REGIONAL BOUNDARIES IN SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS

 

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Where does Cape Cod end?

How far south does the South Shore run?

How far west does the South Shore run?

Where does the South Coast end, north, east and west?

What nickname does inland SE Massachusetts get?

Where do we put Sagamore? Onset? Middleboro? Taunton? Tiverton? Little Compton?

Do people from Brockton get grouped with people from Hingham or Duxbury, or are they really more like people from Taunton or Attleboro?

We tackle all this and more in today’s episode of Cranberry County Magazine!

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Regional nicknames are very useful. They help tourists and other outsiders, they make weather forecasting easier to explain, they’re helpful for Chamber of Commerce types, they promote regional pride, there’s a herrenvolk aspect to it for some people…
Yup, you gotta have ’em. We’d be lost without them. Many people view Cape Cod as her own state (“White Florida” gets used a lot) anyhow, and locals at any tavern in the region will do the same for the South Shore or the South Coast.
The problem is defining the boundaries of those regions. You’d think it would be simple, but it is more complicated once you have to get official and everything.
It’s also something that no one will be setting up a Congressional Inquiry over, so this huge and important aspect of Massachusetts cultural definition falls to a fringe stoner journalist trapped in a beach cottage on a lonely Saturday night. That’s why I get the big bucks, babe!
We may as well use the list of Whats/Wheres at the top as an outline, and dive right into this Ambiguity Pool.

CAPE COD

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Where does Cape Cod end?
The simple answer is “at the Cape Cod Canal.” However, as any student of history or politics will tell you, the simple answer is usually incorrect. Life isn’t simple, and neither are the answers to life’s difficulties.
Ending White Florida at the Canal shaves this strange Sagamore Beach/Bournedale/Buzzards Bay town (nicknames proposed for this pseudo-town include “Gridlock”) out of Bourne and Sandwich, and shaves 5% or so off of Barnstable County’s population.
Another easy answer involves “Cape Cod is Barnstable County,” an answer that gives Bournedale and friends back to their current towns. It also gives Cape Cod a mainland presence, used pretty much as a buffer zone, the same way that the Soviet Union used places like Latvia and Estonia.
The Canal is the sticking point in this discussion, but this problem pre-dates it. Prior to the Canal, you’d still get different answers to the boundary questions.
Some people back in the day favored a line running roughly from where Wareham Crossing is now to the ponds area of Plymouth and everything south and east. Some river in Wareham was the western boundary, and the resort areas of Plymouth fit the bill as well.
Wareham is a special case, and gets her own section later in this article.
Others, including the guys who planned the present canal, favored a Manomet River boundary. Defining the boundaries of Cape Cod was very far from the top of their motivations, and may never have come up. Pre-dollar George Washington was called in to take a crack at the Canal, and he favored the Manomet River approach.
On the other hand, some Canal dreamers would have cut it from New Bedford up the Taunton River into the ponds area of the interior and out through the North River, which would have cut off the South Shore at the knees and put places like Monponsett and Middleboro squarely in the Cape Cod equation.
I have read at least one 1860s book called Cape Cod Folks which details the life of a Cedarville (Plymouth) schoolmarm.
Map-minded people try to make Cape Cod the whole Cape Cod Bay basin, a solution that would include Plymouth and stretch Cape Cod up to about Duxbury. I have no idea how far inland this designation would touch.
Shoot, I know a guy (it was either WXTK’s morning drive host Ed Lambert or Cape Cod TODAY’s founder Walter Brooks) who I’m pretty sure said “The true Cape Cod really begins once you cross the Bass River.”
In the end, I’m quite certain that the boundary question may never be answered, unless the solution is imposed upon us by a strongman.

SOUTH SHORE

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Defining the South Shore is more difficult than anything Cape Cod is dealing with. However, it falls down to one sticking point:
Can landlocked Hanover or even Brockton be considered part of anything with “Shore” in the title?
Even Wikipedia can’t make up her mind about this, and offers several different definitions.

 

They are:

Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth, Hull, Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury, Plymouth

or

Hull, Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate, Norwell, Hanover, Marshfield, Duxbury, Kingston, Pembroke , Plymouth

or

Braintree, Holbrook, Weymouth, Hull, Hingham, Cohasset, Norwell, Rockland, Hanover, Pemboke, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury

These definitions leave out shoulda-beens like Plympton, Carver, Halifax, Bridgewater, Brockton,Whitman, Abington, Hanson and Middleboro.

Dammmmmmmmmmmmmmmn, that’s a lot of wiggle room! Where do we start?

Please note that Plymouth itself is a pretty huge town, not that much smaller than Rhode Island. There are those who feel that Plymouth should be chopped up some, in which case the South Shore question only gets more complicated.

I believe that the interior of Plymouth County needs their own identity, or at least their own nickname. We’ll get to that in a few.

I favor the must-touch-water definition of the South Shore, myself… but I’m a Duxbury kid at heart. I’d start the South Shore at Quincy and run it into Plymouth. I’d include Sagamore Beach if that secede-from-Cape Cod thing ever gets momentum.

My definition runs almost town-to-town with some definitions of the Irish Riviera, although I would limit the IR to coastal villages within certain towns.

SOUTH COAST

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The South Coast is a media creation, with the term being coined by weatherman Todd Gross (who also coined the “Perfect Storm” term), perhaps via an on-air ad-lib. The South Shore- which, once you look at a map, is really sort of an East Shore anyhow- was too busy excluding Pembroke to sue for gimmick piracy.

It was then seized upon by the local business community, who were eager to shed the “Greater New Bedford” moniker that implied run-down mill towns, the permastink of whale oil and the possibility of getting stabbed.

Several area newspapers cozied up to the term as well, and now it’s like there never wasn’t (double negative, sorry) a South Coast.

If I ever need a nickname and a Mafia boss or a sportswriter isn’t handy, I’m going to Todd Gross… which is ironic, because someone named “Gross” sort of lost the nickname lottery when his Momma smiled back at his Daddy back in the day.

However, the local business community, Todd Gross and the rest of the media didn’t give us a precise definition of “South Coast.”

Wikipedia gives us a list of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Fall River, Freetown, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Rochester, Somerset, Wareham and Westport.

They also try to include Tiverton and Little Compton, which are in Rhode Island. That sh*t just ain’t happenin’, G… at least not on my watch. I’d accept them only by conquest.
They exclude Seekonk, Swansea, and anything inland. We’ll get to this next.

 

INLAND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS

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Here’s where we get to make up a nickname. I’ve heard “the Marginal Interior” used, but I get a date now and then with a lovely girl from Taunton… and a man with my face can’t afford to screw that up over a nickname joke.

We’re essentially talking inland Bristol and Plymouth Counties. If you were big on keeping Whitman out of the South Shore or Rehoboth out of the South Coast, this is where you pay the piper.

This would be a Supercounty, a mini Megalopolis (Mini-opolis is taken, at least phonetically, by Minnesota). Unless we decide to divide it, it would have about 25-30 towns in it. If you included non-coastal Plymouth, it would be about as large as Rhode Island. It would be centered on a Brockton/Bridgewater/Taunton corridor, but it would extend from Abington to Carver to Swansea to the Attleboros.

Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman invented the “Bridgewater Triangle” term to describe the same general area for paranormal reasons, and that is as good as anything I have. Unfortunately, the area we’re working with is sort of a square, perhaps even a trapezoid or UFC-style octagon.

Coleman did center his triangle on the Hockomock Swamp, and “Hockomock” would be a good name for the area. “Landlockistan” is catchy, “Swampy” isn’t.

The interior may have to be broken up into smaller subsets, a la “Greater Taunton” and “Greater Brockton.” However, you’d look mighty silly in a rural Plympton cornfield claiming Greater Brockton status.

The girl from Taunton who I favor considers the Silver City to be South Coast.

Just use Hockomock. It’ll do until someone thinks of something better.

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Regions aside, there are several towns who present an argument in and of themselves. They occupy spots on the border, or they used to be in one region before someone cut a Canal or drew up a state line.

Wareham/Onset
The ‘Ham is an enigma wrapped in a riddle and hidden in the lines of the map. Is she Cape Cod? Is she South Shore, like other coastlines in Plymouth County? Is she South Coast, seeing as she is on the south coast and all?

Wareham is officially The Gateway To Cape Cod, which doesn’t clear up much. To make it worse, they put the lighthouses with the Gateway sign far from their border with Barnstable County. Half of the locals refuse the Cape Cod designation, but they also have a Cape Cod Baseball League team.

They were pretty much 100% Cape Cod up until the Canal was cut, and remember that the South Coast nickname has only been floating around since 1990 or so.

Wikipedia puts Wareham in the South Coast, and I’d do the same…but I consider Onset to be out of that mix for some reason in my gut. My gut is finicky, which leads to our next entry…

Buzzards Bay

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We’re talking the village of Buzzards Bay, not the body of water or the brewery.

This is another one that was a no-brainer before the Canal was dug. Bourne has unquestioned Cape Cod status. Most of Bourne is on any definition of Cape Cod.

However, I live in a part of Buzzards Bay where I could scream and be heard in Wareham and Plymouth, but not in Pocasset, Cataumet, Monument Beach, or anything else over the bridge.

My vote counts in Barnstable County, my bank is in Plymouth County and my ex as well as my current are from Bristol County.

We look like South Coast on a map, even before the Canal was dug. George Washington had us off-Cape, and his word trumps mine.

Every huge traffic jam inspires talk of Secession among some residents of mainland Bourne. I do that talk sometimes, but I am never sure where we’d end up if we left Barnstable County and Bourne.

Plymouth is too big as it is to add us, and I think a new Buzzards Bay/Bournedale/Sagamore Beach town would be more likely to try to steal Onset by conquest than beg for admittance into Wareham.

Sagamore/Scusset Beach

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Sagamore Beach and Scusset Beach would most likely be considered the bottom of the South Shore in this new and not-happening secession scenario. I don’t know why they aren’t thought of as South Shore right now, to be honest.

This new Sagamore could expand west and incorporate Bournedale, which would have to be renamed into Sagamore Forest or some such thing. Any new town would and perhaps should seize Sagamore as a name.

Cape Cod can name their remaining part of Sagamore something else, maybe North Forestdale or something. Make it North Bourne or West Sandwich. A town with “Sandwich Police” written on their black-n-whites isn’t worrying too much about how things sound, anyhow.

Rhodey

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Like I said before, Tiverton and Little Compton are Rhode Island, and enter the South Coast only by conquest.

I’d rename both Tiverton and Little Compton if they became part of Massachusetts. I might keep Little Compton, but I’d add (Straight Outta) into the town name… making them the only town name to my knowledge with parentheses or however you spell that, as well as the only town named by Ice Cube.

Tiverton would probably just join up with (Straight Outta) Little Compton, and mapmakers would need the extra space for the town name’s many letters anyhow. Tiverton would be a good village name.

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