They were lukewarm about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They opposed the War of 1812. And in presidential elections they voted against their neighbor, John Kennedy, and their governor, Michael Dukakis.
The people of this Cape Cod community have never gone with the flow and they show no signs of changing as they celebrate Barnstable's 350th anniversary this year."I hate to use the cliche Yankee independence, but I suspect there is an aspect of that," said Patricia Duffy, who has been helping compile a lengthy history of the town for use in the school curriculum. "We are cautious. We don't jump on any bandwagons."
Barnstable lives in the shadow of its neighbors Hyannis and Hyannisport, made famous by the Kennedy clan.
But Hyannis and Hyannisport are not officially incorporated as towns; they are merely two of seven villages in the town of Barnstable, which occupies the midsection of the cape.
Barnstable is the principal municipality of Barnstable County, which encompasses all of Cape Cod. It's the state's third largest community geographically and has a year-round population of about 35,000 that doubles during the summer.
But few outside New England know its name, although residents hope to change that with a 12-month celebration that promises much variety, if little peace and quiet.
Festivities include a summer rowing regatta, a colonial costume day, a publishing party for the Cape Cod Almanac and a Boston Pops concert on the Hyannis town green.
The big celebration comes in early September, the anniversary month, and includes a visit by a delegation from Barnstable's namesake, Barnstable, England.
The events the town will commemorate began in September 1639, when Barnstable was incorporated under a land grant from the Ply-mouth Colony.
The town history describes reaction to the American Revolution as mixed, with wealthy Tories quarreling with patriots over British domination. John Crocker, whose ancestors were among the town's first 45 inhabitants, puts it in physical terms: "In the Crocker Tavern (still standing) there is a gouge out of one of the beams where a couple of fellows had a sword fight over the issue."
The town neither endorsed nor opposed the Declaration of Independence. A town meeting initially voted against the U.S. Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights.