April 22 - 1946: Firemen jump in pond to save themselves from raging forest fires

2006: 400th Anniversary of Champlain's Chatham visit
A stone monument marks the spot on Stage Harbor where Champlain landed in Chatham in 1606.

1946: Fires destroy five cottages, fire engine on Cape Cod

1,000 men battle flames,
smoke covers canal area

n this day in 1946 forest fires raged over the Cape Cod area as fifteen fire departments and 1,000 men battled to keep them under control.

The New York Times reported:

"Of five blazes at Bourne, firemen reported two of major proportions, but they were under control at 9 PM.

Five cottages were destroyed and some owners at Sagamore were evacuated.

One piece of Falmouth (fire) apparatus was burned and three firemen jumped into Great Pond to save themselves..."

Forest fires had threatened Cape Cod for the past fortnight, and the danger continued through May.

In Falmouth for a time citizens thought the town might be destroyed as the sky was bright red at noontime.

2006: Chatham preparing for 400th Anniversary Of Champlain Visit

The first European to set foot on this shore

Only four hundred years ago, the area that is now Chatham was heavily wooded and sparsely populated by the Monomoyick branch of the Wampanoag nation.

Imagine Champlain's ship Half Moon on right sailing into a pristine Stage Harbor, ringed with small hills and clearings where small patches of corn and other grains were being grown.

Imagine the reaction of the natives, as the first Europeans set foot on the soil of what would become Chatham.Samuel de Champlain, the leader of the expedition, dubbed the place "Port Fortune."

"This would prove a very good site for laying and constructing the foundations of a state, if the harbour were a little deeper and the entrance safer than it is," he wrote later.

Champlain and his crew spent two weeks here in 1606, until relations with the natives deteriorated and a skirmish left four Frenchmen, and reportedly many more Monomoyicks, dead.

In 2006 that critical event, the arrival of the first European and the meeting of two cultures, was  the subject of a year-long commemoration jointly sponsored by the chamber of commerce and the Chatham Historical Society.

(Above on right: The replica of Champlain's ship the Half Moon courtesy of Marist College.)

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