Monday, January 04, 2010

Library Showcases Local Geography, Circa 1858

The Wellfleet Public library has a book stand to the right of the counter for returned books. This past week, when I returned a book for Sven, I noticed a heavy volume on display, The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Adam Gamble put this collection of maps together with written contributions from local specialists like Wellfleet’s own Robert Finch. The original map was 5 foot square. It’s fascinating to see what has changed in 150 years. I noted Lieutenant’s Island was called “Horse Island.” The marina at Duck Creek had not been built, so the whole inner harbor is labeled Duck Cove, which allows viewers to realize how different the landscape must have looked at the time. There is no Ocean View Drive. No "backshore" beaches appear, although a road does run between Long and Great ponds, intersecting and continuing on to Cahoon Hollow, where the lifesaving station, now The Beachcomber, was built in 1897. What we now know as Wellfleet center is labeled “North Wellfleet.” “Fresh Brook Village” is also listed. It no longer exists as such. Dyer Pond is called “Hopkins Pond.” The landscape along the Herring River must have also been dramatically different, since no dike existed until 1909. You can even see islands in the Herring River. Billingsgate is still shown as an island. It sank, and only remnants remain visible at extreme low tide.

Christmas is past, but here is a worthwhile gift for anyone fascinated with maps, and especially old folks who love Cape Cod & the Islands! All profits from the sale of this book go to support the million-dollar renovation and expansion of the William Brewster Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives at Cape Cod Community College's Wilkens Library. Listen to Robert Finch describe this incredible find here.