The Town Of Orleans. Originally known as South 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 NausetHeights area was the farming site of the Indians. The last of their settlements lived in South Orleans.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. Finally with the discovery of salt deposits in the U.S. the salt-making industry became obsolete in the 1850s. Sea Captains and ordinary seamen of Orleans manned the merchant and whaling vessels during the age of sail. The fishing industry has waxed and waned through the years according to the supply. 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 RockHarbor, which has been the Orleans center of maritime commerce and history. The Indians initially taught the settlers about shell fishing. It has continued to be an excellent source and generally reliable monetary factor in good and bad economic times. Now aquaculture appears to have a successful future. 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. Railroad service to the town ceased in the 1950's. The formerly barren landscape is now covered with trees and vegetation and people are very supportive of land conservation. The advent of the National Seashore Park in 1962 created the complete tourist economy of today.
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