Since 1961, Easthamites Frederick H. Jewell and Ralph Chase spoke of forming a historical society to preserve and celebrate the 312 year history of their town.
Jewell, a retired businessman who had traveled the world and settled in Eastham in 1958, and Chase, a real estate agent, musician and music lover who was born, raised, and lived his whole life in Eastham, were passionate about Eastham and its long history and strove to preserve it for generations to come. In early 1963, Otto Nickerson, who had recently retired from the Eastham Elementary School after 50 years of teaching (43 in Eastham and many as the elementary school principal), joined them in this mission.
Soon after, the trio put a notice in the Oracle and Cape Codder newspapers inviting interested residents to an exploratory meeting scheduled for March 3, 1963. In addition to Jewell, Chase, and Nickerson, representatives from eight Eastham families attended this first affair at Town Hall - Mr. Joseph & Mrs. Jean Putnam, Mr. and Mrs. Kenelm Collins, Mr. Leroy and Mrs. Alice Lowe, Mr. David Crary, Mr. Samuel Bartlett, Mr. Robert Holmes, Mr. John Alexander, and Mr. Edwin Johnson.
It was decided that in the next meeting, a Nominating Committee would be formed, taking on the responsibility of putting forward names to be voted on for the roles of officers and directors of the Society.
“Proponents have urged a large turnout of Eastham residents to indicate town interest. It is hoped that younger residents will attend.” Oracle, 3/7/1963
Notices again went into the Oracle and Cape Codder papers calling for community participation, and a meeting was scheduled for March 17, 1963. It was planned that Dr. S Stewart Brooks, an officer of the Orleans Historical Society, would be the principal speaker at the meeting on March 17th.
Jewell, hoping to stress the importance of this meeting to residents, quoted in the Oracle:
This is a community project for the future and will only be as successful as the practical support it receives. The ideal time to have organized this society was a 100 years (more or less) ago, but that is past history, and we must look to the future.
Many other towns on the Cape have Historical Societies and Museums that do not have the 312 year history that Eastham has, for it was incorporated in 1651, but originally settled in 1644....
The coming of the Cape Cod National Seashore will bring many new visitors to the Cape, who will be interested in our historical past, and the society will be a further asset to the town.
Again, and we repeat, this is a long term project that should be built on a firm foundation, carefully planned, rather than in haste. All interested Easthamites are urged to attend this first public meeting.
“Eastham Historical Society Blossoms” Oracle, 3/21/1963
The meeting on St. Patrick’s Day was a success, with some 30 families gathering in attendance. Frederick Jewell served as temporary chairman with Mrs. Jean Putnam as temporary secretary. Jewell called the meeting to order and introduced Miss Ruth L. Barnard, the president of the Orleans Historical Society, who spoke about her society and took questions from the floor.
Soon after, Otto Nickerson presented the resolution to organize to the group and the vote was unanimous - Eastham would have its own Historical Society. Following this vote was yet another that had temporary chairman, Mr. Jewell, appoint a nominating committee to bring in a slate of officers and directors to be voted upon in the next meeting. The committee consisted of Mr. Ralph Chase, Mrs. Della Macomber, and Mr. Joseph Putnam. The roles to be voted on were standard - Historian, Curator, a Board of Directors of three or more, and roles like President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.
On March 31, 1963 the group again gathered to vote on the officers and directors of the newly formed Eastham Historical Society. The inaugural group came to be made up of:
Kenelm Collins - President
Clayton Horton - Vice President
Jean Putnam - Secretary
Samuel Bartlett - Treasurer
Alice Lowe - Historian
Frederick Jewell - Curator
Board of Directors: Otto Nickerson, Sadie Flint, and Howard Quinn
"With our compliments we send you this Certificate of Corporation. We are pleased to have this official document for your society."
Come August 14, 1963 the Eastham Historical Society corporation was approved with a signature from Kevin H. White, Secretary of the Commonwealth. A little over a month later, on September 30, 1963, the Eastham Historical Society received its Certificate of Corporation.
The Society Today
Since the Eastham Historical Society’s founding 57 years ago, the Society has been committed to preserving Eastham’s past for Eastham’s future. While officers and directors have changed, as has the Town of Eastham itself, the Society has remained rooted in its foundational objectives...
"...the collection and preservation of gifts of Eastham relics and objects, photographs, old postcards, old deeds, documents, and bills of all kinds, account books, ship logs and papers, letters, and anything else of interest."
The Society is now home to over 325 members. Whether it's through our annual events like the Antique Show, our ongoing online Weekly Presentations, our Museum tours and more, the Society is committed to engaging with the community and celebrating our town.
To that end, the Society maintains museums at the Swift-Daley complex located at 2375 State Highway in Eastham and at the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum, located at 25 Schoolhouse Road. The EHS Archives, also located at the Schoolhouse Museum, gathers genealogical and historical information through donations, cataloging and preserves these materials in a safe climate controlled environment. The emphasis is on, but not limited to, Eastham. The Society also sponsors various programs throughout the year including book reviews, historical presentations, information days and public displays.
Current Officers and Directors
Eileen Seaboldt, President
Patty Donohoe, First Vice President
Jeff Bumby, Second Vice President
Sharen Shipley, Secretary
Art Autorino, Treasurer