Mashpee Baptist Church, Magnifying Glass January 3, 2020

This photograph shows Mashpee, circa 1920, looking south down Great Neck Road North. The Baptist Church is on the right, The church building burnt in 1935 and was replaced by the current one, which was dedicated in 1937.

A Happy New Year to Mashpee! As we enter the new year, here’s a look back at Mashpee 100 years ago.

In 1920, Mashpee prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary of incorporation. Town Meeting voted $100 to plan for and hold its commemoration.

In 1920 the Mashpee selectmen were Clarence Edwards, Harrison Frye and William Peters. The town clerk was Ferdinand Mills. Serving on the school committee were Harrison Frye, Nathan Peters and Cyrus Edwards. Harry Ebbits, Ferdinand Mills and Harrison Frye made up the library trustees. The total town population was 242. In 1920 Mashpee saw 15 births, three marriages and two deaths: Bertha Pocknett, age 39, and Oscar Chase, age 43.

The total town appropriation for 1920 was $8,661.50. In addition to the $100 appropriated for the 50th anniversary celebration, $1,000 was raised for highway maintenance and operation; $2,225 for running the school (grades 1-8); $100 for police (suppression of crime); and $65 for the operation of the town library. During the year the town spent $161.61 fighting forest fires, $161.71 removing snow and $2,442.08 battling the gypsy moth infestation.

In 1920, the gypsy moths remained a serious problem as they chomped their way through the forests of most of the northeast US. Here in Mashpee, the oak and aspen trees were especially hard hit along with pines. Tree warden Frederick Jonas said, “It got as bad as it ever gets—there was complete defoliation.”

It was reported that “the town is engaged in a strenuous warfare against the gypsy moth, for the moths have invaded the town in enormous numbers. Massive numbers of the pest stripped the trees of their leaves and covered fences, houses, sidewalks, and people.” Locals expended a great deal of energy collecting larvae and eggs and destroying them, usually by burning.

The Barnstable Patriot reported that the gypsy moths are “increasing in the cranberry regions in spite of all efforts to control them. It is feared that many of the bogs will be badly infested this season unless they are constantly watched during the moth season and steps taken to eliminate them.”

The superintendent of schools was Herbert Whitman. Total school membership in grades 1-8 was 36, with a breakdown being: 12 1st graders, seven 2nd graders, no 3rd graders, three in the 4th grade, six in the 5th grade, four in the 6th grade, three 7th graders and one 8th grader. The school committee reported that the school was in good order. They recommended two teachers be hired for the next school year due to the arrival of new students.

The school teacher at the town’s one schoolhouse (located on the site of today’s town hall) was Margaret Flaherty. Her yearly salary for 1920 was $1,219.48. Special teachers at the school were supervisor of drawing Ida Lloyd and two supervisors of music, Evelyn Perry and Elizabeth Leonard.

The School Committee report stated: “After being without a music and drawing teachers for some time the town was fortunate in securing the special teachers. It was reported that the students showed great interest in music and by listening to the Victrola, they were given the opportunity to hear some of the world’s best artists.”

Under the school budget, $191 was spent for the janitor and the care of the school and 23 cords of wood were burnt during the year, keeping the students and schoolhouse warm.

On April 20, 1920, Manuel Numes, Willard Pocknett and Laurie Green, all of Mashpee, were seriously injured when the car they were riding skidded at a high rate of speed and rolled over three times before landing in a ditch. Numes was rushed to Mass General Hospital with a fractured jaw while Green and Pocknett, who were “bleeding profusely,” were rushed to the local doctor’s office.

During the presidential election of 1920, Republican Warren G. Harding swept Mashpee receiving 43 votes compared to only four for Democrat James Cox. With the passage of the 19th Amendment, permitting women the right to vote, two Mashpee women voted for the first time. There were 78 registered voters in Mashpee in 1920.

Happy 2020, Mashpee!

Richard DeSorgher lives in Mashpee.

Richard DeSorgher lives in Mashpee.

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