Archive for April, 2011


April 15, 2011


Today, when we go to the Marstons Mills shopping center on Route 28 we can hardly believe that this was once “a Cotuit Disneyland” called Treasure Highland. The bank building was the main office of a vast complex of ancient buildings, railway cars, army barracks, recycled lumber and household fixtures. The funeral home was the 1915 Marstons Mills schoolhouse, Peck’s Boat Yard was the 1881 Sandwich Freight Depot, and the Oyster Shack was once the home of Cotuit Oyster Co. owned by Harry Height of Eastman Kodak who summered in Marstons Mills.

Treasure Highland was the creation of Robert F. Hayden III (1910-1980). It all began in 1936 when Sandwich decided to demolish Sandwich Academy, its old high school, and sold it to Hayden for a dollar. Hayden had grown up summering in Cotuit, where his father had a summer dental office. After graduating from college he bought a Marstons Mills farm on the west side of Patty’s Pond. Beside raising a family and a lot of livestock, Hayden accumulated useful parts of buildings he demolished, like the 30 room mansion of Boston Globe publisher General Charles Taylor located where Mass. Maritime Academy now stands.

Selectman Chester Crocker winked an eye at the accumulation, since it was far enough off Newtown
Road not to see. But after the war the overflow got too great, and in 1946 Hayden paid $700 for 40 acres on Route 28 to store his treasure.

It is rumored that Hayden moved over 5,000 buildings, and that may be an underestimate. Some buildings came here for a while: the base of the Shaw windmill in Pocasset, the Hyannis railroad station, and Hyannisport caddy camp. Valuable pieces of other sites showed up: marble from the Albee Theater in Providence, the baptismal font of a Dorchester church, and two combination baggage-passenger cars of the New Haven railroad.

Hayden was also a musician, who played cornet, and collected jazz recordings as well as buildings. A poem he wrote says: “His crew was rough and tumble,

They would weave and curse and mumble”.

The first thing in the morning Hayden trucks had to tank up at the package store. As George Pierce of Marstons Mills said, “Fifty cents would buy a pint of Muscatel”. He recalled that one of the crew bought a pint of booze and climbed under the barracks they were moving. Hayden was rewarded with a shower of stones.

Miraculously, there were no serious accidents. The worst was when Hayden lost his right index finger in a jack. He went to Dr. Lewis in Sandwich, who said he’d have to amputate. Hayden said no, and went to Cape Cod Hospital where they sewed it back on.

Another time a jack hit him under his larynx. He lost his voice for a month and had to communicate with his family by the lazy suzan on the dining room table.

Leonard Peck told how Hayden seldom had any cash. When George Pierce was hired Fergie told him, “George, you arn’t married, I’ll give you a chicken this week.” Two chickens if you were married. When he did get some cash, Hayden was careful to divide it among the men.

The workhorse of house moving was a big red International truck mounted with a tall A-frame. This lifted the steeple onto the Rooster church in West Barnstable, and toppled the Provincetown power plant chimney. Its longest haul was 35 miles, moving the Brewster windmill to Heritage Plantation in Sandwich.

But Hayden’s dream was a mini-mall. He battled for a decade in town meetings to get the zoning permit, and finally was able to begin in 1978. The first shopping center was built in 1982, and a much larger Stop & Shop market in 2002.

When the ground was cleared they saved “Tink’s tree”, which Tink watered every day. Tink was one of the expert moving crew which included the six Washington brothers, descended from George Washington, the slave whom Russell Marston rescued from the slave-hunters.

Since 1975 Hayden’s son Bob (Robert Ferguson IV) has carried on the Cape’s biggest moving business

from an old army barracks, one of hundreds his father moved from Camp Edwards.

Published in the Barnstable Enterprise 15 April 2011,


Captain Crosby: Success At Sea, Felled By Fire

April 2, 2011


Every family in Marstons Mills had at least one member at sea, and many were never seen again. One of the most tragic was Capt. Benjamin Franklin Crosby (1846-1900), whom Trayser records as from Marstons Mills. Captain Crosby died in a fire aboard a ship in Baltimore harbor.


Capt. Crosby married Lydia, the daughter of Dr. Henry E. McCollum, 17 years the village physician, with his office on River Road above the fulling mill. While at sea, Captain Crosby’s family lived in the doctor’s home.


Benjamin was born in the Nickersons’ Original Settlement (“Oregon”) of Cotuit in 1846. By the time he was 28 he had become a master mariner, captain of the 126 ton schooner Amelia, for which he and his partners paid $3,250. The ship was employed in the coastal trade, carrying heavy cargoes between the ports of the eastern seaboard. On 10 June 1877 it was hauling a full load of coal from the Jersey coal terminal Port Johnson to Weymouth when it ran into a thick fog, and ran aground at Gay Head.


Six months later, a mid-winter storm off Cape Cod caught his new ship, the 244 ton schooner Frank Walter loaded with coal, and swept away their only boat. But they made it into New London, and limped into Hyannis. Capt. Crosby, exhausted by exposure and a severe cold, got his friend Capt. Bennett Dottridge to take the ship on to Boston.


Undaunted, in the next 11 months, Crosby made 21 round trips between New York and Boston with full loads of coal, valued at $6,550. He kept up this pace for five years, until 1882 when he turned the ship over to Capt. Charles M. Brown of Yarmouth, who lost the ship off the Cape in 1884 with a full load of coal.


Capt. Crosby had already taken command of a larger (682 tons) new three-masted schooner Annie J. Pardee, built in Bath, Maine in 1882. From Georgetown DC he hauled coal that came down the canal from the Allegheny coal fields. After dark on Oct. 8 1884 he was headed into Boston off Peaked Hill Bar off Provincetown when he collided with another three-masted schooner Mary B. Wellington, commanded by his friend Washington Robbins, outbound for New York with a cargo of salt. Both ships made it back to port. The friends cross-sued each other in a case that is still carried in the law books. The first trial went to Crosby, but was dismissed on appeal.


What fun it must have been when Crosby took his two daughters Millie, 10, and Jennie 8 aboard in July 1888. Annie J. Pardee kept hauling ice and coal under other masters until 1892 when she was driven onto Cornfield Shoal off Saybrook CT, when four of her crew drowned.


About 1888, after profitable cargoes, Crosby retired from the sea, went into oystering and fishing, ran a fish store in Cotuit, then opened a dry goods store on the corner of School and Main Streets. After the store burned down in 1892 he went back to sea, this time commanding the new 433 ton schooner Joseph Luther, built in New London in 1891.


His fatal voyage was to Annapolis in 1900, reported in the New York Times, and Tribune. Waiting for return cargo in Baltimore harbor, he spent a night aboard the schooner J. W. Linnell swapping tales with its captain, his old friend Seth Handy, anchored near the Lazaretto lighthouse at the harbor entrance. They turned in late, but Capt. Handy awoke choking on smoke from a fire that started in the mate’s cabin.


He called to Crosby, “Hurry, Ben, for God’s sake, the ship’s afire”. Crosby answered, “All right, I’m coming.”, but did not appear, going back to get his gold watch and $143. Handy couldn’t reach Crosby’s cabin thru the flames and smoke. So on deck he broke the small cabin window with a capstan bar, and tried to pull him out, but Crosby was overcome by smoke and fell back into the cabin to his death. Handy made another rush thru the flames to the cabin door, but was dragged back by the firemen who had arrived on the fire boat.


Handy’s repairs to his ship cost $2000, and Crosby’s ship survived the loss of her master less than a year. The Joseph Luther became the subject of a maritime ballad. In January 1901 she was being towed by the steam tug Knickerbocker out of the Kennebec River with a cargo of ice when the towline parted, and she drifted onto Whaleback Rock, where she was pounded to pieces. The Hunnewell Life Saving station rescued her crew, but heard the howl of the ship’s cat. Surfman Gussie Hodkins went back and rescued the cat, as celebrated in Charlie Ipcan’s lyrics:

Grabbed the cat beside the rail,

He stuffed her deep inside his coat,

And returned to tell the tale.” (from Ken Textor. “The Rescue” in Down East magazine May 2002).