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Early Postal Service in Sandwich - Part 3

Fessenden Tavern

By Kaethe O’Keefe Maguire


Photos: Above left is an ad dated 1810. Passengers in Sandwich boarded at the Fessenden Tavern. The three photos on the right depict the Fessenden House which still stands today to the right of the Dan'l Webster Inn on Main Street. The Fessenden House became a mail stage stop in the early 1800s.


This busy, pleasantly posed 1870s view of Central House is from a stereoscope card. The mid-section is the oldest part, built in 1729 as a home for the Revered Benjamin Fessenden. Photo courtesy of John Nye Cullity.

Fessenden Tavern on Main Street played an important role as a postal office and I've discovered some interesting tidbits about the the tavern, and taverns of yesteryear, that I think you will enjoy.

As you know from reading Part 2, taverns were a typical postal stop for the riders and the stage coaches carrying mail, so they quickly became the local post office as well.

There was a law on the books at this time that prohibited the serving of alcohol to local people because the town’s people did not want the locals ‘tempted’ with drink! There was a big temperance movement in the 1800s.  Only visitors and patrons of the stage coaches could drink when they stopped at a tavern. 

The thought was that they would soon be on their way and out of town. 

Additionally, there was no chance of sneaking a drink in in a local tavern if you were a local.  Tavern windows were left uncovered by law so people could look in and check on the action inside.

Daniel Webster was an American lawyer and statesman who represented New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress and served as the U.S. Secretary of State under Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore.


When Mr. Louis Govoni bought the Central House in 1915, the bones of the Fessenden Inn, he changed the name to the Daniel Webster Inn.  But do you know why he named the Inn for Daniel Webster?    


Once travel increased with improved roads after the American Revolution and then rail service reached Sandwich in 1848, people ventured down to the Cape. Of course it was only the wealthy who had the leisure time and money for travel. Our Main Street was the direct road to the Lower Cape since 6A (Old King’s Highway) did not exist in that part of town until 1930.

Daniel Webster, a larger than life character, a successful Lawyer and many times a US Senator, liked nothing better than traveling down to Sandwich for the fishing, the hunting and the comfort of the Tavern and Inn right there on Main St. After all, travel was still a hard ordeal and Sandwich was the first town on Cape Cod and now more easily accessible.

The impact of the railroad coming through Sandwich  gave rise to a multitude of post offices as they tried to  locate near the tracks as the trains came from Boston and were heading further East down Cape. By 1850 Sandwich boasted 7 different post offices. They were Sandwich , Pocasset, Monument, East Sandwich, North Sandwich, South Sandwich and West Sandwich. By 1879 Sandwich had 10 post offices, more than any other town in the State. Of course what is now Bourne was still part of Sandwich until 1884.


You will recognize some old Sandwich names in this list of post masters and post mistresses of 1878. At this time there was one post office for every 400 residents! After all, people did not have cars in those days and getting around required a horse or a horse and buggy.


Sandwich-Frederick S. Pope

Spring Hill- Rebecca D. Ewer *

Farmersville-William H. Meiggs

Pocasset- Asa Raymond

Monument Beach- P.H. Phinney

Cohasset Narrows – (Plymouth) - Isaac Small

Monument – A.F. Swift

North Sandwich – W.A. Nye

West Sandwich - Isaac N. Keith [1]

Ms. Rebecca Ewer was at first the assistant to Mr. Frederick. B. Holway, who died in 1883 and thus. Mrs. Ewer was made post mistress June 1980.s. [8]    


Photo #2 This is the BOyden Block beside

Sandwich Brass band standing in front of what is now the Dan'l Webster Inn. The Fessenden House is to he right. 

[1] The Chatham Monitor, 18 July 1878.

[8] The Sandwich Independent, 9 January 1900 as cited by Russell A. Lovell Jr.

[9] Russell A Lovell Jr. Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town. pp. 232-243.

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