Going to the Sandwich
As recent residents of New England and especially curious about history that really has played out all around us, Mike and I packed our car with the para-pups and headed over to Sandwich, Massachusetts. Besides having a fantastic name, Sandwich is boasts to be the oldest town on Cape Cod. Originally, the Wampanoag Indians called Cape Cod, and the area now known as Sandwich, home. Settlers from the Plymouth Colony settled in the area in 1637, and the town officially became Sandwich (named for Sandwich, Kent, England) in 1639. The headstones reflect that early settler time, many of the original headstones, gorgeous carvings and all, are still intact in the Old Town Burial Grounds. I’ll be honest, Sandwich didn’t look at all like what I was expecting a Cade Cod town to look like. While living in the Midwest, what had been shown to me were the boardwalks along the beaches, and small shops clustered on a Main Street with visitors perusing nautical themed wares. Nope, that was not Sandwich. Instead, it is a very Colonial themed town, with its historical landmarks and shopping spaced out around ponds. The area were Hoxie House was located, as well as the Old Town Burial Grounds, was not really walking-friendly. No sidewalks were to be seen. For the dogs, it was a disappointment. The attractions around the area are the Sandwich Glass Museum, Wing Fort House, Hoxie House, the Heritage Museum and Gardens, Thornton Burgess Museum, the Dexter Grist Mill, and the Dan’l Webster Inn. There are 67 original houses and buildings standing from the 1600s, six of which are located in Cape Cod. Because we arrived so late in the day, and because we had the pups with us, we weren’t able to visit every location. However, we did get to visit the Hoxie House before it closed for the evening, and the Old Town Burial Grounds.
Built in 1675, it is the oldest house on Cape Cod. Rev. John Smith, the second minister of Sandwich, originally built the house for his wife Susanna, and the 13 children. Abraham Hoxie, a whaling captain, bought and lived in the house in the 1850s. Remarkably, it was used as a continuous residence up until the 1950s, the tenants lived in the house without running water, electricity, or central heat! In the 1950s, the Town of Sandwich purchased the property and restored the property. You can now tour the house for a $4.00 donation.
Old Town Burial Grounds
Tucked across Shawme Pond from Hoxie House is the Old Town Burial Grounds. As a lover of cemetery iconography and photography, it was in heaven. Many of the headstones are intact, or have been restored, and date back to the mid-1600s. The skull with crossbones, a common early American headstone design, is everywhere in this cemetery. As are winged cherubs, the pointing hand, or just simple script carvings. One headstone that of Sarah Fessenden, had her portrait carved into the slate! She was buried in 1794 at the age of 65. Something I have rarely come across in my travels around the country’s graveyards.
The first interment was in 1639, soon after the town had been established, and it was used until 1900. So, not only could the first residents of Sandwich be found in the graveyard, but also many of their descendants. Currently, the Sandwich Historical Commission takes care of the land, so it definitely hasn’t been abandoned.
As for ghosts and hauntings, I didn’t find any stories about these two locations. The Old Town Burial Ground is a very peaceful place. I wasn’t able to walk inside and poke around Hoxie House, but I certainly didn’t see any ghosts or specters peeking outside from the small windows.
As a Midwesterner visiting these locations, it is fantastic to peer into British Colonial America. It is such a refreshing change from visiting French fur trapper settlements and pioneer homes of the 19th century. More day trips are being planned, and I’m looking forward to showing you what we discover. Cheers, Kat PS: Photos of Para-pups Wheatley and Mickey!
A Cape Cod Saltbox (type of architecture) restored to its original 1675 interior. Admission charged ($4.00). 18 Water Street., Sandwich, MA 02563 Phone: 508-888-4361 (I suggest you call for open times.)
Old Town Burial Grounds: Open from sunrise to sunset. Be respectful and only take pictures, neighbors do watch you while in cemetery. Grove St, Sandwich, MA 02563