ACCC’s College-wide Book Project
ACCC’s College-wide Book Project:
The Basics
Here at Atlantic Cape Community College, we believe that
the experience of our community is a huge part of our
students’ education. To foster the community spirit, ACCC
chooses one book each year for its students, faculty, and
staff to read in collaboration. The book is just not any book,
however. It must meet certain criteria:
 contain about 250 pages (or close to this number)
 have multiple themes for application in many courses
 be accessible to students at all levels
This “College-wide Book” isn’t easy
to choose, and we need your help!
As you read, keep note of any book you think may
make a great college-wide book! (Don’t forget the
three stipulations of the previous slide…)
Watch the Communicator for announcements about
next year’s book selection and this year’s events!
Meet this year’s College-wide Book,
The Last Days of Dogtown
by Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent.
“Set on the high ground at the heart of Cape Ann, the
village of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans,
spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and
‘witches.’ Among the inhabitants of this hamlet are
Black Ruth, who dresses as a man and works as a
stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam
whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her
brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable
childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius
Finson, a freed slave. At the center of it all is Judy
Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely,
who nonetheless builds a life for herself against all
imaginable odds…” (Diamant’s back cover)
The Last Days of Dogtown
Reading Context
A novel by
Anita Diamant
Does Dogtown really exist?
Does Dogtown really exist? (page 2)
“Dogtown is known for its woods and for its
boulders and rock formations left behind when the
last glaciers melted. Because of the availability of
water, in 1642, the Commons Settlement was
located here and was for a century the most
prosperous part of Gloucester”.
Does Dogtown really exist? (page 3)
“A change in economic conditions after 1750 brought about the
decline of the Commons Settlement and the onset of Dogtown.
Deforestation, an absence of pirates, and the victory over the
British in the Revolutionary War brought the Commons
Settlement’s more successful families to the harbor. Their
properties were rented, often to the less well-to-do, and
sometimes to widows of Revolutionary War soldiers, whose use
of dogs for protection and companionship helped coin the name
Does Dogtown really exist? (page 4)
“Until 1830, when the last resident of Dogtown, Black
Neil, was taken to the poorhouse, the area spiraled
downward into a depression. It was during this era
that many of the colorful characters that have come to
be associated with Dogtown made their impressions on
Gloucester history and lore”.
Dogtown Today
“The modern twentieth century history of
Dogtown is the story of its becoming a natural
resource for Gloucester. Naturalist, historian, and
philanthropist Roger Babson (1875-1967) is the
man most responsible for this”.
Contrasting Characters
“After the Revolution, when the Commons
Settlement became known as Dogtown, two
among many legendary figures emerged: Judith
Rhines and Tammy Younger, “witches” behaving
badly during the depressed decades of Dogtown
in the 1800’s”.
19th Century Life
The Road to Dogtown…
Some important themes:
Canine behavior
Homeopathic medicine
Racial tension
ACCC’s Website for
The Last Days of Dogtown
(Courtesy of Kathy Fritz):
This all sounds great, but how
do I incorporate The Last Days
of Dogtown into my class?
That’s a good question!
Here are some suggestions for using the
College-wide Book in your class.
Allied Health, Nursing, and Physical
Create the nutrition label for Easter Carter’s
potato and cabbage stew; Oliver’s cold biscuit
with goose fat spread; and Cornelius’ salted,
fried ducks.
Research the best types of physical labor (logsplitting, stone masonry, etc) for creating lean
muscle mass.
Compare and contrast the eating habits of the
Commons Settlement inhabitants with the
eating habits of your family.
Write a report on the best ways to care for a
toothache (Tammy), a hangover (Stanwood),
or syphillis AKA “French pox” (Stanwood).
Arts and Humanities
Craft a scene from the novel in clay (or with paint,
charcoals, pencils, etc. on canvas or paper).
Draw your depiction of one of the characters from
the book. Research the clothing so that your
character fits into his/her time period.
Write an article to appear in The New York Times
Book Review on the book.
Consider the racial tensions in the book; how are
they consistent or inconsistent with historical
testimonies of the time?
Research witchcraft—its main tenets, believers,
changing representations through time.
Create a one-act play based on one of the
characters of the book. Have the character reflect
on his time in Dogtown.
Create a business plan for an item or idea you think
would have found success in Dogtown in the early
Research the legality of prostitution from the 1800s to
the present in the US. How have the laws changed?
How have the penalties for breaking the laws
Look into the incomes of poverty-stricken communities
that border wealthy communities. What trends are
there? Consider the poor communities that manage:
how do they survive?
Information Systems
Create a website for one of the book’s characters. What
would he/she be selling? Add links to items he/she
would like the viewers to see and/or buy.
Create a user’s manual for Dogtown’s residents on
modern computers. Explain the computer and its
purposes. Teach the residents, in layman’s terms, how
to surf the web for some items they might be interested
in reading about (assume they can read!).
Craft your own College-wide Book website for the novel.
Show your visitors what you think is important in the
Culinary Arts
Rewrite Cornelius’ recipe for fried ducks. Add your
own flourishes that would be consistent with New
England fare.
Create a going away cake for Cornelius Finch,
Dogtown’s last resident. Use ingredients that would be
easy to find in or around the Commons Settlement of
the 1800s, and considering Cornelius’ personality,
decorate the cake in a way Cornelius might have liked.
Create the menu for a peasants’ fare restaurant that
focused on simple, tasty dishes at affordable costs.
Consider the layout and design of your menu as much
as your menu’s items.
Write a character analysis of one of the many colorful
characters in the novel.
Have the class work together to create its own Cliff Notes
for the text, summarizing, interpreting, and providing
context for readers of the novel.
Show how well you know your stuff: place a character from
our textbook into Dogtown. What would he/she do there?
With whom would he/she be friends?
Write an essay on the most important theme in the book.
How was this theme integral to Diamant’s telling of the
Research the treatment of U.S. Africans during the
Antebellum years. Write a report on this treatment. Then,
write a fictional account of either Cornelius or Black Ruth
that captures the character’s experience in Dogtown.
English as a Second Language
and Modern Languages
In whichever language is being studied:
 Write a letter to Anita Diamant explaining what her book
taught you about life in the early 1800s.
 Prepare a speech on why Gloucester should or should not
have helped fund Dogtown so that, due to its increasing
and debilitating poverty levels, it would not have
 Write a summary of your favorite chapter; then, explain
why this chapter stands out to you.
 Listen to instrumental music that would be popular in New
England in the early 1800s. Write the lyrics to one song
you like.
Math and Science
Research Whale’s Jaw and what led to its partial collapse.
Look into homeopathic medicine and its use through
time. Which medicines seem the most common and
Study the effects of malnutrition on the poor of the early
1800s and compare/contrast with the poor of today.
Find out what percentage of sunlight the Commons
Settlement would have received in the early 1800s, and
write a report that calculates how that percentage has
changed since then.
Create a formula that illustrates the creation of a pack of
dogs (include likely litter numbers and deaths per year).
Social Science
Research other ghost towns (many in NJ) and what
led to their extinction.
Read about the landscape of the Commons
Settlement and explain how the story would be
different if set in another part of the country. Pick
one particular area of the country that you don’t
know well.
Create an educational field-trip for grammar school
students to visit a local ghost-town.
Study the effects of poverty on self-esteem, social
skills, and health.
Look into alcoholism and other addictions that are
commonplace in poor communities.
The road to Dogtown
•Join us at the Country Living Fair on Oct. 21st.
•Join us for other events to come…
•All events will be announced in the
•Consider using the novel in your Spring courses.
•Please contact us by October 11th if you are
•We’ll need your course number, section
number, and estimated enrollment.

The Last Days of Dogtown Reading Context