The phrase “sands of time” is from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It describes the mark that great people leave on history. Time is like ever-shifting sand, it is never at a standstill. Yet in those mires of sand, some people leave their mark and are remembered for their actions and achievement.
Over the past 300 years, Dead Neck Island and Sampson’s Island have been owned by the Wampanoag tribe and well-known locals and families including the Crockers (ancestors of our own Zenas Crocker VII), Sampsons, Lovells, Bearses and Nickersons — familiar names in many Cape Cod towns. At the turn of the 20th century, and with the shifting of currents and aftere ects of storms, the islands joined together to form one simply known as Dead Neck Sampson’s Island. Today, this 110-acre barrier island is coowned and co-managed by Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Massachusetts Audubon Society, creating a private wildlife sanctuary for protected piping plovers and least terns.
As you read through the timeline, you will note how important the islands were for commerce including salt marsh hay farming, salt production and boat building. Maritime travel was signifi cant both for economic and recreational purposes. While the controversial Osterville/Wianno “Cut” provided easier access to Nantucket Sound from Osterville and improvements for the east end of the island, it changed the physical dynamics on the islands immensely and resulted in multiple dredge projects over the more than 120 years since the cut was made.
We would like to thank the following people and organizations for their extensive research and assistance in pulling together this timeline. Their knowledge, groundwork and photos proved invaluable to the success of this project.
David Churbuck – Cotuit resident and editor/writer churbuck.com
Jim Gould – Cotuit resident and winner of the Barnstable Historical Commission’s 2020 Preservation Service Award
Cindy Nickerson – Historical Society of Santuit & Cotuit
E.M. Crosby Boatworks
Osterville Historical Museum