By Jim Gould
LIME KILNS (south side of Prince Cove Road): The first industry on Cape Cod, and one of the first in America, was the production of lime. Winter heat and cooking depended on fireplaces made of logs, which were able to catch fire easily. Stone fireplaces would be able to stand only if cemented with lime; however, there were no natural sources of lime in Massachusetts. Huge shell middens around Oyster River offered a source of lime.
The historian, Amos Otis, recorded that Roger Goodspeed of Mystic had lots of oysters nearby: "For many years after the settlement of the town, all the lime used for building purposes was manufactured in the vicinity of Sep-nis-set from the shells of oysters. Dry wood cut into small pieces was procured, and a kiln built of alternate layers of shells and wood, the whole was covered with turf, excepting a small opening at the top and another at the bottom where a fire was set, and the shells converted by the heat into quick-lime, of a superior quality." (Otis, Genealogical Notes, p. 465).
We do not know the exact locations of such kilns, which probably varied. About a mile south of Prince Cove, however, is a place called by local tradition "Old Chalky" (Charlotte B. Ryder to author). Quite distinct from the surrounding earth of sand and loam is a large area of fine white lime. Within the memory of current residents like Vivian Cushing, there were huge mounds of oyster shells around Prince Cove. We conclude that lime was burned nearby.