Century Old Journals Offer Window into Cape’s Past

JournalThis story first appeared in HCT’s Spring 2021 Newsletter. 
To explore the full summary of the century old Kendrick Farm journals researched by Professor Tim Earle, please click here.

Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) has discovered some intriguing surprises by linking land conservation with local history. What was known as Kendrick Farm in East Harwich (now the 49 acre Pleasant Bay Woodlands) is a unique place. Owners of the property before HCT, including a Monomoyick family, have been documented generation-by-generation back to the mid-1600s, and each generation has a story to tell.

An archaeological/history team examining Pleasant Bay Woodlands has dug more than 250 test pits and also burrowed into hundreds of pages of historical documents. Among the documents are daily journals from the 1920’s kept by Andrew Kendrick (1859-1931). The journals reveal one local family’s rural life at a time when the Cape was emerging into the modern era.

Andrew was the sixth generation of Kendricks living with his wife Victoria (1876-1944) and their son Edward (1910-1953) in their traditional Cape farmhouse a quarter mile back from Pleasant Bay. The family made its primary living from the sale of chickens and eggs and cranberries. Archaeologist Tim Earle says Andrew’s journals offer an invaluable look at life on a farm during the rapid social and economic change that Cape Cod was going through. “From the brief penciled entries you really get a flavor of the constant round of seasonal labor and what Andrew walked out into each morning,” Earle said.

Historian Scott Ridley noted that the journal for 1926 stands out when coupled with other family documents and what was occurring in the region. In February that year the family purchased a battery-powered radio. “It’s hard for us to appreciate today how much of a change this was,” Ridley said, “but it was more than the opening of the internet. They were getting connected to the world for the first time.” That summer WNAC began live broadcasting of Red Sox games. A treat for locals was one of the players, Danny MacFayden, who was born in North Truro and had played for the Osterville town team in 1924 and Falmouth in 1925.

cowIn October 1926, the Kendricks gave up their horse and carriage and purchased their first car, a large, boxy Dodge sedan with a visor above the windshield. Local main roads, that had long consisted of sand and crushed shells, were being covered in asphalt at that time. The car allowed Andrew to broaden his deliveries of eggs and to visit regularly with family and friends in neighboring towns.

Electricity was also spreading into the Lower Cape. Homes were getting wired and light bulbs were replacing oil and kerosene lamps. That fall Andrew sold an easement through the western border of the farm to Cape and Vineyard Electric Company for the power line that now runs from Chatham to Orleans. One condition of the easement was a requirement that the line would be moved if it interfered with contemplated house lots.

“You can see the world we live in today emerging in the details of a single family’s life,” said HCT Executive Director Michael Lach. Other parts of the team’s research extend through the generations of Kendricks back to the Monomoyick people who owned the land and lived in nearby settlements and farms through the early 1800s.

horse and plowThe archaeological/history team is led by Elizabeth DeMarrais of Cambridge University and John Steinberg of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

“By looking closely at unique pieces of land, we grow to understand more about our heritage and how life has changed throughout time,” said Lach. “What we’ve found is that this is a wonderful way for us to deepen that sense of place we all appreciate.”