Mar 22 2014
This is what passes for humor when the wife and I are walking along the Thames.
Mar 22 2014
This is what passes for humor when the wife and I are walking along the Thames.
Mar 21 2014
So I cleared the US Customs “Global Entry Program” which means no more lines when I go hither and fro from the UK to the States. One of the customs officers asked if I was a Red Sox fan, a safe question to answer in a National League city, and he waxed poetic about his ambition to see the inside of Olde Fenway. I told him I was a season ticket holder, which is like wearing a pinkie ring and driving a Caddy for the Gambino Family when it comes to being a made man in Boston. I passed the background check which means I get to be that douchebag you hate. That guy who can breeze through the TSA with his belt and shoes on, laptop and liquids safe in his bag. Tis the season of being licensed and ticketed. I feel highly important as a result.
Mar 20 2014
“Boston, MA – March 20, 2014 – International Data Group IDG announced today with great sadness that its Founder and Chairman, Patrick J. McGovern, died March 19, 2014, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California.”
I worked for Pat McGovern for eight months in 2005 when I was running online at CXO — the branch of IDG publishing that published CIO, CSO, CMO Magazines. I competed against his publications in the early 80s when I worked for PC Week, the arch-rival of IDG’s InfoWorld.
There are going to be a ton of Pat McGovern stories told over the next few days. Here’s mine.
While Pat was a lion in technology publishing he was also one of the first and most influential western businessmen to operate in the People’s Republic of China. His presence in China, his reputation there to this very day, is legendary and made him the most well known and respected Westerner sin the Chinese tech sector. His VC investments in the likes of Baidu were early and massive successes. The man even spoke Mandarin.
During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics I was surprised to find myself riding in the back of a bus with Pat on our way to a private dinner with Lenovo’s senior executives and some heavy hitting senior execs from Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, etc.. I saw him sitting alone in the back of the bus, so I sat down beside him and started chatting him up, thanking him for the opportunity to briefly work for him before quitting to join Lenovo. He was legendary for his photographic memory and immediately made the connection and started peppering me with questions.
As the bus crawled through traffic it was apparent that most everybody sitting within six rows of us was eaves-dropping on the conversation, most of them unaware of who Pat was. He was a big man but a soft spoken one; not at all brash or loud. So I introduced him around to the people in the adjacent seats as the first Westerner to do business in Communist China, well before Deng’s market reforms that led to “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” and unlocked the Chinese growth we marvel at today. I urged Pat to tell the bus the story of how he infiltrated China in the 1970s. The story went roughly like this: Pat was on a flight from Japan to Russia and figured out he could make a “connection” in Beijing. This is back in the era of Nixon-Mao and PingPong diplomacy. Let’s just say there were no princelings drag racing Ferrari’s around the third ring road back then. Anyway, the plane lands, Pat looks out the window, amazed he’s this close to the mysterious closed country. So he gets off the plane. The plane leaves without him. The Red Guard are confronted with this American standing in their airport essentially saying “Take me to your leader.”
Pat humbly regaled the bus for 30 minutes with the story of how he invaded China, set up the first Chinese tech publications, and earned the trust and respect of the Chinese government. When we arrived at the restaurant it was my Chinese colleagues who really lit up at the sight of him, hustling him away to a place of honor next to the chairman and CEO of Lenovo as befitted the father of Chinese computer journalism.
He was a genuinely great man. Here’s his story of how he entered China as captured in the official IDG oral history:
Mar 11 2014
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.
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.
|Copping, Calvin||RHP||R/R||6’3||180||2016||Cal St Northridge|
|Fisher, Jameson||C/INF||L/R||6’2||180||2016||SE Louisiana|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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.
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 29 2014
The complete story of the Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833 is here: The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833
Jan 29 2014
Jack London popularized the phenomenon known as Oyster Piracy in his early writings about life on San Francisco Bay at the turn of the 20th century, and the term has always conjured up some romantic vision of stealthy clammers plundering an oyster bed with muffled oars under the darkness of a new moon. Sadly, the practice has hit Cape Cod’s commercial oyster farms from the Marstons Mills River across to the northside of the Cape from Barnstable to Dennis. The total losses are estimated at $40,000, rewards have been posted, stakeouts and security cameras have yielded nothing, but according to the Cape Cod Times, a culprit has been identified and being reviewed by a grand jury.
“Police say they know who stole more than $40,000 in oysters and equipment from beds in East Dennis and Barnstable last summer, but they’re not quite ready to publicly name the culprit.
Barnstable police Lt. Sean Balcom, who heads the Barnstable Street Crime Unit, called the anticipated end of the five-month investigation by multiple public safety agencies “the result of police work and the rewards” that were offered. The street crime unit was tipped to the identity of the poacher by one of its informants, Balcom said.”
Anyone who has ordered a plate of oysters in a restaurant knows how much these things sell for. While I don’t know what the market price is, I wonder who bought the “hot” clams. Is there a “clam fence” somewhere on the Cape? Whoever ripped off the oysters from the Mills River was selling pretty nasty clams that usually get relayed to cleaner water before they are safe to eat. A little hepatitis or vibro anyone?
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 20 2014
Six years ago Google began positioning it’s excellent browser, Chrome, as a operating system for so-called “cloud PCs” — computers that achieved full functionality when they were connected to the internet. At the time, when I was working at Lenovo, the concept was pretty far advanced and garnered some skepticism, especially inside of Lenovo which was deeply wedded to the Windows-Intel world of traditional computing. I was part of the advanced project team under Peter Gaucher and Peter Hortensius working on our own cloud PC, a gorgeous little Richard Sapper design called the Skylight which went on to win best in show at the 2010 CES but never was sold because the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor was too feeble to give the kind of user experience the newly launched iPad delivered.
I was a big advocate for Lenovo to make the Skylight a Chromium-OS machine, but we went our own way with a proprietary operating environment. I remained fixated on the notion of a browser-centric user-interface and OS, and ported Chromium onto a Lenovo S10 netbook with pleasing results.
Lenovo didn’t jump onto Chromebooks (they do apparently have a education-focused offering in their catalogue, but nothing for consumers) the way Acer, Samsung and Hewlett Packard did.
I ordered a C720 from Acer via Amazon a few weeks ago and have been using it as my primary portable PC. I have say the thing is remarkable for the price; $250, offers near full functionality, and is incredibly well integrated with my Google account (as one would expect). It’s fast, based on Intel’s Haswell architecture, and is the best crappy computer I’ve ever owned.
Although I’ve tended to be a Dropbox fanatic when it comes to cloud document storage, the Chromebook is pushing me back to Google Drive, even though Dropbox is perfectly usable through its web interface on the machine. The device plays movies beautifully, has great sound, a decent keyboard (not great), and a trackpad that does what it needs to do. I find myself touching the screen out of habit born from my Nexus 7 tablet, but for notetaking, quick blog posts, and looking stuff up, the machine is probably the single best technology purchase I’ve made in years. Sure the build quality is a little plasticky, and the cover is too stiff to pop open with one hand, but the battery goes for nine hours, the thing is thin and light, and will be toting it to London tonight and leaving behind my monster corporate issued Dell notebook with no regrets whatsoever.
Yes, the machine wants an internet connection to thrive, but I can use Gmail and the Google apps offline — on a plane for example — without much problem. This is my leave-hanging-around-the-house PC.
If I were Microsoft and trying to get traction on Surface, or any of the traditional PC companies hoping to hang onto hardware margins, the Chromebook category would give me the willies. These things now account for 10% of corporate and consumer PC purchases, literally coming out of no where. At the $250 price band they become semi-disposable — all the personal data is essentially in the cloud if they are lost or stepped on — and are far lighter to tote through an airport than a traditional notebook.
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:
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:
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 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.”
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 14 2013
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.”
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.
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:
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 22 2013
In the annals of native/colonist relations, little can be objectively known about the true nature of the interactions between the English settlers of Eastern Massachusetts and the tribe that “welcomed” them, the Wampanoag. The record is one-sided and dominated by the English and their system of deeds, genealogies, written records and literature. This has led to the perpetuation of the pleasant myth of Wampanoag welcoming and cooperating with the Pilgrims, a myth created in the 19th century in a burst of American patriotism and nostalgia which lives on in the quaint concept of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a Thanksgiving feast.
The Wampanoag now regard Thanksgiving as a day of mourning, and, thanks to recent scrutiny of the actual historical record, it’s apparent the tribe are the forgotten first victims of the American “dream.”
If, as Churchill said, “history is written by the victors,” the Wampanoags left little in the way of a written record of their relations and feelings towards the colonists. They had no written language, only their Algonquin dialect, and no historical tradition beyond the spoken word and creation myths.
The discovery and re-publication of a unique account written by a member of the Connecticut Pequot tribe, William Apes (Apess), has revealed the earliest autobiography in American literature by a native, as well as cast some light on a little known incident that took place 180 years ago on the Wampanoag “reservation” or “praying town” of Mashpee, near its border with the village of Cotuit, is a little known historical incident that occurred 180 years ago, in a wood lot near the Santuit River between a group of angry Wampanoag natives, two brothers from Cotuit, and an alcoholic activist preacher, Apess.
Variously known as the Woodlot Revolt or the “Quarrel” (as Cotuit historian Jim Gould refers to it), it has been dusted off by historians and held up in recent years as the first significant expression of sovereign rights by a native tribe since contact with the colonists occurred more than 200 years before. The preacher, William Apes (who preferred the pronunciation “Apess”) was an eloquent and graceful writer, who’s work, “A Native of the Forest” has been republished in recent years and is regarded as one of the most important pieces of literature penned by a native writer.
Before I rush to an account of the events that happened that hot July day in 1833, let me set the historical table with a quick summary of how Mashpee, our conterminous neighbor to the west, came to be, and attempt to convey a sense of what relations were between the whites of Cotuit and the natives of the Plantation of Marshpee.
Before the English, with their love of deeds and records and certificates of birth, marriage and death, came to these shores, the history of the Wampanoag tribe — which means “Children of the Eastern Light” in their Algonquin dialet, Wopanaak — was purely an oral one, with no record left except the traditions and stories told by one generation to the next. Like their comprehension of private property, boundary lines and fishing rights, the Wampanoag sense of history was passed from one generation to the next through word of mouth and shared understanding.
In 1643, the Pilgrim’s military “muscle”, Captain Miles Standish, came to Cape Cod to buy land from the natives for the colonists. Land was everything to the Europeans. Land meant status, land meant class, land conferred rights that serfs and peassants could only dream of. In Europe land was inherited or conquered, rarely bought and sold, and the allure of the virgin forests of New England must have been breathtaking to the first settlers who saw before them as limitless wilderness that was theirs to take for a mere kettle and a ho.
Yes, Standish negotiated the transaction with the Wampanoag leader Paupmunnuck that gave the English the rights to settle Cotachester (modern Osterville) and Cotuit for the price of a kettle, a ho, and a promise to build a fence around the Wampanoag camp which may have been located on Oyster Harbors or Point Isabella according to Jim Gould.
The borders were blurry.. Surveyors were a luxury and boundaries and limits were rough descriptions of streams and boulders, landmarks and limits. Little was written down and put on file, and indeed, Paupmunnuck and his people may not have comprehended what such a transaction meant, especially when it came to concepts such as trespassing to a people accustomed to moving from camp to camp with the seasons, moving inland in the winter for shelter and to the coast in the summer for the same reasons we prize the shore today.
The western border between Barnstable and the Indians was set along the banks of the Santuit River and Santuit Pond. Such “rivers” or streams were incredibly valuable sources of protein when the herring run happened every spring, and were also potential sources of power to drive grist mills for the grinding of corn.
The settlers may have regarded the Santuit River as a convenient source of these things, but the Wampanoags told the story of how it was created by a frustrated giant man-sized trout named , who upon hearing the siren song of a beautiful Wampanoag maiden singing on the shores of Santuit Pond, thrashed and wriggled his way through the forest from Popponesset Bay to find her, only to die just yards from his doomed love. She was also transformed into a fish, but died of grief and both of them buried together in the Trout Mound which stands today a short distance to the south and east of the herring ladders at the southern end of Santuit Pond.
This area of Mashpee and Santuit is where the rest of this story is focused so let’s focus on the map for a moment.
Mashpee was formed in the 1660s by Richard Bourne of Sandwich, a prominent lawyer and minister who was part of the early missionary movement led by John Eliot — the minister who translated the Bible into Wopanaak — and which led to the founding of Harvard College as a so called “Indian School.” The conversion of the savages was an immediate priorty of the first settlers, and Bourne acted as a liason between the whites of this area and the tribe, administering to them during an epidemic where his survival conferred some god-like attributes in the eyes of the natives, and working on their behalf to acquire land in around the area to establish a “plantation” for their benefit.
In 1660 Bourne completed the purchase of the 16 square miles that roughly comprise Mashpee and established a deed which granted the land to the Wampanoags with restrictions on their ability to sell that land to the English who were always hot for land and indeed, were beginning to trespass and poach on the lands Standish didn’t buy in 1648. Bourne addressed the fuzziness of the western border between Barnstable and Mashpee, and at his insistence the boundaries were re-set to move the line around the “ancient Indian” village at the southeast corner of the pond.
In 1661 a meetinghouse for the tribe was built on Briant’s Point on the southern end of Santuit Pond. This was replaced by another structure in 1670 , the same building that was eventually moved in 1770 to its present site on Route 28, the Old Falmouth Road.
In 1670 tensions between the settlers and the tribe deteriorated — with the Wampanoag leader Metacomet, or “King Philip” as he was called by the colonists, leading the Wampanoags from their headquarters on Mount Hope Bay near modern Bristol, RI on a three year war of burnings, kidnappings, and terror that swept eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island but never involved Cape Cod.
Mashpee was viewed as the prototypical “Praying Town” — one where the influence of the missionaries and the conversion process into Xhristianity was sufficiently advanced that the tribe could be trusted. One can only assume the level of tension and emotions that ranged along the border of Cotuit and Mashpee during those tense years, marked in American history as perhaps the bloodiest per capita according to the historian Nathaniel Philbrick in his excellent history, “The Mayflower.”
Post war, as the colonists enacted a terrible retribution against the Wampanoags, resettling large numbers on Bermuda, while permitting alcohol to further erode their numbers, the missionaries resumed their conversions and ministrations, using the institution of the Congregational Church and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel as the civilizing center of life in Marshpee. Because the focus of the Harvard Indian College was the training and ordination of native ministers, the college played an integral role, a very paternalistic one, in overseeing the affairs of the village.
This paternalism persisted throughout the 1700s, manifesting itself in a combination of church and state — in this case church and colony — oversight consisting of a board of white overseers who looked after the affairs of the tribe, raised money to pay its expenses and provided the funds to pay the salary of the minister, the parsonage and meetinghouse.
To be continued …