Englishmen, all farmers, were responsible for the first permanent
settlement of Mattacheese in 1639. They
were Anthony Thacher, John Crowe and Thomas Howes.
(A year before, Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins was granted a
leave of Plymouth Colony "to
erect a house at Mattacheese, and cut hay to winter his cattle, provided
it not to withdraw him from the town of Plymouth.")
Old Mill on Mill Pond in Yarmouth Port
1640, Mattacheese had been renamed Yarmouth, probably after a seaside town
in England, and 28 families made their homes here. The first generations of Yarmouth settlers were farmers - the
principal occupation -- and their bountiful vegetable and corn crops
provided the food staple upon which a growing town depended. The newcomers also brought skills with them and developed
trades to support the business of the village.
Blacksmiths, cobblers, wheelwrights, furniture makers, coopers, and
other craftsmen all practiced trades that were vital to the development of
was plentiful; these settlers didn't go hungry, as had their brethren in
the early days of the Plymouth Colony.
Cape Cod Bay and its nearby coves overflowed with lobster, mackerel
and cod, sometimes referred to as "Cape Cod Turkey." Nantucket Sound to the south provided much the same fare.
Scallops, quahogs, clams and oysters found their way to the supper
table as did geese and ducks hunted on the salt marshes.
Dense forests hosted a plentiful supply of game, and many of the
town's twenty-two glacier-carved "kettle" ponds yielded pickerel
the first settlement of Yarmouth's territory occurred on the north side of
the Cape, settlement of the "South Seas" area soon followed.
In 1643 Yelverton Crowe, believed to be a brother to John Crowe who
settled on the north, obtained a large parcel of land bordering Lewis Bay.
According to legend, Crowe is said to have acquired the land in a
peculiar way. An Indian
sachem told Crowe he could have as much land as he could walk over in an
hour in exchange for an "ox-chain, a copper kettle ... and a few
trinkets." Crowe must
have been a fast walker, as his lands included much of what is today West
much larger than its present eight square mile radius, "Old"
Yarmouth, as originally established, included the lands of Chatham,
Harwich, Brewster, Dennis and the Barnstable village of Cummaquid.
Dennis was the last land holdout, initiating a successful, friendly
split in June 1793.
the later half of the 17th century, the Indians began to sell off chunks
of their land to European farmers and in 1713 a reservation in South
Yarmouth was set aside for Indians' use.
By that time disease had already reduced the native population to a
very small number and a smallpox epidemic in 1763 virtually wiped out the
remainder. The town set aside
a few acres of "Indian Town" for the last remaining native,
Thomas Greenough, and ordered the remaining lands be sold Quakers bought
up much of the Indian lands along Bass River, and took up residence in
what was to be appropriately called Friends Village.
copyright ©2001, all
The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, PO Box 11, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675