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Early Postal Service in Sandwich - Part 1

Moody Postcard.jpg

Mail was dropped at the residence of the Joseph Nye at what much later became known as the Moody House at 110 Tupper road.

Before her death, former Archivist, Barbara Luksanen Gill, and I had a series of phone conversations on what would be interesting to the public that could be presented thru our new website.  Barbara suggested “Sandwich a hundred years ago,” and that became my focus of research.


She also suggested the idea of explaining how many homes acted as post offices and that the woman of the house played the role of ‘post mistress’. Barbara’s mother, Mabel, played such a role in East Sandwich.


As the post office research took off, information going back to before the Revolutionary War turned up that was just too interesting to leave out of this report. So, this begins part one of a short series on the history of the mail and post offices in Sandwich from the period of early settlement.


The earliest known postal services to and from Cape Cod began in 1677. Mr. John Hayward was appointed by the Boston Courts to be the Post Master at the time.[1]  The men, all men at the time, who were chosen to handle the mail had to be of the highest character and carry the respect of their associates.


The importance of protecting the mail was recognized from the earliest day and this was further exacerbated by the tensions leading up to the Revolutionary war.


Pre-Revolutionary War mail arrived from Cambridge on Wednesday evening. First the horse back post man went to Plymouth and then Falmouth and finally to Sandwich. On Saturday night a rider would reverse the route and finally return to Cambridge with a Saddle bag of mail from Cape Cod. [2]


In his book, Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town, Russell A Lovell Jr. reports that the need for mail service began in urgency with the Committee of Correspondence and writings on the Revolutionary War from 1773.  As stated above there was only one weekly horseback rider a week even as late as 1775.  Mail was dropped at the residence of the Joseph Nye at what much later became known as the Moody House at 110 Tupper road. (Formerly called Franklin Street). It was originally the home of Seth Pope. Seth Pope built this home in 1699 for his son, John, who married Elizabeth Bourne. (see attached photos).


The home was later owned by a Nye family member in 1725 and continued in the Nye family for many years.


Joseph  Nye ( 1740-1796), known as Squire Nye, was a Key figure in Pre- Revolutionary War time in Sandwich. He married Catherine Sturgis. He was one of the founders of “Revolutionary War preparation”. He called for a meeting “of serious moment” which then set forth a “List of Grievances” noting the Stamp Act and Undue taxation.  From this Committee, Nye was charged with the job of purchasing a chest of arms, four barrels of gunpowder, lead and flints in proportion.  He served on various town committees throughout his life and constantly held town office. [3] A tasty tidbit which may be long forgotten is that these men hid this gunpowder in the Old Town Burial Ground founded in 1663!


Thus, it was important that reliable trustworthy people handled the mail. People petitioned for the job, among them lawyers, ministers and court representatives. Packet captains who would help to move the mail to Barnstable Village and other places were also held in high esteem.


Eventually, stage coach services improved the movement of the mail.  Thus, the term “Post Roads” developed. Finally a federal postal service running in and out of Boston reached Barnstable in 1793, and Falmouth in 1795.


The earliest stop in Sandwich once the Federal system was established was at the home of Nathan Nye, who was a Selectman, at the corner of Main and what is now Dale Terrace.


By 1794 some people received a newspaper through the mail. The Benjamin Percival Diary mentions this in 1794. People actually shared a newspaper and  the cost of the subscription and postage. Percival shared a paper with Col. Abraham Williams (who formerly had owned the slave, Titus Winchester, who gave us the black faced clock on the top of the Unitarian Church in Williams’ memory). In this case Williams paid for the subscription and Percival paid the postage. By May of 1799 Percival shared a paper with Sam Fessenden and by October 1799 he was sharing a paper with Nathanial Freeman!


Our next segment will begin with mail in the 1800’s.  Wait until you read about the post offices sprouting up all over Sandwich! There were 11 at one point and most were in homes or businesses still standing today! You will enjoy a whole set of photos and be very surprised to see still standing familiar houses that were once post offices.


[1] The Barnstable Patriot.  July 26, 1887. P. 4

[2] The Barnstable Patriot. Jack Sheedy. August 4, 2017

[3] Sandwich Town Archives

The 1600s - Moody House - Tupper Road

By Kaethe O’Keefe Maguire

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