Apr 21 2014
Archive for the 'General' Category
Apr 21 2014
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.
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.
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
Apr 10 2014
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.
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:
- Empty nips (this season's most popular brand is "Firecracker," some cinnamon flavored thing I guess)
- Dunkin donuts coffee cups, lids, and straws
- Beer cans
- Poland Spring water bottles
- Cigarette packs
- Snuff boxes
- Empty pints of vodka
- Six pack rings
- Random paper
- 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).
Apr 04 2014
- I spent the morning with the Cape Cod Technology Council and delivered my third "First Friday" presentation -- this one on local marketing and local digital media. I get more from the Q&A then they do, each and every talk gives me more fuel and thought fodder than I arrive with.
- David Ortiz and his "cha-ching" selfie with the Commander-in-Chief was an awesome marketing move by Samsung and the genius who came up with their celebrity #selfie program deserves a raise (personally I loathe the word selfie, and am now going to use it as a synonym for onanism, as in "Hey Fred, I see you have the new Victoria's Secret Catalogue! Time for a selfie?" It worked on me, I am definitely going to a Galaxy Note 3 when my current phone is up for renewal this summer.
- Cotuit buddy and US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun's Twitter account should be studied by any public official. The US Embassy's Timberline blog on Tumblr is fascinating reading, to wit: "Never stay in a hotel with the word Palace in its name and never build a road."
- Red Sox open at home today v. the Brewers. World Series rings will be handed out. Moment of silence to mark last April's evil events. Read the transcript of President's Obama's remarks on Tuesday's White House visit by the Sox, an excellent speech that had to have been written by a Bostonian.
- 5. April is the month where the most important man in my life is my outboard motor mechanic.
- 6. I am not into getting my boats ready for the water. This winter trashed the yard, gutters have been ripped off of the roof, the north side of the house needs painting and the lawn is scabrous.
- 7. Google + pissed me off by spamming everybody I know when I posted a picture of last week's blizzard. Oversharing is a sin and I am sick of services that think I am an attention whore by default.
Mar 08 2014
Since beginning this blog in 2001 I don't think I've gone as long without writing as I have recently with a case of blogger's-block. I noticed my last post was January 29 and consisted of a simple notice that I'd finished a historical society paper.
I plead business travel, winter ennui, and general overwork. I'm in the middle of two big projects and haven't had time to lift my head up from either one of them to attend to my personal writing obligations.
Mea culpa accomplished, now to deliver something half-way interesting.
Jan 27 2014
If you want hours of fascinating, informative fun, buy a copy of Kevin Kelly's massive tome, Cool Tools.
Most everyone over 50 remembers the Whole Earth Catalogue of the late 60s and early 70s. A big bible on counter-cultural tools that covered everything from yurt construction to VW engine repair,the Whole Earth Catalogue was the book to have hanging around for hours of stoned obsessing. I can remember hanging out at my hippie cousin's shack in Cotuit and spending hours going through that book (I was 12 and was not stoned!).
Kelly, one of the original editors of the WEC along with Stewart Brand, went on to co-found Wired and has been a leader of the DIY - Maker movement. His passion for the best in tools and gadgets has come together brilliantly in this lavishly illustrated, well designed, brilliant compendium of the best stuff in the world. Best vest? Filson Mackinaw (I own one). Best tweezers, best chainsaw, best book on chickens, best productivity applications ....
Jan 19 2014
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.
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).
Jan 17 2014
Adam "Shattered Glass" Penenberg, one of the original writers at Forbes.com in the mid-90s, yesterday said I was the "unsung hero" who had the vision that eventually became the business news behemoth Forbes is today.
Whatever. It was more of a case of being in the right place at the right time and being the first to raise my hand. I'm flattered and I share Adam's opinion that we didn't know what we were doing, we ran the Digital Tool as pirate ship, and had a one-in-a-lifetime experience experimenting with online journalism. He was also too modest to say he put us, and digital journalism on the map as a force to reckon with when he and Kambiz Faroohar uncovered Stephen Glass' record of deception at the New Republic (hence the movie "Shattered Glass" that featured a very idealized concept of our rodent infested newsroom). He wrote:
"Being an online journalist 17 years ago was a bit like being stationed in Siberia. We’d publish story after story but had no idea if anyone actually read them. There was little glory in it, and print reporters looked down their noses at us, viewing us as a marauding band of upstarts who couldn’t possibly have their skills and ability. Nevertheless, we persisted, experimenting with form and structure, largely because there were no best practices at the time. Should we mimic print’s inverted pyramid or adopt a more conversational and informal approach? Should we write short? Medium? Long? Should we concentrate on offering “tools” like financial calculators and de-emphasize original journalism, or go all in on providing news and analysis? Over time we evolved, but in the beginning we treated the site as one grand experiment."
Not to blush with false modesty, and not to second-guess what Forbes.com has grown into under Jim Spanfeller and Lewis D'Vorkin, but I want to say that two people are the true unsung heros behind Forbes' high valuation as it is about to be sold by the Forbes family and Elevation partners (most likely to a foreign buyer).
CEO Tim Forbes embraced the digital future with no reservations, immersed himself in it, and knew -- as clearly as Adam and Om Malik and me and everyone else involved -- that one day the online version of the brand would be bigger and more valuable than the printed one. He drove us, he made it happen. He wrote the checks, put up with our shenanigans and he told the nay-sayers to shut up and get on board.
The second unsung hero was Jim Michaels, the legendary editor of the magazine, my mentor, a crabby, colorful and keen editorial genius who had our back and encouraged us to take the risks and make the mistakes that led to our success. He knew we were killing off the world he had lived in for forty years, and I hope in the years ahead I can be half as curious and accepting of the future and wrenching revolutions of new technology as he was.
As the Forbes family let's go of their namesake, there is a merry band of original Forbes.com alumni who should take a bow: DeWayne Martin, Om Malik, Charles Dubow, Dustin Shephard, Stacy Lu, Vicki Contavespi, our copyeditor Eve, John Moschetto, Greg Zorthian, Miguel Forbes, Michael Noer, Sabina Forbes, Stephen Johnson, David Minkin, Paul Caparotts, Nathan Washburn, Kambiz, and of course Adam. Apologies to all the others I've forgotten who were there at the beginning.
Jan 09 2014
I couldn't resist feeling nostalgic for the golden era at Forbes in the late 80s when Jim Michael and Bill Baldwin and Laury Minard were at their peak and the plague of of the Internet hadn't yet trashed the grand old magazines of the past.
This was my first home run, my second cover story for Forbes, one born from an offhand discussion with Sam Whitmore, my old PC Week boss, who returned from a demo of the first color copier at SIGGRAPH with a hysterical story about trying to persuade the Canon rep to scan a $20 bill.
I've told the back story of how the article was written, but after some searching, found a copy of the original and scanned it. Forbes never put its archive online and I figured screw it -- I asked their reprint department for permission to post this and they wanted a gazillion dollars. So, in the spirit of information wants to be free, here is how I forged my paycheck on a Mac. PDF below.
Jan 08 2014
(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.
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.
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.
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:
- The Mashpee Wampanoags never consented to the white's "guardian" system that took control of their finances and affairs via the board of overseers.
- 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.
- 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."
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.
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]
Dec 23 2013
This morning's New York Times has a depressing story about the continued plunging descent of modern air travel from the glamour of the jet age to the cattle-car status of airborne buses. The too long; didn't read summary is that airlines are disabling reclining seats and installing "lightweight" seats with less padding and locked backs to jam in another row or two of human livestock to jack up their revenues.
What amazed this 6 foot 2 inch tall victim of the center seat is that the reporter was able to find two dickheads willing to admit they actually recline their seats and whine to the stewardess if thwarted.
Listen to this loser:
“They jam their knee into the back of your seat as hard as they can, and they’ll do it repeatedly to see if they can get a reaction,” said Mick Brekke, a businessman who flies for work a few times a month. “That’s happened to me more than once, and that usually settles down after they realize I’m not going to put it back up.”"
and this douchenozzle:
"Odysseas Papadimitriou, the chief executive of WalletHub.com, a personal finance social network, was challenged by a tall passenger seated behind him when he reclined his seat. “He was like, ‘Hey, watch it, buddy. I don’t fit here with you reclining the seat,’ ” he said.
"Mr. Papadimitriou called the flight attendant to mediate the dispute and eventually tilted his seat back, but the price he paid to recline was a fitful night’s sleep, as the other passenger grumbled and pushed against the back of his seat for the rest of the flight."
Listen up chowderheads. Real men don't recline. Ever. And they don't carry man purses, wear capri pants, talk on their cell phone at the dinner table and own luggage with wheels on it. Only the Clampetts and the Obese recline on airplanes. (Business and First is an exception, but then again, Business and First is meant to be an expensive exception, right?)
I never push that little button and push my seat back into the personal space of the passenger behind me. Never. I've lost a laptop screen to a jerk pushing their seat back, and have even had the back of my seat ripped off after a 500-pound obese whale of a woman in a sari decided to use my seat as a lifting mechanism to pry herself to her feet to indulge in a bout of explosive diarrhea that resulted in an entire bank of 747 toilets being cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape. I spent seven hours riding upright with no seatback whatsoever thanks to that lady.
It is the passenger in front of me, the one who as soon as the plane levels off and the little seatbelt sign goes off with a "bong" that decides it's Barcalounger time that I want to punch in the back of the head. Yes, I have seen with interest the little seat blocker devices one can use to wedge the seat in front of one's self into an unreclinable position. I have also braced my knees into the seatback and done my best to thwart the bozo who thinks it's their god given right to press the button. But never. EVER. Will I be that guy.
Dec 15 2013
(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.”
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).
Dec 03 2013
The sovereign status of the Wampanoag tribe who lived in "Marshpee Plantation," the praying town established for their benefit by Richard Bourne, is a fascinating story that persists in its telling through modern times as the tribe fought for Federal recognition, its ancestral lands, and its own cultural identity.
In the 18th century, in the aftermath of the King Philip War of 1675, the Wampanoags who lived in Mashpee were joined by members of other tribes, all seeking a community with a common language and practices. The tribe was making a transition from its traditional wetu style of hunter-gather living, moving between winter and summer encampments to seek shelter from the blizzards inland and to be near shellfish during the summer months. The English system of private property and the colonists' insatiable appetite for land had boxed the tribe into the space defined for them by Richard Bourne, an arrangement known as an "entailment" that forbid the sale of any lands to outsiders without the unanimous consent of the tribe. The Church, so crucial to the formation of the concept of a "Praying Town," continued to be the dominant social structure in Mashpee, pushing the tribe's members to adopt English dress, learn English, convert to Christianity and integrate themselves with their non-native neighbors.
That "integration" led to some deplorable practices ranging from "debt slavery" where the Wampanoag were put into the debt of English merchants or farmers and then pressed into forced indenture to work those debts down to a general racism that . The practice of debt enslavement became so acute that the native preacher Simon Popmonet (a descendant of the sachem Paupmunnuck) complained to the legislature about the terrible practice which saw children and elderly alike pressed into unpaid labor. It was noted that a father and son, working off a debt, worked as a crew of a Nantucket whaling ship and for two consecutive three-year voyages forfeited their entire wages to the ship's owners as part of their debt service.
The Anglicization of the tribe, the conversion to Christianity, the impact of war (many Wampanoags fought in the Revolutionary War), the terrible effects of alcohol and the high mortality of the whale fishery cut deeply into the male population. The gender imbalance -- brought about the lasting after effects of the post-war retributions (a large number of Wampanoags were forcibly relocated to Bermuda), the impact of the Nantucket whaling fishery, and the general violent, short life-span of a 17th century male -- left a void in the Mashpee society. Widows turned to the church and the tribe's members began to intermarry with members of other tribes, African-Americans, even Hessian mercenaries who made their way to Mashpee after the end of the Revolutionary War.
The tribe that remained, several hundred at most, clustered together in three settlements -- one near Ashumet Pond, another near the shores of Santuit Pond, and a third near Nantucket Sound and South Cape Beach. There was no form of government aside from the traditional tribal structure of sachems and sagamores. The rulers of the tribe were a board of white overseers, appointed first by Harvard College who provided for the tribe's religious needs by educating and sending it a succession of ministers, and then the State. No Wampanoag served on the board of overseers. The overseers provided the tribe with a succession of preachers -- all Congregational, the prevalent denomination of the English and the faith of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the early movement led by Jonathan Edwards and John Eliot to convert "the poor blind Indians in New-England."
The center of the tribe's life was a meeting house constructed in the late 1670s after the conclusion of King Philip's War on Briant's Neck on the southern shore of Santuit Pond, not far from the ancient tribal village, herring run on the Santuit River, and the mound of the Trout Grave. The building was built by Richard Bourne's son, Shearhashaub with the construction funded by the Williams Fund of Harvard College, the primary source of funds for the religious needs of Mashpee through the 19th century. The meetinghouse was rebuilt at one point, and in 1717 it was moved by oxcart to its present location on Route 28, the old Falmouth-Barnstable road about one mile west of the Santuit River, on a hill above the Mashpee River.
The pastors and preachers of Mashpee were:
- Richard Bourne, 1670-1685
- Simon Popmonet, 1685-1729
- Joseph Bourne, 1729-1742
- Gideon Hawley, 1758-1807
- Phineas Fish, 1808-1833
- "Blind Joe" Amos, 1810-1836
- William Apess, 1833-1835
The last of the ministers subsidized by Harvard's Williams Fund was Phineas Fish. He and his predecessors were provided for by the Corporation of Harvard College and were given the rights to a woodlot on the eastern side of town, a common parsonage arrangement in colonial times that permitted the minister to gain an income beyond the collection plate by selling pasturage or logging rights to others. That woodlot would prove to be the flash point of this story.
The 1700s were a time of complaint and friction by the Indians of Mashpee against the incursions of the white settlers that surrounded them on three sides. Delegations were sent to Boston to complain about debt slavery, white squatters, trespassing on Indian lands and other grievances. In 1762, Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale College, one might assume as a guest of the recently installed Hawley. In his journal he placed the population of Mashpee at 250, consisting of about 75 families scattered throughout the plantation living in “about 60 wigwams (Wetus) and 6 houses." The Stiles map shows there was no village or other definiable concentrations of population, though there were pockets around Ashumet Pond, Santuit Pond and South Cape. The dwellings on Stiles map approximate the location of the so-called “ancient-ways” – the early paths.
Campisi writes in The Mashpee Indians, Tribe on Trial, “The map supports the view that the Mashpees were geographically, as well as socially isolated from the white settlers. The bulk of their residents as well as the church, the principal meeting place, were on the south side of the plantation.”
The parsonage, or home of the minister was located near the present day intersections of Route 28 and Route 130 near the Santuit River/Santuit line. Gideon Hawley's home is near the gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection, located on a slice of land that the old maps indicates was actually part of Sandwich (for reasons unknown to this writer, along with another piece designated as Sandwich near where the Santuit River pours into Shoestring Bay. Phineas Fish, the minister who succeeded Hawley, made his home a bit to the north, just south of the Trout Mound.
Phineas Fish is the key player in the factors that led to the Woodlot Revolt of 1833. After graduating from Harvard in 1807 he was appointed as the official missionary and Congregationalist Minister of Mashpee by the overseers in 1809. He was granted an annual salary of $520, a $350 "settlement" fee and "as much meadow and pasture land, as shall be necessary to winter and summer." According to Donald Nielsen in The Mashpee Indian Revolt of 1833, "The sale of wood from the parsonage woodlot brought him several hundred dollars more each 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 Indian flock."
The Reverend Fish was not popular with the Indians. As non-tribal residents came into town and intermarried with the old Wampanoag familes, they brought with them new denominations that threatened the Congregationalist hold over the Plantation. By the time Fish arrived in Mashpee the tribe had shifted their religious allegiances to the Baptists and an Indian preacher named Blind Joe Amos. Fish, from his pulpit in the Indian's Meetinghouse, ministered to an increasingly white-flock, most of whom (one can assume) were residents of Cotuit. In reflecting on the Indian's tergiversation from his ministry, Fish wrote that he had "survived" as many as seven different sectarian preachers and "felt pain in seeing these good houses used for the purposes of Baptist and Methodist meetings....the sectarian busy bodies now feel quite sure of demolishing the remnant of Congregationalism...Religion should be respectable and orderly. The Indians are given to excitement and revivalism."
Fish's religious differences and take over of the Meetinghouse was only one reason his presence in the town caused the tribe to resent him. A particular sore point was his decision to lease the logging rights of the woodlot to two Cotuit brothers, the Sampsons.
Thoreau in his account of his walk down the sandy peninsula, Cape Cod, wrote of the deforested wasteland that was the Cape in the 19th century. Deforestation to fuel the Sandwich Glass factory, to speed the evaporation of sea water for the production of sea salt, and the general sparse sandy soil made trees a premium on Cape Cod in the 19th century. Cut off from commerce, its economy based on fish, shellfish, the harvesting of salt hay, and the employment of its men as whalers and sailors, a commodity as basic as a cord of fire wood was a very valuable asset. The overseers of Mashpee "do not allow more wood to be carried to market, than can be spared; but it is for the general interest, that three or four hundred cords should be annual exported to Nantucket and other places."
Old photographs of the Cotuit waterfront show immense stacks of cordwood on piers awaiting loading on packet schooners bound for Nantucket. Cordwood Lane which leads through the woods of Eagle Pond to Cotuit's Inner Harbor is one vestige of the old cordwood trade. Grand Island or Oyster Harbors, was long a woodlot worked to supply Nantucket's insatiable demand for fuel. If Thoreau found Cape Cod devoid of trees, then Nantucket was bald, a sandy moor that demanded huge amounts of wood for the whaling ships that needed to render whale blubber into whale oil on the big brick tryworks that sat amidships. Cotuit was perfectly positioned navigationally as the port of preference for the wood trade. With the prevailing breezes from the southwest in the summer and the northeast in the winter, a schooner could make the 25 mile voyage across Nantucket Sound on a single tack in each direction. The Reverend Fish's woodlot, a scant two miles from Cotuit Bay, was perfectly positioned to supply that trade. The overseers had no problem with opening up Mashpee's natural bounties to the whites, most of whom harbored resentment of the riches left untouched inside of Richard Bourne's Praying Town. The overseers rented lands inside of Mashpee's borders to the whites for the grazing of livestock, they auctioned off wood shares, permitted fishing and shellfishing on its streams and ponds, and, in Nielsen's words, "the overseers believed there was plenty for all."
(to be continued in part 3)
Nov 13 2013
NYTimes: Tribe Claims Approval for Martha’s Vineyard Casino, Reviving Fight
Oct 31 2013
It will take a better statistician than me to make the case that the 2013 Boston Red Sox are the best, or second best, or whatever best team in the history of the club. I can't speak to anything first-hand experience back to 1967, when I was nine years old and playing bad first-base in the Georgetown, Massachusetts rec department's Farm League (pre-Little League) using an antique pancake mitt handed down from my grandfather, a relic I hated at the time but really wish I had today. That Impossible Dream team will always be the most vivid. 1975 was frankly a blur. The 1986 Buckner team was the most evil in its wicked mental torments. The Curse-bursting 2004 team the most blessed. The 2007 the most capable. But this one....I don't know, they just played wicked good and seemed to have fun and a showed lot of respect for the laundry.
Basking in the morning-after-glow of a great World Series game, everyone wants to roll over in bed,hug the lovable, bearded rascals and say, "I love you. Let's do it again." Sometime in the next few days the team will pile into the duck boats and parade around a happy city and Boston will have its moment finally after a baseball season that started fresh and raw and unknown in April and ended six months later the way the movies would have wanted it to.
Painting the house in April, on the ladder, WEEI kept me company on those chilly weekend afternoons with Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien calling the games in between Verizon Wireless and Shaw's Supermarket Little Debbie Snack Cake ads. As I scraped and prepped I kept an ear tuned for that tell-tale rise in excitement in their voices and listened as a lot of new names made their debut .Would I have called it then? Would I have made the prediction they'd go all the way "from worst to first?" Of course not, I was thinking maybe they'd get the wildcard but not make it past Toronto or Detroit. I trusted the new manager, John Farrell, solely on the basis of his killer jaw-line and that calm Gary Cooper demeanor so calm and firmly assuring after the Howdy Doody persona of his ill-fated predecessor Bobby "Did You Know He Invented the Wrap?" Valentine.
Then the Brothers Tsarnaev did their heinous deeds.
Suddenly the Red Sox were carrying a lot more psychic weight than just trying to redeem themselves from the days of Chicken-and-Beer and their last place finish the year before. They came home from the road trip and one could feel the city latch onto them, beseeching them to make it okay, to bring back the calm rhythms of a sunny afternoon game in Fenway, to sing the songs and chant the chants they cheered and sang the year before and the year before that. The Red Sox couldn't to carry the weight of the Marathon. They were happy to accept it and gracious in allowing Fenway to become the city's church and place of mourning; but as John Lester said, the team didn't have much to offer other than provide a diversion to get people's minds off the mess.
Boston is a city of ghosts where nothing really changes, a place with a ring of road salt rime around the cuffs of its pants; a pissed-off, wind chapped, itchy skin, sleet smeared windshield, can-you-fucking-believe-they-closed-the-Hilltop? town that isn't nearly as liberal as the rest of the country thinks it is, a college town that doesn't love the students who infest it, a kind of ugly place that retreats into its clannish neighborhoods, scores an eight-ball of whizzer and looks down at the bandwagon yuppies in their pink hats who sing "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth inning.
That horrible song with no connection what-so-ever to Boston or baseball is never going away. When The Neil Himself showed up and sang the damn thing at the Post-Marathon mourning session I gave up my campaign to ban it and just thank edthe Baseball Gods that we don't need to wave Surrender Towels like every other team's fans seem to need to do along with ring cowbells and follow big LED jumbotron exhortations to Make. Some. Noise. It is said that Red Sox fans are the tenth player on the roster. This sentimental, formerly cursed nation that cheers from Woonsocket to Millinocket (and who, after breaking the Curse in 2004 lugged team gear and flowers to the graves of their dearly departed so they could join in the celebration too) these fans like the loud, crazed drunk I once watched in a black and orange knit wool Bruins cap sitting behind the visitors bullpen who taunted J.D. Drew non-stop for collecting too much salary, and then who scornfully caught, barehanded, a Yankee homer whacked at him by the despised A-Rod and then hucked it back onto the field without a second thought or spilling a single drop of his $8.50 cup of 'Gansett.
I'm just glad to have the chance watch it all with my sons and my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law and nephews. Crowded around a television. Screaming and high-fiving. Drinking too much on a school night while layered in a #38 Schilling t-shirt with a Mike Lowell 2007 World Series MVP team jersey on over that, and a nasty smelly blue Red Sox hat speckled with bottom paint.
I doubt this fan will ever see a year of baseball like he saw in 2013 -- a double-headed championship crown that started with the Cotuit Kettleers and ends with the Olde Towne Team triumphant.
And David Ortiz is getting a statue in front of Fenway. Just saying.
Oct 14 2013
Sep 23 2013
I may be a traditionalist when it comes to racing sailboats -- I like them wooden, leaky and gaff-rigged -- and I have bitched about how the America's Cup needs to come back to Newport, Rhode Island and be raced in those oh-so-elegant 12-meters of my youth. But after spending a rapt half hour on the couch with my tablet and a half-hour of coverage from San Francisco Bay I take it all back. AC-72 catamarans are amazing things.
Catamarans have the reputation of being the jet-skis of the sailing world. The people who sail them tend to be adrenaline freaks who zip back and forth looking for speed and little else. The boats point into the wind like square-riggers, require elbow and knee pads and a crash helmet, and beg to be sailed while yelling "yee-hah." They entered the America's Cup under desperate circumstances in 1988 when Dennis Conner showed up in one to kick New Zealand's ass after they showed up in a 90-foot mega yacht and convinced a judge to uphold the move away from 12-meters as perfectly legal under the terms of the "Deed of Gift" -- the rules that govern the strange and venerable competition. Dennis and his catamaran sailed circles around the New Zealanders, the credibility of the America's Cup hit an all-time low, and all semblance of dignity went out the window. But catamarans were in.
Not that the America's Cup was ever a fair fight. As my buddy Charlie points out, the name of the game has been getting a technical edge from the very beginning when the American's sent an overpowered schooner over to England to kick the best butts in the Royal British Yacht Squadron. Half the battles have been in the courts, with challengers and defenders contesting the ambiguous rules every chance they get and giving full credence to the cliche of the "sea lawyer." Winged-keels, crews of ringers from foreign countries, billionaires with more bucks than brains ... what's not to love?
Whatever. I tip my hat to Larry Ellison for making it a total tech fest on Silicon Valley's home waters. These boats represent the cutting edge of aquatic technology, use nothing but the wind to scream along at more than 35 mph, and thanks to overlaid graphics, helicopters, onboard Go-Pro helmet cams, and crazy color commentary that would be more in place in a UFC cage match, finally putting to rest Mark Twain's old tired complaint that watching yacht racing is less exciting than watching paint dry or grass grow.
The US is behind -- docked two races for cheating -- and it's do-or-die with them needing to win all of the remaining race to stay in the game.
Sep 23 2013
Consider the state of the byline. The name of a writer on top of an article or blog post isn't enough anymore to let readers know the implied qualifications of that author now that publishers are opening up their mastheads and page-views to unpaid contributors, consultants, thought-leaders and advertisers in what New York Times media critic David Carr recently called "an oven that makes its own food."
Carr made that reference to Forbes.com and its decision to open its digital pages to external contributors, and in a brilliant revenue building move, to advertisers who pay to appear in an advertising channel Forbes calls BrandVoice, part of the current craze in digital advertising formats known as native advertising. Forbes isn't the first nor the last online publisher to welcome contributions from witers other than their full-time staff of reports and editors. Nor is it the first to practice native advertising, formerly known as "advertorial" or "custom" publishing. The Huffington Post was founded as a cacophony of bylines and voices, all vying for attention and traffic in the "look-at-me" economy. For publishers it's a sweet deal, letting them become Tom Sawyers who persuade others to paint the fence for them.
Bylines haven't always been a given in journalism. Jack Shafer, writing for Reuters in 2012, offers up the interesting historical note that General Joseph Hooker demanded reporters covering his campaigns during the Civil War put their names on their stories so he could hold them accountable. Hooker insisted on bylines “as a means of attributing responsibility and blame for the publication of material he found inaccurate or dangerous to the Army of the Potomac.”
The purpose of a byline is to simply attribute a story to a writer: one part vanity, another part accountability. Bylines aren't biographies of that writer, just a single three-word attribution ("By John Smith") that imply that the words and fact and opinions that follow were written by that person (Shafer writes about the proliferation of fake bylines flowing from off-shore content farms, but that's another story for another day). In the dinosaur days of mainstream print journalism there was an unspoken sense that if a publication granted a byline to a staff writer then that writer had a certain validation as being judged competent and experienced enough to grace the publication's masthead and pages.
A degree of professionalism in an unlicensed craft was assumed if the byline appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes or Time. Earning a byline from the Boston Globe implied a different level of professional quality and experience than a byline in the MetroWest Shopper. In short, a byline was a writer's equivalent to a doctor or lawyer tacking MD or JD onto their name. It was hard to earn but ultimately the only public recognition a reporter received. It took me a long time to earn a Forbes byline. Now any extroverted hyper-social networker with a craving for a high Klout score and a taste for LinkedIn/Quora influence points can start bloviating for free and walk away with "Forbes Columnist" on their resume.
Today the appeal of giving it away for free to Forbes is simple -- it's a great resume inflator. Now any aspiring expert can add Forbes to their resume and point to some digital clips as proof. The mounting number of would-be pundits on LinkedIn who proclaim themselves to be Forbes columnists or contributors reminds me of people who send away for mail order coats of arms.
You can call it the democratization of the press, the breaching of the walls of conceit that doomed dinosaur journalism, the wall that said "we're better than you" when it came to publishing the reader's letters of complaint and disagreement, the walls that said the only persons qualified to put a word on paper were those deemed qualified to do so by the editor who hired them and paid them. Mastheads were tough to crack -- ask any young journalist in the late 1970s who dreamed of breaking into the Washington Post and getting a seat at the same table as Woodward and Bernstein. Those seats were rare and hard to obtain, Ben Bradlee didn't hand them out to K-street lobbyists and Congressional staffers. Today? Hey, if you're willing to work for free and can string some words together into a coherent sentence, preferably with a provocative, link-bait point of view, then publishers are more than happy to give you a shot at OpEd immortality.
In this blurry world of "content marketing and native journalism," it is getting harder to tell the reporters from the advertisers. The wall between the journalism and the ads is coming down, and Carr and others (like Andrew Sullivan) are lamenting what we've lost. Sure, the money is nice and helping publishers make payroll (or avoid paying it) -- and some graphical efforts are being made to fence off the advertorial native stuff with tinted boxes, hairlines and little "sponsored by" tags -- but the blurring issue is out there and it isn't so much about segregating the paid words from the "real" words, it's about the qualifications of the byline as well.
Bylines are a relatively new phenomenon in journalism. They rarely appeared in 19th century newspapers, and indeed many writers used pen-names to mask their identity, particularly on political polemics. Thomas Paine, in writing Common Sense, one of the most influential calls-to-revolution in the years leading up to the American Revolution, chose to mask his identity and byline the work as merely: "Written by an Englishman."
As correspondents began to make a name for themselves and were prime draws for a newspaper during the lurid days of yellow journalism, when war correspondents like Richard Harding Davis and Ambrose Bierce were the stars of the press, bylines were marketing devices to build circulation. Some magazines don't grant bylines at all: The Economist is the best known practitioner of the anonymous policy.
I've freelanced under pseudonyms -- I got hired by Forbes when I wrote a try-out story about digital mapping in 1988 under a bogus name because I didn't want my then-current employer to know (that story won second place in the Computer Press Association awards in 1988, so the validity of the byline didn't have much to do with its credibility, though it was indeed a tacit deception on my part and Forbes' on their readers. )I have ghostwritten books, and continue to freelance edit and write assorted articles and whitepapers anonymously for a few clients in the consulting and corporate world. They evidently like my assistance due to my background in the professional press, and I like the fees they pay. There are a lot of ex-journalists like me turning a good buck writing corporate journalism these days and I don't begrudge them a penny.
The point of all of this is that the editorial authority of the old stalwarts is gone like their paper editions. They're trading on fading memories of being brands that stood for something important but are losing their mojo to Buzzfeed and TMZ. Newsweek? Dead. Businessweek? Sold for a dollar to Bloomberg. Forbes? Still alive and flourishing thanks to its experimentation, but still attracting the ire of the Times and other media critics for pushing the limits and definitions of the first medium to get truly disrupted and overthrown by the digital revolution.
Sep 09 2013
Book writing pays about a nickel an hour, so other than inflating one's resume in this modern attention economy, why bother? Anyway, here's three non-fiction book ideas that should be written but won't be written by me:
1. The Seedy Underbelly of the Internet: someone needs to get into the semi-sleazy, ethically challenged, weird world of spammers, hate bloggers, affiliate marketers, SEO whores, search toolbar installers, pay-per-posters, belly-fat miracle advertisers that buzz away on the edges of the noblest ambitions of the Interwebs. This is the desperate world of the grifters who exploit every technical advance and loophole from permalinks and trackbacks to page rank and SERP. They are work-at-homers, con men and women who produce garish content-marketing blogs, conduct seminars on how you too can make a stack of cash from Facebook and Twitter, whoring out your content link blog, and play the affiliate marketing game. They put pictures of girls with cleavage on their fake avatars, invite you to be their LinkedIn friend, then send you a message extolling their polystyrene packaging plant in South Korea. They scrape your blog posts and call them their own. They run automated spam bots that write semi-coherent comments on your blog. They pick epic flame battles with other scammers and revel in being hated. These are the true geniuses of precision marketing.
I get depressed just thinking about researching that one.
2. Conference Whore: if I were a rich man, and had nothing to do all day, I would spend my time attending a full year's worth of conferences and idea-fests like Davos, Burning Man, Demo, TED, a Microsoft Sharepoint convention in New Orleans, SIGGRAPH, Le Web, Forrester Consumer Experience, DrupalCon, CES ...... A life spent in airport lounges, business class, fancy golf resorts on the edge of San Diego, Palm Springs, Tahoe, a world of registration tables, name tags hung around the neck, keynotes, panel discussions, calls to raise my hand if I've ever ...., breakout sessions, hashtags and live-tweeting, questions from the audience (please wait for the microphone), networking events, happy hours, breakfast buffets, bio breaks. This would amazingly depressing -- a year on the road tracking the idea circuit, a perpetual junket in the weird alternate reality of the face-to-face event. To make it doubly depressing, combine Conference Whore with the Underbelly pitch and do nothing but attend sleazy marketing seminars on how to make a million buying domain names ....
The year of living at conferences would be very unhealthy, probably worth 25 pounds in ass fat and would probably lead to some sort of psychological warping.
(search for "conference badges" on Flickr. Tara Hunt is amazing)
3. Ziff Knew Weeds: The rise of the tech press in the 70s and 80s hasn't been written, but should, before the original old guard passes away. The title comes from my ex-boss, the late Bill Ziff, who was a super smart eccentric polymath who legend had it would strike up bizarre conversations with his employees about roadside weeds (he was an accomplished amateur botanist) .
From the first newletters and enthusiast bibles, to breakthrough pieces like Stewart Brand in Rolling Stone, the battling empires of Pat McGovern and Bill Ziff for dominance of the PC industry through PC World vs. PC Magazine, PC Week vs InfoWorld, MacWorld vs. MacWeek, Computerworld, Computershopper, Release 1.0 ..... the power of the tech press, a blend of geeks and old newspaper hacks and the sleazy tactics they deployed from dumpster diving in Silicon Valley to read Apple's trash to bribing teen-age printers apprentices in Iowa with t-shirts to cough up the first copies of IBM's user manuals, partying with Bill Gates at Comdex, refereeing epic pissing matches between boy wonders who would go onto become the richest men in the world, snorting coke in the review lab on deadline night .... The tech press of Boston and Silicon Valley chronicled the wild birth of an industry that changed the world, until they were waylaid by the Internet and put out of work by a new crop of gossipping gadget bloggers.
Anyway - there's three free book ideas for anyone with the patience and gumption to tackle them.