HARWICH – History may soon rise to new heights here, literally if not figuratively, the heights being the top of one of the town’s most historic buildings with the installation of a true replica of a treasured colonial antique weathervane.
The building is the First Congregational Church in Harwich Center whose graceful, slender spire rises some 130 feet skyward, a beacon at the crossroads.
The history concerns this bannerette style handcrafted weathervane that graced the modest steeple of Harwich’s third meeting house from 1832 until 1854.
Bannerette weathervanes trace their roots to Medieval England where brave knights returning victoriously from war were granted the right to fly a banner high above their castle. This proud heraldic design is typical of the wandering weathervane of Harwich’s third meeting house.
During remodeling of the meeting house in 1854 the weathervane, 50” long and weighing some 30 lbs. was removed and auctioned for reasons unknown. The weathervane never traveled far from its true home over the intervening years until in 1982 it was returned to the First Congregational Church, which in early times also served as the Town of Harwich meetinghouse.
In 1854 Obed Brooks Jr., a local dignitary and church member, obtained the weathervane at that auction for $3.25. Mr. Brooks put the vane on his barn where it remained undisturbed for ninety years. Over those 90 years the barn and vane passed thru the hands of Francis Larkin, Alfred Paine, Howard Doane and eventually in 1972 Harold Moye, a local realtor.
In the meantime, the weathervane had come to the attention of Milton Cahoon, Vice President of the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, and he wrote Mr. Moye saying that he believed that the vane might possibly have belonged to First Church. With convincing evidence in hand the wandering weathervane was returned to its original home.
Rather than remount it on the steeple, it was decided to preserve this wandering and treasured piece of history and place it on display. Several years later a replacement weathervane was installed, which met its demise falling from the steeple in a winter storm this year.
Today we proudly install a true and virtually identical bannerette replica of the original “wandering weathervane”. Beautifully crafted by metal smith Everett Herrick of Holland, MA and installed by Frank Allard, steeplejack of Dennis, it again graces the steeple of First Church in Harwich Center for all to admire and check the true direction of the winds of Cape Cod.
Attribution: to Charles R. Koehler news article circa 1982