Sunday, November 27, 2022
Friday, November 18, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 94: Visiting Plymouth for Thanksgiving, Michael Jackson's Thriller at 40, A Forgotten Cape Cod Nightlife Icon, Weird Old Thanksgiving Foods(11-17-2022)
Friday, November 4, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 92: Birthday Blast - 2-Yr Podcast Anniversary, 21st Birthday Hijinks, Best Bday Gifts for 80s Boys, Portland Maine, War of the Worlds(11-3-2022)
Friday, October 28, 2022
Sunday, October 23, 2022
Saturday, October 15, 2022
In the early morning hours of Thursday, April 14, 1898, James Jennings was heading out of his Sandwich, Massachusetts home on his way to work. Jennings spotted flickering light coming from inside his neighbor James Keenan’s stable. Curious, Jennings walked over and peered in through a window. What he saw was something of indescribable horror. The light was fire and it was consuming a human body.
Jennings burst into the stable and beat the flames out. It was far too late. The young man was dead and his body was nearly charred beyond recognition. He was Thomas Powers who had been working for Keenan as a stableman. How had he ended up in such a condition?
|A similar stable to Keenan's(John L. Hildreth)|
A further inspection of the scene was performed when State Detective Sim Letteney and Sheriff Eugene Haines were called to the scene. Though Powers’ clothes had been almost entirely consumed by the fire the investigators found the metal hooks of his suspenders by his feet. It appeared as though someone had tried to remove his pants before he had caught fire.
Word of the horrific scene at Keenan’s stable quickly spread around Sandwich and beyond. It was like nothing that Cape Cod had seen before. Powers’ body was eventually removed from the stable with an autopsy scheduled for later in the week.
Rather quickly it became apparent that Powers had not been alone the previous night. Detective Letteney and Sheriff Haines spoke with half a dozen witnesses who said Powers had been in the barn with at least two other persons. The investigators were able to ascertain that whatever happened to Powers likely occurred around midnight.
Several questions were at the forefront. Who was with Thomas Powers the night before? How did Powers meet his end? Was the fire the cause of his death, or an attempt to cover up the true cause? The answer to the first question came shortly thereafter.
Those interviewed told the investigators that Powers had been hanging out with four men the previous night. They were identified as Philip Smith, Eugene Allen, Eben Battles, and Allen Webster.
Detective Letteney interviewed Eugene Allen first. Allen admitted to being a part of the group at Keenan’s stable the night before. He said the five young men had all been drinking heavily. In fact, Webster and Battles were so inebriated that Allen had to walk them home. The three men left Thomas Powers and Philip Smith in the stable.
Letteney sought out Philip Smith for an interview. Smith also admitted to being with the group the previous night, drinking heavily. However, he said he had passed out in the office around ten. The fire had awakened him as it began to creep its way into the office. Smith claimed to have thrown water on the fire and called out to Powers. Not hearing anything he passed out again. Upon awakening, Smith said he simply walked home.
The stories of Allen and Smith did not seem to match up, especially with the evidence that Letteney and Haines had already collected. Legend has it that Detective Letteney did in fact uncover the truth about what happened to Thomas Powers that night in 1898. So why is this case still classified as unsolved?
Detective Letteney brought his evidence to District Attorney Andrew Jennings of Fall River, no relation to the man who had found Thomas Powers’ body. At the time of the investigation, it was reported that Jennings had ordered the case to be further investigated. The problem was that Jennings was far more interested in a case he was pursuing that involved Alicia LeBau Berger. She was the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt who was the richest man in the United States. To Jennings that was more important than the potential murder of a poor Irish boy from Cape Cod. Detective Letteney had to do it himself.
|Barnstable County Court House in the early 1900s.|
The investigation was brought before Judge Frederick Swift at Barnstable District Court on April 15, 1898. Letteney was not a trained attorney and therefore was at a huge disadvantage when it came to presenting a case before a grand jury. Although Philip Smith was never officially named a suspect it was believed that he had something to do with Powers’ grisly demise.
Letteney did the best he could to present a compelling case. He brought twenty-two witnesses before a grand jury. Nearly the entire day was spent individually examining them. Unfortunately, much of the evidence was circumstantial and the grand jury chose not to indict Philip Smith or anyone else for that matter. This meant that nobody would end up being held responsible for the death of Thomas Powers. In the end, it was reported that the belief was Powers died from smoke inhalation and subsequently the fire. How exactly the fire was started was never answered.
The outrage on Cape Cod was palpable. If D.A. Jennings had tried the case perhaps a resolution could have been had. The locals saw Jennings as someone who didn’t care about the Cape unless he was being paid by the uber-wealthy Vanderbilt family. They had their chance to extract some revenge in short order.
Mere days before the horrific death of Thomas Powers Cape Cod’s congressional representative, John Simpkins, died. D.A. Jennings quickly announced his candidacy for the open spot. The Republican party caucus took place a few weeks later. It was here that Jennings got his comeuppance. He received no support from Cape Cod and finished dead last out of all of the prospective candidates.
Jennings did not run for district attorney again. He also promised to run again for Congress but that also did not materialize. One interesting twist to the Jennings saga came during the May 31, 1898, special election for the Simpkins seat. One lone person from Cape Cod gave Jennings a write-in vote. It leads to speculation as to whether that write-in vote came from Thomas Powers’ murderer who never was apprehended partially due to the lax attitude of Jennings.
In the end, young Thomas Powers' death remains unsolved. Was he murdered? Was it simply an accident? Was Philip Smith at fault? Or was it someone else? Sadly that answer will likely never come. Regardless of who was at fault, it was a horrific way for someone’s life to end.
Previous Blog Posts:
Friday, October 14, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 89: Bathsheba Spooner's Colonial-era Murder for Hire, My Funniest Speeding Ticket, Halloween in the 1980s, Fastest Canceled TV Shows(10-13-2022)
Saturday, October 8, 2022
Friday, October 7, 2022
Saturday, October 1, 2022
The term murder-suicide is sadly something that is heard far too often in the 21st century. The idea of a person murdering one, or more, people before ending their own lives is both selfish and cowardly. Killing oneself rather than facing the consequences leaves the families unable to properly achieve closure after such a heinous act.
Unfortunately in many of these cases, there are warning signs, some quite blatant, that go unnoticed, or worse, unreported. In the end, it leaves the victims’ families with the same question: could the tragedy have been prevented?
Murder-suicides and unreported threats are sadly not only a present-day issue. Nearly 130 years ago the quiet peninsula of Cape Cod saw two unbelievably tragic cases within a span of fewer than twelve months. Both crimes shook the Cape to its core and only after the fact did it become clear that lives could have been saved if the warning signs had been heeded.
The stories of Osterville’s Lizzie Coleman and Brewster’s Sadie Hassard are similar but different. Both have the sad murder-suicide label. Both came down to jealousy. As stated above, unfortunately, there were warning signs that could have prevented both crimes.
|Lizzie Coleman(3rd from left), and her family outside of their Osterville home. About 1890, she would have been roughly 9 years old.|
It began in Osterville at the end of 1894 when an infatuation was born. German laborer Henry Ledtke, who had been working for a few years on S.S. Leonard’s farm, spotted William and Lucy Coleman’s daughter Lizzie for the first time. Ledtke was a man over forty with a wife and three children back in Germany, Lizzie was thirteen and not yet in high school.
Ledtke’s obsession with Lizzie grew slowly. He began spending more and more time at the Coleman house, on the corner of Main Street and West Barnstable Road, trying desperately to woo the affection of the girl nearly thirty years his junior. The courtship also included numerous gifts given to Lizzie. During this time Lizzie was seen in the company of Eben Harding, the literal boy next door, quite often. The powder keg was soon lit.
As time passed and Ledtke noticed Lizzie and Eben’s budding relationship he grew wild with jealous rage. It was in May 1895 that Ledtke was told by Mr. Coleman to not come near his house or his daughter anymore. When his request that all of the gifts he had given Lizzie be returned was denied that was the last straw.
Ledtke made threats against the entire Coleman family, brazenly admitting to Lizzie that he planned on killing her. Sadly she did not tell her father of the danger. Initially, Ledtke’s plan was to kill both Lizzie and Eben after church on Sunday June 9th. He even suggested a shortcut home to the young couple which would have led them deep into the Osterville woods where he would have ambushed them. When they refused Ledtke devised a blunter scheme that unfolded early the following day.
At 8:30am on Monday June 10th Lizzie walked to school with her two brothers when Ledtke struck. In broad daylight on a public street, he approached Lizzie brandishing a revolver. The first shot grazed her face while two shots missed her brothers. The three turned and ran but Ledtke pursued. He fired a shot that struck Lizzie in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Ledtke then turned the gun on himself. Both murderer and victim lay next to each other in the middle of the street. Incredibly Mr. Coleman had been contemplating alerting the police about Ledtke’s threats on Monday. He never got the chance.
|Lizzie Coleman's grave at Hillside Cemetery in Osterville.|
The outbreak of grief and unimaginable sadness was immediate. Lizzie’s funeral was held the day after at the Osterville Baptist Church on Main Street. Her friends from school sang hymns while surrounding her casket. The situation was made all the worse by the fact that Lizzie Coleman’s murder likely could have been stopped if someone had contacted the authorities earlier. She was laid to rest at Hillside Cemetery on Old Mill Road in Osterville.
342 days later, twenty miles away, with the tragic murder of Lizzie Coleman still fresh in the minds of Cape Codders, a similar story unfolded.
The story of Sarah 'Sadie' Hassard is like the other side of the same coin. The main difference between her story and Lizzie’s is the belief reported at the time that Sadie and her killer were at some point romantically linked.
Sadie and Frederick Alexander both lived in Brewster. She was a pretty and well-liked woman of twenty-five. He was said to be a relatively average young man working odd jobs around town at spots like local cranberry bogs. The pair became a couple with the thought being that they intended to get married at some point. It seemed like a perfect story of young love.
Sometime early in 1896, there was a dissolution of the relationship. Reports at the time said that although Sadie didn’t have eyes for another she had grown tired of Frederick. The young man grew angry and jealous despite Sadie not starting another relationship.
The impact was immediate as Frederick began making threats against her and her family which consisted of parents and four sisters. The nature of the threats was not revealed at the time. However, in a sad parallel to Lizzie Coleman’s case, the family refused to report the threats to the authorities for fear of unwanted notoriety. It was a costly mistake.
On the morning of Sunday, May 17, 1896, Sadie and one of her younger sisters were at home on Lower Road in Brewster. She had been living with elderly Reverend Thomas Dawes for the previous two years, she was likely his caretaker as he was seventy-eight years old at the time. The morning church services were just beginning at the Unitarian Church a few hundred yards away on Main Street(Rt. 6A). As Reverend Dawes gave his opening prayer tragedy was unfolding.
Frederick Alexander went to Sadie’s residence with malice on his mind and a revolver in his hand. He found the doors locked and attempted to enter through a window. Although he was not able to enter the house he managed to grab Sadie and drag her out through the window. She ran out of the yard through the front gate, narrowly missing being shot by Frederick.
The sound of the shot startled the churchgoers at the Unitarian Church. Sadie attempted to flee to her parents' house further down Lower Road. Three more shots followed as Frederick gave chase. Sadie fell after being hit and before she could even move Frederick caught up to her, pressed the gun to her head, and fired the final shot. He immediately fled south as the church members approached finding young Sadie Hassard dead.
After the initial shock of finding Sadie's body, the search was on. Chairman of Selectmen of Brewster, John Clark, and Deputy Sheriff Alfred Crocker, put together the search as it seemed to be apparent to those in the know that Frederick Alexander was the culprit.
|Sadie Hassard's gravestone.|
The search party headed south, eventually crossing into what is present-day Sweetwater Forest campground. Along the shore of Snow’s Pond, Frederick’s hat was found. Inside it was the murder weapon and twenty-five unused bullets. There was no sign of the killer along the water’s edge but a boat was sent for and the pond was searched. Several passes found nothing. The search persisted and eventually, the body of Frederick Alexander was found about one hundred feet from shore in five feet of water. He had taken his own life.
Once pulled to shore his person was searched. A bottle of strychnine was found. Also in his pocket was a note evidently written earlier in the day. In the note, Frederick said he planned on killing Sadie and would not be taken alive. He ended with an ominous threat that if he was cornered he would take others with him. This meant that if the concerned churchgoers had arrived a few moments earlier there could have been more losses of life.
The outpouring of grief was immense in the quiet town of Brewster. Sadie Hassard’s funeral was held at the Baptist Church on Main Street on Wednesday, May 20, 1896. The church was overflowing with people from all over Cape Cod. Reverend Dawes, beside himself with sadness, gave a heartfelt prayer for Sadie’s soul, and the wounded hearts of her family and the town.
|The Hassard house foundation at the head of the Eddy Bay Trail in Brewster.|
Sadie Hassard was laid to rest at the Brewster Cemetery on Lower Road. A few hundred yards east of the cemetery, where the Hassard family home stood, is now the Eddy Bay Trail conservation area. The stone remains of the home’s foundation still stand as a solemn link back to a sad and tragic event in Brewster’s history that possibly could have been prevented if only the threats had been reported.
Lizzie Coleman and Sadie Hassard both had long lives ahead of them. Both of these young ladies had their flame cruelly snuffed out by jealous men. It is important to remember that there were warning signs in both cases. If you or someone you know is in a similar situation to Lizzie and Sadie before their untimely murders please reach out to the proper authorities.
Previous Blog Posts:
Monday, September 26, 2022
Sunday, September 25, 2022
Saturday, September 17, 2022
Natural disasters come in all forms. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, and more attack without remorse and change land and lives in their wake. Fires are sometimes natural disasters and sometimes man-made. They are no less devastating whatever their origin is.
Cape Cod has seen its share of fires. There have been some terrible forest fires over the centuries. However what about fires that caused an overwhelming loss of property? One of the deadliest such fires occurred in the first decade of the 20th century and forever changed Downtown Hyannis. This is the story of Main Street’s great fire of 1904.
|Looking west down Main Street before the fire. Everything on the right was basically wiped out.|
In the 2020s it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Hyannis’ Main Street was anything but wall-to-wall shopping and restaurants. A century ago however it was dotted with residential homes as much as businesses. It has always been referred to by its ‘ends.’ The East End lies near the end of the railroad tracks and is close to Cape Cod Hospital, while the West End is today near a rotary and close to the Cape Cod Melody Tent.
The Main Street area of Hyannis had actually seen a pair of large fires in the preceding years both in 1892 and again in 1894. What came in the early morning hours of December 2-3, 1904 topped both of them in terms of loss.
The exact location and cause of the fire itself have never truly been established. However, it can be traced to one of two places. Although the fire could have begun at either L.P. Wilson’s grocery store or Walter Baker’s neighboring department store, both located near Center Street across from the railroad depot. It was Wilson who first was made aware of the blaze.
Living above his store Wilson’s mother alerted him and his wife and two children just before midnight on September 2nd. They were all able to escape the fire in the nick of time with only the clothes on their backs. Wilson’s store was the easternmost location to be lost. Wilson’s mother thought the fire began next door in Baker’s building. However with the buildings all being built so close together, some as close as six feet, it will likely never be known where the actual ignition location was.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, December 3rd the alarm had been sounded for the fire department in the form of the bell atop the nearby Universalist Church. It is unknown just how long the flames had been roaring before being brought to anyone’s attention. Wilson’s Hyannis Public Market and Walter Baker’s Department Store were the first structures to go, but they weren’t the last.
Strong northeast winds coupled with the wooden buildings being so closely packed together meant that the fire spread easily. The flames were essentially blown right down Main Street. Luckily many of the buildings in the path of the flames had items removed by volunteers before the flames could reach them. This included stock from some of the businesses. The Hyannis Fire Department got five pieces of apparatus together but it was no match for the growing fire. Calls were made to other local departments with firefighters from as far away as Middleborough, Provincetown, and Brockton making their way to help. In an extreme act of bravery, a man from the Telephone Exchange Co. was atop a nearby telephone pole sending messages for help as long as he was safe.
The fire ate through more than 600 feet of Main Street real estate. The exclamation point in the carnage came at just after 3am when the steeple of the Universalist Church came toppling to the ground. A perimeter was set up using wet rugs and blankets on and around buildings that were just out of the fire’s reach. Eventually, the strong northeast winds died down, and by 4am the fire had been contained.
Heading west along Main Street the following businesses were totally destroyed by the fire: The Universalist Church, post office, Richardson Bros. Photographers, William P. Bearse & Co. who sold meats and provisions, P. F. Campbell & Co. who were tailors, Singer Sewing Machine Co., Charles W Megathlin’s pharmacy, A. P. and E. L. Eagleston’s department store, New England Telephone Exchange, Julia Stevens dressmaker, James E. Baxter boots/shoes, Thomas Nickerson’s marble, and granite works, and finally A. B. Nye & Co.’s paint store.
|Postcard of the fire's aftermath, taken by Walter Baker whose department store was destroyed.|
When all was said and done fifteen buildings had been destroyed. Conservative estimates had the damage somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000($5 million in 2022). For A. B. Nye it was the third time that his paint store had burned down in twelve years. Only once had the fire started on Nye’s property. Sadly sixty-nine-year-old retired sea captain William Penn Lewis died of a heart attack while in the process of saving his house from the fire. As day broke on that Saturday morning all that was left was carnage. Nearly ten acres of property, retail and residential, government and worship, all lay in ruins.
With the perseverance of a bygone generation, those Hyannis residents who lost their homes or businesses did not stay down for long. In fact, the post office was quickly moved into the home of Mrs. E. C. Benson. Thanks to the determination of Postmaster Percy Goss it was delivering its first shipment of mail by 7:30 that same morning. Most of the businesses quickly set up temporary locations in and around the charred remains of their establishments. Insurance adjusters came later in the day on Saturday, and by the end of the day, plans were already being made for rebuilding Main Street.
|Main Street as it appears today. (Google Maps)|
By April 1905 nearly all of the lost buildings had been rebuilt, most of them in the same locations where they previously stood. Today there is little to no reminder of the devastating fire that changed the face of Main Street Hyannis. The ‘new’ buildings are all now nearly 120 years old themselves. They have seen generations of change on Cape Cod and in the world. The solitary reminder in plain sight is a historic marker at the intersection with Ocean Street. It was roughly where the fire was stopped and shows a photo of the aftermath of the blaze.
-----------------------------------------------Previous Blog Posts:
Friday, September 16, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast: Episode 85 - Cape Cod's Marconi Wireless Station, Rutland Vermont, Video Arcade Heyday, Worst As-Seen On TV Products, Phineas Gage
Friday, September 2, 2022
Have you ever had a certain scent stir up intense memories? I’ve had a lot of recent experiences, especially during the warmer months. It centers around pine. Pine trees, pine needles, maybe the sap, I don’t know, but it’s strong. It happened again today while I was walking from my car into a client’s house which led me to write this. The smell of the pine needles strewn across the ground, coupled with the dry, late-summer air made a perfect potpourri. So much so that I had to stop and take a moment to acknowledge the memories and emotion that was brought to the surface.
Whether on a forest trail or a bike trail the past comes softly calling. It always sends me back to the same place, the same time. Age sixteen, 1994. Why is that? It’s easy yet complicated.
1994 was likely the last time that I felt the warmth of innocence. I was a sophomore in high school, still living in the neighborhood that had molded my childhood like fresh clay. It was a time when the world was still there to be conquered, but there was no rush to make concrete plans. I had dreams, to be a writer, filmmaker, something that gave my creative spirit joy. But there was time.
|The old tracks filled with pine trees.(2009)|
1994 was a time in life when everybody was still here. I had never experienced loss. I didn’t know the deep and permanent scars that can be left in your heart when you lose someone, whether just from your life or from this earth entirely. I sit back now and think about all that I didn’t know about the world and I wish I could go back there. I think about things I didn’t know about people, places, and things, and wish I could go back there.
1994 was an innocent time. School was relatively easy albeit time-consuming. Life was cluttered with amazing friends. It was filled with fun times when fun times were so simple and basic and the worries were not real worries. Did I finish my homework? Does that girl like me? Do I have enough money to buy anything good at the corner store?
I was lucky enough to live in an area that allowed me to walk through quiet streets, through some secluded wooded pathways, and to a tiny strip mall where my friends and I would buy soda, chips, and candy.
There were abandoned railroad tracks and sandy paths running under rows of power lines. We’d walk the tracks, or sneak onto the nearby golf course. I’d feel like I was on an adventure but never felt worried or threatened by life. The world was happy. The world was safe. Along those railroad tracks, along those sandy paths, along the golf course were untold numbers of pine trees, big and tall, or short and stubby. The joy I felt in those times, on those adventures, and in life in general, was captured and contained in the smell of the pine. While I was making those long-lasting positive memories the scent of the pine seeped into my subconscious.
I didn’t notice it much until the last few years. Ironically they have been filled with loss and instability. The world doesn’t feel happy. The world doesn’t feel safe. I’ve lost countless family members and friends. I’ve faced adult choices and adult demons that make me long for the time-consuming school days of 1994.
It feels like in the last few years the universe has known I’ve needed some peace of mind and thus the smell of the pine came to the forefront. I can be sitting at a park, walking the bike trail, or like today walking across a parking lot to someone’s house and I’ll catch a whiff. Suddenly it’s 1994 again.
It’s 1994, I’m sixteen, and I can visit any of my grandparents whenever I want. I can pick up the phone and call friends and make plans to ‘hang.’ Or I could grab my bike and ride to someone’s house, or to the corner store, and bask in the fleeting feelings of youth. The future lay out before me like a sunny highway. Nothing seemed uncertain, nothing to fear. Dreams were larger than regret. Living the good old days we didn’t know were good yet.
This is not an isolated experience. There are other scents that bring back other types of memories. But the pine is the most intense. It sparks a nostalgic flame that I welcome each time. It’s as if the scent of the pine was a fine wine I gathered back then to break out on special occasions.
Sit back and think. What scents take your mind somewhere? Why do you think that is the case? If you’re wondering how something like memory-inducing scents happen check out this article.
Previous Blog Posts:
Thursday, September 1, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 83: The Buried Treasure of Mabel Simpkins, Old School New England Convenience Stores, 90s Advertising Mascots, Road Trip Dennis MA(9-1-2022)
Friday, August 26, 2022
This legendary establishment along the high-traffic Route 28 in Yarmouth had a dedication to great entertainment and terrific food. Its status as a place to be was in part thanks to the tireless efforts of its larger-than-life owner. For nearly two decades, George “Dorsie” Carey ran his eponymous steak house in two separate locations along Route 28, creating buzz around town with his entertainment and cuisine.
Carey had come to the Cape from Dorchester. And no, this was not how he got the nickname Dorsie. That nickname was bestowed on him by his niece while they were living in the same three-story building in the historic Boston neighborhood. She could not pronounce the name George, and as it usually came out “Dorsie,” the name stuck with him. Carey had another nickname that became the name of a restaurant—“Handlebar Harry”—due to his handlebar mustache. He opened Handlebar Harry’s in Plymouth with his wife, Louise Houston, in 1991.
|Dorsie's when it was still the Gay Nineties.|
Dorsie’s began as a much smaller restaurant located at 183 Route 28 in West Yarmouth, near the iconic Mill Hill Club in 1974. Business took off over the next few years. The landlord of the property decided after the 1978 season to increase the rent for the property by 400 percent, from $8,500 per month to $35,000. This shocking increase set off a chain reaction that ended up taking Dorsie’s to new heights.
Carey searched all along Route 28, from Hyannis to Bass River, in the hopes of finding a new location. One of his regular customers at the restaurant was, in fact, the owner of an establishment called the Gay Nineties located half a mile away on Route 28. After hearing of Carey’s plight, the owner sold the Gay Nineties building to him on a handshake. On the night of July 3, 1979, Carey, his staff, close friends, and some of the Yarmouth Police worked through the night and moved all of the equipment from the original Dorsie’s down the street and into its new home.
“We were opened July Fourth,” Carey proudly reflected, “although there was no food service until July Fifth.”
The hard work of finding the new location paid off.
The new, larger Dorsie’s had a lot more space for patrons and entertainment. There were three unique function rooms at this location. There was the Cranberry Room, which was located over the main dining room. It was totally self-contained and seated 60 people. There was the Nineties Room, which had an 1890s motif as a nod to the former Gay Nineties Restaurant. This sat 200 people. Finally, there was the Waterwheel Room, which was the primary function room. It sat an impressive 350 people and was complete with its own banquet kitchen.
There was always something going on as far as entertainment went at Dorsie’s, including an up-and-coming Jay Leno plying his trade in the Waterwheel Room. Leno had been contracted to play another legendary establishment in West Dennis called the Golden Anchor. However, that place was sold before he could perform, so Leno’s contract was given to Dorsie’s. He was given the gate while the restaurant kept what the bar brought in.
|The front entrance|
Diane Dexter, who played piano and sang at Dorsie’s starting in 1981, has fond memories of her time playing there as well as the man behind it all.
“I worked in their main lounge on a grand piano as a solo act,” she recalled, “playing and singing standards and pop/folk/country/rock songs that were popular at the time.”
Dexter also recalls the Dorsieland Ragtime Review, a Dixieland band that played in the Gay Nineties Room and was a very popular attraction. As for Carey himself, Dexter remembered that he was “always very good with people.”
The one thing that put Dorsie’s over the top was its affordably priced food. The establishment did a tremendous liquor business, which Carey wisely reinvested in his menu. Marinated steak tips, steak teriyaki, and prime rib were the biggest sellers, made even better by the fact that the meat would be cut and cooked at the Pit, right out in the dining room. Customers could watch while their food was prepared before their eyes. It only added to the uniqueness of Dorsie’s.
After years of successfully running his mid-Cape complex, Carey yearned for a change. He got that chance when Cordage Park in Plymouth, which converted buildings into a mall in the 1980s, came calling. Carey sold Dorsie’s in 1990, and it became a Lambert’s Farm Market. In 1991, Carey opened Handlebar Harry’s, which became the anchor of the mall. It was tremendously popular in its own right and ran until 2003.
Today, George “Dorsie” Carey is retired, but even more than thirty years after Dorsie’s closed its doors, he still has people coming up to him and wanting to reminisce about those good old days. As of 2022, Antiques Center of Yarmouth stands where Dorsie’s once did.
Previous Blog Posts:
Friday, August 19, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 81: Cape Cod's 2019 Tornadoes, Snipets PSAs, New Haven CT, OG Video Game Characters(8-18-2022)
Thursday, August 11, 2022
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 80: The Sword & Shield Restaurant of Harwich, South Park 25th Anniversary, Top 'Could Have Been' Athletes, Concord NH, Jack the Ripper
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Saturday, July 23, 2022
In 1914 the Cape Cod Canal opened and changed maritime travel in New England and beyond forever. The man-made waterway that connected Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay had its construction begun June 1909. It was created by joining the Scusset River and the Manomet River. For over a century the Cape Cod Canal has been a well-traveled waterway. However did you know that the Cape Cod Canal was not the first attempt at created a cut-through around the Cape? What follows is the story of two other canal attempts in the decades before the current Cape Cod Canal was constructed.
The first attempted man-made cut through Cape Cod came two centuries ago much further east than the current canal location. ‘Jeremiah’s Gutter’ was the name of this waterway. ‘Gutter’ is another word for a channel or waterway. The name ‘Jeremiah’ comes from Jeremiah Smith who came from a founding Eastham family of the late 17th century.
On April 26, 1717 a strong nor’easter battered Cape Cod. It was in this storm that the famed pirate ship Whydah sank with all of its treasure aboard. This storm also carved a channel of varying depths running roughly from Town Cove in Orleans west to what is today Boat Meadow Beach in Eastham. The channel was used by British vessels trying to recover the sunken Whydah treasure in 1717. Afterwards it began to close up due both to nature and locals filling it in manually. The marshlands surrounding the channel, which stretched across the Cape from bayside in Eastham to oceanside in Orleans, often flooded causing the channel to be resurrected in a shallow form over the next several decades.
In 1804 it was decided to widen and deepen the passageway out along the previously created channel which ran over a mile and a half, nearly congruent with the Eastham/Orleans town line. The canal was named Jeremiah’s Gutter to honor Jeremiah Smith as it was much of his property that the waterway ran across.
|c. Google Maps|
Due to the large system of sandy tidal flats along Cape Cod Bay stretching from Brewster to Eastham the bay-side entrance to the canal often became choked with silt making that entrance way unreliable at low tide. It again was sparsely used by traveling vessels and would not be maintained. Jeremiah’s Gutter fell into disrepair and ceased to be used as a passageway for boats, although as late as 1844 large enough storms and tides would push water through making the canal whole again for a brief time.
Though it had begun fading into history the canal would have one more brush with fame when author Henry David Thoreau would mention Jeremiah’s Gutter in his iconic 1865 book Cape Cod. After that the eyes of the Cape would begin searching for a different location to create a more dependable canal. The idea of a new canal became more pressing during the late 1880’s when shipwrecks along Cape Cod’s coast occurred once every two weeks.
This is where the second canal comes into play. Jeremiah’s Gutter was a somewhat functioning canal. The new canal idea migrated west to Bass River. This was another natural waterway stretching from Nantucket Sound, up Bass River, and into Follins Pond.
Though ideas for another canal on Cape Cod had been bandied about for decades the proposed Bass River Canal first came to light in early 1887. It was the brainchild of longtime local shipping merchant Thomas Bacon. He had several good reasons why a man-made waterway would work at Bass River. First off it would save lives as the rough waves and shoals along the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Cod had proven to be extremely dangerous for ships for centuries. In addition to being roughly ¾ finished already thanks to nature Bacon determined there would only be roughly two miles of excavation necessary between Follins Pond and Cape Cod Bay.
|The original Bass River Bridge in the mid-1800's.(Historical Society of Old Yarmouth)|
The natural waters were an average of ten-feet in depth. Bacon desired that the proposed canal be closer to sixteen-feet on average. The assumption was that the canal would empty into Cape Cod Bay through the flats between Bass Hole and Chapin Beach. Bass River was about 175-feet wide at its narrowest with its gravelly shores leaving little work to be done. Bacon’s plan was received well by those in the shipping industry. He enlisted the help of the newfound Cape Cod Ship Canal Co. to work with him on getting the project financed and underway.
Early estimates by Bacon had approximately two years of work needed to fully construct the Bass River Canal. He told a Boston Herald reporter in March 1887 that such a project would cost somewhere around $2.5 million($78 million in 2022). Throughout the spring of 1887 support grew for the canal with opposition being surprisingly low. Things progressed so well in fact that by November 1887 engineer Charles Thompson was surveying the proposed canal route.
Shockingly despite there seeming to be little reason why not to construct the Bass River Canal it was unanimously voted down by the committee on harbors and public lands in April 1888. Bacon was undeterred and the project was once against submitted to State Legislature in October 1888. His petition was ultimately withdrawn in January 1889.
It appeared as though the growing interest in building a canal between Bourne and Sandwich was making Bacon’s Bass River location less appealing. In addition Thomas Bacon had grown impatient with the efforts, or lack thereof, of the Cape Cod Ship Canal Co. to get the Bass River Canal project moving. In December 1890 Bacon petitioned to have the company removed from the project so that he could move on and find a more suitable finance partner. He then created the Bass River Canal Co.
In the court of public opinion it was a battle between the Bass River route and the Bourne-Sandwich route. The locals wanted a canal and were less interested in the bureaucratic battles behind the scenes between Bacon and the Cape Cod Ship Canal Co.
Thomas Bacon and his backers continued to petition the committee of harbors and public lands in 1891. There were conditions on the route’s width and depth, with provisions that a certain amount of capital($1 million) needing to be raised first before construction could begin. Several meetings were held with locals giving their two cents of the pros and cons of the canal.
As momentum grew for a canal connecting Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay Thomas Bacon’s Bass River project was continuously pushed down the road. Meetings and petitions were delayed and postponed repeatedly. In December 1891 things seemed to gain traction when civil engineer A.H. Knowles completed a thorough survey of the proposed route including a hand-drawn map.
|The 1891 Bass River Canal map. The arrow points to where the Bass River Bridge was.|
The Bourne-Sandwich canal was still seen as less feasible which gave the Bass River Canal hope in 1893 when it was yet again submitted as a petition. In June 1894 the Massachusetts House voted in favor of the Bass River Canal, and a year later the company secured a charter. Plans were in place to begin construction which was estimated to last two years and cost between $5-8 million ($176-282 million).
Sadly this is where the project died a death. After four years the charter had been dissolved and no work was ever done on the proposed Bass River Canal. In 1899 the charter for building a canal was granted to the Boston, New York, and Cape Cod Co. which intended to build the canal between Bourne and Sandwich.
For several years after the Bass River Canal Co. attempted to regain their own charter for their canal. Finally in May 1904 the Massachusetts State Senate dealt the company its death blow by flat out rejecting the Bass River Canal proposal. The doorway was open and in 1904 August Belmont purchased and reorganized the Boston, New York, and Cape Cod Co.
|Sunset at the Cape Cod Canal.|
The rest is history. Work began on the Cape Cod Canal as we know it on June 19, 1909, opening on July 29, 1914. The Bass River Canal idea, much like Jeremiah’s Gutter before it, faded into history. Or did it?
In 1966 rumblings began of a potential look into the feasibility of a Bass River canal. There was even a proposal in February 1966 for $15,000 for a study into whether such a project could be done. However, nothing came from it.
In the end Jeremiah’s Gutter actually was used by boats. The Bass River Canal spent decades locked in legislation before being dissolved without even a spoonful of dirt being shoveled. It is interesting though to think of what Cape Cod would look like today with a Bass River Canal and the Scusset and Manomet Rivers still intact in Bourne and Sandwich.
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