Wellfleet is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States, and is located halfway between the "tip" and "elbow" of Cape Cod. The town had a population of 2,750 at the 2010 census, which swells nearly sixfold during the summer. A total of 70% of the town's land area is in protection, and nearly half of it is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Wellfleet is famous for its eponymous oysters, which are celebrated in the annual October Wellfleet OysterFest.
Wellfleet was encountered by Europeans as early as 1606, when the French explorer Samuel de Champlain explored and named it "Port Aux Huitres" (Oyster Port) for the bountiful oyster population resident to the area. Originally settled in the 1650s by the Europeans as Billingsgate (after the famous fish market in East London), Wellfleet was part of neighboring Eastham until 1763, achieving town status after nearly 30 years of petitioning. The name "Wellfleet" is disputed; some argue that it comes from "Whale Fleet", after the burgeoning whaling industry in the town, while some say it comes from a brand of oyster popular in England at the time, in order to help sales.
Wellfleet's oyster beds drove the early economy, as did whaling and other fishing endeavors. The town was home to 30 whaling ships at the time of the American Revolution. However, because of the decline of whaling and the mackerel catch in the late 19th century, the fleet declined, being completely free of schooners by 1900. The oyster fleet continues to this day, however, harvesting many other types of shellfish as well.
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