Manuel N. Lopes was born on Christmas Day of 1892 in Olhao, Portugal. A little more than 25 years later, on 18 July 1918, he was killed in the Battle of Château-Thierry, southwest of Soissons, France — fighting for the United States of America. In between, he had come of age in Provincetown, the son of Manuel Peter Lopes (d 1919) and Mary Theresa (Souza) Lopes (±1861-1946) and the brother of Mary J. Salvador, Mary C. Macara and Mary S. Santos. The younger Manuel was a fish dealer as a civilian. As a soldier, he was honored posthumously for “gallantry in action and especially meritorious services.” And he and four other Provincetown men who had died in the Great War were also honored in 1938 by having squares named after them.
When saying “Lopes Square,” visitors tempted to impute a romance-language pronunciation — lō-pĕz — ought to know that just plain lōps will do.
The two most significant physical features of Lopes Square have nothing to do with Sergeant Lopes or World War I. One is the lobster pot tree that the artist Julian Popko and his family install every Christmas season. Within a decade it has become one of the town’s favorite annual traditions.
The other feature — far more permanent — is the 10½-foot-long anchor that sits in the center island. Made in 1801 and — perhaps — slipped off in a storm, the anchor and its cable became entangled with the nets of the dragger Cap’n Bill around the Pollock Rip off Chatham in September 1959. It was brought back to shore and hauled off the boat by winch, though the salvagers Bob Souza and James Enos had to contend with the fact that when the anchor was first placed on the back of their truck, its great weight lifted the front of the vehicle off the ground.
A week later, Capt. George Adams and his crew — Wallace Adams, Francis Rego, Lawrence Greeley and John Souza — told the Board of Selectmen that they “are willing to give up their shares in the anchor’s potential purchase value in order to present it to the town,” the New Beacon reported. (“Generous Offer to Present Old Anchor to Town Made by Skipper and Crew of Dragger Cap’n Bill,” New Beacon, 9 September 1959.) The selectmen agreed that this was a wonderful idea, “reflecting the past history of Provincetown as a significant whaling seaport and signifying its present position as home of one of the largest commercial fishing fleets on the Atlantic coast.”
Though the anchor’s provenance was anyone’s guess, Robert F. White, assistant curator at Mystic Seaport took an educated guess in early 1960. To begin with, he gently disputed the two-ton estimate proferred by the town, suggesting that an anchor with a shank length of 10½ feet would more likely be an 11 hundredweight (cwt) anchor, or 1,230 pounds, used in the early 19th century. An 11-cwt anchor, he said, might have been used as a kedge anchor, serving an ancillary steadying function on a very large vessel; a stream anchor, essentially a spare, on a medium tonnage vessel; or a bower anchor on a small vessel — that’s the principal anchor carried at the bow. If it were a bower anchor, White continued, it would likely have been used on a vessel of about 200 to 250 tons; suggesting in turn a brig or a bark 90 to 100 feet in length. To put that in perspective, the schooner Hindu is 75 feet long. The Cap’n Bill itself kept fishing for another 19 years until she was lost at sea with four men aboard. ¶ Updated 2013-02-23
Capt. Adams was married to my mother’s sister, Victoria Silva Adams. The anchor means a lot to what is left of our family.