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Shawme Pond's Natural Power Industry

By Kaethe Maguire

Natural power means non-mechanized, nothing driving the machinery that is artificially produced. So in other words, wind and water are sources of natural power and until the tail end of the Industrial Revolution that is how factories were powered in America. England was the leader of the Industrial Revolution.


The upper dam of Shawme Pond, then called Shawme Lake, was originally created as an earth dam* about 1650. By 1812 the need was apparent for a stronger more sophisticated earthen and wood dam to facilitate the beginning of factories on the upper Lake. The force of waterpower ran industry in both the Upper and Lower portions of Shawme Pond.


If wood is kept submerged under water, it will not deteriorate. It is only when exposed to air that the deterioration begins. The case of the support beams on Beacon Hill is a perfect example of this. For centuries those wooden beams supported all those heavy stone and brick homes until the water table changed with the development of lower parts of Boston and thus the wooden beams were exposed to air and are now being replaced with steel support beams that are forced into bedrock to support the buildings.


The town voted $800,000 to redo the dam in 2004. The claim was that if the dam let go, it would flood the village.

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Upper falls.PNG

There are actually two dams on Shawme Lake. One is the upper dam previously mentioned, and the second dam is the Grist Mill dam on the Lower Pond, also ancient. Eventually, a marble works took the place of an old carding fulling and cloth dressing establishment on the Lower Pond.


Without this natural power of water, none of this industry would have been possible. Surely Deborah Wing, matriarch of the whole Wing Family, would not now recognize the current Lower Shawme Pond. Deborah first settled along the Shawme. In her day the Shawme was just a meandering stream through the center of town.


By 1862, the time that Frederick Freeman published The History of Barnstable County, containing a valuable ‘Annals of Sandwich’ there was a planing mill, door, blind and sash factory, plus numerous stores and artisan shops along Shawme Lake as well as near the Boston and Sandwich Glass Works, which opened in 1825.


Some of the old Sandwich names were responsible for the first attempts to bring industry to Sandwich. Samuel Wing (1774-1854) founded a cotton and wool yarn Mill on Upper Shawme Pond and was a noted furniture craftsman.


Wing and Rogers created the tack factory in the same area that would be taken over by Heald and Jones, and enlarged to form the Sandwich Tack Factory.


Levi and William L. Nye began the Sandwich Card and Tag Company in 1879 on lower Shawme Mill Dam.


Before they harnessed the power of water, all manufacturing was dependent on the burning of coal and wood, both polluting.


Some of the key players included Hiram HH Heald, (1828-1913) whose descendants are still among us.  Heald began a tack manufacturing company with Isaiah Tobey Jones and had a home at 15 Water St. He was also a talented musician. Isaiah became a leading figure in cranberry growing and became secretary and treasurer of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association founded in 1888.


The well-known Union Braiding Company was operated by Heald and Arthur Armstrong the site of which can be approached from Grove Street behind the Old Henry T. Wing Home.  After 1918 The Union Braiding plant was sold to McCullough Manufacturing of Boston. They began to manufacture small devices for the Model T engine and what was then called, ‘spark gaps or timers’.  This was a much smaller operation and the first time since 1811 that a big factory was not in operation there.


A bit of history of this area may be helpful to the reader. By 1932 when Depression hit the area hard; the Glass Works had long closed with the resulting loss of population. The Wing home at 24 Water Street was sold with barn and 20 acres for $15,000 on September 10, 1932. Peter Cook purchased the property and restored the home. It was Cook who tore down the old Union Braiding buildings. The area had been the site of a cotton mill as far back as 1811.   



The two mill buildings on lower Shawme Pond were no longer in industrial use by the twentieth century.  The former Grist Mill closed in 1881. The building to the right of the Grist Mill had been the Sandwich card and Tag Co.  Alice Harvey operated a tearoom on this spot in the 1920’s.


I wish to acknowledge Dennis Markham, long time Sandwich resident, for inspiring this research. Dennis asked me if there had been any factories on Shame Pond, a very logical question that needed exploring.

Sources: Frederick Freeman, The History of Barnstable County, 1862.

Russell A Lovell Jr. Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town. 1984 and Google!


*An earth dam is a dam built with highly compacted earth. This dam is classified as a type of embankment dam, being built in the shape of an embankment or wedge which blocks a waterway. These dams have been built by various human societies for centuries, and they continue to be produced in some regions of the world when they appear to be suitable for the location and intended use.

mill shop.PNG

A view from the the other side.

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