Barnstable, a seaport township and the county-seat of the county of the same name, in Massachusetts, U.S.A. Pop. (1900) 4364, of whom 391 were foreign-born; (1910, U.S. census) 4676. Barnstable is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway. It is situated between Cape Cod Bay on the N. and Nantucket Sound on the S., extending across Cape Cod. The soil of the township, unlike that of other parts of the county, is well adapted to agriculture, and the principal industry is the growing of vegetables and the supplying of milk and poultry for its several villages, nearly all of which are summer resorts. At Hyannis is a state normal school (1897; co-educational). Cranberries are raised in large quantities, and there are oyster and other shell fisheries. In the 17th century the mackerel and whale fisheries were the basis of economic life; the latter gave way later to the cod and other fisheries, but the fishing industry is now relatively unimportant. Much of the county is a region of sands, salt-marshes, beach-grass and scattered woods. From 1865 to 1895 the county diminished 20.1% in population.
Barnstable was settled and incorporated in 1639 (county created 1685), and includes among its natives James Otis and Lemuel Shaw.
See F. Freeman, The History of Cape Cod: the Annals of Barnstable County (2 vols., Boston, 1858, 1862; and other impressions 1860 to 1869).