Archive for the ‘Marstons Mills History’ Category

Nathaniel Hinckley home & store

December 18, 2011

Nathaniel Hinckley's house and store

“The “Old Warhorse” Nathaniel Hinckley

December 3, 2011

OLD WARHORSE NATHANIEL HINCKLEY

For most of the nineteenth century Marstons Mills was ruled by the feisty character, Nathaniel Hinckley. He dominated economic life, owning the village grocery, three grist mills, the fulling mill, and much of the farm land and lots for cutting firewood.

He even controlled politics, at one time, holding most town and county offices.

Nathaniel Hinckley’s house and store were in the heart of the village, on the pond side of the Cotuit Road that we now call Route 149. It was a few hundred feet from his grist mill, at the intersection of the roads to Newtown, West Barnstable and Osterville.

Born in Marstons Mills in 1806 to a land-rich family, at twenty years old, he opened the first store in Marstons Mills. It was a general store that sold everything that local people could not produce: tropical imports, tobacco, textiles, sewing supplies, hats, shoes, guns, and medicine.

When, in January 1828 the John Quincy Adams adminstration awarded him the first post office in Marstons Mills, Mr. Hinckley built an addition on the north side of his home. Here, every weekday, the villagers gathered to pick up their mail, and exchange news and gossip.
At age 28, in 1834, Hinckley was elected Representative to Beacon Hill, an office he held for a decade. His was “the voice of the people”, opposing the banks and corporate monopolies.
Three years later, in 1837, he was elected to the County Commission, which controls finances, the appointment of officials, maintains Cape Cod’s roads, bridges, courthouse and jail. He held this office for at least ten years, simultaneously with the office of state Representative.
He seems to have held every office in the county and town: Sheriff in 1848 to 1852, Register of Probate 1853, Selectman 1839, 1846-7, 1857-8, Moderator of town meeting 1848, Assessor 1847, Justice of Peace 1858, School Committee, Prudential Committee, and even a lowly Fenceviewer.
He orated on every occasion; at Fourth of July he invoked radical heroes like James Otis. Local newspapers were flooded with his long letters on national and local issues, and complaints that they didn’t print his views.
Hinckley’s politics were always on the populist side, from the anti-bank Democrats of the Jackson era, with the “Locofoco” Equal Rights Party, the anti-slavery Free Soil Party, the revolutionary support of John Brown in Bleeding Kansas, the creation of the radical Republican Party, to the Democrats’ free trade of the 1880’s. In his eighties he supported women’s rights.
Locally, he promoted projects like the railroad; a dike across the great marshes; the County Fair, which he headed in 1864; and the Civil War memorial, presided at its dedication in 1866.
After he sold the general store to his clerk and neighbor William Marston in 1838, he pioneered in manufacturing and farming. Having bought out the Marstons’ interest in the fulling mill by 1836, he expanded the building, adding a modern carding machine, and continued cotton production until 1855. He improved the grist mill in 1842, adding a corn and cob cracker, and planned to make paper from local beach grass. His farming won awards for recovering exhausted soil by planting pine trees, growing eleven-foot-high corn, as well as vegetables, orchards, and cranberry bogs.
But cranberries and milling don’t mix. In 1874 he began a decade-long fight to stop upstream growers from reducing flow to his grist mill or suddenly releasing a flood. His suit against Samuel Nickerson of Cotuit, the financier of the big bogs in Newtown was lost in the highest court. In 1882 asked the town for damages for A. D. Makepeace’s injury to his grist mill and ruin of manufacturing. The town awarded him $200, which he refused, and shut down the mill for while, insisting on right of further suits.
“The old war-horse”, as he was called, died in 1894, aged 87, still writing long letters about public causes.
Published in Barnstable Enterprise 2 Dec. 2011.

The First Library 1796

November 12, 2011

Roland Crocker House, site of first library, now The Regatta. Courtesy Historical Society of Santuit & Cotuit

THE FIRST LIBRARY FOR COTUIT & MARSTONS MILLS

Only seven years after the American Revolution Cotuit and Marstons Mills had their own joint library. On Sept. 29, 1796 “The Second Social Library of Barnstable” was established by sixteen local leaders according to the minute book preserved in the Sturgis Library. The record of the first library is lost, but we knew that it was kept by Dr. Richard Bourne in Barnstable village.

The Second Library board first met at the home of Zenas Crocker, now the Cahoon Museum. The library was supported by subscribers, five of them Crockers, including the only woman, Elizabeth, probably the widow of Heman Crocker. There were two each of Sampson, Bassett and Coleman families, and a Hawley, Lovell, Chipman, and later a Goodspeed and a Hinckley.

The first Librarian was Roland Thacher Crocker, who kept the books in his store which is now the building on Route 28 that houses The Regatta restaurant. Roland’s father, Alvan Crocker, took over the librarian duties for a few years, but there is no record of the reason for this. The Librarian was paid two dollars a month to keep track of books and give a report to an overseeing committee. Fines were set at three to six pence per week, the most frequent being for “detention”–keeping a book over the four-to-six week loan period. “Folding down a leaf” cost two pence; “greasing” was a common offense.

Before the first meeting 25 books had already been bought from the Boston bookseller Eben Larkin for £ 13, 16 shillings and sixpence, less 10% discount.

Most of the authors were by English authors, but the principal American writer was Benjamin Franklin. There were volumes of a magazine called “The Mirror”, and letters of now obscure authors Bennett and Williams whose first names are not given. The latter may be “Letters Written in France” (1790), a popular commentary on the American Revolution by Hannah Maria Williams.

Of course, the largest number of volumes were religious: Sermons by the Reverends John Lothrop, Hugh Blair and Richard Price, “Sacred Dramas” by the pioneer woman abolitionist Hannah More, Beether’s “Evidences” of Christianity, and a book by a founder of Methodism, Rev. James Hervey. There were three moral guidebooks: Lord Chesterfield’s “Principles of Politeness”, William Dodd’s “Beauties of History”, and “Ladies Advice” by an unknown author.

At a time when New England was opening to the world it was not surprising that there were three geography books: the Rev. Jedidiah Morse’s “Universal Geography” and Travels in America, as well as an account of a recently re-discovered Palau in the remote Caroline Islands.

Three novels included “Evelina” and “Cecilia” by the popular Fanny Burney, and “Julia de Roubingé” by the Scottish writer Henry Mackenzie.

Political books were on the liberal side, James Burgh’s tract on free speech “Dignity of Human Nature”, and Thomas Mortimer’s statesmens’ biographies in the “British Plutarch”.

Oliver Goldsmith’s “History of England” joined his “Essays and Poems”. The poems of Henry Howard, father of the English sonnet, were probably there too.

Within 16 months of the founding ooof the library, Benjamin Marston was voted a share, and he was joined by seven other Marstons Mills readers from the Goodspeed, Hinckley and Marston families. By 1801 the committee, meeting at Winslow Marston’s brick house, decided to divide the collection, appointing Reuben Crocker of Little River as Cotuit’s librarian, and Benjamin Marston librarian for the Mills, with a salary of $5 a month.

At a proprietors’ meeting in March 1805 it was voted to see if the new library could be “put into one” with the First Social Library. The last entry in the minute book at Sturgis, dated only eleven days later, does not reveal whether the library merged, or how long it went on, or the fate of the books. If you come across one of the old titles listed above, look to see if it has a bookplate from the Second Social Library of Barnstable.

Published in Barnstable Enterprise 21 Oct. 2011

Doctors of Cotuit

November 12, 2011

DOCTORS OF COTUIT

Cotuit has had many prominent physicians, but before 1895 it was served by the doctors in Marstons Mills.

The first resident physician was Dr. Solomon Foot Haskins (1858-1928) who practiced in Cotuit a few years before he built a house at 134 Ocean View in 1895. After graduating from Dartmouth Medical School in 1879 he did a year in medicine at Michigan under Prof. E. S. Dunster, and practiced in Truro, Yarmouth, Hudson and Orange. After his death the village was served from Marstons Mills by Dr. James Higgins, whose son Dr. Donald E. Higgins (1904-82) took over his father’s practice, moving to Cotuit in 1936, in an office at 975 Main St. until 1969, except for during the World War II years.

In 1882, the James Coleman house at 786 Main St. Cotuit, was bought by Dr. Algernon Coolidge (1830-1912), surgeon at Mass. General Hospital who had served as a doctor in Civil War hospitals in Newport and Washington DC. Dr. Coolidge was son of a Boston China trade merchant who married a granddaughter of President Jefferson. He and his wife had probably been coming to Cotuit earlier, to visit his wife’s sister Mrs. George Gardner Lowell. Their great contribution to the village was the founding of the Cotuit Library in 1885.

Their son Dr. Algernon Jr. (1860-1939) inherited the house in 1915. He became the leading laryngologist at Harvard, the first doctor in America to use the bronchoscope to removed blockage of the throat. His book on tonsils is a classic textbook. One summer, it is believed that he saved the life of a person by performing emergency appendectomy on a kitchen table in Cotuit.

Cotuit’s most famous doctor was James Jackson Putnam (1846-1919), after whom Putnam Av. is named. In 1896 he bought the Capt. Andrew Lovell house at 86 Putnam Av., which stayed in the family until 1977. He was a famous neurologist, and first psychiatrist in America, who brought Freud and Jung to this country, though not to Cotuit. Dr. Putnam’s daughter Dr. Marion C. Putnam, one of the first child psychologists, summered here. The house was inherited by another daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Dr. Munro McIver, author of the text on “Acute Intestinal Obstruction”.

Dr. Putnam was followed in Cotuit by several important psychiatrists. “ The Wings” on The Narrows at 781 Old Post Rd. was for 45 years the summer home of Dr. Stanley Cobb (1887-1908). It was there his observations of birds led him to make an early environmental warning about pesticides. The biography of this pioneer neuroscientist and psychiatrist was written by his son-in-law, Dr. Benjamin White, a lifelong summer resident of Cotuit.

The secluded woods of lower Cotuit have been the favorite summer retreat of several noted psychiatrists. Dr. Sidney Isaac Schwab (1871-1947), neuroscientist and psychiatrist from St. Louis rented the Fremont Smith house at 110 Vineyard Rd. after World War I in which he did pioneer work with shell-shocked soldiers.

Following Dr. Schwab to Cotuit was William Herman (1891-1935), a Jungian neurologist who built a summer home in 1928 next to Dr. Schwab at 90 Vineyard Rd. The house was inherited by his daughter Marybelle, wife of Dr. William D. Cochran, pediatrician at Harvard Medical School, who retired here in 1993.

Erik Erikson (1902-94), psychoanalyst, famous for his theories of human development and
Pulitzer Prize-winning study of Gandhi summered at 45 Vineyard Rd. in 1962 and retired in 1970 until his death.

The Salem physician Dr. Edward Lawrence Peirson (1862-1935) bought the Henry Hodges house at 621 Main St. in 1904 and summered here with his children, including his son, the urologist Edward Jr. (1899-1956).

Dr. James B. Dunning (1874-1959), founder of Columbia Dentistry School, and his wife built “Westward” as a summer home at 1392 Main St. in 1910.

Cotuit’s most famous doctor was Helen Taussig (1898-1986) who spent most summers here, retiring and dying at her home at Rushy Marsh. She won the prestigious Lasker award for her discovery of surgery to correct “the blue baby” syndrome.

Cousins of the Coolidges spent the summers of their whole lives in Cotuit: psychologist Dr. Alice Lowell (1906-82), her allergist brother Dr. Francis C. Lowell (1909-79) and their nephew Dr. James Barzun, internist and cardiologist, married to the psychiatrist Dr. Kathleen Barzun.

Two pathologists have made Cotuit their homes. In 1955 Dr. Raymond Goodale (1898-1989) moved and remodeled part of President A. Lawrence Lowell’s house at 880 Main St. and lived there until his death. Dr. Stephanie G. Wall (born 1937) retired in 994 Main St. in 1994 and became active in promoting peace and justice causes on Cape Cod.

Dr. Turner McLardy, Scottish psychiatrist, retired to the Cephas Ames house at 1036 Main St., but continued to serve at the County hospital in Pocasset. Captured in North Africa by the Germans, he was held prisoner in Germany during World War II.

Dr. Keith Rapp (born 1925), spent his life in Cotuit, practicing as anesthesiologist at Cape Cod Hospital.

Two orthodontists summer in Cotuit, with daughters who are also doctors. Dr. Carl J. Perlmutter of Newton bought the Savery house at 129 School St., has a daughter Julia Perlmutter (b. 1970), a psychiatrist and neurologist. Dr. Michael R. Coppe of Lexington has summered at the Green Schoolhouse at 1257 Main St., where his daughter Carolyn, grew up in summers, now also a dentist in practice with her father.

Published in Barnstable Enterprise 14 Oct. 2011, with additions.

Foster Crocker Store

July 2, 2011

FOSTER CROCKER

There used to be two stores side-by-side in the heart of Marstons Mills. The grocery is still the thriving Cash Market. Just to the left of it used to be Foster Crocker’s store. Some people called it a general store, but it didn’t sell groceries, just hardware. But Foster Crocker built it as a machine shop.

Foster Crocker was born in 1857, second son of whaling Captain Oliver Crocker, in the house next to the church. Before he was twenty he had found work in Worcester at the Wheelock Engine factory, where they built the latest steam engines that did the work of the new industrial age. In Worcester he married Esther Hall, also daughter of a mariner, Captain John Hall. They moved to Providence, where he was probably working on steam engines.

In 1885, when he was 28, he decided to come home to the Mills. With help of a mortgage from his father he bought the house on the Mill Pond that Arthur F. Greene had built in 1847. He fitted up a building for a machine shop, and began selling the popular Singer sewing machines. This was the same year that Singer introduced its greatly improved “vibrating shuttle”.

Foster Crocker became the “celebrated Machinist” of the area. He provided steam engines that pumped water out of cranberry bogs. In 1888 A. D. Makepeace hired him to install the latest George Blake steam engine to crush clay for the West Barnstable Brick Co.

In the fall of 1889 Crocker built a new machine shop. Historian Nancy Clark says the construction is so similar to the 1916 schoolhouse that it may have been built by the same builder, Hamlin & Fish of Cotuit. Opened in February 1890, the Patriot praised it as “an ornament to the village”.

Here one could buy and repair agricultural machinery like mowers, all kinds of steam engines for pumping water, and, of course, sewing machines. If you needed a clock repaired one could bring it in for watchmaker Weber to fix. When autos arrived Foster put in a Socony gas tank, and he was a natural to sell Stanley Steamers. A. D. Makepeace had two Stanley Steamer trucks that Teddy Pierce heard puffing up the hill toward Cotuit he’d grab a tailboard for a free ride. Steamers were quiet and had no gears, but they took too long to thaw in the New England winters. Cop Hinckley told Barbara Hill: “Foster was a big, fat man. He used to steer the car down the street with his stomach.”

But before cars, Foster was a great fan of horses. When the crack sulky driver Henry Swain beat him in a close race at the Cotuit race course (now Ralyn Drive), Foster hired Swain to drive his “Lady Stilphin” in the big 1887 Thanksgiving Day race in Cotuit. But Lady Stilphin lost to A. F. Bearse.

Foster spent a lot of time fishing in the Mill Pond back of his house. He rigged up a door bell on the machine shop that would ring in the house, that might bring out his wife Esther. If not, you went away. Barbara Hill says their philosophy was “if you hadn’t had it all this time, why should you need it now.” “Fat Man Crocker”, as he was called, was only 65 when he died in 1923. His childless widow sold the house and store in 1927 to Lorenzo Gifford. It took four or five days for a couple of trucks to move the old machine shop on roller logs a quarter of a mile north to the Gifford Farm.

Postmistress Nora Gifford had it attached to the back of the house, where the village women worked on her quilting frame. Claire Melix recalls Foster’s huge vice on the workbench. Here Nora stored their the big barrels of picked pork, and the year’s supplies of dried vegetables and canned goods, and where the dairy’s milk bottles were sterilized. Upstairs was a bunk room for the grandsons. Everything could be cleared out for dances or for big family gatherings of a dozen kids and their children.

When the Giffords sold the farm in 1971 the machine shop became the playroom of Sue Davenport’s Children’s House. Today it is a private library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, desks and workstations, and one-time archives of the Marstons Mills Historical Society.

Published in Barnstable Enterprise 1 July 2011

MEMORIAL DAY 2011

July 2, 2011

MEMORIAL DAY

On Memorial Day we remember with sadness the lives of those killed in war. For veterans like me this is no time to glorify war, but to ask, “Why did he die, not me?”

Go and ask that question at the two markers of Marstons Mills.

The first is at the corner of Lovells Lane and River Road. It is across the street from the home of James Kenneth Baker who died in Germany on 13 August 1954. He was killed when the truck he was riding in overturned. He had just married a girl from New York, and had a son whom he never saw.

The second boulder is under the new traffic light at the intersection of Route 28 and 149. It is dedicated to Air Force Captain Sherman Crocker, who was born and grew up on Prince Av., a few hundred yards south of here. He died on 13 Feb. 1945 when his P-47 fighter-bomber was hit by a German 88 antiaircraft gun at Ahrweiler in the Rhineland.

Sherman was son of Barnstable Sheriff Laughlan Crocker. A graduate of Barnstable High he enlisted in his Sophomore year at Norwich University in 1942. After flight training at Maxwell Field, Alabama he got his wings as Second Lieutenant, and became an instructor in Eddie Rickenbacker’s famous 98th Fighter Squadron.

Sent to England with the 507th Fighter Group, his P-47 Thunderbird bomber supported the landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day June 1944, and in the Battle of St. Lo. He was decorated with the Air Medal and 17 oak leaf clusters. For shooting down five German planes he got the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew in the Battles of the Bulge and the Hürtgen Forest, both of which ended shortly before his death.

On his final mission, Capt. Crocker had been promoted to command of the 507th Fighter Squadron, with prospect of becoming Major Crocker. It was two days after the Yalta Agreement in which Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt laid out the plan for postwar Europe. But the war was far from over. The Russians had liberated Budapest, and fought into Germany from the east. American forces with which I was serving had yet to cross the Rhine. On the fatal day the bombers attacked German targets along the river, preparing for the American crossing of the Roer River.

Ahldorf is a village 20 miles south of the postwar German capital of Bonn, 55 miles east of his grandmother Dora Sherman’s home of Aachen, Sherman was flying the P-47 “Harriett”, named for his fiancee Harriett Jey Jones. With a load of three 500 pound bombs, and a thousand gallons of gas, he was flying only 50 feet above the ground, at 300 miles per hour when his plane was hit by an 88mm anti-aircraft shell.

Three weeks later, on March 3 Ahldorf was liberated by the Ninth Armored Division, which found the nearby Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen miraculously in tact over the Rhine. Sherman’s body was recovered and buried in Marstons Mills cemetery in 1948. The boulder in his honor was dedicated in Nov. 1949 by Marstons Mills Selectman Chester Crocker, Sheriff Donald Fallon and Representative Allen Jones.

On Memorial Day we join with another World War II veteran, Wilbur Cushing’s remark: “What a waste!”

Revision of article in Barnstable Enterprise 27 May 2011

Prince Cove Marina

July 2, 2011

Prince Cove Marina

The Marina at Prince Cove

June 23, 2011

MARINA AT PRINCE’S COVE

Paupmunnock, the leading Indian at the time of the Europeans’ arrival, had his home on Prince’s Cove, a favorite site for Indians for 10,000 years according to archaeological records. The Indians called it Broad Nook, a name that stuck until Prince Marston built his brick house on the hillside west of the cove, and people began calling it Prince’s Cove. In the nineteenth century Cyrus Jones had an oyster shack on the south side of Turtle Island, competing with neighboring Hinckleys and Hamblins.

A permanent pier was built in 1953 by Wilbur Cushing at the suggestion of Mrs. Ethel Huston, a New York woman who had a summer home on the point. She liked to go crabbing, but wanted to tie her rowboat to a pier so she didn’t have to wade out to get it. Cushing’s step father, A. G. Griffin owned much of the northeast waterfront. Cushing salvaged some electric light poles and used lumber from the former Clear Lake duck farm which was being demolished, and built a dock.

Later he added two renovated floats he got from the town dump. Locust poles to hold the floats in place were pumped down thru the sand, mud and fresh water, sprouted green shoots two feet long. It added “quite a flotilla” of floats.

Aside from renting dock space, Cushing fixed up outboard motors, and rented boats. His most memorable customer was Air Force General Jimmy Doolittle whom Cushing took fishing in the summer of 1963.

In the spring of 1957 the town dredged Prince’s Cove, built a town dock to the north side of the pier, brought in sand for a town beach, and in 1964 paved the parking lot. The next year the town created a “Harbor of Refuge” from hurricanes by dredging depth for large boats.

Cushing decided to build “a real marina” in 1965. His step father A. G. Griffin gave him 217 feet of waterfront. In the summer of 1965 Cushing had R. A. Williams build a 26 x 41 foot wooden building above, and new floats. Cushing agreed to limit lengths of boats to 25 feet, and prohibit sale of gasoline. Hyannis Marine Service dredged a ditch four feet deep at low tide and drove piling. Cushing poured a concrete foundation himself. All of this cost $35,000.

The Prince’s Cove Marina opened in Spring 1966 with space for 52 boats along three gangways. Public water and streetlights came at this time. While Cushing was busy in his masonry business, he hired a Southampton College marine biology student Bruce Bennett to run the Marina. The next year all the inventory of the closed Francis Wyman Bait shop on Route 28 was added. The next Marina tender was Lewis “Woody” Woodman who stayed for two summers. A popular attraction was two former lobster tanks which came from Snow Inn on Wychmere harbor, stocked with live crabs, eels and a 16 inch striped bass.

In 1970 Cushing leased the Marina to John Warner who needed a place for his marine electronics business. Warner bought all the boats, motors, moorings and fishing tackle, but took out the lobster tank. After four years or so, Warner turned the lease and business over to his employee, Dow Clark, who ran it until about 2000.

In 2000 Cushing sold the Marina to John D. Lampe’s Schooner Corp., of Hamilton MA. Lampe planned an elaborate expansion, but the town of Barnstable voted in Jan. 2002 to take it over by eminent domain.

Today, the once quiet oyster bed of Broad Nook is filled with motorboats and sailboats.

A version of this was published in the Barnstable Enterprise 20 May 2011.

Capt. Samuel S. Baxter

May 14, 2011

Baxter Neck

May 14, 2011

BAXTER NECK

Baxter Neck is the southernmost tip of Marstons Mills. It is surrounded by salt water on three sides: Prince Cove on the west, Marstons Mills River Narrows on the east, and North Bay on the south. Called Heman’s Neck from its owner Heman Thomas, whose house was on the old Falmouth Road, now Route 28, until 1872 it was bought for $500 by the Boston restauranteurs Russell and Howard Marston. In 1883 they sold its 60 acres for $1000 to Capt. Samuel Sidney Baxter of Marstons Mills.

Capt. Baxter was born in Osterville in 1828, son of Capt. Shubael Baxter, who had been captured during the War of 1812. The son went to sea on a coasting vessel when he was eleven, probably in the usual boys’ job of cook. He learned sailing skills in the Caribbean and the coast of Carolina. When he was 25 he married a Marstons Mills girl, Mary Marston Hinckley, daughter of Luther Hinckley, Esq. whose estate was on South County Road. By 1858 they had a house opposite her father’s, on the west side of the road.

Meanwhile, Sidney, as he was called, had graduated from sailing ships to steamboats. In 1853 he became first mate of the huge paddle wheel steamer, the 2100 ton SS “Illinois” of the U.S. Mail Steamship Line. The California Gold Rush had created a big demand for passage to Panama, avoiding the hazards and delay of the trip around Cape Horn. The line ran from New Orleans to Chagres on the Atlantic side of Panama, where gold hunters crossed to the Pacific for the voyage to California. The line was so important that the Navy assigned top naval officers to command the “Illinois”. Baxter was mate under Commander Charles S. Boggs, an admiral in the Civil War, and Capt. Henry J. Hartstene, the Arctic explorer who returned the Resolute to Queen Victoria in 1858, had a state of Washington island named for him while on the Wilkes Expedition in 1838, and became a Confederate naval officer at Fort Sumter. On one of Boggs’s trips in 1856 the Illinois brought over $1,700,000 in California gold from Panama to New York.

By 1860 Captain Baxter had been given command of his own steamship, SS “Empire City”. Smaller than the “Illinois”, but said to be the first ocean-going ship whose top deck was enclosed for the whole length of the ship. The “palatial” interior was described as the most ornate on the Atlantic Ocean, with Corinthian pillars, rosewood furniture covered with purple and gold damask, stateroom doors painted with Hudson River scenery. Eleven years old, the paddle-wheeler was given a new deck and double copper bottom before Baxter took her from New York to New Orleans via Havana, and back.

On the eve of the Civil War in March 1861 when Texas seceded from the union the government sent Baxter to evacuate army troops there. On the day the war began with the shelling of Ft. Sumter, Baxter loaded 400 troops of the Third Infantry and the Third Cavalry divisions, plus officers’ wives and 47 “camp women”, and took off from Indianola, TX. Texas Rangers regretted his escape, and captured the Empire City’s sister ship and imprisoned the remaining soldiers. On the Empire City’s stop in Havana for coal and water they couldn’t believe the news of the war, until it was confirmed by the pilot who met the ship off New York.

The Union then chartered Baxter’s ship to carry troops and supplies south, paying as much as $1000 a day rent. Baxter applied to the Navy for commission as Acting Master with strong recommendations of his former masters Boggs and Hartstene, and captained the Empire City during the war. He brought home the masters of the famous “Stone Fleet” ships that had been sunk to block Charleston harbor. The Empire City was a key transport of the expedition to capture Port Royal SC in Oct. 1861, and Fernandina FL in March 1862. In May 1862 he towed the Cuban steamer “Nuestra Señora de Regla” from Charleston to New York, which the US army had illegally seized, as settled in two court cases before the Supreme Court, finally costing $300,000.

In April 1863 Empire City was sent up the Mississippi where Grant ordered her to load troops to run the gantlet of rebel guns at Vicksburg, a move that Gen. Sherman called “a desperate and terrible thing”. Baxter was probably not in command, for Grant found “volunteers”. The ship was completely disabled by a shot thru the steam chest, and two thru the pilot house, which killed the pilot. Admiral Porter repaired her quickly, and she was soon back in service, transporting from Virginia to South Carolina (August 1863) the 40th Mass. Infantry which included four Marstons Mills soldiers. Capt. Baxter turned his own cabin over to General George Gordon, a Boston lawyer whose published war diary lauds his host “a good fellow and an admirable seaman” who was “down on all lawyers”, but sent his guest off to battle with the gift of “a box of ice, chickens, hams, ducks and mutton.”

After the war, now 37, Capt. Baxter retired to his farm on South County Road in Marstons Mills. He had Cotuit captains bring boatloads of seed oysters from New Haven to raise oysters in the Narrows. The town elected him a pound keeper and fire warden, and he served many years as judge of poultry and trees at the county fair. But his pride was strawberries, which he produced almost a pint in the first week of November 1897, a triumph of late bloomers, since the berry usually ripens in June.

Baxter Neck remained unsettled until 1921 when the Whittiers built the first house. An old sandy road through the scrub pines was popular with local residents who drove down to the shore to dig clams.

Many older Marstons Mills residents could tell you stories of suspected illegal activity during Prohibition, but they will not reveal the names of those involved.

What’s In A Name?

The editor of the Barnstable Enterprise, Laura Reckford, asked how to spell Baxter Neck, and printed this in a box below the history on page 3, 13 May 2011: Spellings of historic roads can be tricky, especially ones named after individuals, like Baxter Neck. Columnist James Gould uses USGS topographical data in choosing to call it Baxter Neck, rather than using the plural or the possessive. A number of residents on the street also use the singular version on their mailboxes. But a couple of neighbors use the plural version: Baxters Neck. The town street list and official Road Status Map also use the plural with no apostrophe. The street sign for the road, at the corner of Old Post Road, also uses Baxters Neck. But some residents seem to prefer an apostrophe when referring to the road.

Prince Cove, the subject of our next article, according to USGS should be singular. But Wilbur Cushing, who lived here most of his 88 years, called his establishment “Prince’s Cove Marina”, so we’ll stick to that.