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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 4: Dogtown

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 4: Dogtown

Rockport High School students created a map of Dogtown's cellar holes in their Cape Ann History class

Rockport High School students created a map of Dogtown's cellar holes in their Cape Ann History class

Kerry Herrmann

Rockport High School students created a map of Dogtown's cellar holes in their Cape Ann History class

Kerry Herrmann

Kerry Herrmann

Rockport High School students created a map of Dogtown's cellar holes in their Cape Ann History class

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We continue our exploration of Rockport’s History in Dogtown, or as its residents would have known it, the Commons Settlement. After the area had been mapped by early explorers (see last week’s post), settlements began to form. Dogtown was one of these settlements, centered in the middle of the island. While the soil was poor, residents subsisted on basic agriculture and utilized the land for pasture of their animals. The main draw of the Commons Settlement was protection from pirates. Being in the center of the island meant that the settlement was largely safe from attack. Life continued and Dogtown grew to nearly 100 households at its peak. After the Revolutionary War, and especially after the War of 1812, however, the threat of pirates diminished and the fishing industry took off, so people began to move back to the coastline. Those who remained lived on the fringes of society, and were often suspected of witchcraft. One such person, Thomazine “Tammy” Younger, known as the Queen of the Witches, lived in the Commons Settlement and engaged in reading fortunes. The Commons Settlement earned a bad reputation, and earned its nickname “Dogtown” from the dogs that its remaining residents kept for protection. The last resident of Dogtown was a freed slave named Cornelius Finson, who froze to death there in 1830.

Dogtown remained empty until the 1930s, when Roger Babson, a millionaire, decided to make his legacy and help the local economy by employing quarriers to carve messages into boulders. Since this was during the Great Depression, many quarriers had been laid off and needed work. Today, visitors and residents can explore Dogtown, seeing both the Babson Boulders and the old cellar holes from the Commons Settlement.

One of the Babson Boulders

If you would like to explore Dogtown, a few groups offer tours and maps are available online. Of course, be careful in the woods, tell someone where you are going, and hike at your own risk.

Next week, we’ll be exploring the Old Castle in Pigeon Cove.

Do you know of a historic building in Rockport? Let us know and we may feature it! Please contact us at tlt@rpk12.org and use the subject line “Rockport History”

About the Writer
Nathaniel Kirby, Local Events Contributor

Nathaniel Kirby is a junior at Rockport High School and is involved in many of the school's clubs, such as the Green Team and the Math Team. Nathaniel...

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 4: Dogtown