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WELLFLEET— JEWEL ON THE CAPE by Nea Colton D'Amelio paintings by George Yater 1958 The Churches of Cape Cod story and paintings by George Yater 1960. WELLFLEET— JEWEL ON THE CAPE by Nea Colton D'Amelio paintings by George Yater

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  • WELLFLEET—

    • JEWEL ON THE CAPE

      • by Nea ColtonD'Amelio

      • paintings by George Yater

      • 1958

    • The Churches of Cape Cod

      • story and paintings by George Yater

      • 1960


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  • WELLFLEET—

    • JEWEL ON THE CAPE

      • by Nea ColtonD'Amelio

      • paintings by George Yater

  • Wellfleet has always been a very special possession among people who know Cape Cod. Lacking the elderly quaintness of the Barnstable area, the county-seat crush of Hyannis, and the milling Bohemia of Provincetown, it has an aura of its own.

  • The aura is compounded of the sea, privacy, and the sand roads and freshwater ponds of the inner Cape. The big highway adjacent to Wellfleet is insurance that things will remain as pleasant as they were—for a time, at least—for it carries cars past town in the mad scramble for Provincetown or the mad scramble to get away from it and leaves Wellfleet in blissful peace and isolation.

  • Well, relatively, anyway. No Cape Cod town knows a lot of peace and isolation in the summer. The traffic in early summer across the bridge at Bourne, where most motorists enter the Cape, is something to see. Somehow the towns of the Cape manage to swallow the visitors but around mid-morning of any day you get the full flavor of the Cape at any post office and nearby stores. It's a little like a Marx Brothers comedy— the mob jostling itself in the scramble for letters, the New York papers, and quinine water.

  • Wellfleet is no exception during the morning and some of the afternoon hours, but most of the time Wellfleet can hide

  • Cahoon’s Hollow on the Back Shore

    Its summer visitors in the profusion of sand roads that curl in and around the town between the Atlantic side and the Bay side.

    These sand roads are a remarkable experience for visitors. When you meet another car, you have to nuzzle your car up in the bushes to let the other pass. A newcomer is virtually

    Cap’n Higgins Spit-and-Chatter Club and the Morning Glory House


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    • Wellfleet's oyster boats

    • certain of getting lost, for roads branch off to left and right constantly and there is no way of knowing what to do when searching for friends or your own house.

    • It is along these roads that you find the little jewels of the Wellfleet wilds—the ponds, Gull, Slough, Long and others, all deep, clear and cool, some of the best swimming holes in the world. They are sheltered from sea winds, are remarkably private, have a wonderful woodsy aroma, and occasionally have a very modern house among the more traditional ones peeking from the trees.

      • But the Atlantic at Wellfleet is also marvelous. Along the seemingly endless miles of sand the breakers come roaring in, knocking life and excitement and vigor into every tired vacationer who comes there. And here, too, is privacy, for you can walk an hour or more in either direction and find only a swimmer or two and the gulls as the sole inhabitants of a world of sky and ocean.

        • For all the beauty of Wellfleet in summer, it is early autumn that finds the town at its loveliest. The foliage becomes wine-colored, accented with the brilliance of goldenrod and the brown of bayberry. The beach plum leaves stay green and the red fruit of hog cranberries form a covering carpet. Best of all, the Cape Cod air, always bright, seems to take on a brilliance in fall.

      • The human tide of the Cape ebbs in this season as the crowds of reluctant vacationers board up the cottages and head back across the bridge at Bourne. They give way to flocks of migrating birds, a few dedicated striped bass fishermen who expect better luck in September than in July, and rabbits, deer, and fiddler crabs, all of whom are too shy to be much in evidence during summer.

      • Wellfleet, you might say, becomes more natural in fall. You can get on more intimate terms with gulls and the ocean. You can get the mail more easily in town. You can join the little band of devotees who proclaim the town in all seasons, but especially in this one.

        • Gulls at Indian Neck-


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  • There are any number of reasons for going to Cape Cod besides the obvious one—the miles and miles of ocean and bay that lure thousands in the summertime and hold them immersed in sunshine and salt water until the nights turn nippy and the school bell rings.

  • For example—and these are things to do in the fall when the Cape comes into its own, when you don't have to share it with a horde from elsewhere—you can roam about in search of old houses, of which the Cape has its share of the finest. Or you can tramp the long Atlantic beach from Nauset to Provincetown, following a route Thoreau saw over a century ago. Or you can drive about in search of inns. Or you can search out the churches . . .

    • Cape Cod has sheltered and nurtured more beautiful and historic churches than any comparable stretch of land in the country. Since the earliest days of the Cape these churches, which were and still are known as "meeting houses," have served to chart the way for the voyages of sailors at sea and the salvation of souls on land.

    • In the old days, the fifteen towns of Cape Cod supported thirteen parishes of the Congregational Church alone. Today, of course, there are many churches of many faiths on the Cape,

  • Sandwich Congregational Church. On the village green of the Cape's most venerable town, this church, 110 years old, is dominated by a graceful spire of the Christopher Wren type, one of the most beautiful on Cape Cod. In its early years, this church had two ministers, neither of them ordained, and each with his own following, like rival sopranos in an opera company. When Sunday came, they would count the congregation to' see who had attracted the most fans and the winner would have the right to preach the sermon.

    Friends Meeting House. This is the oldest Quaker meeting house in America. It stands atop Spring Hill near East Sandwich and was established in 1658. Puritans were hard on Quakers, whose doctrine they regarded as corrupt and damnable, and whom they thrashed and plundered regularly.


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    • but our purpose here is to guide the .visitor to a few of the older ones, those which stem from the "golden age" of New England architecture, and to sketch a little history.

      • For the most part, as our map shows, the route follows the shores—as little as possible of the Mid-cape Highway that takes you fast but shows you little. It was on the shores, naturally, that the settlers lived and built their churches, not among the barrens of the inner Cape where the new highway runs.

    • Thus, by taking the old roads we get the churches and much else that is the best of Cape Cod—its charming towns, the inns, the antique shops, and the fine flashes of water at many turns. Our route is roughly clockwise—6-A on the north side and 28 on the south; these link the villages and the splendid history of Cape Cod.

      • One paragraph of this history concerns Dr. Abner Hersey, an eccentric physician whose practice was the whole of the

    Dennis Congregational Church (lower left, opposite). Some of America's oldest graveyards are situated on Cape Cod, and the bones of many an old sea captain rest here in the churchyard of the Congregational Church in Dennis. Nearby is another cemetery, this one without stones at all. A simple inscription on a granite slab reads: "Burial Ground of the Nobscusset Tribe of Indians of which Tribe Mashantampaine was Chief." The famed Cape Playhouse, a top-notch summer theater, was converted from the old Nobscusset Meeting House which had served as a school-house, tinshop, slaughterhouse, blacksmith shop and garage.

    Bell Meeting House (lower right, opposite). This church in Truro got its name from the fact that it houses one of the Paul Revere bells on the Cape. It was built in 1827 on a site known as the "Hill of Storms" where a Congregational Church had been built in 1709. Truro has had many churches in its past. It was once big enough to support four Congregational churches during the prosperous middle 1800s when fishing vessels and packing sheds lined the harbor. After many lean years, interest in the old Bell Meeting House has been rekindled and people in this part of the Cape are now working to preserve and restore it.

    West Parish Meeting House (shown above). This church in the village of West Barnstable is now 243 years old, the oldest Congregational Church on Cape Cod. It bespeaks age in other ways. The communion service includes a pewter flagon brought by church members from England in 1634, and the call to service is sounded from the square bell tower by one of the four Paul Revere bells now on the Cape. The church society traces its existence right back to the Congregational Church of Southwalk, London, in 1616.

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    • Church of the Redeemer the older ones, those which stem from the "golden age" of New England architecture, and to sketch a little history.

  • (top left). This Universalist Church in Provincetown is sometimes called "The Church that Whaling Built." It was built in 1847 when Provincetown was rich from whales and fish and is considered the most beautiful building of its kind on the Cape. Its "Christopher Wren" tower certainly supports the opinion. A handsome chandelier of Sandwich glass hangs from the ceiling; long-handled collection boxes are still in use; and the communion service contains pieces by Paul Revere. Its founders were inspired by the writings of John Murray, preferring his liberal ideas to the old Puritan ways.

  • Mashpee Indian Church (top right). Built in 1684, this is the oldest church building on Cape Cod. It is situated on land that was part of a fifty-square-mile tract secured by a conscientious white man named Richard Bourne for the Mashpee Indians whose homelands were being taken from them in exchange for brass kettles. Bourne became minister of their first meeting house which was erected in the 1660s. When war broke out between white and Indian, the Mashpees refused to fight the whites. Some of their descendants still come to service in this old building which is now sadly in need of repair. Visitors are welcome.

    Congregational Church, Falmouth (show below). This church was built in 1796 and half a century later was- rolled across the street to its present site. In its steeple hangs another Paul Revere bell, inscribed with this cheerful note: "The Living to Church I Call, and to the Grave I Summon All." Well, anyway, it's a pleasant spot on the largest village green on Cape Cod. Flanking the church building on all sides are the fine homes of old sea captains, many with widow's walks on top.

    • Cape. The only doctor around, he covered his territory by horse and buggy, and with the considerable money he made he bought good land which he turned into prosperous farms. His will granted the proceeds of the farms to the Cape's thirteen Congregational parishes, in such proportion as each parish had used his medical services.

      • Three deacons from each parish (the thirty-nine were known as the "Assembly of. Saints") were appointed to manage the estate and "to abide three days each year at the tavern in Barnstable" at the expense of the departed. The tavern proved so much fun that much of the managing had to do with expense accounts.

        • The income is gone now, much to the disgust of Dr. Hersey's ghost, but the churches remain in all their handsomeness as an excellent reason for visiting Cape Cod in this or any other season.■


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