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A Walk in the Woods — Kelley Chapel in Yarmouthport

Kelley Chapel
Written by Laura M. Reckford

YARMOUTHPORT – A walk in the woods is what is sometimes called for on a snowy day that is not as cold as it was, nor as cold as it will be.

Just a couple days after a fierce Cape Cod blizzard, off we went on a trip to nature trails in Yarmouthport that for one of us was to discover a new path and for the other to rediscover a path we remembered from years ago.

One of the best parts of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth’s trails behind the post office is that it is somewhat hidden. If you don’t know the 50 acres of woodland trails are there, you will likely not spot the small sign on Route 6A marking the driveway entrance. Hidden trails increase the chance that you will not see another person, a boon for those seeking solitude, a burden for those looking to chat with passersby.

On this particular visit on a Saturday in February, there were definite remnants of a previous person—we followed his/her snowshoe prints, taking solace in the proof that at least one person had made their way through the snowy path to the pond and that meant we could too.

Two days after the blizzard, the snow was only a few inches deep underfoot but stripes of the white stuff still clung to the sides of trees, reminding us of the intense winds during the storm.

While hiking the trails, it is interesting to note that this land was once the first golf course on Cape Cod. It was built in the 1890s as a private course for the Thacher family, according to the historical society.

Another nice feature of this trail system is the mix of nature and history. The main Pond Trail makes a wide loop passing by Miller Pond. But the trail begins and ends at the Kelley Chapel.

According to the sign on the building, the chapel was built by David Kelley in 1873 in the Georgetown section of South Yarmouth. Quick research reveals there is a Georgetown Cemetery in South Yarmouth near the entrance to the Bass River Golf Course on High Bank Road in South Yarmouth. Members of some old Cape Cod families, Crowells and Sears, are buried there, with the earliest gravestone being 1820, according to the town’s summary of its cemeteries.

The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth website notes that Kelley was a Quaker who built the chapel for his daughter, Rosa, who taught bible lessons to the children of the poor. The chapel was donated in 1959 by David Kelley’s grandson, Amos Kelley Haswell. It was moved to the location, in this peaceful clearing in the woods, in 1960. Next to the chapel is an old blacksmith shop dating from the mid-19th century that once belonged to Benjamin Hallet, specializing in, according to a sign on the building, ironwork and horseshoeing.

Today, it is simply a scenic place to revel in Cape Cod history and nature, an all-in-one walk in the woods.

For more photos from across Cape Cod, please see Scenic Cape.

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About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

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