Archive for November, 2010


November 27, 2010



At one time Marstons Mills had two herring runs. In 1867 the catch on the river was so good that local businessmen built another run, which you can still see though it’s long abandoned. Our village historian Vivian Cushing discovered the records of the Marstons Mills Fishing Company are in the Nickerson archives of the community college.


The existing river run had a potential of 600 barrels of alewives a year, all going up to Run Pond (now called Middle Pond), which connects to Mystic Lake. But there was no outlet to the southernmost pond, Grigson’s (now called Hamblin’s) Pond.


It was generally believed that one could introduce herring to a new location. So, in April 1867 five men, James H. Hallett, Nathaniel Ruggles, Allan Marston, David Jones and George N. Goodspeed petitioned the town for permission for “opening a canal, or ditch from the Pond near John C. Grigson’s…to the Tide water at or near ‘Tracy’s Brook’”. The town Selectmen approved at once.


Marston’s Mills Fishing Company agreed on 5 May 1867 to be run by five directors, with capital of $1000 in ten dollar shares. The biggest shareholders were the retired steamboat captain Samuel Baxter, local carpenter James H. Hallett, who became Clerk of the company, local farmers Bennett W. Cammett and Ansel Fuller, and Bostonian Christopher Gifford who had married into the Fish family. They were joined by about 20 other investors, mostly from the local Jones, Hamblin, Hinckley, Marston and Crocker families.


By the end of May they had laid out a plan of about 8’000 feet (about a mile and a half) running from the east side of Grigson’s Pond just north of today’s Burgess House in a 50 foot “Floom” 3 feet wide and 3 ½ feet deep, then running under a stone bridge to be built on the West Barnstable road. Then it would run at a 45 degree drop two feet wide, turning in a big bow southward, under another stone bridge on the Falmouth Road, and down to salt water west of Warren’s Cove. The last 3,000 feet following Tracy’s Brook was only a foot and a half deep and three feet wide, carefully avoiding widow Gifford’s cranberry bog.


All of this was to be done by the first of October 1867, the bridges built by April of the next year, with railings on both sides. Bennett Cammett was paid $86 for the bridges, which were completed in time.


In January 1868 the company bought ten pieces of land for the proposed canal 32 feet wide at the upper part, narrowing to 12 feet farther down, paying from one to ten dollars apiece.


But by June the treasurer reported they had overspent their stock by $400 and they had to ask for more money. Some of the stockholders sold their shares to wealthy Cotuit summer people like George Gardner Lowell.


The founding petitioner and Clerk James Harvey Hallett died in tragic circumstances in 1871. While Christmas shopping in Boston he met an old acquaintance in the Union Wharf warehouse. Hallett tapped his friend on the shoulder and said, “I have found you at last old fellow!” Stepping back, Hallett fell into an open elevator shaft, falling five floors to his death.


Company records show no income from fish, but they had paid Capt. Baxter $16 for herring in 1872. It could be that they bought fish in order to stock the run, though that never happened. James H. Jenkins submitted a bill for $3.25 for 15 hours of labor, which figures at 21 cents an hour.

At the next meeting the board was talking about deepening and widening, but gave up. They put the company up for auction on 1 March 1872, and apparently got no bidders. In Dec. 1872 the local paper reported on recent fisheries failures that “Many persons have been utterly ruined.”


Today one can see the “floom” of great herring ditch where Route 149 dips down north of the Burgess House, or the “stump dump” of Cape Resources which filled the ditch north of Old Falmouth Road or the town landfill which filled the south side. In 1935 the new Route 28 crossed the ditch at Sandy Valley near Robert Childs’s ice house. Our photo shows a pretty view of a little pond north of South County Road which was created by this ditch back in 1867.


Barnstable Enterprise 26  Nov. 2010



November 13, 2010



Two centuries ago travelers on the sandy highway along the South Sea, as we call the Nantucket Sound, between Falmouth and Hyannis, and beyond, might stop for a meal or for the night at Marstons Mills’s Goodspeed Inn.


Still standing proudly on South County Road in the south end of Marstons Mills just over the line in Osterville is this classically composed building in the Federal style, popular after the American Revolution.


This two story inn has a welcoming entrance in the center of the clapboard front, with a fanlight over the six-panelled door. On either side are pairs of windows with black shutters. Inside there are Tuscan columns and Greek fretwork that decorated the homes in the British style called Adamesque, named for the architects that revived the classical décor.


Here important politicians, travelling ministers, and itinerant salesmen might stay. From the back rooms one looked west across the Marstons Mills estuary, which was bordered by wide marshes of salt hay, the most valuable crop of colonial times, which fed the cattle for export abroad. The river widens into Great Bay, which we call North Bay, next to the fertile Oyster River and Great Oyster Island, rich source of shellfish. To the left was the shipyard of Oliver Hinckley, who probably built the innkeeper’s eight schooners and two sloops.


This imposing house was the third built on this site, about 1792, when Allen Goodspeed married Ruth Hamblin of the Plains. Allen was great-great grandson of the village founder, Roger Goodspeed, the first white farmer to settle in Marstons Mills in 1653. The land had been in the family for at least four generations. Allen was principally a yeoman farmer, who pastured his cattle as far away as Dead Neck, but owned a fleet of schooners and oystering sloops.


When Allan died in 1839, his only son Allen Jr. had died, and he left his estate to his grandchild, five years old, named Henry Goodspeed. Henry’s grandmother was to live on for 25 years, while Henry learned to manage the large estate.


After the disastrous Union defeat at the first battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Henry was the first Barnstable man to volunteer for three years of service. Gustavus Hinckley’s Records of the Rebellion, the definitive town record of Civil War vets from Barnstable tells his story.


When Henry was 26 he joined the 40th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry, one of the most battered units in the Union Army. When the 40th assembled in August 1862, he joined Company E as a corporal. The regiment was sent to defend Washington DC., and pursue General Lee after his defeat at Gettysburg in 1863. Making long forced marches, Corporal Goodspeed collapsed in a hard march in the rain at Frederick MD. He was was hospitalized in Washington DC in Harewood and Mt. Pleasant hospitals both of which were visited by President Lincoln and Walt Whitman. The poet wrote his poem “Drum Taps”:
Aroused and angry,
I thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war;
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d, and I resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead.


After ten months in the hospital, Henry spent the rest of the war in the reserves, discharged as a sergeant. He returned to his farm in poor health, but was elected to serve as state Representative on Beacon Hill in 1870-1. He sold the farm and house in 1872 and moved to Waseca, Minnesota where his sons had moved, and died of TB in 1876, at only 42.


In 1872, the 100 acre Goodspeed farm with buildings was bought for a goodly price of $2200 by a Boston developer of Wianno, who sold it soon to the Osterville developer, storekeeper and postmaster Erastus Scudder, who advertised “a new summer resort”, called Cotocheset Farm. The resort was never built, but Harwich farmer Charles Adams was hired to keep the farm.


In 1883 Scudder sold the property for $1800 to 25 year-old Osterville seaman Alex(ander) Till, the son of the neighbor blacksmith Simeon Leonard’s third wife. Till apparently ran a dairy farm until he leased it in 1897 to a Wianno summer resident Mark Hollingsworth of New York. In 1900 Till advertised his modern “Wayside Farm” next to the Sepuit golf links for sale, but lost it in 1902 to the golf course owner Kellen in a foreclosure.


Until 1928 it was “Adies Farm” owned by the Scottish woolen magnate Andrew Adie who was president of the Barnstable County Agricultural Society which ran the annual fair, where he won many prizes for his horses. His summer home was in Wianno.


About 1930 the developer John Lebel Sr. bought it in a tax taking and briefly raised his family there. In 1936 Edward K. Davis of Aluminium Company of Canada added it to the former Seapuit golf course and other neighboring fields that he owned. Davis’s farmer Vernon Childs ran a small dairy of eight Jersey cows and a breeding bull. Davis also bred Arabian, Morgan and Percheron horses.


For half a century until 1984 the ancient Goodspeed house was the Davis farmhouse, where Davis’s bookkeeper John Gaston lived. The Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra had its office in one of the outbuildings.


Today the original site is marked by Farm Valley Road in Marstons Mills. In 1984 Robert Hayden Jr. of Cotuit moved the house about 300 yards south, into Osterville. The old barn was moved two miles north to the junction of Route 28 and Main St. in Marstons Mills by Kevin Barry who hoped to convert it to a home. However, Hurricane Bob of 1991 blew down the fragile frame, and the timbers were abandoned.


Published in Barnstable Enterprise 12 Nov. 2010


November 6, 2010



Before 1819 everyone in Marstons Mills belonged to the Congregational Church or the Baptist Church, except for a few dissident Quakers like Ralph Jones. But a wave of religious reform swept onto the Cape during the American Revolution, when a powerful Methodist preacher from Nova Scotia, Rev. William Black, was driven by a winter storm into Hyannis harbor in 1784. He came ashore and preached in the town of Barnstable.


Among those who were affected by the preaching was Dr. Jonas Whitman, who began holding the first Methodist meetings in his home in Scorton on west side of West Barnstable in Feb. 1812, with preaching by the Sandwich Methodist Rev. Aaron Lummis (pron. Loomis).


This “Great Marsh Class”, as the local group was called, built the first Methodist church in town on the east side of the Sandy Street cemetery in 1819. This building was cut in half in 1847 and moved two miles east to the side of Lothrop Cemetery where it still stands, much altered, as the Redfield House now a B&B.


Among the first Methodist converts were the Plains farmer Lewis Hamblin and his wife Abigail Crocker, and yeoman Eldred Baker, and his wife, Ruth. The Lewis Hamblin homestead was on the east side of Middle Pond near today’s Fuller farm.


Henry Hamblin’s history of the church says “an extensive revival” took place in 1819, the year of Henry Hazelton’s ministry, when a new class, or local group, of Methodists was gathered in Hamblin Plains, led by George W. Baker. This marked the beginning of the Marstons Mills church.


George Baker’s house was on the east side of what is now Hamblin Pond north of the Burgess House. As a layman he led the Plains class for more than 20 years. The history says he had “piculiar” gifts as an licensed Exhorter, who urged people to follow a life of Christ, admonished failings, and led prayer meetings.


The Plains class was served by Barnstable circuit preachers, for a year or two at most. Most notable was “Father” Edward T. Taylor, an orphan sailor boy who was imprisoned by the British in the War of 1812, after a tour on Cape Cod (here 1821-2), became the famous pastor of the Seamen’s Bethel in Boston’s North End.


Father Taylor was probably a welcome successor to Rev. Isaac Jennison, whose official biography admits that he was not a great preacher, but “had his peculiarities”, including an old-fashioned “great plainness of dress and worship” and a strong response to wrong that would answer a sword with a sword.


Father Taylor’s successor was assisted by an extraordinary 19-year-old, LaRoy Sunderland. A powerful orator, he preached temperance and abolition, starting the first Methodist antislavery society and editing its abolitionist newspaper, Zion’s Watchman. A delegate to the first world antislavery convention in London, but did not support William Lloyd Garrison’s effort to seat women. Sunderland’s hypnotic skills led him into leadership and editing journals of a series of psychic movements including mesmerism, spiritualism and phrenology, as well as whole food cause of Grahamism.


Marstons Mills was the school for such young ministers, for LaRoy Sunderland’s successor was George Sutherland (no relation), who became the classic Methodist circuit rider who preached four times during the week, three times on Sunday, often in barns and open fields, winning 200 converts in his first year.


In 1826 the Hamblin Plains Class met at Shubael Hamblin’s house, which still stands on the north end of Shubael Pond. In 1828 Rev. Warren Wilbur, a former Baptist, was appointed minister. When his wife, Betsy Alden, fell ill she was taken in by Shubael and his wife Rachel (Downs), but died in their care. The Methodist Conference estimated their expenses and offered to reimburse them, but appear to have been content to have Shubael be named as church Steward.


The first church building in Marstons Mills was opened in 1830. When Yarmouthport Methodists decided to build a bigger meetinghouse, they offered their building to the Plains class for $200. The old building had been built on the south side of Hallet Street behind the Thacher store. Two founders of the first meeting, Lewis Hamblin and Joseph Holway, moved the building over eight miles by oxen to its present site on Main Street. The land on which they placed it was a 40-square-rod plot given by Allen Marston and Ebenezer Scudder with the specific stipulation that it be for “a place of worship” “to preach and expound God’s hold word therein”.


The new meetinghouse saw a great revival of religious interest, with many new converts to Methodism. A camp meeting was held at Chequaquet Camp Ground in Centerville in 1830. The Marstons Mills church attracted many new families from the neighboring villages of Cotuit and Osterville. The Osterville class was led by the shipwright Oliver Hinckley, and Cotuit’s by Little River farmer Reuben Crocker.


To be continued.


November 6, 2010



Marstons Mills Church is nearly two centuries old. It has had over a hundred preachers, if we include assistants. Founded in 1819, it got its first building in 1830, which still stands today on Main Street.


In the earliest years Methodist elders sent a new preacher every year. After 1850 it became more common for a preacher to stay for more than a year, as in the case of Rev. Joseph Marsh (1850, 1859-60), his fellow Sandwich glass blower, Rev. Benjamin Haines (1853-4), and Sandwich representative on Beacon Hill, Rev. John S. Fish (1862-4). One preacher died in office, and another was the first one to marry a local girl (Eloise Hallett 1873), but divorced her when the Patriot reported that he was “acting so indiscreet as to cause her to leave him”. Eloise came back home to entertain her neighbors playing the banjo and organ as Miss Eloise Hallett.


Conduct of services varied with ministers. On two occasions “orthodox” Congregational ministers were preachers. Rev. Richard Dorr offered an alternative to the usual Methodist baptism by sprinkling in the church, and immersed his converts in Grigson’s Pond. The town surveyor of roads, David Joy Coleman, chose dunking for himself and his daughter in 1874, as did the storekeepers Nelson and George Hamblin in 1876. This church was the training school for many aspiring ministers, including Rev. Henry W. Hamblin, son of Lewis Hamblin, who was the first locally ordained minister, and author of the church history to 1874.


In the 80 years from 1888 to 1967 the Marstons Mills church was merged with the Osterville Methodist church, which provided a parsonage in Osterville for the same preacher in both churches. Many preachers were students of theology at Boston University who were “supplied” to fill the vacancies. “Woe is Me!”, the memoirs of Rev. C. Howard Taylor, gives a sample of the loving work of one beginning student in 1896. Taylor went on to found the Methodist church in Cotuit in 1900, and marry a Cotuit woman who sadly died in the flu epidemic of 1919.


During the merger with Osterville the old Marstons Mills building was fully maintained. To the belfry built in 1888 a bell was added in 1893, costing $90. A small vestry/kitchen was added at the rear in 1915 and enlarged in 1940. Electric lights and heater did not come until 1926. After World War II Liberty Hall, which the Universalists had built, was used as a parish hall until sold in 1959. The ancient Melodeon organ which had been bought in 1865 for $130 was given to the Indian Church in Mashpee, which Emma Marston Jones replaced with a new organ. Town water replaced the old well in 1955.


By 1957 the membership at Marstons Mills reached 99 and the local members formed a congregation separate from Osterville, inviting Rev. John W. Carter to be preacher. Carter was a retired minister who had served in British submarines in the first World War. More space was needed, so in 1959 the church had Robert Hayden move a surplus barracks from Camp Edwards to the west end, providing a large meeting hall with toilet and kitchen. It was dedicated in 1960 as Memorial Hall with reading of Bea Lapham’s poem “the little church in Marstons Mills//Has a history all its own”. In 1965 the first parsonage was donated by Mrs. R. Arthur Williams, moved across Cedar Tree Neck Road to land donated by Rhea Davis, widow of E. K. Davis, and put onto a foundation by volunteers.


Independence lasted only a decade, until 1968, when the bishop of the church said he couldn’t find a preacher for such a small congregation, according to Vivian Cushing, the church historian. Marstons Mills again merged with Osterville. But this time the church and parsonage were sold. The church was bought in 1970 for $25,000 by Ruth E. Feeley for her Cape Cod School of Ballet and Theater Arts, despite the restriction in the 1830 gift of Marston and Scudder that it be used for preaching. The vestry was fitted with practice bars and mirrors, and the hall converted into a theater. Four years later Ruth and her husband John rented it to Sue Davenport Johnson who moved her Children’s Path Nursery and Day Care Center from Gifford Farm. Teachers were Helen Aukstikalnis and Patricia McDonald.


In 1980 a neighbor Rev. Philip D. Sherman and his wife Sheila raised $55,000 to buy the abandoned building from the Feeleys, and found the Marstons Mills Community Church, a Protestant non-denominational church. Sherman had been member of the Marstons Mills church when he was a florist in Osterville. He left in 1966 to get a divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Seminary in 1972, and be ordained in the Hyannis Baptist church. Another Baptist, Rev. Robert Swanson became the second minister in 1991, for a record 18 years. In 1993 Steve White supervised a major addition to the south side, a sanctuary seating for 200 worshipers, at a cost of $105,000.


A member of the congregation, Rev. Earl Roberts, a Baptist from Trinidad, became interim pastor of the Community Church in 2010.