The Life & Disappearance of Eugene W. Haines 

Eugene W. Haines, a Sandwich native, disappeared in November 1927.  He was a man of character and principles, loved by his family and admired by his town. His disappearance and death remains surrounded by mystery.

Was he murdered?  We’ll follow Eugene’s life in Sandwich and fully explore the circumstances and theories surrounding his disappearance.  And in the end…the challenge for each of us will be to answer that question.

This video was made possible thanks to Sandwich Community TV, Inlet Media LLC, Gayle Morrow, Gene Morrow, and Laurie & Leslie Gates (all great-grandchildren of Eugene Haines).

Please enjoy this video, and if you would like to support FOSTA's efforts in researching and sharing our town's history, we appreciate any and all kind donations.   

Murder Or Mishap?

Documentary Digs Into The Disappearance Of Eugene Haines

By KATIE GOERS, Sandwich Enterprise 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Was a popular Sandwich selectman murdered in 1927 by rum runners who were angered by his stance on Prohibition? Or can his disappearance be attributed to a boating accident that happened while he was pulling in his lobster traps one November morning?

While a concrete answer to that question may never be known, Sandwich resident and Friends of the Sandwich Town Archives (FOSTA) volunteer Joan Osgood has pieced together the story about the mysterious disappearance and death of Eugene Haines in a documentary that is available on the FOSTA website.

Over the course of the past three years, Ms. Osgood has scoured newspaper archives and interviewed descendants to try to find the truth.

His disappearance took place while Prohibition was still in full force. Even though alcohol was an illicit substance, rum runners were known to make bootleg liquor on the Cape, transporting it from Provincetown to Bourne and even across the Cape Cod Canal at times.

Joan Osgood explores the mysterious disappearance and death of Eugene Haines in the documentary she produced on the subject.

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Eugene. W. Haines

Mr. Haines took a hard line against alcohol all his life. Even as a teenager, he was a member of the temperance society. As an adult, he became a police officer and during the era of Prohibition, was quick to track down and lock up people found in possession of or to be manufacturing “evil spirits.” Suffice it to say, he was an outspoken opponent of the liquor trade, Ms. Osgood said.

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Joan Osgood, inspired by her research makes the documentary.

When he disappeared in November 1927, Ms. Osgood said that most of the community was devastated and pulled out all the stops to find him. The search stretched from Provincetown and even to Hull, where a body was found in the water. Ultimately, the body was determined not to be that of Mr. Haines.

From the start, townspeople believed that his disappearance could not be simply explained by a boating accident. Several news reports posited as much, as well, with the New Bedford Times stating in December 1927 that rum runners may have used Mr. Haines’ boathouse as a dock.

That same article suggests that weights were attached to Mr. Haines’ body after he was murdered by rum runners, so that he would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

An article from the Sandwich Independent from the same week quotes the sheriff as saying that no evidence existed that Mr. Haines met with foul play.

However, the story that has been passed down to generations of Mr. Haines’ descendants is that of an upstanding man who was murdered by bootleggers.

A headline from the December 6, 1927, edition of the New Bedford Times suggests that Eugene Haines was murdered by rum runners.

When he disappeared in November 1927, Ms. Osgood said that most of the community was devastated and pulled out all the stops to find him. The search stretched from Provincetown and even to Hull, where a body was found in the water. Ultimately, the body was determined not to be that of Mr. Haines.

From the start, townspeople believed that his disappearance could not be simply explained by a boating accident. Several news reports posited as much, as well, with the New Bedford Times stating in December 1927 that rum runners may have used Mr. Haines’ boathouse as a dock.

That same article suggests that weights were attached to Mr. Haines’ body after he was murdered by rum runners, so that he would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

An article from the Sandwich Independent from the same week quotes the sheriff as saying that no evidence existed that Mr. Haines met with foul play.

However, the story that has been passed down to generations of Mr. Haines’ descendants is that of an upstanding man who was murdered by bootleggers.

A headline from the December 6, 1927, edition of the New Bedford Times suggests that Eugene Haines was murdered by rum runners.

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December 6, 1927 New Bedford Times headline.

Ms. Osgood said that she came to know of Mr. Haines during an interview with one of those descendants for a different FOSTA project.

FOSTA, in partnership with Sandwich Community Television, has recorded the oral histories of residents in town for a program called “Tell Me A Story.” Ms. Osgood was interviewing resident Barbara Morrow Gates, the granddaughter of Mr. Haines.

“In the course of the interview, she mentioned that her grandfather was killed by rum runners,” she said. “My family has lived here for generations, too, and I had never heard that story.”

She said that her interest was piqued and she began her research. Ms. Osgood soon found that the man’s disappearance was surrounded with mystery.

As fascinating as his disappearance was, she also found that the story of his life was just as compelling.

“He had such an interesting life, and I also feel that’s important because I don’t think you can separate his life and his disappearance,” she said.

Another aspect of the research that she found interesting was the number of names she came across that are still the names of Sandwich families today. Among the people in the stories she found about Mr. Haines are members of the Caron, Ellis, and Elvander families.

“I really loved that I know a lot of the descendants,” she said. “I went to school with them and grew up with them.”

Once Ms. Osgood had pulled her research together to form a narrative, she began talking with Sandwich Community Television executive director Paula Johnson. The plan was for Ms. Osgood to come into the studio to record that narrative.

But then the pandemic hit, closing down the studio.

Mr. Haines’ Mill Creek boathouse

Not wanting to delay the project any longer, Ms. Osgood took matters into her own hands. She borrowed a video camera from FOSTA and had her husband, Allen Osgood, film her telling the story of Eugene Haines from their own home on Jarves Street.

She said that the process did not always go smoothly, but that her husband was patient and wonderful throughout.

“This is not a glitzy production,” she said. “I think of it as a home movie.”Once the video was recorded, the Osgoods sent it to SCTV, where

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Eugene Haines Mill Creek Boat House 

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Alex Rencurral overlaid images of Mr. Haines and newspaper clippings onto the video. When Mr. Rencurral left SCTV, the final editing was done by Sawyer Broadley, of Inlet Media in Mashpee.

Ms. Osgood said that she never would have finished the film without her brother, William Russell, who took an interest in the research early on in the process. Mr. Russell died in January 2020, and the documentary is dedicated to him.

“Before he died, I had promised him that I would finish the project,” Ms. Osgood said.

The finished documentary can be viewed at https://www.fostasandwich.com/eugenehaines.

Even though mystery still surrounds the death of Eugene Haines, Ms. Osgood said that the story is about more than one man. It is a story about community.

“I hope that the video brings out the community aspect of living in a small town,” she said. “When this awful thing happened, the townspeople searched and searched for him. They truly wanted to bring him home to his family.”