Friday, March 23, 2012

Historical Locations - Cape Cod

Fort Hill in Eastham is one of the most beautiful and tranquil sites on Cape Cod. It overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is part of the great Nauset Marsh. It's a special place for shell fishing, canoeing, kayaking, birdwatching or greeting the day with a cup of coffee as you watch the sun rise.

According to local historians Fort Hill never had a real physical fort.  When England directed the early colonists to protect themselves from attacks by sea, strategic hills were designated as unique vantage points and one of these natural geological formations became known as Fort Hill. It's name became part of the colonists vocabulary.

Before you reach the top parking lot of Fort Hill, in an open field on your left, you will see a stone marker with a carved 'T' on its face.

This 'T' represents the northern boundary of Reverend Samuel Treats property. In my last blog entry I talk about Reverend Treat and his ministry from 1676-1716 for the early settlers and the Native Americans or 'Praying Indians' of Eastham.

If you follow the trails along the edges of the marshes north and into the woods towards Skiff Hill, there is a pavilion highlighting the famous Indian Rock or 'sharpening rock'. Besides giving you a majestic view all the way to Coast Guard Beach, you can touch a piece of history from the 1600s.

On the surface of this 20 ton boulder are grooves and long marks that the Native Americans used to make tools, sharpen them and also smooth their beads for decoration.

 This huge boulder was actually found below on the beach and was brought up to this viewing place in 1965.

As you leave Fort Hill, drive one more street east on Route 6. Here you will find Hemenway Landing. It's a close-up view of the Nauset marsh and offers a nice walk on the beach beneath the overlook and the sharpening rock.

Fort Hill and the sharpening rock was of particular interest to me as I developed the character Minda, an Indian Pow Wah or medicine woman, in my historical novel The Old Cape House.  When Minda travels to the shoreline in search of clams and sea lettuce, she walks around Reverend Treat's property and past her village's sharpening stone. At the water's edge beneath the high hill, she sees the young girl Maria Hallett.  It was here that Maria tells her good friend that she may be with child.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Historical Characters - Cape Cod

 By 1700, the population of Cape Cod Native American tribes had been decimated.  New diseases brought to America by the early settlers created killing epidemics.  The King Phillips War (1675-1676) or sometimes called the first Indian war brought even more death and destruction. A small Wampanoag tribe referred to as 'praying Indians' were the Nausets. They did not join in with the first war and maintained good relations with the English, prompting Indians from across the Cape to travel east to the peaceful Nausets. They lived within a large area, which at that time was called Eastham. Today that land is divided into Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet.

Before the first Indian war, many of the Native Americans had already been converted to Christianity. In 1672 the Reverend Samuel Treat was asked to instruct and convert the general population of Eastham and did so until his death in 1716.  He was known to preach with hell-fire and damnation but a good man.  The Reverend made every effort to reach the Indians within their own culture, even translating the Confession of Faith into the Nauset language. Successful in his mission of Christianizing many Indians, most respected him even if they did not convert.

 Just past the Orleans rotary and driving on Route 6 is the Cove Burying Ground where Reverend Samuel Treat is buried. It's on the right if you're heading east and his grave is to the left under the cedar trees.

In reference to Reverend Treat:
"His voice was so loud that it could be heard at a great distance from the meeting house even admidst the shrieks of women and the winds that howled over the plains of Nauset."
                                                       The Thoreau Reader-annotated works of Henry David Thoreau

  Reverend Treat died of a stroke of palsy after a memorable storm known as the Great Snow. The Indians wanted to show their respect. The story is recalled by Thoreau.
"...the storm left the ground around the house bare but heaped up the snow in the wood to uncommon height. Through this an arched way was dug by which the Indians bore his body to the grave."

In my novel THE OLD CAPE HOUSE, I used Reverend Treat's name and character to preside over the trial of mythical Maria Hallett in December 1715.   As I crafted my story, I manipulated the date of the trial to coincide with his factual death. Maria is accused of fornication and murder. I gave  the Reverend a cold, thus delivering an unfavorable verdict for Maria because he's not feeling well and on the verge of pneumonia. I assumed he never fully recovered from this winter ailment, given the lack of modern medicine and difficult living conditions.  He died within 4 months of the trial on March 18, 1716.