History of Wellfleet
The first permanent settlement of what is now Wellfleet was made in the 1650’s, although the rich fishing grounds of what is now Wellfleet Harbor had been discovered at least a decade earlier. The village first became the “hamlet of Billingsgate”, after a famous fish market in London. Originally part of Eastham, the residents first began to think of establishing themselves as a separate town in the second decade of the eighteenth century but were unable to do so until 1763 when the North Precinct of Eastham was finally declared a separate district to be known as “Wellfleet”, named for a famous oyster produced in the eastern waters of England.
Originally a farming and fishing village, the local economy could not be sustained by these activities alone. The surrounding area was quickly stripped of useable forest for shipbuilding, firewood and lumber. As the land became less useable the inhabitants turned to the sea for industry and thriving fishing, whaling and merchant fleets soon occupied the harbor. Some of the merchant ships sailed as far as the coast of Africa and the sailors and fisherman thus engaged soon brought great wealth to the town. A blockade of British ships during the Revolution brought a sudden end to the influx of money and ships decayed rapidly sitting unused at their moorings in the harbor. After the war there was no money to rebuild the fleet, thus ending an early chapter in the town’s economic history.
In the wake of the demise of the whaling industry fishing began to flourish. Long known for the abundance and quality of the fish, the waters surrounding Wellfleet began to be its primary source of capital as the fishing industry grew with mackerel its primary catch. Concurrently the shell fishing industry was establishing itself by transplanting oysters from Connecticut and Chesapeake waters in order to pick up the “Wellfleet flavor”, then reharvesting and transporting them to Boston for sale. By the late 19th century production of local shellfish had grown and those began to replace the transplanted crop until transplanting completely lost favor by the early years of the 20th century. The harvest and sale of oysters, scallops, soft and hard-shelled clams remains a vital part of the town’s economy today.
The development of the tourist industry was relatively slow until, just after the beginning of the 20th century, Lawrence Baker constructed the Chequesset Inn out over the waters of the harbor on pilings that had once held the Mercantile Wharf. Following World War II and the construction of the Mid-Cape Highway tourists and second home owners began to appear in greater numbers and a service and hospitality industry has grown up to serve that population.
In 1961 the Cape Cod National Seashore was established by President John F. Kennedy. The Seashore, run by the National Park Service, owns approximately 8,000 acres of the approximately 13,100 acre total land mass of Wellfleet. The result is that despite the growing popularity of the outer Cape as a tourist destination it has not been allowed to overdevelop and has retained much of its natural beauty and charm.
The area is now home to Wellfleet summer rentals and Wellfleet vacation rentals targeting these tourists. The Wellfleet Oyster Festival is one way the community continues to embrace it's rich historical past. You may want to look for your own ocean life when you get a Wellfleet Tide Chart. A Wellfleet vacation rental might be the perfect place for your family during your Wellfleet vacation. But these are only one of many Wellfleet lodging options. We also have great Wellfleet inn lodging on Cape Cod Massachusetts. Our Wellfleet inns can be found on our Wellfleet MA map . There are lots of great activities, and whatever activity you are interested in, there is Wellfleet rentals to fulfill your desire. Old or new pastimes, if you don't own it, a Wellfleet rental can get your waterfront hobby rolling!
Interested in reading more about the history of Wellfleet?