Sandwich and Yarmouth.
Rev. N.H. Chamberlain.
New England Magazine 7 (3): 301-313
IN 1639 Sandwich and Yarmouth on Cape Cod, incorporated by act of Plymouth Colony, began their town life. On the 3d of September of the present year they celebrated their two hundred and fiftieth anniversary. On that yellow autumn day there were in both towns large gatherings of the native born and visitors. There were governors, would-be governors, and other public men; there were letters of regret from over the land, voicing the sorrow of absent sons and daughters; there were processions, civic and military, brass bands; historic houses draped with flags, and ancient houses with their birth date and with quaint household antiquities exposed on the stoops; there were speeches, clam bakes, and, in general, high holiday for the country crowds that surged through the unwonted show, until the inner man clamored for dinner. At Sandwich, in the evening, a procession of boats on the “Mill Pond,”— as the old folk called the charming lake which winds back from the Town Hall, in among the round hills, and laves the ancient burying ground, — a procession brilliant with Chinese lanterns, and blazing with fireworks, which were mirrored in the still waters, reminded the spectator of some gala night at Venice. Fifty years before, in 1839, Barnstable had similarly celebrated its second centennial, at which Edward Everett and the late
[Main Street, Sandwich.]
[The Academy, Sandwich.]
[The Mill Pond, Sandwich.]
Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, whose father had been minister at Barnstable, were guests; and John G. Palfrey, of the same town stock, gave the oration. Such occasions are not without a far-reaching significance. They stand for progress, for leisure secured by thrift, and show that the towns which undertake them value their own history as something to be studied and published as a lesson or themselves and for posterity. It adds to self-respect when our nation awakes to the consciousness that it already has a history worthy of record, and appeals to the best elements in the life of a vigorous and dignified people. A country that for any cause belittles or ignores its past gives faint promise of shaping for itself a worthy future.
The general colors of the history of every maritime town of the ancient Plymouth Colony are much the same, but the local tints vary. Whatever that history is not, it certainly is both varied and picturesque. The popular instinct is right in feeling that the whole Pilgrim civilization was remarkable, and full of subjects to be thought about. The most democratic of successful communities, of sturdy English stock, exiles for religion in a wilderness which at first seemed also a desert, shut in by savage tribes and by the sea almost as cruel, their vessels plundered by French, Spaniards, or Dutch, whenever the mother England was at war, and their young men drafted again and again to fight England’s battle and their own, — any but colonists of that Anglo-Saxon blood which has always colonized successfully, and with the vitality of great religious ideas to back it, would have faded out and left no sign. As it is, the Old Colony has been a cradle for most of our northern States and Territories.
Our forefathers were not men who in providing for the next world would forget this. Nearly everybody, even the clergy, bought and sold land. Some of the latter, like Mr. Williams of Sandwich, were great surveyors and conveyancers; for the clerical order in the commonwealth for several generations so absorbed professional business that hardly any town supported either a lawyer or a doctor. Lawyers especially were at a discount among these religious colonists, perhaps partly because the English statutes and their own Mosaic code could not always be harmonized, and because the conservative legal temper stood in the way of their bold innovations in law-making, and the lawyers might be looked on as visible representatives of the king — especially if he were obnoxious, as the Charleses were. Nor is it without interest to note the basis of all our land titles in New England, including Plymouth Colony. First, the English king claimed the land because one of his subjects had discovered it, though the discoverer on his quarter-deck could hardly be said to have taken possession of a realm which reached from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Yet this was at least a convenient theory, however dubious its ethics, and was accepted in Europe. From the king the Pilgrims had their land titles. These they attempted to fortify by purchases from the Indians. Whether the Indians ever under stood the nature of an English deed, — at least until after the close of King Philip’s War, which, like our late civil war, showed how things were, to be construed, — as to leave no chance of appeal, may well be doubted. But they sold the right to something in a large territory for a brass kettle, some axes, a suit of clothes or a musket, and the white man took possession. The Pilgrim Colony parcelled out the land of which they claimed possession to the emigrants, as need was. Intending to found a commonwealth according to their own ideas of government, they meant to grant land to no heathen, publican, or Roman Catholic, but only to men of their own stripe.
[Sandwich from the Hills.]
[In Sandwich Pastures.]
In this they showed, perhaps, only ordinary prudence, since every citizen of an incorporated town had not only a right to his share of the common lands, i.e., lands still belonging to the town, and unassigned,
but was a factor in the government of the colony, with an equal vote. Plymouth Colony therefore intended to assign lands only to church-members in harmony with their enterprise. Under such terms, as appears from Plymouth records, April 3, 1637, it is also agreed by the Court that these ten men of Saugus, — Edmund Freeman, Henry Feake, Thomas Dexter, Edward Dillingham, William Wood, John Carman, Richard Chadwell, William Almy, Thomas Tupper, and George Knott, “shall have liberty to view a place to sit down and have sufficient land for three score families upon the conditions propounded to them by the governor and Mr. Winslow.”
It will be perceived that these settlers were from the Massachusetts Colony, and bear thoroughly English names. Of these names only three survive in Sandwich, — Freeman, Dillingham, and Tupper. The study of the survival of the fittest in names is always a profitable one. As to Sandwich names, Freeman, the historian of Cape Cod, and a native of the town, says that “the names of some fifteen of the earliest settlers have, with the addition of a few others, soon succeeding, been the prevailing patronymics to the present day.” The dominant Sandwich names, in addition to the three already named, are Allen, Blackwell, Bodfish, Bourne, Briggs, Burgess, Ewer, Fish, Holway, Landers, Nye, Wing, Ellis, Gibbs, Swift, Tobey, Bassett, Perry, Pope, Fessenden, — this list being very much in the order in which these names arrived.
[The Tupper House, Sandwich.]
There had been, as early as 1627, a trading post established on Manomet River, an estuary of Buzzard’s Bay, and about seven miles west of Sandwich Centre, but no settlement. This was to enable the Plymouth folk to trade with the Dutch of New York, who brought here their goods, sugar, linen stuffs, etc., to barter; and the Dutch Secretary that year paid a visit to Plymouth, going across the isthmus between the bays by Scussett Harbor.The only relics found of late years on the site of this trading post have been glass bottles, — a fact which illustrates probably names the Dutch, and possibly the English, ways.
A wilderness is always cruel to the emigrant, and the Sandwich life from 1639 to 1700 forms no exception. The settlement the town was preceded by a storm and followed by an earthquake. The winters must have been much more severe than now. The emigrant had to learn a new way of life, and to modify seriously his methods of English agriculture. His cattle were fed on wild grasses, chiefly out of the salt marshes, and he lived in a thatched hut, with a little bigger thatched, barn-like building for a meeting house. All these structures perished very early, almost without a trace of them remaining. The day’s work was long, from sunrise to sunset, and the environment was cruel. Blackbirds, crows, and pigeons in clouds, and the vermin of the night were always preying on his crops. The Pilgrim had to fight all around in order to live. He put a bounty on his enemies’ heads by statute law, and in some towns would allow no young man to marry unless he had killed his quota of blackbirds. Wolves raved at him, he at them, until at last he won. The last Sandwich wolf was shot by a teamster from his load of wood about 1839, and in 1792 the whole town had been called out to hunt another. But in earlier days the hunger of the wolves was a sore trial. They proposed at one time to build a palisade fence
[The Library, Yarmouth.]
against them, ten feet high, across the land from Buzzard’s Bay to Massachusetts Bay. The plan was given up on the ground that the fence would keep more in than out. Their only roads were the Indian trails, some of which are pointed out to this day, paths worn a foot deep in the soil, with short paths at right angles leading down to the swamps, possibly for water, and showing, the engineers say, a sharp eye for country, running almost on a level and very straight. The road from here to Plymouth was largely on the seashore, as Judge Sewall’s Diary shows, and the wood path between the two towns was only wide enough for a horse, and so badly kept that the towns, fifty years after settlement, were indicted for not keeping even this miserable thoroughfare in better order. For building a small bridge over Eel river the whole colony was taxed. Before there was a grist-mill in Sandwich, men were known to walk to Plymouth, twenty miles, and back, with a grist of corn on their shoulders, and others must have followed the Indian fashion by pounding their corn in a stone mortar. There was no saw-mill nearer than Scituate, and their first timber was out of the wood, and hand-sawed. The “pluck” of the people was enormous.
[Sandy Neck Lighthouse.]
It is on record that a widow of seventy, “breaking up” a piece of land with oxen, was thrown, by her plough striking a stump, quite over the plough handles, yet went on with her day’s work as usual. In such a life it is no wonder that manners were more than a trifle austere. Men with a set purpose are sometimes, in a crisis, found with set teeth, and the Pilgrims were always facing the crisis, “to be, or not to be.”
The first marked episode in the Sandwich life, and to a degree in Yarmouth, was the Quaker persecution. The story, especially in Massachusetts Colony, is well known. It is a sad one, and by the logic of some Puritans, as against the logic of Puritanism, was inevitable. It should be remembered that the Pilgrim was more merciful than his brother of the Bay, and that a strong public sentiment ran boldly that
against the whole business from the very start. Yet there was more trouble in Sandwich than in any other Pilgrim town, not because there was more bitterness, but because there were more Quakers. The trouble lasted here from 1657 to 1661, when Charles II. interfered. The laws were indeed cruel. Entertaining a Quaker, even for a quarter of an hour, cost £5, or the year’s pay of a laboring man. If any one saw a Quaker and did not go six miles, if necessary, to inform the constable, he was to be punished at the discretion of the court; for allowing preaching in one’s own house, 40s, the preacher 40s, and each auditor 40s, though no Quaker spoke a word. The Quakers were fined for every Sunday they did not go to the Pilgrim meeting and for every Sunday they went to their own. In three years there were taken from them cattle, horses, and sheep to the value of £700, besides other punishments. The fines of William Allen alone amounted to £87. He went to Boston prison, and all his goods, except one cow, had been already taken, when the marshal came and took that also. But the law called for more; so he took the good-wife’s only copper kettle, saying with a sneer, “Now, Priscilla, how will thee cook for thy family and friends? Thee has no kettle.” The brave, sweet answer was, “George, God who hears the ravens when they cry will provide for them. I trust in that God and I verily believe the time will come when thy necessity will be greater than mine.” The kettle was carried away, and the drunken marshal lived to fulfil the prophecy. The Quakers betook themselves to Sandwich woods for worship, and in Christopher’s hollow, so named for their most famous preacher, a charming spot among the hill-ridges, a mile or so away from the Pilgrim meeting-house, they worshipped God at this advantage, — that Plymouth Court could not fine His green woods 40s. for their entertainment. Yet the Sandwich authorities would neither order nor inflict whipping, and one Friend actually sentenced thereto had to be sent to a neighboring town for his punishment.
[Main Street, Yarmouth.]
[Main Street, Yarmouthport, showing the old Gray House.]
The real state of the case was this: The Plymouth authorities, urged on by their Bay brethren, persecuted; the majority, largely without votes, resented the cruelty, and in due time banished it. A letter from General James’ Cudworth in 1658, one of the most useful and honest men in the Old Colony, who died in London as agent of the Colony in 1682, explains the situation. He was indicted for writing this letter to a friend abroad, but was never tried, though apparently thoroughly ostracized for a season. He writes : —
“As for the state and condition of things amongst us, it is sad, and like so to continue. The anti-Christian persecuting spirit is very active, and that in the powers of this world. He that will not whip and lash, persecute and punish, men that differ in matters of religion, must not sit on the bench, nor sustain any office in the Common wealth. Last election Mr. Hatherly and myself left off the bench, and myself discharged of my Captainship, because I had entertained some of the Quakers at my house, merely that I might be better acquainted with their principles. I thought it better to do so than with the blind world to censure, condemn, rail at, and revile them, when they neither saw their persons, nor knew any of their principles. But the Quakers and myself cannot close in diverse things; and so I signified to the court I was no Quaker, hut must hear my testimony against sundry things that they held as I had occasion and opportunity. But withal I told them that, as I was no Quaker, so I would be no persecutor.”
Elsewhere in this letter he says : —
“Divers have been whipped with us in our Patent; and truly, to tell you plainly, that the whipping of them with that cruelty as some have been whipped, and their patience under it has sometimes been the occasion of gaining more adherence than if they had suffered them openly to preach a sermon. In the Massachusetts after they have whipped them they cut their ears; they have now at last gone the fartherest step they can, they banish them upon pain of death if they ever come there again. We expect we must do the like: we must dance after their pipe. Now Plymouth’s saddle is on the Bay horse, we shall follow them on the career. For it is well, if in some there be not a desire to be their apes and imitators in all their proceedings in things of this nature.”
The second great epoch in the life of every Pilgrim town, as well as Sandwich and Yarmouth, must have been King Philip’s War (1675), in which on both sides there was an attempt at extermination. The territory of the upper Cape towns, especially of Sandwich and Barnstable, swarmed with Indians as far down as Eastham; and if they had gone with Philip, the event would have been very disastrous. As it was, the Indians substantially helped the whites with guides, and kept safe the Indian prisoners sent down to them. Indeed, their whole history shows their amiable nature. When a young boy, lost out of Plymouth, wandered through the woods to Monument, and was found by the Indians there, they took him down the Cape to their kindred, and sent word to Plymouth; and when a boat-load of soldiers came after him, these poor red men came wading put to the boat with the well-fed boy on the back of one of them, covered with flowers, their best trinkets hung round his neck, in true barbaric amity. Yet these were the very men whose sons had been kidnapped and sold into slavery by vagabond traders only a few years before. There is something pathetic beyond words in that instance of an old Indian woman on the lower Cape, who, at the white men’s coming, told in her barbaric tongue, with tears, that she had no sons now because the pale faces had carried them off in their white-winged birds, — the ships.
[Old Mill, Yarmouthport.]
[Cranberry Picking on the Cape.]
That the Cape Indians showed so good a record is due chiefly to the missionaries Bourne and Tupper of Sandwich, with their allies, Thatcher of Yarmouth and Treat of Eastham. No more successful work was done among the redmen than these men did, especially Richard Bourne, who was a sort of general superintendent on the Cape. He began his labors about 1658, and in 1674, the year before Philip’s War, names twenty-two places where Indian meetings were held, with an attendance of about 500, 142 of whom could read Indian and so read Eliot’s Bible; 72 could write and 9 could read English. In 1685 the praying Indians had reached to 1014. There were in Bourne’s jurisdiction 600 warriors. He finally dwelt among his Indians at Mashpee. Both whites and red men always took his advice as to land sales between them as long as he lived. So great was the Indian regard for the Bourne family, that long after his death (1723), when a Bourne child was prostrated by an appalling disease, said by the doctors to be incurable, the Indians came with their medicine men and incantations, the mother submitted her child to their simple remedies and, strange to say, there was a cure. The Yarmouth antiquary, the late Amos Otis, writes, “The fact is, Richard Bourne, by his unremitted labors for seventeen years, made friends of a sufficient number of Indians, naturally hostile to the whites, to turn the scale in Plymouth Colony and give the preponderance to the English.” He did this, and it is to him who does that we are to award honor. Bourne did more by the moral power which he exerted to defend the Old Colony than Bradford did at the head of his army. Laurel wreaths shade the brows of military heroes, while the man who has done as good service for his country by moral means sinks into comparative insignificance and is too often forgotten. The Tupper family of Sandwich furnished at least four generations of missionaries, and Thomas Tupper, of Bourne’s generation, should be remembered with his colleague when some day the piety of posterity builds a monument to their memory. When that day comes, the statue of these Sandwich men should be set among the Indian graves at Herring River, and on the hill where about 1686 Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston built at his own expense and in English fashion a meeting-house for the natives, as his Letter Book and Diary tell.
[Bourne House, Yarmouth.]
A local anecdote or two in illustration of Indian character may here not be amiss.
An Indian got one Macy, a cooper, to make him a wooden pail. The pail leaked and the Indian complained. “Oh, it’ll soak tight,” said Macy; but it didn’t soak Bourne House, Yarmouth. tight. Some time after, Macy got the Indian to make him a frying-pan. He made it and then punched two holes through the bottom of it. Macy complained of the holes. “Oh, it’ll soak tight all the same as the pail,” said the Indian.
Another story illustrates the redman’s keen observation. An Indian took his dog and gun and went out hunting deer. He shot one in the morning and skinned him and hung him on a tree. He had no luck the rest of the day, and when he came for his deer he found somebody had stolen it. He came down very angry to Ruggles’s tavern and asked who had been hunting, and said a young man — a short man with a short gun and a little dog with a bushy tail — had stolen his deer. He described the thief so accurately that every white man in the room knew who it was. They asked him how he knew all this.
“Young man he make heel track — old man make flat track. Short gun — he put butt end on ground — muzzle agin the tree and scratch bark. I measure short man — I see stone he get and step on when he take down my deer. Little dog — see where he sit down, feet all together — big dog, his feet sprawl out big — bushy tail. I see where um wiggle tail in the sand when his master take down my deer.”
The same Indian went to the same tavern another time for a pint of rum. He owed an old score and Ruggles wouldn’t give him any rum. “Humph! Mr. Ruggles, I shoot a deer coming along. You give me rum, I give you deer.” “Where is your deer?” says Ruggles. “You know where big oak tree is on the wood road, Mr. Ruggles?” “Yes.” “Well, you find um tree. Then you go square east forty paces, you find big pine tree.” “Yes.” “Well, there you find um.” So Ruggles gave him the rum and went for the deer. He found the trees all right, but no sign of a deer. Next week the Indian came for more rum. “Not a drop,” said Ruggles, “you lied to me about that deer.” “Oak tree, you find um?” “Yes.” “Pine tree, you find um!?” “Yes.” “Two truths to one lie — better than white man do.”
Houses in general are a good index to the civilization and thrift of any people. The first houses in Sandwich and Yarmouth, being frail tenements, have all disappeared. The oldest Sandwich house still extant is the Tupper house, in which that race have dwelt since the settlement of the town, and which has features in rustic New England architecture worthy the attention of the curious. In its large kitchen a tall man can hardly stand up right, and the house has a super-garret. The Bourne house (1690), in the town centre, is one of the most venerable of Sandwich houses, and remarkable architecturally. Both these houses belong to the better class, as do also some of the later houses which stand about the Mill Pond, neighbors to the old Newcomb tavern which Judge Sewall often visited and reports in his Diary. The second-class houses were more common and smaller, and many were built in such rude ways as would confound a modern architect. The house was often backed into a bank for warmth, away from the wind. Sometimes the oven and chimney were both outside. The chimney above the fire-place was often only “cobwork,” i.e., small pieces of wood framed together and the chinks smeared with clay. There was no plastering, and the walls were made warm by being filled with clay, — “daubing,” the homely phrase was. There was a ladder somewhere to the second story; the one bedroom was over the cellar, and with a raised floor to give more cellar room; and the whole cost, as the old bills show, was often not over £5. Better houses came in as purses grew longer, but in general the Pilgrim’s house was not remarkable either for its size or its beauty. Yet there must have been a deal of comfort, if not of merriment, in such homes; and human nature tunes perhaps as easily to a song as to a prayer. The oak settle in the chimney-corner, with the blazing hearth fire, and a bevy of boys and girls growing red in the face at the red coals in a winter’s night, with the roar of the storm across the chimney top, with the mother at her knitting-work on the other side, and her goodman ruminating on next day’s work, the grown girls preparing their wedding outfit for some day to come, out of the flax or wool, a part of which, according to custom, was given them each year as dowry, while the sons would divide the lands, — these and a thousand other touches of Pilgrim house keeping must have given these old folk pleasurable sensations, such as our more modern civilization misses. For years there was probably not a fork in Plymouth Colony, seldom a looking-glass or a woman with two silk dresses, and but little silver plate, though as time sped love of dress asserted itself and plate became a convenient hoard. Some well-to-do people owned slaves, and every one wrought at some thing. There was also much good feeding, especially in the season of game. In fact, in all their habits our forefathers were Englishmen, and like the Saxons of old they were heavy feeders and no light weights when there was somewhat to be drunk. They were out of all the shires, and brought here a curious medley of old English superstitions, proverbs, and prejudices, such as could never have been in the old country. They also brought here their favorite English flowers, and there are few roses since bred which can vie in fragrance or color with the Pilgrim rose, still extant under many a front window on the Cape.
A province like Cape Cod, in the track of commerce, and thrown out into the sea, can never lack romance or picturesqueness in its story of the past two hundred and fifty years. The Old Colony towns, so long as the province was under the English crown, vibrated, so to speak, with the political and social movements of two continents, at least so far as civilization reached. Historians have overlooked the advantages which came to these English colonies from their connection, through the mother country, with the general civilization of Christendom. Not only did the very friction of these political cross-purposes, as between themselves and the English government, train them to statesmanship, but their constant intercourse with European civilization kept them from sinking into the mental and social lethargy which is apt to dominate those who dwell long in the wilderness. As one example of how in the old days even a Cape town might become involved in the great struggle between the English crown and the French, to own the American continent, it may be noted that in 1756 Sandwich found itself related with the Acadian banishment and sorrow of which Longfellow tells so beautifully in his Evangeline. July 20th of that year, there appeared suddenly at Manomet, on Buzzard’s Bay, near the old fort of 1627, a strange company of people speaking French, in seven two-masted boats. Silas Bourne, Esq., wrote to Col. Otis, then in Boston: “They profess to be bound to Boston, and want their boats carted across to the opposite bay. They have their women and children with them, and say they were last from Rhode Island, but previously from Nova Scotia. I fear they may continue, when once in the bay, to miss Boston, and think it safe, therefore, to detain them.” These were some ninety souls out of the seven thousand Acadian exiles, who were making a bold push to reach home again. Fate was against them. They were distributed among the towns for safe-keeping, and later on the General Court ordered “that the canoes left at Sandwich by the French neutrals who deserted from the southern government be sold.” It is clear these poor people never reached home. There is hardly a trace of one of their names even left in the town, though at Scusset Neck and near the harbor there was undoubtedly a small settlement of these unfortunates, where at least they could look out on those waters beyond which lay the beautiful valley and the river that rolled by Grand-Pré. The great storm near the beginning of this century moved the beach sand so as to disclose the piles of their wharf; and some five years ago, in digging the Cape Cod ship canal, other relics of an old tide way were discovered. It was a miserable business. Strangers, ignorant of the language spoken here, Catholics of an ancient church without a priest, and doomed to live and die among men of an alien and hostile religion, — one can hardly imagine a fate more full of tears.
In the Revolution both Sandwich and Yarmouth ranged themselves promptly on the side of liberty. This was not without resistance from the Royalists, who at the start were close to a majority in both towns, but who finally succumbed to the greater energy of the Whigs. Indeed, the Old Colony was more loyal than the Bay, as the town records show. The Tories yielded to fate, — some submitted, some emigrated to Nova Scotia; some in exile prayed, and were allowed to come back. The feud has left traces in these Pilgrim towns to this present time.
An event in September, 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence, in which all the towns of the upper Cape and their neighbors at the west were involved, deserves especial record. General Gage ruled in Boston; but it was determined to prevent the holding the King’s Court of Common Pleas in Barnstable County, for the reason that an appeal lay from that court for any suit of over forty shillings to the Supreme Court, presided over by the judge appointed by the king, and where the king’s sheriff selected the jury. Some fifteen hundred men on horse and afoot gathered at Sandwich to march to Barnstable. Appointing their own officers, they resolved in words which show their breeding: —
“Whereas, a strict adherence to virtue and religion is not only well pleasing in the sight of Almighty God and highly commendable before men, but hath a natural tendency to good order and to lead mankind in the paths of light and truth, Resolved, that during our excursion we will avoid all kinds of intemperance by strong liquor (and not frequent taverns); that we will not abuse our superiors, equals, or inferiors by any ill language; that we will not injure the property of any one, nor offer any violence; that these resolves be read once every day — that so our righteousness may plead our cause and hear a public testimony that we are neither friends to mobs or riots or any other wickedness or abomination.”
So horse and foot they marched twelve miles more to Barnstable town, and then and there with great decorum and formal document (an Otis was chief justice) they did prevent the holding of that court; and the next held, was a court of the free. They also found time to make the Tories who had cut down liberty poles, pay for the same and promise better manners. There they dispersed. Every man was in broad daylight and guilty of high treason; but none flinched, and they soon changed their peaceable array for arms and the camp.
Sandwich and Yarmouth folk were a sturdy race, eager for their own will, dogged in following their game, and in all our wars with or under England have shown pluck and endurance. In their way they were intensely democratic, and it was one of the Governor Prince family, born perhaps in Sandwich, who as an officer of Harvard College protested so vigorously against the family distinctions then made among the students that he was compelled to surrender his office. Yet his family, his brother Thomas Prince, the antiquarian, included, backed him up, and he himself died in honor.
The Pilgrim towns have always been rich in queer folk — men gone astray from every beaten path — sometimes half court fools, half prophets. Good stock, like good timber, may sometimes grow gnarled. The reed never does; it is always the oak. A few local anecdotes of some such may illustrate. An old-fashioned, high-bred gentleman of the Cape (he was an Otis) left it in his will to be buried twelve feet underground, and to his nephews, who would wear their full beards against his will and ancient custom, his whole stock of twenty razors.
It is an old story of the Sandwich Tory lawyer, Timothy Ruggles, who married the widow Newcomb and her tavern, spending her substance and ending his life in banishment, that on one occasion he directed an old lady who came in as a witness, in the recess of the Court, to take her place on the Judge’s bench. When the Judge came back from dinner he was very angry and asked the old lady who sent her there. “He,” she said, pointing at Ruggles. “Did you send her here, Mr. Ruggles?” cried the Judge. “I did, your honor,” said Ruggles in his blandest manner and with his usual impudence. “I thought it was the place for old women.”
Major John was a stalwart, ruddy, middle-aged gentleman, fond of good clothes and good cheer. He had the habit of going into the village tavern about eleven o'clock in full dress and taking his repast alone in great dignity, with something to drink as well as eat. One morning, somewhere near 1830, the parson, who was about on a temperance mission, found him at table, surrounded by his viands. “Major John,” he said, “I wish you would sign this temperance pledge, not of course because you need it, but for the benefit of the rising generation, you know.” “Certainly, parson,” said Major John. “Bring me a pen, landlord.” So the major wrote his name in a bold hand; and the parson went his way, rejoicing for the new sheep in the temperance fold. But the very next week the parson, in that very same tavern, found Major John at the very same table, taking his breakfast, and with not one bottle less. “Why, Major,” he cried, “you signed the temperance pledge last week.” “So I did, parson,” says Major John; “but then I did it, you know, for the benefit of the rising generation.”
The rollicking, anti-Puritanic people of the old days have a very merry and curious record, now almost vanished. That there were such people at a very early date, — people who loved a tavern and a song and a joke, — the records of fines and trials show. These men, of course, were not deacons, nor often selectmen, nor did they go to the General Court. They were looked at sidewise by the graver people, and, though often men of property, generally went with their own kind, and seldom had a very large funeral or a long sermon at it.
This class multiplied at and after the Revolution, when rather loose religious ideas, in a reaction from Puritan strictness, came in. They were often men (there were few women of their kind at any time) with juice in them and large, warm Saxon hearts, who looked over the bars of their age into the green fields of good-fellowship, and were perhaps not sinners above those that dwelt at Jerusalem, only a different kind of sinners. Many of them were Tories and free-thinkers. At any rate, they tasted wine with Yorick at the tavern, and went their ways afterwards to Yorick’s fate in the graveyard.
To the Cape Codder, like the Icelander and the Swiss, his native province is the best that the sun shines on. So unique, emphatic, and personal the Cape and its towns have become to those reared here, that a Cape man finds nowhere else so glorious a home, so full of such sweet memories. The Cape colors him all his life — the roots and fibre of him. He may get beyond, but he never gets over the Cape. Make him a merchant at Manilla or Calcutta, a whaler at the North Pole, a mate in Australian waters, a millionnaire on Fifth Avenue, a farmer in Minnesota and the Cape sticks to him still. He will feel in odd hours, to his life’s end, the Creek tide on which he floated inshore as a boy, the hunger of the salt marsh in haying time, the cold splash of the sea-spray at the harbor’s mouth, the spring of the boat over the bar when he came home from fishing, with the wind rising on shore out of the gray night-clouds seaward, the blast of the wet northeaster in the September morning when under the dripping branches he picked up the windfall of golden and crimson apples, the big-flaked snow of the December night when he beaued his first sweetheart home from singing-school; and he will see, in dreams perhaps, the trailing-arbutus among its gray mosses on the thin edge of a spring snow-bank, the bubbling spring at the hill-foot near tide water, the fat, crimson roses under his mother’s windows, with a clump of Aaron’s rod or lilac for background; the yellow dawn of an October morning across his misty moors, and the fog of the chill pond among the pine trees, and above all the blue sea within its headlands, on which go the white-winged ships to that great far-off world which the boy had heard of and the grown man knows so well.
Sandwich and Yarmouth.
Rev. N.H. Chamberlain.
New England Magazine 7 (3): 301 313