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Eastham Town

Barnstable County, Massachusetts

Eastham Town Hall is located at 2500 Mid‑Cape Highway (Route 6), Eastham, MA 02642.
Phone: 508‑240‑5900.


Beginnings [1]

First settled about 1644, the Town of Eastham was incorporated in 1651. The area was explored as early as 1606 by Champlain. Hostile Indians kept the French from settling here, just as they had deterred the Pilgrims 14 years later. In 1644, however, 40 people from Plymouth returned and formed the village of Nawsett.

The worst foes were not the Indians, but the crows and the blackbirds. These caused so much damage to crops that a 1667 ordinance demanded that each householder kill 12 blackbirds or 3 crows a year, and one of 1695 ordered that no bachelor be allowed to marry who had failed to kill his quota.

After the American Revolution, fishing and coastal trading flourished. Whales and blackfish (members of the whale family) were sometimes driven ashore by storms and captured. In 1662 the town agreed that part of the proceeds from the sale of each whale should go to the support of the clergy. Thoreau, remarking that the support of the clergy was thus left to Providence, added, "For my part, if I were a minister, I would rather trust to the bowels of the bellows, on the back side of the Cape, to cast up a whale for me, than the generosity of many a county parish I know."

After the middle of the 19th century fishing and shipping were less important than agriculture. A feature of this period was the Methodist camp meeting. On a 10 acre tract set aside for this purpose, more than 5,000 listeners congregated, some of them coming from as far away as Boston.

  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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