Three Maps of Wellfleet: 1795, 1831, 1847

After a recent restoration of my e-card at the Boston Public Library, I visited their “Digital Commonwealth” pages again, searching “Wellfleet.” There I found three maps of Wellfleet: one that I’d heard of but not seen, one that I’d discovered some years ago but did not know its context, and one new to me.  Finding a new historical map is always a delight—but three in one afternoon were heaven!

A Plan of the Town of Wellfleet taken in May 1795

This was the earliest of the three. I recall reading about this map, part of a post-Revolutionary War effort to map every town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The notes explaining the creation of the map are here:

For the compilation of a state map, each town in Massachusetts (including those in the five eastern counties now part of Maine) was required by Resolves 1794, … to make a town plan based on a survey no more than seven years old, to be submitted to the state secretary’s office. Rivers, county roads, bridges, courthouses, places of public worship, and distances of the town center to the county shire town and to Boston were to be included, drawn on a scale of 200 rods to the inch. A map of Massachusetts proper and one of the District of Maine were compiled by Osgood Carleton from these plans and printed in 1802.

The signature on the map is difficult to read: possibly Gunter or Gunten Teale or Seale. Sam Waterman and Lewis Hamblin also signed it as a “Committee for the Town of Wellfleet.”  Waterman and Hamblin are listed in the 1790 Federal census for Wellfleet, but there is nothing matching the mapmaker’s name   he may have been hired to do the work.

Surprisingly, Lieutenant’s Island is labeled with its modern name, not as “Horse Island” as other early maps designated it. Loagy Bay is labeled “Logea” and the water mill (or tide mill) is noted. That mill is not the only one in Wellfleet noted on the map. This tide mill is memorialized today in Loagy Bay’s “Mill Hill Island,” a stone’s throw from today’s shore.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find written information about this early mill and its owner.

Near the Atlantic shoreline, there is a note on the map: “Barren Lands 100 Rods from Shore,” seeming to display the unimportance of the ocean side of the town.

The one road through town is represented by a series of dots marking the “Publick Road,” circling around the farthest end of Blackfish Creek. This was the King’s Highway, a term the citizens stopped using following the Revolutionary War. This roadway was the only one running through the town, long before the County Road was built with its bridge or causeway over Blackfish Creek.

There is no church in South Wellfleet on this map. The Society organizing the new local church was not formed until 1833, and the church built shortly after.  The Wellfleet “Meeting House” is at the head of Duck Creek, which is why we find the graveyard there today that was part of the church.

Indian Neck is simply labeled as “covered with sand.”

Drummer Cove off Blackfish Creek is labeled “Mill Pond,” a feature of South Wellfleet discussed in this earlier post about the fulling mill that was there:

The town’s western islands are labeled: Bound Brook, Griffin’s, Great Island, Beach Hill and Billingsgate Point.

One other point of interest is the label “Silver Spring Harbor” in South Wellfleet, at the point where Silver Spring empties into the bay. This designation was on a 1755 map at the Library of Congress, made by the British called “A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England.”

Here’s the link to the 1795 map, part of a collection at the Massachusetts Archives:

Plan of Wellfleet Made by John G. Hales dated 1831

The notes accompanying this map:

For the compilation of a more accurate state map, each town in Massachusetts (and the city of Boston) was required by Resolves 1829 … to make a town plan based on a survey no more than five years old, to be submitted to the state secretary’s office. Plans, to be drawn on a scale of one hundred rods to the inch, were to include the following information: rivers, waterways, public and private roads, places of public worship, courthouses, other public buildings, distance from town center to county shire town and to Boston, bridges and ferries, falls, ponds, shores, harbors, islands, mountains and hills, mills and manufactories, mines, iron works, meadows, and woodlands.

John Groves Hales (1785-1832) is the cartographer of this Wellfleet map. Hales was also a surveyor and civil engineer, and considered one of the most influential and important cartographers of the early 19th century. Born in England, he immigrated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, producing an 1812 map of that town. He used advanced trigonometric methods for his work, a method that had been standard practice among European surveyors for a century. This method gave his maps much greater accuracy than the metes and bounds surveys the Americans used, requiring little instrumentation or training, but liable to inaccuracies. Hales moved to Boston and, in 1814, issued his large-scale, detailed map of the Greater Boston area, noting both natural and human geography. When the Massachusetts legislature required the new state map in 1829-30, at least 45 towns and cities commissioned surveys from him. Hales died of apoplexy in 1832, the year after he produced his Wellfleet map. A full biography can be seen here:

On the Hales map, South Wellfleet’s marshy eastern side and only two of its three streams are labeled, but there are more roadways mapped, in addition to the main road through town. Silver Spring and its harbor have disappeared. Today’s “Fresh Brook” is labeled “Fresh Stream.” Lieutenant’s Island has reverted back to an earlier name, “Horse Island.” Drummer Cove is now called Cahoon Pond.  Correction, thanks to Chuck Cole! I read this wrong: the name is Cohog Pond. One of the most interesting features on this map is the many Salt Works, indicated by a clustered set of small boxes. There is one on the south side of Blackfish Creek, one on the northern side, and yet another on the north side of Cohog Pond.

This map must have been helpful in the 1840s when the topographical engineers began their work on the U. S. Coast Survey and the town was measured again using the most up-to-date surveying methods which Hales had brought to his work.  Indeed the copy of the map is stamped “1847” when the Coast Survey was underway. An earlier post on this topic is here:

There is a note on the upper right side of the Hales map: The line between Wellfleet and Truro is not admitted on the part of Wellfleet as being straight from shore to shore as it is here laid down. They claim a line a  little more northerly which includes a dwelling house belonging to Eb. Freeman that stands about 2 ½ rods north of the straight line and which is more fully elicited by the annexed Preambulation (sic) dated 15th September 1825.

Here is the link to Mr. Hales’ map:

Plan of Wellfleet made by Oliver Arey dated 1841

The same note given for the Hales map is posted here as well, so it is hard to discern what the reason was for Oliver Arey to make his Wellfleet map. Mr. Arey was the son of the second Reuben Arey whose home still stands near the intersection of Old Wharf Road and Route 6. Born in 1817, Oliver Arey at first “farmed and helped in the manufacture of salt by solar evaporation,” both standard Wellfleet occupations.  Oliver pursued an education, first at Phillips’ Academy, and then Union College. He became a teacher and then a principal, holding posts in Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio. He was the first President of the Normal School at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where one of today’s dorms is named for him.

Arey’s map is interesting for the many Wellfleet schools that he notes. Starting at the southern end of town, there is a school between Spring Brook and Fresh Brook, one east of Lieutenant’s Island, and another one north of Drummer Cove, and yet another on the road to Wellfleet. There are four more schools in the more northern section of town, for a total of eight. Prior to the Civil War, Wellfleet was in its heyday, with a population that required these numerous schools.

Also of interest in South Wellfleet is a designation of two churches. One was the South Wellfleet Congregational Church, and the other, nearby, the short-lived Methodist Church. These two new churches reflect the relatively high and growing population of the town. These churches were discussed in these two posts:

On Arey’s map, Lieutenant’s Island is labeled “Horse Island.” The South Wharf is noted on the point we now call the “Old Wharf.” There’s still only one main road through the townit still circles past the end of Blackfish Creek. The “causeway” that shortened that route wasn’t built until 1846-47.

A new feature is on this map: two lighthouses, one at Billingsgate, and the other in the harbor near the wharf, today’s Mayo Beach Light.

Here is Mr. Arey’s map:



Family history researcher living in New York City.
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4 Responses to Three Maps of Wellfleet: 1795, 1831, 1847

  1. Ch Cole says:

    Pam……it looks to me that the Pond that you mention as Cahoon Pond( currently Drummers Pond)…is actually labelled Cohog pond. Bob Paine always called the little end of the marsh Pond that is sort of Surrounded by Pleasant Point settlement >>>> Quahog/quohaug Pond….maybe a designation from when there was much more sand than Deep mud….my father Kenneth used to speak of a bathing beach in Drummers’ Pond over on the Cannon Hill rd side that had a sand beach back in his day…he was about 13 in 1938…..most interesting!!….ch

  2. Donna says:

    Ooh, I think we have a copy of that 1831 map! It’s rolled up, and I want to have it framed.

  3. Pingback: Making Salt in South Wellfleet | South Wellfleet, Massachusetts

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