Last summer, in an effort to learn more about the families that lived in South Wellfleet, I was welcomed for a visit to the historic home of Ed Ayres and his son, and the home of Valerie and Bill Scheel. They live near Route 6 in homes that were built more than 150 years ago. As I researched the families that occupied these homes in the 19th Century, I found multiple connections that linked them to each other and to the life of the community.
Earlier, I’d already had the pleasure of visiting the first Arey home, located nearby, and then the second Arey home, also nearby and now Henry Cortes’ house. I’ve already covered the history of the Arey family, and the Barkers, whose homestead was originally an Arey residence. I’ve also written about Collins S. Cole, the owner of one of the earliest stores in South Wellfleet, and the store’s successor owner, Alvin Paine.
The Scheel’s home is the oldest one of the two I visited. Their records show ownership that may have started with Thomas Paine, recognized as the first Paine to settle in Wellfleet. He is not in the 1790 Federal Census, but may have come here in the next few years, because in 1800 there are three Thomas Paines in Wellfleet: the original, a “Junior,” and a “Third.” The next owner of the Scheel home may have been Ephraim Stubbs, who married two daughters of Reuben Arey (though not at the same time!). There is a record of a sale to Timothy Doane. More research will be needed to precisely determine the house’s early ownership. Eventually Reuben Arey came to own the house, as his brother Benjamin sold it to him when he moved to New York state. The sale in 1844 was by Reuben Arey to Jonathan Doane and Scotto Foster.
Jonathan Doane, Jesse Doane and Elizabeth Doane Foster were siblings, children of Jonathan Doane and Rebecca Wiley. Rebecca was the daughter of Levi Wiley and Rebecca Stubbs, both South Wellfleet families. The Wellfleet and Eastham Doanes can all be traced back to the original Deacon John Doane, who was one of the founders of Eastham.
In the 1840 Federal Census, which only lists heads of households, Jonathan Doane and Scotto Foster are listed next to each other. In the 1850 Federal Census, Jonathan Doane and his family, and Scotto Foster and his family appear to be two households in the same home (#62). Rebecca Wiley Doane, age 70, is living with them. In addition, there is a Jesse Doane and his family in a nearby location (#45). So, while we don’t know the Doane/Foster living arrangement in 1840, the purchase of the house in 1844 appears to keep them together for a few more years. Both Jonathan Doane and Scotto Foster were mariners.
Scotto Foster was the son of Seth and Tabitha Foster of Brewster, Mass. The original Foster was a 1600s immigrant to Weymouth, Massachusetts. An early ancestor was Chillingsworth Foster, whose name may be reflected in the Brewster restaurant of the same name. Scotto Foster’s mother was a Crosby, another old Brewster family.
Presumably, Scotto Foster did well as a mariner, because he purchased other South Wellfleet property in the 1840s. In 1843, he purchased land and a portion of a dwelling house from Edward Freeman, property that Freeman had purchased from John Witherell although deed descriptions make it difficult to precisely locate this property. Foster also appears to have purchased property that Richard Arey sold- off as his affairs were settled and he relocated to western Illinois.
Scotto Foster and his wife, Elizabeth, had their first child, Seth, in 1837. He lived a long life, to 1909, and married Eunice Knowles Hatch, a South Wellfleet family I’ll cover in a future blog. The second Foster child, Eliza Freeman Foster, born in 1839, eventually married Alvin Paine, who was a grandson of Thomas Paine, and the successful mariner who purchased the second Arey house in the 1870’s.
The Fosters had two daughters next. Rebecca born in 1841 must have died, because they followed a pattern of naming another child for the dead one, and indeed had a second Rebecca in 1845. She died also. Next born was Collins Cole Foster in 1847, who appears to be named to honor Collins S. Cole, the successful South Wellfleet merchant. Cole held a mortgage on the Foster home in the 1840’s. The sixth Foster child was Harriet, born in
1850. Finally, Scotto Foster Jr. was born in 1852, but he died in 1863 of diphtheria, along with several other Wellfleet children who succumbed to that disease the same year. Several Foster graves can be found in the South Wellfleet cemetery, and the Fosters had a pew in the South Wellfleet Congregational Church.
Charles F. Cole mentions Captain Scotto Foster in his memory piece about Wellfleet, noting that his schooner, the “H. Atwood,” was the first Wellfleet schooner to pursue seine fishing. Later, he remembers, the “H. Atwood” was under the command of Captain Collins S. Foster, and was wrecked near Boston Harbor, although all the crew members were saved. An 1883 Barnstable Patriot column mentions that Captain Seth Foster would be taking charge of the schooner “Nellie Rich” and would engage in blue fishing in the coming season. Later, in 1888, this same ship was under the command of Captain Collins C. Foster, sailing for Maryland and “engaged in the oyster business for J.A. Stubbs.” In 1884, the Barnstable Patriot noted that Captain Scotto of the schooner “Mary E. Whorf” had arrived home from Virginia where he had been to pick up oysters. Shellfishermen planted these Southern oysters on the Wellfleet flats to give them the distinctive flavor of the town.
The 1970’s Massachusetts Historical Commission reports on historic Wellfleet houses date the Foster home to 1849. The report also calls it a “luxurious adaptation of modified Greek Revival.” The Doane/Foster house is of the earlier old Cape style.
There is a second Foster house still in existence. Typical of 19th Century families, it appears that this was built for one of the Foster sons. This home is not on the 1858 Walling Map. In the 1880 Federal Census, Scotto and Elizabeth are living in the same household as Collins Foster and his wife Sabra Newcomb Wiley. Next door is Seth Foster and his wife Eunice. This second house still stands, but I have not yet visited it — but have hopes.
Ed Ayres shared this photo, which he identified as Captain Scotto Foster and his wife. It might be Collins Cole Foster and his wife instead. The two Foster sons were residents of Cambridge
and East Boston by the late 19th Century. Captain Scotto Foster died in 1895, Seth Foster in 1909, and Captain Collins Cole Foster in 1917. By the time of Collins Cole Foster’s death, the family houses were sold to Ed Ayres’ grandmother.
Meanwhile, the Doanes continued to live in their home after the Fosters moved. The mother, Rebecca Doane, died in 1867, having lived for almost ninety years, quite an accomplishment in that time. Their daughter Martha married a Paine, and eventually left the Cape like many of their generation. Their second daughter, Eusebia, married a Higgins and then Alvin Goodspeed, another close-by family that I’ll cover in a future blog. Their son, Willard Doane, came to own the house eventually.
Willard Doane and his wife Eliza Chipman had two children, Edna (1876) and Fred (1874). One neighbor remembers that Mrs. Doane supplied the local neighbors with yeast — before the days of packaged yeast — and also sold eggs. Fred Doane married Mabel Paine, his next-door neighbor. Mabel was Alvin Paine and Eliza Foster’s daughter, so the Fosters and the Doanes reunited once more in the old house. Mabel Paine Doane was Isaac Paine’s sister; Isaac was known to South Wellfleetians as “Ikey,” the owner of the General Store. Fred and Mabel are listed in Federal censuses as working in the store.
Valerie Scheel and Ed Ayres both told the story of Mabel Doane’s great interest in watching Route 6 traffic from her window. (Fred died in 1945, and she died in 1956). Of course traffic would have been sporadic at that time, but may have been quite exciting during the summer months.
When Route 6 was widened in the late forties, the Doane house had to be moved, and it was relocated to the east side of the road, on the corner of Cemetery Road. The house was turned so that the front window faced the road to assist in Mabel’s need to watch the road. The move was somewhat destructive of the structure, but it still has the presence of a home that has sheltered many lives.
Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive: www.sturgislibrary.org
Barnstable County Deeds available at www.barnstablecountydeeds.org
“The Notes of Charles F. Cole” manuscript from the Wellfleet Public Library
David Kew’s Cape Cod History site: www.capecodhistory.us
U.S. Federal Census collection at www.ancestry.com
Massachusetts Historical Commission, forms listing Wellfleet’s historic structures, No 78, 80,
and 81 available at the Wellfleet Historical Society.