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Truro, 1830

Truro, 1830

There are (at least) two ways to look at the three dozen maps and map replicas currently on display at the Truro Historical Museum.  People who study maps as historical documents argue about which way is best.  Me, I’m not doctrinaire.  The most important thing is to slow down enough to pick up on clues.  Those clues help me imagine how the land and sea have changed (one way of looking)  They also tell me how people living long ago on the Outer Cape saw themselves and what they thought about their place in the world (the other way of looking).

Chet Lay, Land Surveyor, Much later Plan Prepared for Court Case

Chet Lay, Land Surveyor, Much later Plan Prepared for Court Case

My favorite map in the modest exhibit is from 1830.  It’s a map of Truro Township from 1830, maker unknown.  A beige square – 1 ½ feet high x 1 ½ feet wide — the map shows Pamet Harbor and the Atlantic shore, and a mix of geographical and built features.  Little boxes marking dwellings.  Symbols for 8 separate schools plus an “Academy.”  Parallel lines marking footbridges over Pamet River.  Winding lines noting a county road winging out to the Atlantic and back into town. Symbols denoting: two windmills, a church, a gristmill.

Early Map of Truro, 1845, Joshua Davis, Courtesy
Early Map of Truro, 1845, Joshua Davis, Courtesy

All these details serve as evidence that Truro, in 1830, looked different from the way it looks these days.  This, you say, isn’t exactly a surprise.  Other maps in the collection do a better job than this one in highlighting exactly which features have changed. The makers of this unassuming map from 1830 wanted the world to know that Truro was a place where people cared about education (9 total schools!) and had the tools to live in relative ease.  They had built themselves the trappings of modern life which allowed them to grind their own meal, ford rivers in flood, and get around on a road running continuously through town.

 

John Raymond Dyer, Land Surveyor, Proposed Cottage Colony at

John Raymond Dyer, Land Surveyor, Proposed Cottage Colony at Beach Point, 1931

 

I like the things the mapmakers in 1830 valued about their town on the Outer Cape.  A later map from 1880 lists the name of the owner of every dwelling in town.  In 1830, that was less important than documenting that there were dwellings and where they were placed.  If you have time to pop in at the museum, look at the maps for clues about change over time.  Change in the land and water.  Change in values.  And let me know what you find.

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