughtfully volunteered to crawl under the boat wearing a set of disposable Tyvek overalls to paint the bottom with antifouling paint while I masking-taped the boot top line. When we were done the boat looked about as good as it did the day in 1992 when I picked it up from the builder in Vineyard Haven (the best $7500 I have spent in my life).

The wiring of the lights was a sobering reminder that I am a terrible electrician. My first attempt succeeded in turning the new lights on, but my mis-wiring also  turned the circuit into one big electric stove top that started to turn red, smoke and melt the plastic insulation off of the wire. Back to the Internet for assistance, but finally I figured out enough 12V electrical wiring theory to get the job done correctly.

By this point in time it is noon on Easter Sunday. Easter dinner starts at four pm. I look for volunteers to join me for the maiden voyage and a  quick clamming expedition to secure enough littlenecks for appetizers. No takers, everyone is occupied with deviled egg construction. So I break out the new waders, find the VHF radio, cellphone, clam license, buckets, oarlocks, oars, temporary mooring float, throw it all into the boat, insert the drain plugs, connect the gas tank, back up the trailer hitch, and off I go under bluebird skies and a nice spring day.

The boat started on the first try. I backed off the trailer, brought the boat into the beach and left it there while I parked the trailer on the side of Old Shore Road. Back to the boat, off the beach, restart, back away and head for the winter stick that marks my mooring near the yacht club's beach to tie on a temporary painter until the mooring guy can get out there and swap the wooden winter stick for the regular rode.

The alarm horn goes off just as I pull up to the mooring. SHIT! Off with the engine before heinous amounts of destruction occur. I tie the boat onto the winter stick before addressing yet another spring launching spoiled by Honda. I turn it back on. No alarm. I note the engine "pisser" is not squirting water. Proof the water pump isn't work. Off with the engine, find the hidden paper clip, tilt up the engine, and ream out the little piss-port under engine cover. Restart, long satisfying stream of pee and no alarm horn.

I headed off to Sampson's Island to clam, and opened up the engine all the way as I skipped across the chop of Cotuit Bay, the wind chill plummeting the temperature and bringing wind blown tears to my eyes. No alarm horns No surges in power as the carbs drink in water. Just a well working boat on a sunny day. One month of weekends and one boat is in the water in time for the first stripers, squid and bluefish. Now to start on the big sailboat and another month of messing around.

 

 

*Bend Over Here It Comes Again

2 responses so far

Apr 19 2014

Fencing Clams

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming

The Cape Cod Clam Caper appears to have been solved. A spate of thefts last year  from commercial and municipal oyster grants from Dennis to Marstons Mills meant someone was stealing tens of thousands of clams and finding a way to fence them.  Which meant someone was selling the public "transfer" clams being grown in polluted water before their transfer and cleansing.

Now comes the sad news that one familiar Upper Cape institution, Joe's Lobster Mart in Sandwich, on the bulkhead of the Cape Cod Canal allegedly bought the clams from the alleged clam pirate, one Michael Bryant, 38.

The owner of Joe's, Joe Vaudo, has run the place for the past four decades  (I am an occasional customer) and is chairman of the Sandwich Planning Board. He's been fined and is at risk of losing his lease from the Army Corps of Engineers who manages the canal.

Here's an article about the case.

More reasons to dig your own shellfish.

No responses yet

Apr 08 2014

Seals are actually mermaids for dogs

Published by under Cape Cod

Beautiful video of Monomoy Island filed from the air last weekend. Want to know why I don't bother surfcasting out there for striped bass anymore? Say hello to a solid mile of pinniped Great White Shark snacks.

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks Marta for the link.

No responses yet

Apr 02 2014

The unclimbed

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

I was way too wimpy to ever climb a Cotuit water tower as a kid. I know those who did. One went on to feel perfectly at ease jumping out of airplanes. I am so freaked out by heights that I get weird thinking about heights.  (A Cub Scout expedition to the top of a fire tower in Georgetown, Massachusetts in 1966 ended with me clutching the bannister of the open metal-grate stairs and having to have my fingers pried off by my mother the Den Mother). Anyway, I went for my daily constitutional behind the ball park where the land is at risk of being developed unless the Barnstable Land Trust can raise enough $$$ to buy it and save the Kettleer's home field, Lowell Park, from having some starter castles in the outfield.  Give today.  The pink surveyor ribbons are in the woods!

One response so far

Mar 29 2014

To the Snow Plow Driver who thought he was in a corn field:

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit

Dear Mister Snow Plow Driver,

I know you have a very hard job. You have to drive your big truck with the big plow through the blizzards, trying to see out your windshield in near white-out conditions. No amount of Firecracker Schnapps or DeKuypers Peach Brandy can keep the cold from penetrating into your lonely cab, but at least there aren't any many civilians out driving that you need to avoid.

Might I suggest an eye exam? That lazy eye can be corrected you know. You just need to bring in the right side of your plow about a foot or two. Then you won't plow up all the roadsides of Cotuit from CVS to Oregon Beach by slicing off at least a foot of everybody's front lawn and depositing it in a nice furrow on the sidewalks and lawns.

We so look forward to raking it back and trying to reseed it. Because if we don't, and if your boss at the DPW decides you need some help staying within the lines of the coloring book known as the roads of Cotuit, then my tax dollars will be spent installing ugly curbstones that will take away the nice grassy soft shoulders that make the village look like Cape Cod and not suburban Waltham.

Maybe you thought you were Richard Burton in "Where Eagles Dare":

YouTube Preview Image

Yes. We stick out little reflective sticks on the side of the road to tell you where the pavement ends and the grass begins, but you managed to pick off most of them this time through the town. I know it has been a nasty winter -- this spring blizzard was the last straw and it probably pissed you off as much as the rest of us -- but it was the one storm that managed to do the greatest amount of damage to the village because you need an eye exam.

3 responses so far

Mar 27 2014

A Sunday Stroll in Cotuit

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit,history

I'm trying to walk off some weight and hit the road on Sunday to take a stroll through Mosswood Cemetery and around Eagle Pond. Winter is the best time for marching around in the woods. No leaves have sprouted to obscure the views and few if any people are out on a grey afternoon. First stop was the hill atop Old Shore Road at the bend on Putnam Avenue. In behind the old Ropes property is this sad barn. The cupola crashed in during Sandy in the fall of 2012. A tarp was hauled over the hole, and you can see some strapping on what remains, so who knows, it may get rebuilt or it may vanish like so many other old sheds and barns around the village.

The Ropes Barn

Onwards to Mosswood Cemetery,  to look at the Churbuckian headstone, all covered with lichens, the plot littered with winter's blown sticks. Always strange to think that my name will get stuck there in the ground some day. Only my grandfather Henry is actually buried there. Grandmother Nellie and my father were cremated, so all that remains of them are the stones. I reminded myself for the umpteenth time to visit the cemetery office and see what the deal is with the family plot.  It's interesting to see the changes to the cemetary and the graves that get extraordinary attention, with little solar powered lights, bunches of plastic flowers, ornate laser inscribed tombstones with pictures and poetry. Nothing like the old Yankee practice of sticking up a name, a birthday and death date and then moving on.

I went up the hill to the old section, where the 19th century family plots are. The Chatfields and Fishers and Fields and Hodges -- the old unmet names of great-aunts and uncles gathered together. The oldest stones are pretty beat up, with some interesting information that belies the nautical past. "Died in Rio de Janiero" or "Drowned, Cotuit Bay 1842." One of the oldest stones is of one of my oldest ancestors, Azubah Handy, wife of Bethuel Handy, mother of Bethuel Handy Jr., the Cotuit whaler who spent a winter stranded in the Siberian ice of the Sea of Okhotsk until my great-great grandfather Tom Chatfield could sail back from San Francisco and rescue his father-in-law.

 Azubah was one of the first to be buried in the cemetery (1819) (I don't know where the colonial graves of Cotuit are). Her inscription is one of the most wordy in Mosswood, a poem that was oft quoted to me as a kid:

"My bosom friend come here and see
Where lays the last remains of me
When I the debt of nature paid
A burying yard for me was made.
Here lays the body of your bride
The loving knot is now untied
A loving husband you have been,
To me the dearest of all men.
Husband and children here I lay
Stamp on your minds my dying day
Come often here and take a view
Where lays the one that loved you."

Onwards to the gate in the fence between the boneyard and Bell Farm, the old turkey farm that was nearly turned into a subdivision in the 1980s before being saved by the Barnstable Land Trust and preserved as a gorgeous meadow with my favorite tree in all of Cotuit.

Then out of the meadow and into the woods where the box turtles live and risk the walk across busy Putnam, remembering the old Bell Farm barn with the roof that was painted with "GREEN ACRES" in homage to a television series from the 1960s that had something to do with a Hungarian countess (Zsa Zsa Gabor) living on a hillbilly farm. The roof of the barn in the TV show was used in the title, and some vandal wit decided to paint the abandoned barn so everyone driving into Cotuit would catch a glimpse. Every so often the owner of the barn would pay someone to paint the shingles black, which was tantamount to erasing a blackboard for the next vandals to climb up there and do some nocturnal graffiti.

Eventually the place was knocked down and now the village has a great meadow.

Anyway, down the trail into the woods and over the planked bridge over Little River, one of Cotuit two "rivers" as the Cape is fond of calling it's glacial streams Rivers in lieu of having anything truly big and wide and flowing. (the other river being the Santuit River). Little River runs from Lovell's Pond in Newtown, the northernmost part of Cotuit adjacent to Santuit. A pretty little pond that is stocked with trout by the state and has one of the town's fresh water beaches. I've never seen any evidence of Little River other than its delta on Handy's Point into the bay, the glimpse next to Bell Farm, and a pool in back of my cousin's workshop a little further to the north. I'm sure it was a herring run at one point, probably holding smelt too, but the cranberry industry killed off most of the runs when the bogs dammed up the flow and diverted the water to flood the cranberry vines.

I walked around Eagle Pond at a fast pace, working up enough of a sweat to need to unzip my jacket. I popped back out on Little River Road and followed it to one of Cotuit's nicest little neighborhoods, home to the Cotuit Oyster Company, and Handy's Point, the promontory where my oldest Cape Cod ancestors once lived, having come to Cotuit in the late 1600s from Mattapoisett to build ships. I'll scan some of the old black and white photos eventually, but Little River, also known as the Inner Harbor, was a bit of a separate village within a village in the 18th and 19th centuries, connected to Cotuitport by the Old Post Road, but separated by Little River. According to Chatfield's reminiscences, he left for a Pacific whaling voyage with his wife and young family living in the Handy home on Handy's Point, but his wife Florrie, isolated from the village by the river, sold the place and moved the clan into the village center. On his return three years later he rushed home to the old place, only to find the family gone. He hitched a ride into town on a wagon and was pointed to his new home in the center. Shame, it is a pretty piece of waterfront and in the 19th century was the home of Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe, a prominent Boston editor and winner of the Pulitzer prize. That house has been reskinned a few times over the year and now looks like the typical non-Cape wedding cake temple to the gods of plate glass and rococo railings, faux widow's walks, and brass lanterns with plastic adirondack chairs that no one sits in arranged in a row on the Chem-lawned grass.

One big hurricane and the place will be underwater. There was a reason the oldtimers considered waterfront living to be a questionable thing, and I suspect the Chatfield-Handy exodus from Handy's Point to the village center was viewed as a climb up the social ladder, just as getting out of town in the 1950s to live in suburban Boston was viewed as a good thing by my grandparents.

I walked down the beach, past the pissed off "PRIVATE BEACH! NO CHAIRS!" signs -- one of the "signs of the times" of modern Cotuit and the Hedge Fundification of the waterfront that has brought us evil looking security cameras and warnings to keep moving -- and around the peat bank to the terminus of Little River. Some old pilings give proof of an old bridge there, but, alas, I had to ford it Taras Bulba-style, and wound up with a wet leg.

 

3 responses so far

Jan 29 2014

Compiled Woodlot Revolt Paper

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit,history

The complete story of the Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833 is here: The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833

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Jan 29 2014

Oyster theft case cracked

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming

Jack London popularized the phenomenon known as Oyster Piracy in his early writings about life on San Francisco Bay at the turn of the 20th century, and the term has always conjured up some romantic vision of stealthy clammers plundering an oyster bed with muffled oars under the darkness of a new moon. Sadly, the practice has hit Cape Cod's commercial oyster farms from the Marstons Mills River across to the northside of the Cape from Barnstable to Dennis. The total losses are estimated at $40,000, rewards have been posted, stakeouts and security cameras have yielded nothing, but according to the Cape Cod Times, a culprit has been identified and being reviewed by a grand jury.

"Police say they know who stole more than $40,000 in oysters and equipment from beds in East Dennis and Barnstable last summer, but they're not quite ready to publicly name the culprit.

Barnstable police Lt. Sean Balcom, who heads the Barnstable Street Crime Unit, called the anticipated end of the five-month investigation by multiple public safety agencies "the result of police work and the rewards" that were offered. The street crime unit was tipped to the identity of the poacher by one of its informants, Balcom said."

Anyone who has ordered a plate of oysters in a restaurant knows how much these things sell for. While I don't know what the market price is, I wonder who bought the "hot" clams. Is there a "clam fence" somewhere on the Cape? Whoever ripped off the oysters from the Mills River was selling pretty nasty clams that usually get relayed to cleaner water before they are safe to eat. A little hepatitis or vibro anyone?

Cape Cod Times article

3 responses so far

Jan 19 2014

Local community networks – Nextdoor trial for Cotuit

The "local" internet has been a tough nut to crack for publishers, community groups, towns, bloggers, etc.. Lots of local groups and institutions have created their own online presence, discussion forums, email mailing lists, but no great solution has emerged to allow neighbors to connect with neighbors (that assumes neighbors even want to talk to their neighbors in this era of "bowling alone").

Civic groups have long provided an online meeting place or hub for themselves and their agenda. My Cape Cod village of Cotuit is served by:

  • the website of the Town of Barnstable (Cotuit is one of seven villages in the town)
  • a Barnstable sponsored issue forum provided by a third-party vendor, called iForum
  • the website of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association; a community organization
  • the website of the Cotuit Fire District, the official governing body of the village's fire and water departments as well as its prudential committee which oversees budgets and infrastructure like the village meeting house -- Freedom Hall -- and other essentials like street lights.
  • and a ton of other group pages for the Cotuit Library, the Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Historical Society, the Cotuit Athletic Association (sponsors of the Cotuit Kettleers baseball team), the Cahoon Museum, the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club .,... and on and on.

There's no umbrella site like a "Cotuit.com" -- no digital hub -- there may be a Cotuit Facebook page (I don't use Facebook). I know there is a Wikipedia page.  Something may be missing. The online equivalent of the bulletin boards inside of the library and the post office and outside of the the Kettle Ho and the Coop -- a place where there's a master calendar of events, contact information, a place for neighbors to offer stuff for free or for sale, discuss crime issues in the neighborhood, etc. etc.

The Cape Cod Times doesn't really have a Cotuit specific area, and they have a subscription model. The weekly paper, the Barnstable Patriot, occasionally covers Cotuit. There is a Patch.com site for Barnstable-Hyannis.

I don't know, the digital needs of Cotuit may be very well served. But in my new job as editor in chief of an internet yellow pages company started in the UK called hibu, I'm looking very closely at the digital tools and services for local merchants and consumers.

One solution I am looking at is called Nextdoor, an online tool that allows neighbors -- not politicians or officials -- to define their neighborhood, invite in members, and create a shared space for documents, events, classifieds, etc. The various groups in a neighborhood can have their own Nextdoor group, and one neighbor can invite another via email into the perimeters of the neighborhood. I don't see this as a replacement for say the Historical Society's website, but a common place that the members of the society could promote their calendar of events, and drive traffic to their own online destination.

nextdoor

I started the Cotuit neighborhood on Nextdoor last week and  spammed about 50 people in my Gmail address book with invites to join, 2o+ have accepted. The library has already posted a Valentine's Day event, so there are already early signs of life.

We'll see how it goes. I DO NOT want to be the administrator of the thing, and was pleased to see as members I invite accept, they in turn can invite others.

So far I see no advertising and so I don't understand Nextdoor's business model. They are a venture capital darling, have a lot of investment and high growth numbers.

If you want an invite, send me a mail to david AT churbuck DOT com. You need to have an address inside of Cotuit  village (not Santuit, I left that alone for some Santuit resident to create a second neighborhood -- Nextdoor seems to allow adjacent neighborhoods to cross over).

One response so far

Jan 08 2014

The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833 – part IV

(continued from part III)

The woodlots of Mashpee were mostly probably near the Santuit River in the immediate vicinity of Reverend Fish's parsonage which abutted Santuit less than a mile south of the Trout Mound grave. Given the need to haul the cordwood to Cotuit Bay for shipment to Nantucket,  and the arrangement which permitted the Reverend Fish to lease logging rights to help defray his living expenses and the costs of the Indian Meetinghouse, one can assume the location of the woodlot at the center of this story of rebellion and nullification was somewhere near the current intersection of Routes 28 and 130 near the historical center of Wampanoag life near the nexus of the herring run and Santuit Pond.  The lots were worked by two brothers, Joseph and William Sampson, sons of Squire Josiah Sampson, the landowner who built "Sampson's Folly" on the Old Kings Road and owned the grist mill on the Santuit River near the site of Maushop Stables, a horse farm and equestrian center near greens and fairways of the modern Willowbend golf course. The Sampsons were Cotuit gentry, an old colonial family intermarried with the Crockers, perhaps the oldest and most venerable clan in colonial Santuit. They were landowners, and Sampson's Island, the sand spit at the head of Cotuit Bay is named for them.

williamsampson1

The Sampson brothers probably had a crew of men, perhaps even Wampanoags, to help them clear, cut, and stack the scrub oak and pine. Oxen were the preferred beast of burden on Cape Cod, so one can picture a group of men, in shirtsleeves on a humid early summer day, toiling in the shady woods with the back breaking task of loading chopped piles of wood onto wagons for the two mile trip down a sandy Main Street to the piers around Cotuit's Hooper's Landing. It would have been of no surprise to the Sampsons or any white man living in the area, that the tribe was agitated and looking for a confrontation.  In fact, Apess wrote afterwards the Sampsons "were known to have vowed to disregard the Mashpee's declarations" to stay out of  Mashpee. The events of July 1, 1833, a deadline declared by Apess and the tribe in their grievances were foretold and to be expected: the Reverend Fish's panicked missive to the Governor, the shrill attention paid to the affair in the Barnstable Patriot, and the fact that most of the congregation in the "Indian" meetinghouse were white parishioners from Santuit and Cotuit doubtlessly made the Wampanoag's growing unrest a topic of hot discussion and the source of great fear. The events that took place that Monday morning had been set into motion months before.

It began when Apess went for a "walk" in the woods that morning. The Sampsons and two other men were loading wood onto a wagon. Doubtlessly they had been working the lot for sometime, the sounds of axes and saws and their labor announcing their intention for sometime, so while Apess' account of the events makes it appear it was a chance encounter, on may assume he was out looking for trouble at a known location of white incursion.

Apess confronted the four whites, told them to unload the wagons and leave, and when they refused, he left to gather some support, returning soon thereafter with eight Wampanoag men.

No punches were thrown or weapons brandished. There is no record of a fight or assault of any kind and the confrontation ended with the departure of the whites from Mashpee back over the Santuit River to Cotuit. And so ended one of the first acts of peaceful civil disobedience by a native tribe in the history of the United States, an act made by one of the first tribes to be subjugated, defeated and assimilated by the whites, a precursor to decades of rebellion, atrocity and contempt between other tribes as the country expanded west to find its manifest destiny and uprooted one tribe after another. Wounded Knee, Little Big Horn, the Trail of Tears ... what happened in the woods that morning was perhaps the first and most overlooked statement of independence and revolt by a native tribe in the two hundred year history of white/Indian relations.

As Apess and the Wampanoags made their stand, Governor Lincoln had been roused by the Reverend Fish's panicked missive and sent a personal emissary, one Josiah Fiske, a member of the Governor's Council, to Mashpee to investigate. Fiske arrived the following day, July 2, 1833 and spread the word that he wanted to meet with the tribe on Wednesday the 3rd. Fiske carried instructions from the Governor to "confine your actions to the application of the civil power...the Sheriff will, with your advice, call out the posse comitatus, and should there be reasons to fear the efficiency of this report, I will be present personally, to direct any military requisitions."

Governor Lincoln was on the verge of sending in the militia to quell the Wampanoag rebellion.

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Governor Levi Lincoln

No one showed up to Fiske's meeting. In a classic power play, the tribe refused to acknowledge Fiske and instead, the president of the tribe, Daniel Amos,delivered to Fiske an invitation  to meet the tribe at the meetinghouse. Ironically, the tribe, so alienated from the historic building given to them by Richard Bourne, a church that had turned its back on them and become a place of worship for Cotuit's whites, didn't have a key to their own meetinghouse and had to break in to open the door.

Fiske arrived at the meeting with the sheriff of Barnstable County, John Reed, in a display of legal force. Reed told the tribe they were breaking the law and Apess indignantly replied: "...the laws ought to be altered without delay, that it was perfectly manifest they were unconstitutional; and that, even if they were not so, there was nothing in them to authorize the white inhabitants to act as they had done."

What Apess declared was the very contemporary concept of "nullification" that had been sweeping the political debate in the nation's capital. Students of early American History know a central issue was the definition of federal versus state rights and striking a balance between local and central rule. In South Carolina, perhaps the most fervent hotbed of states rights, the US Senator John C. Calhoun had lobbied vigorously in Congress to shift power from the federal government back to the states, and the South Carolina legislature has passed an "Ordinance of Nullification" declaring some pernicious and unpopular federal tariffs to be unconstitutional. Apess seized on this political concept of "nullification" and afterwards, in his account of the Woodlot Revolt, referred to it as an act of nullification by the Wampanoags, essentially a rejection of the concept that Mashpee and its natives were subject to the laws of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Nullification, in the context of the events of 1833, was a statement of sovereign status, in essence declaring the "plantation of Marshpee" to be its own political entity, an "island" ruled by its people, and not the laws of those towns and counties and state that surrounded it like an ocean of American regulations.

Nullification for the Wampanoags was nothing less than a declaration that they rejected the paternal overseer system, rejected the authority of Harvard College to select its minister, and that they were going to revert to the intentions of Richard Bourne in declaring Mashpee to be an autonomous place owned by Wampanoags, governed by Wampanoags, and free from the rule of American law.

Whatever the eloquent Pequot activist said on July 4, 1833 to Fiske and Sheriff Reed, it didn't matter. Apess was arrested on the spot by Reed and hauled off to jail in Barnstable village where he was arraigned on charges of inciting a riot and trespassing.  Fiske immediately wrote the Governor that the arrest "had the desired effect" and that the rebellion was crushed.  He described Apess' arrest: "The Indians seemed to have forgotten for a moment that they had muskets with them, and looked with perfect amazement at the sheriff when he had taken their champion from the Moderator's seat in the meetinghouse and conducted him with great dignity to a seat in his carriage at the door."

Apess was released on bail after a few nights in jail and returned to Mashpee. The whites in Cotuit and throughout the Cape were not pleased that he was free. Apess wrote: "

Apess on the white reaction: “They bellowed like mad bulls and spouted like whales mortally gored by the harpoon, I do not think the figure of speech would be too strong. There was a great deal of loose talk and a pretty considerable uproar.”

No one expected that Apess would be able to keep up his agitation for long, and certainly no one expected a white man to come to his defense. But one brilliantly did, a Cape Cod native and attorney, Benjamin F. Hallett. Born in Barnstable, educated at Brown, Hallet studied the law and began a career as a liberal journalist in Providence, the progressive traditional refuge of liberalism and tolerance founded by Roger William in reaction to the tyrannical strictures of the old witch burning Puritans. Hallett went on to be editor of the Boston Advocate and the Boston Daily Advertiser -- this was the golden age of very politically biased newspapers and Hallett's were definitely far to the left, presaging the abolitionist movement blossoming among the intellectual Brahmins of Boston and Concord. An active Democrat, Hallett was anti-Masonic and very outspoken. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress later in his career, and eventually was appointed the United Stated District Attorney for Massachusetts by President Franklin Pierce.

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Benjamin Hallett

Apess could not have asked for a better defender than Hallett. Not only was Hallett a Cape Codder, he was a skilled and excellent litigator backed by the power of his own newspaper. Hallett made Apess famous among the abolitionists of Boston, rallying to the Pequot minister's defense the sympathies of what would become the most disruptive political force in the mid-1800s. Hallett defended Apess on the charges, had them dismissed, but promptly took the case further by filing legislation on Beacon Hill to resolve the status of the tribe once and for all. He argued:

  1. The Mashpee Wampanoags never consented to the white's "guardian" system that took control of their finances and affairs via the board of overseers.
  2. The actions of the whites towards the Wampanoags, beginning with the formation of the plantation by Bourne, and then thereafter, respected the Wampanoag's superior title to the land. This was key in that the English legal system cherished the concept of private property and deeds, something utterly foreign to the Wampanoags but which they were blessed with by the foresight of Bourne in creating and deeding to them the lands of Mashpee for their own use and not the use or sale to the whites.
  3. Finally, Hallett seized on the fact that there was no treaty in place between the whites and the Wampanoags as was the case with other tribes in the mid- and far-western parts of the country. Because there was no treaty defining their status, the Wampanoags -- Hallett argued -- they remained a sovereign nation subject to no white laws or taxation.

Accompanied by Apess, Joseph Amos and Issac Combs, Hallett went to the state house in Boston to make his case for Wampanoag independence. The legislature agreed and in March 1834, the legislature abolished the board of overseers, appointed a one-person "commissioner" to act at the State's liason with the tribe, and refused to intervene with the religious issues defined by the situation concerning Phineas Fish and his "employer:" Harvard College. Harvard's President Josiah Quincy dispatched the Reverend James Walker to travel to Mashpee and report on the spiritual situation. Apess, for reasons unknown, renounced his Methodist ordination and started his own "Free and United Church" while Blind Joe Amos continued to lead the popular Baptist Congregation and Phineas Fish muddled along with his all white Congregationalists who raised the funds to build him a church of his own in Santuit (it isn't clear if Fish ever preached another sermon after the July 4, 1833 meeting in the Indian Meetinghouse that resulted in Apess' arrest, but he eventually moved into his own church within Santuit proper.

Harvard's emissary, Reverend Walker, wrote in a report entitled "Facts in Regard to the Difficulties at Marshpee" that Apess was "now understood to be rapidly losing the Indians' confidence and not without good reason."

The Aftermath

While all but forgotten until Apess' memoirs were republished in the 1990s, the Mashpee Woodlot Revolt stands as a significant milestone in native-white relations in America. The Wampanoags enjoyed a period of self-rule until 1870 when the tribe eventually petitioned the Commonwealth to incorporate Mashpee as a town, a controversial move sought by non-Wampanoag spouses who wanted the same rights they had enjoyed outside of the plantation such as the vote. Harvard stopped the practice of sending ministers to Mashpee. Fish moved out of town and continued to minister to his flock in his new church in Santuit.

Apess? Well he did indeed fall out of favor in Mashpee -- he was an outsider and while part-Pequot was not a Wampanoag. In 1838 all he owned in Mashpee was sold for debts in a bankruptcy action. In 1839 he died suddenly in a boarding house in New York City and was buried with little to no fanfare.

When he writings were rediscovered by historians it was a revelation that such an eloquent, literate, passionate voice had once spoken so passionately for Indian rights at a time when slavery was still the law of the land and Indians, blacks and other dispossessed members of society were completely dismissed and subjugated by 19th Century America. Apess' actions in Mashpeen in 1833 displayed an activism and passion for civil disobedience that presaged Henry David Thoreau's famous essay on Civil Disobedience sixteen years later. Apess and the cause of the Wampanoags ignited abolitionist sympathies in Boston, helping coalesce a movement that was to drive the country to war within three decades.

Williamapes

As the historian Barry O'Connell wrote of Apess:

"In him, from a more tempered perspective, might be recognized a masterful polemicist and a canny strategist in leading a small minority to persuade a dominant majority to treat the minority with some respect."

[Presented to the Cotuit Historical Society in October 2013]

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Dec 15 2013

The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833 Part III

(c0ntinued from part two)

Life in Mashpee and Cotuit in the early 19th century was dominated by the fast growth of the Nantucket whaling fishery. Cranberries had not yet been cultivated commercially, transportation on and off the Cape was either by horse and wagon but mainly by ship, and there was little to no tourism in the modern sense of the word. The US Senator from Massachusetts, Daniel Webster, was fond of fishing in Mashpee for sea-run brown trout, and may have lodged in the inn located in Santuit on the eastern banks of the Santuit River, the site of the present Cahoon museum. Other dignitaries, such as Yale's Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles, paid calls on the Reverend Gideon Hawley, the missionary to Mashpee and a graduate of that college's seminary who also made his home near the major intersection of modern day Routes 28 and 130. The economic life of the region was mostly agricultural and based on either fishing and shellfishing, farming such as could be encouraged from the sandy soil, some livestock, and the supply of manpower for the whaling fishery.

Wampanoag men were very active in the Nantucket whaling fleet and readers may recall that one harpooner of the Pequod, Tashtego, was a Wampanoag from the praying town of Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard. The whaling fishery made a number of Quaker merchants very wealthy men, and for a time Nantucket was one of the most wealthy places on the planet, if not certainly the most international, its crews opening up the South Pacific in the early 19th century for the first time since the voyages of discovery by Cook.  Whaling was an extremely dangerous profession and life on the greasy, slow, smoke-belching ships was neither easy nor especially lucrative for ordinary seamen. Some historians say Wampanoag employment in the whaling industry had a terrible effect of attrition on the male population. Those Wampanoag males that remained ashore practiced a subsistence lifestyle based on the traditional agricultural staples of corn, beans and squash, hunting and fishing.

In 1833 Mashpee was still governed by the board of overseers appointed by the Governor and the Trustees of the Williams Fund of Harvard which furnished a minister and funds for his support as well as the maintenance of the old Indian Meetinghouse. An Indian pastor hadn't ministered to a flock in the meeting house for decades, and by the time the Rev. Gideon Hawley ended his tenure, the Wampanoags had started to drift away from Congregationalism to the Baptists and Methodists, the former led by the Rev. "Blind" Joe Amos, a Wampanoag. In 1809 Harvard appointed one its own, the Reverend Phineas Fish, to be the official missionary and Congregationalist Minister of Mashpee. Fish was paid an annual salary of $520, a $350 "settlement fee" and granted "as much meadow and pasture land, as shall be necessary to winter and summer." The historian Donald Nielsen, in his essay "The Mashpee Indian Revolt of 1833" wrote: "The sale of wood from the parsonage woodlot brought him [Fish] several hundred dollars more per year. Fish was assured a comfortable living on Mashpee land with money designated to help the Indians, yet he was in no way accountable to his flock."

That lack of accountability, and what emerges through time as a somewhat churlish personality, was the undoing on Phineas Fish and the spark of the Woodlot Revolt. The tinder was supplied by William Apess, a fascinating figure who may stand as the earliest and most eloquent native American writer and activist concerned with native sovereign rights.

Apess was born in Colrain, Massachusetts near the Vermont border in 1789 of mixed-ancestry, a so-called "half-breed" who's father may have been African American, but who's mother was full-blooded Pequot Indian originally from southeastern Connecticut. The Pequots were the victims of the first English massacre, one that took place in Mystic, Connecticut in 1637 when a colonial militia surrounded a Pequot fort and killed 400 to 700 women, children and elderly (the able-bodied men were outside of the palisade scouting for the English force and thus spared until later hunted down and killed.)

I digress back two centuries to the first massacre of Indians on American soil only to lay the foundations for Apess' subsequent activism as a voice for Indian rights. He was raised in terrible conditions, severely beaten by his grandmother at the age of four, raised as an unruly delinquent, raised as a foster child by white parents who despaired of his lying and thievery -- traits he freely admits himself in his autobiography, A Native of the Forest. He enlisted in a New York state militia regiment bound for the Canadian front  during the War of 1812 and became the object of much teasing by older soldiers in his regiment who amused themselves by giving Apess liquor and encouraging his drunkenness. Following the War, Apess lived an itinerant existence throughout southern New England working as a cook and a laborer, eventually falling in love with a Pequot girl also of mixed-race, who reformed his ways and helped him sober up and continue his limited education. She gave birth, a family was started and in 1815 Apess was ordained as a Methodist minister. The historian Barry O'Connell at the University of Massachusetts wrote: "William Apess was a nobody. Born into poverty in 1798 in a tent in the woods of Colrain, Massachusetts, his parents of mixed Indian, white, and possibly African American blood, this babe had attached to him nearly every category that defined worthlessness in the United States."

The Methodist tradition is one of the itinerant preacher who goes on the road to preach the word of God to whatever willing flock he can find along the way. Apess wrote and self-published A Son of the Forest, the first autobiography by an American Indian, and became increasingly focused on Indian rights and injustices.

In the spring of 1833 Apess, hearing about the thriving Wampanoag community in Mashpee, wrote to the Reverend Fish asking for an opportunity to visit and preach to his fellow Indians. Fish extended an invitation and Apess made his way to Cape Cod.

When Apess took the pulpit at the Old Indian Meetinghouse and began his sermon he became indignant as the lack of any native faces. The congregation was almost entirely white, comprised of worshippers from Cotuit and Santuit for the most part. Apess wrote:

"I turned to meet my Indian brethren and give them the hand of friendship; but I was greatly disappointed in the appearance of those who advanced. All the Indians I had ever seen were of a reddish color, sometimes approaching a yellow, but now, look to what quarter I would, most of those who were coming were pale faces, and, in my disappointment, it seemed to me that the hue of death sat upon their countenances. It seemed very strange to me that my brethren should have changed their natural color and become in every respect like white men."

Apess finished his sermon, thanked the Reverend and immediately sought out the leaders of the tribe to seek an explanation for why their most cherished building, their church, had been taken over by the whites. The leaders of the Wampanoags, led by the popular Reverend Blind Joe Amos gathered, expressed their grievances with the white-imposed system of oversight, the utter lack of any relationship to the Reverend Fish, and a litany of grievances around white incursions onto Mashpee lands. Apess. obviously a man of words accustomed to persuasion with his tongue, was also a born leader, and he emerged from those first meetings with the tribe as an "adopted" son of Mashpee, granted the trust and authority to represent the Wampanoags in their future dealings with the whites.

As a bit of historical context, 1833 was a time of profound foment in American politics that saw a great deal of chafing between the southern states and the Federal government, a friction that would, three decades later, lead to the War Between the States. In South Carolina, the hotbed of American secessionism, the US Senator John C. Calhoun had led a bitter fight against Federal tariffs under the auspices of "nullication" a long-standing point of Constitutional law that defined the rights of the states to reject or "nullify" Federal legislation and mandates. Apess seized on the contemporary awareness of nullification and applied it to the situation in Mashpee, drafting a manifesto and statement of grievances that in essence said Mashpee was a sovereign nation established by the land grants of Richard Bourne and was in no way subject to the laws and oversight of any government body other than its own. E.g. Mashpee was not subject to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

A petition was drafted and presented to the legislature in Boston. Among its resolutions:

"Resolved: That we as a tribe will rule ourselves, and have the right so to do for all men are born free and Equal says the Constitution of the County.

"Resolved: That we will not permit any white man to come upon our plantation to cut or carry of [sic] wood or hay any other artickle with out our permission after the first of  July next.

"Resolved: That we will put said resolutions in force after that date July next with the penalty of binding and throwing them from the plantation If they will not stay a way with out."

A second petition was filed with Harvard calling for the removal of the Reverend Phineas Fish.

The reaction of the legislature was somewhat benign, but locally, one can imagine the reaction of the whites in Barnstable, Sandwich and Falmouth to the Wampanoag declaration of independence and the setting of a deadline of July 1, 1833 for all whites to evacuate Mashpee. In the Barnstable Patriot, the editor, one Sylvanus Bourne Phinney wrote that Apess had been distributing his pamphlet: "Experiences of Five Christian Indians of the Pequot Tribe" and stirring up some ugly emotions: "The teachings of this man are calculated to excite the distrust and jealousy of the inhabitants towards their present guardians and minister and with his pretensions to elevate them to what we all wish they might be, he will make them, in their present ill-prepared state for such preaching, ten times more turbulent, uncomfortable, unmanageable and unhappy than they are now.”

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Barnstable Patriot Editor, Sylvanus Bourne Phinney

After the Wampanoag delegation led by Apess filed their petitions on Beacon Hill in June, 1833, they returned to the Cape "mistakenly supposing Governor Levi Lincoln approved of their reforms." In fact, other than the local whites in the towns surrounding Mashpee, and the Reverend Phineas Fish, no one appeared to take the Wampanoags seriously.

Later that month the tribe notified the treasurer of the Board of Overseers, Obed Goodspeed, to turnover the plantation's books and other papers. A tribal council was formally elected on June 25 and public notices were printed and displayed so that "said Resolutions be inforced." On June 26, Reverend Fish was told "be on the Lookout for another home. We of no Indian that has been converted under your preaching and from 8 to 12 only have been your Constant Attenders. We are for peace rather than any thing else but we are satisfied we shall never enjoy it until we have our rights."

This got the Reverend Fish's attention. In panic at the unrest around him, the priggish clergyman wrote a letter to Governor Lincoln and had his predecessor's son, Gideon Hawley, Jr., deliver it on horseback to Lincoln at the governor's home in Worcester. Apess wrote afterwards that Fish wrote: "...the Indians were in open rebellion and that blood was likely to be shed .. It was reported and believed among us that he said we had armed ourselves and were prepared to carry all before us with tomahawk and scalping knife; that death and destruction, and all the horrors of a savage war, were impending;  that of the white inhabitants some were already dead and the rest dreadfull alarmed! An awful picture indeed.”

The deadline of July 1 was only a few days away.

(to be continued).

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Dec 14 2013

Keep Lowell Park Green

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

An important part of any decent baseball park isthe "batter's eye" -- a blank segment of the outfield, unpopulated by bleacher seats or billboards -- a dark backdrop behind the pitcher hat lets the batter see the ball against a solid backdrop. Baseball is full of legends, and one has it that the fans of one home team, before the advent of the batter's eye, would conspire to wear white t-shirts to make it difficult for the visiting team's batters to see the ball come off of the pitcher's hand, and then change to black shirts when the home team came up to bat. Given that sportswriters have declared in a poll that the hardest thing to do in all of sports is to hit a major league fastball, the batters need all the help they can get.

Cotuit's Elizabeth Lowell Memorial Park is unique among all of the Cape Cod Baseball League's ten ballparks in that its batter's eye is an uninterrupted wall of green pine and scrub oaks, a stretch of green that embraces the park on all sides. No houses are visible. No signs. Nothing. Just a big piece of green that is part of one of Cotuit's best green spaces. The scoreboard, the flag pole, a few fans in lawn chairs, kids optimistically waiting around to shag home runs, and occasional dog walker are all there is out there to break out the perfect green expanse. Spend some time following the Kettleers to other ball fields and you'll quickly learn how blessed we are in Cotuit to have the best park on the Cape. According to the Kettleers coach Mike Roberts: "The still, green backdrop makes Lowell Park the best field for hitters in the Cape League. What a shame it would be to lose that."

outfield

Lowell Park is undeniably one of the most unique ball fields in America, and readers of a certain vintage will remember when Sports Illustrated made the park famous with an aerial view that put the little green gem in context with the blue waters of Cotuit Bay and the golden strand of Sampson's Island in the background. I've got a framed copy of an aerial shot by my neighbor Paul Rifkin on the wall of my office.

I was at a dinner in San Diego last week with some colleagues and discussion eventually turned to sports. Of course everyone wanted to ask me, the Boston guy about the Red Sox but I told them the story of Cotuit baseball instead: of watching games for free in barefeet as the best college ball players in the country showed off their skills  to pro scouts in the most competitive and prestigious summer wooden-bat league in the nation. I used my phone to bring up from Flickr one of those of iconic aerial photos of the perfect park buried in a sea of green trees with the harbor and Nantucket Sound in the background and then passed it around. That picture said it all.

Thanks to the generosity of the Lowell family, one of Cotuit's stalwart summer families, the forest behind the baseball park has been offered to the Barnstable Land Trust for the very reasonable price of $1.8 million. The BLT has a year to raise the money and I write today to urge my fellow Cotusions to dig deep and do their financial best to help preserve not only the Kettleer's batter's eye, but to keep one of the village's best green spaces green. This land is near the village well fields, backs up to the western half of Mosswood Cemetary (where a recent proposal to build a solar array was thankfully thwarted), and is part of the great stretch of green that welcomes a person arriving in Cotuit on Putnam Avenue, a nearly uninterrupted piece of forest filled with deer, turtles and foxes that includes Eagle Pond, the Bell Farm, the cemetery and the wonderful field at the curve of Putnam and Maple where the yacht club stows its Cotuit Skiffs during hurricanes.

The Lowell family could doubtlessly make some developer happy at two or three times the price and nine starter castles and McMansions could get shoved into the 19 acress of woods. But not if we dig deep and give ourselves and Cotuit baseball a gift of green. A couple things about the fundraiser. While the ballpark is owned by the town, some of it intrudes onto private property (the visitor's bullpen allegedly). This not only makes for great baseball and will help keep the Kettleers the best team in the league, but is a huge step to preserve Cotuit's green space and keep another subdivision from further eroding the charm of the village.

Here's a link to the donation page for the Lowell Park fund on the Barnstable Land Trust's website.

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