Falmouth Harbor is located in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, at southwest Cape Cod. It lies just 11 nautical miles (19 kilometers or 12 miles by air) north-northwest of Edgartown Harbor on Martha's Vineyard. It is also about 71 kilometers (44 miles) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island. Home of the author of "America the Beautiful," Katherine Lee Bates, Falmouth Harbor is a busy tourist destination during the summer. In 2010, the US Census reported that over 31 thousand people lived in Falmouth Harbor.
Falmouth Harbor is the terminal for Massachusetts' Steamship Authority that operates ferries between Falmouth Harbor and Martha's Vineyard. Early Falmouth Harbor was a prosperous center for whaling, fishing, shipbuilding, agriculture, and salt and glass manufacturing. Today, it is home to several research organizations including the Marine Biological Library, Woods Hole Research Center, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Before Europeans came to the future Falmouth Harbor area, the indigenous Wampanoag Nation inhabited the land. An Algonkian-speaking people, the Wampanoag welcomed and supported the Plymouth Pilgrims in the early 17th Century. Unfortunately, this relationship did not end well for the Wampanoag.
They are the Native Americans known for bringing corn and turkey to the Pilgrims and establishing the American Thanksgiving. Their first bad luck was the introduction of yellow fever in 1616 to all 69 tribes of the Wampanoag Nation. As many as two-thirds the Wampanoag Nation (45 thousand strong) died.
As more settlers arrived from Britain to the future Falmouth Harbor, they displaced the Wampanoag. They gave alcohol to the people and "purchased" their lands while they were under the influence. The British also sold many of the native people into slavery and would not permit them to use their language or their tribal names.
English colonists first arrived in Falmouth Harbor in 1660. The town was incorporated in 1686. The developing Falmouth Harbor economy was based on farming, whaling, shipping, sheep, and manufacturing salt. Raising sheep was very popular after wool-processing water-powered mills were introduced. By the mid-1800s, Falmouth Harbor had about 50 sheep for every 2.5 square kilometers (one square mile).
In 1872, the train arrived at Falmouth Harbor, and summer residents began to build homes there. Not long after that, local farmers were raising strawberries and cranberries for sale in the Boston market.
Population growth increased dramatically in Falmouth Harbor during World War II. Regional highways were improved, and the nearby Otis Air National Guard Base was a busy military center. Falmouth Harbor experienced big booms in home-building in the last three decades of the 20th Century.
The Massachusetts Legislature created the Steamship Authority by combining the New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamboat Company. The legislation charged the Steamship Authority to operate and maintain a boat line between Falmouth Harbor and Hyannis and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. It is the only ferry service that carries passengers, vehicles, and commercial freight trucks between the mainland and the islands. Today, the authority licenses private ferry operators on both year-round and seasonal routes that link Falmouth Harbor to the islands.