Charles W Jenkins.

Three lectures on the early history of the town of Falmouth : covering the time from its settlement to 1812 online

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Online LibraryCharles W JenkinsThree lectures on the early history of the town of Falmouth : covering the time from its settlement to 1812 → online text (page 1 of 9)
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From Its Settlement to 1812.



" That thingN are not so 111 with yon and rae as
tbey mlsrht have been, Is half owingr to the number
who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvis-
Ited tombs." George Eliot.



(Thb local Pbess.)



THE MATERIAL in this volume forms three lectures on the Ear-
ly History of Falmouth, which were written and delivered by
Mr. Charles W. Jenkins, in Falmouth, about the year 1843. They
were afterwards lent and lost for many years, but were recovered by
me a few years ago, and are now printed as an addition to the litera-
ture of the two hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the


Only slight verbal changes have been made in the text of the
lectures. Mr. Jenkins devoted much time and careful study to the
records of the town, church and society, and also learned much
town tradition from the older inhabitants ; information which could
not be gathered now, nearly fifty years later.

It is to be hoped that some one may be interested to take
up immediately the history where these lectures leave it, 18 12, and
carry it on to the close of the war of the Rebellion. The difficulty
of getting the data for such a record will increase rapidly from now


Edward H. Jenkins.
New Haven, Conn., Oct. 1889.


Introduction, »

I. History of Falmouth from 1600 to 1700, 4
Civil History.

Bartholomew Gosnold, 4

Indian Tribes in the Region, 5
Acquiring title to land and treatment of Indians

by the settlers, 8
Origin of the Settlers and first landing at Fal-
mouth, 10
Original Division of lands at Falmouth Village

and Woods Hole, 15

Division of lands at West Falmouth, 19

Incorporation in 1689, t$

Taking up of land at East End of Town, »$

Levy for the Expedition against Quebec, a8
Ecclesiastical History.

Relations with Quakers, 30

First Provision for Public Worship, 3«

II. History of Falmouth from 1700 to 1774, 33
Civil History.

" Town's Book," 35

Town House, 37

The Retrenchment Party, 37

Laying out of " New Purchase," 41

Clay bank for Proprietors' use, 48

Disputes as to Boundaries, 45

The Town's School, 48

The First Grist Mill, 49

Fixing the Marshpee Line, 49

A Town Surplus, 50

" The Meeting-house Lot," 54

School Districts and the Grammar School, 55

Trouble with Millers, 56

Ecclesiastical History.
Labors of Mr. Shiverick, 59
Calling and Settlement of Mr. Metcalf, 60
Organization of a Church, 64
Services of Rev. Josiah Marshall, 67
Calling and Settlement of Rev. Samuel Pal-
mer, 68
A New Meeting-house, 74
in. History of Falmouth from 1774 to i8ia. 76

Civil History.

Arming of the Citizens, 78
Procuring Food by the Town, 79-83

Call from the Committee of Safety, 80

Visit of the British Fleet, 84

Fights with Privateers, 90

Draft for the Continental Army, 93

The Great Herring Controversy, 96

Falmouth Wharf 98

The Artillery Co., 98

Ecclesiastical History.

Settlement of Rev. Z. Butler, 99

Settlement of Rev. Isaiah Mann, 100

Friends' Meeting House, too

Settlement of Rev. Henry Lincoln, loi

The New Meeting House, 103
Discharge of Friends or Quakers from church taxes, 105

Establishment of the Methodist Church, 105


There is no country whatever its condition, whose history may
not be instructive. If its government has been equitable, its laws
just and its achievements praise-worthy, its history will be valuable
as furnishing models, and establishing precedents that may be safely
followed by succeeding generations. If, on the contrary, its govern-
ment has sacrificed the interests of the many for the benefit of the
few, if it has been the theatre of unhallowed ambition, of insatiate
avarice, or of cruel oppression, its history will still be valuable, as
illustrating the evils of national tyranny, ignorance and debasement.
Most richly does New England merit the attention and study of the
historian on account of the causes that led to its settlement, its
small beginnings, its early poverty, trials and exposures, its rapid
growth and its present character, resources, power and influence.
The impartial historian will find the causes of this wonderful
development not in the severity of its climate or the barrenness of
its soil, not mainly in the presence or absence of any external condi-
tions, but in the private virtues, untiring industry and unshaken
fortitude of its first colonists, sustained and fostered by wise and
good laws, faithfully and impartially executed. We may well be
proud of our early history and use all means in our ])ower carefully


to collect and presen-e all the incidents connected with it. It is to
be regretted that the early settlers were so careless in the keeping of
the records — that so few authenticated facts can now be obtained
respecting the settlement of our oldest towns. Although it is little
more than one hundred and eighty years since the first settlement of
this town, very little satisfactory information relating to the early
labours, trials and sufferings of our fathers in subduing the wilder-
ness and preparing for us this goodly heritage, can now be collected,
x^s a native of this town and a regular descendant in both lines of
his ancestry of two of the first Englishmen who trod this soil, the
writer has long felt a strong desire to learn more respecting the
origin, character and acts of the first settlers of Falmouth. Impelled
by this feeling he has made such inquiries and collected such facts
as the little time at his disposal would allow. The sources of
information have been more numerous than was anticipated at the
commencement of the effort. The facts and incidents that follow
have been gathered :

I St, — From the Recofds of the Toum. These contain more
than has generally been supposed. The records previous to 1800
were kept in so irregular a manner, — town meetings, ear marks,
births, marriages and deaths being promiscuously interspersed, and
for the most part in a hand-writing more resembling Hebrew text
than the King's English — that few have attempted to read through
these sizable books to sift out and arrange their contents in system
and order.

2nd, — From Tradiiion. Information from this source cannot
prove so satisfactory as from record — yet when it serves to corrobor-
ate statements otherwise made probable, it may be generally received.
The importance to be attached to traditionary history depends very
much on the number of generations through which it has passed, as


well as the character and intelligence of those through whom it has
been transmitted. Only six generations have passed off the stage of
life since our fathers first landed on this coast and they were honest
and intelligent men. In the absence of inducements to deceive
therefore, we cannot doubt the general accuracy of most of the
traditions that have been handed down. In conversation with the
speaker some of our oldest neighbors have narrated circumstances
told them by their parents which go back more than one hundred
and twenty-five years.

3rd, — The remaining source has been, FiMications relating to
the affairs of the first colonies — and Correspondence with persons in
the neighboring towns who were supposed to possess information
relative to our early history. As natives of the town almost every-
thing relating to our origin and history it is worth our while to pre-
serve, and if the speaker shall go quite fully into detail, it is hoped
it will not be tedious. He regrets that he is not able to throw a
greater charm about the narrative of the deeds of our fathers, but
is conscious of having done what he could under the circumstances
in which he has been placed, and throws himself on the indulgence
of his audience, hoping that his efforts may be received with some
degree of favor.

Section ist, from 1660 to 1700.

We are not sure but Falmouth* may yet claim the honor of
being the first spot on the main land of America on which an Eng-
lishman ever trod. New facts relating to our early histoiy are
coming to light and the praiseworthy efforts that are now being made
by the Massachusetts Historical Society and other kindred associa-
tions to collect and authenticate these facts will undoubtedly throw
much new light on the events that led to our establishment as a peo-
ple on these western shores. The society just alluded to has quite
recently come in possession of some manuscripts through an Ameri-
can traveller in Europe, giving a particular account of Bartholomew
(iosnold's visit to the Elizabeth Islands in 1602.

He was the first English navigator (of whom we have any
account) that passed through the Vineyard Sound. He came into

* The town of Fahnoiith forms the soiith-westem extremity of Cape Cod

—being bounfled on the north-cast by a straight line dividing it from the town of
Sandwicli and the north-west br a small stream nmning from Hope Spring, at
the extreme north point, into Cataumet or Wild Harbor; on the east by the
reservation of Mashpee; on the south by Vineyard Sound; and on the west by
Buzzard's Bay. Its situation is found to be Lat. 41 degrees, 34 minutes— I-ongitude
70 desn'ees, So minutes, 45 seconds. For the latitude I am indebted to Capt. H. C.
Bunker— for the longitude to Capt. .John Crocker- both the result of actual


it from the eastward on the 21st of May of that year, and on the
following day landed on the island opposite, Martha's Vineyard. He
proceeded on the 24th to the next islands to which he gave the name
of his Queen — calling them the Elizabeth Islands. He is said to have
reached the main land on the 31st, seeking a favorable location
for a setdement. Having this object in view it is natural to suppose
he would first land on the nearest point of the continent and it is
not at all improbable that his first landing was at Wood's HoU. He
undoubtedly landed on the main in the vicinity of New Bedford also,
but probably not until he had explored and rejected this region for a
settlement. He is said to have resolved finally on a settlement at
one of the islands because it made his position more secure from
the attacks of the natives and actually commenced the building of
a fort, but his men revolted and it was abandoned.

It is natural for us here to inquire what was the condition of
this township before its occupation by Europeans. I have not been
able to find any record of a distinct tribe of aborigines living here.
The nearest distinct tribes of vrhich we have any account were the
Herring River Indians about twelve miles to the north, and the
Mashpee Indians about the same distance to the east. The New-
England Memorial mentions the missionary tours of Rev. Mr.

observation and undoubtetlly correct. A range of hills partly covered with oak
forest extends from Woods Hole in a northerly direction tlie whole length of
the township. The rest of the town is uncommonly level, the soil being mostly
a gravelly loani except in the enstern section v Inch is light and sandy. Its
extreme width of coast on a straight line from Wood's Holl to the Mashpee line
is about 9 0-4 miles, and its depth on a straight line from Falmouth Wharf to
Hope Spiing is S miU-s, l.'> rods. The town contains :tbout 'l.'i square miles.
Population in 1840, iSlfi. There is a small discrepancy between the census tnken
by the town and thnt taken by order of government. The Government census
was 25(>4, but the former taken by our selectmen is undonl)tedl>- correct. The
population is di\-ided »s follows: East Falmouth to sign at Tateket !<05.
North Falmouth to C'apt. Walter Davis' and Tateket sign post 5oiS. From Wood's
Hole to Tatefeet sign post lloij. According to the Collections of Mass. Hist.
Society the population of Falmouth in 17G4 was liiii; in 1776 was 1355; in 1790
was 16;}7; in i?00 was 18(<-2.


Cotton of the Plymouth Colony to a small tribe of Indians (about
50) on Buzzard's Bay, but whether this tribe was living on the west
or east side of the Bay cannot now be determined. From the
nearness of this region to the sea, its numerous ponds and streams
furnishing so many facilities for fishing and hunting we should infer
that it must have been thickly inhabited, and to this opinion I
incline for several reasons. One is the Indian names given to the
different sections of the town. We have Acaposket, Quisset,
Tateket, Chapoquit, Cataumet, Ashumet, Waquoit, &c., all of them
probably names of Indian villages. Cataumet and Chapoquit are
known to have been considerable Indian villages. A large Indian
burying ground may now be found at the latter place, — another in
the rear of Mrs. Hervey Weeks' house was ploughed up a few years

Some have supposed the name Tateket was given to a section
made by an imaginary line drawn nearly North and South and dividing
what was termed the "new purchase" into two divisions. I can find
nothing to support such an opinion. The name Tateket was applied
as the records show to the same place as it now is long before the
new purchase was run out; as early as 1685. Frequent mention is
made of Christopher (Jifford as one of the principal proprietors in
this region about 1690.

A second reason for believing that this region was thickly
inhabited by Indians previous to its settlement by our ancestors is
the great number of Indian relics which our old people tell us have
been found in breaking up the soil. Immense quantities of stone
arrows have been ploughed up near the west coast of the town. It
is probable, however, that the tribes in this vicinity has been greatly
reduced before the first settlement by the whites had commenced —
for we know that the smallpox made great ravages among the Indians


about the time of the first discovery of the country. The favorite
haunts of the Indians seem to have been on the west side of the
township near the margin of the Bay and around Quisset and Hog
Island Harbors, and here their titles were last extinguished.

There was a celebrated family in this region by the name of
Shanks or Shaunks and there is a small pond neat the residence of
Mr. Joseph Robinson known to this dav as Shank's Pond. Mr.
Melatiah Gifford tells me that his father has often described an
Indian wigwam near this pond that he had visited in his younger
days, and that he well remembered the festoons of clams that were
suspended around the apartment until they had become, from the
smoke of the common fire in the centre^ as brown as bacon. The
occupant of this wigwam was remarkable for his height as well as
for the irregularity of his habits. His visits to the white settlements
on the coast for strong water were quite frequent ard his condition
on his return could be pretty accurately ascertained long before his
arrival, for the outline of his remarkably tall figure could be defined
at a distance as he came over the hills following a more or less
devious course according to the depth of his potations. Another
member of this notorious family lived a little farther to the westward.
He was an unfortunate Indian, being, "a hen-picked husband." or in
plain English, his squaw ruled him with a rod of iron. The follow-
ing anecdote is related of him. Encouraged by the white settlers
he undertook to raise hay. He obtained of them a scythe, but on
using it he found it too soft. He had noticed that the English
hardened iron by heating it and dipping it in cold water. He made
a large fire, heated his scythe extremely hot and then threw it into a
pond, which bent it up and spoiled it. His squaw, who had learned
by observation something more than he of the process of hardening
iron, was greatly vexed and addressed him thus, "You old fool ;


didn't you know that such sudden heats and colds would never do?"
An Indian called "Tob" retained a tract of about 50 acres long after
the natives around him had sold out.

It is an interesting question, — How did our fathers acquire and
establish their titles to the soil? It appears from the Old Colony-
records that when new settlements were commenced the lands were
purchased of the natives with the consent of the court and each
one squatted or settled where it best suited his convenience, having
the greater part of the lands "in common." Owing to this loose
way of doing things, controversies soon sprang up between compan-
ies living near each other, to obviate w hich, application was made to
the government at Plymouth for grants establishing the boundaries
and confirming to the settlers the various tracts they had obtained.
But did our fathers deal truly and honorably with the Indians in the
purchase of the soil? The following extract is from a letter of
Gov, Winslow dated Marshfield, May i, 1676, and found in Holmes'
Annals. "I think I can clearly say that the English did not possess
one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by
honest purchase of the Indian proprietors. We first made a law
that none should purchase or receive of gift any land of the Indians
without the knowledge of our Court. And lest they should be
straightened, we ordered that Mount Hope, Pocasset and several
other necks of the best land in the colony, because most suitable
and convenient for them, should never be bought out of their
hands." *

* Tito t'orcnvingr record also illustrates tlie regai-rt that was held for the

rights of Indiajip; At a meeting held Aug. iSd. 17i4, Weiiuaunjuissett Keck was
given to .I"h:i Weeks, his heirs and assigns forever, "provided and on condition
that the sd. .Tolni Weeks, his heirs and assigns, do forever hereafter save harm-
less and iudemnitize the sd. Proprietors from the just claim of the heirs or
generation of Weqeeoxett, an Indian deceased, respectii:g a former libeitj- that
was granted unto sd. Indians, i>r by them ref^erAed for cutting of lire wood on
the common or undivided lands in sd. Falmouth." [E. H. J.]


A law was passed in 1643 that no person or persons should
purchase or even hire any land of the Indians without the knowl-
edge and consent of the Colony, on a penalty of ^5. for ever}- acre
thus obtained.

This is not the place to discuss at length the treatment of the
Indians by the English settlers, but I cannot forbear an expression of
my firm conviction that our fathers generally made great sacrifices to
conciliate the natives and that it was not a mere worldly policy that
stimulated their zeal to secure their friendship and to do them good.
Great and self-denying efforts were made to secure to them religious
instruction and with great success. As a general thing the settlers
did what they could to avoid collision, and their wars were simply
struggles for self-preservation. The celebrated Eliot, the apostle to
the Indians, made several tours to the Indians on Martha's Vineyard
and passing on his way thither (as he undoubtedly did) through this
town made, as we may suppose, these villages and hills echo with the
sound of his voice, proclaiming to the assembled groups of the
aborigines the mild and to them the new religion of the Saviour. It
may here be added that the Indians were encouraged to aspire to
stations of responsibility and trust, and the more intelligent among
them were in some cases appointed under the government as magis-
trates. You have heard the anecdote respecting an Indian consta-
ble's warrant which ran thus — ''I Plihondi. you Peter Waterman.
Jeremy A\'icket ; — quick you take him. fast you hold him, straiglit
you bring him before me Hihondi."

Tradition says that at the time the first settlers arrived here
there was war between the natives on the main land and a tribe on
Martha's \'ineyard and that the whites experienced much inconveni-
ence in consequence of their operations. Although no general mis-
understanding seems to have occurred between the natives and the


whites, yet many personal encount'^rs are said to have occurred and
many acts of violence were committed. In conversation with a lady
a few days since — now in her 79th year, — I was informed that her
parents settled in Quisset, and that a wigwam, which she had often
visited when a child, stood near the present residence of Mr. Solomon
Davis. She also told me that her great-uncle, when a lad, was
stolen by the Indians and taken with his mother to the sea, where
the party embarked in a canoe. The lad was commanded to seat
himself in the canoe, but not understanding the language of the
natives and remaining in a standing position, he received a blow on
his head, the mark of which he bore ever after. The weather was
cold and on arriving at their place of destination the mother was
excluded from the wigwams and perished in the night. The boy
after remaining a long time with the Indians, ran away and got back
to his hom.e. I\Iany similar occurrences might be mentioned, show-
ing that our fathers had other trials than simply those that are always
attendant on the settlement of a new country.

The earliest records of the town are comprised in a manuscript
book called "Proprietors' Records" and dated November 29th, 1661.
This book contains little else than the divisions and bounds of lands
as they were set off to the original proprietors. It gives us the
names of the first settlers, but from them we can gain no knowledge
as to whom they were, from v,'hence they came, or when and how they
arrived. These interesting questions I shall attempt to answer. We
will go back to the county of Kent in England. A company from
this county arrived in New England and began the settlement of
Scituate. about 1628. The first principal street laid out in Scituate
was called Kent Street. It is stated in the Collections of the
Mass. Historical Society, "Scituate, indebted to the substantial charac-


ter of some of its founders, many of whom it is evident came from
Kent, in England, soon became a respectable town, taking early the
lead in rates and levies of men, which superiority it maintained to
the latest annals of the colony. Are you a Kentish man, or a man
of Kent? has its historical value as it respects origin." A part of
this first company that commenced the settlement at Scituate
removed to West Barnstable, and commenced the settlement of that
town in 1639. Tradition says the first company of settlers of Fal-
mouth arrived in 1660, in boats from Barnstable and landed between
Fresh* and Salt Ponds, where they encamped until their homes
were constructed.

The following anecdote has been handed down by tradition and
is probably hterally true. The first night after landing, the emi-
grants encamped in the flag swamp at the south end of Fresh pond,
being greatly fatigued with the passage, landing, etc. The wife of
Jonathan Hatch had a son born somewhat unexpectedly the same
night. When asked what she would have him named, she replied 'He
was born amongst the flags and his name shall be Moses.' This
name together with the land first set off to this Jonathan Hatch has
descended in the same family to the present day, [1S43.]

The first records of Barnstable were kept in a very loose man-
ner, being on detached pieces of paper. These were collected after
many years (as many as could be found) and copied in a book and
the originals destroyed. But the fact that all the names of the first
settlers of Falmouth were Barnstable names, and most of them
Scituate names, confirms and estabUshes the tradition that they
came from Barnstable to this place.

Their names as they appear on the record are the following —

• Or Consider Hatch's Poml, called 'Sider's Pond for short. [K. H. J.]


Jonathan Hatch, Isaac Robinson, John Chapman, John Jenkins,
James Hamhn, Mr. Thomas, Samuel Fuller, Thomas Lathrop,
Anthony Annibel, Peter Blossom. William Nelson, James Cobb.
Samuel Hinckley, Thomas Ewer. A few weeks ago I sent a copy of
these names to a gentleman living at Barnstable, who is well
acquainted with the early history of that town, asking for information
on this subject. He wrote me that no record could be found of the
removal of this company from that place but that these were all
Barnstable names. I have since traced one of these individuals
from Scituate through Barnstable to this town which decides the

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Online LibraryCharles W JenkinsThree lectures on the early history of the town of Falmouth : covering the time from its settlement to 1812 → online text (page 1 of 9)