THE HOLLOWS OF
Description of the eastern coast of the
(As copied from: THE AMERICAN COAST PILOT ~ 1822)
of the shore, on the west side of
On Race point
stand about a dozen fishing huts, containing fin-places and other conveniences.
The distance from these huts to
Not far from Race point commences a ridge, which extends to the head of
Stout's creek. With the face to the east, on the left hand of the ridge, is the
sandy shore : on the right is a narrow sandy valley ;
beyond which is naked sand, reaching to the lulls and woods of
Beach grass, during the spring and summer, grows about two feet and a half. If «w- rounded by naked beach, the norms of autumn and winter heap up the Band on all sides, and cause it to rise nearly to the top of the plant. In the ensuing spring, the grass sprouts anew ; is again covered with sand in the winter, and thus a hill or ridge continue to ascend, as long as there is a sufficient base to support it, or till the circumscribing sand, being also covered with beach glass, will no longer yield to the force cil the winds.
On this ridge, half way between Race point and the head of Stout's creek, the Trustees of the Humane Society have erected a hut. It stands a mile from Pecked hill, a laud-mark well known to seamen, and is about 24 miles from Race point. Seamen, cast away on this part of the roast, will find a shelter here ; and in north-east storms, should they strike to the leeward of it, and be unable to turn their faces to the windward, by passing on to Race point, they will soon come to the fishing huts before mentioned.
At the head of Stout's creek the Trustees have built a second hut. Stout's creek is
R email branch of East harbour in
The Humane Society, several years ago, erected a hut at the head of Stout's creek ; but it was built in an improper manner, having a chimney in it, and was placed on a spot where no beach grass grew. The strong winds blew the sand from its foundation, and the weight of the chimney brought it to the ground, so that in January, 1802, it was entirely demolished. This event took place about six weeks before the Brutus was cast away. If it had remained it is probable that the whole of the unfortunate crew of that ship would have been saved, as they gained the shore a few rods only from the spot »here the hut had stood.
The hut now
erected stands on a place covered with beach grass. To prevent any accident
from happening to it, or to the other hut near Peeked hill, the Trustees have secured
the attention of several gentlemen in the
neighborhood. Dr. Thaddeus Brown, and Capt. Thomas Smalley, of
From the head of Stout's creek to the termination of the salt marsh, which lies on both sides and at the head of East harbour river, the distance is about 3J miles. A narrow beach separates this river from the ocean. It is not so regular a ridge as that before described, as there are on it one or two hills which the neighboring inhabitants call islands. It may without much difficulty be crossed every where, except over these elevations. By these hills, even during the night, the beach may be distinguished from those hereafter to be mentioned. It lies from N. W. to S. E. and is in most parts covered with beach grass. The hills have a few shrubs on the declivities next the river. At the end of the marsh the beach subsides a little, and there is an easy passage into a valley in which are situated two or three dwelling houses. The first on the left hand, or south, is a few rods only from the ocean.
The shore, which extends from this valley to Race point, is unquestionably the part of the coast the most exposed to shipwrecks. A N. E. storm, the most violent, and fatal to seamen, as it is frequently accompanied with snow, blows directly on the land a strong current sets along the shore; add to which, that ships, during the operation of such a storm endeavor to work to the northward, that they may get into the bay. Should they be tillable to weather Race point, the wind drives them on the shore, and a shipwreck is inevitable. Accordingly, the strand is every where covered with the fragments of vessels. Huts, therefore, placed within a mile of each other, have been thought necessary by many judicious persons. To this opinion the Trustees are disposed to pay due respect ; and hereafter, if the funds of the Society increase, new huts will be built here for the relief ot the unfortunate.
From the valley
above mentioned the land rises, and less than a mile from it the high land
commences. On the first elevated spot (the Clay Pounds) stands the light-house, which contains a FIXED LIGHT, which every
navigator should impress on his mind. The shore here turns to the south ; and the high land extends to the table
The first of these valleys is Dyer's hollow, 1 ½ miles south of the light-house. It is a wide opening, being 200 rods broad, from summit to summit. In it stands a dwelling-house, a quarter of a mile from the beach*
A mile and a half south of Dyer's hollow, is a second valley, called Harding's hollow. At the entrance of this valley the sand has gathered, so that at present a little climbing is necessary. Passing over several fences, and taking heed not to enter the wood on the light hand, at the distance of three-quarters of a mile a house is to be found. This house stands on the south side of the road ; and not far from it, on the south, is Pamet river, which runs from cast to west through a body of salt marsh.
The third valley, half a mile south of Harding's hollow, is head of Pamet hollow. It may with ease lie distinguished from the other hollows mentioned, as it is a wide opening, and leads immediately over a beach to the salt marsh at the head of Pamet river. In the midst of the hollow the sand has been raised by a brush fence, carried across itfrom north to south. This must be passed, and the shipwrecked mariner will soon come to a fence which separates what is called the road from the marsh. If he turns to tlin loft hand, or south, at the distance of a (quarter of a mile, he will discover a house. If he turns to the right hand, at the distance of half a mile, he will find the same house which is mentioned in the foregoing paragraph.
The fourth opening, three-quarters of a mile south of Head of Pamet, is Brush valley. This hollow is narrow, and climbing is necessary. Entering it, and inclining to the right, three quarters of a mile will bring seamen to the house, which it situated ‘it the head of Pamet. By proceeding straight forward, and passing over rising ground, another house may be discovered, but with more difficulty.
These three hollows, lying near together, serve to designate each other. Either of them may be used : but Head of Pamet hollow is the safest.
South of Brush valley, at the distance of 3 miles, there is a fifth opening, called New- comb's hollow, east of the head of Herring river in Wellfleet. This valley is a quarter of a mile wide. On the north side of it, near the shore, stands a fishing hut.
Between the two last valleys the bank is very high and stеер. From the edge of it, west, there is a strip of sand, 100 yards in breadth. Then succeeds low brush-wood, a quarter of a mile wide, and almost impassable. After which comes a thick, perplexing forest, in which not a house is to be discovered. Seamen, therefore, though the distance between these two valleys is great, must not attempt to enter the wood, asina snow storm they would undoubtedly perish. This place, so formidable in description, will however lose somewhat of its terror, when it is observed, that no instance of a shipwreck on this part of the coast is recollected by the oldest inhabitants of Wellfleet.
Half a mile south of Newcomb's hollow, is the sixth valley, called Pearce's hollow. It is a small valley. A house stands at the distance of a little more than a quarter of a mile from the beach, W. by S.
The seventh valley is Cohoon's hollow, half a mile south of Pearces hollow. It is not very wide. West from the entrance, several houses may be found at the distance of a mile. This hollow lies E. by N. from Wellfleet meeting-house.
Two miles south of Cohoon's hollow, the eighth valley is Snow's hollow. It is smaller than the last. West from the shore, at the distance of a quarter of a mile, is the county road, which goes round the head of Blackfish creek. Passing through this valley to the fence, which separates the road from the upland and marsh at the head of the creek, a house will immediately be found by turning to the right hand, or north. There are houses also on the left, but more remote.
The high land gradually subsides here, and 1 j mile south terminates at the ninth valley, called Fresh Brook hollow, in which a house is to be found a mile from the shore, west.
The tenth, 2 ½ miles south from Fresh Brook hollow, is Plumb valley, about 300 yards wide. West is a house, three quarters of a mile distant.
Between these two valleys is the table land.
After this there is no hollow of importance to
From Fresh Brook hollow to the commencement of Nauset beach, the bank next the ocean is about 60 feet high. There are houses scattered over the plain, open country; but none of them are nearer than a mile to the shore. In a storm of wind and rain they might he discerned by day-light ; but in a snow storm, which rages here with excessive fury, it would be almost impossible to discover them either by night or by day.
Not far from this shore, smith, the Trustees have erected a third hut, on Nauset beach. Nauset beach begins in latitude 41° 5Г, and extends south to latitude 41° 41'. It is divided into two parts by a breach which the ocean has made through it. This breach is the mouth of Nauset or Stage harbour ; and from the opening, the beach extends north 2 ½ miles, till it joins the main land. It is about a furlong wide, and forms Nauset harbour, which is of little value, its entrance being obstructed by a bar. This northern part of the beach may be distinguished from the southern part by its being of n less regular form. Storms have made frequent irruptions through the ridge, on which beach grass grows. On an elevated part of the beach, stands the hut, about 1 1/2 mile N. of the mouth of Nauset harbour. Eastham meeting-house lies from it W. S. W. distant 1) mile. The meeting-house is without a steeple ; but it may be distinguished from the dwelling-houses near it by its situation, which is between two small groves of locusts, one on the south, and one on the north, that on the south being three-times as long as the other. About 1 Ό mile from the hut, W. by N. appear the top and arms of a windmill. The Rev. Mr. Shaw, and Elisha Mayo, Esq. of Eastham, have engaged to inspect this building.
part of Nauset beach, most commonly called
seamen should miss this hut, by striking to the leeward of it, the Trustees
have erected another on the same beach. It stands a mile north of the mouth of
Another spot on the same beach would be a proper situation for a hut. It is north of the fourth hut, and east of the middle of Pochet island. The highest part of the ridge is near it, S. A break in the ridge, over which the sea appears sometimes to have flowed, divides this high part from the northern portion of the beach.
Two miles below the sixth hut is a fishing house, built of thatch, in the form of a wigwam. It stands on the west side of the beach, a quarter of a mile from the ocean. Annually in September it is renewed ; and generally remains in tolerable preservation during the winter.
Another spot, a few rods from the sea, 4 miles south fr»m the commencement of the beach, and half a mile north of the head of Wreck cove, would be a proper situation for и hut. A little south of this spot, in storms and very high tides, the sea breaks over from the ocean into Wreck cove.
The six huts, the situation of which has thus been pointed out, are all of one size and shape. Each hut stands on piles ; is 8 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 7 feet high ; a sliding door is on the south, a sliding shutter on the west, and a pole, rising 15 feet above the top of the building, on the east. Within, it is supplied either with straw or hay, and is farther accommodated with a bench.
The whole of
the coast, from Cape Cod to
b y Bradford Torrey (Atlantic Monthly 1891).
I lived for three weeks at the "
Castle," though, unhappily, I did not become aware of my romantic
good fortune till near the close of my stay. There was no trace of battlement
or turret, nothing in the least suggestive of Warwick or Windsor, or of Sir
Walter Scott. In fact, the Castle was not a building of any kind, but a hamlet; a small collection of houses, a somewhat scattered
collection, it must be owned, such as, on the bleaker and sandier parts of
twice a day the Pamet fills,
The salt sea-water passes by."
But the rising flood could make no " silence in the hills; " for the Pamet, as I saw it, is far too sedate a stream ever to be caught " babbling." It has only some three miles to run, and seems to know perfectly well that it need not run fast.
My room would have made an ideal study for a lazy man, I tkought, the two windows facing straight into a sand-bank, above which rose a steep hill, or perhaps I should rather say the steep wall of a plateau, on whose treeless top, all by themselves, or with only a graveyard for company, stood the Town Hall and the two village churches. Perched thus upon the roof of the Cape, as it were, and surmounted by cupola and belfry, the hall and the " orthodox " church made invaluable beacons, visible from far and near in every direction. For three weeks I steered my hungry course by them twice a day, having all the while a pleasing consciousness that, however I might skip the Sunday sermon. I was by no means neglecting my religious privi
leges. The second and smaller meetinghouse belonged to a Methodist society. On its front were the scars of several small holes which had been stopped and covered with tin. A resident of the Castle assured me that the mischief had been done by pigeon woodpeckers, flickers, a statement at which I inwardly rejoiced. Long ago I had announced my belief that these enthusiastic shouters must be of the Wesleyan persuasion, and here was the proof! Otherwise, why had they never sought admission to the more imposing and, as I take it, more fashionable orthodox sanctuary ? Yes, the case was clear. I could understand now how Darwin and men like him must have felt when some great hypothesis of theirs received sadden confirmation from an unexpected quarter. At the same time I was pained to see that the flickers' attempts at church-going had met with such indifferent encouragement. Probably the minister and the class leaders would have justified their exclusiveness by an appeal to that saying about those who enter " not by the door into the sheepfold;" while the woodpeckers, on their part, might have retorted that just when they had most need to go in the door was shut.
One of my favorite jaunts was to climb this hill, or plateau, the " Hill of Storms" (I am still ignorant whether the storms in question were political, ecclesiastical, or atmospheric, but I approve the name), and go down on the other side into a narrow valley whose meanderings led me to the ocean beach. This valley, or, to speak in the local dialect, this hollow, like the parallel one in which I lived, the valley of the Pamet, runs quite across the Cape, from ocean to bay, a distance of two miles and a half, more or less.
At my very first sight of Dyer's Hollow I fell in love with it, and now that I have left it behind me, perhaps forever, I foresee that my memories of it are likely to he even fairer and brighter than was the place itself. I call it Dyer's Hollow upon the authority of the town historian, who told me, if I understood him correctly, that this was its name among sailors, to whom it is a landmark. By the residents of the town I commonly heard it spoken of as Long- nook or Pike's Hollow, but for reasons of my own I choose to remember it by its nautical designation, though myself as far as possible from being a nautical man.
To see Dyer's Hollow at its best, the visitor should enter it at the western end, and follow its windings till he stands upon the bluff looking out upon the Atlantic. If his sensations at all resemble mine, he will feel, long before the last curve is rounded, as if lie were ascending a mountain; and an odd feeling it is, the road being level for the whole distance. At the outset he is in a green, well-watered valley on the banks of what was formerly Little Harbor. The building of the railway embankment has shut out the tide, and what used to be an arm of the bay is now a body of fresh water. Luxuriant cat-tail flags fringe its banks, and cattle are feeding near by. Up from the reeds a bittern will now and then start. I should like to be here once in May, to hear the blows of his stake-driver's mallet echoing and reechoing among the close hills. At that season, too, all the uplands would be green. So we were told, at any rate, though the pleasing story was almost impossible of belief. In August, as soon as we left the immediate vicinity of Little Harbor, the very
1 In looking over the town history, I was pleased to come upon a note in defense of this lowly plant, on the score not only of its beauty, but of its usefulness in holding the sand in place; but, alas. " all men have not faith," and where the historian wrote Hudsonia tomen-
bottom of the valley itself was parched and brown ; and the look of barrenness and drought increased as we advanced, till toward the end, as the last houses were passed, the total appearance of things became sub alpine: stunted, weather-beaten trees, and broad patches of bearberry showing at a little distance like beds of mountain cranberry.
All in all,
Dyer's Hollow did not impress me as a promising
farming country. Acres and acres of horseweed, pinweed, stone clover, poverty
grass,1 reindeer moss,
mouse-ear everlasting, and bearberry ! No wonder such fields do not pay for
fencing-stuff. No wonder, either, that the dwellers
here should be mariculturalists rather than
agriculturalists. And still, although their best
garden is the bay, they have their gardens on land also, the bottoms of the
deepest hollows being selected for the purpose,
and by hook or by crook manage to coax a kind of return out of the
poverty-stricken soil. Even on
the antipathetic compositor set up Hudsonia
tormentosa. That compositor was a
This aged cultivator, not so much " on his last legs " as beyond them, was evidently a native of the soil, but several of the few houses standing along the valley road were occupied by Western Islanders. I was crossing a field belonging to one of them when the owner greeted me ; a milkman, as it turned out, proud of his cows and of his boy, his only child. " How old do you think he is ? " he asked, pointing to the young fellow. It would have been inexcusable to disappoint his fatherly expectations, and I guessed accordingly : " Seventeen or eighteen." "Sixteen," he rejoined,
sixteen ! " and his face shone till I wished I had set the figure a
little higher. The additional years would have cost me nothing, and there is no
telling how much happiness they would have conferred. "
Who lives there ?" I inquired, turning to a large and well-kept
house in the direction of the bay. " My
nephew." " Did he come over when you did ?
" " No, I sent for him." He himself
left the Azores as a cabin boy, landed here on
A stranger was
not an every-day sight in Dyer's Hollow, I imagine,
and as I went up and down the road a good many times in the course of my visit
I came to be pretty well known. So it happened that a
All things considered, I should hardly choose to settle for life in Dyer's Hollow ; but with every recollection of the place I somehow feel as if its score or two of inhabitants were favored above other men. Why is it that people living thus by themselves, and known thus transiently and from the outside as it were, always seem in memory like dwellers in some land of romance ? I cannot tell, but so it is; and whoever has such a picture on the wall of his mind will do well, perhaps, never to put the original beside it. Yet I do not mean to speak quite thus of Dyer's Hollow. Once more, at least, I hope to walk the length of that straggling road. As I think of it now, I behold again those beds of shining bearberry (" resplendent" would be none too fine a word; there <s no plant for which the sunlight does
more), loaded with a wealth of
handsome red fruit. The beach-plum crop was a failure; plum wine, of the
goodness of which I heard enthusiastic reports, would be scarce; but one needed
only to look at the bearberry patches to perceive that
No botanist, nor even a
semi-scientific lover of growing things, like myself,
can ever walk in new fields without an eye for new plants. While coming down
Had the month
been June instead of August, notebook and memory would record a very different
story, I can hardly doubt; but out of flower is out of mind. In the course of
my many visits to Dyer's Hollow
I saw thirty-three kinds of birds, of the eighty-four species in my full
In all my wanderings in Dyer's Hollow, only once did I see anything of that pest of the seashore, the sportsman; then, in the distance, two young fellows, with a highly satisfactory want of success, as well as I could make out, were trying to take the life of a meadow lark.
No doubt they found existence a dull affair, and felt the need of something to enliven it. A noble creature is man,
"a little lower than the angels " ! Two years in succession I have been at the seashore during the autumnal migration of sandpipers and plovers. Two years in succession have I seen men, old and young, murdering sandpipers and plovers at wholesale for the mere fun of doing it. Had they been " pot hunters," seeking to earn bread by shooting for the market, I should have pitied them, perhaps, certainly I should have regretted their work; but I should have thought no ill of them. Their vocation would have been as honorable, for aught I know, as that of any other butcher. But a man of twenty, a man of seventy, shooting sanderlings, ring plovers, golden plovers, and whatever else comes in his way, not for money, nor primarily for food, but because he enjoys the work! " A little lower than the angels " ! What numbers of innocent and beautiful creatures have I seen limping painfully along the beach, after the gunners had finished their day's amusement ! Even now I think with pity of one particular turnstone. Some being made " a little lower than the angels " had fired at him and carried away one of his legs. I watched him for an hour. Much of the time he stood motionless. Then he hobbled from one patch of eel- grass to another, in search of something to eat. My heart ached for him, and it burns now to think that good men find it a pastime to break birds' legs and wings and leave them to perish. I have seen an old man, almost ready for the grave, who could amuse his last days in this way for weeks together. An exhilarating and edifying spectacle it was,
this venerable worthy sitting behind his bunch of wooden decoys, a wounded tern fluttering in agony at his feet. Withal, be it said, he was a man of gentlemanly bearing, courteous, and a Christian. He did not shoot on Sunday. not he. Such sport is to me despicable. Yet it is affirmed by those who ought to know by those, that is, who engage in it that it tends to promote a spirit of manliness.
But thoughts of this kind belong not in Dyer's Hollow. Rather let me remember only its stillness and tranquillity, its innocent inhabitants, its gray hills, its sandy road, and the ocean at the end of the way. Even at the western extremity, near the railway and the busy harbor, the valley was the very abode of quietness. Here, on one of my earlier excursions, I came unexpectedly to a bridge, and on the farther side of the bridge to a tidy house and garden ; and in the garden were several pear-trees, with fruit on them ! Still more to my surprise, here was a little shop. The keeper of it had also the agency of some insurance company, so a signboard informed the passer-by. As for his stock in trade, sole leather, dry goods, etc., that spoke for itself. I stepped inside the door, but he was occupied with an account book, and when at last he looked up there was no speculation in his eyes. Possibly he had sold something the day before, and knew that no second customer could be expected so soon. We exchanged the time of day, not a very valuable commodity hereabout, and I asked him a question or two touching the hollow, and especially " the village," of which I had heard a rumor that it
lay somewhere in this
neighborhood. He looked bewildered at the word, he hardly knew what I could
mean, he said; but with a little prompting he recollected that a few houses
between this point and North Truro (there used to be more houses than now, but
they had been removed to other towns, some of them to
The shop was like the valley, a
careless tourist might have said, a sleepy shop in Sleepy Hollow. To me it
seemed not so. Peaceful, remote, sequestered, these and all similer epithets suited well with Longnook;
but for myself, in all my loitering there I was never otherwise than wide awake. The close - lying, barren, mountainous- looking
hills did not oppress the mind, but rather lifted and dilated it, and although
I could not hear the surf, I felt all the while the neighborhood of the sea;
not the harbor, but the ocean, with nothing between me and Spain except that
stretch of water. Blessed forever be Dyer's
Hollow, I say, and blessed be its inhabitants! Whether Western
Islanders or " regular