Chatham Historical Society Oral Histories
Welcome to our Oral History Page!
Below you will find a collection of oral history recordings done for the Chatham Historical Society, beginning in the 1950s. Our early predecessors had the forethought to travel around Chatham and Cape Cod collecting histories and memories from various people who experienced "Old Chatham" first hand. Through these audio recordings, we are transported in time and relive days gone by. Enjoy sitting and listening to conversations with fishermen, artists, doctors, volunteers, and so many others as they tell you about our history.
Browse our collection of recordings, paired with their written transcriptions, and see if any person or topic interests you!
This Oral History Project could not have been done without the generous support of a Foundation which would like to remain anonymous. Thank you!
This session takes us through the reading of an article about Alice Stallknecht, her murals, and reflections by her son, artist Frederick Wight. As well as a question and answer period after the reading of the article.
In this audio file, James Allison discusses some of his experiences of living in Chatham. He begins my talking about his father’s job as a light house keeper and then transitions into his own service at the Monomoy Life Saving Station. Allison then goes on to discuss matters of boating. This includes engines, personal boat trips, and helping stranded boaters. Intermixed throughout this audio file, is Mr. Allison’s interactions with locals.
In this audio file, James Allison continues his discussion from track one. Mr. Allison begins by reminiscing about his experiences with his father, who was the Chatham Light House Keeper. He mentions the Cape Cod train and the lighthouse supply boats. Mr. Allison then briefly transitions into his own experiences of working at the Monomoy Life Saving Station. While discussing this, he tends to focus on how they, as rescuers, could not accept reward money from ships they saved. Towards the end of the conversation, Mr. Allison talks about his experiences on barges as he traveled through New Jersey’s canals enroute to New York Harbor.
Brief Description: Mr. and Mrs. Walden Bearse from South Chatham remember some of the early days of South Chatham and the people who lived there. Topics covered in this recording are: Icehouses, keeping house before electricity and running water, how Mr. and Mrs. Bearse met, past prices of fish and other interesting remembrances.
Recollections of Chatham
By Benjamin Oliver Eldridge
(1954) To Chatham Historical Society
Brief description: Benjamin Oliver Eldridge recalls memories of Chatham throughout his life and career. Subjects that he discusses are transportation, shipping, stores, the Life Saving Service, and shipwrecks.
Brief Description: This is a recording of a conversation between Sally Erath and “Wicked” Walter Eldredge in 1954. Walter recalls why he is called “Wicked” Walter, the different residents that lived in town and their houses, the Chatham Railroad, the Altahama, the H.S. Dimmock, salvaging ships, and more.
Brief Description: This recording takes place at the home of Ralph and Grace Hunter. Ralph discusses his early life and his career as a fisherman. He tells what his and his brother’s life was like when they had their own fishing boat. Subjects that are discussed are the average pay of working on a ship, stocking up for winter, the ship Asia, lobstering, cars, WWI, the Mattaquasson, and more.
Chatham Historical Society
A History of Chatham Churches (1955)
Brief Description: This recording made in 1955 gives a history of well-known churches in Chatham. The churches included are the Baptist Church, the Universalist Church, the Congregational Church, and the Methodist Church. The histories of these churches date as far back the 17th century. Mrs. Rhoda Woodward and Miss Grace Hardy are among the readers being recorded by the Chatham Historical Society.
Interview with Ned Meany
Brief Description: Interview with Ned Meany detailing his life and how he came to Chatham. They also discuss the recent funding and building of the Mural Barn and a new wing to the building. This was made during the time the famous Stallknecht murals were returned to Chatham. Ned also describes his career as the headmaster at Northfield School in Massachusetts.
The Oyster River and oyster industry about 1925 – 1935
1975.001.001 Part 1 and Part 2
Brief Description: Desmond Eldredge discusses his recollections of Oyster River, starting when he was a child and through his career as an oyster farmer. He also paints a picture of what it was like to be in the oyster industry in Chatham in the first half of the 20th century. Points of interest that he discusses are early grants for oyster farming, the gear they would wear, the Alice S. Wentworth, entertaining stories from the river, and other topics.
Brief Description: Clint recalls some of his favorite poems written about Cape Cod and the Islands.
Brief Description: The Chatham Historical Society hosted an evening with some old time residents of Chatham in 1979. At this meeting, they discussed a wide range of topics concerning the town when they were growing up. They talked about the Old Village, summer residences, Prohibition, old town characters, Chatham schools, holiday celebrations, and many other subjects.
Brief Description: Alice Smith and Mamie Bassett recollect what Chathamport was like during their childhood. This recording takes place at the home of Alice Smith. Ms. Smith recalls the short-lived Hotel Chatham and Mrs. Bassett recalls the work her father did as a fisherman. Other topics of interest that are discussed are farming, Eastward Ho, the Chathamport Post Office, smallpox, the general layout of houses in the area, and much more.
Brief Description: Josephine Buck Ivanoff details life in Chatham during the first half of the 20th century. She talks about her mother, Dr. Minnie Buck, and her father who died when she was still young. Some events and things that she discusses in this recording are WWI, her father’s Model T Ford, walking to Monomoy Point, and learning to swim in the Mill Pond. Towards the end of the recording she tells about the establishing of the Chatham Historical Society.
Walk Down Main Street
A Description of Houses and Stores
Virginia McGrath and Marjorie Hammond Brown
1990.037.001 Part 1
Brief Description: In this recording Virginia McGrath and Marjorie Hammond Brown take the listener on a “walking tour” of the Village in Chatham. They go house by house, describing who built the house, who lived there in the past, who lives there presently. They also discuss what former businesses were there. The later part of this recording includes Virginia’s recollections of her grandfather, Andrew Harding’s shop. She tells of what the shop sold, what local characters frequented the shop, and gives personal anecdotes about Andrew Harding.
Brief Description: Virginia Harding McGrath describes the Monomoyick Inn, owned and operated by her grandfather, John Pond Farmer Jr. She describes the history of the business and building. She then takes the listener on an audio tour of what the Inn would have looked like back in its heyday. She describes the employees and the layout of the property. She then goes on to describe some of the characters that stayed at the Inn when she was young.