Sandwich was first settled by Europeans in 1637 by a group of around 60 families from Saugus led by Edmund Freeman. Its broad marshes bordering the sea reminded the settlers of Sandwich in Kent, England so they gave their settlement the name Sandwich. The settlement was established with the permission of Plymouth Colony which owned the land. The town was incorporated in 1639 making it the oldest town on Cape Cod, jointly with Yarmouth. In its early days, Sandwich was primarily an agricultural community with a grist mill built soon after settlement that ground corn meal to support its people. In 1657 Quaker Christopher Holder arrive in Sandwich from England and converted many of the towns people to his faith. The Plymouth Colony disapproved of the Quakers and they levied substantial fines on those who converted but this did not stop Holder’s progress. There are still Quakers living in Sandwich, the oldest group still holding regular meetings in the USA. The Quaker entrepreneurial spirit contributed to Sandwich moving on from its agricultural beginnings to a more industrial era. The Cape Cod Canal, which was completed in 1914, joins Cape Cod Bay adjacent to the town. Today the main industry in Sandwich is tourism.
Dexter's Grist Mill
Thomas Dexter built a grist mill in Sandwich in 1637. He was an absentee mill owner living in Lynn, Massachusetts but records from 1646 show that his son Thomas Dexter, Jr. was the miller. Records from 1653 show that the mill had been damaged by a failed dam and the following year there was an agreement to rebuild it. The mill passed to Thomas Dexter, Jr’s son John in 1686 but he sold it in 1700. An iron turbine was installed in 1856. It remained a working mill until 1881 when Captain Laban Crocker was miller. From 1920 to the 1950s the mill building was used as a tea house for summer visitors. After the tea house closed, the town of Sandwich bought the mill and restored it back to its early appearance including an undershot wooden waterwheel. Located in the heart of the Sandwich historic district, Dexter’s Grist Mill is open daily in season. Unfortunately we visited Sandwich in October after it had closed for the season.
Spire Barn, Sandwich Glass Museum
Although the Cape Cod Canal did not open until 1914, its influence in Sandwich dates back to 1825. In that year Deming Jarves from Boston set up a glass factory in Sandwich. He was attracted to the site by the well sheltered harbour, but also by the prospect that a canal would be built through Cape Cod which would simplify transportation. Unfortunately, the canal was not to be built during his lifetime. Jarves had co-founded the New England Glass Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts and he brought master glassblowers with him to Sandwich. The Boston & Sandwich Glass Company produced both hand blown and mould blown glassware. The company also used metal presses to produce glassware. The factory closed in 1888 amid disputes with a glassmakers' labour union. There were several attempts to restart glassmaking in Sandwich, but none lasted for long and by the end of World War II the factory buildings had gone. The Sandwich Historical Society recognised the need to preserve the story of the major role that Sandwich played in the American glass industry so they set up the Sandwich Glass Museum. The museum tells the story of glass production in Sandwich and exhibits nearly 6,000 glass products made in the factory. Click Tab 2 to see some of the Cup Plates on display in the museum.
The Hoxie House
This house was built around 1675 and was the home of Sandwich’s second minister, the Reverend John Smith together with his wife Susanna and their thirteen children. In the 1850s it was bought by whaling captain Abraham Hoxie, and his name became permanently associated with the house. It is a classic New England Saltbox house, two stories at the front but only one at the back with a long sloping roof to the rear. It is thought to be the oldest house of this style on Cape Cod. It was used as a home right through to the early 1950s even though it had no electricity or plumbing. The town of Sandwich purchased the Hoxie House in the late 1950s and restored it to how it would have looked in the late 17th century. It is usually open to the public from the end of June to October.
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Old East Windmill, Heritage Museums & Gardens
The land here has somewhat mixed history. Its first occupant who arrived in 1677 was a poverty stricken widow and her children. After her death her brother bought the property and his sons farmed the land. It remained a farm until 1921 when Shawme Farm, as it was then known, was bought by wealthy textile manufacturer Charles Owen Dexter. Dexter used the farm as a summer retreat where he could develop his hobby of hybridising plants, including rhododendrons. He had the farmland landscaped and from 1935 he lived permanently at the farm. In 1969, Josiah K. Lilly III (of the Eli Lilly and Co family) established the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich on the property, a botanical garden with several museums including Art, Automobiles and a 1919 Looff Carousel. Since we visited an Adventure Park has been added. Old East Windmill dates back to 1800 and originally stood in Orleans, Massachusetts. The 40 hectare (100 acre) site is now known as the the Heritage Gardens & Museums. It is open daily from mid April to early October. Click Tab 2 to see the Looff Carousel which was relocated to the gardens in 1971.
Benjamin Nye Homestead
The house was built by Benjamin Nye, who was among the first 60 families to settle in Sandwich. Nye built this home in 1678 as a saltbox house similar to the Hoxie House above. It was rebuilt in in 1816 in the colonial style. In 1669 Benjamin Nye built one of the first grist mills in the colonies. The mill was powered by the stream from Nye’s pond, just visible to the right of the house. The original grist mill has gone but a mill dating from around 1885 sits on the same foundations, albeit in need of restoration. The Benjamin Nye Homestead is owned and maintained by the Nye family who open it to the public in season.
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