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Orleans Town


Orleans Town Hall is located at 19 School Road, Orleans, MA 02653; phone: 508-240-3700.

Beginnings [1]

First settled about 1693, Orleans was incorporated in 1797. The town is presumably named for Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who visited New England in 1797. The settlers were engaged in shipping, shell fisheries and salt works. Windmills and surf mills were used to pump the sea water for the salt works vats located on the shore.

Orleans, like other coastal towns, suffered during the War of 1812, but immediately afterward had a return to prosperity and the number of salt works increased to 50, cod fisheries were developed, and the fields, fertilized by horseshoe crabs and seaweed, were cultivated. Even manufacturing represented by a shirt and overalls factory was attempted, and lasted until about 1900. Catering to tourists was the most profitable enterprise in the 1930s.

Orleans was the setting for Joseph C. Lincoln's novel, Mr. Pratt,, of which Thoreau gave excellent descriptions of it in Cape Cod. Elizabeth Reynard preserved local folklore in her work, The Narrow Land.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for Massachusetts, Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, American Guide Series, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1937.
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