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A Little History

Eastham is a place of long-term history, though much has stayed the same over the years.

That history is centered around the many miles of unspoiled ocean beach starting at Coast Guard, passing Nauset Light very near to us, Highland light in Truro, and stretching uninterrupted to the three-lighthouse fist of Cape Cod in Provincetown— Race Point, Long Point, and Wood End.

Thoreau walked this beach twice in the 1840’s, and his descriptions in his book Cape Cod show a beach just as we see today.

The street names bear out a history of this area: Campground and Thumpertown roads and town landings once housed a religious revival camp attended by thousands who would arrive by boat from Boston and beyond – the original “bible thumpers.” It is thought that the early residents of Eastham clung fast to their faith because the majority of the men were at sea or even had died at sea, and what remained in town was their wives, family and ministers.

The area on which this house stands was once farmland, and later, during our parents’ lifetime, was a small airport, Briggs Field, with a diagonal runway that is close to the current Runway Lane. We live in what was the open field beyond — the north forty acres.

Names that you see frequently are names of history – Alden, Collins, Doane, Nickerson – Mayflower names. It’s easy to forget that there was no Cape Cod Canal after the settlement of Plymouth, and a day’s journey was all it took to return here, where the Pilgrims first met native Americans at what is now First Encounter Beach.

You’ll find a number of history books in the house, many with interesting photos, including two Eastham histories, two picture books about the target ship that sat beached in the bay when Scott and David Lamlein were kids (she still comes up and is visible if the moon is full and the tide is out), in addition to Thoreau’s book and Henry Beston’s The Outermost House. The latter describes a year of living right on the beach; Thoreau’s chapter “The Plains of Nauset” describes this very town in some detail – in the mid 1700s.

We hope you enjoy these histories, and ask that you leave them for future renters, or perhaps for you to revisit on your next trip.

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