Winter in Eastham!
Photo by Joseph Mistretta, Jan. 2022
Governor Thomas Prince’s Pear Tree
By Marca A. Daley, EHS Archives
In a corner of the archives at the 1869 SchoolHouse Museum is a small log of a ‘petrified’ pear tree (donated by John Fish) with a brass plate affixed to one end that reads:
(Note: the year is incorrect; one newspaper account says it was planted about 1644; this is the year Prince (he spelled it Prence) moved to Nauset which became Eastham.)
"We are sorry to be obliged to record the destruction of that venerable relic of the Pilgrims, the old Pear Tree at Eastham, planted by Gov. Prince, of Plymouth Colony, more than two centuries ago. The Yarmouth Register informs us that the tree was blown down during the last gale. This interesting memorial of the Pilgrim band stood, we believe, upon the farm of Mr. Freeman, in Eastham, once the dwelling place of Gov. Prince, by whose hands the tree is said to have been planted."
-- Boston Traveler Pittsfield Sun (Dec 1848)
"There is a pear-tree in this town celebrated for its longevity. It was brought from England by Thomas Prince, who was elected governor of the colony in 1634. Its fruit is said to be fair and good, and it yields about fifteen bushels annually."
-- Hayward’s New England Gazetteer (1857)
Your correspondent has many times visited the old homestead of Governor Prince, in the choice of which he exercised sound judgment, since he selected the very best land in the entire town,if not in all of Barnstable county. This identical old residence is fast approaching decay, and here also is the ancestral pear tree… Several years ago branches were cut from it and made into canes, and presented to distinguished guests or intimate connections.
-- The Boston Globe (Jan 1887)
"A third ancient pear tree is to be found at Eastham. It was brought over from England by Thomas Prince, who was a one time governor of Plymouth. This tree is at the present time about 275 years of age and is owned by Nathan Tenney."
-- The New England Farmer (May 1902).
One final article features a poem, which seems a fitting way to end this short homage to a famous Eastham pear tree. It’s in the Weekly National Intelligencer (Washington, DC - 2 Dec 1848).
We had the opportunity, in the summer of 1847, of paying our respects to the Prince Pear Tree. It was then yielding fruit to the seventh or eighth generation. At the time we copied, from some source not now recollected, the following lines, which purported to be addressed to the old Pear Tree by a descendant of one of Gov. Prince’s companions in the settlement:
Old Time has thinned thy boughs, old Pilgrim Tree,
And bow’d thee with the weight of many years;
Yet, ‘mid the frosts of age thy bloom we see,
And yearly still thy mellow fruit appears.
Venerable emblem of our sires of yore!
Like them thou hast performed life’s labors well;
And when, like them, thy days are past and o’er,
These lines may help thy lengthen’d stories tell.
Note: The Pear Tree artifact is displayed in the museum, EHS member Dick Ellington created a display case for it.
In the same corner of the archives there is a second, smaller piece of the pear tree as well, and an inscription that includes reference to an 1848 article in the Boston Traveler newspaper. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, and so began a search with fascinating results.
The articles I found ranged from one in the Pittsfield Sun (Dec 1848) to Hayward’s New England Gazateer (1857) to The
Boston Globe (Jan 1887) to The New England Farmer (May 1902).
ALL emphasized the age and size of the tree, as well as its connection to Eastham and Governor Prince, and all lamented its demise. Following are some excerpts
A Voice from the Past: Eastham and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic
From the Eastham Historical Society Archives
We received a query about the 1918 pandemic and Eastham, and my research led me to our Annual Town Reports. I was surprised to find no mention of the influenza outbreak until I reached the end of the 1918 booklet and the section devoted to the Superintendent of Schools’ Report. There, among school budget figures and attendance statistics I found the following:
From the Report of the Superintendent of Schools - Year Ending 1918
“The long time schools have been closed because of the influenza epidemic has left unexpended a balance in the treasury. The amount recommended for the schools of the present year will be found at the end of the committee’s financial statement” (56-57).
“In my last year’s report I suggested a School or District Nurse. I do not know as such a suggestion is practical, because of the difficulties to overcome...but in light of our experience with contagious diseases of children in the schools and in the homes during the several years just past, isn’t it worth while to attempt to overcome the obstacles? The influenza has been an exceptionally difficult thing. No one claims to know any remedy. Cape Cod has treated it probably as well as it has been done anywhere. But for the many children’s diseases which interrupt our schools and our attendance year after year, it seems to me there is needed closer supervision than school physicians have the time for. Let us all--town authorities, school committee, parents and people--think about it, and so find some method of better handling the matter (60).
A year and a half later, an article was included in the 1920 Annual Town Report, in the Town Warrant section.
1920 Town Warrant - Art. 34 “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $175 for the purpose of employing a full time Medical Health Officer and Medical School Inspector, in combination with other towns of Barnstable County. Said sum to be placed in the hands of the Treasurer of the Town, subject to the order of the Board of Health and School Committee acting conjointly which order shall be signed by the chairman of each board, or take any action thereon.”
The article was passed.