Sandwich High School Students Get Their Hands On History
By: Michael J. Rausch
Who was Charles H. Macy?
The answer to that question is key to an independent study project in archeology being conducted by three Sandwich High School students.
Senior Dino K. Heras of Quaker Meetinghouse Road, who goes by the nickname DJ, and juniors Sarah A. Lowry of Woodspring Farm Lane and Erin M. Hurley of Nauset Street have been working on identifying and cataloging hundreds of Native American artifacts that were collected by Charles Macy.
Mr. Macy was a Sandwich resident who lived here in the late 1860s.
At the time of his death, Mr. Macy donated a large amount of Native American artifacts as well as paintings to the town’s public library.
His collection, however, wound up in the basement of the library, forgotten for nearly a century, until two years ago when the collection was rediscovered by a worker at the library. It was put on display for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Then in 2011, Sandwich High history teacher Janet C. Simpson of Great Hill Road decided to take on the task of classifying the objects in the collection.
“It’s rather amazing. Some of this stuff is two to three thousand years old, and some of it can go back even further,” Ms. Simpson said, noting some pieces are 5,000 years old.
Included in the collection is a vast assortment of what are called projectile points. More commonly known as arrowheads, stone hammers and stone weapons, the artifacts are fashioned from three different kinds of rock—quartz, quartzite and felsite.
Pieces in the collection that have not yet been catalogued are kept in trays, separated by look and material in individual compartments. Pieces that have been identified are kept in individual plastic bags, wrapped in a sheet of paper that denotes important information such as the object’s weight, length and thickness.
The sheet also has an outline of the object that is matched to images in a Massachusetts Historic Commission reference book on projectile points that the students obtained from Cape archeologist Frederick J. Dunford of Brewster.
Students Excited By The Research
DJ was the first student to work with Ms. Simpson on the project. To make sure the two were doing things right, Ms. Simpson contacted Mr. Dunford, and he taught them how to accurately date and classify the projectile points. DJ has been working on the project for over a year. Erin and Sarah joined the project just last month.
“It’s definitely interesting, it’s cool,” Sarah said of the project and what it has taught her. “You learn more about what they did back then and their tools.”
Sarah’s sentiments were echoed by DJ. “I think it’s interesting to see where tools developed and where they are now, see the progress of history,” he said.
Erin said the project has not spawned a desire to pursue archeology as her life’s work, calling it more “a hobby.” The 16-year-old, who prefers patrolling a soccer field or a basketball court to the classroom, did say she found the project interesting enough that she would like to go on an archeological dig with Mr. Dunford.
Charles H. Macy remains something of a phantom for the students. So far, their research has turned up very little information about him. "We went on the Internet, but there was nothing there," Sarah explained.
The Mysterious Charles Macy
Born on Nantucket in 1844.
Moved to Sandwich in 1868 when he married Hattie Wing, a descendant of one of the town's first settlers, John Wing.
He was a landowner and a farmer.
He moved with his wife to Ms. Wing's family home on Scorton Neck where many of the objects in his collection are believed to be from.
Town archives show little more than the fact that he was a landowner and a farmer. Born on Nantucket in 1844, he made his way to Sandwich, where in 1868 he married Hattie T. Wing, a third generation-removed relation of one of the town’s first settlers, John Wing. The couple moved into her family’s home on Scorton Neck, and many of the objects in his collection are believed to be from Scorton Neck and Sandy Neck, but that has not been verified, Erin said.
The students are hoping someone who reads this article will know more about Mr. Macy and his life.
Uncovering The Mystery of Charles Macy
“We’re just trying to get it out to the public to see if anyone has any information that can help us,” Erin said. They are eager for information that might, for instance, shed light on where he was digging when he found the items in his collection. Knowing that could also pinpoint if the artifacts were created by a specific tribe, Erin said.
Ms. Simpson said at this point they do not know if Mr. Macy confined his digging exclusively to Sandwich or “if he was traveling around the Cape, or if he was going to other areas in Massachusetts.”
She said she is convinced that there is evidence out there somewhere “that somebody has a hold of and doesn’t even know what they’re sitting on.” She also said that consulting with Mr. Dunford, the students were able to isolate the artifacts to the Cape. “Almost everything in here looks typical of what you would find in this area,” she said.
In addition to cataloging the Charles Macy collection, the students are also making plans to celebrate Archeology Month next October. Erin explained that the idea is to have 5th graders come to the high school and through fun activities, like an archeological dig, teach them some of the town’s history. Ms. Simpson said the lessons would cover the town’s early history up through the Industrial Age.
“We wanted to tie this collection in with the history of the town to show how many thousands of years the natives were here before the Europeans,” Ms. Simpson said. “This tends to get neglected when we think of the history of Sandwich.”