The 7 Men of Eastham

Oil painting called “Home” by Wendy Harty 2010.

What and where do you call home? Mine is the Sweetgrass Hills also known as the Hills of Home and the Writing-on Stone Provincial Park (now named in 2019 a World Heritage Site.) Pictured in my painting was my playground growing up, six miles of ranch from the Milk River to the American border. My grandparents, Gordon and Olive Gibbs Waddell homesteaded here in 1910. Imagine starting from scratch and coming to make a home on this prairie. Our relatives from Plymouth Colony moved to Eastham, Massachusetts with the same pioneering spirit. On this Thanksgiving Weekend let us truly give thanks for the sacrifices and hardships they endured each time they moved to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Eastham was home for Keziah Atwood. It was here in 1620, the Mayflower landed a hunting expedition. The area was not settled until 1644. In 1643, the members of the Plymouth Church were dissatisfied with their situation and had a desire to take up new lands. They had built their town on a barren part of New England. The whole church began to wonder if they should move to another place, as there wasn’t enough upland to prosper. It was unanimously agreed upon to move if they could find a place to accommodate all of them. The purchase of Nauset on Cape Cod was made from the Natives. Later the Plymouth group reconsidered as the land was not capable of holding the entire colony and was 50 miles from Plymouth. In 1644 the grant of Nauset was made by the Court to the Plymouth Colony and the “Old Comers” those persons of similar minds and ambitions removed to Nauset. The name was officially changed to Eastham and the town incorporated in 1651. The church gave their blessing for the first seven settlers who were: Thomas Prince, John Doane, Nicholas Snow, Josiah Cook, Richard Higgins, John Smalley and Edward Bangs. These 7 men were considered the most respectable of Plymouth They had a clean slate to write history on. If it were not for four out of these seven men, ancestors of Keziah Atwood, being willing to relocate and start afresh my novel would not be set in her home of Eastham, Massachusetts.

Keziah a novel- continued

Uncle Jonathan stomped off his snowy boots and entered the grieving home of his sister. He smelled of wood smoke and sweat. His job was to dig the grave for Stephen Atwood. The early advent of winter had left the ground frozen. Jonathan had transported logs into the Cove Burying Ground Cemetery, lit them overnight to make smoldering embers and then had removed the hot ash so as to dig the warmed ground.

Aunt Keziah had come also. She tucked Mama up in bed and took over the house. Keziah didn’t mind. Keziah now shared her bed with Jerusha and Bethia. Life was better with her aunt and baby Bethia there. Keziah would still wake in the night to hear Mama’s sobs but Aunt Keziah, younger by two years, would sooth and shush. Aunt Keziah knew her own share of sorrow. Her daughter Mary had died after being in her arms one month.. Then her husband, Isaac Bacon, last year had died just as her morning sickness set in. Seven months later Bethia had been born.

Grampa Doane also came daily and changed the dressings on her mother’s leg. He always brought something to put in the soup pot. His other patients often paid him in produce, money being in scarce supply. Grampa Doane had never attended physician school but in the community of Eastham his common sense was often called upon to tend to their illnesses and injuries. Keziah heard him apologize for the little he brought one day as his patients were often to poor to pay him and gave him IOU’s.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Counting my blessings and remembering the history behind the abundance we will share with family as we eat our turkey.

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