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Sandwich Historical Tidbits 

June 2024

By Joan Osgood

Our Town Archives are just full of interesting and intriguing information found in its’ historical documents, photographs, books, newspapers, family diaries—you name it.  Sometimes the historical tidbits found in these stories don’t particularly lend themselves to a full essay but nonetheless pique one’s interest. Here are a few of these tidbits for you:

  • The Banks Garage was built on Main Street (now Route 6A) in 1917 “at the brow of the hill opposite Mt. Hope Cemetery, and [was] of stucco architecture, steam-heated and electrically equipped throughout.” The builder and proprietor, A.C. Banks, sold cars and trucks in addition to repairing all makes of passenger and trucking vehicles.  His company was very successful, probably in no small part due to the fact that he held the Cape Cod franchise for the Reo pleasure cars and speedwagons. The 107-year-old building still stands at 182 Route 6A. 

A.C. Banks Garage  - 1918 #2 - Courtesy of John Cullity.jpg

Above & below - Banks Garage, Main Street (now Rte 6A); photos courtesy of John Cullity

A.C. Banks Garage inside view photo 1918 - Courtesy of John Cullity.jpg
  • In 1927 Mr. Albert Govoni, owner and manager of the Daniel Webster Inn, found what turned out to be a rare coin near the inn. The coin appeared to be copper. On one side of it was an Indian holding a bow and arrow with the words “Common Wealth.” On the reverse side were an eagle, the word “Massachusetts,” and the numerals 1788. (A similar coin was auctioned off in 2014 for $64,625!)

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Mr. Govoni’s coin looked just like this; photo credit: Internet

  • The headline in a 1926 Boston Globe article reads: “Sandwich Barber, 80, Gets Better as He Grows Older.” At the time of the article Mr. Michael E. Hoey had been a barber for 50 years. His family came to America from County Lough, Ireland when he was 15 months old and they eventually settled in Sandwich. While plying his trade as a barber he was also employed at the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company until it closed in 1888. He came to be considered one of the most competent workers in the factory and an authority on the glass produced there.  ​

Mr. Hoey was quoted as saying, “It makes me tired to see the glass that people are buying these days for genuine Sandwich glass….there’s lots of it on the market, but you’ll have to search me. I’ve been shown certain [pieces] claimed to be made in the factory here, but I failed to recognize it, and I was mighty familiar with every pattern that was produced.” (Apparently even back then the caution was “buyer beware.”)

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Photo credit: The Boston Globe, November 2, 1926

  • Our Town Archives is fortunate to have a copy of the Percival diary. It was written by Benjamin Percival, who was born in Sandwich on January 13, 1752. He married Lydia  Goodspeed in 1774 and served in our local militia during the American Revolution. 

Percival’s diary covers the years 1777 to 1817. He lived in the section of our town that we now know as South Sandwich and his documentation typifies what rural life would have been like for his family back then. Typical day-to-day dairy entries include tending to his land; growing crops; harvesting trees for logs and hay for their stock caring for their sheep, cows, and hens; mending fences; and simply surviving through harsh, bone-chilling winters. However, one entry written in 1814 comes as a surprise and is unsettling. You have to wonder about poor Betty Lawrence (some spelling and punctuation corrected for readability):​

Monday Feby 14th I have been to town to make out a list of voters for March meeting and finish regulating [the] jury box. Been a cloudy day and calm before I set out home…[later it was] snowing thick and continued ’til sometime in the evening. In coming home I met Betty Lawrence about two miles from town. I took her up behind me and brought her [to my] home. She had got lost…she said going home from Barnabas Ewer’s. She has been let out of her chain but is very delirious.

Tuesday Feby 15th is a fine pleasant day, [a] little wind towards night. Betty Lawrence went from here this morning in a sleigh with Freeman, her husband, [who] came at night and carried her home by force.

  • A news article in the Barnstable Patriot for Tuesday, March 2, 1869 states that the “business section of the town presents a gloomy aspect.” A huge fire had raged through the buildings that lined Jarves Street. The fire was first discovered in the clothing store of Charles Burgess. An alarm went out which brought the fire engine and many citizens to assist in fighting the blaze. But it was soon apparent that the fire had made such progress that it was impossible to confine it to Burgess’ building. The flames swept through Jarves Street, engulfing several blocks, including Swift’s Block which contained a clothing store, barber, and meeting hall; Russell’s Block which included a meat market, two milliners, and a dry and fancy goods store; and the Montezuma Block which contained a meat market, clothing store, furniture store, and coffin warehouse. A tenement house, tin shop, confectionery store, and another meat market were also destroyed. 

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News headline from the Barnstable Patriot, March 2, 1869

At some point a decision was made that it was necessary to blow up the last building that was on fire as the flames from it were beginning to burn the building next in line. A keg of powder was thrown into the building, and “by this action and hardworking of the citizens…the fire was stopped.”  

Some stock from a few of the businesses was able to be salvaged, but for the most part these businesses lost everything. The news article mentioned that most owners and shopkeepers did have some insurance and the rebuilding began. The cause of the fire remained unknown.  

  • Time and time again we discover houses in Sandwich that were moved here in the 1800’s from other Cape towns and even from Nantucket. The man who moved a number of such houses was local townsman Gustavus Howland. One of his more remarkable moves was in 1860.  Mr. William Swift, Jr. purchased Captain Abraham Hoxie's home near Spectacle Pond, now known as the Lakewood Hills area. It was a large house and due to its post-and-beam construction it could not be taken apart, which would have made the move easier. But Howland was up to the task. He assembled 30 yoke of oxen and somehow moved the large house onto a set of wheels. Then began the incredible journey to Cross Street in the village. The move took three days slowly plodding through our narrow and twisty roads. It’s hard to imagine, but Howland was successful. The house remained intact and is still standing tall at 4 Cross Street. (Gus Howland is also renowned as the builder of the original Sandwich boardwalk in 1875.)

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4 Cross Street, Sandwich; photo credit Sandwich Town Archives

Joan Osgood is a member of the Friends of the Sandwich Town Archives 

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