Brief History of Dogtown
Brief History

A Brief History of Dogtown

A colonial settlement was established in the middle of Cape Ann in the late 1600s in woodlots and cleared land known as the Commons. Some say people settled there as protection from pirates and enemy Indians. Others say it was because the land was free. For more than a century Commoners earned their living as farmers, weavers, shepherds, and fishermen. The settlement doubled in size to about fifty families by the mid 1700s. But then, unlike most places that continued to grow to the present day, the population began to decline. With the emergence of coastal industries like fishing, shipping, and trading, people moved back to the harbor. The houses left behind were rented and soon fell into disrepair. By the mid 1800s all of the houses in this part of Gloucester, which became known as Dogtown, were torn down. Only the root cellars – today’s cellar holes – remained.

Dogtown Road Tour
Dogtown Road Tour

Dogtown Road Tour

The tour starts from the parking lot on Dogtown Road. We visit one of the oldest cellars in Dogtown, which was inhabited by John Day around 1688, and the site of the Easter Carter house - one of the most famous houses in Dogtown as told by Charles Mann in The Story of Dogtown.

Soon after Dogtown was abandoned, field and pasture reverted back to brush and woods. The transitional landscape of the early 1900s inspired a generation of poets and painters such as Charles Olson, Marsden Hartley, John Sloan, and others. We visit this part of Dogtown next in our tour and show how the old landscape has changed and what can be done to restore it.

At the end of Dogtown Road we turn right at Granny Day's Swamp and the site of one of the first schoolhouses in Gloucester. The landscape becomes more rugged as we enter the terminal moraine - the glacial remains from the last Ice Age. We are surrounded by rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes, including a number of "word rocks" carved by a team of men led by Roger Babson in the early 1930s. We stop at the largest of the Babson boulders with the inscription "Spiritual Power."

After a brief rest we return along the same route with two short stops along the way. The first is at the Pearce cellar, one of the largest in Dogtown. Our final stop is at the old pasture where James Merry was killed fighting a bull in 1892, immortalized by Charles Olson’s in The Maximus Poems. (Total distance is about 2 miles.)

Cellar Holes Tour
Dogtown Cellars Tour

Dogtown Cellars Tour

The trail is marked with blue CATS trail markers. The tour starts from the parking lot on Dogtown Road. We visit one of the oldest cellars in Dogtown, which was inhabited by John Day around 1688, and the site of the Easter Carter house - one of the most famous houses in Dogtown as told by Charles Mann in The Story of Dogtown.

The next 1/3 mile or so contains several cellars on the left and right. Nearing the end of Dogtown Road we find cellar 20 on a knoll off to the left just before Granny Day's Swamp. Bearing left at the fork in the road we are on Wharf Road. There is another cellar (20A) on the right. Continuing north on Wharf Road we pass the Wharf cellar (24) on the right, and the Lurvey cellar (25) off to the left. Peter Lurvey is known for his heroism at the start of the Revolutionary War. Lurvey's wife, Mary, was his neighbor's sister. His neighbor, Abraham Wharf committed suicide in 1814.

Beyond the end of Wharf Road is cellar 39, which was owned by Abraham Wharf's father-in-law, Benjamin Allen. Taking a left at Common Road we head west toward the Common. What was once called the Beach Pasture is on the right. On Common Road, on this side of the reservoir, was the site of another famous house in Dogtown occupied by Judy Rhines and others.

As we approach Goose Cove Reservoir we take a left onto the Adams Pines trail which leads us back to Dogtown Road. (Total distance is about 3 miles.)

CATS Discover Dogtown Loop
Discover Dogtown Loop

Discover Dogtown Loop

This loop, marked with red trail markers by members of the Cape Ann Trail Stewards (CATS), is a beautiful wilderness trail into the middle of Dogtown. The total distance is close to 5 miles. The route starts and ends at the parking lot on Dogtown Road.

The first part of the hike along Dogtown Road, about 3/4 mile, is relatively easy. (Load the Dogtown Road Tour to see points of interest along this section of the loop.) Bear right past Granny Day's Swamp at the end of Dogtown Road, and follow the Moraine Trail for a short distance. A trail branches off to the right to Spiritual Power and the Babson Boulder Trail. Take the next trail, Nellie's Trail, which branches off to the left.

Nellie's Trail is about a mile long and runs through some extremely rough terrain. It meets up with Art's Trail just before Briar Swamp. Take a left at this point and follow the fire road for a short distance. A path leading to a boardwalk across a corner of Briar Swamp is on the right. A little further along you can venture a short distance up another trail to Whale's Jaw. Left at this intersection is Common Road. About 3/4 mile along Common Road look for a trail splitting off to the left. This is Wharf Road that leads to Dogtown Road and back to where we started.

Parishioner's Path
Parishioners Path

Parishioners Path

In the years from 1728-1755 Cape Ann parishioners demonstrated their spiritual dedication step by step, as they hiked from Rockport and other points, through the northern Dogtown woods to the Third Parish (“Squam”) Meetinghouse now called the Annisquam Village Church. When the Fifth Parish was established in 1755, Rockport Congregational Church was built, and hikers were relieved of their lengthy Sunday morning commute.

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This app was developed by Intelligent Gadgets for the Friends of Dogtown.
Development was funded in part by a grant from Awesome Gloucester.
Essex County Greenbelt Association is the charitable umbrella for Friends of Dogtown.
Report problems that you encounter in Dogtown.
Cape Ann Trail Stewards help protect and maintain the trail system in Dogtown.
Report observations of any plant or animal species in Dogtown.

(Version 2.1 - 19 March 2017)

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