The proponents of a plan to change the name of the Hoxie House said the change would be a step toward ensuring the historical integrity of this 336-year-old town-owned building.
This week, historical commission Chairman Terry W. Blake said the members of her board voted unanimously to consider adding the name Smith to the museum. The request to include this name on all references to the building came from the descendants of the Reverend John Smith, the home’s original owner.
“He was one of those overlooked people and that needs to be corrected,” said Jonathan A. Shaw, a member of the commission.
Ms. Blake said the vote taken was only to consider changing the name and that further research into the cost associated with doing so, which includes changing the sign on the museum as well as any written materials such as brochures, needs to be explored before the commission will move forward with a formal proposal to the board of selectmen.
“This is in such an early stage of discussion, we don’t want to suggest changing the name and then not be able to financially support it,” Ms. Blake said.
Whether the proposal would be to change the name to Smith Hoxie or Hoxie Smith is still up for debate.
“The order of the names has not been decided or discussed,” Ms. Blake said. She said that discussion will come after the commission has received all of the cost estimates and they will then come up with a plan for funding.
Mr. Shaw did not know how the name Smith was originally omitted from the house. He said it may have to do with the fact that whaling captain Abraham Hoxie, who took ownership of the house in 1860, was such a prominent figure in town. But, he said, Mr. Smith was equally notable.
Mr. Shaw explained that Mr. Smith arrived in Sandwich when he was asked to serve as the town’s minister, making him only the second person to serve in the position as minister of the Congregational church. Mr. Shaw explained that the minister was a rather liberal-thinking man, as were most of the residents of the town back then. Mr. Smith accepted the town’s offer to serve as its minister so long as he was not asked to “lift a hand” against the Quakers. As part of the deal, he was granted land on a bluff overlooking Lower Shawme Pond with sweeping views of the pond as well as of the Old Town Cemetery and just a short walk down to the Dexter Grist Mill.
According to Mr. Shaw, Mr. Smith and his descendants owned and occupied the house for nearly 200 years, the last of whom was Bethia Smith, an unmarried schoolteacher who died in 1856. In 1860, Captain Hoxie acquired the house. The house remained in the Hoxie family until the 1950s. The town took ownership of the structure in 1957 “in lieu of taxes.”
Mr. Shaw said the Hoxie family did little to maintain the home or make upgrades to the structure, such as adding electricity. “That was actually a blessing because it made it easier for restoration,” he said.
After taking ownership of the building, the town restored it, a project which lasted from 1959 until 1960. After the work was completed, the building was opened as a museum.
According to Mr. Shaw’s research on this house, there were some notable people in the state who visited the home: “On October 25, 1675, Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston, later to be famous as a judge at the Salem Witch Trials (and later to recant his role), visited Sandwich and wrote in his diary, ‘supped at Mr. Smith’s, good supper.’ ”
Mr. Shaw estimates that the judge had supper at what is now known as the Hoxie House.
Ms. Blake said the commission is in the process of securing estimates for the name change. Mr. Shaw said a descendant of Mr. Smith, Mason Smith of Maine who requested that the name be added to the museum is
expected to attend one of the commission’s meetings, most likely in the spring.