Harwich was settled in the 1650's by families from the
Plymouth colony. Farming and fishing were the principle means
of supporting the family. By the 1800's several commercial
areas had developed, usually but not always near churches. The
survivors of these areas are the seven villages of the Town of
Harwich: Harwich (Center), North, East, South, and West
Harwich, Harwich Port, and Pleasant Lake.
Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands, attracted by the
fishing and maritime industries, began to populate the town by
1890, as did "summer people," purchasing land for cottages.
Nowadays, the population of the town is made up of descendents
of the original settlers, descendents of the Cape Verdeans,
retirees, and of course, "summer people." Many, no doubt,
descended from the first summer visitors.
The commercial cranberry industry began in Harwich in the
early 1800's, when someone noticed that the native cranberry
vines of low boggy areas did better when the winter winds blew
sand over the vines. In 1846 the first intentional cranberry
bog was planted, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cranberry growing remains an important part of the Harwich
economy, and due note of that fact is taken every fall with
the week-long Cranberry Harvest Festival.