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Chronology of Nye Family

An Historical Chronology of

The Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum,

Farm and Mills, and the

Nye Family of America Assn., Inc.


Compiled by John Nye Cullity

April 2012


        In 2012, the Nye Family of America Association, Inc. celebrated the 50th anniversary of its ownership of the 1678 Benjamin Nye Homestead, which in 1958 was threatened with demolition.  Due to the activism of Rosanna Cullity and other concerned Nye descendants, the house was saved through an act of the Massachusetts Legislature.  The newly-revived and incorporated Nye Association received a deed to the property on May 28, 1962.
         Below is a chronology of the essential history of the Homestead, the Association, and the preservation story.

1635  Benjamin Nye, the Thomas Tupper family and others arrive at
         Saugus (north of Boston) in Massachusetts Bay Colony from England,
         on the ship Abigail.
1637  Benjamin Nye travels with about fifty families to Cape Cod, to begin
         the first English settlement there – the town of Sandwich.
1640  On October 16th, Benjamin Nye and Katherine Tupper marry. 
          Benjamin is allotted nine acres at Spring Hill, where he builds his first
          house.  He and Katherine raise eight children.  In years to come,
          Benjamin acquires salt marsh and upland in East Sandwich near “the
          little river”, a spring-fed stream flowing into Scorton Creek.
1665  The town has some trouble negotiating with miller Thomas Dexter, Jr.
         regarding toll, the miller’s payment in grain.  An appeal is made for
         someone to set up another grist mill, with promise of a land grant.
1669  Benjamin Nye’s water-powered grist mill, the second in town, is up
          and running in East Sandwich.  He receives 12 acres near the mill.
1676  Benjamin is granted permission to build a fulling mill (for processing
          home-spun woolen cloth).  The record indicates “Spring Hill River”
          but the mill was actually built next to the grist mill in East Sandwich.
1678  Benjamin builds his second house, a saltbox (lean-to) style, next to the
          grist mill and fulling mill.  At some point a barn is built 150’ west of
          the house.  His Spring Hill house and farm are given to his son John.
1806  By this time a wool carding machine is operating in the fulling mill.
1816  Deacon Silvanus Nye rebuilds the house from a saltbox into a full
         colonial, (raising the roof) with an ell on the west end.
1840  The carding mill is discontinued.  The building is moved and added to
          the north side of the house as a kitchen ell and woodshed.
1867  Shortly after the death of Deacon Samuel Nye the 198 year old grist
          mill is taken down by his son Joseph.
1879  Augustus Holway, who married Helen Nye in 1863, acquired part
         ownership of the house from her brother, Joseph F. H. Nye.  Helen’s
         mother Sarah, widow of Deacon Samuel Nye, his aged aunts Desire
         and Rebecca Nye, and Samuel’s unmarried daughter Lydia, also live
         in the house.
1880  Charles H. Nye (1821-1907) of Hyannis, Division Superintendent of
          the Old Colony Railroad, speaks with other Nyes about the possibility
          of forming a family association.  Some genealogical work is begun.
1887  East Sandwich Grange #139, a local branch of a national farm family
          fraternity, is formed with         Samuel H. Nye as the first master.
1889  Grange members form the East Sandwich Mill and Hall Association,
          to legally hold property and sell shares.  On land provided by Samuel
          H.  Nye, the Grange Hall is constructed, and a grist mill (built by
          Oliver Jones in 1855) is moved from the Bumps River in Centerville
          and set up on the site of the old mill.  It operates as a cooperative grist
          mill until 1897, when it is sold to John Armstrong, who operates a
          small electroplating and jewelry factory there till about 1905.  He
          and John Carleton begin a trout hatchery on the property.
1903  The Nye Family of America Association is formed and holds a large
          Reunion in Sandwich, with elderly Charles H. Nye in attendance.
          William L. Nye of Sandwich is the first president.  Reunions are held
          and the proceedings are published each year until 1910.  Dates of
          subsequent reunions are uncertain, except for 1916 and 1928. 
1904  Ella Frances Holway, (wife of Jerome, son of Augustus and Helen),
          writes an interesting essay, “The Nye Homes of Sandwich” for the
          Reunion Proceedings.  This contains a description of the Benjamin Nye Homestead,
          estimating the date of construction as 1685.
1907  The Nye Family of America publishes A Genealogy of the Nye
          Family, compiled by George Hyatt Nye and Frank E. Best.
1908  The Nye Family of America sets up a memorial boulder and plaque
          near town hall.
1911  Helen Nye Holway moves from the Homestead to Sandwich Village,
          to live with her son Jerome.  Ray Nye (1861-1925), a
          businessman from Fremont, Nebraska somehow learns about the house,
          and purchases it and 37 acres “to save it from the inglorious fate of passing out of the Nye lineage.”
1912  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchases the mill and 4 ½
          acres of trout hatchery from Armstrong and Carleton.  The
          Commission on Fish and Wildlife begins to re-build and enlarge the
          hatchery operation for re-stocking purposes.
1912  Ray Nye repairs the back roof of the Homestead, and takes much of
          the furniture to his home in Fremont, Nebraska, where it is later destroyed in a fire. 
         
He begins leasing the Homestead and 37 acres to
          the Mass.  Fish and Game Commissioners, to provide living quarters
          for the hatchery superintendent.  From about 1918 to 1948 the
          Homestead was occupied by Alfred Fish, Sr., his wife Ruth, and their family. 
          The portion of the 37 acre farm south of the railroad is utilized for trout hatchery purposes,
          the portion north of the tracks becomes a game farm, primarily for pheasant and quail re-stocking.
1923  A law is passed allowing the Commonwealth to accept gifts of land.
1924  (July 15) Ray Nye deeds the Nye house and 37 acres of land to the
           Commonwealth “for the purpose of protecting any species of useful
          wild birds, quadrupeds or fish, and for aiding the propagation thereof
          under the Acts of 1923 of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, chapter 301”.
1925  A pamphlet by Bernard Peterson, “The Nye House at Sandwich”, is
          published by the Register Press, Yarmouthport, part of a series.  The
          Commonwealth places a bronze plaque in front of the Homestead,
          commemorating the house as “Home of the Nye Family”, and the
          Ray Nye gift.
1936  95 year old Helen Nye Holway is the subject of an article in the
         New Bedford Standard Times.  She relates interesting details about
         the Nye farm and homestead.
1928  The west end ell is removed.  The north ell, once the fulling/carding
          mill, is removed and replaced with a new kitchen ell.  Various repairs
          and alterations are made to the interior of the house.
1948  Game warden Joseph La Farr and his family occupy the house
          until 1954. 
1958  It becomes known that the vacant Homestead may be torn down or
          removed.  Rosanna Cullity, whose ancestors lived in the Homestead,
          becomes concerned, and begins to contact other local Nye
          descendants.  Margerie Leonard, who knows State Senator
         Edward C. Stone, is very helpful.    
1959  The long-dormant Nye Family Association is re-energized, with
          Roswell H. Nye, Sr. of Harwich as president.  At this time there is a
          surge of interest in historic preservation.  Historic houses in Plymouth,
          and in Sandwich, the preservation of the Wing Fort House (1942),
Hoxie House (1957), Dexter Grist Mill (1960), provide inspiration. 
          With Senator Stone’s help, the Commonwealth agrees to give the
          Homestead, with a small piece of land to the Nye Family Association,
          provided the house is operated as a museum.  In May, about thirty
          Association members meet and vote to petition the Commonwealth to
          deed the Homestead to the Association.  Senator Stone works to
          achieve this.
1960  The Massachusetts legislature approves an act to give the Homestead
          to the Nye Family of America Association, signed by Governor Furcolo May 14th.
1961  The Nye Family of America Association works to build membership,
          and incorporates on October 26th , enabling it to receive the property.
1962  A deed to the Association is signed on May 28th. 
1963  Work on the Homestead begins in earnest, with substantial help from
          Roswell Nye, who owns a lumber yard and has connections with
          contractors.  The “new” Nye Family of America Assn. holds its first
         reunion on August 2,3, &4th , on the 6oth anniversary of the first Nye
         reunion.  150 attend, from 18 states.
196_  The Association reprints the 1907 genealogy.
1965  Volume II, compiled by R. Glen Nye and L. Bert Nye, is published.
1966  First issue of the Nye Family Newsletter appears.
1972  The Homestead is opened to the public on June 14th, with live-in
         docents, who use the kitchen and some upstairs rooms as an apartment.
1982  Live-in docents are discontinued, allowing the entire house to be
          utilized for museum purposes.  During the 1980s, substantial
          restoration and exhibit work is carried out in the east upstairs
          bedroom, the Marine Room, and the keeping room (18th century kitchen). 
1987  A Sandwich Album is published during the 350th anniversary year of
          the founding of Sandwich, compiled by Rosanna Cullity and her
          son John Nye Cullity, the proceeds to benefit maintenance and
          restoration of the Homestead.
1990  The East Sandwich State Fish Hatchery ceases operation; the park-like
          grounds begin to revert to natural vegetation. 
1991  The Association acquires the 1889 Grange Hall, and East Sandwich
          Grange #139 folds.  The hall is operated as a Community Hall.
2002  The Association signs a 5 year renewable management agreement
          with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, allowing the Association to perform
          maintenance of the surrounding landscape, which is becoming overgrown, and trail construction. 
         The Association is also allowed to clean out the collapsing mill and prop up timbers.
2005  In order for the Association to obtain more land, and the millsite, a
          land swap process is begun with the Division of Fish & Wildlife.
          Funded by membership appeals, an appropriate parcel of nearby open
          land is purchased.  Survey and appraisal work is carried out.
2009  After 4 years of work including another act of the Massachusetts Legislature,
          a land swap is carried out with the Commonwealth.  The Nye Assn. now owns
         1.64 acres, including the mill building.  A careful restoration of the east parlor is completed,
         based on its appearance in 1816.
2012  Celebration of 50 years of Homestead ownership, 40 years open as a
          museum.  Through dendrochronology, the date of construction of the
          Nye Homestead is determined: 1678.  Work begins to restore
          openness to the landscape surrounding the Homestead, Hall, and mill.

Benjamin Nye Homestead Owners

Benjamin Nye (lived approximately 1620-1706)
Jonathan Nye (1649-1744)
Joseph Nye (1675-1750)
Deacon Silvanus Nye (1744-1820)
Deacon Samuel Nye (1789-1867)
Samuel H. Nye (1837-1907) and Joseph F.H. Nye (1848-
1929) (brothers)
Augustus (1840-1898) and Helen Nye Holway (1841-1936)
Ray Nye of Fremont, Nebraska (1861-1925)
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Division of Fisheries and Game
The Nye Family of America Association, Inc.