Archive for the 'Cotuit' Category

Aug 12 2014

The Kettleers of 2014

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Cotuit's baseball season came to an end last night as Falmouth took the second of the three-game Western Division championship with a blow-out 17 hit, 10 to 2 victory at Lowell Park.

I missed the game but as I drove into the village around 7:45 pm I passed the remnants of it and saw  a Kettleer walking down Lowell Avenue onto Main Street in his untucked uniform, his host family surrounding him, escorting him home f or the evening after a season of highs and lows, two bats sticking up in the air from his backpack on his shoulders, the wooden bats the Cape league is known for.

I didn't catch a lot of games this year due to a variety of excuses, but I did catch a wonderful come-from-behind performance against Bourne over the weekend. Cotuit was down 5-0 and the air was out of the home fans' tires, when the Kettleers rallied in magnificent fashion to tie the 3 game series at one apiece. It was the perfect game, vintage Mike Roberts baseball, all the more memorable because my friend Jim D. turned to me at one point when Cotuit had runners at first and third and said to me: "Watch the runner at first get into a run-down so the runner at third can steal home."

Five seconds later exactly that occurred, chaos ensued, and the fact that Cape Cod baseball is far more entertaining than pro ball was underscored.

Congratulations and thanks to the Kettleers for another great season.

Just a few more months to find the cash to save the woods behind the ball field. At the Bourne  game the Barnstable Land Trust ran some yellow tape across the area of the outfield that would be lost if the land isn't preserved. Essentially the park would become unplayable as a big slice of outfield from the flagpole to the visiting bull pen would be lost.

Here's Barnstable Land Trust's Casey Dannhauser throwing the first pitch at the last Bourne game of the season.

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Aug 10 2014

Happy 375th Barnstable

Published by under Cotuit,General

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Jul 18 2014

Keep Lowell Park Green

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit,General

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Nice job by Maryjo Wheatley on this video for the Barnstable Land Trust's efforts to save the land around Lowell Park, home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. I was happy to sit and talk with her but didn't expect, well, you'll see... Maryjo is an amazing videographer, she worked for WGBH, the legendary PBS operation in Boston, and was in communications at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute back in my Forbes days. She helped me get a story about the very earliest GPS digital charting technologies back in 1993. Her husband, Capt. Bob Boden is a distant cousin and long-time friend. The three of us sometimes catch the Kettleers together -- but this has not been the most baseball-ish summer for me. Too much client work is keeping me locked to my desk, then add in house guests, bad weather....there's still time.

Anyway. back to the cause at the center of the video. The Barnstable Land Trust has until the end of the year to come up with the money to complete the purchase of the 19-acres of woodlands that surround Lowell Park to the north and the east. At risk is a key part of Cotuit's open space. For the team, what's at risk is a really nice "batter's eye" in terms of an uninterrupted backdrop behind the pitcher so the batters can pick up the ball hurling towards them at 90+ mph.

The BLT is conducting their annual fundraising, auction, to-do on Ropes Field this Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 7 pm

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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 11 2014

Wild Kingdom of Kotuit

Published by under Cotuit,General

5 am today, sitting down and reading the "paper" on my tablet, the birds waking up and hitting the feeders under the grape arbor and making their usual racket when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see an explosion of birds scattering in all directions and a grey blur go whistling past the window.

This was the local grey fox who lives somewhere in the woods between me and the harbor on the hunt for a squirrel. Grey foxes used to be the most common fox on the East Coast (they range all over the country from Canada to Mexico, Cape Cod to the Channel Islands off of Santa Monica) but now the more familiar red fox is the one you see around the garbage cans at the beaches the most. They are like little dogs, in fact they are one of the most primitive of the canids, about the size of a skinny beagle with a sort of mongrelish, mini-coyote look to them. Definitely not the more stylish and regal look of the red fox.

The birds fled the scene but the squirrel who had been hanging upside down on the peanut feeder decided to hide in the grape leaves. Because the house sort of envelops the arbor on three sides in an alcove, the escape route is one way across the yard where they can either cross the open grass and duck into the bushes, or cut right towards Main Street, or left towards the back gardens and the chicken coop. This squirrel decided to wait things out on top of the arbor.

The fox circled the arbor for a few minutes. Freezing from time to time whenever the squirrel rustled the leaves and made a move towards the great escape. The fox stood on its back legs and peered into the dense green cover, then dropped back down and sat on the grass, sort of hanging out patiently.

The squirrel made its move too soon. It dropped from the arbor, literally hit the ground running, and took off across the lawn. Total Wild Kingdom scene ensued as the fox followed, about a foot behind the terrified squirrel. eventually stepping on the squirrel's busy tail and causing it to wipe out. I was bummed. I was rooting for the squirrel. The fox grabbed it by the neck with its teeth and started shaking it hard -- right in the open. The squirrel didn't like that.

Then a clutch of the ladies-who-walk came cackling along the sidewalk. The fox froze. They didn't see him. He dropped the squirrel (whom I figured was dead) but no, the Squirrel was resurrected and made another dash for the bushes and freedom.

The fox followed and again, the game of hide in the bush and wait started to play itself out again. Eventually the squirrel hopped from the top of one arborvitae to the next, flung itself at the black cherry tree and headed up. Meanwhile, I'm in Wikipedia reading about the grey fox and learned it can climb trees really well. This one stood up, forepaws on the trunk, looked up and seemed to shrug and say, "Screw it."

Anyway, if the fox can deal with the rat problem under the bird feeders, he's welcome to them If he poses a threat to the Yorkshire Terrier (everything in theory poses a threat to lap dogs) he's toast. And we're all relieved that one of the squirrels -- a ratty, wino looking squirrel with half a tail we've nicknamed "Stumpy" -- was seen on the arbor just a half-hour later. Now to see if this morning's assault victim limps back with any injuries.

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Jun 01 2014

Stop the presses, Old Shore Road is now one way

Published by under Cotuit

Old Shore Road -- it's the road pictured in the image at the head of this blog (a wide-angle panorama taken at the turn of the 19th century and found in a Churbuck collection somewhere) -- connecting Main Street two doors down from my house with the boat ramp, the public bathing beach/dinghy rack at Ropes Beach, the yacht club, and then up the hill to the curve where Putnam Ave swings right  and turns briefly into Maple at the broad expanse of the Ropes Field.

The town, at the urging of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association, has been focused on Old Shore Road for a couple years. First they banned dinghies and rowboats and hobie cats and sunfishes and paddleboats from hanging around on the beach between November 15 and April 15. They called out the surveyors last year and staked out the parameters of the road leading to some fears it would be widened. Then they started hanging up even more signs prohibiting the parking of boat trailers, and as of this past week, they have officially made the road one-way from Putnam up to Main Street.

I guess I'm supportive. Old Shore Road is being loved to death.

It will suck not being to duck down the hill in the car on my way to Hyannis or the grocery store to take a quick look at my boats to make sure all is well and the bilge pumps are keeping up with the rainwater. Two way traffic is a disaster on the narrow road, especially during weekends and busy times such as when a hurricane approaches and everyone re-learns how to back up a trailer on the nice new (relatively new) boat ramp installed over the old sandy spot a decade ago. The stretch along the beach is nearly impassable on a sunny summer afternoon as boaters, rubberneckers, pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers and the handful of residents off of the road try to make their way from one end to another.

[Can I say a word about the proliferation of signage down there? There has to be over three dozen different town signs along Old Shore Road -- everything from stop signs to parking signs to don't refuel your boat signs, eastern blue crab season, no trailers, a long list of beach regulations, no dinghy warnings, handicapped parking ..... on and on and on. The visual blight is astonishing. Come on. We can do away with 90 percent I bet. ]

In the end the situation is understandable. There is precious little public beach front in Cotuit and this is spot is the main attraction for boaters, fishermen, sailors and clammers (along with the Town Dock). As the harbor becomes more and more crowded and the inland population of the Cape becomes more insulated and walled off from the water, any aperture with access is going to feel more and more pressure. Personally? I'd make it pedestrian only except for residents and people launching boats with no parking anywhere. Ropes Beach --- once a pristine little bathing beach with pretty lifeguards and a bathhouse, and a water fountain -- is a dilapidated place for people to park and walk their dogs out to Handy's Point (the dog-mitt dispenser for turds is missing and special thanks to the dog walkers who leave their little knotted bags in the beach grass). Come summer the beach is taken over by the sailing classes at the yacht club, and every year the place gets closed down due to excessive bacteria run-offs following rain storms.

It isn't going back to the way it was, but at least the "one-way-ification" may take off some of the pressure from the rubbernecking motorists.

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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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Apr 10 2014

Every Litter Bit Hurts

Published by under Cotuit,General

In the 1960s there was an anti-litter campaign led by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States. It was the first of its kind. People started hanging little litter bags on the dashboards of their cars. Public service ads with crying Indians and the message "Every Litter Bit Hurts" were part of the culture. In some regards the anti-litter movement and highway beautification efforts led by Lady Bird were a precursor to Earth Day and the beginnings of the ecology movement in the early 1970s.

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When I moved to Cotuit in 1991 I was impressed by the example set by Professor James Gould -- a retired college professor who is the village's historian and a dedicated force behind the Peace movement on Cape Cod. Jim would take his daily constitutional from his house overlooking Little River, down Old Post Road past Mosswood Cemetery, and on into the village to collect his mail from the post office and stop by the Cotuit Grocery Store when it was run by his son Steve.

When I drove past him I noticed he was carrying a plastic grocery bag, the kind you feel guilty about throwing out, the kind that festoon tree branches around New York City. I figured at first it was for carrying the mail. But then I saw him bend over, pick up a piece of litter and drop it into the bag. A simple act done as a matter of fact as he walked along on his daily stroll. Usually you see the roadside litter crews in yellow jump suits followed by a Barnstable County Sheriff's van, or the Cub Scouts earning a merit badge, not a guy getting his mail and cleaning up as he went along.

His example got me thinking about altruism and the notion of the unsung, anonymous donor, especially in a village like Cotuit where there are so many causes looking for money -- from the art center to the Cahoon Museum, the library to the Kettleers -- and a long standing tradition of charitable good works from buying open space to preserve the rural character of the village to banding together to ban piers, chase out commercial marinas, or trying (unsuccessfully) to have a historical district implemented to slow down the tear downs of the old houses.

A few years ago I took a plastic bag along with me for a walk and came home wishing I had brought four more. It became a bit of an obsession and I started crawling into the underbrush to fish out beer bottles or styrofoam coffee cup. The amount of empty nip bottles were staggering, indeed most Cotuit litter can be categorized in descending order of frequency:

  1. Empty nips (this season's most popular brand is "Firecracker," some cinnamon flavored thing I guess)
  2. Dunkin donuts coffee cups, lids, and straws
  3. Beer cans
  4. Poland Spring water bottles
  5. Cigarette packs
  6. Snuff boxes
  7. Empty pints of vodka
  8. Six pack rings
  9. Random paper
  10. Builder's trash, eg pieces of shingles, plastic shutters

The nips are easy to explain -- they are cheap, they are easy to conceal and drink, and if they are tossed into the bushes there is no incriminating open containers should you get pulled over. The prevalence of schnapps, vodka, and cinnamon flavored shots points to the mouthwash qualities of those flavors, as opposed to the reek of whisky. In fact, scotch and bourbon nips are very rare.

The pay off is a clean walk and not that slightly shitty guilty feeling I was getting as I stepped over yet another yellow labeled empty shot of Firecracker during my constitutional. Beach clean ups, especially on the outside of Sampson's/Dead Neck are far more rewarding, with a lot of washed up fishing lures in the wrack line which can be buffed up, given new hooks, and save me $10-$15 a pop during bluefish frenzy (in a month).

 

 

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Apr 07 2014

Stuffies

Published by under Clamming,Cotuit

Every place has its native culinary specialties. Buffalo, New York has beef on weck; Cincinnati was five-way chili; New Orleans the Po-boy; North Carolina the pulled pork barbecue sandwich with coleslaw, and on and on and on. Turn on a food channel and there will be some overenthused fat guy on a culinary tour of the backwaters looking for the regional speciality.

Stuffed quahogs from Marguerite's in Westport - taken from roadfood.com

Yet what of Cape Cod? What are the classic items that every tourist should seek out? Frankly the place isn't famous for much -- certainly not on the level of a Philly cheesesteak -- and even within Massachusetts there are foods that get mixed up with Cape Cod but which aren't really Cape Cod born. Take the fried clam for example -- that's a North Shore/Essex County speciality born in Essex at Woodman's where in 1914 Chubby Woodman fried some soft-shelled "steamer" clams in batter at the suggestion of a customer. Sure, one can obsess about the best fried clams and search the Cape for the best examples (personally I used to favor Sandy's in Buzzards Bay, but crave the ones from The Bite in Menemsha, even if you have to own a hedge fund to afford them).

Clam chowder is pretty Cape Cod, but apparently the dish came down from French-Canada and the word is derived from "chaudière" after the stove the stuff was cooked on in the Maritime Provinces. They serve Legal Seafood's chowder at Fenway Park -- frankly a kind of disgusting thought on a steamy humid day when a guy comes trooping up the stairs in the bleachers hawking what is essentially clam-flavored hot milk thickened with corn starch or flour. No one makes the clam chowder I grew up with, but if you want a sense of it, read Melville's account of Ishmael's dinner at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford.

One very Cape Cod dish is Portuguese kale soup, especially around East Falmouth where there is a big population of Cape Verdeans, Azoreans, and other descendants of the Portuguese sailors who settled on the Cape after sailing on New England whalers in the mid-19th century. Take chicken broth, a lot of torn up kale (the miracle food of the paleo-Hipster movement), some kidney beans, diced potatoes, sliced chorizo and you have a bowl of goodness.

If I had to nominate one dish as the official Cape Cod specialty I would have to go with the stuffed quahog, also known as the "Stuffie."

Take big quahogs -- the bigger the better, like ashtray sized monsters -- grind up all the meat and clam juice and mix with some sort of bread crumbs, diced onion, celery and whatever feels right, mix into a filling like a turkey stuffing, pack into the open shells and bake until golden brown. The restaurants serve them with a pat of butter, a lemon wedge, and a bottle of tabasco.

Stuffed quahogs are big among Cotuit cooks for bragging rights. My step-sister, mother, aunts, brother-in-law .... everyone has their own take on the stuffie. Green bell peppers? Maybe red pepper flakes? There is no great restaurant stuffed quahog. Most bars that serve them as bar food get premade ones from New Bedford -- nasty, very processed pasty things with no big clam chunks. Do not confuse a stuffie with Clams Casino -- different thing altogether.

I confess I like a homemade Cotuit stuffed quahog, and even will go with a mass produced ones if I'm at the right bar and want something to go with a beer. My favorite recipe -- which is total heresy because it is "gourmet" to some critical palates-- is Chris Schlesinger's "Ultimate Stuffie" from the Back Eddy in Westport. These suckers have ground Portuguese sausage, a ton of sage and oregano, and kernels of corn. I discovered the recipe in The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, (probably one of my most used books on my kitchen bookshelf.)

 

 

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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!

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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":

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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.

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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.

 

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Mar 11 2014

Spring Fever Baseball

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit

The Red Sox better mail me my season tickets soon or I'll begin to panic and start stalking them. I even checked my online bank register the other day to make sure the check I mailed in cleared last December. Season tickets are now my second worst non-renewal nightmare, up there with the falling-off-the-cliff and underwear-in-the-highschool-hallway dreams.. The first nightmare of non-renewal will always be my mooring permits from the Town of Barnstable.

My first game will be April 8 vs. the Rangers. Something tells me after this winter that I will not be wearing my "Thaw Ted" t-shirt and shorts that Tuesday evening but will probably have more layers of wool going on than a Yukon prospector.

So, randomly, here's the first bright sign of spring: one of my favorite Cotuit Kettleers blew everyone away during a recent Red Sox spring season game down in Jupiter, Florida.   I'm talking Deven Marrero, the Arizona State phenomenon my Cotuit baseball buddies and I adopted as most-likely-to-succeed in the 2010  championship season when he hit .306 as a freshman, returning the next year to play 12 games in the 2011 season and hit .346.  The guy is an incredible fielder.

Gordon Edes wrote last week that Marrero is the Red Sox rookie to watch this year and a strong candidate for the Sox's future shortstop:

"The beauty of spring training is that you never know when or where the next coming-out party will be, and who will emerge from the shadows to declare themselves a major leaguer-in-waiting.

Last spring it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., grabbing us with the virtuosity of his all-around play in Fort Myers. In 2005, it was a cocky Class A reliever named Jonathan Papelbon, who responded to a teammate being hit by a pitch in Fort Lauderdale by buzzing slugger Sammy Sosa with a high, hard one.

And Thursday afternoon here in Roger Dean Stadium, with the Red Sox leaving nearly all of their regulars back in Fort Myers, 23-year-old shortstop Deven Marrero, who went to high school about 70 minutes away from here (American Heritage School in Plantation), became the latest Red Sox rookie to seize his moment.

[+] EnlargeMarrero

AP Photo/Mike JanesShortstop Devin Marrero (above, coaching first base in a spring training game last year) flashed impressive defensive ability against the Marlins.

Marrero did so with a fielding exhibition worthy of Cirque du Soleil, one in which he displayed spectacular range diving for a ball up the middle, showed off his aerodynamic capacity while completing a double play and handled everything else hit his way with soft hands and a strong arm.

"My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said after a scoreless game between the Sox and Miami Marlins that was shortened to 7 2/3 innings by a late-afternoon deluge.

Which brings me to this year's Kettleer's roster which is live on the team site.  I'll get off my butt and do the usual OCD Google-Baseball America scouting report but past experience tells me that a good number of these names won't make it to Cotuit due to the usual Team USA/College World Series conflicts. It is always nice to see returning players and this year's squad had four alumni from last summer's championship team.

PHOTOS # NAME POS B/T HT WT YEAR SCHOOL
Barrera, Tres C R/R 6'2 195 2017 Texas
Bozoian, Vahn OF R/R 6'5 210 2016 USC
Carmichael, Jay RHP R/R 6'2 175 2016 Florida
Copping, Calvin RHP R/R 6'3 180 2016 Cal St Northridge
Duke, Travis LHP L/L 6'2 220 2016 Texas
Eicholtz, Nick RHP R/R 6'4 180 2017 Alabama
Fisher, Jameson C/INF L/R 6'2 180 2016 SE Louisiana
Fulmer, Carson RHP R/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt
Haynie, Will C/INF R/R 6'5 225 2017 Alabama
Henderson, Spencer LHP/1B L/L 6'3 215 2016 UC Davis
Holder, Kyle INF L/R 6'1 185 2016 U. San Diego
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 10 Jackson, Drew INF R/R 6'2 195 2016 Stanford
James, Logan LHP L/L 5'11 185 2016 Stanford
Leftwich, Luke RHP R/R 6'3 200 2016 Wofford
McClelland, Jackson RHP R/R 6'5 220 2016 Pepperdine
Melton, Hunter INF R/R 6'2 225 2016 Texas A&M
Minter, A.J. LHP L/L 6'0 200 2016 Texas A&M
Parks, Adam RHP R/R 6'2 220 2016 Liberty
Photos: 2, 3, 4 2 Schrock, Max INF L/R 5'9 180 2016 South Carolina
Photos: 2 14 Stubbs, Garrett C L/R 5'10 160 2015 USC
Taylor, Jeremy OF L/L 6'2 178 2016 East Tennessee St.
Taylor, Logan INF R/R 6'1 200 2016 Texas A&M
Tewes, Sam RHP R/R 6'5 205 2017 Wichita St.
Vogel, Matthew RHP R/R 6'2 185 2017 South Carolina
Wingenter, Trey RHP R/R 6'7 195 2016 Auburn
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 8 Wiseman, Rhett OF L/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt

And being all springlike (since the clock did its thing and make it at least sunny at 6 pm albeit a balmy 20 degrees), I'll drag the boat to the boat guy next week for a pre-season tuneup and start stalking those wily clams awaiting me. I was in London the past two weeks and they have full daffodils and crocuses (Crocii?) which was nice to see. Otherwise, mud season approacheth and I need a baseball game to get me out of this spleenish winter funk.

One response 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 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 09 2014

frozen harbor

Published by under Cotuit

image

No responses yet

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.

lincoln

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.

hallett

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 1798 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.”

sylvanus

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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