2017 Life Logs, Day 277: Trip to the Aptucxet Trading Post
Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Weather: Sunny and Windy; High 72, Low 59 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
Today I went on my first field trip with the Newcomers Teacher Group. This group plans one field trip per month during the year, and I can only hope that each month’s trip will be as fascinating as today’s. When I told Heather we were visiting the Aptucxet Trading Post here on the Cape, she said she had never heard of it. Neither had I. But it is definitely a hidden gem right here in our own backyard. When the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in 1620, they brought with them debt owed to support their travel across the ocean. We all know the story of how they struggled for survival once they arrived, and as they struggled for life, they also had to deal with the reality that they owed a huge debt to the Plymouth Company. This was the English joint-stock company founded for the purpose of establishing colonies in North America. Those first settlers had to find a way to repay their funders and in order to do this, they started trading with the local Native Americans—the Wampanoag tribe. This trade spread from Maine to Connecticut to New Amsterdam in what is now New York. And the first physical trading post was right her on Cape Cod. It was a simple structure to hold goods for trading. What stands today is a replica of what once existed. The current building was constructed from as many materials from the 1600’s as could be acquired. I was especially impressed by the hand-made bricks in the fireplace. They were excavated on-site, so were a part of the original building. The traders had to come up with a form of money and much to the consternation of the Native Americans, that ended up to be wampum. Wampum is made-up of white and purple beads made from quahog clam shells that the Native Americans had in abundance. Once it was used as the monetary system for trading, each white bead was worth so much and each purple bead was worth twice a white one. A six-foot long string of beads was the main measure. The Dutch from New Amsterdam had sugar from the Caribbean, spices, and pottery to trade. The Native Americans in Maine had fur pelts. Salt was made here on the Cape. And the English had pewter and various metal tools that were most desirable. All of these things were brought to the Trading Post for the exchanges. The docent at the Trading Post made history come alive for us. We sat at a table where traders would have gathered for meals and discussion. We held the metal spoons they would have used as their only eating utensils and saw the cone of sugar that would have been sitting on the table. We got to hold the deer, otter, beaver, and raccoon pelts. I’ll definitely be visiting The Trading Post with the Goldpebbles as I think they will love it. After the tour, the group went to lunch together. And at the end of the luncheon, I was called upon to describe the November field trip to the Harvard Museums that I will be leading. I’m really looking forward to that trip and I think I am definitely going to enjoy this group. Learning new things is what retired teachers do.
I picked Ollie and Jonah up from school today while Heather picked-up Sam. Sam was returning from a three-day school field trip to the Cape Cod National Seashore. All of Falmouth’s fifth grade students went on this field trip. What a wonderful opportunity for them. After school, Ollie and I played word games and giggled for almost an hour at our silly made-up words. Then I took Jonah to soccer practice and headed home. Falmouth schools have a four-day weekend coming up, so Heather and family are headed to Maine after school tomorrow. They are going to attend the Damarascotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta where huge pumpkins will be hollowed out and raced as boats while others are dropped from cranes onto trucks. It is one of the top five New England pumpkin festivals and it sounds like something little boys will love.
No news from Justin today. And what news I did hear from Puerto Rico was not good. The damn to the west of San Juan is still in jeopardy and there was a major sewage breech to the east of San Juan. That breech could taint the only sources of water for the people on that side of the island. I still have no confirmation that the first packages sent to Justin and Jo have arrived. And I don’t know if we didn’t hear from them yesterday or today because they don’t have the gas to drive to town or whether the wifi spot in town is no longer working. Worry. Worry.