Orleans is the only town on Cape Cod to have a French name. Formally the southernred  
antiqBrewster Gr Parish of Eastham, which was settled in 1644, Orleans became incorporated in 1797 after seeking independence since 1717. The Nauset Indians were the native people of the area. The relationship between the settlers and native Americans was peaceful and co-operative. The present Nauset Heights area was the farming site of the Indians.
Sea Captains and ordinary seamen of Orleans manned the merchant and whaling vessels during the age of sail.The sea has influenced the economy of Orleans from the beginning to the present.
Salt works were located on the bay and Town cove shores. There were many domestic needs for salt and the fishing fleet's requirements were large for fish preservation.
Fish weirs and small boat hand lining as well as coastal whaling thrived in the early years. Today there is a large charter boat sports fishing fleet located in Rock Harbor
, which has been the Orleans center of maritime commerce
The Indians initially taught the settlers about shell fishing.
Packet boats were the mode of transportation of goods and people until the arrival of the railroad in 1865, which opened up other avenues of commerce such as pants manufacturing. The railroad spawned early tourism. The many needs of the town supplied by the railroad were taken over by cars and trucks.
Shipwrecks were a common occurrence until the Cape Cod Canal was built. The salvage of shipwrecks and their cargoes became part of the economic structure, some actually speak of "mooncussing" standing out in low waters with laterns to lure unsupecting boats in low water and floundering,after which they looted the boats cargo.
Orleans is no stranger to enemy attack. The war of 1812 created great hardship on the Cape as Britain controlled and blockaded the towns of Cape Cod. An attack on Rock Harbor in December 1814 by the British Marines from H.M.S. Newcastle was swiftly repelled by the local militia.
Orleans has the distinction of being the only U.S. site of attack by the Germans in WWI. A German U-boat fired upon the tug Perth Amboy and four barges in the Nauset area in 1918.
The once heavily forested area became decimated fueling creation of lumber for housing, heating needs and the ship building requirements of both the English King and the colonists. Commercial agricultural products of the 1920's and 1930's were asparagus and cranberry harvesting. supportive of land conservation. The charm and beauty of the town has created a large retirement population.
rewster. in 1837 there were 60 salt works on the beaches. Small windmills pumped water into a succession of large vats.

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