The Eastham Historical Society will present a free virtual screening of “Shipwrecks of Cape Cod: Stories of Tragedy and Triumph,” on Thursday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. Presented by Don Wilding, the film chronicles maritime misfortune on the Outer Cape from 1626 through the mid 20th century. Watch on the EHS YouTube channel.
Eastham Historical Society
The Eastham Historical Society hosts a Zoom talk with visual historian Karen Rinaldo and writer Kevin Doyle on Thursday, Aug. 12, 7 p.m. They will discuss Rinaldo’s painting, The First Thanksgiving, 1621, as well as their collaborative book, In the Wake of the Mayflower. There will be a book signing at the Schoolhouse Museum, 25 Schoolhouse Road in Eastham, on Friday, Aug. 13, noon. Registration is free at easthamhistoricalsociety.org.
The Eastham Historical Society hosts its 44th annual antiques show on Thursday, July 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., on the grounds of the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum, 25 Schoolhouse Road in Eastham. There is a $5 entrance fee, free for children under 18. All proceeds benefit the Eastham Historical Society.
The Eastham Historical Society presents “Job and Daniel Cole,” a Zoom talk by Bill Cole, on Thursday, July 8th, at 7 p.m. The talk is part two of “Second Seven Settlers of Nauset 1646−1651.” Bill Cole, Daniel’s eighth great-grandson, will detail the lives of the Cole brothers, who married sisters Rebecca and Ruth Collier and settled in Eastham. Signup is free; email [email protected].
Excitement rippled through Eastham with the recent rediscovery in the archives of the historical society of a document signed by Samuel Adams. Adams, born in 1722, was one of the architects of the Revolution, and, in 1794, succeeded John Hancock as governor of Massachusetts. On June 16, 1795, he affixed his signature to the document appointing Elijah Knowles justice of the peace. The document was donated to the Eastham Historical Society in 1979 by Mr. and Mrs. George C. Myrick, then of Delmar, N.Y.
The roots of the Knowles and Myrick (or Merrick) families are deeply intertwined in Eastham, dating to the 1640s and 1650s. In 1803, Jesse Myrick (1782-1872) married Elizabeth Knowles (1784-1855), one of seven children of Elijah Knowles and Rebecca Harding. Jesse and Elizabeth had 11 children. Two years after the birth of their youngest child, Elisha, they left Eastham and joined the Shaker community in Harvard, Mass.
The Shakers proselytized throughout New England in the 1820s and 1830s, sending missionaries to Methodist camp meetings, or outdoor worship gatherings, including one in South Wellfleet in 1819 and later on Bound Brook Island. From 1828 to 1863, camp meetings were held at Eastham’s 10-acre Millennium Grove. The Myricks were, no doubt, moved to join the Shakers after hearing members at an early meeting.
All of the Myrick children and their parents, with the exception of Elisha, are buried in Harvard’s Shaker Cemetery. They were not the only Myrick relatives to trade Eastham for the industrious, entrepreneurial, celibate community founded in 1792. Buried with them are Jesse’s brother Isaac; Elizabeth’s unmarried sister Lucy Knowles; her married sister Anna Knowles Mayo and husband Joseph Mayo; and Betsy Doane Knowles (1802-1882), who left Eastham after the death of her husband, Henry Mayo Knowles, in 1854.
The Eastham family of Godfrey Sparrow (1805-1865) also joined the Shaker community. Godfrey’s wife, Mercy Higgins, had died in 1833 and was buried in the Orleans Cemetery. It is likely that, in 1834, Godfrey took at least four of his motherless children to Harvard, where he is buried with his three daughters. His son, Warren, renounced the Shakers in 1862.
Elijah Myrick, the second youngest of Jesse and Elizabeth’s children, was an esteemed member of the Shaker community, patenting a metal chimney cap, bottling and marketing medicinal spring water, and eventually becoming a prominent elder. In Elijah’s obituary, his younger brother Elisha was described as “one of the world’s people.” Elisha renounced Shakerism in 1859 at age 33, and, in 1861, married Sarah Godbold, with whom he had two sons.
Elisha had worked in the Shakers’ lucrative medicinal herb industry. Their medical practices paralleled the botanical remedies developed by Samuel Thomson, who had visited Eastham with his herbal health care system during the 1816 epidemic. Two of Elisha’s sisters, Susan and Anna, became Shaker physicians. Elisha Myrick later established himself as a druggist, associated with the Boston firm Cheney & Myrick, whose specialty was pressed herbs and hops. He lived in Chelsea and later in Melrose, where he died in 1892, having “endeared himself to all by his genial and social qualities.”
In Eastham, the family of Elijah Knowles was prominent and respected. His grandfather, Deacon Edward Knowles (1671-1740), was a tanner and served as selectman and town treasurer. Edward Knowles Jr. (1713-1799) followed in his footsteps, serving as deacon of the north meetinghouse, as town clerk, and, for two terms, as treasurer. It is said that he was among the first to manufacture salt by solar evaporation in Eastham. Married three times, Edward Knowles and his first wife, Ann Doane Knowles — the widow of a Knowles cousin — were the parents of Elijah, born in 1747.
Elijah’s short life was full of honors. Continuing a family tradition of community service, he was appointed in 1790 to a committee tasked with drafting a petition to the General Court to regulate fisheries. He served in the General Court from 1785 to 1795 and was Eastham town treasurer and clerk for several years until his death. In May 1795, he helped complete a survey of the town that now resides in the state archives. That same year, he was appointed justice of the peace by Gov. Adams.
Just months later, Elijah Knowles died at age 48. In compiling his 1844 history of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Orleans, the Rev. Enoch Pratt included a notice from town records on Elijah Knowles’s death: “He had represented the town nine years in succession in the General Court and was one of the most distinguished men of the town, being often employed in other public offices of trust and importance. His death was deeply lamented by all who knew him.” Elijah Knowles is buried, with his parents and his son Harding, at the Bridge Road Cemetery, the site of the north meetinghouse from 1720 to 1830. His grandfather, Deacon Edward Knowles, rests in Cove Burying Ground.
Editor’s note: Amy McGuiggan’s article “The Mysterious Cape Cod Epidemic of 1816” was published in our issue of April 30, 2020.
EASTHAM — The Eastham Historical Society made a rare find last month while dusting and sorting items at the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum: a document signed by Samuel Adams.
“Joe [Mistretta, a museum director] was cleaning off some of these documents with a brush. He came in and said, ‘I’m not sure what I found here but I think this is important,’ ” said Society President Eileen Seaboldt.
The document, donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Myrick of Delmar, N.Y., was kept between two panes of glass sealed with masking tape. Dated June 16, 1795, it appoints Elijah Knowles of Eastham as justice of the peace and is signed by Samuel Adams as governor of Massachusetts. The Elijah Knowles house is still standing, just past the Capt. Penniman House on the way to Fort Hill.
National Seashore Park Historian William Burke examined the document and recommended the group contact a conservator. “It’s a fabulous document,” said Burke. Adams’s signature, he noted, was “a really fine looking, neat, articulate signature.”
The society has contacted the Northeast Document Conservation Center. “We’re in the discovery stage,” said Seaboldt. “We’re all basking in excitement here.”
On the back of the document is a penciled tally of George Washington’s first election in 1789, showing 44 votes cast in Barnstable County.
“It just shows you how informal politics could be in the 18th century,” said Burke, “when they were saying, ‘OK, how many votes does Washington have in Barnstable County?’ and tallying it up on the back of this thing.” —Linda Culhane
EASTHAM — While working to create a display as part of this year’s 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival on Cape Cod, volunteers at Eastham’s 1869 Schoolhouse Museum unearthed a trove of Native American artifacts that had been tucked away under the eaves, leading to the official designation of a new archeological site in Eastham.
“We wanted to do a balanced display,” said volunteer Patricia Donohoe of the museum’s plan to represent the Mayflower immigrants and the Cape’s indigenous people.
With just a few artifacts in its inventory of stone tools, the museum sought to expand that part of the display, eventually arranging for a loan of artifacts excavated from the National Park Service’s Carn’s Site on Coast Guard Beach. It was during a meeting with the park historian, recalled Donohoe, that museum president Eileen Seaboldt recognized that the park’s artifacts were similar to the items in cases stored under the museum building’s eaves.
After a visit to the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough, the Eastham museum “knew they had something special,” said Donohoe. They also knew they would need to hire an archeologist to survey the collection.
A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Donohoe knew the organization had donated a case for the display. She went back to the DAR to ask for funding to hire an archaeologist. With a $1,000 DAR grant in hand, the museum hired archaeologist Dan Zoto.
“I like that the historical society was thinking about the people that were already here and wanting to highlight that history also,” said Zoto. “I think native people are underrepresented in the overall historical narrative. It was just neat to me with the timing, considering the Mayflower was the big highlight, that they went in a different direction.”
His survey of the 533 stone artifacts identified pieces from as far back as 9,500 to 10,000 years ago, including the Henry R. Guild collection that contained 48 artifacts, ranging from 3,500 years ago to the early 17th century, gathered from Guild’s property along the Salt Pond Creek in Eastham.
While unprovenanced artifacts can be used as teaching tools or displays, they have limited scientific value and not a lot can be learned about the past from them, said Zoto.
“The most important part of the project for me was that we were able to determine where one of the subcollections came from and we were able to put a new archeological site on the map,” Zoto said. “We were able to say this piece of property was inhabited rather intensely for the last 3,500 years.”
One of the collections was found to contain grave goods — items buried with a body. Zoto confirmed through documentation that the collector who gathered them had excavated at a Native American burial site in the 1930s.
“With that information, we reached out to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and informed them of our discoveries, and they were in the loop from then on,” said Zoto. “Eventually those artifacts will be given back to the tribe, which I think is important.”
The grave goods were considered culturally sensitive and that is why they are not going to be part of the final display, he explained.
While the museum remains closed to the public due to the pandemic, the Eastham Historical Society has a video presentation by Zoto available on its website at easthamhistoricalsociety.org/past-event.
Meetings are held remotely. Go to eastham-ma.gov/calendar-by-event-type/16 and click on a particular meeting to read its agenda. That document will provide information about how to view and take part remotely.
Monday, July 27
- Eastham 400 Commemoration Committee, 10:30 a.m.
- Select Board, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 28
- Conservation Commission, 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 30
- Board of Health, 3 p.m.
As of July 20, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Eastham was 10. The number of cases has remained at 10 since June 4, according to the town’s website.
A reminder that the town meeting warrant will close on Monday, July 27 at 4 p.m. The annual town meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 21.
Petitioned articles that were on the original warrant in May will appear on the September warrant and any new petitioned articles will require 200 signatures.
Stewart Case Rescheduled
A pretrial conference in the case against Bill Stewart, owner of Stewart’s Seafood Restaurant and Tavern, has been rescheduled to Nov. 3 of this year in Orleans District Court. The conference had originally been rescheduled to July 7 but was rescheduled again due to the state of emergency for Covid-19, according to court dockets.
Stewart was accused by six women who were former employees at his restaurant of sexual harassment, but a magistrate hearing in 2019 found that charges could be brought by only one of the women. In April 2019, Stewart pleaded not guilty to charges of accosting a person of the opposite sex, threats to commit a crime, and assault and battery.
Elementary School Committee Meets
The Eastham Elementary School Committee welcomed its newest member, Ben Niggel, to its table during a virtual meeting on July 20. Niggel, who is from Eastham and just finished his freshman year at Harvard, was elected to the committee last month with 102 write-in votes. At the start of the meeting, the committee asked Niggel if he would be interested in being mentored by a more experienced member, Ann Crozier, which he accepted.
The committee received updates from Principal William Crosby as well as Supt. Tom Conrad. The committee also unanimously voted to support the Mass. Association of School Committees (MASC) Covid-19 and anti-racism suggested resolutions.
The MASC is encouraging all Massachusetts school districts to consider the resolutions locally and forward them to Gov. Baker and state representatives for implementation, according to a statement on its website.
The regional school committee voted unanimously last week to support the resolutions as well.
The resolution related to Covid-19 includes a request “that the state must guarantee every school district full reimbursement for whatever Covid-19 expenses are required to follow state mandates.”
The resolution related to anti-racism requests that “every district will incorporate into their curriculum the history of racial oppression and works by black authors and works from diverse perspectives.”
It also includes a request that “all the school districts in the Commonwealth must guarantee that racist practices are eradicated, and diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded and practiced for our students, families, faculty and staff.”
The resolutions will have to be passed by leaders of the Commonwealth in order to take effect.
But Conrad said if the resolutions do pass, school committees would then come up with a plan on how to implement them in each school in the Nauset region.
“We’re going to have to spend some time, there’s no question,” he said, “on how we’re going to try and move that forward in our schools.”
The town’s harbor planning committee will meet virtually on Thursday, July 23 at 4 p.m. to discuss implementation of certain parts of the town’s harbor plan that was approved by the select board in February. The plan encompasses the next five to seven years and attempts to take public stakeholder feedback into account.
Virtual Windmill Tour
Looking to take a trip to the Eastham Windmill? Don’t forget the town is offering a virtual tour of the windmill via its website.
Visit eastham-ma.gov/home/news/eastham-windmill-virtual-tour to take the tour.
Historical Society’s Antiques Show
The Eastham Historical Society will hold its annual outdoor antiques show on Thursday, July 30, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum at 25 Schoolhouse Road., across from the National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center. Twenty-three dealers from throughout New England will present an array of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century antiques. The event will benefit the society’s ongoing programs as well as the running of the Schoolhouse Museum and Swift-Daley House. Admission is $5, with children under 18 entering free. Masks and social distancing will be required. —Ryan Fitzgerald
Meetings are being conducted remotely. Go to eastham-ma.gov/calendar-by-event-type/16 and click on a particular meeting to read its agenda. That document will provide information about how to view and take part remotely.
Thursday, May 14
- Nauset Regional School Committee, 6 p.m.
Monday, May 18
- Eastham 400 Commemoration Committee, 10:30 a.m.
- Elementary School Committee, 5:30 p.m.
- Select Board, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 19
- T-Time Committee, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, May 20
- Planning Board, 5 p.m.
Historical Society Cancels Season
Based on “a concern for the health and safety of our volunteers and many seasonal visitors,” the Eastham Historical Society will not open its museums for the 2020 season. It has had to cancel its popular annual Plant and White Elephant Sale as well. Some events scheduled for this year may take place remotely; check easthamhistoricalsociety.org for updates.
Eastham Public Radio?
Select board chair Aimee Eckman and Supt. of Public Works and Natural Resources Silvio Genao had such fun hosting last week’s live vessel storage lottery that they’re thinking about a regular “radio” show about the town. “We’d love to broadcast from the library, just like Boston Public Radio,” Eckman told the library trustees at their meeting Saturday.
Teardowns on Planning Agenda
Three property owners will seek the planning board’s approval May 20 to tear down existing buildings and put up new homes.
Jeffrey and Mary McAleney want to raze three residential dwellings and a garage at 885 Doane Road Rear and build one new house and an accessory guest house/garage. Building Commissioner Thomas Wingard found that the project exceeds zoning limits as a site coverage expansion of more than 200 feet (from 4,283 square feet to 6,819 square feet).
At 35 and 45 Bay Shore Lane, Jesse and Claire Johnson plan to demolish a house at No. 45 and combine two buildable lots to put up a new home. Total site coverage for the combined lots would rise from 5,120 square feet to 7,941 square feet; review is required when lots of 20,000 square feet or more are proposed for site coverage greater than 3,000 square feet.
Elaine Bonoma seeks to tear down the house at 1 Nycoma Way and build a new dwelling and garage with an increase in site coverage that will trigger a planning board review as above.
A Wiley Approach to Parking
Dirt parking areas leading into lots at Wiley Park and Boat Meadow will be reserved for Eastham taxpayer or visitor beach sticker holders this summer, the select board decided last week. In a memo, Recreation Director Christine Mickle said out of town cars bring many dog-walkers to Wiley Park and pull-off parkers at Boat Meadow are would make it difficult for a fire truck to get by them in an emergency.” Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe noted the out-of-town parkers are “mostly from Orleans, not from Canada.”
Regional Planning for the New Normal
Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe serves on several regional groups that are coordinating how Cape communities will roll out services once the state of emergency is lifted. One was brought together by Cape Cod National Seashore Supt. Brian Carlstrom to talk about beaches. Another includes town administrators, town managers, and health agents from Provincetown to Brewster. A third group being formed at the invitation of the Truro Select Board would include three representatives — select board chairs, one other member, and town administrator/managers from Provincetown to Orleans and perhaps Brewster and Chatham.
Get Your June 23 Ballot Early
Polls will be open from noon to 6 p.m. at town hall for the June 23 annual town election, but please don’t plan to come by. If you do, social distancing will be maintained and there will be barriers to separate voters and workers, but your best option is voting early by mail.
Early voting applications to receive a ballot by mail will be sent to all registered voters in the next few weeks. If you can’t wait, the form is available on the town’s website.
If you’re not registered, the last day to do so before the June 23 election is June 12. Go to eastham-ma.gov/town-clerk for more information. —Ed Maroney