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Mashpee, Massachusetts
Mashpee Town Hall
Mashpee Town Hall
Official seal of Mashpee, Massachusetts
Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Barnstable
Settled 1660
Incorporated May 28, 1870
 • Type Open town meeting
 • Total 27.2 sq mi (70.5 km2)
 • Land 23.4 sq mi (60.6 km2)
 • Water 3.8 sq mi (9.9 km2)
55 ft (17 m)
 • Total 15,060
 • Density 644/sq mi (248.5/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 508/774
FIPS code 25-39100
GNIS feature ID 0618256

Mashpee is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States, on Cape Cod. The population was 15,060 as of 2020. The town is the site of the headquarters and most members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, one of two federally recognized Wampanoag groups.

For geographic and demographic information on specific parts of the town of Mashpee, please see the articles on Mashpee Neck, Monomoscoy Island, New Seabury, Popponesset, Popponesset Island, Seabrook, and Seconsett Island.


Avant House
Avant House of the Wampanoag people of Mashpee, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod was occupied for more than ten thousand years by indigenous peoples. The historic Algonquian-speaking Wampanoag were the native people encountered by the English colonists here and in the area of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century. The Wampanoag also controlled considerable coastal area. These two cultures would interact, shaping each other for decades.

After English colonists arrived, they began to settle the area of present-day Mashpee in 1658 with the assistance of the missionary Richard Bourne, from the neighboring town of Sandwich. In 1660 the colonists allowed those Christian Wampanoag who had been converted about 50 square miles (130 km2) in the English settlement. Beginning in 1665, the Wampanoag governed themselves with a court of law and trials according to English custom (they had long governed themselves according to their own customs).

Old Indian Meetinghouse
The "Old Indian Meeting House", built in 1684 at Mashpee, is the oldest Native American church in the United States.

Following their defeat in King Philip's War (1675–1676), the Wampanoag of the mainland were resettled with the Sakonnet in present-day Rhode Island. Others of the people were brought, together with the Nauset, into the praying towns, such as Mashpee, in Barnstable County. There were also Wampanoag on Martha's Vineyard and other areas.

The colonists designated Mashpee on Cape Cod as the largest Indian reservation in Massachusetts. The town's name is an Anglicization of a native name, mass-nippe: mass is "great", or "greater" (see Massachusetts), and nippe is "water". The name has been translated as "the greater cove" or "great pond," or "land near great cove", where the water being referenced is Wakeby Lake, which is greater at one end.

In the year 1763, the British Crown designated Mashpee as a plantation, against the will of the Wampanoag. Designation as a plantation meant that the area governed by the Mashpee Wampanoag was integrated into the colonial district of Mashpee. The colony gave the natives the "right" to elect their own officials to maintain order in their area, but otherwise subjected them to colonial government. The population of the plantation declined steadily due to the conditions placed upon the Wampanoag. They also suffered from encroachment on their lands by the English.

Following the American Revolutionary War, the town in 1788 revoked Mashpee self-government, which European-American officials considered a failure. They appointed a committee, consisting of five European-American members, to supervise the Mashpee. William Apess, a Pequot Methodist preacher, helped the Mashpee Wampanoag lead a peaceful protest of this action, and the governor threatened a military response.

In 1834, the state returned a certain level of self-government to the Wampanoag, although they were not completely autonomous. With the idea that emulating European-American farming would encourage assimilation, in 1842 the state broke up some of the Wampanoag communal land. It distributed 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of their 13,000-acre (53 km2) property in allotments of 60-acre (240,000 m2) parcels to heads of households, so that each family could have individual ownership for subsistence farming.

The legislature passed laws against the encroachments on Wampanoag land by European Americans, but did not enforce them. The competing settlers also stole wood from the reservation. It was a large region, once rich in wood, fish and game, and desired by white settlers, who envied the growing community of Mashpee. The Mashpee Indians suffered more conflicts with their white neighbors than did other more isolated or less desirable Indian settlements in the state.

In 1870 the state approved the incorporation of Mashpee as a town, the second-to-last jurisdiction on the Cape to undergo the process. Ultimately the Wampanoag lost control of their land and self-government. Many of their descendants have remained in the area and identified as Mashpee by their communal culture.

In the early 1970s the Mashpee reorganized and filed a land claim against the state for the loss of lands. While they ultimately did not win their case, the Mashpee continued to develop as an organized community and gained federal recognition as a tribe in 2007.

Today the town of Mashpee is known both for tourist recreation and for its distinctive minority Wampanoag culture. The population is predominately European American in ancestry. As the town attracts numerous summer visitors, there are many seasonal businesses and service jobs to support this tourism.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has its headquarters here, and it is one of two federally recognized tribes of Wampanoag people in Massachusetts. In 2015 the Department of Interior took into trust 170 acres (0.69 km2) in Mashpee as a reservation for the Wampanoag, who already controlled the land. They also took into trust 150 acres (0.61 km2) in Taunton, Massachusetts, which the Wampanoag tribe had acquired.

That action was challenged in October 2016 by a United States District Court decision, reached after a suit was filed earlier that year by opponents to Mashpee Wampanoag plans to build a gaming casino on their Taunton land.

The Wampanoag hold an annual pow-wow at which they display traditional activities and crafts.


According to the United States Census Bureau, Mashpee has a total area of 27.2 square miles (70.5 km2), of which 23.4 square miles (60.6 km2) is land and 3.8 square miles (9.9 km2), or 14.10%, is water.

Mashpee is on the "upper," or western, portion of Cape Cod. It is bounded by Sandwich to the north and northwest, Barnstable to the east, Nantucket Sound to the south, and Falmouth to the west. It is approximately 65 miles (105 km) south-southeast of Boston and 70 miles (110 km) east-southeast of Providence, Rhode Island.

Like all towns on the Cape, Mashpee's topography is that of sandy soil, small ponds and inlets, surrounded by the pines and oaks indigenous to the area. The town's shoreline is framed by Waquoit Bay to the west and Popponesset Bay to the east, with several rivers, brooks and small ponds in the area. The town contains South Cape Beach State Park along Dead Neck and Waquoit Bay, and the Lowell Holly Reservation, comprising the land between Wakeby and Mashpee Ponds.

Mashpee also borders a small area of Otis Air National Guard Base, Joint Base Cape Cod, and Camp Edwards in the northwest portion of the town.


Climate data for Mashpee, Massachusetts
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Average high °F (°C) 37.8
Average low °F (°C) 20.3
Record low °F (°C) −8
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.1
Average snowfall inches (cm) 10
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.2 6.4 7.6 7.2 6.9 6.4 5.9 6.1 5.6 6.5 7.3 7.8 80.9


Major roads include Massachusetts Route 28, Massachusetts Route 130 and Massachusetts Route 151; none of these is a freeway. Route 28, along with U.S. Route 6 to the north, comprise the main east-west routes along the Cape. Route 130's southern terminus lies just outside the town limits in Santuit, a village in the town of Barnstable. Route 151's eastern terminus is within the town of Mashpee; both these roads end at Route 28, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) apart.

The Town of Mashpee is the only one on Cape Cod that never had a railroad constructed to it. According to 2.5. Rail Transportation, Joint Base Cape Cod has a railroad track extending into the town.

The nearest airports (Cape Cod Airfield, an airstrip for small planes, and Barnstable Municipal Airport, the largest airport on the Cape), can be found in the neighboring Town of Barnstable. The nearest national and international air service can be reached at Logan International Airport in Boston, or at T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island.

The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority serves Mashpee. The Sealine bus route stops at South Cape Village and Mashpee Commons, in addition to other flag stops. As well as being serviced by the ADA on-call services of CCRTA (DART).


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1870 348 —    
1880 346 −0.6%
1890 298 −13.9%
1900 303 +1.7%
1910 270 −10.9%
1920 242 −10.4%
1930 361 +49.2%
1940 434 +20.2%
1950 438 +0.9%
1960 867 +97.9%
1970 1,288 +48.6%
1980 3,700 +187.3%
1990 7,884 +113.1%
2000 12,946 +64.2%
2010 14,006 +8.2%
2020 15,060 +7.5%
* = population estimate. Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

The permanent, year-round population has nearly doubled since 1990, with the number of residents increasing since the late 20th century. As of the census of 2010, there were 14,006 people, 5,256 households, and 3,652 families residing in the town. The population density was 514.9 people per square mile (198.3/km2). There were 8,325 housing units at an average density of 354.6 per square mile (136.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 84.13% White, 4.28% African American, 6.08% Native American, 1.22% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.27% from other races, and 2.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.24% of the population.

There were 5,256 households, out of which 30.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 25.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 24.7% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.1 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $50,871, and the median income for a family was $56,702. Males had a median income of $43,922 versus $31,416 for females. The per capita income for the town was $25,215. About 4.5% of families and 5.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.6% of those under age 18 and 2.7% of those age 65 or over.

Historic and protected sites in Mashpee

  • Old Indian Meeting House, built in 1684
  • Mashpee One Room Schoolhouse, built in 1831 – open for public tours June through October
  • Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1995, consisting of salt marshes, cranberry bogs, white cedar swamps, and expansive forests. Also home to populations of New England Cottontail rabbits, white-tailed deer, red fox, red-tailed hawks, waterfowl, shorebirds, and bald eagles.
  • Quashnet Conservation Area, large woodlands/wildlife conservation area directly south and adjacent to Otis Air National Guard Base and Camp Edwards. It is the largest tract of undeveloped forest/woodland area on Cape Cod.


Mashpee has two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school located in the town. The middle school is located in the same building as the high school, operates under the same administration and has its own wing strictly for the 7th and 8th grade students. The building also houses the Technology "Center of Excellence". It has been recognized at several statewide conferences for its industry education and innovative course offerings.

  • Kenneth C. Coombs School (K–2)
  • Quashnet School (3–6)
  • Mashpee Middle-High School (7–12)

Mashpee operates its own school system for the approximately 1,700 students in town. The Kenneth C. Coombs School (Also known as the K. C. Coombs School) is for pre-school to grade 2, the Quashnet School is for grades 3 to 6, and Mashpee Middle-High School is for grades 7–12. Before Mashpee High opened its doors in 1996, students residing in Mashpee attended nearby Falmouth High School.

Mashpee's athletics teams are named the Falcons, and their colors are royal blue, white, and black. They compete in the South Shore League in all sports except winter track, which competes in the Eastern Athletic Conference. Mashpee High School's main rivals are Monomoy Regional High School, Abington High School, Sandwich High School, and Cohasset High School. From 1999 to 2003 Mashpee played Sandwich High School in an annual Thanksgiving Football Game rivalry. From 2003–2009, Mashpee played Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. In 2009, Mashpee dropped the Thanksgiving rivalry with Cape Cod Tech and has since renewed the Thanksgiving rivalry with Sandwich, which is effective in the year 2010. Mashpee's football team is regarded as one of the premier small-school programs in the state. the Falcons have won 4 state championships (2011, 2015, 2016, 2017) under the leadership of head coach Matt Triveri.

Additionally, high school students may attend Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich free of charge. Students from Mashpee may also attend the two Catholic high schools that serve the area, Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth, or the newly opened Saint John Paul II High School in Hyannis. Private schools located in nearby communities include Falmouth Academy in Falmouth, Cape Cod Academy in Barnstable, and Tabor Academy, a private-prep boarding school in nearby Marion.

A Wampanoag language Immersion school called Wôpanâôt8ây Pâhshaneekamuq is expected to open in Mashpee in 2016, serving preschool students in its first year and kindergarten students starting in 2017.

Notable people

See also

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