The Nye Family of America Association, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that owns and operates the Nye Museum and all associated assets. The history of the Association is intimately connected with the history of the Benjamin Nye Homestead.
The idea for a Nye Family Association comprised of descendants of Benjamin Nye was developed by Charles H. Nye of Hyannis, MA around 1880. He and others began genealogical work. They coordinated the first Nye Family Reunion at the Benjamin Nye Homestead in August 1903, and from this enthusiastic event with 284 attendees sprang a well-organized association, more reunions with published proceedings, a volume of genealogy and a Nye Memorial Boulder in Town Hall Square. However, the last of the early Nye Reunions was held in 1928, the tradition apparently receding during the years of the Great Depression.
The Nye Family of America Association was revived in the 1950s in order to save the Benjamin Nye Homestead from demolition. In 1956 a meeting of local Nyes elected Roswell H. Nye as president of the association, which joined Rosanna Cullity’s mission to save the Benjamin Nye Homestead. In 1959 the reestablished Nye Family of America Association gained possession of the Homestead in order to preserve it. A period of hard work ensued in order to gain members, money and incorporation so that the Nye property could be legally transferred. The Homestead, and a tiny piece of land, was deeded in 1962. The following year a three-day reunion was held in Sandwich, a bi-annual tradition that continues to this day.
The 1960s witnessed th start of another successful period of growth. The original 1907 Genealogy of the Nye Family by George H. Nye and Frank E. Best was re-printed, and a second volume was compiled by R. Glen Nye of San Diego in 1965. The first Nye Family Newsletter was mailed to members in 1966. Restoration work on the Homestead continued under the guidance of Curator Rosanna Cullity, with substantial financial help from President Roswell Nye and many other contributors. A modest collection of antique furnishings was acquired, and the Homestead was finally opened to the public in the summer of 1972, with live-in caretakers.
In 1991 The Nye Family Association acquired the 1889 East Sandwich Grange Hall, when the local branch of that national farm organization handed in its charter. In 2009 we were able to acquire an additional 1.39 acres from the Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, through a land swap process. This included the 17th century Benjamin Nye mill site with an 1855 mill building, and part of the old fish hatchery that operated until 1990. In early 2013 the Association purchased another acre of beautiful and historic farmland across the street from the Homestead. “The Neck” is mostly surrounded by the waters of Nye Pond, and will enhance the possibility for educational projects as well as preserve rural charm. And in 2019, the Association finished restoring the 1858 Grist Mill at the site of Benjamin Nye’s first mill, which he erected in 1669.
Chronology of Benjamin Nye Homestead, Nye Family of America Association, and Nye Museum
Benjamin Nye, the Thomas Tupper family and others arrive at Saugus (north of Boston) in Massachusetts Bay Colony from England, on the ship Abigail.
Benjamin Nye travels with about fifty families to Cape Cod, to begin the first English settlement there – the Town of Sandwich.
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—the modern day location of the Nye Museum.
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.
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.
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.
Benjamin builds his second house, a saltbox (lean-to) style, next to the
grist mill and fulling mill. It still stands and has been preserved.
By this time a wool carding machine is operating in the fulling mill.
Deacon Silvanus Nye rebuilds the house from a saltbox into a full colonial, (raising the roof) with an ell on the west end.
The carding mill is discontinued. The building is moved and added to
the north side of the house as a kitchen ell and woodshed.
Shortly after the death of Deacon Samuel Nye the 198 year old grist
mill is taken down by his son Joseph.
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.
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.
East Sandwich Grange #139, a local branch of a national farm family
fraternity, is formed with Samuel H. Nye as the first master.
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.
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.
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.
The Nye Family of America publishes A Genealogy of the Nye Family, compiled by George Hyatt Nye and Frank E. Best.
The Nye Family of America sets up a memorial boulder and plaque near town hall.
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.”
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.
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.
(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.”
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.
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.
95 year old Helen Nye Holway is the subject of an article in the New Bedford Standard Times. She provides a firsthand chronicle of the Nye farm and homestead.
Game warden Joseph La Farr and his family occupy the house until 1954.
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.
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.
The Massachusetts legislature approves an act to give the Homestead to the Nye Family of America Association, signed by Governor Furcolo May 14th.
The Nye Family of America Association works to build membership, and incorporates on October 26th , enabling it to receive the property.
A deed to the Association is signed on May 28th.
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.
The Association reprints the 1907 genealogy.
Volume II, compiled by R. Glen Nye and L. Bert Nye, is published.
First issue of the Nye Family Newsletter appears.
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.
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).
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.
The East Sandwich State Fish Hatchery ceases operation; the park-like grounds begin to revert to natural vegetation.
The Association acquires the 1889 Grange Hall, and East Sandwich Grange #139 folds. The hall is operated as a Community Hall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Restoration of 1858 Grist Mill at the 1669 Millsite is completed and rededicated as the Nye Mill Museum.