Chatham in Barnstable County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
Chatham Commercial Fishing
Native Americans have harvested fish and shellfish in Chatham waters for millennia. Weirs – stationary structures of twine nets and wooden poles driven into the seabed – were the traditional method for catching finfish and squid. Weir fishing is still practiced in Chatham near Hardings and Forest Beaches.
Basque and other fisherman from Europe may have begun harvesting these waters on a seasonal basis as early as the 15th century.
While Chatham began as a farming community, by 1740 seafaring was the predominant occupation. Even while they farmed, Chatham residents beginning about 1670 had shares in a communally owned whaleboat. When the American Revolution began, Chatham had 27 vessels geared for cod fishing, employing 240 men. That war and the War of 1812 interrupted fishing, but the industry rebounded. By the middle of the 19th century Chatham boats fished in Newfoundland and the Grand Banks. By 1840, 40 lobstermen were based in Chatham and in Whitewash Village on Monomoy Point.
Chatham shores were lined with boatyards, salt works, flake yards for curing fish, racks of drying squid, docks
Cod “took” salt better than any other species, making it easier to preserve and transport to market. Commercial ice operations (begun in 1815), fish wells – saltwater tanks – on boats (1830), and the coming of the railroad (1848 to sandwich, later to Provincetown with a spur line to Chatham in 1887) made halibut and other species marketable to Boston and New York. At New York City’s Fulton Fish Market, the finest fish, regardless of where they came from, were called “chathams.”
Today Chatham leads all other Cape Towns in annual fish landings and is second to Wellfleet in shellfishing.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 41° 41.287′ N, 69° 57.112′ W. Marker is in Chatham, Massachusetts, in Barnstable County. Marker is at the intersection of Barcliff Avenue and Shore Road (Massachusetts Route 28), on the right when traveling west on Barcliff Avenue. The marker is Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 45 Barcliff Avenue, Chatham MA 02633, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Chatham Railroad Depot (approx. half a mile away); Chatham Civil War Monument (approx. 0.6 miles away); In Memory of the Pioneers of Chatham (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Josiah Mayo House (approx. 0.6 miles away); History of Chatham (approx. 0.6 miles away); a different marker also named History of Chatham (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Men Of Chatham (approx. 0.7 miles away); The Godfrey Windmill (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chatham.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 1, 2020, by Brandon D Cross of Flagler Beach, Florida. This page has been viewed 34 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on November 1, 2020, by Brandon D Cross of Flagler Beach, Florida. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.