In My Footsteps
Trip 26: Mashpee & New Seabury, Mass.
February 26, 2010
Once the largest reservation of the Wampanoag Indians, and still claimed as their land to this day, Mashpee is a small town big on history. It was here after King Philip’s War, between English colonists and their Native American allies who fought against the Native Americans of Southern New England in 1675-76, that the Wampanoags settled. The leader of the Wampanoag’s who fought against the English was Metacomet, descendant of Masasoit, who had adopted the European name Philip in the years before hostilities broke out.
Mashpee itself is located in between Barnstable and Falmouth and includes several smaller villages much like all Cape Cod towns. For a deeper connection to the Wampanoag tribe a visit should be paid to the Old Indian Meeting House(right), also known as the Old Indian Church. Built in 1684 as a place for the Wampanoags to practice Christianity the church is the oldest on the Cape. It was moved from its original location in 1717 and relocated to its current spot just off of Rt. 28 on Meetinghouse Road. A cemetery was built on the grounds in the late 18th century and the building once doubled as a school as well. The church is still used for services by Wampanoags to this day.
Located across Rt. 28, almost diagonally from the Old Indian Church is the beginning of the Mashpee River(left). There are two separate entrances to trails that span the river, one is on the right only a few hundred feet down Quinaquisset Avenue. This spot seems to have been recently groomed and its elevated view of the beginnings of the river is spectacular. The second entrance is located on Mashpee Neck Road. This trail, called the Chickadee Trail, includes a longer walk through the sweet smelling forest. At the head of the trail there is a great view of the river and a few homes that sit across the water. Even on this day there were several ducks congregating on the shore. In the warmer months the woods should be teeming with birds and other small animals.
Continuing down Mashpee Neck Road will take you to the Mashpee Neck Marina and the Town Way to Water. Mashpee Neck is one of the tiny villages within Mashpee; also included in that group is Popponesset. Popponesset Island is a small community that was used for amphibious assaults and training during World War II. It is also home to the Popponesset Bird Sanctuary which stretches out into Popponesset Bay. It is said that the Popponesset name refers to the Algonquin ‘sachem,’ or paramount chief Poppononett who lived in the Mashpee area in the 17th Century.
On the north side of Mashpee sits the Lowell Holly Reservation located on South Sandwich Road. It is a 135 acre plot of land named for Abbott Lawrence Lowell, a former president of Harvard University, who donated the land in 1943. It is home to more than 250 native holly trees, thus the name of the reservation. The area itself is accessible year round, though the parking lot located at the end of an old carriage road is only open during the summer months.
The Lowell Holly lands sit between Mashpee and Wakeby Ponds. There is a sandy beach along Wakeby Pond(right) which is a perfect spot to cool off in the summer. The trails continue on until they reach a small finger of land called Conaumet Point which comes from the Wampanoag word ‘Kuwunut,’ meaning ‘beach.’ There are a few hills that give a better overlook of the two fresh water ponds and the tiny Cleveland and Keith Islands that sit out in them. The hike from the year round parking area to the seasonal lot is not hard and is a worth while trek as the views of the holly trees as well as the ponds are worth it.
The small village of New Seabury, located in Mashpee, is a very affluent area. Although it may not be possible to live in this particular area there are a few tremendous attractions that anybody can visit. The main spot to see is the South Cape Beach State Park. Before reaching the beach there is the Cape Cod Children’s Museum located on Great Neck Road South. It is a great non-profit family destination complete with their own pirate ship, an indoor planetarium, and puppet theater.
Further up the road is the South Cape Beach State Park. From the parking lot there is a view of Martha’s Vineyard across Vineyard Sound, but the beach is only the beginning. There are trails through the wooded areas north of the beach as well as a trail leading between the beach and Sage Lot Pond(left). The pond is home to lots of swans that were situated on the northern side on this day. This path is an easier walk to the State Jetty at the mouth of Waquoit Bay.
There are some who believe that Waquoit Bay was the famed Vinland, the first landing of Viking Leif Eriksson a thousand years ago. For nearly a hundred years many intelligent minds have been trying to prove just that. Whether it is the first landing spot of the Vikings in North America or not Waquoit Bay is a beautiful natural spot. From the State Jetty there is a good look across the mouth of the bay at the Washburn Island State Park in East Falmouth.
From the Wampanoag Indians to a potential landfall by Leif Eriksson, Mashpee’s connection to American and World history is unquestioned. For those not looking for history or nature there is always the immensely popular Mashpee Commons, an outdoor shopping center modeled after an old New England town. It even has a post office and library. Whether visiting for the beach or the shopping Mashpee should be visited by anyone planning on seeing Cape Cod. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Old Indian Church: From Rt. 28 turn north onto Meetinghouse Rd. Church is on right side with cemetery directly behind it.
Lowell Holly Reservation: From Rt. 28 turn north onto Rt. 130. Follow it 1.5 miles and turn right onto South Sandwich Rd. Entrance to reservation is ½ mile up on left.
South Cape Beach State Park: From Rt. 28 take Great Neck Road South exit at Mashpee Rotary. Great Neck Rd. S. becomes Great Oak Rd. Follow it to the beach.
References: Wicked Local - Leif Eriksson Cape Cod