is the only town on Cape Cod to have a French name. Formally the southernred
Parish of Eastham, which was settled in 1644, Orleans became incorporated
in 1797 after seeking independence since 1717. The Nauset Indians
were the native people of the area. The relationship between the settlers
and native Americans was peaceful and co-operative. The present Nauset
Heights area was the farming site of the Indians.
Sea Captains and ordinary seamen of Orleans manned the merchant and
whaling vessels during the age of sail.The sea has influenced the
economy of Orleans from the beginning to the present. Salt
works were located on the bay and Town cove shores. There were many
domestic needs for salt and the fishing fleet's requirements were
large for fish preservation.
Fish weirs and small boat hand lining as well as coastal whaling thrived
in the early years. Today there is a large charter boat sports fishing
fleet located in Rock Harbor,
which has been the Orleans center of maritime commerce
The Indians initially taught the settlers about shell fishing.
Packet boats were the mode of transportation of goods and people until
the arrival of the railroad in 1865, which opened up other avenues
of commerce such as pants manufacturing. The railroad spawned early
tourism. The many needs of the town supplied by the railroad were
taken over by cars and trucks.
Shipwrecks were a common occurrence until the Cape Cod Canal was built.
The salvage of shipwrecks and their cargoes became part of the economic
structure, some actually speak of "mooncussing" standing
out in low waters with laterns to lure unsupecting boats in low water
and floundering,after which they looted the boats cargo.
Orleans is no stranger to enemy attack. The war of 1812 created great
hardship on the Cape as Britain controlled and blockaded the towns
of Cape Cod. An attack on Rock Harbor in December 1814 by the British
Marines from H.M.S. Newcastle was swiftly repelled by the local militia.
Orleans has the distinction of being the only U.S. site of attack
by the Germans in WWI. A German U-boat fired upon the tug Perth Amboy
and four barges in the Nauset area in 1918.
The once heavily forested area became decimated fueling creation of
lumber for housing, heating needs and the ship building requirements
of both the English King and the colonists. Commercial agricultural
products of the 1920's and 1930's were asparagus and cranberry harvesting.
supportive of land conservation. The charm and beauty of the town
has created a large retirement population. rewster.
in 1837 there were 60 salt works on the beaches. Small windmills pumped
water into a succession of large vats.