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The Relocation of the Scorton River Harbor

The following material was gathered and written by Kaethe Maguire

The left image is of East Sandwich Beach looking east towards the entrance to Scorton Creek, where the 1906-7 dredging is taking place.  The significance to the dredging is that the dredge can be seen, very small and far away, on the horizon. Courtesy John Nye Cullity

On the right, is an old post card of the dredger in the distance, one of six photos from the Hammond family album via John Nye Cullity.

Most people have no idea that the outlet for our Scorton Creek, formerly called more appropriately, Scorton River, was moved to its current location in the early 1900s from the northern end of Hammond Road. This happened under the tenacious efforts of one Robert A. Hammond who was a real wheeler dealer on Cape Cod and in Sandwich. Learn more about Robert Hammond and his family here.


Although born in Provincetown, Mr. Hammond spent most of his adult life in East Sandwich at his home on the corner of Route 6A and Torrey Rd. which still stands, however changed, as the office of the River View School. We do know that his stable burned by accident in March of 1916. Although he ran a schooner, the Minnesota, out of Provincetown, he seems to have lived primarily in East Sandwich.


He had extensive interests in the fishing industry and that was his primary reason for wanting to move Scorton Harbor. Drifting sands had built up to such a degree that they prevented ships from getting close to the shore and made access to fishing weirs very difficult.

Fishing weirs and fishing traps were big business in Sandwich. In the spring of 1891 the Select Board was a buzz with requests for more permits for fishing weirs. Mr. Mayo, a name so familiar on the islands, paid Sandwich $150 a year for licenses to set traps and taxes on the personal property used in conducting this business. They had to keep moving these traps further west because of the shifting sands.  $8,600 was paid annually to Sandwich for leases of land on the Scorton River to set fish traps!


A major Gale in December of 1885 greatly changed the location of sand dunes along the shore of the entire northern side of Sandwich. The foot bridge and the marsh from Scorton Neck to Town Neck was entirely covered with water and flooded much of what is called Jarvesville all the way down Jarves Street. On Scorton Neck marshes tones of hay was carried away and considerable damage was done to the Scorton Bridge, making it impossible to pass. The usual fishing areas had been greatly disturbed or ruined.


In the summer of 1889 J.R. Holway was contracted to move Hammond’s fishing weirs from Dennis to the waters behind Hammond house on Scorton Harbor, then located at the end of what is now Hammond Rd.


In March of 1898 the legislative House Ways and Means Committee considered various bills for boat harbors along Cape Cod and the Vineyard.  These bills were favorably reported by the Committee on Harbors asking for State appropriation. Scorton Harbor was granted $7,000.


By June of 1898 the bids were out from the State Board of Harbor Commissioners to cut a channel through a sand hill about 1,000 feet long and 28 feet deep at the highest point to create a new Scorton Harbor. For years the Scorton River ran by Scorton Neck in an almost straight line out to the waters of Cape Cod Bay. However, a sand bar formed at its mouth that in time became a sand hill and gradually worked east ward giving the river an S curve route and ruining the little channel that had traditionally run behind it. This channel had run across a sand hill always known as Spring Hill Beach.


The State planned to scour out a channel deep enough to correct the current. The plan was to make this channel 20 feet wide. Multiple bids were received offering amounts from $4,880 to $2,100.


Mr. Hammond also had freezing plants, fisheries and wire rope manufacturing companies in Boston. He even had an orange growing plantation in Florida.


On the whole Hammond was good for Sandwich. He bought the dilapidated site of the former Boston and Sandwich Glass works, last used in that capacity in 1868 and intermittently used to produce glass by other concerns until 1888 and updated and reused some of the abandoned buildings.

After the closing of the Glass Works, Sandwich went into a long slump economically. The population declined dramatically.


The above five images are from a Hammond Family photo album, courtesy John Nye Cullity, and show the harbor being dredged. The last photo, showing the completed entrance at low tide, was taken by Delia Nye, presumably in 1906-7.

Hammond owned the area by the time when one of the tenant homes burned to the ground in November of 1909 situated near Jarves St. There was no loss of life but two families were displaced.  He razed that building and some then vacant former tenement buildings and began to repair the factory buildings, including building a new freezer plant. He planned to build a lumber yard on the site.


 Even as late as 1910 Hammond was to open a shoe factory on the site of the former Armstrong Braid company. That same year he still had steam dredges in the back of the Freezer buildings to enable ships to come closer to land fish, coal and lumber. I would expect this would be the area when Deming Jarves had his ship, the Acorn, pull up to load the glass wrapped in marsh hay during the days of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Works.


He married a young woman of Spring Hill, Nellie, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Seth Jones, on January 2nd 1888 at her home.

The top map above is a portion of a U.S. Coastal Survey from 1861 that shows the original entrance to Scorton Creek, courtesy of John Cullity. The and the bottom map is a modern rendering of the topography of 1667 found in the  Archives. 

The above two Google images show where the entrance to Scorton Creek is today, which is located just east of the end of North Shore Boulivard.

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