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The Burning of the Boyden Block

By Kaethe Maguire


The Boyden Block on Main Street circa 1905

Have you ever heard of the Boyden Block in the middle of the village of Sandwich? If you and your family arrived after 1920 you may not have heard of this important building. The burning of this area in 1913 was a huge loss to the town. 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Who was this Boyden and what was in this business that made it so vital to the town? He is not the same family as Jesse Boyden who drew up the plots to form what I have earlier called Sandwich’s first subdivision along Liberty St. on land owned by Deming Jarves and William Fessenden that was initially the Nathan Nye farm. 

Well, for starters, William Boyden, born 1807 in Walpole, was a late comer to Sandwich arriving in 1822, fairly recently by our usual historic standards of key figures in town.

He immediately began a stagecoach route between Plymouth and Sandwich. His coaches were said to be beautiful, his horses perfect for the daily runs. For 26 consecutive years he made these daily trips without a miss. He drove four grey horses.  Once on the way to Plymouth he became snowbound at Cook’s Hill and could go no further. So, he tied the mail to the horses’ backs, placed the four horses in a line and forced his way through. Can‘t you just picture him trudging through snow drifts leading the head horse? The coach that had been pulling this load remained snow bound for 10 days, but he got the mail through!


The former site of the Central Hotel, later known as the Daniel Webster Inn when Louis and Mary Govoni bought it in 1915, was the terminus of this route. The Central House was built from the bones of the old Fessenden Inn, meeting place of the Patriots. From the Central house a new route to Falmouth, Yarmouth and other south side stages began. 


All this success was threatened when the railroad arrived in Sandwich in 1848. Nothing slowed William Boyden. That same year, 1848, he formed the Cape Cod Express Company for handling packing, picking up and delivering local freight and of course moving the mail between post offices and trains. 


One year for Thanksgiving, he brought in thirteen coaches filled with visitors to celebrate with their kin. 


William Boyden was involved in everything that happened in Sandwich. He led every committee. Boyden was a huge supporter of our troops in the Civil War and gave a sword to Captain Charles Chipman of the Sandwich Guards. 


Like Deming Jarves, he supported every church in town. He had strong Democratic views. Now we must remember, the Democratic party of those years was not the party of today. In the South the Democratic party represented the slave owning plantation owners. Of course, it was different in the North by this time. The Whigs evolved into the Lincoln Republicans. So the party names represent totally different platforms now. 


In 1836 the presidential election was undecided. The choice was between a Whig and a Democrat. The town awaited the news at a tavern, maybe the Fessenden?  When the men heard the stage loudly swinging around the bend at the Unitarian church (1833), the particular speed of the stage and Boyden’s obvious use of the whip to speed on his four grays, caused the Whigs to turn to one another and say, “This means no good news for us.”


Did you ever wonder about the origins of what is now the Mason’s Hall at 175 Main Street? Well, it has served various purposes, but in Boyden’s time it was the Universalist church built in 1845, in which he was the chief supporter, located on the corner of Main and Liberty streets. (In 1857 it became a Methodist church for a time). As with declining enrollment to any religion, it closed in 1869. 


Boyden also served as President of the new Sandwich Savings Bank, founded in 1856 by Deming Jarves. 1857 was also the year that Boyden established the so-called Boyden Block between what was then the Central House and the Unitarian Church. The former Town Hall Annex was not built until 1827 and served as the Sandwich Cooperative bank.


The photo exhibited here is from 1905. Focus on all the buildings to the right of the Unitarian Church. The Boyden Block began just after the church running east. It was a long building with several shops and large hall upstairs where the DeWitt Clinton Lodge of Masons met and Charles Chipman Post #132 of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic). 


The most important structure of this Block was the livery stable where Boyden kept his stagecoaches and his sturdy horses. Gustavus Howland, whose father was Ellis Howland who built the Town Hall in 1834, was the builder of the Boyden block as well as Boyden’s double house in 1842 at 148 and 150 Main Street, the elegant L shaped home for two families. It changed to reflect Victorian architecture in the 1860’s. 


In 1913 the entire Boyden block was destroyed by fire. The only saving grace is that some people saved 18 horses. Jerome Holway of Tupper Road, who lived in the home beside what is now Sandwich Glass Museum, owned the stables then. The beautiful stagecoaches were all lost. At the time of the fire the Block contained S.R. Bourn’s Paint Shop, Philip Govoni’s fruit store, the shop of furniture upholsterer E. H. Woodward, a hat shop, a variety store owned by Mrs. Parks and Mrs. Galdro, and electrical contractors Garland and Bartley.  


At least Boyden died in Sandwich before his beloved Block burned and before his son, Willard, lost everything. Boyden died in 1879 and is buried at Bay View Cemetery. Willard Boyden went bankrupt in 1900. He lost not only the businesses but the home as well. 


  • Members of the Sandwich Historical Commission website postings, including those of Bill Daley. 

  • History of Barnstable Country, MA 1890 editor Simeon Deyo.

  • Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town, Russell A. Lovell

Ms. Maguire is a member of the Friends of the Sandwich Town Archives.

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