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Dedicated to Henry Beston's literary classic, The Outermost House, and the spirit of life on the Great Outer Beach of Cape Cod

Richardsons led Beston to the Outer Beach

By Don Wilding

When it comes to fine writing on the outer beach of Eastham, there are two works that immediately come to mind -- "The Outermost House" by Henry Beston, and "The House on Nauset Marsh" by Wyman Richardson.

Both books eloquently describe the surroundings of Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Marsh. "The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Outer Beach of Cape Cod" was published in 1928, and is now considered a literary classic. "The House on Nauset Marsh" followed in 1947.

Yet, it was the Richardson family that guided Beston to the outer beach in the first place, according to Beston's nieces, Joan Schwab and Marie Sheahan.

In 1908, Dr. Wyman Richardson, the father of the "Nauset Marsh" author, was working at a hospital in Boston. One of his co-workers was Dr. George Sheahan of Quincy, the older brother of Henry Beston Sheahan. (the Sheahan surname was later dropped for literary purposes). At the time, young Henry, a student at Harvard, was 19 years old. Dr. Sheahan was his legal guardian.

Dr. Richardson invited Dr. Sheahan to spend some time on the Cape, and the Quincy surgeon took his younger brother with him to the Richardsons' house in Eastham. The outer beach made a big impact on the young college student, who often wrote of it in letters to friends during World War I.

Henry Sheahan wrote two books about World War I under his given name, but changed his name to Beston in the 1920s, when he wrote several books of fairy tales. In the early 20s, he visited the Cape to write a magazine article about the Coast Guard, staying at Highland Light in Truro, where George and Mary Smith of Eastham were the lightkeepers. In 1924, he rented a cottage from Francis Sullivan near the Salt Pond, then sought out Eastham carpenter Harvey Moore to build his famous house on the outer beach in 1925. After staying there, off and on, for two and a half years, he returned to his hometown of Quincy and completed the manuscript to "The Outermost House."

Nineteen years later, another manuscript about Eastham, "The House on Nauset Marsh," was completed by Dr. Wyman Richardson, the Newton physician and son of the man who first introduced the beach to Beston many years earlier. Richardson also made a geographical reference to "Outermost House" in the pages of his book.

Dr. Richardson wrote much of his book during late nights while suffering from intense pain due to cancer. While it turned out that Beston was not impressed with "The House on Nauset Marsh," the impact of both books has been felt now for many decades.


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