The following is an excerpt from the Introduction of “Images of America, Sagamore Beach”, Marion R. Vuilleumier, © 2003, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC. We hope this excerpt will pique your interest in the areas history, and that of the Sagamore Beach Colony Club.
Although Sagamore Beach today is a vibrant village in Cape Cod’s newest town, human life began here in the mists of history. Long before white- skinned people arrived, Wampanoag Indians roamed the woods and fields. In 1637, this area became part of the first permanent settlement of Sandwich. Simeon Deyo, author of the 1890 History of Barnstable County, noted on a map some of the Native American tribes in the general area: Scusset, Manamet, Shaume, and Patuxet (whose people were to the north in what is today’s Plymouth). These tribes were mobile, staying near the shore in summer and inland in winter. They had created an important trail that went east to the outer Cape. The white settlers, who widened it, used this trail which became the only artery of land traffic for the next 200 years. It crossed the swampy land of Scusset Creek over the Indian Stepping Stones and later traversed a causeway. Eventually, the trail became the basis for the King’s Highway and then, with modifications, today’s Route 6A.
At first, there were only a few fishermen’s cottages and an occasional farmhouse along the path between the Plymouth line and the Scusset causeway. The area was then known as Sandwich’s West Sagamore. There were two small hamlets: Sagamore Beach and Sagamore Highlands. In 1884 when the dredging of the planned Cape Cod Canal began, which was to make Cape Cod an island, Bourne was divided from Sandwich. Thus the community in Sagamore Beach, a village in the Cape’s oldest town, became a village in the Cape’s newest town. It was not until 1905 that the population of Sagamore Beach suddenly burgeoned, when members of the Christian Endeavor Society settled it. Impressed by the pristine beach and its background of dunes, cliffs, and wooded land, members found it ideal for a combined vacation, recreational, and religious community. The Sagamore Beach Company was formed, property surveyed, and lots laid out. Sales were brisk, and soon cottages and two inns had been built. The creation of the Sagamore Beach Colony Club in 1909 gave impetus to a variety of programs. Speakers of national fame were corralled, no doubt with the help of residents Dr. Francis E. Clark, president of the Christian Endeavor movement, and Prof. Amos Wells, longtime editor of the Christian Endeavor World. Talks were given first under a large tent and, by 1907 in Assembly Hall. Sagamore Beach soon became internationally known as a religious center, featuring Christian Endeavor institutes, Sunday school conferences, and meetings of Friends (Quakers). Sports and family activities were always featured at these gatherings, especially the traditional daily 11:00 a.m. swim.
Life in the colony settled into a routine, with morning and evening mail delivered at the temporary post office; water sports, tennis, and other games taking place at the Playstead; and, of course, religious services being conducted. Before the days of automobiles, colonists could walk to Scusset Creek’s outlet to buy fish at a local fish house, to Sagamore for movies and a soda, or to Lake Manomet, where residents could enjoy overnight camping and freshwater swimming. Among the adult programs offered were a reading circle, basket-making and watercolor classes, and play readings. Annual dramas were presented in the Dell, a natural amphitheater. Programs featured Pilgrim and patriot themes, with an occasional Shakespeare play.
The two biggest summer events were on the Fourth of July and at Colony Day. A town crier woke everyone with his bell. Water and land sports followed. Early in the afternoon, the cottages held open house with hostesses serving refreshments. Then, everyone paraded to the Dell in costume to enjoy the drama presented by residents.
Meanwhile, residents could not escape noticing events outside the colony. People had a good view of the building of the jetties for the Cape Cod Canal. The beach jetties were in fact a blessing to the community, for they stopped the erosion of the Bluff. Residents had a front-row view of the dredging, the building of the first bridge over the old causeway, the erection of the Sagamore Bridge in the 1930s, and the first ships in transit on the canal. Early residents, who arrived by train in Sagamore and then traveled by horse and buggy to the beach, watched with interest the arrival of the automobiles and the laying of the trolley track from Plymouth (which very few trolleys saw), and they heard the droning of aircraft overhead. Electricity, the telephone, and the radio made life easier. Much ado was made about the 50th anniversary of the Sagamore Beach Colony, celebrated in 1955, and the 75th anniversary in 1980. Sidney Clark, noted travel writer and son of Dr. Francis E. Clark, chronicled the first anniversary. He wrote most of his famed travel books at his beach cottage. Other well-known residents were Joseph W. Martin, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mabel Batchelder of the National Republican Committee.
Officers of the colony realized early the importance of zoning as an aid in keeping the community residential and upholding its emphases on family and religious activities. Thus, the commercial part of the village is clustered around the Sagamore Bridge, and the rest remains a quiet residential area. The town clerk reports that there are now 3,337 year-round residents, but the population bourgeons to about 6,600 in summer. According to the Cape Cod Times, “the best thing about Sagamore Beach is that it has no profile.” People tend to drive right by it, so it remains somewhat hidden. It is also a good example of how a summer colony can gradually segue into a vibrant year-round community that still keeps to its original purpose.