Mid-Winter at the Old Schoolhouse
Our museums are closed, yet even with the pandemic and the cold weather, work at the EHS continues. Volunteers have taken advantage of the quiet winter months and are working on several projects that require time and patience: re-discovering, identifying, cleaning, organizing, cataloguing, and digitizing our records for dozens of documents and artifacts in the climate-controlled archives of the schoolhouse.
One of our recent ‘finds’ is an original document signed by Samuel Adams, then governor of Massachusetts, in 1795; another is a large piece of a famous pear tree planted about 1644, by Governor Thomas Prence, a founding father of Eastham. We feature both of these stories in this newsletter.
This winter we’ve also had many research requests, one of which asked about the 1918 Influenza Epidemic in relation to Eastham; and so we include some of our findings for that, as well as a follow-up to a story on the Meeting House Posts which we featured in our Fall 2020 Newsletter. Enjoy!
A Message from the President
MERRILY CASSIDY/CAPE COD TIMES
Spotlight on a significant historic document
As we work in the archives, we sometimes come across interesting "finds" -- a deed, an old map, a cannonball from the War of 1812, or even a rare school textbook. Recently Joe and Eileen were the lucky members to rediscover a significant donation that had been hidden away on the shelves. We refer to it as the Knowles-Adams document and want to share our excitement at finding it with you.
This excerpt from the Provincetown Independent describes that rare find in our archives:
Document Signed by Sam Adams Found
BY LINDA CULHANE DEC 10, 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.
As you might imagine, all of us in the society are very excited about this find! The story has been picked up by newspapers on and off the Cape, and has brought renewed interest in our organization, our museums, and our artifacts and collections; it has even brought renewed energy to us, the volunteers.
Imagine my surprise when I made another discovery just this week--one that is closely related to the Knowles-Adams "find"! As I worked on cataloguing and measuring maps and old photos for a digitizing project, I came across a series of grave-stone rubbings...very fragile and very old. Transcribing them, I was struck by two names in particular: Knowls and Myrick. Coincidence? Serendipity!
Among the rubbings was one of the grave-stone of Elijah Knowls, Esq.! It appears to be the same Elijah Knowls from our rare document... and it appears that he had died just six months after his appointment as Justice of the Peace. Of course, we don't know for certain yet whether they are the same person, but it will surely be fun trying to find out!
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:
Governor Thomas Prince’s Pear Tree
By Marca A. Daley, EHS Volunteer
(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 may soon move upstairs from the archives into the museum, as EHS member Dick Ellington is creating a display case for it. Along with the pieces of the tree are several other artifacts from the old Prince (Prence) home, but we’ll save those for a future newsletter, and lengthen further still the stories that the old pear tree tells.
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
By Eileen Seaboldt, EHS President
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.
Follow-up to the "Meeting House Posts" article in our Fall Newsletter:
By Eileen Seaboldt, EHS President
On March 18th, the Eastham Public Library will host a series of events honoring the life and work of Reverend Samuel Treat. Activities will include a panel discussion, talks, videos, and visits to significant sites associated with “The Life of Samuel Treat: Pastor for Eastham and the Nauset Praying Indians” Details can be found on the Eastham Public Library’s Calendar of Events, linked here.
Posts from the original Meeting House are displayed at the EHS Ranlett Tool Museum, and we recently transcribed the yellowed and aging document that explains the history of the posts and how they came to be housed in our museum. Click here to read that story:
Follow EHS on Social Media for interesting photos and fun facts!
Throughout the Fall we highlighted donations to our museums; beginning in January, we changed our weekly focus to Eastham’s historical sites, using descriptions researched and compiled by Frederick H. Jewell and a collection of old postcards and photos donated by Kate Alpert. Fred was one of the founders of the Eastham Historical Society and Kate a former EHS president. This Spring on Facebook, we’ll turn our attention to the Archives and our collection of historical maps.
Follow along on Instagram for pics and posts about Eastham - past and present. You can find us @eastham_historical_society
And don’t forget our YouTube channel
This Has Been a Year of Many Firsts
First, we got hit by a Pandemic,
and that resulted in our first year of not opening any of our Museum Doors to the public.
It was our first year of not meeting together for our monthly meetings,
The first year of meeting by Zoom,
The first year of voting by Zoom,
The first year with a full season of presentations done remotely,
The First Masked Antique Show,
The First Masked Yard Sale which was a huge success.
As we have navigated our way through all this, we have also had to examine ways to trim expenses as a result of less income from fundraising opportunities. As a result, we are moving into the digital age with the bulk of future newsletters being distributed electronically. This will result in a huge savings both for printing and postage expenses.
Thanks to those of you who have recently updated your email addresses to help make this transition. For those of you who haven’t provided current email addresses, please respond to email@example.com asap with a current address if you want to continue receiving newsletters. AND be sure to include your email address when you renew your membership.
Wishing you the best fall and holiday season. With the coming new year, we look forward to once again being able to meet and greet visitors to our Museums.
Eileen Seaboldt, President
A Message from the President
The first time I saw and even touched the posts was on a cold winter’s day, February 5th of this year (2020). They were simply beautiful. In fact, being in their presence I literally experienced chills, and it wasn’t from the cold! Just thinking about their survival was mind blowing. Members of the Snow family had seen fit to preserve them for 376 years (the English firstcomers from Plymouth arrived in April of 1644 and began post and beam construction of the meetinghouse/ fort immediately, as was their custom in Plymouth twenty-four years hence.) Mark Herman, the curator of the Eastham Tool Museum, was kind enough to open the museum so I could see these iconic planks. He had long professed their value to whoever would listen. So, there we were staring at these special red oak posts. Amazing!
I have always had an affinity for old things. I try and imagine the people who owned them and used them for various purposes. Our dining room table was fashioned circa 1820 and was found by a cousin of mine in an abandoned log cabin in Putnam County, Tennessee. I love polishing this two-hundred-year-old table and thinking about the people who sat at it before my family passed around the pot roast and mashed potatoes. I wondered what they talked about and what kind of meals were served upon it.
Similar thoughts occurred to me while gazing upon the ancient planks. Attached to them was a narrative about the first church and those that preached there, as well as a history of individuals who came in possession of the ancient planks over time. Early Eastham folks were apparently good at re-purposing things. In 1720, according to the history taped to the boards, Joseph Cole “bought the disused Meeting House, applying its framing and boards to build for himself & his wife, Mercy Hinckley and son Joseph, his dwelling on today’s Canal Road, Orleans, a mile SW of its original site.” The David Snow family occupied the home next, then the posts were given to a cousin when the home was re-designed. The beams were stored at his home in Chelsea, but his son eventually returned them to the Cape and stored them in his Orleans dwelling. Albert Elmer Snow presented the posts to the Historical Society in May of 1969, “for posterity to admire and brood upon.”
And that is what was occurring, just as Albert Snow had willed it.
It is our hope that those who wish to see them for themselves can have the opportunity to do so once the Swift-Daley complex re-opens.
The Story of the Original Eastham Meetinghouse Posts
By Patty Donohue
Mayflower Passenger Memorial Stones Project at the Old Cove Burying Ground
September 1965 - September 1966
By Marca Daley
Fifty-five years ago, in late summer/early fall of 1965, the Eastham Historical Society, under the leadership of Frederick H. Jewell, decided to pursue a project to provide memorial stones for the unmarked graves of Mayflower passengers Constance Hopkins Snow, Giles Hopkins, and Lieut. Joseph Rogers in the old Cove Burying Ground.
It was a daunting project, but was successfully completed in just eight months, with a dedication ceremony that followed a few months later. The details of the project might have remained obscure, had not a relative of Joseph Rogers requested information from the EHS Archives.
Following is the story of the memorial stones, as told through key articles in the Curator’s scrapbook, local newspapers, and the Mayflower Quarterly. It’s a story of perseverance and determination and we thought you might enjoy reading it, using the primary sources available in our archives.
A Timeline of the Project
Meeting of the Eastham Cemetery Unit / Background to the Project
Letter to the Editor Outlining the Project in The Oracle
Article in the Cape Cod Standard Times (CCST)
Letter from Frederick Jewell Announcing Completion of the Project
Slightly Salty by George L. Moses - a Feature Article in CCST
Photos of the Stones in The Oracle and in The Mayflower Quarterly
Photos taken at the Dedication Ceremony (CCST)
Article Announcing Completion of the Project (CCST)
Explanation of the Project and Description of the Dedication in The Oracle
Click here to read the articles in full.
EHS Volunteers Hard at Work!
We all know about Spring Cleaning, but recently our EHS volunteers have been busy with Fall Projects and Clean-up. At the School House, Jim was busy putting in the newly arrived brick order. The walkway looks great! And YOU can order a brick through our website, www.easthamhistoricalsociety.org keeping in mind that the next ‘installments’ will be in 2021.
After our successful fall yard and plant sale, several of us got together to spruce up the Swift-Daley museum entrance by scraping, calking, and repainting doors and windows. It was a 3-4 day job, and the results are great! And if anyone is wondering, there are 50 small window panes in that big kitchen window!
Just for Fun: One of our most popular posts on Facebook
150th Year Celebration of our 1869 Schoolhouse Museum
Thank you to Lower Cape TV for featuring the 150th Year Celebration of our 1869 Schoolhouse Museum