Thursday, October 31, 2013


Yesterday I was doing some googling  on the Witch Trials trying to find out if
I had more relatives involved in them. I am a direct descendant of Rebecca Blake
Eames and Mary Towne Estey, and my relatives Willam Barker Sr and Jr were
also accused of witchcraft. But given how many ancestors I have from Essex County,
Massachusetts, I wondered if there were more. So I went looking and sure enough, there were two more female victims of the Trials.

All I had to do was find their maiden names. One was from my Ayer line, and one was
from my Hawkes line. They are related to me through my grandmother Cora Berthella

Mary Ayer Parker was the sister of my 8x great grandfather Peter Ayer. She married a man named Nathan Parker and was an old widow when she was accused of being a witch. She maintained her innocence and claimed they had the wrong Mary Parker since there was another woman with the same name living in Andover. The court wasn't convinced by her argument and she was executed on 22 Sep 1692.

The Hawkes relative is Sarah (Hooper) Hawkes Wardwell. She was married in 1670 to my 10x great grandfather Adam Hawkes who was 62 years old. They had a child, a daughter also named Sarah, before he died in 1672. Adam was a wealthy man when he died and left a third of the estate to his younger wife which made her fairly well off for a widow when she married Samuel Wardwell in 1673.The couple moved to Andover and were living there when Thomas, Sarah, and their daughters Mercy Wardwell and Sarah Hawkes were accused of witchcraft. Among Thomas Wardwell's accusers were my relatives Thomas Chandler and Joseph Ballard.

One of the things that mystifies me about the Witch Trials is not so much the accusations
as the admissions of guilt by the victims. Thomas, Sarah and Mercy all confessed to dealing with Satan and other acts of witchcraft. I don't know if my aunt Sarah Hawkes Jr. did as well.

Thomas Wardwell was hung on the same day as Mary Ayer Parker, 22Sep 1692. The three
 women were eventually released, but Sarah (Hooper) Hawkes Wardwell property had been confiscated at her arrest, which probably included what she had been bequeathed by Adam Hawkes. I wonder if it was ever returned to her?

So now there are two more witches on our family tree!


I was a third grader at the Frank V Thompson School in Boston's
Dorchester section when I first read this poem in our English text
book. Years later I used to post it every Halloween on an email
list for a fantasy role playing group. I think our Mom once or twice
recited the "Gobble-uns 'll git you ef you don't watch out!" part. 

 Anyway, it's the best Halloween poem I know. Enjoy.

And `ware th' Gobble-uns!

Little Orphant Annie

by James Whitcomb Riley.

LITTLE Orphant Annie ’s come to our house to stay,   
An’ wash the cups and saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,   
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,   
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;   
An’ all us other children, when the supper things is done,         
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun   
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ’at Annie tells about,   
An’ the Gobble-uns ’at gits you   
        Ef you   

Onc’t they was a little boy would n’t say his pray’rs—   
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,   
His mammy heerd him holler, an’ his daddy heerd him bawl,           
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he was n’t there at all!   
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,   
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;   
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout!   
An’ the Gobble-uns ’ll git you           
        Ef you   

An’ one time a little girl ’ud allus laugh an’ grin,         
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;   
An’ onc’t when they was “company,” an’ ole folks was there,   
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she did n’t care!   
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,   
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,          
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ’fore she knowed what she ’s about!   
An’ the Gobble-uns ’ll git you   
        Ef you   

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,   
An’ the lampwick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!   
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,   
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is allsquenched away,—        
You better mind yer parents, and yer teachers fond and dear,   
An’ churish them ’at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,   
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ’at clusters all about,   
Er the Gobble-uns ’ll git you   
        Ef you           

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Tonight's Halloween Tale is a poem by distant cousin John Greenleaf Whittier
and concerns a story written about by Cotton Mather. Apparently a garrison on
Cape Ann in Massachusetts was the target of nightly attacks by warriors who
could not be killed. These continued for several weeks until they ceased as
suddenly as they began. On the other hand, perhaps the soldiers defending the
stockade were just poor marksmen?


John Greenleaf  Whittier

Where the sea-waves back anil forward, hoarse with rolling pebbles,
The garrison-house stood watching on the gray rocks of Cape Ann;
On its windy site uplifting gabled roof and palisade,
And rough walls of unhewn timber with the moonlight overlaid.

Before the deep-mouthed chimney, dimly lit by dying brands,
Twenty soldiers sat and waited, with their muskets in their hands;
On the rough-hewn oaken table the venison haunch was shared,
And the pewter tankard circled slowly round from beard to beard.

But their voices sank yet lower, sank to husky tones of fear,
As they spake of present tokens of the powers of evil near;
Of a spectral host, defying stroke of steel and aim of gun;
Never yet was ball to slay them in the mould of mortals run!

Midnight came; from out the forest moved a dusky mass that soon
Grew to warriors, plumed and painted, grimly marching in the moon.
"Ghosts or witches," said the captain, "thus I foil the Evil One I"
And he rammed a silver button, from his doublet, down his gun.

"God preserve us!" said the captain; "never mortal foes were there
They have vanished with their leader, Prince and Power of the air!
Lay aside your useless weapons; skill and prowess naught avail;
They who do the Devil's service wear their master's coat of mail!"

So the night grew near to cock-crow, when again a warning call
Roused the score of weary soldiers watching round the dusky hall;
And they looked to flint and priming, and they longed for break of
But the captain closed his Bible: "Let us cease from man, and

To the men who went before us, all the unseen powers seemed near,
And their steadfast strength of courage struck its roots in holy fear.
Every hand forsook the musket, every head was bowed and bare,
Every stout knee pressed the flagstones, as the captain led in prayer.

Ceased thereat the mystic marching of the spectres round the wall,
But a sound abhorred, unearthly, smote the ears and hearts of all, —
Howls of rage and shrieks of anguish! Never after mortal man
Saw the ghostly leaguers marching round the blockhouse of Cape

Monday, October 28, 2013


((The prompt last week for Julie Goucher's The Book of Me, Written By
You was what I might put in a time time capsule. I had run a geneablogger
challenge last year on time capsules, so I thought I'd just reprint my post 
from that. Only one change from my original post: the tin foil wrapped
baseball cap has been replaced by a red plastic colander. That should
equally mystify future generations!))

Back in February I read about a century old time capsule being opened
here in Abington and it gave me an idea for a Genealogists' Time Capsule
Challenge. The rules I set were these:

1 Make a list of what you would put in a time capsule and why you'd choose
each item.

2, What would you use for the time capsule? Where would you have it kept?

3. Write a blogpost with the above information. If you don't have a blog, why.
not??? Ok, if you don't send your time capsule idea to me as a comment to
this post or email it to me. If you do have a blog, make sure to send me
the link to your time capsule post.

So, here's my Time Capsule. Besides the genealogy material I included
some items of personal value:

My genealogy research and my other writings printed on acid free archival
paper. Each page would be in polypropylene archive safe page

A book (or several) of my "West in New England" blogposts published
with one of the programs that convert blogs to books. 

A copy of the book "Morte'D Arthur" by Sir Thomas Malory-(The book that
started my love of history and mythology.)

The cd album "1" by The Beatles which is a collection of all their #1 songs.
(because the Beatles shaped so much of the popular music of my time)

The cassette album "Days of Future Passed" by The Moody Blues
(my favorite rock group)

Cds of a Chieftains' album and a Clannad album (I need to decide on which one.
Included because of our family's Irish heritage)

A collection of scanned family photos packed in polypropylene archive safe
protectors. Each photo will have names and dates of the people and places
in them.

A cd containing the same photos all properly labeled, my genealogy research
and my other writings

A flash drive with the same photos all properly labeled, my genealogy research
and my other writings.(I'm paranoid. If one doesn't work, maybe the other will!)

 My windup dinosaur skeleton (because there should always be some family

A letter from me (written on my computer and printed out because at the rate
things are going, my relatives probably won't be able to read cursive) explaining
everything in my time capsule except the windup dinosaur and one other item.

 All of the above would be put in a waterproof plastic container inside a waterproof
metal box. I'd leave it with my niece and nephews with instructions that it be
opened in 2112.

Oh, and that one other item? This picture with "I must use these powers wisely"
written on the back.

My future relatives might not understand it, but the folks reading this who are
frequent visitors to the Geneabloggers Radio Chat Room will know what it means!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


((Tonight's 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.
((Tonight's Halloween Tale is one of my own, first posted in
October, 2007))

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?

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Today I had the honor of appearing on a panel about geneablogging at the Merrimack
Valley Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists. The other members of
the panel were Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, Heather Wilkinson Rojo, Marian Pierre-Louis,
and Cynthia Shenette, so I was in very distinguished company. I have been a bit
nervous about this for awhile because it's the first time I've spoken before a group
of fellow genealogists. I spoke about three instances where blogging had led to cousin
connections that had helped my family research and led me to discover some things
I hadn't already seen or known about my family. I can't remember exactly what I said
but I'm told I did alright. (Nobody fell asleep!) I also received my first Blogger's

Thanks to Lucie for facilitating our talk and doing some PowerPoint slides for each of us,
And thanks to Margaret Fortier, Karen Treachis and the chapter members for their kindness to a first time speaker!

Heather, Cynthia and Lucie

Erica Voolich, Heather and Cynthia
Lucie and Pat Stano-Carpenter
Cynthia, Marian, Myself, Lucie, & Heather

Thursday, October 24, 2013


For today's Halloween Tale we return once more to pirates and Cape Cod:


For years after Bellamy's pirate ship was wrecked at Wellfleet, by false pilotage on the part of one of his captives, a strange-looking man used to travel up and down the cape, who was believed to be one of the few survivors of that night of storm, and of the hanging that others underwent after getting ashore. The pirates had money when the ship struck; it was found in the pockets of a hundred drowned who were cast on the beach, as well as among the sands of the cape, for coin was gathered there long after. They supposed the stranger had his share, or more, and that he secreted a quantity of specie near his cabin. After his death gold was found under his clothing in a girdle. He was often received at the houses of the fishermen, both because the people were hospitable and because they feared harm if they refused to feed or shelter him; but if his company grew wearisome he was exorcised by reading aloud a portion of the Bible. When he heard the holy words he invariably departed.

And it was said that fiends came to him at night, for in his room, whether he appeared to sleep or wake, there were groans and blasphemy, uncanny words and sounds that stirred the hair of listeners on their scalps. The unhappy creature cried to be delivered from his tormenters and begged to be spared from seeing a rehearsal of the murders he had committed. For some time he was missed from his haunts, and it was thought that he had secured a ship and set to sea again; but a traveller on the sands, while passing his cabin in the small hours, had heard a more than usual commotion, and could distinguish the voice of the wild man raised in frantic appeal to somebody, or something; still, knowing that it was his habit to cry out so, and having misgivings about approaching the house, the traveller only hurried past. A few neighbors went to the lonely cabin and looked through the windows, which, as well as the doors, were locked on the inside. The wild man lay still and white on the floor, with the furniture upset and pieces of gold clutched in his fingers and scattered about him. There were marks of claws about his neck.-
Charles Montgomery Skinner Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa pp309-310

Monday, October 21, 2013


Last month I reprinted a post I wrote in 2007 about my ancestor
Jonathan Abbott's relationship with some Acadian exiles in Andover
Ma. back in the 18th century. I hadn't known anything about it until
I found the story on Lucie LeBlanc Consentino's blog. Revisiting it
reminded me that back in grade school in Boston we'd read
the poem "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It told
the story of two starcrossed Acadian lovers but all I could recall
of it was the line "This is the forest primeval."

When I started looking for a poem for this year's Great Genealogy
Poetry Challenge, I realized Evangeline would be perfect because
of my family's brief connection with the tragedy of the Acadian exiles.
Now, it's a long poem, so I selected a passage in which Longfellow
depicts how a small French-Canadian community learned they were
losing their homes and being deported:    

So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous           
sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat.   
Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,   
Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones   
Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.   
Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them          
Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor   
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,—   
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal   
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.   
Then uprose their commander, and spake from the steps of the altar,       
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.   
‘You are convened this day,’ he said, ‘by his Majesty’s orders.   
Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,   
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper   
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.           
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;   
Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds   
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province   
Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there   
Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!           
Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty’s pleasure!’   
As, when the air is serene in sultry solstice of summer,   
Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones   
Beats down the farmer’s corn in the field and shatters his windows,   
Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the houseroofs,           
Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their enclosures;   
So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker.   
Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose   
Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger,   
And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the doorway.           
Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations   
Rang through the house of prayer; and high o’er the heads of the others   
Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith,   
As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows.   
Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,—          
‘Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance!   
Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!’   
More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier   
Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


I'm taking  part in a meme started by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest. Using
prompts from "The Book of Me, Written By You" I'm leaving my memories
of my life for present and future relatives. This week's prompt is: my grandparents.

I didn't know our grandparents as well as now I wish I had. My Dad's parents lived
up in Maine, a good distance away from where my family lived in Boston; we'd go
"up home" for a few days in the summers when I was a kid and visit them for a few
hours.  On our Mom's side, our grandmother lived with us but she passed away in
1957 when I was eight years old. Our grandfather's name was never mentioned and
 there were no pictures, so to this day I have no idea what he looked like.

So here's what I know:

Paternal Grandparents: Floyd Earl West and Cora Berthella Barker.
My grandfather was born on 14Apr 1893 in So. Paris, Me. and had a younger brother Clarence who was two years younger. His mother Clara Ellingwood West died four
days before Floyd's eighth birthday and the boys and their father Philip J West were
living with my West 2x great grandparents when the 1900 Federal Census was taken. When World War 1 came along, Floyd enlisted on 29Apr 1918 but never served
overseas because he was assigned to Camp Devens in Massachusetts during the
Spanish Flu epidemic to work as an hospital orderly. After contracting pneumonia himself, he was honorably discharged on 12March 1919.

Two weeks later, on 24Mar 1919 he married my grandmother Cora Berthella Barker.
Cora was born on 27Oct 1899 at Bethel, Maine. Like Floyd, she'd lost a parent when she
was young, at age five  when her father died. He'd left debts so Cora had a pretty unsettled
childhood that included two stepfathers before she married my grandfather.
Floyd and Cora had five children , three girls and two boys, including my father Floyd Jr.

My grandfather supported the family with odd jobs during the Great Depression and
mostly in the lumber trade afterward.He also hunted and trapped which was common
in rural western Maine.

Floyd died  in 1970 and Cora in 1987.

Grandmother West with my cousin Mindy Sue West

Maternal Grandparents Edward F. White Sr. and Agnes McFarland
Agnes McFarland
Edward F. White was born on 3Jul 1899 in Boston, Ma., the third of 9 children. My Mom
said he was a chauffeur when he met my grandmother Aggie. The two of them might
have met through their fathers, both of who were employees of the city of Boston.
Aggie was born 7Oct 1898, the 14th of 17 children. Both she and Ed were the children of immigrants who'd come to this country in the late 19th century.

They were married 19Oct 1924 in Boston. My uncle was born in 1925 and my Mom in 1927.
Sometime after my Mom's birth a third child was lost in a miscarriage and the marriage
fell apart. Edward left my grandmother who spent several years trying to get him to pay
child support during the height of the Depression before divorcing him on 21Nov 1935.
As far as I know he never did pay any child support because she couldn't find him. Even
now I can't find him on the 1930 or 1940 Federal Censuses. My mother later found him
after I was born and discovered he'd remarried and had two sons by his second wife.
I've written here before about my search to find out more about him and his family.

My grandmother Aggie died on 12 Feb 1957 in Malden, Ma. of heart failure caused by
damage from having rheumatic fever as a child. Edward died on 6Dec 1991 in Billerica,
Ma. and is buried in an unmarked grave. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Many legends have a basis in fact. Such is the case in this next Halloween Tale. There
was a Samuel Shute who was Royal Governor of Massachusetts from 1716 to 1723, and
there was an outbreak of smallpox in Boston over the winter of 1721-1722 that claimed
over 800 lives.  Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a shot story about "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"
which this version is probably based on, and I first heard of this in another of
Edward Rowe Snow's books. I think Snow said he believed Edgar Allen Poe based "The
Masque of the Red Death" on the epidemic as well. It makes me wonder just how disliked
Lady Eleanor (if she were real)must have been to inspire such an unflattering story. 

LADY ELEANORE ROCHCLIFFE, being orphaned, was admitted to the family of her distant relative, Governor Shute, of Massachusetts Bay, and came to America to take her home with him. She arrived at the gates of Province House, in Boston, in the governor's splendid coach, with outriders and guards, and as the governor went to receive her, a pale young man, with tangled hair, sprang from the crowd and fell in the dust at her feet, offering himself as a footstool for her to tread upon. Her proud face lighted with a smile of scorn, and she put out her hand to stay the governor, who was in the act of striking the fellow with his cane.

"Do not strike him," she said. "When men seek to be trampled, it is a favor they deserve."

For a moment she bore her weight on the prostrate form, "emblem of aristocracy trampling on human sympathies and the kindred of nature," and as she stood there the bell on South Church began to toll for a funeral that was passing at the moment. The crowd started; some looked annoyed; Lady Eleanore remained calm and walked in stately fashion up the passage on the arm of His Excellency. "Who was that insolent fellow?" was asked of Dr. Clarke, the governor's physician.

"Gervase Helwyse," replied the doctor; " a youth of no fortune, but of good mind until he met this lady in London, when he fell in love with her, and her pride and scorn have crazed him."

A few nights after a ball was given in honor of the governor's ward, and Province House was filled with the elect of the city. Commanding in figure, beautiful in face, richly dressed and jewelled, the Lady Eleanore was the admired of the whole assembly, and the women were especially curious to see her mantle, for a rumor went out that it had been made by a dying girl, and had the magic power of giving new beauty to the wearer every time it was put on. While the guests were taking refreshment, a young man stole into the room with a silver goblet, and this he offered on his knee to Lady Eleanore. As she looked down she recognized the face of Helwyse.

"Drink of this sacramental wine," he said, eagerly, "and pass it among the guests."

"Perhaps it is poisoned," whispered a man, and in another moment the liquor was overturned, and Helwyse was roughly dragged away.

"Pray, gentlemen, do not hurt my poor admirer," said the lady, in a tone of languor and condescension that was unusual to her. Breaking from his captives, Helwyse ran back and begged her to cast her mantle into the fire. She replied by throwing a fold of it above her head and smiling as she said, "Farewell. Remember me as you see me now."

Helwyse shook his head sadly and submitted to be led away. The weariness in Eleanore's manner increased; a flush was burning on her cheek; her laugh had grown infrequent. Dr. Clarke whispered something in the governor's ear that made that gentleman start and look alarmed. It was announced that an unforeseen circumstance made it necessary to close the festival at once, and the company went home. A few days after the city was thrown into a panic by an outbreak of small-pox, a disease that in those times could not be prevented nor often cured, and that gathered its victims by thousands. Graves were dug in rows, and every night the earth was piled hastily on fresh corpses. Before all infected houses hung a red flag of warning, and Province House was the first to show it, for the plague had come to town in Lady Eleanore's mantle. The people cursed her pride and pointed to the flags as her triumphal banners. The pestilence was at its height when Gervase Helwyse appeared in Province House. There were none to stay him now, and he climbed the stairs, peering from room to room, until he entered a darkened chamber, where something stirred feebly under a silken coverlet and a faint voice begged for water. Helwyse tore apart the curtains and exclaimed, " Fie! What does such a thing as you in Lady Eleanore's apartment?"

The figure on the bed tried to hide its hideous face. "Do not look on me," it cried. "I am cursed for my pride that I wrapped about me as a mantle. You are avenged. I am Eleanore Rochcliffe." 

The lunatic stared for a moment, then the house echoed with his laughter. The deadly mantle lay on a chair. He snatched it up, and waving also the red flag of the pestilence ran into the street. In a short time an effigy wrapped in the mantle was borne to Province House and set on fire by a mob. From that hour the pest abated and soon disappeared, though graves and scars made a bitter memory of it for many a year. Unhappiest of all was the disfigured creature who wandered amid the shadows of Province House, never showing her face, unloved, avoided, lonely.
Charles Montgomery Skinner  Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa  pp253-256

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


This Halloween Tale is one of my favorites because I've actually seen Nix's
Mate Island. Back when I was a kid I wan an avid reader of books  by author
Edward Rowe Snow. He wrote many books about New England history, folktales
and catastrophes. One of the books  was The Islands of Boston Harbor, which
included a section on Nix's Mate. Years later, when I was in high school, I took
a cruise of Boston Harbor for the staffs of high school newspapers which was
sponsored by the Quincy Patriot Ledger newspaper and was hosted by Mr.Snow
who was writing a weekly column for the paper. So I got to hear him retell the
story as the boat sailed by the very small island. I've never forgotten that trip,
and I have four of Snow's books among my book collection now as an adult,
including The Islands of Boston Harbor.

It should be noted that history tell us the reason the island has shrunk from
twelve acres down to one was that colonists mined the island for shale and
for rocks to use as ballast for ships.

But really, this story is so much spookier!


The black, pyramidal beacon, called Nix's Mate, is well known to yachtsmen, sailors, and excursionists in Boston harbor. It rises above a shoal,—all that is left of a fair, green island which long ago disappeared in the sea. In 1636 it had an extent of twelve acres, and on its highest point was a gallows where pirates were hanged in chains. One night cries were heard on board of a ship that lay at anchor a little way off shore, and when the watch put off, to see what might be amiss, the captain, named Nix, was found murdered in his bed. There was no direct evidence in the case, and no motive could be assigned for the deed, unless it was the expectancy of promotion on the part of the mate, in case of his commander's death. It was found, however, that this possibility gave significance to certain acts and sayings of that officer during the voyage, and on circumstantial evidence so slight as this he was convicted and sentenced to death. As he was led to execution he swore that he was not guilty, as he had done before, and from the scaffold he cried aloud, " God, show that I am innocent. Let this island sink and prove to these people that I have never stained my hands with human blood." Soon after the execution of his sentence it was noticed that the surf was going higher on the shore, that certain rocks were no longer uncovered at low tide, and in time the island wasted away. The colonists looked with awe on this manifestation and confessed that God had shown their wrong.

 Charles Montgomery Skinner Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa pp308-309

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Tonight's Halloween Tale is a story I first read about when I was in the third
or fourth grade. I remember checking out a book of American folk tales at the
Codman Square library in Boston and this was one of the stories from New
England. I was a bit skeptical about it because that was in the 1950's and I
thought someone driving a horse and carriage around on the highways would
certainly make the news in the age of automobiles.

But maybe Peter and his daughter have modernized and are in a beat up  old
VW Beetle nowadays?


THE idea of long wandering as a penalty, symbolized in "The Wandering Jew," "The Flying Dutchman," and the character of Kundry, in "Parsifal," has application in the legend of Peter Rugg. This strange man, who lived in Middle Street, Boston, with his wife and daughter, was esteemed as a person of probity and good manners except in his swearing fits, for he was subject to outbursts of passion, when he would kick his way through doors instead of opening them, bite tenpenny nails in two, and curse his wig off. In the autumn of 1770 he visited Concord, with his little girl, and on the way home was overtaken by a violent storm. He took shelter with a friend at Menotomy, who urged him to stay all night, for the rain was falling heavier every moment; but Rugg would not be stayed, and seeing that there was no hope of a dry journey back to town he roared a fearful oath and cried, " Let the storm increase. I will see home to-night in spite of it, or may I never see home!" With that he tossed the child into the open chaise, leaped in after her, lashed his horse, and was off.

Several nights afterward, while Rugg's neighbors were out with lanterns trying to discover the cause of a heavy jarring that had begun to disturb them in bad weather, the excitable gentleman, who had not been seen since his Concord visit, came whirling along the pavement in his carriage, his daughter beside him, his black horse plunging on in spite of his efforts to stop him. The lanterns that for a moment twinkled in Peter's face showed him as a wet and weary man, with eyes turned up longingly at the windows where his wife awaited him; then he was gone, and the ground trembled as with an earthquake, while the rain fell more heavily.

Mrs. Rugg died within a twelvemonth, and Peter never reached home, but from all parts of New England came stories of a man and child driving rapidly along the highways, never stopping except to inquire the way to Boston. Half of the time the man would be headed in a direction opposite to the one he seemed to want to follow, and when set right would cry that he was being deceived, and was sometimes heard to mutter, "No home to-night." In Hartford, Providence, Newburyport, and among the New Hampshire hills the anxious face of the man became known, and he was referred to as "the stormbreeder," for so surely as he passed there would be rain, wind, lightning, thunder, and darkness within the hour.

Some years ago a man in a Connecticut town stopped this hurrying traveller, who said, in reply to a question, "I have lost the road to Boston. My name is Peter Rugg." Then Rugg's disappearance half a century before was cited by those who had long memories, and people began to look askant at Peter and gave him generous road room when they met him. The toll-taker on Charlestown bridge declared that he had been annoyed and alarmed by a prodigious tramping of hoofs and rattling of wheels that seemed to pass toward Boston before his very face, yet he could see nothing. He took courage one night to plant himself in the middle of the bridge with a three-legged stool, and when the sound approached he dimly saw a large black horse driven by a weary looking man with a child beside him. The stool was flung at the horse's head, but passed through the animal as through smoke and skipped across the floor of the bridge. Thus much the tollcollector said, but when asked if Rugg had appeared again he made no reply.
-   Charles Montgomery Skinner Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I 
(Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa pp244-246

Monday, October 14, 2013


On Sunday I got into my car Ping II (AKA Pingzinga) and set out for this year's
New England Geneabloggers Bash at Sara Campbell's place on Cape Cod. I took
the old prehighway route down on Rte 18 to Rte 105 to Rte 6 and then the MidCape
Highway. While it was overcast here in Abington the further south I drove the
brighter the skies became.  I've driven the northern stretch of 105 before but
the stretch I drove Sunday was a revelation with some nice scenery, a lot
more farms than I expected, and some very large lakes. I also passed about
four or five cemeteries that I will try to visit in the coming weeks.

I reached Sara's cottage about midday, and by that time the weather was
sunny and milder than I expected for Cape Cod at this time of year. There
were fewer people there this year; many of those who attended last year were
unable to be there this year because of trips abroad or prior commitments. But
while the gathering was smaller it was just as much fun as last year. There was good
food and good conversation as we talked about things that sometimes make our
non-genealogist friends' and families' glaze over when we try to describe just what
it is we find so interesting about family histories. We even had Heather Wilkinson
Rojo checking in with us from Spain via Skype. I spent the afternoon swapping
stories with Sara Campbell. Erica Voolich, Diane MacLean Boumenot, Barbara
Proko, Bevlynn Gallant, and Jill Bowden.

On the drive home I took the highway most of the way home until I hit the Rte 44
exit and got off there for a pit stop. From there I took the back roads home which
got me to Hanson, Ma. where I stopped long enough to take a picture of a beautiful
sunset before continuing on home.

A perfect ending to a great day!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Some people might not be aware that quite a few pirates roamed the coast
of New England in the early colonial period. Tonight's Halloween Tale
is short but not so sweet, and comes from the coastal town of Marblehead:


During the latter part of the seventeenth century a Spanish ship, richly laden, was beset off Marblehead by English pirates, who killed every person on board, at the time of the capture, except a beautiful English lady, a passenger on the ship, who was brought ashore at night and brutally murdered at a ledge of rocks near Oakum Bay. As the fishermen who lived near were absent in their boats, the women and children, who were startled from their sleep by her piercing shrieks, dared not attempt a rescue. Taking her a little way from shore in their boat, the pirates flung her into the sea, and as she came to the surface and clutched the gunwale they hewed at her hands with cutlasses. She was heard to cry, "Lord, save me! Mercy! O, Lord Jesus, save me!" Next day the people found her mangled body on the rocks, and, with bitter imprecations at the worse than beasts that had done this wrong, they prepared it for burial. It was interred where it was found, but, although it was committed to the earth with Christian forms, for one hundred and fifty years the victim's cries and appeals were repeated, on each anniversary of the crime, with such distinctness as to affright all who heard them—and most of the citizens of Marblehead claimed to be of that number.-
 Charles Montgomery Skinner  Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa  p313

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Tonight's Halloween Tale from Charles Montgomery Skinner's Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I  teaches a valuable lesson:never give any guff to an angry old lady with
psychic powers.


ON a headland near Plymouth lived "Aunt Rachel," a reputed seer, who made a scant livelihood by forecasting the future for such seagoing people as had crossed her palm. The crew of a certain brig came to see her on the day before sailing, and she reproached one of the lads for keeping bad company. "Avast, there, granny," interrupted another, who took the chiding to himself. "None of your slack, or I'll put a stopper on your gab." The old woman sprang erect. Levelling her skinny finger at the man, she screamed, " Moon cursers! You have set false beacons and wrecked ships for plunder. It was your fathers and mothers who decoyed a brig to these sands and left me childless and a widow. He who rides the pale horse be your guide, and you be of the number who follow him!"

That night old Rachel's house was burned, and she barely escaped with her life, but when it was time for the brig to sail she took her place among the townfolk who were to see it off. The owner of the brig tried to console her for the loss of the house. "I need it no longer," she answered, "for the narrow house will soon be mine, and you wretches cannot burn that. But you! Who will console you for the loss of your brig?"

"My brig is stanch. She has already passed the worst shoal in the bay."

"But she carries a curse. She cannot swim long."

As each successive rock and bar was passed the old woman leaned forward, her hand shaking, her gray locks flying, her eyes starting, her lips mumbling maledictions," like an evil spirit, chiding forth the storms as ministers of vengeance." The last shoal was passed, the merchant sighed with relief at seeing the vessel now safely on her course, when the woman uttered a harsh cry, and raised her hand as if to command silence until something happened that she evidently expected. For this the onlookers had not long to wait: the brig halted and trembled—her sails shook in the wind, her crew were seen trying to free the cutter—then she careened and sank until only her mast-heads stood out of the water. Most of the company ran for boats and lines, and few saw Rachel pitch forward on the earth—dead, with a fierce smile of exultation on her face. The rescuers came back with all the crew, save one—the man who had challenged the old woman and revengefully burned her cabin. Rachel's body was buried where her house had stood, and the rock— before unknown—where the brig had broken long bore the name of Rachel's Curse. 

Charles Montgomery Skinner Myths and Legends of Our Own Land: Vol. I (Google eBook) J.B. Lippincott, 1896 Philadelphia Pa  pp306-307

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


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


Just a reminder about the approaching deadline and submission rules
for the Fifth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge:

As in the past , I'll be posting the links to the submissions on Thanksgiving Day,
which this year falls on Thursday, November 27th. Deadline for submissions
will be a week before, on Thursday, November 20th. That gives everyone three
months from today to find (or write) and share their poem or song. If you
find one long before that deadline, you can post it on your blog now if you
wish, just don't forget to send me the link to it before November 20th!
These are the Challenge rules:

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region
one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local
animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written!
0r if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video of someone
performing the song.

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source
where you found it.)

3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's
home or life, or the area of the country where they lived.

4.Submit your post's link here to me by midnight Thursday, November 20th
and I'll publish all links to the entries on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th!

If  you submit a humorous poem or song that will be entered under the
"Willy Puckerbrush" division. Willy was the late geneablogger Terry
Thornton's alias for some humorous posts and comments.

So there's about a month and a half left to the deadline. I've already gotten
some great entries, and hope to  see more soon!

Friday, October 04, 2013


My first childhood home was in Malden, Ma. It was a two family house at 37 Beach
St. near the corner of Clapp St. That part of Malden is on the southern end of the
city near Linden Square and close to the border of the neighboring city of Revere
to the west. My parents were co-owners with Uncle Ed(Mom's brother) and Aunt Emily;
we lived on the second floor and they lived on the first.
Mom shoveling snow in the driveway we shared with the Tedesco family.
Me standing to the left, my cousin Winnie sitting on the car.

My maternal grandmother Agnes(McFarland) White lived with us and watched us
during the day when my parents were working. I have a few memories of Nanny: I
remember she used to eat peas by lining them up along the blade of a knife and them
rolling down them into her mouth. I also remember the day a roof repairman fell off
the roof while shingling it and landed in the grass a few feet away from the white
picket fence that separated our property from our next door neighbors' the Coriellis.(sp?)
We were in the kitchen and something went past the window. I got one quick glimpse
of the man on the ground and then Nanny pulled me away from the window. (The man
survived his fall.)

My maternal grandmother Agnes (McFarland) White.

We lived in a mostly Italian neighborhood. The Corielli's lived to the left of our house
on the corner of Clapp St. The father and mother were Vincent and Jo (I think short
for Josephine?) and they had three sons, one and older boy whose name I don't
remember, and the twins, Ronnie and Richie who I played with.  To the right lived
the Todescos, Pat and Rose, who had an older daughter and their son, Mike, another
playmate. Pat owned a shoe repair shop in Linden Square. Across Beach St from
our house was a small grocery store run by a man named Johnny.

 One of the things I recall was that besides the Corielli twins, there were three
other sets in the neighborhood: the Tadonio twins, Madeline and Marie who lived
on Clapp St and whose backyard ordered ours, the Randall brothers, and the Higgins
twins, a boy and girl.

The view across the backyard towards the Tadonio house.

Our back yard had a little dip in the middle of it and a large lilac bush at the back. You
could see over a wire fence into a row of other backyards that bordered ours and
the Todesco's. I remember chasing fireflies in the yard and listening to Aunt Emily's
own Uncle Luigi playing mandolin and singing at some family party.

The other side of the yard.

That was the house where we were living when my sister was born. Our parents
let me name her and I named her Cheryl after a little girl I had a crush on in
the ABC Nursery School.

That was the house where we had  the first family dog, a fox terrier named Saddles
that had belonged to my parents before I was born. Saddles lost a dog fight with a
larger dog and was bitten so badly he died.

Saddles, the first family dog.
We were living there during one of big hurricanes of the mid 1950's.  The street was
flooded by the overflowing Linden Creek and Dad was working in Boston at the time.
Mom didn't think he'd be home that night, but he was driving one of the old Pontiacs
with a high engine block, and he managed to get home by driving down Beach St behind someone's motorboat.  Not long after that, Dad bought a new 1956 black and red Olds

And that was where we were living when my grandmother passed away. She'd had a weak heart from the rheumatic fever she 'd had in her childhood. Shortly after that my parents
sold their half of the house to my Uncle and Aunt and we moved to Boston.

I was 8 years old when we moved away from there 57 years ago. One of these days I may
take a ride over there to see what 37 Beach St. looks like today.