Photo Credit: Leslie Ray Sears, The Cedars, 1661 Main St, East Dennis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Villages. That’s what it is all about. We should all know more about villages of Cape Cod. After all, aren’t they the center of our universe? A column in the Cape Cod Times by Bill Richmond titled “Village centers can preserve Cape’s character” asserts that we are “losing our sense of small villages with defined centers.” Bill quotes Patti Page’s lyric –“quaint little villages here and there” that caused folks to “fall in love with Old Cape Cod.”
My family’s summer visits made the village of East Dennis the center of our world. There was the Post Office, the Player’s Pharmacy, the gas station, Marshside Restaurant and on Quivet Neck – a sort of sub-village – the East Dennis Community Church, the Jacob Sears Memorial Library, the school, Sesuit Harbor, Cold Storage and Sea street beaches. There was even another center of operations for “the village,” the Theophilus Smith dump. Going to the dump has always been a big deal. If we really needed to shop for food we went over to Dennis to the “Market.” Nothing else was required. My Aunt Sabra Sears’s grandpa, J Wallace Smalley, once saw someone at the East Dennis post office that he didn’t know in the late 1800s. When he got back home (just the other side of Main street) he started requesting brochures to see about moving to Montana since it had gotten “too crowded” in East Dennis. Mail was (and still is) delivered twice daily. This meant that many residents made two trips to the Post Office every day. Ostensibly to collect the mail but probably more importantly to see who else was getting mail and whether or not anything had changed since the last visit. Unfortunately these days the second daily delivery is mostly third and fourth class mail and is not very interesting.
There has been some effort on Cape Cod to consolidate the libraries to make them more efficient. Unfortunately this would further sacrifice an important institution in the heart of the village. We have a common book inventory system for most of the libraries –Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (or CLAMS for short) – and can view the card catalog from our web browser at home– just by typing in this magic link- http://clamsnet.org/. The librarian can have nearly any book brought in from another library in a day or so. Therefore we should keep the village library. I used to walk to our Osterville village library from the office every day after my visit to the post office to read the paper and see what’s on the new book shelf. I even won a quilt there after purchasing a number of fund-raising tickets to buy new books. The village library continues to be a center of action.
Cataloging Cape Cod villages is an exercise in itself. There are “official” villages – for example: in the Town of Barnstable the seven official villages are Hyannis, West Barnstable, Osterville, Cotuit, Marstons Mills, Barnstable and Centerville. But of course this neglects the “sub” villages (of which many sport their own Post Offices) like Cummaquid, Craigville Beach (P.O. open only in summer), Hyannis Port, Oyster Harbors, Wianno, Santuit and the ancient villages of Cotuit Port (now Coutuit) and Santuit (now Cotuit). Did that confuse you enough? We will endeavor to continue our catalog of villages, sub-villages and geographical designators (e.g. Sandy Neck in Barnstable and Quivet Neck in East Dennis) to make it easier for all of us to sort out the “Villages” of Cape Cod. Do you have your copy of Historical and Genealogical Atlas and Guide to Barnstable County Massachusetts (Cape Cod) by Marjorie Hubbel Gibson, Falmouth Genealogical Society, 1995? It is a must for all Barnstable County researchers!