In Sandwich just off Water Street, right next to the Henry T. Wing School, is a road named Beale Avenue.
At the other end of Beale Avenue, where it intersects Main Street, is a boulder with a bronze plaque bearing the name Beale. The land where the boulder rests is named Beale Park.
Countless people drive this road or pass this park and its plaque every day without giving them a second thought.
Little do they know that the man for which the road and park are named and whom the plaque honors—Dr. Samuel M. Beale Jr.—served as Sandwich’s only physician for much of the 1900s and was celebrated for his efforts in cancer treatment when cancer medicine was still a young science.
He ran his practice here from 1909 until his death at the ripe old age of 89 in 1965. His home office was on the corner of Main and School streets. The home has since been turned into a bed and breakfast called The Quince Tree.
“He was the quintessential town physician,” local historian William R. Collins said. “He would drive people to the hospital in Wareham, give medicines to people who couldn’t afford them; he was the only school doctor.”
He was even said to accept payments in goods for his services. In a news report from 1987, his daughter, Elizabeth Beale, was quoted as saying that there was one man who paid her father in lobsters for each baby that he delivered.
“They’d give him what they had,” Ms. Beale said in the article. “He was very apologetic about asking (for payment). That was his nature.”
While Dr. Beale was responsible for providing Sandwich with health care, he was also celebrated by his peers in the field of cancer treatment.
“A patient came to him with an injured toe that wouldn’t heal,” Mr. Collins said. “In Boston they had wanted to amputate the toe, but the man said no and came to Dr. Beale.”
The patient, who was from Mashpee, was suffering from an infected ingrown toenail. The man was also a diabetic. Dr. Beale decided to try treating the man’s toe with insulin. He then theorized that in addition to being beneficial in treating diabetic patients, insulin might be beneficial in increasing blood circulation.
It worked. The toe healed. If it worked on an infection, the perhaps, he thought, it could be used to improve blood circulation in treating cancerous tumors.
This led him to begin testing the effect of insulin on mice who had cancer. His work garnered the interest of medical experts nationwide.
Although his work put him in high demand across the country, Dr. Beale was set on keeping his practice in Sandwich and was devoted to his patients.
He became one of the first staff members at Cape Cod Hospital when it was founded in 1920 and was the dean of Cape Cod doctors.
According to Mr. Collins, Dr. Beale is an integral part of Sandwich history that too few people these days remember.
He said that when he mentions the boulder and brass plaque on Main Street, most people have no idea it was dedicated to Dr. Beale or even who Dr. Beale was.
“Everyone said that they drove by the memorial all the time and never knew who it was for,” he said.
That is where he got the idea to rededicate the plaque this summer, during Sandwich’s 375th birthday year.
“The idea of the rededication is to bring that history back to life,” he said.
A ceremony is planned on Saturday, August 23, at noon during the town’s next Bringing Alive Sandwich History (BASH) event. That BASH event is dedicated to the 1900s.
The ceremony will include a welcome by selectman R. Patrick Ellis, a remembrance by local historian Jonathan Shaw, and the rededication by Sandwich selectman James M. Pierce, and will be followed by an open house at The Quince Tree.