Wednesday, October 21, 2009

History at Hawksnest State Park

While Hawksnest is mostly forest and ponds, there are many signs of former human activity  Here's an initial attempt to list some of the area's historical assets.

Duck Hunting
Duck-hunting camps date back to the late 1800s and early in the 1900s.  Hawksnest Camp, established in 1925,  is still occupied.  At least three other camps existed: one on the isthmus between Black and Hawksnest ponds (now a ruin), one at the Round Cove Rd. parking area (now removed, Thompson family), and one at the Walker Rd. parking area (now removed, Bell family).

Above: Ruins of a duck hunting camp on the isthmus
Hawksnest Camp, established 1925--the only cabin on the pond

When the Thompsons came to Hawksnest in the early 1950s, the camp at the end of Round Cove Road was a one-room cabin with a field stone fireplace, perhaps with a kitchen and bathroom.  It was owned by the Boy Scouts.  There were old calendars showing ducks in a primitive style, by Pope.  The Thompsons added running water, a sleeping porch, a deck, landscaping, and later, built a guest house (where the concrete platform remains).  The Thompsons founded Hawksnest State Park.  There were no other houses on the entire length of Round Cove Road, west of 137.

The Bells were an old couple from Boston.  In the 1950s, Hawksnest was very secluded.  The Bells had a vegetable garden near their cabin, and Mr. Bell, a tall, slightly stooped old man with white hair and a bushy white mustache, used to do his gardening in his underwear--or less.  So you had to loudly announce your presence if you went calling on the Bells.

After the Thompson and Bell lands were sold to the State, their two beautiful cabins were allowed to fall down, whereupon the State removed the remains.  When the Bell cabin remains were carried away, staff found a curious home-made insulation within the walls--sea weed stuffed into "pillows" of brown paper.  It was probably made locally, and I presume used the seaweed with the little air bubbles.

A famous folk-artist
A.E.Crowell is the most famous carver of decoys and decorative bird statues in America.  Two of his carvings sold for over a million dollars.  Mr. Crowell's workshop was on Orleans Rd. in East Harwich, and in 2008 was slated for a move to Sandwich, where it was going to be restored for $4 million. Apparently there was little interest in the old workshop in Harwich.

Crowell began making decoys for duck hunters, then managed a hunting camp--but as his talent began to shine, he made a living of carving and carved more works of pure art.  His bird carvings are so life-like you could mistake them for a live bird, and are found in many top museums.  More on Crowell.

The Walker Farm is located on the north side of Walker Road, looking down across an old field onto Walker Pond.  When I was a boy in the 1950s, the building was still standing though in shambles, and the field was still open. 

The fields of the Walker Farm have nearly returned to nature

Elsewhere around the park, there are numerous signs of old activity in the woods, which must have been fields at one time.  The old deeds refer to ditches and stone walls as property boundaries.  Oliver Pond shows the most signs of activity: there are old diggings on the north side, an old road coming down to the pond on the east side, and roads and ditches on the south side bluff. 

Old road to E end of Oliver Pond

Furrow on uplands S of Oliver Pond--an old boundary or path?

There is an old cranberry bog near the Walker Road parking area.

At the NE corner of SR 39-137, there was a small farm operated by Mr. Nickerson in the 1950s.  He grew vegetables and corn.  The fields came nearly to the south side of Round Cove Rd.

Old Roads
Seth Whitfield County Road (Hawksnest Rd.) runs mostly north-south, and bisects the northern portion of the park.  I'm told it goes back hundreds of years, and it's connection between Long Pond and Queen Ann road (also very old) also suggests an early origin.  The road still looks just as it did 50 years ago, and ought to be preserved in this same rustic condition.  However, it was recently widened at the southern end, showing its vulnerability.

Seth Whitfield County Road is rustic but endangered

When the park began, except for Round Cove Road (and it's former extension to the isthmus cabin), Seth Whitfield Road, and Walker Road, there were no roads or trails in the park.  I believe that the several trails that now ring the ponds or go down to the ponds, were cut by equestrians after the park was established.  (Excepting, of course, for the two short trails that led from the two parking lots to the beach.)

The Head of the Bay Cemetery is just across Walker Rd. from the NW end of the park--indicating there were probably farms in the area.  See the list of names on gravestones here.

Head of the Bay Cemetery in Eash Harwich, at the edge of Hawksnest State Park

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