The Pilgrims had considered making their homes here in the Nauset territory, since visiting in November, 1620.
Some Pilgrims were not pleased with the quality of the soil in the Plymouth area and they looked to Nauset with its ample supplies.
In 1643 the first 49 settlers began with the families of Thomas Prence, Edward Bangs, John Smalley, John Doane, Nicholas Snow, Richard Higgins and Josias Cook.
Nauset became a township, town officers were elected, and in 1651 the court decreed, "that the town of Nauset be henceforth called and known as Eastham." The entire territory bore this name until Wellfleet was started in 1763 and Orleans in 1797.
The territory of the present town is six miles in length by three in width, has Wellfleet on the north, the ocean on the east, Orleans on the south and Cape Cod Bay on the west. Its surface as a whole is a continuous plain, with rolling hills and valleys and the seashore on the east featuring high sand bluffs.
Crops of wheat, corn and other grains were produced and exported. The sandy tract between Great Pond and Town Cove, now planted with pines, was once fertile farming land.
Several fresh-water ponds formed long ago by melting glaciers can be found in the rich soil. The largest of these, Great Pond, encompasses 112 acres; Long Pond to the east covers 39 acres; Meeting House Pond, north of the center, has 17; and Herring Pond, south of Great Pond, contains 45 acres. Many smaller ponds bring the total to more than 225 acres with one salt pond.
In 1720 the County Road was laid out from Harwich to Truro, with many other following.
In 1765 the bounds between Eastham and Wellfleet were marked. When Orleans was incorporated the population of Eastham was reduced to 840 but the town continued to grow as salt was manufactured and a canal was constructed from Great Meadow River to Herring Pond. However, an embargo reduced the town population in 1809 to 782.
During the war of 1812 Eastham residents found it difficult to reach Boston by boat so they began to move goods along the coast of Sandwich, across Buzzards Bay and along the south shore to New York where they could exchange dried fish for flour and other necessities.