Skip to content

What's New in 2022! » Learn More

Subscribe  |  Login  |  Account

The Last Stand of the Stagecoach

Taverns located close to the new train depot, like Dimmick’s, survived the transition to rail travel. Dimmick’s grandfather, who inherited the establishment, insisted on calling it a tearoom. “He was a staunch Methodist,” says Dimmick, “even though receipts show they served Madeira wine.” Former taverns dot the Cape’s landscape from the Old King’s Highway to the Upper Cape, including The Old Yarmouth Inn in Yarmouthport, Liberty Hall in South Dennis, and Newcomb Tavern in Sandwich.

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

Photo by Maddie McNamara

Although the stagecoaches did not endure, some enterprising stagecoach owners adapted to the changing landscape and prospered. William Ellis Boyden who had run the Plymouth/Sandwich stagecoach operation for 26 years, repurposed his company to transport goods and mail by stagecoach between the train stations and post offices. The determined entrepreneur, whose beautiful home still stands on Sandwich’s Main Street, also built a block of shops, a casino, and a large stable to house all the old stagecoaches.

With the demise of the stagecoach, Keith Car Works capitalized on Gold Rush fever and the opening of the American West, making heavy-duty covered wagons, shovels, and picks. They would later produce boxcars, becoming the Cape’s largest employer during World War I when, at their peak, they shipped 40,000 freight cars to France. (Perhaps it was prophetic that the last iteration of Keith Car Works was as coffin manufacturer before the rising waters of the new Cape Cod Canal literally put the former factory underwater.)

Standing in the Dimmicks’ 200-year-old barn meticulously restored by craftsman and builder Ben Haywood, the sweet smelling barn with its cedar roof, hay hooks, and perfectly joined floorboards recalls a pastoral era. The prevailing southwest breeze blows through the wide doors, as it did when originally constructed to aid in separating the chaff from the wheat. Dimmick points to the six new support posts and the six originals, complete with teeth marks, perhaps from stagecoach horses long gone.

Dimmick and his wife, Freddie, have put permanent conservation restrictions on their five-acre field through the Bourne Conservation Trust. They have also protected their 15 acres of woods as “current use” conservation land for the whole community.

“You have one opportunity to decide what your property will look like 150 years from now,” Dimmick says. “… it’s not about the monetary value; it’s about saving things for people to enjoy.”

It is also about preserving memories tied to a simpler time, when a trip two towns over meant a long day of travel—but no traffic.

You might also like: