Category Archives: Archaeology

A Brickyard at Town Neck

In the area known as Town Neck, along the shore of Cape Cod Bay, a lens of fine clay suitable for brick-making was discovered, perhaps as early as 1790 when construction of houses and mills picked up in earnest.

1857 Map by Henry F. Walling
1857 Map by Henry F. Walling (Click for Larger View)Map Reproduction Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

Russell Lovell, in Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town (p. 258), states there is a reference to a brick kiln at Town Neck in connection with the bombardment of this coast in 1812 by the British. “The British kept a watchful eye on the brickyard at Town Neck in Sandwich,” according to town archivist Barbara Gill. “For some reason they thought it was a hotbed of sorts.” In a letter to the Cape Cod Times dated 11/22/1937, George Burbank of the Sandwich Historical Society wrote, “During the War of 1812, the English frigate, Commodore Harty, of 74 guns, observed the brick kiln on Town Neck, took it for a fort of undetermined strength and dared not come nearer than five miles from shore.” (Read more: EDITORIAL: War on our doorsteps 200 years ago – – The Bourne Courier )

100 Tupper Road

In 1815 a brick house was built at 100 Tupper Road and to this day is the only brick house in Sandwich. It is said to have been built by Simeon Leonard, then the owner of the Town Neck brickyard.

Lovell writes: “In 1819 the town appointed an officer whose title was ‘Surveyor of Brick.'” Although there was only one brick house, the yard provided foundation materials for many Federal period buildings throughout the town.

The first deed referring to the brick kiln so far known is dated 1828 when the owners were David Benson and Simeon Leonard. The property was two acres bounded by the shore to the east, private land at the marsh, and by the proprietors’ lands.

Deming Jarves
Deming Jarves

The next owner of the brickyard was Cyrus Smith who, in 1829, sold it to Deming Jarves, founder of the the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company (located in “Jarvesville”). Jarves used the Town Neck yard to produce brick for the numerous factory buildings located just across the marsh from the kiln. According to Lovell (p. 331), there was a narrow but solid bridge running from Town Neck across the marsh to Jarvesville near State Street. “This bridge was especially for use of a narrow one-horse wagon which brought bricks from the kiln over to Jarvesville.”

Deming Jarves was the main principal of the glass company until 1858, when he resigned over a dispute with its Board of Directors. Deming and his son, John, began another glass company just down the street called the Cape Cod Glass Works. At least 500,000 bricks needed to construct the buildings and chimneys of this new factory mere made at the Town Neck yard.

When the “Pot Room” of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory was torn down in 1937, its bricks were used as facing for a new building being constructed on Main Street in Hyannis for the Cape Cod Standard Times (today’s Cape Cod Times).

Other Brickyards on Cape Cod

In the Sandwich Town Archives is a copy of the deed for Jarves’ purchase of the Brick Yard, dated October 3, 1829:

“I, Cyrus Smith of Sandwich in the County of Barnstable, State Massachusetts in consideration of seventy dollars paid by Deming Jarves of Boston in the County of Suffolk the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge, do hereby give, grant, sell and convey unto the said Deming Jarves an undivided half of a certain piece of land own’d in common with said Jarves & is bounded as follows. North by the Sea shore, East by the lands of John Dillingham and the heirs of John Dillingham deceased, South & West by Town Neck so call’d and is known by the name of the Brick Yard & is so occupied, containing two acres more or less and is the lot which I purchased jointly with said Jarves, one half of David Benson Oct. 6, 1828 & is recorded in Barnstable records Oct. 7, 1828, 3o Book folio 123, the other half of Wm Fessenden Dec 8, 1828 & is recorded July 15, 1829. 2o Book folio 121 — the said lot to be held subject to the order of the Attorney appointed by said Smith agreeable to an indenture made and executed the 3 day, October 1829. …

In Witness Whereof, I the said Cyrus Smith and Lucy, wife of said Cyrus in relinquishment of her right of Dower have hereunto set Hand & Seal on this ninth day of October in the year of our LORD, One thousand eight hundred and twenty nine.”

Owners of Canal plant to allow dig at site of solar project

CREDIT: Cape Cod Times
By George Brennan
May 18. 2016

NRG Energy is planning to build a solar farm on the site of its current plant in Sandwich, in the area at the left side of the photo. NRG has agreed to allow an archeological dig in the area, where the Freeman family once had a farm. Steve Haines/Cape Cod Times

SANDWICH — The owners of NRG Energy Canal Generating Plant will allow an archaeological dig on land once owned by one of the town’s earliest settlers.

Bourne resident Jack MacDonald had appealed an April 13 decision by the Sandwich Old King’s Highway District Committee granting a permit for a 1.5 megawatt ground-mounted solar array on the property known as the Freeman Farm. The property is located just over the town line with Bourne, adjacent to fuel tanks on NRG property.

The agreement to allow the focused dig was reached Tuesday as MacDonald was set to argue his appeal before the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission.

The property is where Edmund Freeman Sr., one of the 10 men of Saugus who settled Sandwich in 1637, lived and farmed, though the site of his house is not clear from records in the town archives. A farmhouse that burned at the location in 1982 and where the dig will occur dates back to the late 1800s.

Freeman and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried in a tiny burial ground known as the Saddle & Pillion Cemetery. The site, which is preserved, is on a hill across Tupper Road from the NRG property, which can be seen through the trees.

NRG officials had given verbal assurances they would allow exploration at the site on the company’s property before last month’s vote, but MacDonald has now secured permission in writing.

“It’s a win, win, win, and throw in a couple more wins,” MacDonald said Tuesday morning.

James Wilson, an attorney for the regional commission, confirmed MacDonald had withdrawn his appeal.

“The commission is always pleased when the parties are able to settle a matter by mutual agreement,” Wilson said. “It benefits everyone involved instead of having it be controversial.”

NRG is “pleased” to be able to move forward with the project, David Gaier, a spokesman for the company, wrote in an email. At the April 13 meeting, NRG officials explained they were facing a tight window because some of the government-based incentives that make the solar project financially feasible are due to end.

“We’ve mutually agreed to several things that satisfy both parties, and allow NRG to move forward with a project that helps Massachusetts continue its leadership in renewable, clean energy,” Gaier wrote.

The company will seek permission from the Cape Cod Commission to do the survey, which is necessary because there is a conservation restriction on that portion of the land, he wrote. NRG will also make a good faith effort to name the project the “Edmund Freeman Solar Farm.”

The archaeological survey can’t be completed until after NRG receives its building permit for the solar project, according to the agreement.

With the help of Plimoth Plantation, MacDonald found David Landon, associate director of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who is interested in doing the dig.

“These remaining sites are few and far between based on the development that’s gone on around the Cape and Plymouth Bay,” Landon said. “The prospect of looking there is exciting.”

Freeman not only helped to settle the Cape’s oldest town, but served as assistant governor from 1640 to 1645 under Gov. William Bradford, a tie to Plymouth that likely piqued the Plantation’s interest.

“As the living history museum of 17th-century Colonial and native New England founded with a focus on archaeology, Plimoth Plantation always takes an interest in potentially significant sites of the 1600s,” museum spokeswoman Kate Sheehan said. “While we’re not directly involved in this project, we’re looking forward to learning about the team’s findings.”

The Sandwich Old King’s Highway board was not as receptive to MacDonald. At last month’s meeting, committee member William Collins called claims that potentially significant artifacts would be plowed under, “nonsense.”

MacDonald’s interest was cultivated during his childhood growing up just over the town line in Sagamore, where his family would talk about Sandwich’s rich history and, particularly, Freeman’s links to it. When he heard about NRG’s solar project, he worried some of that history might be lost.

“We don’t know for sure if it’s the site, but it’s certainly worth taking a look,” MacDonald said.

— Follow George Brennan on Twitter: @gpb227.

What’s in YOUR backyard?

By Lisa Hassler

After seeing the archaeological dig at the Autumn Gathering at the Nye Homestead, I was curious to find out what lies lurking under the grass in my own back yard.  I contacted Craig Chartier of Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project in New Bedford who had performed the dig at the Nye Homestead.

Craig marked out a 1 meter square test pit fairly close to the back of the house.  I was hoping he would find physical evidence that the house dates to the late 1820’s or early 1830’s.  I live in Jarvesville which is a charming historic neighborhood of homes where workers of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory settled in the 1800’s after the factory opened.

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