“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Orleans in Barnstable County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

Benjamin Sparrow

Lifesaving Heritage of Orleans

Benjamin Sparrow Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brandon D Cross, October 6, 2020
1. Benjamin Sparrow Marker

All nine of the Cape Cod Lifesaving Stations were a part of the USLSS District 2. In 1872, Sumner I. Kimball, then Chief of the Treasury Department’s Revenue Marine Division, appointed Orleans resident Benjamin Sparrow as Superintendent of District 2, which encompassed all of Massachusetts. Sparrow’s appointment was a part of Kimball’s successful effort to professionalize the USLSS and address the inefficiency and corruption that had existed in other parts of the country.

Sparrow was a direct descendent of Richard Sparrow, who arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1623 on the ship Ann. As a boy, Benjamin Sparrow is said to have accompanied his father, a volunteer lifesaver and salvager, to the scene of numerous shipwrecks off the Cape’s shores. He was educated in Orleans schools, and taught school in Eastham. He entered Phillips Academy to prepare for a career in law, but when the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the regular Union Army and was assigned to an engineering battalion in the Army of the Potomac.

He was captured in 1862 and was held prisoner by the Confederates at Belle Isle Prison in Virginia until he was
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released in a prisoner exchange. Sparrow resumed his service in the army and served until 1864 when he returned to Orleans where he resided for the rest of his life.

Sparrow was known for what we now call “hands-on-management,” personally attending many of the rescue operations in his district. When telephone lines were installed to connect stations in his district, he had his home connected as well. His qualities are summed up in a 1908 report to Congress by Sumner Kimball:

He was a thorough beachman, and no man on Cape Cod was more familiar with the shores of that dangerous projection than he, a fact to which he probably owes his life. He resided in East Orleans , near the shore, and I believe that no wreck occurred during the thirty years of his incumbency within a distance which would admit his reaching it that he did not attend. At such times his skill and advice have been of the greatest value. On some of these occasions, he endured the severest hardships, and in one instance nearly lost his eyesight and barely escaped with his life.

This display was made possible through Orleans Community Preservation Funds
Erected by Orleans Community Preservation Committee.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Disasters
Benjamin Sparrow Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brandon D Cross, October 6, 2020
2. Benjamin Sparrow Marker
The marker is on the right.
Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 41° 47.19′ N, 69° 56.205′ W. Marker is in Orleans, Massachusetts, in Barnstable County. Marker is at the intersection of Beach Road and Surf Path, on the left when traveling east on Beach Road. The marker is located at the east end of the Nauset Beach parking lot. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 250 Beach Road, Orleans MA 02653, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Birth of the Coast Guard (here, next to this marker); The United States Lifesaving Service (here, next to this marker); The Legacy Endures (here, next to this marker); The Legacy Continues (here, next to this marker); The Legacy Begins (here, next to this marker); Nauset Beach (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); East Orleans Country Store (approx. 1½ miles away); Universalist Society Meeting House (approx. 2.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Orleans.
Marker photo: Benjamin Sparrow image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brandon D Cross, October 6, 2020
3. Marker photo: Benjamin Sparrow
Credits. This page was last revised on October 30, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 27, 2020, by Brandon D Cross of Flagler Beach, Florida. This page has been viewed 134 times since then and 52 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 27, 2020, by Brandon D Cross of Flagler Beach, Florida. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 9, 2023