Digest>Archives> January 2002

The Three Sisters

By Don Sparrow


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The Three Sisters of Nauset Lighthouses on Cape ...

The picture showed three girls in their 20s, arms linked, side by side, looking directly into the camera with an air of confident superiority. I was following up on a friend’s tip that an antiques store in Brewster had a Daguerreotype (tintype) for sale. The storeowners claimed that the picture showed the three Hatch sisters and that the Three Sisters Lighthouse in Eastham had been named after the girls. My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Elvira Hatch. I bought the picture.

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The three Hatch sisters, Sarah, Laura, and Abbie. ...

On careful inspection I decided that the girls couldn’t be called beautiful - comely, fair, pleasant to look at would be a better description. The print has been tinted to give their cheeks a slight blush. All three were completely at ease with a trace of a smile and they looked capable of handling any situation, quietly and competently. Were they related to me and were they the source of the Three Sister’s Lighthouse name? I had to know.

The approximate time the picture was taken was easy to establish. The tintype photograph process was used for only a short time - 1840-60. Elvira Hatch was born in 1822 and so could have been a contemporary of Sarah, Laura and Abbie Hatch.

But were they related, and how? I called on Eastham resident Rachel Hatch, wife of Freeman Hatch III, whose father Freeman II helped oil the first roads in Eastham. A genealogy buff, she had the answers. Elvira and the three girls shared a common grandfather, Henry Y. Hatch, and so were first cousins.

And I’m pleased that I also am related, however remotely, to the three girls. Those Hatch genes have produced some outstanding Eastham people over the years. One of the most notable was Captain Freeman Hatch, a brother of the three. He captained many four-master schooners and still holds the record for the San Francisco-around-the-Horn-Boston voyage in a sailing vessel. His clipper ship, the Northern Cloud, made it in 76 days.

Phil Schwind - author, fisherman and renowned raconteur - was another of the Hatch/Eastham notables. John Ullman, for many years the distinguished managing editor of The Cape Codder and Malcolm Hobb’s right-hand man, has the distinction of being the issue of two Hatch lines. His father, a Hatch descendant, was married to Miss Edna Hatch. When I observed that this certainly explained a lot of things, he only chuckled and commented, “Fools and geniuses.”

The second part of my quest, the lighthouse connection, has been more difficult. None of my Eastham sources could confirm the story and none of the history books on Eastham helped. I heard that the Three Sisters’ log had been given to a local doctor and his heirs might be in Miami. This too has proven to be a dry well. I was on the point of ascribing the story to an antiques dealer’s creative imagination when I chanced upon a 1853 deed with the opening words, “I, Henry Y. Hatch, Light Keeper of Eastham...”

“Eureka, the loop has been closed,” I thought. Further research has been fruitless. Bill Quinn Orleans’ noted historian and lighthouse maven has not been able to corroborate the story. However, until information to the contrary is found, in my book the Three Sisters were named after the indomitable three - Sarah, Laura and Abbie.

Don Sparrow is an Eastham, Massachusetts native and author of “Growing Up on Cape Cod.” He is writing a series of articles about early times in Eastham during the 350th Anniversary.

This story appeared in the January 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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