Despite its remoteness, Monomoy was home to its own community as early as 1710. A tavern for sailors was opened up in the location of today's Hospital Pond, known then as Wreck Cove.
During the early 19th century, a deep natural harbor at Monomoy's inner shore known as the Powder Hole attracted a sizeable fishing settlement. In its prime, Whitewash Village housed about 200 residents, a tavern inn called Monomoit House, and Public School #13, which boasted 16 students at one time. Cod and mackerel brought in to the Monomoy port were dried and packed for markets in Boston and New York City. Lobsters were also plentiful, providing both food and income for the villagers, who peddled them to mainlanders at about two cents apiece.
The village was abandoned after its harbor was washed away by a hurricane around 1860. It remained uninhabited until 1863 when it was reconstructed and reinhabited until 1876.
A storm in the spring of 1958 carved a wide, shallow channel between Morris Island and Monomoy, separating it from the mainland. The Blizzard of 1978 further divided the island into North Monomoy and South Monomoy. A storm during the winter of 2006-2007 once again reconnected South Monomoy to the mainland, although North Monomoy remains an island. The island was designated a Federal Wildlife Refuge in 1970, serving as an important stop on the migratory routes of 285 species of birds. Since gaining federal protection in 1972, gray seals have become a common sight on Monomoy and nearby Chatham's South Beach island.
Monomoy has no human residents, no electricity, and no paved roads. The only extant reminder of Monomoy's habitation is the Monomoy Point Light, which guided ships from 1828 to 1923. The wooden lightkeeper's quarters, the cast iron light tower, and the brick generator house are alone on the desolate point of the South Island.
- "Surging shark activity puts Cape Cod in the jaws of a craze". Providence Journal. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- Ballou, G.H. (February 1864). "Monomoy". Harper's New Monthly Magazine. 28 (165): 305–11. Retrieved February 3, 2017 – via harpers.org. (Subscription required (help)).