Cape Cod Appendix A:
Historical Notes for Chapter 3

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[1]    The first minister settled here was the Rev. Samuel Treat,(1) in 1672, a gentleman who is said to be "entitled to a distinguished rank among the evangelists of New England." He converted many Indians, as well as white men, in his day, and translated the Confession of Faith into the Nauset (2) language. These were the Indians concerning whom their first teacher, Richard Bourne,(3) wrote to Gookin,(4) in 1674, that he had been to see one who was sick, "and there came from him very savory and heavenly expressions," but, with regard to the mass of them, he says, "the truth is, that many of them are very loose in their course, to my heart-breaking sorrow." Mr. Treat is described as a Calvinist (5) of the strictest kind, not one of those who, by giving up or explaining away, become like a porcupine disarmed of its quills, but a consistent Calvinist, who can dart his quills to a distance and courageously defend himself. There exists a volume of his sermons in manuscript, "which," says a commentator, "appear to have been designed for publication." I quote the following sentences at second hand, from a Discourse on Luke xvi. 23, addressed to sinners:
[2]    "Thou must ere long go to the bottomless pit. Hell hath enlarged herself, and is ready to receive thee. There is room enough for thy entertainment....

[3]    "Consider, thou art going to a place prepared by God on purpose to exalt his justice in, a place made for no other employment but torments. Hell is God's house of correction; and, remember, God doth all things like himself. When God would show his justice, and what is the weight of his wrath, he makes a hell where it shall, indeed, appear to purpose.... Woe to thy soul when thou shalt be set up as a butt for the arrows of the Almighty....

[4]    "Consider, God himself shall be the principal agent in thy misery, his breath is the bellows which blows up the flame of hell forever; and if he punish thee, if he meet thee in his fury, he will not meet thee as a man; he will give thee an omnipotent blow."

[5]    "Some think sinning ends with this life; but it is a mistake. The creature is held under an everlasting law; the damned increase in sin in hell. Possibly, the mention of this may please thee. But, remember, there shall be no pleasant sins there; no eating, drinking, singing, dancing, wanton dalliance, and drinking stolen waters: but damned sins,bitter, hellish sins; sins exasperated by torments, cursing God, spite, rage, and blasphemy. The guilt of all thy sins shall be laid upon thy soul,and be made so many heaps of fuel....

[6]    "Sinner, I beseech thee, realize the truth of these things. Do not go about to dream that this is derogatory to God's mercy, and nothing but a vain fable to scare children out of their wits withal. God can be merciful, though he make thee miserable. He shall have monuments enough of that precious attribute, shining like stars in the place of glory, and singing eternal hallelujahs to the praise of Him that redeemed them, though, to exalt the power of his justice, he damn sinners heaps upon heaps."

[7]    "But," continues the same writer, "with the advantage of proclaiming the doctrine of terror, which is naturally productive of a sublime and impressive style of eloquence ('Triumphat ventoso gloriae curru orator, qui pectus angit, irritat, et implet terroribus.' Vid. Burnet, De Stat. Mort., p. 309),(6) he could not attain the character of a popular preacher. His voice was so loud, that it could be heard at a great distance from the meeting-house, even amidst the shrieks of hysterical women, and the winds that howled over the plains of Nauset; but there was no more music in it than in the discordant sounds with which it was mingled."

[8]    "The effect of such preaching," it is said, "was that his hearers were several times, in the course of his ministry, awakened and alarmed; and on one occasion a comparatively innocent young man was frightened nearly out of his wits, and Mr. Treat had to exert himself to make hell seem somewhat cooler to him"; yet we are assured that "Treat's manners were cheerful, his conversation pleasant, and sometimes facetious, but always decent. He was fond of a stroke of humor, and a practical joke, and manifested his relish for them by long and loud fits of laughter."

[9]    This was the man of whom a well-known anecdote is told,which doubtless many of my readers have heard, but which, nevertheless, I will venture to quote:

[10]    "After his marriage with the daughter of Mr. Willard (pastor of the South Church in Boston), he was sometimes invited by that gentleman to preach in his pulpit. Mr. Willard possessed a graceful delivery, a masculine and harmonious voice; and, though he did not gain much reputation by his 'Body of Divinity,' which is frequently sneered at, particularly by those who have read it, yet in his sermons are strength of thought and energy of language. The natural consequence was that he was generally admired." Mr. Treat having preached one of his best discourses to the congregation of his father-in-law, in his usual unhappy manner, excited universal disgust; and several nice judges waited on Mr. Willard, and begged that Mr. Treat, who was a worthy, pious man, it was true, but a wretched preacher, might never be invited into his pulpit again. To this request Mr. Willard made no reply; but he desired his son-in-law to lend him the discourse; which, being left with him, he delivered it without alteration to his people a few weeks after. They ran to Mr. Willard and requested a copy for the press."'See the difference,' they cried, 'between yourself and your son-in-law; you have preached a sermon on the same text as Mr. Treat's, but whilst his was, contemptible, yours is excellent.' As is observed in a note, 'Mr. Willard, after producing the sermon in the handwriting of Mr. Treat, might have addressed these sage critics in the words of Phædrus,
        'En hic declarat, quales sitis judices.'"(7)
[11]    Mr. Treat died of a stroke of the palsy, just after the memorable storm known as the Great Snow, which left the ground around his house entirely bare, but heaped up the snow in the road to an uncommon height. Through this an arched way was dug, by which the Indians bore his body to the grave.

[12]    The reader will imagine us, all the while, steadily traversing that extensive plain in a direction a little north of east toward Nauset Beach, and reading under our umbrellas as we sailed, while it blowed hard with mingled mist and rain, as if we were approaching a fit anniversary of Mr. Treat's funeral. We fancied that it was such a moor as that on which somebody perished in the snow, as is related in the "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life."(8)

[13]    The next minister settled here was the "Rev. Samuel Osborn,(9) who was born in Ireland, and educated at the University of Dublin." He is said to have been "A man of wisdom and virtue," and taught his people the use of peat, and the art of drying and preparing it, which as they had scarcely any other fuel, was a great blessing to them. He also introduced improvements in agriculture. But, notwithstanding his many services, as he embraced the religion of Arminius, some of his flock became dissatisfied. At length, an ecclesiastical council, consisting of ten ministers, with their churches, sat upon him, and they, naturally enough, spoiled his usefulness. The council convened at the desire of two divine philosophers, Joseph Doane and Nathaniel Freeman.

[14]    In their report they say, "It appears to the council that the Rev. Mr. Osborn hath, in his preaching to this people, said, that what Christ did and suffered doth nothing abate or diminish our obligation to obey the law of God, and that Christ's suffering and obedience were for himself; both parts of which, we think, contain dangerous error."

[15]    "Also: 'It hath been said, and doth appear to this council, that the Rev. Mr. Osborn, both in public and in private, asserted that there are no promises in the Bible but what are conditional, which we think, also, to be an error, and do say that there are promises which are absolute and without any conditions, such as the promise of a new heart, and that he will write his law in our hearts.'"

[16]    "Also, they say, 'it hath been alleged, and doth appear to us, that Mr. Osborn hath declared, that obedience is a considerable cause of a person's justification, which, we think, contains very dangerous error.'"

[17]    And many the like distinctions they made, such as some of my readers, probably, are more familiar with than I am. So, far in the East, among the Yezidis, or Worshippers of the Devil, so-called, the Chaldaeans, and others, according to the testimony of travellers, you may still hear these remarkable disputations on doctrinal points going on. Osborn was, accordingly, dismissed, and he removed to Boston, where he kept school for many years. But he was fully justified, methinks, by his works in the peat-meadow; one proof of which is, that he lived to be between ninety and one hundred years old.

[18]    The next minister was the Rev. Benjamin Webb, of whom, though a neighboring clergyman pronounced him "the best man and the best minister whom he ever knew," yet the historian says, that,

[19]    "As he spent his days in the uniform discharge of his duty (it reminds one of a country muster) and there were no shades to give relief to his character, not much can be said of him. (Pity the Devil did not plant a few shade-trees along his avenues.) His heart was as pure as the new-fallen snow, which completely covers every dark spot in a field; his mind was as serene as the sky in a mild evening in June, when the moon shines without a cloud. Name any virtue, and that virtue he practised; name any vice, and that vice he shunned. But if peculiar qualities marked his character, they were his humility, his gentleness, and his love of God. The people had long been taught by a son of thunder (Mr. Treat); in him they were instructed by a son of consolation, who sweetly allured them to virtue by soft persuasion, and by exhibiting the mercy of the Supreme Being; for his thoughts were so much in heaven, that they seldom descended to the dismal regions below; and though of the same religious sentiments as Mr. Treat, yet his attention was turned to those glad tidings of great joy which a Saviour came to publish."
[20]    We were interested to hear that such a man had trodden the plains of Nauset.

[21]    Turning over further in our book, our eyes fell on the name of the Rev. Jonathan Bascom, of Orleans: "Senex emunctae naris, doctus, et auctor elegantium verborum, facetus, et dulcis festique sermonis." And, again, on that of the Rev. Nathan Stone, of Dennis: "Vir humilis, mitis, blandus, advenarum hospes; (there was need of him there;) suis commodis in terrâ non studens, reconditis thesauris in coelo." An easy virtue that, there, for methinks no inhabitant of Dennis could be very studious about his earthly commodity, but must regard the bulk of his treasures as in heaven. But probably the most just and pertinent character of all is that which appears to be given to the Rev. Ephraim Briggs, of Chatham, in the language of the later Romans, "Seip, sepoese, sepoemese, wechekum," which not being interpreted, we know not what it means, though we have no doubt it occurs somewhere in the Scriptures, probably in the Apostle Eliot's Epistle to the Nipmucks.

[22]    Let no one think that I do not love the old ministers. They were, probably, the best men of their generation, and they deserve that their biographies should fill the pages of the town histories. If I could but hear the "glad tidings" of which they tell, and which, perchance, they heard, I might write in a worthier strain than this.

[23]    There was no better way to make the reader realize how wide and peculiar that plain was, and how long it took to traverse it, than by inserting these extracts in the midst of my narrative.


1. The Reverend Samuel Treat (1648-1717) came to Eastham in 1672. He was known as a preacher to the "Praying Indians." He learned the Indian language and attended their feasts. Treat worked to improve the welfare of Indians, and to preserve their traditional ways. At one time there were 500 indians in Treat's congregation, who maintained their villages within Eastham. - back
2. The Nauset were the Indains of Cape Cod, sometimes called the Cape Indians - back
3. Richard Bourne (1610-1682) English missionary, one of the first settlers at Sandwich - back
4. Daniel Gookin, 1612-1687 - Virginia Puritan who moved to Massachusetts, became superintendent of Indians, wrote Historical Collections of the Indians in New England, in 1674 and The Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians, in 1677. - back
5. Christian theology advocated by Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) - back
6. Thoreau's Note:  Lib. v. Fab. 5. - back
7. Lights & Shadows Of Scottish Life by Scottish writer John Wilson, 1822 - back
8. Samuel Osborn (1690-1785) pastor in Eastham, Massachusetts in 1718, dismissed in 1737,  introduced the use of peat on Cape Cod - back
9. Joseph Donne (1669-1757) Deacon of the first Church of Eastham for about 40 years - back

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