Simeon L. Smith | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Simeon L. Smith

Location of Interview
Collection Name
Interviewer
Date of Interview
11-09-1977
Audio
Biographical Sketch

Part 1: Born in 1908, Mr. Smith tells us that he is a fifth generation Simeon. He is 69 and lives in Eastham. His grandfather built the Orleans post office and owned several houses in the area. Mr. Smith was born at Whalewalk Farm, a local landmark in Orleans. He remembers his grandmother's story of his grandfather told to deposit an unwanted family of cats on Simpson's Island where he had corn fields. At the end of the day he found they had left the  island and gone back to the mainland. He tells several humorous stories of people in the area including Peter and Steven from Harwich getting $15 a month to fish off the Grand Banks, Steven's visit with Mr. Sparrow's the proprietor of the general store, and Steven's father's funeral. He also tells a humorous anecdote of the two brothers in Truro who only thought of collecting eels during eel season. Finally, he tells the story of Stevens's complaint about the local $2.00 poll tax. 

Part 2: Simeon Smith recalls his experiences at 17, fishing off Billingsgate Island with his father, winter fishing out of Rock Harbor, Orleans and harvesting clams on Billingsgate. They received $3.75 for each barrel of clams. He also describes the sinking of his father's boat the Ella B. and itâs salvage. Mr. Smith also recalls the 1920 beach grass fire on Billingsgate that was an apparent cause of the erosion at Billingsgate. He describes Tom the family cat and tells how his mother repaired Tom's leg using a broomstick. 

Part 3: Simeon Smith continues his story of the recovery of the family cat Tom who lived with the family in a cabin on Billingsgate Island. Mr. Smith also tells the story of a second family cat named Tom that after the death of the first Ole Tom, who would help Mr. Smith catch blue fish on his boat the Luck Lady. He tells a humorous story of Tom being pulled overboard by a 40lb bass. He refers to the Chatham fisherman being different than the Wellfleet fisherman because the Chatham fisherman might not come back. He also recalls his first marriage and his involvement with rum running and securing 850 cases of liquor that had to be dropped in the water off of Chatham. The liquor was stored in shanties, cellars and cesspools. He tells a story of the owner of a Nauset Harbor camp who found several cases of 190 proof Belgium alcohol washed up on the shore. The camp owner buried what he could carry but forgot to take his shovel that marked the spot where the alcohol was buried. A member of the Coast Guard patrolling the beach discovered some of the cases still on the beach and used an axe to break open the containers. 

Part 4: Mr. Smith finishes the story of the Belgium liquor and how the Coast Guardsman followed tracks from the beach, found the buried stash and destroyed it. He describes his joining the Coast Guard, his life in the Coast Guard, keeping watch and the time he wrote a poem in the back of the dayâs log book, which was against the rules. The officer Captain Nickerson though, made a copy for himself. He tells a funny story of his grandfather being asked directions to Chatham. He describes the history of Wellfleet which was a large whaling town. He tells of how they collected blackfish by driving them into creeks and killing them for their oil. He remembers D. Atwood and the seeding of oysters in Wellfleet. Ships would come up from Virginia with the oyster seed. Mr. Smith also describes the dimensions of Catboats and the history of one Catboat that had been used as a flower planter.

Notes: The Tales of Cape Cod Oral History Collection is housed at the William Brewster Nickerson Archives in the Wilkens Library at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. For more information about the collection, please contact the Nickerson Archives, http://www.nickersonarchives.org/.


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