A Brief History of Sandwich

By Jonathan A. Shaw
Sandwich Historical Commission

Sandwich, the first town to be established on Cape Cod, was founded in 1637 by the persuasive and energetic Edmund Freeman. The location was appealing for the broad marshes bordering the sea resembled those of Sandwich, England, and were immensely

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Burial Ground

valuable. With little effort the marshes could immediately provide salt hay for livestock, unlike upland or “English hay” which required cultivation by the settlers. Other reasons also may have appealed to Edmund Freeman and the men and women who joined him. The land was part of Plymouth Colony whose Pilgrim founders were notably more liberal in their religious beliefs than the narrow-minded Puritans of Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Colony. Equally important, Edmund Freeman’s brother-in-law, John Beauchamp, was one of London’s ‘Adventurer’ investors in Plymouth Colony. Like today’s ‘venture’ capitalists, these men provided funds for the infant Colony and sought to encourage and profit from its success.

Town Hall Undergoing Restoration

Town Hall Undergoing Restoration

Approximately sixty families settled in Sandwich, and by 1639 they were building a Town House for civic and religious meetings. The town house site was at the corner of what is now River and Main Streets. It was on this site that Town Meetings and Congregational (and later Unitarian) Meetings were held for almost two hundred years until the Massachusetts State Legislature amended the State Constitution in 1833 to separate church and state; whereupon, in 1834 Sandwich erected the present Sandwich Town Hall, its Greek Revival architecture and massive columns evoking in Sandwich, as elsewhere in the nation, the birthplace of democracy. Soon after settlement a grist mill was built, essential for the grinding of corn meal and the well-being of the entire community. Though the earliest years were largely undocumented and uneventful, an initial land dispute required the presence of Miles Standish to ensure a fair division of the town’s lands.

By the 1650s Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies were becoming attractive to a new faith, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Like most new faiths its members ardently proselytized. The Massachusetts Bay authorities reacted by banishing Quakers and finally in 1659 by executing them. Plymouth authorities undertook gentler steps of fines and other forms of retaliation.

Quaker Meeting House

Sandwich Friends Meeting House

Quaker Christopher Holder had arrived in Sandwich from England in 1657. Preaching the inner light as the source from God of personal and societal inspiration, he converted many Sandwich residents to the new faith, and the first Quaker Meetings occurred in Sandwich as early as 1658. Though Sandwich was under the thumb of Plymouth Colony and though the fines impoverished Sandwich Quakers, the movement continued to add new converts. The strength of the Quaker movement in Sandwich and the existing wide-spread religious ferment probably benefited from – and perhaps even caused – the 1653-54 departure of the Town’s first minister, William Leveridge/Leverich. The Quakers also benefited from the quiet and secret encouragement given them by many citizens of the town, including Edmund Freeman who, as a confirmed Anabaptist, believed that everyone had a right to choose baptism and one’s faith as an adult. In 1673, after a gap of almost twenty years, a new minister, John Smith, was chosen as Sandwich’s second minister. In agreeing to the appointment, the Reverend Smith required that he never be asked to “lift a hand” against the Quakers.

Today, Sandwich’s Quaker Meetings are the oldest continuous Monthly Quaker Meetings in America.

In 1675-76 a conflict between the native Americans and the white settlers, known as King Philip’s War after its Indian leader, erupted across Massachusetts and neighboring areas. Sandwich and other settlements on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard were spared from Indian attacks. Nevertheless, the fear of Indian attacks at the beginning of War or perhaps even earlier had led to the creation at the Wing Fort House in East Sandwich of what was probably a fortified palisade as a refuge and defense against Indian raids.

Mashpee Indian Meeting House

Mashpee Indian Meeting House

That Sandwich was spared during King Philip’s War was due to the isolation of the Cape Cod peninsula, the laymen missionary efforts of two Sandwich men, Thomas Tupper and Richard Bourne, and the loyalty of the friendly Native American population. Tupper and Bourne had learned the Algonquin Indian language and had helped to build Indian churches, and Bourne had been essential in establishing Mashpee and its Meeting House on the border of Sandwich as a legal tract owned by the Native Americans themselves and recognized under Colony law. Nonetheless, even in Plymouth Colony treatment of Native Americans changed in the aftermath of King Philip’s War. Three men found guilty of theft from a Sandwich resident, who in earlier years would have been fined or imprisoned, were sentenced to perpetual slavery to be used or sold by him as he saw fit.

During the Revolutionary War and the years leading up to it, Sandwich firmly supported the Patriot cause, but there were enough Tories in the Town to provoke factional disputes and discord. In 1773 the Patriots established the Town’s first Committee of Correspondence, and its seven resolutions were soon passed by the Town Meeting.

A member of the Committee was Doctor Nathaniel Freeman, who became one the Town’s and County’s most prominent Patriots. On Monday, September 26, 1775 Patriots erected a Liberty Pole, probably somewhere near the home of Melatiah Bourne who had given the timber for the pole. All day long men arrived in Sandwich from Rochester, Plymouth, Wareham and Middleboro. On the following day, September 27, at 6 a.m. the enormous assemblage, led by Dr. Freeman who had been chosen leader, in double-file order set out on the highway for the Barnstable Courthouse. Their purpose was to stop the Court, the Sheriff, and the Militia from acting in the King’s name. By 10 a.m. Freeman was on the steps of Courthouse surrounded by a crowd of a thousand or more. During the day and into the following morning all thirteen Justices signed agreements defying the Acts of the English Parliament, and the Sheriff resigned.

On that same September 28, word arrived that the Sandwich Liberty Pole had been cut down. Twenty-two Patriots were immediately sent to Sandwich to apprehend the perpetrators. Three were captured and forced to help re-erect the Sandwich Liberty Pole. On the evening of October 5 Dr. Freeman, who lived near the Old Town Sandwich Burial Ground, received a somewhat suspicious message that a patient required his attendance. He set out on foot and passing by the Newcomb Tavern on his return he was severely beaten by six men, all Tories, and bleeding about the head from a long cut he was rescued by friends and carried home. Because the culprits were in danger of being lynched, they were immediately tried, fined, and released, but with mob violence against them still threatening, several leading citizens of Sandwich had them re-arrested and brought to the Sandwich Liberty Pole where Dr. Freeman’s assailants signed a confession, and the danger of mob violence subsided.

Newcomb Tavern

Newcomb Tavern, a Torey haven

The Newcomb Tavern, the site of the attack on Dr. Freeman, was well known as Sandwich’s Tory Tavern. Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles lived in Sandwich for many years and had become owner of the Tavern after his 1735 marriage to the widow Bathsheba Newcomb. In 1778 when Massachusetts published a list of the three hundred most despicable Tories in the State, Ruggles was the third on the list. He left Sandwich some years before the Revolution, and when George Washington’s army forced the British evacuation of Boston, he wisely fled Massachusetts for the British sanctuary of Nova Scotia.

Over the years the population of Sandwich, which was primarily agrarian, Protestant, and of English origin, grew slowly. In 1825 that began to change. Boston entrepreneur Deming Jarves, after seven years as manager for a newly created Boston glass manufacturing firm, decided to establish a glass factory more fully under his own control. Sandwich was selected “for the proposed canal allowed safe shipping to the New York market, the abundance of wood the fuel for his voracious furnaces, and the proximity to Boston convenient business opportunities in both locations.” He established offices in Boston, raised capital there, and called the firm the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company. The firm grew rapidly and by the end of the 1840s had created in Sandwich one of the largest glass factories in the United States.

The firm brought enormous social and economic change to the town. Jarves relocated experienced glass workers and their families from Cambridge, Massachusetts and some from abroad. Many were Irish Catholics, and they lived in Sandwich in small single family homes as well as two, four, and six family wood-framed buildings constructed by the B & S Glass Company close to the Sandwich factory in an area that soon became known as Jarvesville. Management and few of the more skilled workers lived in larger homes in the earlier settled part of the Village, and those, together with the 18th century homes, comprise the heart of historic Sandwich.

The industrial revolution impacted Sandwich far more than any other Cape Cod town and with it came diversity and prosperity. Driven by the expansion of economic opportunities and the success of the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, the population of Sandwich nearly doubled, and by 1850s the factory was open 24 hours a day, employing 550 workers, and producing an astounding 5,200,000 pieces of glassware annually. Under Deming Jarves’ guidance, Sandwich glass, a key item in the Massachusetts industrial revolution, became known for its diversity and inexpensiveness. Deming Jarves himself has been called “The Father of Glass-Works in the United States.” He was the first person in the world to successfully press large glass hollow-ware, and “Probably the first drinking glass, made not by blowing in a mold but by pressing with a stamp, was a cylindrical goblet …. made in 1827 by Deming Jarves in Sandwich.”

Sandwich Glass Museum

Sandwich Glass Museum

The Boston & Sandwich glass factory’s products were largely pressed glass and included a remarkable range of items.1 What pewter was for the 18th century, and plastic was for the 20th century, glass was for the 19th century – a material capable of being formed into a multitude of useful objects. Yet by the 1880s glass manufacturing in Sandwich had largely ended. The causes were the loss of the leadership of Deming Jarves and his son John Jarves, the post Civil War depression, labor strikes, and, most important, competition from glass factories in Pennsylvania and the Mid-West located near gas fields and more suited to the industry’s economic health.

Canal Visitors Center

Canal Visitors Center

In the first half of the 20th century the most significant event for Sandwich was the completion in 1916 of the Cape Cod Canal. Remarkably, it was almost 300 years in coming. In 1623 the Pilgrims under the leadership of William Bradford and Miles Standish scouted the land between the Manomet and Scusset rivers, a traditional Native American portage, and determined this would be the best route for a canal. In 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered a formal proposal to build a canal, but no action was taken. In 1776 George Washington, concerned about its military implications, had the location examined, and further surveys took place in 1791, 1803, 1818, 1824-1830, and 1860. Attempts were made later in the century to actually dig the canal, but soon failed. Finally, in 1909 work was begun by the Boston, Cape Cod, and New York Canal Company that had been established by a New Yorker, August Belmont. The Cape Cod Canal is now the longest sea-level canal in the world.

Only a mile of the canal, however, lies in the town of Sandwich. Had the canal been built before 1884 when the town of Bourne was created from the western half of Sandwich, the entire length of the canal would have been in the town of Sandwich. Before that time Sandwich stretched across the entire width of Cape Cod, from Buzzard’s Bay to Cape Cod Bay. The Bourne proponents of the split won the day by measuring the distances that its citizens had to travel – some, like those living in South Pocasset, as much as 12 ½ miles – to the seat of government at the Sandwich Town Hall.

Following the closing of Sandwich glass manufacturing, the town slumbered for almost 75 years, and the population of Sandwich remained stable until the middle of the 20th century when national prosperity and improved roads brought tourists and an increasing number of summer and year-round residents. From 1950 to 2000 the population expanded rapidly from approximately 1,500 residents to about 20,000. Startled by its rapid growth, the citizens of the town made a civic commitment to historic preservation and land conservation beginning in the 1960s, which was reinforced by the knowledge that the protection of Sandwich’s historic sites and unspoiled lands were vital to Sandwich’s heritage tourism, unique environment, and quality of life.


  • The items produced at Sandwich demonstrate the extraordinary breadth of the Sandwich glass factories’ impact on American material culture:
    – TABLEWARE, FOOD & LIQUOR CONTAINERS – dinner plates, tumblers, goblets, spoon holders, creamers, sugar bowls, butter drainers, dessert dishes, serving plates, egg cups, jam pots, melon dishes, sweet preserve cups, condiment casters, specialized covered dishes (for sweetmeats, horseradish, etc.), pitchers, decanters, finger bowls, compotes;
    – LIGHTING DEVICES – whale oil lamps, candle sticks, lamp fillers, lamp shades, Argand lamps, kerosene lamps, lanterns;
    PERSONAL CARE ITEMS – tooth powder jars, rouge boxes, powder jars, hair grease jars, cologne bottles, hairpin dishes;
    – HYGIENE & MEDICINAL ITEMS – ointment boxes, soap boxes, chamber pots, prescription bottles, male and female urinals, smelling salt bottles, bosom shells for nursing mothers;
    – HOUSEHOLD, DECORATIVE & MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS – flower vases, window shade handles, door knobs, curtain knobs, ink bottles, paperweights, glass finials, fish globes, darning balls; miniature toys, commemorative & political plates.

24 Responses to History

  1. Garry Boice says:

    My wife is a descendant of Bathsheba Bourne Newcomb Ruggles. After reading the history of Bathsheba, or what we could find, it looks as if her second husband, Timothy Ruggles, was a tory and officer in the British Army during the Revolution, and he was eventually exiled to Nova Scotia. But it appears that Bathsheba and her daughters all stayed in Massachusetts, with Bathsheba dying there in 1787. Many references are made of her as being a patriot of the Revolution, but nothing to substantiate this reference. Do you know of any proof available that would suffice to make her a patriot of the Revolution, such as loaning money to the new government, buying supplies for the colonial army, or any other patriotic act?
    Thank you,
    Garry Boice

  2. Danny Watts says:

    My wife and I visited Sandwich this past spring and stopped by the library. We met several people who were familiar with my ancestors, the White family of the 1620 Mayflower, William and Susanna and their two sons Resolved and Peregrine. By marriage I’m also related to Edward Winslow, also of the Mayflower. He married Susanna White (my 12x great grandmother) shortly after she was widowed from William in 1621. But I can’t find anything about the White family in Sandwich. Do I have any cousins in town? I was told their were a number of White families in town.

    Danny Watts
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

  3. My late mother-in-law, Mary Beazell Freeman, gave my late husband, David Dean Freeman, the “Freeman Genealogy: Second Edition of 1876″ with her additions telling us that DDF and his sister Patricia Freeman Dunkum are thirteenth generation descendents of the first Edmund Freeman. “Saints and Strangers” by George F. Willison (1945) describes on page 309 another asssistant governor…Edmund Freeman who had arrived in 1935…and on page 317…”at the shoulder of the Cape, the town of Sandwich had been settled by a group led by Edmund Freeman…. This group frankly avowed the purpoe of its entrprise, which was ‘to worship God and make money.'” We visited Sandwich in the mid-sixties and found “The Saddle and The Pillion,” rustic monuments marking the graves of Edmond and Elizabeth Freeman in the Old Burying Ground.

    I am delighted to note that our bit of the sixteenth generation of Freemans in the USA now includes my two great granddaughters, three greatgrandsons whose middle names are Freeman, and on July 5, 2014 David Todd Freeman, so the name continues.

  4. Karen Tupper McConnell says:

    I am a direct descendant of Thomas Tupper and am very interested in seeing Sandwich. My brother and I are planning a trip there this summer. We are in New York State.

  5. Richard Linning says:

    I am a committee member of the Sandwich (the original in the UK) Local History Society and would be to know if there is any direct connection between our two towns, beyond the obvious one of sharing a name. For example did any of the early settlers come from Sandwich UK? Or from the immediate vicinity? I know there was once a strong Quaker presence in, for example, Eythorne. Any information welcome.

  6. Barlow says:

    George Barlow took the Oath of Fidelity at Sandwich in 1657. On June 01, 1658, the previous constable of Sandwich, William Bassett, had completed his year’s service. He was replaced by George Barlow as constable of Sandwich and special marshall for Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth. His duties were those of jailer, the administration of punishments and the collection of fines and fees.

    The authorities of Massachusetts were determined to keep their territory free of contrary religious beliefs and the Society of Friends, the Quakers, was especially prohibited. At first the Quakers were merely banished, but when this didn’t work the oppressions became harsher and harsher. In Sandwich, where the majority of the residents were disposed to accept the Quakers, George Barlow pursued his duties with uncommon zeal. Those duties included the right to appraise property, choose the goods to be taken in forfeiture and to receive all fees and fines, with ten percent for himself. The Plymouth Colony Court records are full of the accounts of George Barlow’s activities.

    In his book Cape Cod, Its People and Their History, Henry C. Kittredge wrote of George Barlow: “It was his habit to take not what would be most valuable to the authorities, but what would be most poignantly missed by the Quaker families.” He tells the story of Priscilla Allen, whose husband was driven out of town, leaving her and the children with only a cow. The marshall took the cow, all the corn in the house, a bag of meal that had been given by neighbors, and her only copper cooking kettle. Kittredge further wrote that George Barlow had, “so far as can be discovered from contemporary authorities, not a single good trait.”

    As the history of Sandwich puts it, “Sandwich thereby went abruptly from a democratic town run by its own citizens, to a little police state run by a stranger with wide powers, who turned out to be a nasty and drunken man as well.” Interestingly, no ill-feelings were held against his descendents, some of whom married into Quaker families. The actions taken against the Quakers were brought to an end late in 1661 by a decree issued by King Charles.

  7. Peter says:

    Do you know who the origenal owner of the Newcomb Tavern was? Didn’t know if it was Peter or Andrew Newcomb.

    Thank you,

  8. Miguel Angel Rosas Burgess says:

    Receive a warm greeting from the Burgess family of Puebla Mexico!
    I congratulate you for this nice and functional website that allows us to travel in the imagination and in time …
    It is very exciting to read the history of Massachusetts and particularly the sandwich, because we are descendants of Thomas and Dorothy Burgess.
    Our direct family line is John Burgess, the second son of Dorothy and Thomas. Maternally am the tenth generation descendant of Thomas “Goodman” Burgess of Truro Cornwall England, who arrived in Massachusetts in the great migration of the Puritans in 1630 and eventually settled in Sandwich until his death.
    My great-grandfather came to Boston in 1887 and that was how began this branch of Mexican Burgess. But we do not know when he died or where he was buried and not even have a picture of him.
    As I become orphaned at age 7 and grew up with my grandparents listening to the memories of my grandfather Percival G. Burgess, I wish I could locate the burial place and know a little more about him and especially get a picture of him.
    I’ve come a long way to the point that already collect a lot of information and I have the complete family tree to my Puritan ancestor and even got a picture of my great great grandfather (the father of my great-grandfather), whose name was George Canning Burgess, an art collection Harvard.
    The purpose of my letter is to ask you to contact me with any Burgess of Sandwich with whom I could communicate by email, so I have no objection to publish my email address … I’ll be very grateful if someone contacts this part of the Burgess of America!
    I hope not having taken a long time and if I can help in anyway I appreciate your attention and gets a big hug from Mexico …
    Beware much! Sorry for my bad English …
    Atte. Miguel Angel Rosas of Mexico Burgess

    • sandra murphy roufogalis says:

      I am also a descendant of Thomas and Dorothy through son Jacob and also daughter Elizabeth. After the revolutionary war many from Sandwich, including my greatx5 grandfather Benjamin Burgess, left to settle a town they named New Sandwich which in now Wayne Maine The Cementary there has many Burgesses in it. You could look up Wayne, Maine.

  9. Diane and Alan Freeman says:

    My husband has been asking for a few years if I’d research his family history. He’s not into computers. He had information that ended with his Great Great Grandfather, Oscar Horatio Freeman. So I joined Ancestry.ca to humor him and figured I’d plug in what little information I had and that would be that. Boy did I get surprised. I have traced his family back to 1420. The one thing he’s always wondered about was when his ancestors arrived in the USA and to where. I think he was quite surprised to find that Edmund Freeman was his Great Grandfather x 9. We even googled Edmund and Elizabeth’s grave sites.
    So now I would like to surprise him with a trip to Sandwich. Is there a lot of information available on Edmund II? Is his home/farm still there?
    We’re at the other side of Canada just outside of Vancouver, BC. So any information I can gather before I start booking flights would be fantastic.
    Feel free to publish my email address. I’m still gathering information and networking. :D
    Wonderful page. Can’t wait to visit.
    Diane Freeman

    • SHCadmin says:

      Mr. & Mrs. Freeman,

      The Freeman family was very large in Sandwich and just about everyone in town was either a Freeman, or married into the family until the rush of immigrants arrived with the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company in 1825. Our now-retired town Archivist, Russell Lovell, wrote an excellent history of Sandwich entitled Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town, published by the Town of Sandwich, Massachusetts Archives and Historical Center, 1984. 612 pages.

      The Index of Names has too many Freemans to count and 22 entries for Edmund Freeman Sr. alone. I highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of the book before you make your trip. It makes entertaining reading even for those of us who are not descendents of Sandwich.

      Concerning the Freeman farm, it was very large – but the Freeman family was larger. The farm was divided and passed to the many descendents through the years, so there is nothing identifiable left. The only farming done in the area today is for cranberries and that industry wasn’t invented until well after the farm’s days were over. Still, Sandwich is a delightful town and I know you will enjoy your visit.

      W. Blake

      • Diane and Alan Freeman says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. Our oldest son is joining us too so this should be a fantastic vacation. :D

    • Kevin Lawson says:

      Hello Diane, I am also a decendant of Edmund Freeman, would like to us to contact each other to exchange information.

    • Beth Ann Anderson says:

      Hello –
      My son is studying early colonial life in the US, so I pulled out our genealogy. We are decendents of John Ellis, who married Elizabeth Freeman in Sandwhich in 1645. I believe Elizabeth was the daughter of Edumund Freeman, the founder of Sandwhich. I have information for the Ellis Family from this point on, but nothing on the Freeman family. If she was the daughter of Edmund, then I am 12th generation decendant of Edmund, and my children 13th. I would love to see information on the Freeman side of our family. Can somone please post a link?

  10. Susan Ranf says:

    Thank you for publishing the names and locations of graves in the town cemetary – even though my ancestors (Newcombs) turned out to be Tories! I still hope to someday be able to tour the towns and places of my ancestors.

  11. John Richer says:

    To: Mr. Jonathan Shaw, I am a powder house enthusiast who visited Sandwich on 7/2/12. I found on MACRIS that there was a marker at 21 Grove St.[ Old Town Cemetery ] near a site of a former powder house. My wife & I were not able to find the marker and I am hopeful you can help us in our search. The only powder house we have found on the Cape is in Harwich. Do you know any history pertaining to it or where we may find any other powder houses? Thank you, John ( Jack) Richer.

  12. Terri Parkes Headley says:

    My family resided in the E. Parks house on Tupper Rd for decades. I see that you don’t have a photo of the house, and my parents would be happy to provide one. My father (Wm E. Parkes) grew up in the house & my aunt (Martha Parkes) lived there until her death, after which, sadly, the house was sold. My grandfather had moved to Fl & ultimately retired to the Weeki Wachee River area, where he built some rentals on the river that he named, of course, “The Cape Cod Cottages”. My daughter & I have such great memories of visiting Sandwich- it is a most charming place & we will certainly return. We are so happy to know that the Parks House still stands!

  13. Myrna Hutchings says:

    My father’s family came from Sandwich, the Dillingham family, I’ll be in Sandwich to do family research during the week of Oct. 4 to 6. Hope the Town Hall has what I need. Is there a Sandwich Historical Society in Sandwich? Would you send me the address?
    Thank you for the History about the town. So looking forward to seeing it.
    Myrna Hutchings

    *Site Admin: Links to the Glass Museum and Town Archives sent on 9/1/11.

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