Some History of Sesuit Neck and Dennis

“I visited ye People at Sissuit – They seem to be very Courteous, Civill, good humour’d people. I hope yey really are what yey pretend to be.”

From the “Diary of Reverend Samuel Dexter” (1700 – 1755);
Ministered the First Church of Dedham (1724 – 1755)

Sissuit was the Indian name of a portion of the northeasterly part of what is now the town of Dennis. Beginning at the West was Nobscusset, next Sesuit or Sissuit, now contracted to Suit, and Quivet.”

Written by Col. Thacher; from the “New England Historical and Genealogical Register,
Vol. XIV, Issue No, 1”, published in 1860

Dennis is a coastal resort and residential community located on the central Cape Cod peninsula, east of Chase Garden Creek and Bass River, with both Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound shores. Native settlement probably focused along the north shore at Nobscusset, Sesuit and Quivet Necks.”

Dennis, as it exists today, was settled as part of Mattacheese, or Yarmouth … Nobscusset was the Native name for Dennis. (Originally) set off as East Parish Yarmouth in 1721, it was incorporated as the town of Dennis (named after Congregational minister Josiah Dennis) in 1793.”

“The first white settlement of Nobscusset, or Dennis, occurred in 1639 with the settlement of three or four families in the North Dennis area. Within a few years, settlement had spread to most areas … but most settlements were in the area north of Follins Pond and in the general area of Route 6A in the Dennis Village, East Dennis, Scargo Lake and Quivet Neck areas. A fort may also have been built on Scargo Hill during the period.”

“The East Dennis area was settled early and contained a group of continuous settlements from Sesuit to Quivet Necks … (where) fishing, shipbuilding and salt production were the major emphasis of industrial growth.”

Excerpts from “MHC (Massachusetts Historical Commission)
Reconnaissance Survey Town Report for Dennis”;
report date 1984; material gathered 15 years prior

The Salt Works

“Salt manufacture developed in Dennis during the Colonial period (1675 – 1775). In fact, Dennis was the first area in this country to manufacture salt by solar evaporation in 1776 … Capt. John Sears (1744 – 1817) of East Dennis is universally credited with (this innovation). Sears had been a fisherman before the war, and to secure financial support, he engaged as partners his cousin Edward Sears and Christopher and William Crowell. William Crowell had seen the works on the Isle of Shoals. The works were to be located on Sesuit Neck in East Dennis … By 1802, the north shore of Dennis alone had 47 such works between Suet (East Dennis) where Sears had his works, and Nobscusset … By 1832, the town still led the rest of the county and state with production of 56,548 bushels, although her share fell from 21% to 15% due to the extensive development of the works elsewhere.”

Shiverick’s Shipyard

“About 1820, Asa Shiverick built his residence on Sesuit Neck (and started) a boat yard turning out a succession of packet and fishing vessels. Between 1850 and 1863, under his son Asa (1816 – 1894), the yard built eight clipper ships.”

Excerpts from “MHC (Massachusetts Historical Commission)
Reconnaissance Survey Town Report for Dennis”;
report date 1984; material gathered 15 years prior

“Asa Shiverick and his sons built many fine clipper ships in the famous shipyard, now marked by a plaque on a large boulder … located on Sesuit Neck Road just as you come over the hill before the entrance to the west side of the town harbor. Two of the best known clippers designed and put together by the Shivericks were the Wild Hunter and the Belle of the West. The latter was lost in the Bay of Bengal. The last launching of a Shiverick clipper was in 1863.

The Shiverick boats, most of them running about 1000 tons, were launched on high course tides as bare hulls. They were then either towed, or sailed under a jury rig, to Boston, where the masts were stepped and the rigging attached.

Of the many fine clippers built and launched in (Sesuit Neck,) eight of them were captained by native sons. The Shiverick shipbuilding enterprise was principally financed by Christopher Hall, also of Dennis. Thomas Hall, son of Christopher, sailed in Shiverick vessels as a boy, and later wrote a history of the shipyard, in the form of a monograph.”

Article posted previously on Cape Links


“In 1816, Henry Hall, of the Nobscusset part of Dennis, noticed that wild cranberry vines near the shore thrived when covered by windblown sand. He transplanted cranberry vines and recreated the natural conditions of flooding and sanding, which helped to cut down weeds and reroot vines, a technique still used today. In 1820, he shipped 30 barrels of cranberries for sale off Cape, starting a major Cape cash crop and a rush by other landowners to create their own cranberry barrens. Inventive in its own way, the first tax on cranberry lands was levied on Mr. Hall.”

Excerpts from “MHC (Massachusetts Historical Commission)
Reconnaissance Survey Town Report for Dennis”;
report date 1984; material gathered 15 years prior

“As we rounded the corner on our favorite route back from Sesuit Harbor in Dennis this fall, (we) happened upon a cranberry bog in full harvest … We spent over an hour watching the harvest, talking with the farmers … knowing that our guests would be interested in learning about the humble cranberry.

Famous for its tartness and beautiful color, the cranberry is an essential part of Thanksgiving, as well as Cape Cod’s namesake cocktail. The cranberry industry in Massachusetts does about $200 million in revenue annually and employs 5,600 people. One tenth of the cranberries grown in the state are grown here on Cape Cod. The Ocean Spray factory is located in Plymouth and has tours for the public.

Native Americans … showed early settlers how to pick the ibimi (their word) which grew wild in bogs. The settlers called them “crane berries” because their blossoms resembled the heads of cranes.”

Excerpts from article posted previously on Cape Cod Travel Info

The Cape Playhouse

 The Cape Playhouse is the oldest professional summer theater in the country. It was begun by Raymond Moore in 1927 when he purchased a Unitarian meetinghouse, previously built in 1870, for $200. He had it moved to its current location on Rte. 6A in Dennis, converted it into a theater, but kept the pews as seats for the audience. The Cape Playhouse opened on July 4, 1927, with Basil Rathbone starring in “The Guardsmen.” It is now a major part of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization.

Many stars began their careers at the Cape Playhouse, including Humphrey Bogart, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Gregory Peck, Henry and Jane Fonda, Bette Davis, Helen Hayes and Julie Harris.

For more information, log on to Cape Playhouse

The Cape Cinema

Three years after Raymond Moore started the Cape Playhouse, he opened the Cape Cinema, a building designed by the architect Alfred Easton Poor and located near the Cape Playhouse. Of particular interest is the mural by Rockwell Kent (1882 – 1971), covering the entire ceiling, a spectacular representation of constellations and the heavens.

Cape Cinema audiences were first to see an ambitious new film from MGM, called “The Wizard of Oz.” Margaret Hamilton had made her first professional appearance at the Cape Playhouse in the 1930s “Cape Cod Follies.” Now, she was back, this time on the screen with hooked nose and pale green face, threatening Dorothy and Toto and melting her way into American film history.

Excerpt from “The Cape Playhouse” by Marcia J. Monbleau

A framed poster in the lobby calls attention to the fact that the 1939 premiere of "The Wizard of Oz" took place at the Cape Cinema before its New York showing. Margaret Hamilton (Elvira Gulch / Wicked Witch) was appearing at the adjacent Cape Playhouse and arranged for the event.

Excerpt from Cinema Treasures

The Cape Cod Museum of Art

Also located on the same campus as the Cape Playhouse and the Cape Cinema, the Cape Cod Museum of Art was founded in 1981. Its stated purpose is to exhibit and preserve the work of artists from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

For more information, log on to Cape Cod Center for the Arts

Gertrude Lawrence

Gertrude Lawrence (1898 – 1952) was a famous actress and musical performer who appeared on stage in London and Broadway, and in several films. In 1940, she married Richard Aldrich, who had become the Cape Playhouse’s artistic director. They built a house on Sesuit Neck on Old Town Lane, the only real home she had ever known.

Scargo Tower

“Scargo Tower (overlooking Scargo Lake in Dennis) began as a tourist observatory in 1874. (Created by the Tobey family) and made of wood, it was destroyed in a gale two years later. Rebuilt again of wood, it burned in 1900. The present cobblestone tower opened in 1901. The 30’ high tower is located atop the highest hill in the mid-Cape … Views may be seen of the entire lower Cape to Provincetown, and as far west as Plymouth.”

Excerpt from Dennis Historical Society