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The Last Stand of the Stagecoach

As the stagecoach became a popular means of transportation, resourceful Cape Codders turned their homes into “stages” or stations offering food, rest, and libations for weary travelers.
David Dimmick’s family home in Cataumet served as one of these taverns from 1795–1910 and was the noontime stop between Sandwich and Falmouth, then an all-day trip as the horses plodded barely above walking speed.

From the graceful, rolling lawn to the broad, painted floorboards and detailed wainscoting inside, nearly everything in the home recalls the days of taverns and stagecoaches. The comfortable “common room” in the middle of the house still serves as hub to all the smaller connecting rooms.

A front parlor was once reserved for formal occasions, “such as visits from the minister,” says Dimmick. Among Dimmick’s prized possessions is the tavern’s 1795 wooden sign painted with an American eagle and 15 stars and stripes. “Tennessee had just entered the Union at that time,” he explains. Although the family’s first tavern house burned down and was rebuilt in 1876, a photo of the
building still hangs in the parlor and includes the original barn, which remains on the property.

Relics of the horse-drawn era are embedded in Cape Cod’s history.

Photo by Maddie McNamara

Glimpses of history are everywhere, from the wavy glass of the 19th-century windowpanes to the Chinese chestnut trees, offshoots of his grandfather’s original tree, blooming in front of the barn, where 200 years ago, stagecoach horses were stabled and changed.

Dimmick believes his relatives, like most Cape Codders of prior centuries, farmed, fished, sailed, and cobbled together a living by multiple means, including tavern keeping. A back bedroom housed boarders, including the teacher from Cataumet’s one-room schoolhouse. In fact, both Dimmick’s grandfather and great grandfather married the schoolteachers who boarded there.

Everything changed for the stagecoach with the advent of the Cape Cod Railroad in 1848. By the time the tracks extended all the way to Provincetown in 1873, trains were nudging the slow moving stagecoach into the history books, which, according to at least one newspaper editor, is where it belonged. John Crocker, the then-editor of the Provincetown Advocate, heralded the first train to town, writing: “We have long felt our isolation.” He was elated that the train had finally “brought low the hills of sand.”

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