Cape Cod - Roads And Waterways
( Originally Published 1920 )
CAPE COD is neighborly to the beaten tracks of the ocean. Nobska Light is on the south shore at Woods Hole. Here converges the coastwise traffic of Boston, New York, and the South, here come ships from Buzzards Bay and the Canal, from Nantucket Sound and the outside of the Cape, from Long Island Sound—thirty thousand of them in all, passing the light in the space of a year. The joy of the cliffs of Truro is in the solitary grandeur of the ocean, but that joy is tempered, humanized, and made kindly, the solitude is broken, for one sees sails by day and lights at night—fisher craft, freighters puffing through solitary funnels, and a mile of coal barges, three, some-times four, spaced a thousand feet or more, following a tug whose power seems out of all harmony with its size. The barges are high on the water, going south, or with hulls deep down, aiming their black cargoes at Boston, Salem, Newburyport,Portsmouth, or Portland.
Ships are few at Plymouth. One may look out all day over the rock, seeing only a few diminutive fishermen, a motorboat, a chance yacht of some wealthy pleasure seeker, and, if in summer, the daily excursion steamer from Boston. The look of things is more ocean-like if one goes down the Cape to Provincetown. Fishing was small at Plymouth and out of fishing grew the larger trading life of the Cape. Plymouth stayed by its agriculture and developed its manufactures down to our day. It has never been so thoroughly mixed with the ocean as the narrow and exposed foreland which springs from it.
Sandwich, the basal old town of the Cape, is somewhat like Plymouth, and is said to be less maritime than any other town on the Cape. Surely a look at her desolate water front makes it easy to believe it, and there is evidence enough that manufacture ruled in the past as farming and summer resting to-day. Yet there was at one time some shipbuilding here. And Sandwich is credited with the first packet running to Boston, a service maintained for many years, until the venerable town saw its first steam cars in 1848.
Woods Hole, let it be remembered, provides Falmouth with that town's most important harbor, a haven not situated to favor Boston trade, but a central shipping place for New Bedford, and the outer islands, wood for Nantucket having loaded many a boat from its docks. Falmouth had, nevertheless, a worthy share in the wide trade of the older days. Sixty vessels were owned there in i 1800, and their sailings reached, for fishing and the coasting trade, such remote regions as Belle Isle, the Southern states and the West Indies.
It is quite within the range of possibilities to look out over the broad surfaces of Barnstable Bay, and in some hours not see so much as a rowboat. A century has made a complete change in Barnstable's mode of life. The old town once had several shipyards in which Boston packets were built. There were frequent trips between the Cape capital and the State capital in 18o6, and there was little besides marine activity in 1839, the time of the bicentennial celebration. There were two hundred and fifty of Barnstable's citizens who were at that time either masters or mates of vessels.
The Bay State's honored jurist, Chief justice Shaw, at the Barnstable celebration, looked out on Sandy Neck and called it "a range of sterile sand hills interspersed with a few patches of brown woods and swamps, and surrounded by marshes." But to the Cape Cod man what is suggested?—the "ocean that lies beyond, the field of his industry and enter-prise, of enjoyment and improvement, even of social and intellectual improvement, connecting him with all lands, art, knowledge, refinement, civilization. The land and the sea are alike fertile to those that have the hardihood, the skill, the enterprise to improve them, and the hearts to enjoy them."
Such is the glory of Barnstable's history, but a new chapter is in the writing to-day, less arousing than the older story, more in the fields, and the end not seen. It is half a century since Barnstable retired within herself, for the great traffic had ceased at the time of the Civil War.
Every town, going farther out on the Cape, was through and through marine. None of them needed any solicitude, as Thoreau ex-pressed it for himself, about "getting the sea into" them. Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster all front on the innermost corner of the Bay. None of them have harborage to boast of, but what they had was suited to the modest craft of the old time. These little havens were never idle. Dennis had in 1837 a hundred and fifty skippers sailing from American ports. And Dennis had been running boats to Boston almost a hundred years at that time.
Yarmouth had her regular Boston packets before 1800, but their traffic was at an end in 187o.
One wonders if Brewster's slumbers are ever broken after the summer automobile has run its course. Innocent of smoke or factory, setting a few nets in her fish weirs, and living in gracious old mansions, under magnificent arborescent growths in that poor land in which "trees do not flourish "something has happened in Brewster, or has ceased to happen. The time is no more when she had more sea captains on foreign voyages than any other town in the United States. No doubt, those foreign voyages account for the mansions. None would dispute Freeman who says that Brewster was noted for shipmasters, having not much fishing but vast coasting and foreign trade, and adding an observation which if not startling is safely veracious, "one of the most agreeable towns on the Cape."
All of Harwich's ocean contact is on the south shore, but the town had shipping enough to cause someone to assert that her retired sea captains were as thick as cranberries. If, as we suppose, the cranberries of Harwich were intended, no more could be said.
Even more fully absorbed by the sea, were the outer towns. In Orleans the land was tended by old men and small boys, all between the ages of twelve and forty-five being occupied on the sea. Adjoining Orleans is Eastham, whose asparagus fields and coast swamps offer no hint of ships, yet the town boasted coasters that in summer brought lumber from Maine and in winter voyaged to the West Indies. Both Orleans and Eastham shared in the useful traffic of delivering Cape salt on Boston wharves.
Chatham was less favorably placed for the Boston traffic, which she maintained mostly by inside routes through Brewster and Orleans. Chatham was well situated for Nantucket and New Bedford trade and ran boats even to New York. Wellfleet and Truro could not escape their shipping destiny, while the sailing ship ruled the seas. The Truro men were especially exposed to sea dangers. All were of that occupation, at home in a narrow land, with dangerous shores, and often lost in wrecks, and in heroic efforts of rescue. There was much traffic with Boston, but the silting of the harbor of Pamet and the decline of fishing ended the business before the railway was extended so far out. Yet in 183o Truro boasted a schooner whose cabin was fitted with birdseye and mahogany and hung with silk draperies.
Provincetown did not begin its larger trade until some years after the War of 1812, but has maintained importance as a haven, while all other Cape ports save Woods Hole have passed into - quietude. Fishing will always bring some shipping into Provincetown harbor, the navy is likely to use it in times of peace, and sure to come in days of war, and all ships which ply the adjoining waters may take refuge from storm.
The arrival of the packet in the early half of the last century was the excitement of the time, bringing the news, and bringing also Cape sailors whose real voyages began and ended at Boston. There was keen rivalry for speed among the packets of Barnstable, Yarmouth and the other towns. There were packets running before 1800, but the adoption of regular sailings belongs almost wholly to the nineteenth century, coming to an end with the advent of the Old Colony Railway.
The elderly man, already quoted, who had spent his youth on Cape Cod, in a communication of 1897, says that before he left Well-fleet in 1852, he saw at one time eighty sail of the most perfectly constructed vessels of their kind in the world riding at anchor in that port. He returned after forty-three years and looked out from Indian Hill to see the waters as bare as when the Mayflower shallop passed the position of Billingsgate Light in search of a permanent home for the Leyden Pilgrims. Wharves were decaying, the fishermen's cottages were falling in, and in the town Italian villas and English houses were replacing the old Cape cottages. Truly, in a recent summer afternoon in Truro, on a walk to the ancient cemetery, did the now venerable daughter of a still more venerable sea captain say, " Cape Cod ain't what it used to be; it's going down fast."
The changes of the Civil War threw the young men into other than Cape business. Domestic coast trade took the population to the south shore, small sloops and schooners gave way to large craft, machinery displaced men, and fishing concentrated in Boston, Gloucester and Provincetown. Emigrants poured out to Maine, the Connecticut Valley, the Middle States, the Prairies and California.
Often quoted, but deserving a place in every memorial of old Cape days, no words will ever say more eloquently than these what that far-flung life was. They were spoken by Dr. Palfrey in his Barnstable oration in 1839-"Wherever, over the world, you see the stars and stripes floating, you may have good hope that beneath them someone will be found who can tell you the soundings of Barnstable, or Wellfleet, or Chatham harbor." Another Cape writer cites as suitable to his native shores, Burke's tribute to old Yarmouth on the North Sea—" No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries, no climate that is not witness to their toils."
A shipmaster twenty years ago told a wondering lone passenger of how he must sail by watch and compass the tortuous and rocky course on the return journey from Iona to Oban south of the Island of Mull. But no stern coast was perhaps ever, or anywhere, more hazardous than the sea borders around Cape Cod. There is an average duration of fog on this coast of forty-five days in the year. Anyone knows what this means who has spent weeks or months under the Cape's greatest light and has heard the low roar of its fog-horn day and night.
The tidal currents are variable, and the bottoms rapidly change in a region where so much sand is supplied to the waves and readily shifted to a prodigious extent in single storms. There are extensive and dangerous shoals far out and reaching to the Nantucket light ship. Most of the larger vessels go wholly outside of the shoals, and in a long week's time the sojourner at Siasconset might not see a single ship, or if he did, more than likely it would be in the service of the United States Coast Survey.
The alternative sailing is through Nantucket Sound, entered or left by a narrow and sharply turning course through the shoals, endangered by fogs and cross currents. No place of refuge is available between Provincetown and Vine-yard Haven. No other part of the American coast has seen so many shipwrecks in the past fifty years. From 1875 to 1903 there were six hundred and eighty-seven shipwrecks on or near the Cape. More than one hundred lives were lost, nearly two hundred of the ships were not saved, and the property loss was more than two million dollars.
From 1907 to 1917, there were one hundred and fifty-six wrecks on the ocean side of Cape Cod. If we consider the Nantucket Shoals, the island and the sound, and Martha's Vine-yard and its sound, there were in that period of ten years casualties involving two hundred and fifty-five sailing vessels, and seventy-one steamships, or in all three hundred and twenty-six salt-water craft. Here the loss was thirty-two lives, and in property more than one and a half-million dollars. In the single year 1909, on the exposed face of the Cape, alone, there were twenty-two wrecks. About the same number of ships met disaster in each of the years 1911, 1912 and 1913.
Means of safety have long been taken, growing in perfection to the present time, though no human precaution can curb the sea or put its dwellers beyond hazard. A lighthouse was erected in Plymouth Harbor about 1770, but for long around the Cape, the sailors had learned by day, at least, to guide their course by hilltops, windmills and the church steeples.
The Reverend Levi Whitman thus wrote to the Reverend James Freeman on the need of a light at the Clay Pounds, where Highland Light now is. "That mountain of clay in Truro seems to have been erected in the midst of sand hills by the God of nature on purpose for the foundation of a lighthouse, which, if it could be obtained in time, no doubt would save millions of property and thousands of lives. Why then should not that dark chasm between Nantucket and Cape Ann be eliminated? Should there be a lighthouse erected on this high mountain, it would be discovered immediately after leaving Nantucket light and would be a safe guide round the Cape into the harbor."
A light was established here in 1797, and since June 12 of that year the beacon has lighted the surrounding waters on every night of almost a century and a quarter. The tower rises about eighty feet above its foundation, which in turn is about one hundred and forty feet above the sea. The present structure replaced an earlier one in 1857. Whether looking in the direction of Sankaty Head, or the Boston Light, or Cape Ann, the distance for each is a little more than forty miles. Barring a foggy atmosphere, therefore, the "chasm" of the oldtime clergyman is bridged, and the coastwise mariner would always be able to pick up one of these lights. The light has 182,000 candle power. No other oil-burning light in America is so powerful, and its flashes may, it is said, be seen under favorable conditions, at a distance of forty-five miles.
This major beacon is officially the Cape Cod light, but the local name is used more commonly, at least on the Cape. Other lights fol-lowed at short intervals. In 18o6, twelve acres at Chatham were given to the govern-ment for lights. Race Point light dates from 1816, and the light on Long Point at the very tip of the Cape was set up in 1826. Billings-gate Point, off Wellfleet, in the Bay, once a bit of the mainland, now an island, became the site of a light in 1822. Lights were installed at Nauset in 1838, thus giving a series at short intervals for all the outer Cape shore. In 1849 a light was established in Pamet Harbor, but this was discontinued in 1855, probably on account of the silting of the harbor and the decline of shipping. Wood End light dates from 1873, and other beacons are found at Monomoy Point, Hyannis, at Nobska Point by Woods Hole and at Wings Neck, on Wenaumet Neck in Buzzards Bay.
Lightships also aid the sailor, at Shovelful Shoal, a little east of the southern tip of Monomoy; in Pollock's Rip, about five miles east of the end of Monomoy Beach; also Bishop and Clerks, three miles south of Point Gammon; and Cross Rip Shoal, south of Osterville and Cotuit.
On an earlier page was found a reference to an old description of those east and west valleys which form a significant feature of the geography of the lower Cape. This description occurs in a fifteen-page pamphlet printed in. Marlboro Street in Boston in 1802. It was written by a "Member of the Humane Society," and this public-spirited gentleman was none other than the same James Freeman who received his brother minister's letter about a light at Clay Pounds.
The title of the pamphlet is "A description of the Eastern Coast of the County of Barnstable from Cape Cod or Race Point to Cape Malebarre, or the Sandy Point of Chatham." The object of the writing is to indicate the spots on which the trustees of the Humane Society have erected huts and other places where shipwrecked seamen may look for shelter. Various gentlemen of Provincetown and Truro had promised to inspect these huts, and see that they were kept in condition as shelters.
There was but poor chance of a stranded, water-soaked, and freezing sailor finding one of these huts; having to go up the cliffs, often, it might be, in driving sand or sleet, over the moors. Only a few months ago the captain of one of the life-saving stations said to an inquiring visitor that if one of his crew on winter patrol were lost in a night snowstorm it would be useless to go out and look for him until morning.
If the shivering wanderer found the hut, it would be a "rude charity house with fireplace, wood and matches, straw pallet and signal pole." One wonders if the gentlemen of Truro and Provincetown always kept their promise, and if the wood and matches were always there. These dread mischances that were involved in the provisions of benevolent minded members of the Humane Society much interested Thoreau's inquiring mind, and he carries his rather weird speculations through many paragraphs which anyone can follow who reads the later pages of his chapter— "The Beach."
All this is changed today, and the outer shore is fringed with life-saving stations, nine in all, running from Race Point by Peaked Hill Bar, Highhead, Highland, Pamet River, Cahoon Hollow, Nauset Beach and Orleans Beach to Monomoy station. The first six are within a distance of twenty miles, so that not more than three or four miles is the interval between any two neighboring stations. At each is a comfortable outfit of buildings for equipment and housekeeping. The captain and his crew are their own housekeepers, and very good housekeepers they are. They are all true and sturdy men, and are a part of the naval service of the United States.
Some leisure and much quiet living, they have, which is likely to be broken any moment by a call which puts their lives in jeopardy. But notions of leisure in their task come mostly to the summer visitor, who does see them fight mosquitoes, but does not often see them battle with storm. They launch a lifeboat in the same composure with which they visit their lobster traps, and their patrols meet each other midway between stations, during the darkest and wildest nights, with booming surf, driving snow, and that deathly chill of a salty gale for which the thermometer has no measure. If leisure they do have, it is broken by scrubbing and cooking, tending a garden in a nook among the sands, or a call to practice with the cannon, the life line, the cable, and the breeches buoy. In emergency, the telephone brings two or three crews with great speed to the scene of disaster, and a long record of rescue stands to the credit of those heroic men. After a reasonable period of service, for such duty is too heavy for old men, they are retired upon a living pension.
The anticipations of great canals have usually been remote. Those of Suez go back thou-sands of years, and those of Panama through all the hundreds of the white man's presence in the western hemisphere. In this regard, Cape Cod is not greatly behind Panama. The first sentiment grew out of the trade carried on across the base of the Cape, through the valley of old glacial drainage, between the business men of Plymouth and the Dutch merchants of the lower Hudson.
In 1627 a trading house was built in the present town of Sandwich, by the Plymouth colonists. Goods were carried up the creek from Scusset Harbor to a point within four or five miles of the trading house. They were then portaged for a short distance and put into boats on the other side. Thus the trade was spared the dangers of going around the Cape. Whether the goal was the Hudson or the south shores about Narragansett and on Long Island, the trading station was in the future Sandwich but specifically was at Manomet. The Dutch began to bring goods in 1628-sugar, Holland linen and various stuffs—for which at first tobacco was taken in exchange. This trade had assumed quite large proportions by the year 1634.
Governor Bradford had gone to Manomet as early as the winter of 1622-23 and had discovered the facility with which transportation could be carried on between the two great bays, there being a tidal creek on one side and a river on the other, with a portage of but four or five miles.
Freeman refers to an action of the General Court authorizing a survey for a canal between Buzzards Bay and Barnstable (Cape Cod) Bay, to avoid enemy ships and the shoals en-countered in going around the Cape. This is apparently the action referred to by Weeden, who says, "in 1697, by decree of the General Court, the Cape Cod Canal was cut, on paper, through the land at Sandwich, from Barn-stable Bay, so called, into Monument Bay."
There is an interesting journal of a survey made in 1791, for a canal across Cape Cod, by James Winthrop. This gentleman lived in Cambridge, and he tells us that he set out at one P.M., May 12, 1791, with Henry Parker as assistant, to survey Sandwich Neck. He does not neglect to mention that Miss H., "a lovely girl of eighteen, was polite enough to take this opportunity to visit her Barnstable friends, and rode in the chaise with me." The first lodging was at Hingham, twenty-three miles out, where the food was good, but the beds were objectionable. May 13, the party dined at Kingston, and, because of rain, spent the night there. Plymouth was reached May 14 and Sandwich May 16.
After recounting the details of the line of levels carried across the Neck, the surveyor describes a journey to Barnstable to view the ground between Barnstable Harbor and Hyannis. In crossing here, the first mile is high, estimated at eighty feet. There is no avoiding it, the hill being a part of a ridge (the great moraine as we know it) which runs the whole length of the Cape. Mr. Winthrop considers the use of Great Pond and Long Pond, as parts of a canal, also Hathaway's Pond. He remarks on the view of both seas from Kidds Hill on the return by the road to Barnstable, and notes the difference in the amount and time of the tides on both sides of the Cape.
The canal project is said to have been favored by Washington, and various routes were surveyed, including Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth. Wendell Davis, in his "Description of Sandwich" in i802, refers to two of these projects. The canal, he thinks, would newly create the town (Sandwich), hundreds of dwellings would be built, property increased in value, and good markets provided. Showing us how hard it is to predict the commercial conditions of a future time, he dwells on the "easy transportation of wood, the staple article of business." Warehouses would spring up, and there would be growth of trade between northern and southern states, and life and property would be preserved.
The same writer describes the Neck between Great Pond and Long Pond in Eastham, and observes that "here those who think it is as easy to dig through the land as to mark a line on a map, will be disposed to cut a canal from ocean to the bay." It is singular that this plan should have been seriously considered. The dangers around the north end of the Cape would have been avoided but not the shoals, the hostile ships, or any great share of the extra distance. This project lived on, for in 1817 the "Eastham and Orleans Canal Proprietors" were incorporated to open a canal from the head of Nauset Cove to Boat Meadow Creek. This was on the line already described as Jeremiah's Gutter.
In 1860, at the suggestion of the governor of the state, the canal project was revived, and the advantages were believed to be superior to those to be gained by tunnelling mountains. Hoosac Tunnel was then under construction and long years before it had been proposed to tunnel the Hoosac range for a canal. This was prior to the railway era in the Berkshires.
The Cape Cod Canal as finally constructed follows the only route which, as it would seem, was ever open to serious consideration. While operated by the government during the war, and now under agitation for federal owner-ship, it was dug and is still owned by private capitalists. It was opened in April, 1916, to vessels drawing twenty-five feet of water. The canal is wholly at sea level, and has no locks. The canal proper is 7.68 miles in length, but the approaches had to be dredged, so that it is scarcely an error to say that the canal has a length of thirteen miles. The bottom width is one hundred feet, making the waterway, until further widened, a one-way canal. About twenty or twenty-five million tons of coast-wise shipping have passed each year around the Cape. With widening to two hundred feet at the bottom, the ditch would, it is thought, accommodate about ninety per cent of this traffic. Such a result is hardly to be expected without government ownership and the abolition of toll charges.
The advantages of the canal were in sub-stance foreseen by the fathers, who, however, could not look forward to the submarine attack which startled the Cape dwellers at Orleans in the summer of 1918. This piece of inside route, coupled with other proposed in-side water lines to the southward, will give astonishing savings of distances between Boston and such ports as New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. There would also be great saving of time, not only proportional to the shortening of distance but through the avoidance of delay on account of storm. Larger cargoes could be carried, and the charges for marine insurance would be diminished.
The Cape Cod Canal alone results in saving from sixty-three to a hundred fifty-two miles for ships moving from any ports between New York and Providence to ports north of the Cape. The New York and Boston boats now pass through the canal, and have thus reduced their time from sixteen or eighteen hours to thirteen and one half hours.
Both to those who live on the Old Colony shores and to those who visit them the land way has become far more important than the water way. Where hundreds go by the sea, and this only in the summer, thousands go and come by train and motor throughout the year.
Plymouth and Sandwich were both in early days presented before the General Court for not having the country road between these places so cleared as to be passable for man and beast. For long the pioneers of Sandwich took their grists to the mill at Plymouth on their backs or on those of a horse, a bull, or a cow. Other towns as well as the two oldest received imposition of fines for tolerating bad roads. A jury of twelve men was appointed in 1637 to lay out roads about Plymouth and Duxbury.
Rich in his history of Truro says that going to Boston by land from that part of the Cape was less common than a voyage to China. All went by packet but in early days there was no schedule. To ride to Boston by stagecoach in 1790, even from the upper parts of the Cape, required two days. This route was used only when bad weather prevented going by packet.
There were widely traveled men on the Cape who had never journeyed to Boston by land. About 1720 a country road was laid out, forty feet wide, from Harwich down the Cape to Truro. This could not have been a good or permanent highway, for Freeman records an effort in 1796 to secure a post road to the end of the Cape.
About fifteen years later President Dwight describes the road from Truro to Provincetown as heavy with sand, but good on the beach at low tide. Thoreau, apparently on his first visit in 1849, reached the terminus of the rail-road at Sandwich and took the stage, which seemed to him then almost obsolete. He was told that all Cape roads were heavy, and he nowhere denies that he found them so. He describes the road going down the lower part of the Cape as a mere cart track, deep in sand and so narrow that the wheels often brushed the shrubbery. No searching is needed to find scores of miles of such roads, if one even now departs from main lines. It is a mazy task in some of the forests to identify one's position even with the government contoured map in the hand.
The Cape Cod Railroad, extending from Middleboro to Sandwich, was incorporated in 1846 and opened in 1848. It joined the Fall River and Old Colony railroad, and in 1854 was built as far as Hyannis. Extension was made from Yarmouth to Orleans and opened in 1865. Northward from Orleans the road was built by short stages and reached Wellfleet in 1869. The line was carried through to Provincetown in 1873. The various branches became the Old Colony Railroad in 1872, the year in which Woods Hole was joined to the system. The Chatham branch dates from 1887.
The Boston packets ceased to run in 1871. In place of their rival speeding and ancient sociability the railway had come in, the stages having already ceased to drag their toilsome way through the sands. Provincetown was slow to raise itself out of the sand. Only one horse—having one eye—was there in 1829. The first plank walk was laid down on the long, curved street in 1838, its construction not being accomplished without strenuous opposition.
The advent of state roads, the arteries of the summer Cape, is recent. A double system follows the north and south shores, with several crosslines. A trunk line from Chatham to Provincetown follows the direct road from Boston, from the junction at Orleans, to the lower end of the Cape.
It will aid the eyes and understanding of some to follow the roadways in their relation to the land forms. It is a curious fact that the railway line from Boston southward along the shore stops at Plymouth. There is no public line of transportation leading along the first main track of Pilgrim travel to Boume and the present village of Sagamore. The scheduled transport runs the roundabout course by way of Middleboro, Wareham, Onset and Buzzards Bay.
From Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole the railway follows the west fringe of the moraine, usually in view of the islands, beaches and spits of the Bay shore. It crosses the belt of hills diagonally to Falmouth village at its eastern base, and then runs through the south-ern end of the moraine to Woods Hole.
From Buzzards Bay eastward the railway follows the old Monument River, now the canal, and from Sandwich to Yarmouth is in the hills of the northern edge of the moraine. In many places these hills, lying north of the railway, shut out the Bay from the traveler's view, but much may be seen of the salt marshes and bordering dune beaches. These obstructing hills appear, on nearing East Sandwich, and from West Barnstable to Yarmouth.
The spur to Hyannis, only about four miles in length, crosses a low place in the moraine for about a mile and at Yarmouth Camp Ground begins abruptly to traverse the out-wash plain to Nantucket Sound. The main line after leaving Yarmouth also crosses the moraine to a south-central position as far as Harwich Station, and then turns north into the moraine from Harwich and Brewster to Orleans, and northward runs through a field of morainic hills and lakes about Eastham Center.
Northward the railway crosses the Eastham plain to South Wellfleet, from which it rises upon the back of the high Wellfleet plain northward to North Truro. In Truro, by the Provincetown waterworks, the road descends to the beach, which it follows until it enters the dunes of Provincetown.
A main line of highway joins Duxbury, Kingston, Plymouth and Sagamore. Two main lines, as above said, follow the upper Cape. The northshore route is much like that of the railway. Both run south of certain morainic elevations that are north of the principal belt of hills. These are Town Neck in Sandwich, Spring Hill near East Sandwich and Scorton Neck.
At Yarmouth Port this road keeps near the shore through the towns of Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewster, and then follows nearly a middle course between the inner and outer shores to Provincetown. From Wellfleet to North Truro it is well hidden from both sea borders, winding among the hills, pine forests and lakes of the northern wilderness.
The southshore route pursues its way around the heads of the deep bays of the out-wash plain through Falmouth, Cotuit and Marston's Mills to Hyannis, thence to Chat-ham nearer the shore. From Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole, the description of the railway route is equally true of the highway.
For nearly a hundred and fifty years the colonists had to depend on chance travelers for sending letters. In days that still were early, a postrider took the whole mail in his saddlebags and they were lean at that. He required a week for going down the Cape and accomplishing his return. The first regular mail was established in 1754, between Plymouth and Nauset. In 1775 there was a route from Cambridge to Plymouth, Sandwich and Falmouth, a round trip occupying the days from Monday to Saturday. The first United States mail was sent from Boston to Barn-stable in 1792. The pay of the carrier was one dollar per day, which was criticised as an extravagant use of the public money.
The first post office in Yarmouth was opened in 1794, with mails once a week and no post office below it on the Cape. In 1797 there was a weekly mail from Yarmouth to Truro, but it was not thought worth while to extend the service to Provincetown. The period of the second war with Great Britain saw mails carried down the Cape twice a week, a third mail being added a few years later. In 1854 Yarmouth had mails twice each day.
Telegraph wires began to be strung on the Cape in 1855 and even rival lines were not long in being set up. The Cape has had its share in Atlantic cables and wireless flashings, and the aeroplane sailed over with the coming of the war. The isolation of the Cape has passed away, and the hotel keeper phones in his orders to Boston, and the motor truck and the express car are in the land. If the old foreland was ever asleep, which may be doubted, it has awakened to the modem call. None can predict when flight will put Truro and Chatham among the suburbs of Boston, when Old Colony trains will cease to run up-hill and downhill, and the Dorothy Bradford will find undisturbed repose.