Name Origin: Eastham, Massachusetts

Eastham_MA_hilight_largeEastham is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Originally called the Nawsett (or Nauset) Indian Territory, Eastham once encompassed much of the western cape including territory now held by Brewster, Chatham, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet.

Due to dissatisfaction with Plymouth, the area that is now Eastham was scouted (twice) in 1644 by representatives from the colony to determine whether it would be suitable to transfer the seat of authority there. Ultimately, they decided that it was not practical to move to such a remote location and that there was insufficient room for growth. Nonetheless, Governor Thomas Prince and others (including original Mayflower colonists) elected to move there and the town was incorporated in 1646 under the name “Nauset”. Just five years later however, in 1651, it was renamed “Eastham. Due to the expanding settlements on the cape, it was quickly subdivided. By 1763, the town was reduced to its current size having gone from being the largest town on the cape in area, to the smallest.

The origin of the name Eastham is somewhat peculiar as it was named not by the local settlers, but rather by the Colony Court of Plymouth who changed its name from the Indian name of “Nauset” which had been originally used to the more English “Eastham”. That name was appropriate however as Eastham was at that time directly east across Cape Cod Bay from Plymouth. (Now, it is somewhat south with Wellfleet and Truro bring more directly east.) The name, obviously meaning “east hamlet”, may have been inspired by Eastham in Merseyside, England. That Eastham was named for being east of the town of Bromborough.

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