The travel and lifestyle blog of In My Footsteps Podcast host and author Christopher Setterlund. Discovering and sharing the best of today and yesterday. Beautiful and inspiring places to visit now, along with incredible stories of times gone by. From Cape Cod to New England and beyond, from present-day, to some classic 1980's nostalgia, to days long gone by. There is something for everyone here much like with the podcast.
In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Man Behind the Long Point Cross
Point in Provincetown is a sandy spit that makes up the ‘finger’
of the arm that is the shape of Cape Cod. It was once a thriving
fishing community in the 19th century. Over time as the
fishing began to diminish the people and even some of the homes
migrated across Provincetown Harbor to take up residence in the main
part of town.
the present day Long Point is a beautiful hike. From Commercial
Street it appears so close yet so far. The reality is that in order
to get to the fingertip of Cape Cod it is a nearly 2 ½ mile walk
across the West End Breakwater and sandy Long Point Beach. Once out
in the solitude of Long Point it is a fascinating step back in time.
Point Lighthouse is the centerpiece of the spit, the current tower
was built in 1875 with the first lighthouse erected on the spot in
1827. The brick oil house still stands there as well. In addition
to the lighthouse are a pair of earthen forts. Constructed due to
fear of the Confederate Navy blockading the harbor during the Civil
War the pair of forts never saw any action. They were nicknamed by
the townspeople Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous.
final piece of interesting history that sits out on Long Point is a
large wooden cross. It is not visible with the naked eye until
getting relatively close to the lighthouse and forts. On it is a
nameplate engraved with the name Charles S. Darby. Who was Charles
Darby? Why is there a cross bearing his name located on the isolated
Charles S. Darby was born in Washington D.C. on February 29, 1908, one of three
brothers. He studied at the Corcoran Art School. After his studies
began summering in Provincetown, a noted spot for artists, along with
his friend Fritz Fuglister in the late 1920’s. The friends began
their time there by occupying a dune shack at Race Point for the
first few summers before returning to Washington D.C. for the winter.
Darby and Fuglister briefly ran the Pelican Club in D.C. at the
young artists immediately began assimilating into their new
surroundings. Darby and Fuglister dipped their toes into the vibrant
art community studying under E. Ambrose Webster. Webster, an iconic
Provincetown landscape painter, ran his Summer School of Painting on
Bradford Street from 1900 until his death in 1935.
became a member of the Provincetown Art Association and soon his
paintings and personality made him a well known resident of the
community. He was by all accounts a handsome and quite humorous man.
He also became a member of The Beachcombers. The group, started in
1916, is a
social and professional club specifically
for painters, etchers, poets, playwrights, and others.
They held popular annual parties and events of which Darby was
Webster’s death Darby began using the Isaac Henry Caliga studio on
Conant Street for his work. A skilled billiard and chess player
Darby received exposure by advancing far in the Cape Cod Chess
tournament of 1937. His greatest achievement in art would come
shortly before an even greater call for his country.
Untitled painting by Charles Darby (Provincetown Art Association and Museum)
1941 Darby moved his work from the Caliga studio to a studio on East
Bradford Street. There he crafted a painting of Long Point Lighthouse
that was featured in unique shows of both young and older artists put
on by the Provincetown Art Association. Darby’s work received
praise from visitors with one critic saying his painting ‘made the
show.’ He also became an able-bodied member of the Beachcombers,
giving him full voting rights on club happenings. Darby to his
credit though remained humble, despite some saying he bordered on
genius, he claimed to not understand what quality he possessed that
attracted people to himself and his work.
December 1941 the United States was thrust into World War II after
the Pearl Harbor attacks. Charles Darby was enlisted in the Air
Force and ended up training in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was
sent to Europe in 1943. Throughout the war the local newspapers
would give updates on their men overseas with Darby frequently pining
over missing his adoptive home of Provincetown.
helped storm the beaches at Normandy and eventually rose to the rank
of Staff Sargent by 1944. He was a radio operator and member of the
435th Troop Carrier Group based in England. A transport
plane he was on was shot down over the Netherlands in October 1944.
Darby was able to bail out however he died a few weeks later in a
hospital in Brighton, England from the burns he sustained on October
17, 1944 at the age of 36. In 1946 he would be posthumously awarded
the prestigious Air Medal for his merit and valor during the war.
mourned the loss of a beloved and talented adopted son. Those who
knew him wished to honor him and sought to do so. A motion to name
the intersection of Commercial Street and Bangs Street, at the
Provincetown Art Association, Charles S. Darby Square was approved.
The Beachcombers looked to remember their former member as well.
June 1946 was decided to create a rustic 10-foot tall cross from
driftwood and place it on the west side of the Provincetown Art
Association. Noted bronze sculptor Bill Boogar designed a plaque
which included words from Darby’s father William. The inscription
read: “To Charles S. Darby, Gallant Soldier, Feb. 29, 1908 –
October 17, 1944. This cross is placed in memory by his friends The
Beachcombers.” It was dedicated on October 26, 1946. Famed
‘Vagabond Poet’ Harry Kemp wrote a piece dedicated to Charles
Darby in October 1956 entitled The Good Fellow.
cross remained on the grounds of the Provincetown Art Association
until the summer of 1960. After the bronze plaque was stolen it was
decided to move the cross to a spot far more difficult to reach and
deface, the dunes near Long Point Lighthouse. The cross is adorned
today with a worn American flag and a much simpler plaque: “Charles
S. Darby ‘Gallant Solider’ Killed In Action October 17, 1944”
An understated memorial for an understated man that managed to leave
a large impact on his beloved Provincetown.