Burgess House

BURGESS HOUSE

Marstons Mills loves its old buildings, and shows it by giving lots of hard work to restore its historic sites. A lovely example is the Burgess House on the west side of Route 149, a mile north of the village center.

This Cape Cod cottage was probably built before 1823 by Timothy Hinckley, a local housewright, with the help of his housewright son Harvey. In those days housewrights served both functions of contractor and architect. Timothy probably built at least two other houses in the neighborhood, on the east side of the road.

At the core of the original three quarter Cape is a massive brick chimney with three fireplaces, and once had a baking oven. The largest fireplace is in the great room, which served as kitchen and family room. The other fireplaces heated the main bedroom and a parlor that was to become the doctors’ office. From the front entrance, later enclosed with an entry porch, rises a steep staircase to the attic, where the children slept. In the mid-1830s the house was enlarged to full Cape size. At the rear is an ancient barn in saltbox style.

The builder’s son Harvey Hinckley had gone to Nantucket, and in 1834 sold the house to the village physician, Dr. Ezra Stephenson of Hingham. It is probably he who had the Hinckleys fix up the south room as an office, which we can see has some fancy moulding and trim. When we were restoring the house we found two bottles of medicine in a closet.

Five years later Stephenson returned to Hingham and sold the house to a local doctor, Bennett Wing, a Quaker of East Sandwich. Since much of medical training in those days was under a practicing physician, as Stephenson had learned the practice, Dr. Wing may have trained with Stephenson. In 1842 Dr. Wing went back home to care for a brother stricken by dysentery, which he caught and died.

During the last half of the century this was the home of two retired sea captains. It was bought in 1843 by Capt. Benjamin F. Scudder (1803-76) who settled here and farmed the 14 acres by the pond. A measure of his success is running the plowing contest at the county fair. His wife Marcia won fair prizes for her wool stockings and wall baskets. After his death the house was rented by Andrew Lawrence and J. M. Holway.

After Marcia Scudder died in 1887, the farm was sold at auction, and bought by Capt. Abner F. Crosby (1836-92) of Cotuit. He was a coasting schooner master, captain of the Hattie Collins and Julia Berkelee. After his wife Lottie Crocker Crosby died at age 38, he married the Marstons Mills school teacher Addie Gertrude Crocker, daughter of Capt. Joseph Crocker. The village gave them a lavish housewarming for which they provided oranges, figs, cake, candy and ice cream. Addie sang and wrote poetry. Abner died of TB at young age of 55. Addie sold the house to Wilton B. Cammett (1865-1920) in 1897 and built a new house next to the Methodist Church whose minister she sometimes boarded without charge. Addie carried on as a popular teacher in Marstons Mills and in Osterville, where she moved about 1907, and taught at Dry Swamp Academy. Chesbro recorded Elmer Whiteley’s memory of “an old time school teacher [who] demanded attention. There you began to learn your three R’s and no fooling.”

The new owner, Wilton Cammett was born and grew up across the road, the son of Bennett Wing Cammett (probably named for Dr. Wing). At age 22 Wilton had married the 47 year old Sarah Abbie Jones, divorced widow of Civil War veteran Hercules Jones. They went to Falmouth to run the town almshouse, but returned to this house where he took over the rural meat route of Andrew Lawrence in 1898. It is probably then that the barn was used as a slaughter house. The overhead trolley for meat hooks and ice box can still be seen. Wilton and Sarah eventually moved to Hyannis, and the Cammetts sold the house and 14 acres to Charles H. Leland.

Next I’ll tell the story of how the old farmhouse became a summer home, a nationally known showplace of flowers, and finally, how it was rescued from demolition.

The story of the Burgess House first appeared in The Barnstable Enterprise on Feb. 5 and 19, 2010

 

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