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New England’s Lost Places #1: DOGTOWN

O come and roam with me today, Where nature undefiled holds sway, And where its majesty profound, In primal grandeur may be found, Then let’s to Dogtown Common lie, Where nature’s scenic grandeurs lie, We’ll bid the city streets adieu, And some old road our way pursue.

Scotti and Lee Cox

Cellar “hole” #9. Site of John Clark’s Home.

Recently, my family and I took a short trip north to Cape Ann to visit an area I explored when I was attending seminary. Dogtown always fascinated me with its sparse yet strange history and colorful legends. Though not much is left, it interests this old amateur archaeologist for some odd reason.

Dogtown is an abandoned settlement near Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was once known as the Common Settlement and populated by respectable citizens, but later took the name Dogtown as its residents became less ‘respectable’ over the years and dogs began to roam the area.

Cellar hole #10

Cellar hole #11 is the site of the last standing house in Dogtown was torn down in 1845. It belonged to Philip Priestly, a fisherman who supposedly climbed a tree in the area to view the festivities attending the 1840 election of William Henry Harrison.

A structure near cellar 14. Once belonged to Joseph Winslow who was a farmer of some repute.

One of many large boulders that comprise the areas terminal moraine.

Cellar hole #17. Dorcas Foster‘s home. She was brought to Dogtown during the Revolution when her father was killed at war. She married three times. Her third husband, Captain Joseph Smith, fought against the British in the War of 1812.

Number 20 marks the site of Dogtown’s school in the early 1700s. The schoolteacher, Jane “Granny” Day lived next door somewhere near the adjacent swamp. She lived to the age of 94 and died in 1814.

The site of Dogtown’s Square is strangely quiet despite the colorful history of those who lived, worked and played here.

The area in the picture above and the one below were once owned by Colonel William Pearce. He was once the richest man in Gloucester/Dogtown. Today very little remains of the home he lived in nor do many know who he was.

Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. James 5:2

James Merry was 60 years old in 1892. He was a 250-pound six foot seven inch fisherman who wanted to be a matador. He raised a bull from a calf and practiced his carrida skills near the former home of Easter Carter (#5 Dogtown Road). It seems the the bull was much smarter than he was and he was subsequently gored.

Two nearby boulders tell the story. “First Attacked” and “Jas. Merry died September 18, 1892.”

The inscriptions were written about a week after his death by Raymond Tarr and D.K. Goodwin.

Pretty good advice on this stone




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