Wednesday, October 26, 2016


(( This Halloween Tale is a story within a story about how I 
seem to have started a scary folktale while working as a camp
counselor. I first posted this in October, 2007))

Back in my college days, I spent three summers as a camp
counselor at Camp Mitton in Brewster, Mass down on Cape Cod.

One night during my last summer there in 1970, I was sitting at
the Indian Council Ring with the campers and councilors as we
told stories around a campfire. One of the kids started telling a
story about the Black Hell Hounds that chased a murderer’s
ghost on the dirt roads by the camp and I had to grin. I knew the
story well.

In fact, I was the one who’d first told it.

Two years before I was trying to come up with the a story to tell
at the campfire that hadn’t already been told and a combination
of things led me to make up a new one.

One of the elements was the camp’s location. There were several
dirt roads that wound their way through old cranberry bogs,
some of which with old buildings nearby. We occasionally took the
kids on hikes down those roads and so the locale of the story
would be familiar.

Another element was that one of the councilors had snorkeled in
the lake the camp was situated on and found an old buckboard
type wagon on the lake floor. Everyone had wondered how it ever
got there.

And the third element? That would be Queenie the black Labrador
Retriever and two of her grown offspring who frequently hung
around the camp mooching scraps and attention from the kids.
And so, I came up with this story:

“Many years ago there lived down by the cranberry bogs a man
and his wife. They had no children, and the cranberry farmer’s
wife was lonely so the farmer bought her three black hounds to
keep her company and protect her when he was away from the

Things went well for several years until bad weather caused
the cranberry crop to be a small one and the farmer fell into
debt. He took to drinking and when his wife asked him to stop
they would argue. One night the man hit his wife and the dogs
who were trained to protect her attacked the farmer. In a rage
he grabbed his axe and killed the dogs and then his wife, and
then buried them all in an unmarked grave somewhere along
the dirt roads through the bogs. If neighbors asked he told them
his wife had left him and gone off to her parents’ home in

Then one night exactly a year to the night after the murder
the farmer was driving his wagon down a dirt road, the very
same road that runs right through the center of our camp, when
he heard the sound of hounds baying behind him. He looked
over his shoulder and by the light of the moon he saw the red
eyes of  three ghostly hounds racing after him in the

He whipped his horse to run faster, but still the hounds came
closer, and closer, and CLOSER until suddenly the wagon hit
the bump in the road just past where the softball field is
today and the horse broke free, while the wagon went racing
down into the lake, taking the farmer with it to drown.

And some say that every year the murderous farmer’s ghost
can be seen in his wagon being chased down the dirt road by
the three black Hell Hounds.”

Not exactly Poe but it worked well in the dark by the campfire,
especially with Queenie nearby begging for marshmallows.

I didn’t work at the camp the summer after I first told the story
but apparently it had been told by one of the campers that year,
and then the year I returned, another camper told it. I don’t
know if it continued to be told, since that was the last summer I
spent there. But if Queenie and her descendants were around I
suspect it might have been told again.

I think this must be how a lot of legends and ghost stories must
have started, a mixture of the commonplace with fantasy.

Oh. Did I mention that in my apartment complex nearly
forty years later, my next door neighbor’s pet was a black
Labrador Retriever?


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Sunday, October 23, 2016


((I first posted this on October 31, 2007.))

One of the many islands of Boston Harbor is Castle Island, though
for many years it’s been “attached” to the South Boston mainland
and is reachable by foot. In fact it was a favorite meeting place
used by the reputed mob boss Whitey Bulger.

The first fortifications on the island were begun in 1634 and
eventually they became Fort Independence, which has a long and
fascinating history.

But for this Halloween I’m writing about a certain young soldier
who, according to Edward Rowe Snow in his book “The Islands of
Boston Harbor”
, enlisted in the First Artillery on 26th May,
1827 and was sent to Fort Independence where he served for five
months under the name Edgar A. Perry.

His real name was Edgar Allan Poe.

While there, Snow speculates, Poe would have heard about a fatal
duel that took place on Christmas Eve seven years before in 1817
between two officers which resulted in the death of a Lt. Robert
Massie. Snow doesn’t give the name of the other officer involved
but he tells about the burial of the dead man on the island and
quotes the inscriptions on it. Lt. Massie’s remains and the
headstone, by the way, were moved three times and as of the
time that Mr.Snow was writing had ended up at the cemetery at
Ft. Devens in 1939. ((pp.68-69))

Snow and others over the years have pointed to the story of Lt.
Massie’s death as the inspiration for “A Cask of Amontillado” but
there are few facts available. For one thing the identity of the
second man varies from story to story. The basic story goes that
Massie’s opponent was a bully and that the dead lieutenant’s
friends took revenge by walling his killer up alive in one of the
casement walls. But again, there is no record showing an officer
mysteriously disappeared without a trace in the time after
Massie’s death.

Snow later in the chapter later says that an elderly man told him
that in 1905 a skeleton dressed in an old military uniform was
found when a sealed casement was opened during repairs to the
fort. They weren’t able to find out who it was and so it was
eventually buried. (p 76)

So far I haven’t found anything online about the discovery and
most critics dismiss the story about the skeleton as folklore. But
whether or not there was someone actually buried alive, it’s quite
possible Poe used some for the elements of the event in his story.

And even the dispute over the folktale is very Poe-like.

There may be another Boston area story that inspired Poe. I
recall reading once about somebody, the wife of the Governor of
the Colony, I think, hosting a party or ball during an epidemic and
that Poe might have been inspired to write “The Masque of The
Red Death” after hearing about it.

The information for this post came from:

Snow, Edward Rowe, “The Islands of Boston Harbor”
Commonwealth Editions, Beverly, Ma.

copyright© 1935,1971 by Edward Rowe Snow
copyright© 2002 by Dorothy Snow Bicknell

Sunday, October 16, 2016


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((First posted in October 2014))

My distant cousin Jonathan Moulton's first wife was Ann Smith who he married
in 1749 and with whom he had a family of eleven children. She died of smallpox
in 1775. He married  Sarah Emery in 1776, and their marriage resulted in four
more children. She is the "new wife" in a poem written by my 4th cousin 6x
removed John Greenleaf Whittier.   It's probable that Whittier may have met
one or more of Moulton's adult children, but as the foreword to the poem
indicates, he certainly was familiar with the legends that had sprung up
about Jonathan Moulton


[the following Ballad is founded upon one of the marvellous legends connected
with the famous Gen. M., of Hampton, N. H., who was regarded by his neighbors
as a Yankee Faust, in league with the adversary. I give the story, as I heard it when
a child, from a venerable family visitant.]

Dark the halls, and cold the feast—
Gone the bridemaids, gone the priest!
All is over — all is done,
Twain of yesterday are one!
Blooming girl and manhood grey,
Autumn in the arms of May!

Hushed within and hushed without,
Dancing feet and wrestlers' shout;
Dies the bonfire on the hill;
All is dark and all is still,
Save the starlight, save the breeze
Moaning through the grave-yard trees;
And the great sea-waves below,
Like the night's pulse, beating slow.

From the brief dream of a bride
She hath wakened, at his side.
With half uttered shriek and start —
Feels she not his beating heart?
And the pressure of his arm,
And his breathing near and warm?

Lightly from the bridal bed
Springs that fair dishevelled head,
And a feeling, new, intense,
Half of shame, half innocence,
Maiden fear and wonder speaks
Through her lips and changing cheeks.

From the oaken mantel glowing
Faintest light the lamp is throwing
On the mirror's antique mould,
High-backed chair, and wainscot old,
And, through faded curtains stealing,
His dark sleeping face revealing.

Listless lies the strong man there,
Silver-streaked his careless hair;
Lips of love have left no trace
On that hard and haughty face;
And that forehead's knitted thought
Love's soft hand hath not unwrought.

"Yet," she sighs, "he loves me well,
More than these calm lips will tell.
Stooping to my lowly state,
He hath made me rich and great,
And I bless him, though he be
Hard and stern to all save me!"

While she speaketh, falls the light
O'er her fingers small and white;
Gold and gem, and costly ring
Back the timid lustre fling —
Love's selectest gifts, and rare,
His proud hand had fastened there.

Gratefully she marks the glow
From those tapering lines of snow;
Fondly o'er the sleeper bending
His black hair with golden blending,
In her soft and light caress,
Cheek and lip together press.

Ha !— that start of horror !— Why
That wild stare and wilder cry,
Full of terror, full of pain?
Is there madness in her brain?
Hark! that gasping, hoarse and low:
"Spare me — spare me — let me go!"

God have mercy !— Icy cold
Spectral hands her own enfold,
Drawing silently from them
Love's fair gifts of gold and gem,
"Waken! save me!" still as death
At her side he slumbereth.

Ring and bracelet all are gone,
And that ice-cold hand withdrawn;
But she hears a murmur low,
Full of sweetness, full of woe,
Half a sigh and half a moan:
"Fear not! give the dead her own!"

Ah ! — the dead wife's voice she knows !
That cold hand whose pressure froze,
Once in warmest life had borne
Gem and band her own hath worn.
"Wake thee! wake thee!" Lo, his eyes
Open with a dull surprise.

In his arms the strong man folds her,
Closer to his breast he holds her;
Trembling limbs his own are meeting,
And he feels her heart's quick beating:
"Nay, my dearest, why this fear?"
"Hush!" she saith, "the dead is here!"

"Nay, a dream — an idle dream."
But before the lamp's pale gleam
 Tremblingly her hand she raises,—
There no more the diamond blazes,
Clasp of pearl, or ring of gold, —
"Ah!" she sighs, "her hand was cold!"

Broken words of cheer he saith,
But his dark lip quivereth,
And as o'er the past he thinketh,
From his young wife's arms he shrinketh;
Can those soft arms round him lie,
Underneath his dead wife's eye?

She her fair young head can rest
Soothed and child-like on his breast,
And in trustful innocence
Draw new strength and courage thence;
He, the proud man, feels within
But the cowardice of sin!

She can murmur in her thought
Simple prayers her mother taught,
And His blessed angels call,
Whose great love is over all;
He, alone, in prayerless pride,
Meets the dark Past at her side!

One, who living shrank with dread,
From his look, or word, or tread,
Unto whom her early grave
Was as freedom to the slave,
Moves him at this midnight hour,
With the dead's unconscious power!

Ah, the dead, the unforgot!
From their solemn homes of thought,
Where the cypress shadows blend
Darkly over foe and friend,
Or in love or sad rebuke,
Back upon the living look.

And the tenderest ones and weakest,
Who their wrongs have borne the meekest,
Lifting from those dark, still places,
Sweet and sad-remembered faces,
O'er the guilty hearts behind
An unwitting triumph find.


John Greenleaf Whittier Poems Benjamin B. Mussey , Pub. Boston, Ma. 1850


((First posted in October2014))

Last year for Halloween I blogged about various New England legends and
folklore, some of which posts I may repost this year. But tonight I was looking
for a new spooky legend and found a poem about a distant cousin written by
another equally distant cousin.

I am a descendant of 10x great grandfather John Moulton and his wife Anne.
One of their other descendants  is my second cousin 9x removed Jonathan
Moulton.  William Richard Cutter says this about him:

(IV) General Jonathan Moulton, son of Jacob Moulton, was born in Hampton, New
Hampshire, June 30, 1726, and died there in 1788, aged sixty-two years. He owned
a large amount of land and was a wealthy man. It was largely through his efforts
that two or three towns in the state were settled, as is told in the "Farmer and
Moore's Gazetteer" of 1823. On November 17, 1763, Moulton borough was granted
to him and sixty-one others by the Masonian proprietors. He had a distinguished
reputation for service in the Indian wars along the northern borders of the new town
before it was settled, in 1763. and many stories are told of his adventures at that time. 

Doubtless his service against the Ossipee Indians was the principal reason of placing 
him at the head of the grantees. Through his efforts the grant for New Hampton was 
obtained from Governor Wentworth. It is said he obtained it by presenting the governor 
with an ox weighing one thousand four hundred pounds, which he drove to Portsmouth 
and for which he refused money, saying he preferred the charter to the land which he 
named New Hampton. The town of Centre Harbor was formed from a part of his grant 
called Moultonborough Addition. He was known as a fearless commander, and although
his reticence and dignified bearing aroused the displeasure of some, he must have been 
thoroughly trustworthy and competent to be intrusted with such important commissions 
as were placed in his hands. He served many years in the legislature. He was a shrewd 
business man, ahead of his time in many ways. The poet Whittier has made him the hero 
of his poem, "The New Wife and the Old." S. A. Drake, in his "New England Legends and
 Folk Lore," has written an amusing story founded on the legend of Jonathan Moulton 
and the Devil...

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 4 (Google eBook) Lewis historical publishing Company, 1915

Cutter then includes Drake's story about the Devil which is long so I won't include
it here, but there is this added by Drake at the end of it:

Another legend runs to the effect that upon the death of his wife—as evil report would have it— under very suspicious circumstances, the General paid court to a young woman who had been companion of his deceased spouse. They were married. In the middle of the night the young bride awoke with a start. She felt an invisible hand trying to take off from her finger the wedding-ring that had once belonged to the dead and buried Mrs. Moulton. Shrieking with fright, she jumped out of bed, thus awakening her husband, who tried in vain to calm her fears. Candles were lighted and search was made for the ring: but as it could never be found again, the ghostly visitor was supposed to have carried it away with her. This story is the same that is told by Whittier in the New Wife and the Old.- p2305

So of course when I read that John Greenleaf Whittier has written a poem about the
story of the two wives, I had to look for a copy of it. I found one, and I'll share it
with you in the next blogpost.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I was looking for another ghost story or poem I could post as part of the Halloween theme for October when I found this one by distant cousin ,John Greenleaf Whittier (we're Greenleaf cousins).

It's based on a historical incident as described in the foreword to the poem. It's a bit longer, but not as long as another poem about The Palantine, written by another distant cousin, Richard Henry Dana Sr. :


Block Island in Long Island Sound, called by the Indians Manisees, the isle of the little god, was the scene of a tragic incident a hundred years or more ago, when The Palatine, an emigrant ship bound for Philadelphia, driven off its course, came upon the coast at this point. A mutiny on board, followed by an inhuman desertion on the part of the crew, had brought the unhappy passengers to the verge of starvation and madness. Tradition says that wreckers on shore, after rescuing all but one of the survivors, set fire to the vessel, which was driven out to sea before a gale which had sprung up. Every twelvemonth, according to the same tradition, the spectacle of a ship on fire is visible to the inhabitants of the island.

Leagues north, as fly the gull and auk,
Point Judith watches with eye of hawk;
Leagues south, thy beacon flames, Montauk!

Lonely and wind-shorn, wood-forsaken,
With never a tree for Spring to waken,
For tryst of lovers or farewells taken,

Circled by waters that never freeze,
Beaten by billow and swept by breeze,
Lieth the island of Manisees,

Set at the mouth of the Sound to hold
The coast lights up on its turret old,
Yellow with moss and sea-fog mould.

Dreary the land when gust and sleet
At its doors and windows howl and beat,
And Winter laughs at its fires of peat!

But in summer time, when pool and pond,
Held in the laps of valleys fond,
Are blue as the glimpses of sea beyond;

When the hills are sweet with the brier-rose,
And, hid in the warm, soft dells, unclose
Flowers the mainland rarely knows;

When boats to their morning fishing go,
And, held to the wind and slanting low,
Whitening and darkening the small sails show,

Then is that lonely island fair;
And the pale health-seeker findeth there
The wine of life in its pleasant air.

No greener valleys the sun invite,
On smoother beaches no sea-birds light,
No blue waves shatter to foam more white!

There, circling ever their narrow range,
Quaint tradition and legend strange
Live on unchallenged, and know no change.

Old wives spinning their webs of tow,
Or rocking weirdly to and fro
In and out of the peat's dull glow,

And old men mending their nets of twine,
Talk together of dream and sign,
Talk of the lost ship Palatine, —

The ship that, a hundred years before,
Freighted deep with its goodly store,
In the gales of the equinox went ashore.

The eager islanders one by one
Counted the shots of her signal gun,
And heard the crash when she drove right on!

Into the teeth of death she sped:
(May God forgive the hands that fed
The false lights over the rocky Head!)

O men and brothers! what sights were there!
White upturned faces, hands stretched in prayer!
Where waves had pity, could ye not spare?

Down swooped the wreckers, like birds of prey
Tearing the heart of the ship away,
And the dead had never a word to say.

And then, with ghastly shimmer and shine
Over the rocks and the seething brine,
They burned the wreck of the Palatine.

In their cruel hearts, as they homeward sped,
"The sea and the rocks are dumb," they said:
"There '11 be no reckoning with the dead."

But the year went round, and when once more
Along their foam-white curves of shore
They heard the line-storm rave and roar,

Behold! again, with shimmer and shine,
Over the rocks and the seething brine,
The flaming wreck of the Palatine!

So, haply in fitter words than these,
Mending their nets on their patient knees
They tell the legend of Manisees.

Nor looks nor tones a doubt betray;
"It is known to us all," they quietly say;
"We too have seen it in our day."

Is there, then, no death for a word once spoken?
Was never a deed but left its token
Written on tables never broken?

Do the elements subtle reflections give?
Do pictures of all the ages live
On Nature's infinite negative,

Which, half in sport, in malice half,
She shows at times, with shudder or laugh,
Phantom and shadow in photograph?

For still, on many a moonless night,
From Kingston Head and from Montauk light
The spectre kindles and burns in sight.

Now low and dim, now clear and higher,
Leaps up the terrible Ghost of Fire,
Then, slowly sinking, the flames expire.

And the wise Sound skippers, though skies be fine,
Keef their sails when they see the sign
Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine!

The Writings of John Greenleaf Whittier: Personal poems: occasional poems: The tent on the beach. Prose works

John Greenleaf Whittier, Elizabeth Hussey Whittier,  Houghton, Mifflin,  Boston, Ma.1888

Friday, October 07, 2016


The Findmypast Friday releases this week have over 3.5 million British and American records:


Britain, Registers of Licences To Pass Beyond the Seas 1573-1677
OVER 27,000 RECORDS  released in association with the National Archives, listing the details of pioneering early travellers who left Britain for Ireland, continental Europe, New England, Barbados, Bermuda and other overseas colonies at the dawn of the golden age of sail.

Britain, Registers of Licences To Pass Beyond the Seas 1573-1677

Discover your early ancestors who travelled across the sea in the National Archives series PRO 57/4548.

United States Births and Christenings 1817-1961
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016


((In  October2013  I posted a series of stories from among the New England legends about ghosts 
and witches. I thought I'd repost them again this year as I look for others to share.)) 

I thought for Halloween this year I'd post some old scary legends and folktales of
New England. So I did a Google search and came up with a collection of stories by
Charles Montgomery Skinner published back in 1896. I can't say for sure how
historically accurate any of these stories are, but they are important because they
give us a glimpse at the culture of the time and the stories our ancestors told
in front of their fireplaces to entertain each other at the end of the day. When you
read these, see if you can hear in your mind the voice of someone telling the tale.

The first of the stories tells about a legendary figure from Plymouth, Ma.


MOTHER CREWE was of evil repute in Plymouth in the last century. It was said that she had taken pay for luring a girl into her old farm-house, where a man lay dead of small-pox, with intent to harm her beauty; she was accused of blighting land and driving ships ashore with spells; in brief, she was called a witch, and people, even those who affected to ignore the craft of wizardry, were content to keep away from her. When the Revolution ended, Southward Howland demanded Dame Crewe's house and acre, claiming under law of entail, though primogeniture had been little enforced in America, where there was room and to spare for all. But Howland was stubborn and the woman's house had good situation, so one day he rode to her door and summoned her with a tap of his whip.

"What do you here on my land?" said he.

"I live on land that is my own. I cleared it, built my house here, and no other has claim to it."

"Then I lay claim. The place is mine. I shall tear your cabin down on Friday."

"On Friday they'll dig your grave on Burying Hill. I see the shadow closing round you."

"Bah! You have heard what I have said. If on Friday you are not elsewhere, I'll tear the timbers down and bury you in the ruins."

"Enough!" cried the woman, her form straightening, her voice grown shrill. "My curse is on you here and hereafter. Die! Then go down to hell!"

As she said this the cat leaped from her shoulder to the flank of the horse, spitting and clawing, and the frightened steed set off at a furious pace. As he disappeared in the scrub oaks his master was seen vainly trying to stop him. The evening closed in with fog and chill, and before the light waned a man faring homeward came upon the corpse of Southward Howland stretched along the ground.

Charles Montgomery Skinner    Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa pp304-305

Friday, September 30, 2016


A few weeks back Randy Seaver's topic for one of his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Challenges was
How Many Surnames  In Your Family Tree Base?

It's taken me a few weeks to get around to it but here's mine. I have 31,041 people on my RootsMagic
database at present. I ran the Surname Statistics List report and came up with 86 pages, with 39
surnames per page for a total of 3361 surnames.

Here's the top 15 surnames. You'll notice that three of them are some variation of Ellingwood, My great grandmother came from the branch that used Ellingwood, but the spelling in colonial times was either
Ellinwood or Ellenwood. Most of the Ellenwoods are from a branch that emigrated to Canada before the Revolution,

The list also reflects the fact that much of my research the past few years was based on two Ellingwood genealogy books and one one book on Barker genealogy. One of the benefits of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is that it is getting me to look further into other branches on my family tree.