The town of Mashpee was originally an Indian village. As the waves
of settlers fanned out from Plymouth Colony in the middle decades of
the 17th century to create townships across the Cape…and the entire
state…Mashpee was set aside by the governors of Plymouth Colony to
be a home for the Indians being displaced by the new towns.
It was not incorporated as a separate town until 1870, having been
designated a "Plantation" during part of its history, and as part of
the town of Falmouth until "independence." For much of its history,
Mashpee remained a place of where the Wampanoag lived as a
community. It seemed untouched by many of the other waves of
development and economic changes that swept the Cape over the
years…whaling being a notable exception. The Indians of Mashpee,
living along the coast, had always been able mariners…and the
whaling and fishing industries put a premium on their skills. Herman
Melville's Tashtego, the Indian harpooner, is founded solidly in
Mashpee finally succumbed to the "outside" world during the 1960's.
This period of great economic growth saw the town's year-round
population grow from 665 in 1965 to 2,497 in 1979. The growth
continues today, with the number of year-round residents up to
10,000, and a summer population approaching 30,000.
Nowadays, an elected Board of Selectmen and an Executive Secretary
administer Mashpee. The form of government remains the sturdy,
practical New England Town Meeting.