Cape Cod has many families with a long lineage. One of these, the Small family of Truro, has a history that entwines itself with the history of the Cape. In 1645, more than 50 years before Truro was even incorporated, the Small family, then Smalley, purchased 55 acres high on the bluffs above the Atlantic Ocean. Originating from Bideford in the UK, the Smalley family’s original deeds were issued in British Pounds. The family has been attached to the land and Cape Cod ever since.
For generations the family worked land and sea. In 1796, 10 of the 55 acres were acquired for $110 from the Small’s to build Highland Light, and Isaac Small became the first keeper of the lighthouse. Keeper Small served from 1797 until 1812. His son James also became keeper, moving his young family onto the property, and then a third generation of the Small family took over the watch. This would be Isaac M. Small, born in 1844, who worked as the marine reporting agent at the Highland Light House for more than 60 years. As his time in the lighthouse waned, Isaac notes “now on the threshold of 1928, I am still watching the ships. My duties begin as soon as it is light enough to distinguish the rig of a vessel two miles distant from the land, and my day’s work is finished when the sun sinks below the western horizon.”
The Small’s also ran a boarding house for summer visitors on the property, which is now the Highland House Museum. Isaac grew so accustom to answering questions about Cape Cod and the seashore that he wrote three books, dedicated to the traveling public. The most interesting of these was titled Shipwrecks on Cape Cod. And has his recollections of shipwrecks along the coast that he witnessed during his 60 years working at the Highland Light House.
Also, around this property history was made. In 1961, President Kennedy signed a bill establishing the Cape Cod National Seashore. The goal, he wrote, was “to preserve the natural and historic values of a portion of Cape Cod for the inspiration and enjoyment of people all over the United States.” This was the first time the federal government had created a national park out of land that was primarily in private hands, including the hands of the Small’s. Their property was suddenly surrounded by the National Seashore Park, and is one of a very few homes that has stayed in private hands, especially in Truro, within a public park.
Through generations of ownership and divesture, the Small’s 55 acres is now 2.6 acres. This perfect parcel, set in the serenity of the Park, next to the Highland Lighthouse, and a short walk to Coast Guard Beach, is now for sale. Compared to the dune shacks of Provincetown, the existing 950 square foot cottage seems substantial and dates back to 1900 containing a stone fireplace built from rocks brought in from Western Massachusetts. Known today as Spion Kop, this property affords you endless possibilities and a place to build a generation’s long story of your own.
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