Mayhem & Murder on Lower Road – 1896

Sadie's gravestone

Sadie Hassard’s gravestone in Brewster Cemetery; her murder shocked Brewster and Cape Cod in 1896

Curious passersby wonder what the old stone foundation was at the start of the new Eddy Bay Trail on Lower Road.  We did too, after we uncovered it this winter as part of the trail-clearing.  Some on-line sleuthing from our advisor Mark Robinson of The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts determined it was the house site of the Hassard family around 1870-1899.   John Hassard and Sarah Hicks emigrated from Ireland as children to work on the Capt. Solomon Freeman Farm and built a house on Freeman land when they married.  The Hassards raised five children in the house before they moved onto Main Street in 1899.  The house was abandoned and used by the Thorndikes (the Eddys’ grandparents) as a cranberry shed for the then-extensive bogs on the south side of Lower Road.  John Hassard also had a small patch of cranberry bog on Lower Road.

The Hassards had some hard luck during their stay on Lower Road, also known as Lobster Lane.  Their only son John almost drowned in the bay  and less than a year later died of a gunshot at an early age (19).  And daughter Sadie also died under most tragic circumstances at age 25 in peaceful Olde Brewster:

Imagine the scene –

It’s Sunday morning, the middle of May, 1896.

The Brewster Unitarian Church (First Parish) is full of people; everyone’s been working hard all week, plowing fields, sanding bogs, and getting kitchen gardens ready for the coming growing season. This day of rest is very welcome – the serenity in the church is palpable as Pastor Dawes reads the opening prayer.

Suddenly a shot rings out, very close by the church; then another, farther away, and another – five in all.  The congregation rushes from the church and rushes toward the sound of the shots – and discovers Sadie Hassard lying on the sidewalk, on her way home … dead of a gunshot wound under her right ear.

If this happened today, it’d be shocking – but in that smaller, quieter time, the close-knit Brewster community was shattered.  In a jealous rage, young Frederick Alexander had shot Sadie dead.  He’d courted her when she lived with her parents and three sisters in the family house on Lower Road, but she grew tired of his advances.  And for some reason, she left Lower Road, and went to live in the household of the Rev. Mr. Dawes.  Maybe Alexander had become outrageous, and getting Sadie into the pastor’s safekeeping was all John Hassard could think of to protect his daughter – who knows?

Whatever the reason, living in the parsonage didn’t save her. As the service began next door, Sadie was in the pastor’s house, not in church.  Alexander arrived in a passion, tried to get in, eventually pulled her through a window, and began to shoot her.  She fled toward Lower Road and home, but fell, brought down by the bullets.  As she lay on the ground, he ran up, put the gun to her head, and killed her. Then fled …

Quickly, two Barnstable Deputy Sheriffs arrived, organized some of the Townsmen, and pursued Alexander.  They found his body in Snow’s Pond, a bottle of strychnine in his pocket – a suicide.

Sadie Hassard, born on Lower Road and dead at age 25, was buried a week later; her gravestone sits in the Lower Road Cemetery to this day.

For the newspaper account of her murder and funeral, click here.

(Our thanks to BCT Trustee Paul Gasek who contributed to this post.)

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