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The "Fort House"

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago

 

(16) The Wing “Fort House (Wing Gen. 1st ed. [1881], p. 47; MAY 1901 pp. ; MAR 1902, p. 42, MAR 1925, pp. 2452-2454; 1990 pp. 4838-4840)

Photos MAR1902 frontspiece

 

       Swift in his "History of Barnstable Families," says of the "Old Fort House:" "All the old houses at Spring Hill have undergone similar transformations. The Wing House, probably the oldest house in Massachusetts, built before 1643 as a fortification, has been altered so often that little of the original remains." The writer first visited the "Old Fort House" in the summer of 1901, and since that time has carefully examined it many times. Its walls, like those of the majority of the old Cape houses, are shingled. The fort itself now constitutes the parlor of Mr. Wing's home, a room 15x18 feet in dimension. Deep embrasures for the windows show the thickness of the stone walls encased, and old oaken rafters overhead indicate the size of the original building. A great fireplace almost occupies one end of the room, leading to an immense chimney around which the several parts of the building seem to have been gathered. A quaint, narrow stairway leads to the second floor, and the entire ensemble impresses one with its self-evident antiquity... The building nestles at the foot of a hill, just across the old road leading up to Spring Hill Meeting House, a half mile away. At the rear of the house are salt marshes stretching away to the waters of Cape Cod Bay, partially covered at high tide. A full panoramic sweep of the bay is presented, and a five minute walk brings one to the beach itself. We have the satisfaction of knowing that the home of Stephen and Osheah was most pleasantly situated. (Owl MAR 1915, pp. 1421-2)

       The story of the Wing house in brief is told upon a tablet erected by the Wing Family of America, which once or twice has held reunions at this original source of the various branches of the family. It reads: "Stephen Wing, son of the Rev. John and Deborah Wing, settled in Sandwich in 1637. He lived on this land and built this house in 1641. He was a member of the first Friends Meeting in America, established at Spring Hill in 1658, and suffered a great persecution at the hands of the Plymouth Government in the cause of Religious Liberty. He died in 1710 and is buried at Spring Hill."[1] (Annals, 1943, pp. 20-21)

 

Stephen Wing (c 1645 – 1700)

     It is generally believed that immediately following the marriage of Stephen and Osheah they located in the "Old Fort House" near Spring Hill. Deborah and her son John, (and possibly Matthew) were living upon their first homestead; Daniel had purchased the Hallett farm, and it was left to Stephen to establish himself with his young family. In the days of the first settlements upon the Cape, the pioneers had at various points built substantial stone and brick enclosures as defenses from possible Indian forays. They soon came to know the Cape Indians were inclined to be peaceable and friendly and that these block houses or forts were unnecessary. It seems probable that, thru the influence of his father-in-law and brothers, the town of Sandwich sold or assigned the old fort and its surrounding acres to Stephen. Anyway, he seems to have lived there from the very first. (Owl MAR 1915, p. 1421)

 

Ebenezer Wing (1700-1738)

      We are fortunate in the possession of an ancient deed executed by Stephen Wing on the 2nd day of December, 1700, the original of which is owned by a member of the Sandwich family, which throws considerable light upon the history of his family.  This deed was executed when Stephen was a widower and upward of eighty years of age, and conveys the "Old Fort House" and all its landed possessions in the Town of Sandwich to his sons Ebenezer and Matthew.  Matthew was living at that time in Dartmouth and in possession there of an estate of his own, and just why  he was selected by his father as a grantee in this deed of the old homestead is not quite clear.  The consideration named is two hundred and fifty pounds.  The deed was witnessed by Jeremiah Gifford and William Bassett and acknowledged by Stephen Skiffe, Justice of the Peace, and is of record in Barnstable County. It conveys "All that my messuage or Tennement both Dwelling House barn and out Housing together with all my Upland marsh meadow ground Orchards Garden feeding pastures closes yards and all other lands whatsoever situate lying and being within the Town of Sabdwich." It is presumed from this deed that Stephen in his old age made his home with his son Ebenezer who is known to have lived in the "Old Fort House" and it is more than likely that the aged pioneer died there. (Owl MAR 1915, p. 1427)

 

Ebenezer Wing was probably born in, lived in and died in the “Old Fort House” at Spring Hill in Sandwich. (Owl SEP 1915, p. 1478)

 

The Hoxie notes state that he lived in "the old fort house near Spring Hill." From the date at hand, it is quite certain that he acquired this property and that it passed from him to his son Joshua. (Owl MAR 1903, p. 131)

 

Joshua Wing (1738 – 1799)

     Joshua seems to have lived with his father until his death, and then to have continued living in the Old Fort House with his mother. (Owl MAR 1903, p. 131)

 

The records concerning Joshua are very meager. He was evidently a Friend in good standing, for the birth of his children and the death of himself and wife are recorded at Spring Hill. We exceedingly doubt the statement of Dr. Wing that Joshua ever removed to Harwich. It seems to us that he lived his life out in the Old Fort House near Spring Hill. (Owl MAR 1916, pp. 1532-3)

 

Joseph Wing (1799 – 1831)

     Joshua had four children Sarah, Joseph, Elizabeth and Presbury. In his will, dated 1779, he gives all his property, mentioning specifically his Dwelling house, to his son Joseph. In the record Presbury is mentioned as living in North Falmouth, so probably Joseph continued on in the old house after he married Phebe Shove in 1778. It was the following year that the will [of his father, Joshua] was made. (Owl MAR 1925, p. 2453)

 

Sylvanus Wing (1831 – c1835)

     Originally Sylvanus, the son of Presbury (brother of Joseph) was given the Fort House by his Uncle, Joshua.  At some time, Sylvanus decided to switch properties with his brother, Joshua, who lived in No. Falmouth. So a summer day was picked where the two families would swap houses. Story in Owl  SEP 1925, p. 2493. While this story stated the event occurred in 1828, it must have happened after the deaths of Joseph (in 1831) and his widow, Phebe (in 1833). It is possible that the transfer occurred in 1838.

 

Joshua Wing (c1835 – 1861)

     Joshua first lived at Falmouth, Mass. where his children were born. He was recorded at Falmouth in the 1820 and 1830 censuses. He is recorded at Sandwich in the censuses from 1840 – 1860.

     Joshua lived in the Old Fort House at Sandwich, and both he and his wife were Friends of the old time type and each had definite seats in the meeting house at Spring Hill. (Owl SEP 1917, p. 1705)

                                                                                                      

Presbury Wing (1861 – 1881)

   Presbury was listed as living in the household of his parents in both the 1850 and 1860 census. Family tradition states that he continued to live at the Fort House until his death in DEC 1881. He married fairly late in life a woman several years older than him and they had no children.

 

Seth Wing (1881 – 1905)

After the death of his uncle Pressbury Wing, in 1881, the parents of Alvin P. moved into the "Old Fort House," the home of his ancestor, Stephen Wing, built in 1643 and said to be the oldest residence now standing on Cape Cod, if not in New England, and in this ancient colonial home, Alvin P. has lived for many years, throwing wide its hospitable doors to all Wings upon their pilgrimage to Sandwich.

Seth had originally built a house next door to the Fort House, in 1841, and lived there until his uncle’s death. This house is now the Caretaker’s House.

 

 

Alvin Phinney Wing (1905 – 1934)

 

Cora Maria Wing (1934 – 1942)

After Cora sold the Fort House to the WFA, she moved in with a friend in the house next doors that her grandfather built in 1841. After the death of Cora and her friend, the WFA purchased this house and used it to settle in a couple to run and take care of the Fort House. Since this time, this house next doors has been referred to as the “Caretakers House.”

 

WFA (1942 – present)



[1]Fort House also mentioned in Owl, DEC 1926, p. 2594.

 

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