That section of country, by the Indians called Nauset, was subsequently by the English named EASTHAM. As the town of Eastham, it was incorporated June 2, 1646, and, besides the present township of Eastham, also included the towns of Orleans and Wellfleet.
Orleans was set off from Eastham March 3, 1797, and Wellfleet June 16, 1763. The Indian name for Wellfleet was Punonakauit.
The colonial court of Plymouth made a grant to the Plymouth church, or to those of that church "that go to dwell at Nauset," of all that tract of land lying between sea and sea, from the purchasers' bounds at Namskeket to the herring brook at Billingsgate, with said herring brook and all the meadows on both sides of said brook, with great bass pond, these and the meadows and islands within said tract. A very large proportion of the English settlers at Patuxet, now Plymouth, at one time contemplated removal to Eastham, and in or about 1644 seven families established their homes in that place. These seven families numbered 49 persons. Their early town officers were: Nicholas Snow, town clerk; Edward Bangs, treasurer; Josias Cook, constable. Rev. Samuel Treat, from Milford, Conn., was the first settled minister. He was distinguished for his evangelical zeal and labors, not only among his own people but also among the Indians in this vicinity; and he was the instrument of converting many of them to the christian faith. He learned their language, and once a month preached in their villages, visited them at their wigwams, and by his kindness and ability won their affections. They venerated him as their pastor, and loved him as their father. In 1693 there were still four Indian villages in what was then Eastham, and the Indian inhabitants had four teachers of their own choice, four school-masters and six magistrates. The religious congregation there numbered five hundred adult persons.
Rev. Mr. Treat died soon after that unusual fall of snow called the "Great Snow Storm," which occurred in February, 1717. So deep was the snow near Mr. Treat's house that digging a path for the funeral was deemed out of the question, and the body was kept several days till the snow banks could be tunnelled, and through that snow arch his remains were carried to the grave. The stone that marks his grave informs us that he died March 18, 1717.* [*The inscription reads as follows: "Here lyes interred ye body of ye late learned and Revd Mr. Samuel Treat, ye pious and faithful pastor of this Church, who after a very zealous discharge of his ministry for ye space of 45 years and a laborious travel for ye souls of ye Indian natives, fell asleep in Christ, March ye 18, 1716-17, in ye 69 year of his age."] At the earnest request of the Indians, they were permitted to carry the corpse to its final resting place. He was a son of Major Robert Treat, of Milford, Conn., commander of the forces of that colony in King Philip's war, and afterwards Governor. Major Robert Treat was great-grandfather to Hon. Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the "Declaration of Independence."
A pear tree transplanted in Eastham by Gov. Thomas Prince was in a vigorous state for more than two hundred years. It was brought from England, and yielded on an average 15 bushels of fruit per year as late as 1840. (Barber's Hist. Collections of Massachusetts.)
Notwithstanding the exertions made in behalf of the Indians at Eastham, they gradually wasted away and constantly diminished in numbers until 1764, when only four remained.
At the great battle with the Indians near what is now Pawtucket, and fought March 26, 1676, John Nessefield and John Walker, of Eastham, were slain. They were soldiers under Capt. Michael Peirse of Scituate, who was also slain.
WESSAGUSCUS, or Wussagusset, sometimes also written Wessaguson, was settled by Mr. Thomas Weston and his associates from London. Weston in 1622 sent two ships to this place, bringing 50 or 60 adventurers. From the best and most reliable accounts, Weston's company was disorderly, and "many of them rude and profane," robbing the Indians of their corn, which so incensed them that they entered into a conspiracy for the destruction of Weston's company. This was prevented by the interference of Capt. Miles Standish and eight soldiers from Plymouth, who, taking the natives of Wessaguscus somewhat by surprise, killed four of their number, and so terrified the remainder that they forsook their habitations and fled to the swamps and desert places, where from exposure and want many contracted diseases of which they died - this mortality extending to several of their principal warriors and sachems.
In 1624 the settlement of Wessaguscus received an addition of twenty-one families from Weymouth, in England. They were accompanied by Rev. Mr. Hull, who was settled as their gospel minister.
Commissioned officers of the local militia at Weymouth: Captains - William Perkins and William Torrey. Lieutenants - William Torrey; John Whitman, from May 14, 1645. Ensign - John Whitman, to May 14, 1645.
Wessaguscus was incorporated as a township Sept. 2, 1635, and called Weymouth. It sustained an attack from the Indians under King Philip, in 1676, when six or seven houses were burned.
Incorporated as a town June 11, 1712, and called Chatham. The soil is rather better than that of the average of Cape Cod towns. The first English purchase of the soil of Manamoick, or Monemoy as it was also called, was under date of April 10, 1665, when the sub-sachem John Quason sold a tract near Potanumaquet, bounded east by Great Harbor, south by a line which extends west by south into the woods from Weequasset to a pine tree marked on four sides, and north by a line extending to the further head of a pond to a place called Porchommock. William Nickerson was the purchaser, and he made a second purchase June 19, 1672, of land and meadows on the west side of Muddy Cove, and extending southerly to Matchapoxet Pond, thence by a creek to the sea, and extending easterly to Oyster Pond. Mattaquason and John Quason gave this deed.* [*The consideration of that deed was one shallop, ten coats of trucking cloth, six kettles, twelve axes, twelve hoes, twelve knives, forty shillings in wampum, a hat and twelve shillings in money.] Under date of March 20, 1678, and Aug. 16, 1682, Nickerson bought more lands of the Indians. The first or earliest minister was Rev. Jonathan Vickery, who commenced his labors in or about 1699.
The following is a copy of an order issued by Gov. Joseph Dudley, chief magistrate of Massachusetts:
Boston, January 26th 1711-12.
Upon application made to me setting forth the danger that the village of Manamoy is in of the French privateers, and the weakness of the inhabitants to defend themselves being so few, I do hereby decree, order and direct that no men of the foot company of the place be taken by impress for any service other than their own Village aforesaid without my especial orders under my hand for so doing.
(Signed) J. DUDLEY.
To the Hon. Colonel Otis,* Barnstable. [*All the militia of Barnstable county were then organized as one regiment, of which John Otis of Barnstable was colonel.]
Nauset, the great granary of the old conony at that date, is now Eastham, on Cape Cod. Of Eastham Mr. Barber, in his Historical Collections, remarks:
"This town is situated on a narrow part of the peninsula of Cape Cod, and the soil for the most part is but a barren waste of sand."
In an account given of Eastham in 1802, it was stated that, "On the west side a beach extends to Great Pond, where it stretches across the township almost to Town Cove. This barren tract, which does not now contain a particle of vegetable mould, formerly produced wheat. The soil however was light. The sand in some places, lodging against the beach grass, has been raised into hills fifty feet high, where twenty-five years ago no hills existed. In others, it has filled up small valleys and swamps. Where a strong rooted bush stood, the appearance is singular; a mass of earth and sand adheres to it resembling a small tower. In several places rocks, which were formerly covered with soil, are disclosed, and being lashed with the sand driven against them by the wind, look as if they were recently dug from the quarry."
The Mattachiest, where the pilgrims also went after provisions, is now more generally spelled Mattacheese, and sometimes called Nobscuset. It afterwards became the town of Yarmouth.
Gardiner's Neck, in the township of Swansea, is what the Indians called Mettapoiset. It was by the Indians sold to William Brenton of Newport, June 23, 1664, and he gave it to his son Maj. Ebenezer Brenton, who, Dec. 30, 1693, sold it to Lieut. Samuel Gardiner and Ralph Chapman, for L1,700 current money. Lieut. Samuel Gardiner and Ralph Chapman divided their purchase Feb. 14, 1694. The former died on Gardiner's Neck, in Swansea, Dec. 8, 1696. Before going to reside on Gardiner's Neck, he had been a resident of Newport, R.I., and also of Freetown, Mass.