Monomoy: A Family's Generational Love Affair with Chatham, Cape Cod's Outer beaches
Updated: Feb 14
At this time of year, affectionately dubbed "Septober" by my mother, I find find myself drawn to memories and stories of my families time on the planet and especially of treasured time in Chatham on Cape Cod.
"Septober" brings the dispersal of the summer visitor crowds, a transition to the pastel hues of light in the early morning and late afternoon and the hint of drier air and crisp temperatures which all seem to convene to warm the heart as autumn comes on. I know these feelings are also true for others who live (or have lived) here. So it has been with our family's Chatham heritage over the last 150 years. I am so thankful it was passed down. It is a strong binding connection to this place.
And it should come as no surprise that it was the women who did most of the heavy lifting and kept the important family connections and stories alive through the generations, particularly about the simple natural beauty and magic of this place. It has always been clear to me that our families soul was stitched together through our matrilineal line of succession.
Central in my memory banks in this regard is a formidable matriarch my Great grandmother Fannie Lewis Shattuck (pictured below) whose presence loomed large over our family for almost 100 years. And likely at the top of the list of stories was her championing of our family's long standing love affair with Monomoy and Chatham’s Outer beaches.
So I am sharing background here, especially for extended family, who may not know some of these details.
Fannie Lewis Shattuck 1876 - 1970
In the 1880s Fannie's father, E Frank Lewis and the father of her future husband Joseph Shattuck traveled down to Chatham from Lawrence, MA to hunt ducks , geese and pretty much anything else that flew seasonally on Chatham's outer beaches, especially Monomoy. Both men were avid hunters and became members of the Monomoy Branting Club, a hunting club that operated seasonally (March to May). Eventually Lewis and Shattuck both decided to build seasonal homes in Chatham so their families could also enjoy the simpler charms of the Cape during the summer months.
In 1898 Frank Lewis's eldest and only daughter Fannie married young Joseph Shattuck, the son of his great friend and hunting partner. Young Joseph's elder sister Lucy married Everett Yeaw in 1888 and the descendants of both the Shattuck & Lewis families still enjoy Chatham to this day.
Monomoy circa 1860
Duck hunters, Chatham, MA a painting by Harold Matthews Brett (early 20th Century)
Life saving station on Monomoy Photo circa 1885
Bridge Street, Chatham looking west across Mitchell River drawbridge circa 1885
First summer home on Bridge Street built for E. Frank Lewis and family. His daughter, Fannie (age 9 yrs) is in the window. Circa 1885
Later Frank Lewis sold this home to the Julius Fleischmann family who moved the structure to the east next door. In 1903 Lewis had "The Big House" built on Bridge Street (above center) Photo Richard Kelsey 1940s.
"The Big House" on Bridge Street in Chatham, owned by Fannie Lewis Shattuck
The Joseph & Fannie Lewis Shattuck family and friends traveled out to the outer beaches by boat from this dock on the Mill Pond in Chatham. Photo circa 1907
Edwin Frank Lewis with his wife Marion Boyden Lewis (seated) and daughter Fannie Lewis Shattuck at their winter home in Lawrence, MA circa 1920
Frank Lewis and friends on a fox hunt, Outer Beach, Chatham circa 1890s
Fannie Lewis Shattuck with her four daughters (from left to right) Dorothy, Frances, Ruth and Lydia. Tragically Fannie's husband Joseph Shattuck was killed in an automobile accident in Yarmouth on August 25, 1917 at the age of 46. Fannie never remarried. Photo circa 1912
Shattuck daughters on the steps of "The Big House" with their mother Photo circa 1914
A few of the Shattuck grandchildren on the outer beach. It was a family tradition for all of the Shattuck women and their families to gather to celebrate Fannie's birthday in July in Chatham. She was known to all as "Gammy" Shattuck. Wendy Howes (my mother) far right
Photo circa 1934
Dorothy Shattuck Howes and daughter Wendy (my mother) on the outer beach.
Plane was owned by Chatham aviator Wilfred Berube who often would ferry folks over for the day to surf cast for stripers or just picnic. Photo circa 1932
Shattuck grandchildren loaded for a trip out to the outer beach on Gammy's motor launch Opeeche. Photo circa 1938
Some of the eleven grandchildren (above) of Fannie Lewis Shattuck. Photo circa 1938
Shattuck grandchildren with Gammy Circa 1939
Later our grandparents and great aunts continued a passion for surfcasting for striped bass and bluefish right from the beaches. A couple of these families built camps on Monomoy in the late 1930s.
Monomoy circa 1940 Richard Kelsey Airview Photo
Daughters of Fannie Lewis Shattuck on Monomoy (left to right Frances, Dorothy, Ruth and Lydia) Photo circa 1938
Howes family camp on Monomoy circa 1939
Ernest Grant Howes Jr and Dorothy Shattuck Howes (my grandparents) on Monomoy circa 1939
Howes Camp on Monomoy circa 1941 - Dorothy Shattuck Howes and her daughter Wendy.
Still later in the 1950s and 60s my parents generation were keen sailors and visited Monomoy with kids in tow religiously in the summer months to picnic and enjoy a wild space away from the crowds.
Fannie Lewis Shattuck (Right), her daughter Dorothy Shattuck Howes (left) and Wendy Howes King (grand daughter) Photo September 1951
Gammy Shattuck with some of her Great grandchildren (Samuel King (left), John King , Charlie King (on lap right) together with Christie, Nick and Peter Nichols) Photo July 1956
Gammy Shattuck with Wendy and six Kings ( Lydia, Charlie, Sam, Andy (babe in arms) , John & Tom) Andre Snow photo 1961
My parents beloved Wianno Senior "Tailwind II". In the late 1950s and early 60s we often sailed out to Monomoy from Stage Harbor for family picnics on this boat. Because Tailwind was a keelboat we towed a skiff to get ashore. Note: This was not ideal!
Dorothy Crosley photo
Wianno Seniors racing in Nantucket Sound Photo circa 1962
My parents Ted King and Wendy Howes King on Monomoy - Note: children (9) were out of the frame. Photo August 1969
Monomoy looking NW over the Common Flat sand bar at Inward Point J J. King photo 2017
Nowadays more than 140 years after Lewis & Shattuck came to Chatham we are enjoying Monomoy and the Outer beaches as a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife. The recovery of whales, seals and the return of great white sharks and many other creatures who pass through the Cape marine ecosystem are all strong evidence of a conservation success story.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge looking south Wayne Davis photo September 2018
Monomoy was designated a Federal Wildlife Refuge in 1970 primarily to protect migratory birds that nested there seasonally. Beginning in 1972 with the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, North Atlantic Grey seals began to recolonize the refuge having been hunted to near extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2009 the first confirmed great white shark was identified and tagged by scientists from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in the area east of Monomoy that was to become known as "Shark Cove". Research and ecotourism charters have become frequent in this area during the summer and fall months in recent years.
Photographing egrets at the Powder Hole, south end of South Monomoy September 2017
Monomoy Point, Station ponds and Powderhole visible October 2014
Grey seals hauled out on Monomoy NWR Wayne Davis Photo 2016
Research vessel Aleutian Dream off of Nauset Beach following a tagged white shark in shallow water while curious bathers watch. Wayne Davis photo August 2022
Setting up to tag a 12 foot white shark near "Shark Cove" Monomoy NWR
Wayne Davis photo August 2020
Monomoy NWR looking south over "Shark Cove". Research vessel Aleutian Dream in foreground. Drone photo June 2022
A remarkable legacy and transition over the past 150 years. I think our ancestors are smiling.