Yarmouth, Massachusetts takes its name from the English town of Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk in England. It was once part of the Plymouth Colony, an English colony which existed from 1620 to 1691and which was one of the first English colonies established primarily for religious reasons rather than economic ones. The individuals who settled the Plymouth Colony were known as Pilgrims, and their famed voyage on the Mayflower and landing at Plymouth has become an integral part of American lore.
Prior to its occupation by American settlers, the area was heavily populated by tribes of the Wampanoag. By most accounts, early dealings between the settlers and the native inhabitants were peaceful and spawned the traditional Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated in the United States to this day. In the late 17th century, the relationship between the Wampanoag and English settlers became tenuous and led to wars between the two groups that would shape the colony's future population.
In 1639, the county of Barnstable was established and the town of Yarmouth was incorporated. Although it has a celebrated maritime history, Yarmouth started out as a farming community, particularly in the animal husbandry of sheep, cattle and pigs. In the late 1800s, Yarmouth captains began to ferry merchants across the Atlantic to participate in the China Trade, and many of these captains chose to establish their residences in Yarmouth, where they would spend their time when not at sea.
The economic climate and the landscape of Yarmouth once again underwent a transformation in the late 1800s when developers began to look for ways to capitalize on the beauty of the Cape in an effort to draw tourists to the area. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of hotels and vacation homes were constructed in Yarmouth, followed by a proliferation of residential development.
Today, the tripartite town of Yarmouth sits only half an hour from Plymouth, the landing site of the Pilgrims, and is only 75 miles from the metropolis of Boston, the state's capital and largest city. Much of the commercial development in Yarmouth has been along Route 28 and much of the more modern aspects of the town lie in West and South Yarmouth. For a taste of the early centuries of Yarmouth, travel along Old King's Highway through Yarmouth Port, which is dotted by many buildings on the National Historic Registry, including the former homes of Yarmouth ship captains.
The coexistence of the historic with the modern is what makes Yarmouth a special place within the Cape. It has found a way to preserve its history and the beauty of its landscape, from the Cape Cod Bay to the North and Nantucket Sound to the South, without sacrificing modern comforts. Yarmouth's gorgeous beaches and forests for hiking, a story to take you back in time, and tons of shops, restaurants and attractions to explore are reasons why many find a second home in this historic Cape Cod town.