The Town of Eastham is a coastal resort community straddling the arm of
Cape Cod. Located on the lower Cape, the town is bounded on only two sides
by land, the other two being water, the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay.
Pre-colonial stands of oak and pine were long ago harvested for fuel and
shipbuilding and the terrain of the town is now heavily saltmarsh and sand.
Dissatisfied with Plymouth, in 1644 the directors of the Colony sent a
seven-man delegation to scout Eastham for a new site for the center of
government. The decision was not to move, but the seven members of the
delegation brought their families and established a new town. The town has
several harbors and these and the abundant shellfish are probably what
brought these early settlers from the Plymouth Colony. The settlers'
economy was based on agriculture, fishing and salt making, but Eastham's
summer resort history began as early as 1830 when the Methodist Church
established a summer camp meeting ground in town.
The coming of railroad connections in 1870 stimulated local market
gardening and Eastham specialized in cranberries and asparagus for the city
markets. Eastham had cod and mackerel fisheries and oysters to ship north.
The town's harbors were not as good as those of other communities in the
area, so agriculture remained more important to the town in the 19th
century than did maritime trades. Grain production was abundant enough to
allow Eastham to export her grain, while industry was never a real factor
in the town. Residents note, however, that Swift and Company meatpackers
began in Eastham before moving to Chicago.
Some original landscapes are still visible in the section of town inside
the National Park areas while intensive modern residential growth has taken
place in other areas of town.