Bass River is a saltwater estuary on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. How did it shape the economic development of the area around it?
A late 19th Century USGS map of the Bass River area. From University of New Hampshire's Dimond Library via David Kew's Cape Cod History web site.
Bass River is a geological feature, so this series of posts is ultimately about the impact of geology on a regional economy. Here's a middle-school/high-school lesson plan on the impact of glacial geology on Cape settlement patterns: "Why are Places Located On Cape Cod That Way?"
Charles Swift published a map showing Bass River and the 1644 road net in his 1884 history of Yarmouth: The Bass River "Road" Net - 1644. Harvard University's Harvest Forest program has developed an on-line mapping tool that makes it possible to look at The Bass River Road Net - late 1832.
Bass River was an obstacle to local east-west land transportation. The first bridge across was built in 1816, and the next two were built in 1832-1833. All of these were built by private corporations. The state required the county and towns to buy the corporations out and take over the 1832-33 bridges in 1870: The End of the Bass River Bridge Corporations.
The road from Hyannis used to run up old Main Street in South Yarmouth to the intersection with Bridge St. In 1933 the state built a new segment of Route 28 that bypassed Main Street. The intersection with Bridge St., which had had three corners, now had four. The intersection changed considerably between 1910 and 1965: Downtown South Yarmouth About 1910
The river had an active maritime commerce in the 19th Century. It supported fishing, regional transportation, and the export of maritime services. Anchor dragging was one of these support services: Anchor dragging.
The Dennis Planning Commission says that salt hay was harvested from Bass River salt marshes. Here is a background post with links on salt haying in New England: Harvesting Salt Hay.
Also part of the economy - the windmills used for power to grind grain and pump water: The Windmills of Dennis and Yarmouth.
This almost gone by the turn of the century, but a new recreational economy was emerging. Capt. Bixby of the Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the river to see if federal investments in navigational infrastructure would be worthwhile. He recommended against them. Here's his report: The Corps of Engineers looks at Bass River. A nice description of the river in the mid-1890s, poised between an old world and a new one.
In the 1930s people coming to the Cape in cars were looking for relatively inexpensive places to stay. Cottage colonies like the Salt Box development in South Yarmouth were one response: The Salt Boxes of South Yarmouth. Here's a Salt Boxes promotional leaflet from 1946: The Salt Boxes.
The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth published a collection of essays on Cape history in the fall of 2009; some of these dealt with Bass River history: "Capturing Cape Cod History".