Waterfront Facility Development

The City is planning to develop a waterfront facility.  The Seaport Economic Council awarded the City a grant to perform a study.  (see below)

On June 1st, the city contracted with Harriman Consulting to conduct the study which will be completed early this fall.

According to the plan of services submitted by Harriman Consulting, they will develop a Communication Plan which will describe methods that will be used to provide public information and the process that will be used to engage the public throughout the process.

This is an important opportunity to express to the consultant the needs of the community in the development of an important waterfront resource before recommendations are set forth in their draft report.

Anyone concerned and interested in participating in a public process and communicating the needs of the community should contact the Mayor, Harbormaster and Waterways Board with your concerns.

Comments can be sent to:  Voiceoftheport@gmail.com

 

SEAPORT ECONOMIC COUNCIL GRANT:

Gloucester – $80,000

Gloucester is the oldest fishing port in America, and it is critical to the economic health of the city that visitors – especially visiting boaters – feel welcome and have access to the resources they need. In order to advance Gloucester’s maritime and tourism economies, the City will use Seaport Economic Council funds for a site selection study that will examine co-locating a visiting boater support facility with the Harbormaster’s office, to offer resources and amenities including changing rooms, showers, laundry facilities, public restrooms, and common space with Wi-Fi access.

 

 

Patti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

 

Olga Lingard & Cape Ann: A Great War Enigma

World War I Poster    by Sidney H. Riesenberg (1885-1971)

By Holly Clay

Olga Lingard was known as a recluse. There’s more to her story, though. She lived on the hillside above Annisquam’s Lobster Cove, on the Dogtown side of Washington Street. Her brother Eric took on heroic missions as a WWI aviator, dying in Action. In his memory, Olga gave a parcel of land for “Soldiers’ Memorial Woods,” where Annisquam’s WWI war memorial stands in a peaceful grove alongside the Cove.  A plaque honors soldiers who lost their lives in that “Great War.” Three men’s names are etched there:  Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams. All had strong Cape Ann ties.

“Soldiers’ Memorial Woods.”
A plaque in Annisquam honors soldiers who lost their lives in the “Great War.”
The three men’s names are Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams.

Olga wanted to pay tribute to her brother and establish a memorial. He died in October 1918 in the aftermath of a successful aerial retaliation against a German U-boat threatening a South American freighter. Ensign Eric Lingard died of pneumonia at the Naval Air Base at Chatham, shortly after a plane on which he was “gunner,” crashed. He and his co-aviators were spotted and saved after 27 hours in the freezing, October waters off Cape Cod. Eric had stayed partially submerged, tending to his comrade and holding up the left wing of the plane. The encounter was one of the rare home-coast incidents in which a U.S. Navy plane successfully diverted a German U-boat.

Eric Adrian Alfred Lingard, Navy Pilot

In 1923, Olga, along with an Annisquam memorial committee commenced discussion. She hoped the Grove would bear Eric’s name. She had cause. Hollis French, a committee member, explained Olga’s point of view in a letter to Professor Charles Frederick Bradley. (Bradley would ultimately deliver an address at the unveiling.) Hollis said that Olga noted the custom of naming Legion posts after their most prominent member, and believed the same protocol was afforded war memorials. He continued, “he [Eric] was, she thinks, the only one who was lost in actual defense of his home land and particularly of his home section…She feels, therefore, that if the land in question is to be used as a memorial, it should be named after him, although it could be used as a memorial for all the boys who went from Annisquam.“

By 1929 the committee and Olga had resolved to dedicate the Wood to all those who fought, highlighting the three Annisquam men who died. Preparing for the July 7 dedication, Olga eagerly shared memories and highlights of Eric’s life and career in a letter to Professor Bradley. “Those Naval Patrol Fliers were pioneers of the air in the tradition of 1776. A meager handful – with shaky planes, scant equipment, worthless compasses and no ammunition – they set out against the odds of storm and deadly fog, to see their enemy. They too met death barehanded for the sake of the land they loved.”

Her words reflect an aching heart, as she goes on to describe Eric’s roots in Annisquam, “This Wood, these trees, and rocks, this cove, were part of Eric’s childhood.  Here he played Indian and learned to swim. And beyond all official data, there is one fact of particular significance to the people of Annisquam: The fact that Eric’s special service – the thing he individually could give – was his exact knowledge of this coast, gained from a boyhood spent cruising these waters. After he won his wings, his orders to France were issued but were delayed….as the Germans sent submarines over here.  Our coastwise shipping, even the coast itself was attacked. Pilots familiar with these shores were needed. And so it happened that Eric was chosen to guard this very spot.”

“Those of us who were in Annisquam during the summer and fall of 1918 could hear, almost daily, the throb of his plane as he flew over us on patrol. And death came to him as the result of his volunteered response to an SOS from a submarine attack.”

“Truly, and directly, he gave his life in defense of this Wood which you now dedicate,” she wrote with the passion of one who has lost the person most dear to her. She never fully recovered. In later years, she could be found sitting in Eric’s tomb in Annisquam’s Mt. Adnah Cemetery. Perhaps, she tried to reforge the bond that his tragic death severed.

Olga also had a role in securing the hull of the downed plane, H.S. 1L.1695, for Gloucester.  It was to be placed in Stage Fort Park as a tribute to the Gloucester men who fought in the Great War.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Acting Secretary of the Navy, wrote to Olga, “Your letter concerning the hull of Seaplane 1695 has been received, and I am very glad to be able to tell you that the request you make in your letter has already been complied with.

“….I have given orders that the hull of Seaplane 1695 be turned over to the Park Commissioners of Gloucester…

“Knowing what a splendid young man your brother was, I can realize what a great loss you have suffered. Your brother lived up to the best traditions of the Navy and I cannot speak too highly of his gallant work.”

Lingard seaplane, Gloucester Harbor, 1919.     

Olga, like her brother, had backbone. Their childhoods could not have been easy, but certainly fueled loyalty to one another. Though newspaper accounts say Olga was born in Switzerland, ships’ manifests list Hungary.  It is not clear when they emigrated, but in 1900 Olga, Eric, and their mother Adele, this time claiming birth in Germany, were boarding with a family by the name of Boehme in Los Angeles.  Their father Henry R. Lingard’s birthplace is listed as Russia. The census form lists him as deceased, around 1898. In 1900 Olga was 13 and Eric was 10.

By 1905 the family had moved to Boston.  Eric attended Middlesex and Harvard, entering Harvard Law School in 1913. Then in January 1915, Adele died. Eric left law school to care for Olga. He was only half way through his second year. Coming home to Annisquam, to “Highland Cottage,” he established an ice business. Eric’s official Navy Registration card (May 1917) listed Olga as his sole relative. He wrote, “Yes. Am sole relative and guardian of invalid sister, …”

Olga Lingard.     Courtesy of the Annisquam Historical Society

Olga Lingard lived until August 1970. Her GDT obituary says she was educated in Europe and spoke several languages. The obituary speaks of her contributions, most notably of the WWI Memorial here in Annisquam. Though solitary up on the hill with her dogs, she maintained links to the community.  Below, she appears in a photograph of the cast of the Annisquam Village Players (first row, second from left).

Later in life, Olga sold the family house to the Crouse family (Sound of Music lyricist Russel Crouse) and moved into a smaller house on Bennett Street.  In December of 1964, a fire ravaged her home. Olga lost everything, including the manuscript for a book she had written about her brother. Not long after, she moved to an apartment in Rockport and ultimately to a nursing home. An eccentric, or not, Olga Lingard made her mark, dignifying the family name and drawing attention to the ultimate sacrifice paid by her remarkable and loyal brother Eric.

 

**********Postscript************

The hull of HS 1695 has disappeared, its fate a mystery. One clue surfaced. In 2012, Gloucester resident Bill Hubbard responded to a Good Morning Gloucester photograph of the seaplane Eric regularly piloted.

The photo jogged his memory. In regard to the other plane, the one that crashed, Hubbard said, “For years before and during WW-II, the hull of a similar plane was in the lower level of the Twin Light Garage on East Main Street. The garage was owned by the late Ray Bradley who lived on Rocky Neck. As kids, we often played around it and I remember Ray telling us that it had been a WW-I airplane – I believe it was an old Coast Guard bi-winged seaplane. There were no wings or rudder, just the hull which was shaped very much like the one in the picture. Not long after the end of the war, they dragged it out to the flats on Smith Cove and burned it.”

In response, Bodin confirmed Hubbard’s memory. “Thanks, Bill. I had heard that Eric Lingard’s aircraft was stored in the DPW barn on Poplar Street for years, and then went to someone’s basement or garage.”

Hubbard replied, “Fred, maybe that was Lingard’s plane in the basement of Twin Light Garage.”

What else could it have been?

Gloucester’s VFW Post 1620 ultimately took Eric Lingard’s name, now known as the Doucette-Lingard Post.

******************

To learn more visit:

The Annisquam Historical Society Exhibition at the Annisquam Firehouse

Annisquam in World War I

4 July 2017 – 30 September 2017

 

 

Holly Clay is settled in Gloucester after many years of living overseas and in Washington, D.C. Holly is a member of the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Annisquam Historical Society.  With a background in education and writing, her professional energies are currently devoted to studying and teaching yoga and meditation.

 

 

 

Pole Hill: A Ceremonial Landscape

Mary Ellen Lepionka,  July 10, 2017

Underground Landscape. 1989.                                                     Albert Alcalay (1917-2008)

Pole Hill in Riverview, some say Poles Hill, was the place where shamans went to read the sky for the people living at Wanaskwiwam in Riverview, Gloucester. Algonquians sited their villages near landscapes that could serve as astronomical observatories—hilltops shaped like shallow bowls with false horizons where watchers at the center could see the slow dance between earth and sky—hilltops with boulders to align, marking sightlines to celestial objects and events on those horizons—the rise and fall of the Pleiades; the cycles of the sun and moon; the warriors hunting and wounding the great bear; the bear’s hibernation and recovery; and special times—first planting of seeds, initiation of the youth, green corn harvest, ascension of the spirits of the dead on the trail of bright stars to the sky world under Draco’s fearsome protection.

According to geologists, Native skywatchers used fire and percussion to shape glacial erratics on Pole Hill and reduced their bases to a layer of gravel on which the positions of the heavy stones could be adjusted to match observations. Alignments show that the sky was different then, because of Earth’s wobbly progress, charted by astronomers. The North Star was not Polaris but a bright star in Draco called Thuban. That was between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. As a consequence, today’s summer and winter solstice sunrises and sunsets are slightly askew (about 10 degrees west) of their ancient sightlines.

Pole Hill was a glacial heath then, treeless. It was a ceremonial landscape as well as an astronomical observatory. Some modified boulders can still be seen as effigy stones if you know what to look for: representations of the snake, a powerful underworld spirit; spirit animals—turtle, mountain lion, whale; abstract symbols—triangle of healing, numerical tally, standing stones, stone circles, wedged-open portals to the spirit world. And Manitou perhaps—a large leaning spall of granite shaped with the stylized head and shoulders of the Great Spirit. According to archaeologists, other Native sites in New England feature stones like these.

Awesome discoveries, but we cannot pretend to share the Algonquians’ spiritual experience. Their world and daily life were suffused with dangerous spirits and the need to predict, propitiate, mitigate, attract, distract, appease, repel, or exclude them. The Native culture of respect for all things was based on fear—fear that a particular person or tree or animal was not that person or tree or animal at all, but really a demon, or a witch, an enemy in disguise, a wandering ancestor, a shape changer, spirit guide, omen, warning, messenger from the spirit world, avatar of the culture hero Glooscap, or a random manifestation escaped from somebody’s dream. So romanticists are quite mistaken. I muster mostly scorn for new age spiritualists and cultists who misappropriate Native American religious symbols and practices.

But we can share the awesomeness. Wanaskwiwam villagers came to their sacred place at the north entrance on Riverview Road and from the harbor at the south entrance on Sunset Hill Road, the trail bisecting the hill. According to ethnographers, just inside the entrances in small rock-ringed depressions, the people stopped for ritual purification with water and smoke. The signs are still there. In 2011, I walked into the trail from the north on a hunch. I had identified Riverview as the possible site of an Algonquian village, since proven, and knew that such a village would have needed a hill for the skywatchers to do their work. From the trail I climbed an escarpment that seemed to offer access—perilously, an old lady with camera and cane, losing a sneaker—and came out on a ribbon of bedrock. It led directly to a large standalone granite boulder that clearly had been shaped by human hand. I dubbed it “the gnomon” on sight. I knew I was at the center of a solar array.

Sunset Hill Gnomon C

Sunset Hill Gnomon C

Over the next five years, I and several experts studied the site. I recruited Mark Carlotto to locate the other stones in the solstice and equinox arrays, and he calculated the angles, azimuths, astronomical ages, and probabilities involved. We have given talks and published papers in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and the journal of the New England Antiquities Research Association but have not yet been able to get the state to recognize Pole Hill as an archaeological site. State policy is to deny Native agency in all above-ground stone features, ignoring empirical evidence to the contrary, including even pre-Contact radiocarbon dates in many cases.

Winter Solstice Sunset 2015

Winter Solstice Sunset  2015

Experts in archaeology, archaeoastronomy, and igneous geology from universities near and far have surveyed the site. Allen Stanish and Martin DelVecchio photographed the hill using fixed wing and helicopter drones. Nick Holland, Matt Natti, Sandy Barry, and others of the Cape Ann Trail Stewards cleared the sightlines of trees and brush, marked the trails, and erected signs. They continue to try to maintain the site, which is under constant attack by the ignorant and miscreant—those with beer bottles and graffiti paint, those who destroy signs and commit arson.

My body won’t get me to the gnomon now, but people who know go, along with the neighbors who saved Pole Hill from development in the first place and the huckleberry pickers. Some meet there for the solstices. Members of the Nipmuc Nation from Hassanamesit in Grafton and classes from Glen Urquhart School in Beverly have visited. I hope the work of documenting, authenticating, and interpreting Pole Hill will continue. The history of Native settlements and ceremonial landscapes on Cape Ann is a part of our history as well—something to take pride in now, 400 years after John Endicott divided Riverview into house and thatch lots for the founding families of Gloster Plantation. I believe enough time has passed for all of us to own all our people’s histories in this special place, our enduring Gloucester.

 

 

Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA.  Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to Kent Bowker (1928-2017)

Peter Anastas

 

I grew up in San Francisco, knew the old California of cities with limits, bare brown hills dotted with live oaks, glorious orchards, and deep dark redwood forests.  San Francisco’s fog, shifting beauty filling voids, never either hot or cold, chilly often, no more. The smell of ocean sweeps through the gate, tumbles over the hills. North end bars filled, fifty years ago with poets, before money came.

My old California no longer, I depart, return
to my New England home, to the marshes,
granite ledges of the older sea.                     (Kent Bowker, “The Hand Off”)

 

John Donne wrote that every death diminishes us.  I thought of Donne’s words after a mutual friend emailed me on June 24 to report that Kent had died at 7 a.m. that morning at Kaplan House, following complications from a pacemaker procedure.

I had known Kent for nearly thirty years.  We’d sailed together, dined with our families, and worked together on the board of the Charles Olson Society.   In recent years we met regularly for lunch and conversations that ranged from the day’s pressing political issues to Kent’s years in Berkeley during the 1950s, where he studied physics and became friendly with some of the Bay Area’s finest writers, including poets Robert Duncan, Robin Blazer and Jack Spicer, during the era known as the San Francisco Renaissance.

Kent really was the “Renaissance Man” that his Gloucester Times obituary and the family’s Facebook tribute describe him as being.  He’d studied theoretical physics at the University of California in Berkeley and worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, where the Manhattan Project had originated.   Concurrently, he painted and wrote poetry at a time when writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, John Wieners, and Charles Olson were either living in San Francisco or passing though.

After Kent moved to the Boston area to work at the Lincoln Laboratories and Itek, he continued to write, adding sailing to his repertoire.   He designed the house in Essex he and his art historian wife Joan lived in.  Filled with books and paintings and situated on a hill surrounded by fields, forests and wetlands, it was an ideal place for meditation and creativity.  After he retired he devoted his entire time to painting and writing—when he and Joan were not sailing or traveling.  Kent was also a superb cook.

When I first walked into Kent and Joan’s house for a Christmas party, I was attracted to Kent’s impressive library.  Personal libraries tell us much about the person who has created them.  As soon as I discovered the collected poems of Charles Olson on the bookshelves, along with those of the San Francisco poets Kent was close to, I knew that I had met someone I could talk with about the things that meant the most to both of us, not only poetry but the larger cultural and social issues the poets we both admired addressed.

Kent was always modest about his learning.  Berkley at the time Kent was a student there, along with Gloucester novelist and playwright Jonathan Bayliss, and woodworker/sculptor Jay McLauchlan, was arguably the most exciting place to be in America, especially if you were a writer.  New York, yes—and always.  But there was an atmosphere in San Francisco the likes of which we had never seen and, sadly, would never see again.  The Pacific light, the blue ocean itself, the astounding Bay and its iconic bridge were part of that atmosphere, along with North Beach bookstores like City Lights, cafes and housing that was affordable to writers and artists.

But Kent did not engage in nostalgia.  He did not romanticize Berkeley.  He lived in the present, depicting the marshes and woods around his house, the beaches of Ipswich and Plum Island he sailed past; himself and family members.

When we started Enduring Gloucester five years ago I asked Kent for a poem.  It would be the first of many he contributed—wryly humorous or passionate.  Poems about the passing of time, the changes in nature; about Gloucester lobstermen and the sea itself.

Kent was a Progressive long before those who use the term today.  A conversation with Kent was like his poetry—articulate, knowledgeable, and deeply humane.  We will miss Kent while cherishing the gift of his poetry.

 

Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

“Ye Names of Ye Rivers”: The Story of Wanaskwiwam: An Indian Village in Riverview

Mary Ellen Lepionka, June 13, 2017

Annisquam Marsh. 1913                          Melbourne Havelock Hardwick (1857-1916)

Reading the unpublished notes of amateur archaeologist N. Carleton Phillips, which he wrote in preparation for his talks to the Gloucester Rotary Club back in 1940, I was struck by the great quantity of Indian artifacts he removed from Riverview—bushel baskets full of potsherds and arrowheads! I was studying the history of Cape Ann prior to English settlement. Phillips reported large shell middens at Curtis Cove and Wheeler’s Point and copious artifacts and features from a site just north of Pole Hill: post holes and hearths of wigwams, fire pits with faunal and pottery remains, caches with stone tools, and camps and human burials nearby.

Some of these finds are in the basement of the Cape Ann Museum as the Phillips Collection, others in the basement of the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough as the Chadwick Collection. Phillips had been following up on earlier archaeological investigations, and I was intent on tracking them down.

Artifacts or site reports from amateur and pre-modern excavations, some dating back to the 1870s, include the Johnson-Speck records in the R. S. Peabody Museum in Andover, the Cape Ann Collections in the Harvard Peabody Museum and Peabody Essex Museum, the Gustav Heye Collection from the old Museum of the American Indian in New York, and private collections. Much evidence has also been lost.

I wondered if there really could have been a village at Riverview north of Pole Hill. The Gloucester Archives contains no references to an Indian village. Oddly, the Archives contain no primary sources on Native Americans here at all–other than a reference to the baptism of a Native servant by the name of Pompey, and a local census with a few names annotated in pencil as “Indian”! I found one curious note in the minutes of a 1682 Selectmen’s meeting in which they voted to ask the townspeople to distinguish local Indians from strange Indians (those displaced by King Philip’s War of 1675) in their dealings with the Natives, suggesting there may have been some vigilantism. By then things weren’t going well. In 1688 Massachusetts offered its first bounties on Indian scalps, an incentive that lasted off and on up to the War of Independence.

Elsewhere (in the basement of the Sandy Bay Historical Society in Rockport), I found Ebenezer Poole’s 1823 account of his grandfather’s testimony that there was a large Indian village in Riverview north of Pole Hill and that it often had as many as 20 or 30 wigwams! But there seemed to be some question about the reliability of both accounts. Other than that, there were a few residents’ reminiscences and newspaper notices of Native Americans making pilgrimages to Cape Ann during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but no other references to a village.

Then I found John Dunton’s letter of 1686. Dunton was a London bookseller who had sailed to Ipswich to prospect for new markets for his books. He wrote home about his overland trip to Gloucester in which he observed a funeral in a woe-begone Indian village by the name of Wonasquam! (In addition to describing the Indian village, he observed that most of the people on Cape Ann were illiterate and had no use for books.) But there was some question about the veracity of Dunton’s description, which sounded a lot like Roger Williams description of an Algonquian funeral in Rhode Island. I questioned the critic, though. Why wouldn’t two different accounts of the same ceremony sound similar? I also wondered if Wonasquam was the source word for Annisquam. I’d chanced upon the information that there was a Hotel Wonasquam in Annisquam sometime in the 1800s.

I did some exploring and found that Riverview is a north-south aligned terrace flanked by two tidal rivers, Mill River to the east and the larger Annisquam River to the west. The terrace is about two and a half kilometers long and one kilometer wide at its widest point at mid-tide and contains freshwater springs and patches of wetland and two hills. The place has water access to two other rivers, Little River and Jones River to the west, and to the islands, salt and fresh marshes, clam flats, natural harbors, and beaches of Essex Bay, Ipswich Bay, and Massachusetts Bay.

An ideal place for a Native village if ever there was one. According to state archaeologists, the criteria for the siting of pre-Contact coastal Native villages in Massachusetts include the following characteristics:

  • Partly submerged terrace on an outflow plain.
  • At the junction of two or more tidal rivers.
  • Less than an 8-degree slope.
  • Within 1,000 ft. of permanent fresh water.
  • Southwest-facing intervales of stratified, undisturbed, fertile soil.
  • Abundant nearby sources of wood for fuel.
  • North-facing soft earth overlooking water, for burials.
  • Rock outcrops for wind and sea protection, defensive positions, and astronomical reckoning.

Wanaskwiwam Village Map

Riverview, north of Pole Hill, met every criterion. In addition to location, the estuarine environments all around Riverview would have been optimal for human habitation. Shellfish would have provided a year-round supply of easily obtained high-quality animal protein. In addition, fish, eels, land and sea fowl, marine mammals, and large and small game would have been continuously available. Equally important, the site would have had the following subsistence and cultural resources:

  • Salt marsh, fresh marsh, permanent fresh water.
  • Forests for fuel, wood, fibers, nuts, herbs, fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants.
  • Tidal rivers/bays for marsh plants, canoe access, clay deposits, trade routes.
  • Fertile riverine soils in upland intervales and beaver meadows for crops.
  • Abundant rocks, minerals, and gemstones.

For most of the Woodland Period, the people in what is now Essex County migrated seasonally between inland winter villages and the coast. Upon reaching their summer sites, the people would set their fishing nets and then plant corn. However, at some time prior to direct European Contact, probably before the 15th century, some Algonquians were practicing more intensified agriculture and living on the coast year round. Cape Ann would easily have supported a population of at least 1,500 people at a subsistence level and probably more than twice that with the addition of agriculture.

Abundant diverse subsistence resources, reliable shellfish, and corn harvests with preserved surpluses would have supported increases in population, population stability, and more permanent settlement. Other major coastal villages in Massachusetts with the same siting criteria and environmental characteristics are known to have existed, for example, in Ipswich, Newbury, and Beverly.

It was not until I was reconstructing local Native place names based on the Abenaki language that I came across stronger documentary evidence for a village at Riverview. I was looking for the derivations and meanings of Annisquam and Wonasquam and discovered their common source in Wenesquawam, which in reconstructed Abenaki would be written Wanaskwiwam, which means “End of the marsh.”  It’s an apt name. Geographically, Cape Ann is at the end of the Great Marsh that starts on the New Hampshire coast and stretches south along the Gulf of Maine.

Wenesquawam is attested in a pre-1603 document known as the Edgerton Manuscript, discovered in the archives of King Charles II in the British Library in London. The title of the document, probably a result of data gathering for James I or possibly even Queen Elizabeth before him, is Ye Names of Ye Rivers and Ye Sagamores Yt Inhabit Upon Them. It gives the Native names of all the rivers between the Penobscot and the Annisquam, noting that the river names are synonymous with the names of the principal villages found on them. The explorer, whoever he was, identified the Annisquam River and its village as Wenesquawam. (He missed the Merrimac, Parker, and Rowley rivers, probably because their mouths are concealed by the barrier beaches of Plum Island.)

So there really was an Indian village in Riverview north of Pole Hill! The people were gathering shellfish there and growing corn in Riverdale and burying their dead in Annisquam. And when John Endicott had surveys done to lay out the first house lots in Gloster Plantation, he referred to “the hoed land”—the land the Native Americans at Wanaskwiwam had already prepared for cultivation.

Annisquam                                                                         William Lamb Picknell (1854-1897)

Now I had three new questions to try to solve. First, where did the people at Wanaskwiwam observe the sky and reckon ceremonial time? According to ethnographic accounts from the late 17th century to early 20th century, large Native villages in New England always had one or more nearby sites that served as astronomical observatories. Skywatching is a universal cultural feature among the first peoples of the Americas. Second, what happened to the people at Wanaskwiwam? Where did they go? And third, why ever didn’t we know about them and their village in Riverview?

PS:

  1. Pole Hill.
  2. After a generation, they left under duress and became part of the Pennacook diaspora to northern New England and Canada, where they have living descendants today.
  3. The politics of the archives, in which state-sponsored genocide was concealed by erasing public memory of its victims.

 

Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA.  Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission, and volunteers for Friends of Dogtown, Annisquam Historical Society, and Maud/Olson Library.

Anna Hyatt Huntington in Annisquam

Portrait of Anna Hyatt Huntington. 1915                            Marion Boyd Allen (1862-1941)

Cape Ann figured prominently in the life of Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876- 1973), the highly regarded 19th and 20th-century sculptor. From the studio on the family property, “Seven Acres,” on the Annisquam River, she and her older sister, Harriet kindled their love of natural life.  Anna, especially, developed an abiding passion for creating figures that represent fauna, flora and marine life.

Anna cherished her weeks and months in Annisquam. Her family honored the legacy handed to them when, in 1878, they took possession of the Norwood house (c. 1666).

As Anna’s sister Harriet (Harriet Hyatt Mayor] put it in a letter to a friend, “Each year, my thoughts take early flight to Cape Ann, and rest there awaiting my bodily transportation….It was the same with my mother [“Beebe” Hyatt]; from Christmas on, she was restless and did not regain tranquility until she crossed the threshold;…

“This feeling of attraction reaches down to mother’s great grand children…[they are] devoted to Squam and in particular “Seven Acres,” and are never as happy as there.”

“I am convinced the Norwoods’ fine courageous lives left something in the house, a spiritual incandescence to beckon the living under the shelter of its rafters.”

Moving seasonally from Cambridge to their home on the spit of land where the River meets Goose Cove, the two young ladies experimented with clay, paint, and metal to their heart’s content. Anna’s studies focused on animals. She was following in the footsteps of her father, an eminent paleontologist, while simultaneously making her own unique imprint. Professor Alpheus Hyatt heartily indulged his love of animals, sea life, and collecting sea specimen while at “Seven Acres.” He founded the first marine laboratory in the United States, on the site of this “home away from home.”  Once established, the laboratory moved to Cape Cod.  Today we know it as the Woods Hole Marine Laboratory.

Anna’s first public-scale creation, a rendering of Joan of Arc mounted nobly atop a massive mount, graces the square by Gloucester’s Captain Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3, where Washington and Middle Streets meet.  Gloucester Daily Times reporter Ruth Pappas wrote on April 13, 1962, “The idea for Joan of Arc developed in Annisquam in 1908.” She said Anna used Gloucester’s fire horses as models.  This was how she conceived a likeness of a “sturdy” horse.

Joan of Arc ended up paying tribute to the men and women who fought in WWI. At the formal unveiling in 1920, WWI soldiers and sailors and Cape Ann citizens gathered in remembrance of the Great War. The ceremony also marked the day the “Legion,” whose ranks included hundreds of Great War veterans, took possession of the grand, Greek Revival building, Gloucester’s first Town Hall. Gloucester’s “Joan” is one of several studies of France’s beatified heroine. All stand in prominent places. France awarded Huntington the Legion of Honor for its “Joan of Arc.” Anna was on hand to personally dedicate the Blois, France sculpture.

Legion Square, 300th Anniversary celebration, 1923.  photo: unknonwn.

Legion Square, 300th Anniversary celebration, 1923.                    Photo Source: Cape Ann Museum.

From Joan of Arc onwards, well into her mid-nineties, Anna continued to conceive and build her monumental animal representations. Her adult life and fame took her far from Annisquam, though she continued to have her own home here for many years.  She married Archer M. Huntington, a prominent art collector, in 1923. The couple lived in New York City and established a retreat in Redding, Connecticut, rather than on Cape Ann. Still, Annisquam stayed in Anna’s heart.  In 1971 she presented two sculptures to the Annisquam Art Gallery.  Both are animal studies. The caricature of a horse is called “Portrait of a Friend” and the other “Six Monkeys.” (see below).  They are cast in metal from the original sculptures. Today they reside in the gallery above the Exchange.

Over an extremely long and uncompromisingly dedicated life, Anna received literally thousands of awards and accolades. In addition to the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France honored the animalier with the Purple Rosette. Spain gave her the Grand Cross of Alfonso the XII and the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her with its Gold Medal.  And, her powerfully evocative works figure prominently in hundreds of museums and galleries around the world.  She was one of the 20th century’s singularly most accomplished women.

Anna Hyatt Huntington        August 1970

Anna Hyatt Huntington                            August 1970

In 1912, twelve women earned over $50,000; Anna was among them. And, Anna got her start in Massachusetts, bolstered and nourished by summers on Cape Ann. We too have been handed a legacy to honor.

 

Holly Clay is settled in Gloucester after many years of living overseas and in Washington, D.C. Holly is a member of the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Annisquam Historical Society.  With a background in education and writing, her professional energies are currently devoted to studying and teaching yoga and meditation.

 

Captain Karma

On our way down the dock to practice for the upcoming International Dory Race, I noticed two of the dories were half sunk with about 100 gallons of rain water from the last two days of heavy rain. I commented to my dorymate, Capt. Rick Miles, “Somebody should bail those boats”, knowing that if they remained that way, they would absorb more seawater and be heavier for whichever unlucky competitor drew them next week.

“Let’s do it!” he replied, even though we were laden with thwarts, tholepins and oars.

I thought, “Damn! Shoulda kept my mouth shut!” We were on our way to do wind sprints, where we row so hard in bursts it induces nausea. So I tried to get out of it, “Let’s do it after practice.”

“Come on!” he says, “I’ll take this one, you take that one”, and he jumps in one of the dories and starts bailing. I had no choice. Being the competitive fool I am, I start bailing for all I’m worth, so I can finish faster and gloat about how good I am. Just as my back was stiffening, when I had about another 25 gallons still to bail, my dorymate says, “coming in.”, and jumps in my boat to help. I couldn’t help the overwhelming feeling that my dorymate had just taught me ANOTHER very important lesson.

Fifteen minutes later, as we turned North in our dory, ‘rounding the Coast Guard Station to head up into the North Channel to do our wind sprints, there was a fishing boat coming in, way out in the Outer Harbor with its long outriggers up. “Is that the ‘Midnight Sun’?” Rick asked. We could tell it was blue but couldn’t read the name yet.

“Can’t tell yet”

Well, we did our wind sprints and on our way back toward Harbor Cove I looked over my shoulder and there, dead ahead and directly in our course, was the boat that was coming in, and I could clearly read the name now, in bold capital letters: “KARMA”

One minute later as we were coming by the Maritime Heritage Center, here was good friend, Capt. Tom Jarvis, just pulling away from the dock in his beautiful Friendship Sloop, “Resolute”, and he hailed us, “wanna go sailing? I’ll pick you up at the Town Landing!”

Resolute

One hour later we were completely engaged in idle talk of boats and weather. Totally present. Three Gloucestermen. Our ears filled with every sound: the surf pounding the Magnolia coast, the waves lapping Resolute’s hull, the occasional luff of a sail, the Groaner. The setting Sun illuminating everything: Sails, Spars, Ten Pound Island, us in particular. Our nostrils full with sweet, salty sea mist with just a hint of seagull guano from Norman’s Woe. Our very skin and hair telling us the wind is out of the Southwest. The temperature had already dropped 10 degrees, even though the Sun hadn’t quite set, and the three-quarter moon had risen a half hour ago.

We were one with everything around us, in our element, fully aware we are blessed to be part of this special place and time.

 

James Tarantino (Jimmy T.) is an exemplary outdoor enthusiast who heralds his love of family, friends, and his passion for all things Gloucester.

Wingawecheek: The Story of a Name

Mary Ellen Lepionka  5/25/17

Wingaersheek                      Wayne Morrell (1923-2013)

In my studies of Native American history in coastal Essex County, I discovered that most translations of Native place names we have today are wrong! One reason is that early linguists referred to the wrong languages: those of southern New England. They consulted William Bradford’s notes on Pokanoket, for example, or Roger Williams’ dictionary of Narraganset, or John Eliot’s translation of the Bible into Massachuset.

But the Algonquians who lived on Cape Ann were not Pokanoket, Narraganset, or Massachuset. They were Pawtucket, relatives of the Pennacook, originally from New Hampshire and southern Maine. They spoke a dialect of Western Abenaki. According to early European explorers, except for a patois used in trading, the Pawtucket needed interpreters to speak to their neighbors to the south!

The French were the chroniclers of Abenaki and Micmac and other Algonquian languages of northern New England. But the early English linguists and historians did not consult French sources. If they had, we might have known all along what our local Native place names really mean. How hard it is to change them now! For generations, we have taken the early local scholars at their word.

Curious, I decided to use present-day reconstructions of Abenaki dialects to analyze surviving Pawtucket place names and try to determine how they really sounded and what they really mean. I started with Wingaersheek, my favorite childhood beach. I had a strong hunch that Wingaersheek was a corruption of a Native New England Algonquian word.

In his 1860 history of Gloucester John Babson claims that in 1638 when John Endicott’s surveyors asked the Indians living at the end of Atlantic Street on the Jones River Saltmarsh the name of Cape Ann, the Indians replied, “Wingaersheek”. This story has been repeated ever since. Robert Pringle, journalist and publicist, repeated it in his 1890 history. Pringle also wrote that Wingaersheek means “beautiful breaking water beach,” based on the ethnographer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s faulty attempts at ethnolinguistics.

Wingaersheek would not have been the name for Cape Ann, however. It would have named the Pawtucket village there and its river and beach. (John Mason’s 1831 map of Cape Ann shows the site as Old Coffin Farm.) Algonquian place names are always about geographic features. They describe a landscape or a resource it contains, and settlements and villages associated with that landscape or resource went by the same name.

The Pawtucket also would have had a different word than Wingaersheek, which had to be an English corruption. For one thing, in the old Algonquian dialects of northern New England, the /r/ and /l/ phones were not used in speech, as noted by Europeans. Explorers at Sagadahoc on the Kennebec River noted in 1622, for example, that nobsten was the closest pronunciation for lobster that the Native Americans there seemed capable of saying.

In 1654, 1674, and 1721, Indians—undoubtedly Abenaki speakers—were reported as referring to the Merrimack River as the Monumach (or Monomack) River. Likewise, the Pawtucket name for their site near the mouth of the Annisquam River would not have included the /r/ sound at the center of Wingaersheek. The English one might, though.

Elizabethan and Tudor English speakers often added an /r/ sound to syllables ending in /a/.  Listening to Yankee grandparents, for example, you may still hear that Cousin Anner had a good idear. Thus the middle syllable in Wingaersheek must have been an Englishism or an error in transcription, making it a corruption of a Pawtucket word. This gave me Wingaesheek, but that couldn’t be right either. And there was another barrier besides to understanding.

In 1895 Boston historian E. N. Horsford claimed that the name is a corruption of a seventeenth-century loan word from German Low Dutch: Wyngaerts Hoeck for “wine (or grape) garden peninsula (or land)”.  The Dutch left that name on a map, in the sea off the Massachusetts coast, but I knew it could have had nothing to do with the Indians. There are too many sound shifts between Wyngaerts Hoeck and Wingaersheek, and besides, the Dutch had little or nothing to do with Cape Ann. If they had, more than one place name here would be attributable to them today.

I learned that Horsford based his claim on a 1671 map of “New Belgium” by the Dutch explorer, Arnoldus Montanus, in an etching by John Ogilby published in 1673. Montanus, in turn, based his map largely on Capt. John Smith’s 1624 map of New England, and Smith, in turn, got some of his place names from an Abenaki sachem at Saco, Maine. Wingaersheek was not among them.

Dutch Map – Montanus

I consulted all the sources from ethnolinguists who wrote about Native place names in New England and all the accounts of explorers and colonists who commented on Native language—all too numerous to list here. I also saw French sources, such as Joseph Laurent’s 1884 New familiar Abenakis and English dialogues and Jesuit missionary texts collected by Eugene Vetromille, published in 1857 as the Indian Good Book.

My proposed reconstruction of Wingaersheek as Wingawecheek is based specifically on the discovery of wechee as an Abenaki word for “ocean, sea”, found in an old lexicon, and a meaning for winka- (singular)/winga- (plural) as “a kind of sea snail or whelk,” proposed by Carol Dana of the Department of Cultural and Historic Preservation of the Penobscot (Penawahpskewi) Indian Nation, on Indian Island, Maine, in 2011, based on her participation in a Western Abenaki language revival program. I learned further that the /k/ at the end of Algonquian place names is a locative suffix, denoting place, and translates as “on”, “at”, “here” or “there” depending on context.

So now I had Winga wechee k, “Here be sea whelks,” or the like. My research suggested that the whelks in question may have been the type used to make white wampum beads. Shells certainly would have been a geographic resource worthy of an Algonquian place name. They were an important cultural and economic commodity. The coastal Algonquians used whelk shells to make white wampum beads and quahog shells to make the purple ones. Wampum was central to many social and political practices and was traded from the coast as far inland as Lake Michigan. So:

Wingaersheek = Wingawecheek

          Winga = “snails, whelks

wechee = “ocean, sea”

            -k = (locative suffix)

= “Here are sea whelks (of the kind used to make white wampum)”

Aerial of Wingawecheek

Now I’m on the bridge at Goose Cove, looking across the Annisquam at the fringes of white sand and grassy dunes. Are the whelk shells I gathered in my red pail as a child still there? Now I’m on Long Wharf, looking out at the Jones River Saltmarsh. Behind me is the site of a Contact Period Native settlement. Its excavated archaeological remains lie in storage in the Harvard Peabody Museum in Cambridge. Were they the people who told Endicott’s men the name of their place? Wingawecheek must have been that name, but I’m the first to say so. And that’s the challenge of doing history, it seems: to give up what we think we know and open ourselves to new information and new interpretations, to look beyond our spatial and temporal borders—go over the bridges—to understand what’s in a name, and in the end to embrace who we really are.

PS:

  • Quascacunquen (Wessacucon) = Kwaskwaikikwen: Newbury/Rowley) = “Ideal place for planting (corn)”
  • Agawam (Castle Neck, Ipswich) = “Other side of the marsh”
  • Chebacco (Essex) = “Separate area in between (the Ipswich and Annisquam rivers)”
  • Annisquam = Wanaskwiwam (Wenesquawam/Wonasquam) = Cape Ann) = “End of the marsh”
  • Winniahdin (West Parish) = “In the vicinity of the heights”
  • Wamesit (Lowell, Pawtucket winter village) = “Room for all (the marsh goers)”
  • Naumkeag (Nahumkeak: Beverly/Salem) = “Here are eels (to fish for)”

 

 

Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA.  Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission, and volunteers for Friends of Dogtown, Annisquam Historical Society, and Maud/Olson Library.

 

All from Somewhere Else

Peter Anastas

Old Gloucester           Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002)

In 1908, my father arrived in America wearing his mother’s shoes.  He had come to join his father, who was working at the Massachusetts Cotton Mill in Lowell.

He was wearing his mother’s shoes because he didn’t own any.  When the officials at the port of Piraeus saw that my father was barefoot, they refused to let him on the ship to America.  It was then that his mother took off her own shoes and handed them to her son.  He would never see his mother again.

When my father arrived in Lowell, he discovered that his father had died from consumption, his lungs packed with textile fibers.  Dad was 9 years old.

A year later, my father was hawking newspapers on the corner of State and
Court streets in Boston.  When he had earned enough money, he bought a shoeshine stand.  At night he taught himself English using Webster’s New International Dictionary and the Boston Evening Transcript.   I still have that dictionary.

At the age of eighteen Dad enlisted in the army and was sent to Europe as a medic, where he remained for the duration of the First World War.   After the war, Dad began to pursue his dream of owning his own business.  He entered the wholesale candy business, eventually coming to Gloucester where he and a partner bought Johnny’s Morgan’s Candy Company on the Boulevard.   When the city took the properties to create an esplanade for Gloucester 300th anniversary in 1923, Dad relocated the business to the corner of Western and Centennial avenues, calling it the Boulevard Sweet Shop.   In 1949 he sold that business and we moved to Rocky Neck, where Dad opened a luncheonette and S.S. Pierce gourmet grocery store called Peter’s.  The store, which for many years became the social center for Rocky Neck life, exists today as Sailor Stan’s.

Papou the Elder. Rocky Neck

Years after he had come to Gloucester, Dad continued to speak English with a strong accent.   I remember once when Eddie Bloomberg, whose father owned Bloomberg’s clothing store and the Strand Theater on Main Street, joked that Dad, like his own father, “murdered the English language.”

“I’d like to know what you would do,” Dad shot back. “Alone in a strange country and no one to turn to.”

My father never went beyond fourth grade in school, but he valued learning.  He sent my brother and me to college, not because he wanted us to do better than he did, but because he wanted us to become “educated,” as he often said.  When I was studying Greek in college, Dad and I used to translate The Iliad together.  He hadn’t forgotten the Ancient Greek he learned in grade school and he could still recite from Homer’s great epics.

After Dad sold the store on Rocky Neck in 1964 and retired, he spent most of his free time collecting and reading books about Greece.

I have a photograph of my mother’s family.  It was taken in front of the Fitz Henry Lane house, where they lived.  It is dated April 6, 1914.  The photograph shows the entire household, my maternal grandparents, all my aunts and uncles, except my uncle George Polisson, who wasn’t born yet.  There are other people in the picture, relatives from Boston and a couple of the men who boarded with the family.

Everyone in the picture is Greek.  Two men are seated playing “bouzoukia,” Greek mandolins; another holds a pitcher of wine and a tray with glasses.  Still, another holds a whole leg of lamb on a skewer.  It is Greek Easter.  It says so in the lower corner of the picture.  In the upper left corner it reads, “Christos Anesti,” which means “Christ is Risen.”

Polisson Family – Lane House. 1914.

The people in the photograph are “different,” the men swarthy, the women exotic with long dark hair done up in buns.  They are holding objects from their own culture, the wine and the lamb, the “bouzoukia.”  The writing on the photograph is in Greek.

I didn’t think I was different until once, in Miss Parks’ second-grade class at the Hovey School, we were asked where our parents were born.  When I told the teacher that my mother had been born in Gloucester but that my father came from Sparta, Greece, one of the kids (I’ve never forgotten her name) piped up: “Sounds like a can of grease.”   After that my brother and I were called “Greasy Greeks” or “Greaseballs.”  When I went home crying one day, my father said, “Tell them that you’re proud to be Greek.  Tell them that the democratic system of government they live under was invented in Greece.”   This happened during the Second World War and I cannot help but think that the war had colored people’s attitudes toward immigrant families like my own.

In the Gloucester of my childhood one heard many different languages and smelled many different kinds of cooking on the way home from school:  Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Yiddish, French Canadian, Finnish, Polish and Russian, among others.   Our grandmothers learned enough of each other’s language to converse over the backyard fences.   Growing up down the Cut or at the Fort, we and our friends had a working knowledge of Italian, exchanging some pungent swearwords in Greek and Italian.  The first African-Americans I saw were jazz musicians, who came to perform at the Hawthorne Inn Casino, in East Gloucester, beginning in the early 1950s, when my brother and I sneaked up the back stairs to listen to this wild new music, which we soon began to play ourselves.  It wasn’t long before we heard Spanish on the street and even Vietnamese and Cambodian.  Though it has always been a cosmopolitan city due to its many ethnicities and art culture, Gloucester has continued to change.  Yet the incredible diversity that defines us has remained the same.

We are all superficially different, and we all came from someplace else.  What brings us together are the stories we tell.  The people in those stories may have different names or speak in languages we do not know, but the tales of arrival and loss, of recognition and assimilation, pain and joy, are uncannily alike.  And so are we fundamentally.

 

Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

The Way it Was – May 5, 1851

United States Capitol 19th century before being enlarged after 1850.

In anticipation of the arrival of four sisters, distant cousins brought together by the Internet and convening soon at my house, I began to scramble around looking for family memorabilia to share with them.  In the process, I came across a cherished letter from long ago.  I sat down to reread it and saw the date, May 5, 1851.  After reading it and noticing the coincidence of the dates, I knew I wanted to share it.

These days we are so filled with despair and disappointment. Every day brings another blow to democracy.  Integrity, happiness and a sense of well-being are at an all-time low.  It wasn’t always this way!  Read on!

The writer of the letter was George Bryant from Paris and Oxford, Maine.  He was born in 1830.

George Bryant with his quill pen.

His great-grandparents had settled in Maine, still part of Massachusetts, soon after the Revolution with several families making the trek to the District of Maine from Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  They cleared the fields and built their houses; the hardest days were over and twenty-year-old George was in Virginia, having traveled to Washington by train from Boston.  He had wonderful penmanship; you could call him a calligrapher, and it was said that he wished to write calling cards for the senators.  I have no knowledge that he did.  He called himself a teacher of chirography or penmanship.

This is one of two pages of his handwriting that survive. On one he practiced.

The year was 1851 and he wrote a letter to his grandfather, Arodus Bryant, back home on a hillside in Paris, Maine.  What follows in the letter is his account of the trip.  The excitement and the patriotism he felt as he saw the nation’s Capitol for the first time are almost palpable.  The letter was saved and a copy miraculously came to me from another descendant in New Jersey, also an Internet acquaintance.

 

Dear Grandfather,

   Thinking that a letter from “Old Virginia” might interest you while sunning yourself by those front windows, I have resolved to write you one and give you a short account of my travels thus far and to describe to some extent the manner and customs of these people here.  Yet I hope to give you a more detailed and interesting account when I return home as this must necessarily be very limited and superficial.

    I intend to make you a long visit of one week when I get back in order to make up for what I have lost.  I as much intended to make you a visit while at home, as one could, but the day appointed was stormy and the only day I could before starting if I went at the time agreed upon.

    I will give you a line about my journey. 

    We started from Boston at 1 o’clock in the morning with an excursion party bound or Washington.  The tickets were for the whole trip to Washington and back so I had to buy a ticket for the trip at risk of not being able to sell the back half, which it was my good luck to do before I got to New York.

    We arrived at New York about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and could have gone to Philadelphia that night if our tickets had been on this route so we were obliged to stop until the next day at noon. We then started for Philadelphia and arrived there at 5:00 P.M. and after waiting three or four hours, we took the cars for Baltimore and after riding all night we arrived there about 5 in the morning.  We then took the cars for Washington and in less than 2 hours we were in the City of Washington.

    And according to the nature of all Americans, the first thing to look for was the magnificent building known the world over as the CAPITOL OF THE UNITED STATES.  As we got out of the depot behold, there it stood, a most magnificent edifice upon a rise of ground not more than 40 rods from the depot.

    Without further ceremony and with hurried step we all rushed up the avenue which led to its entrance and, after ascending many stone steps, more noble than I ever before imagined, we came to the long anticipated spot.  And here we beheld architecture approximating as near to perfection, seemingly, as art or science ever can produce.  But with this we were not satisfied.  We longed to see the great men and renowned patriots of the ages, but this session hour being at the late hour of 12, we spent our time exploring the building and examining the (illegible word) connected with it.

   These alone are enough to interest one for days.  At length the session hour drew nigh and we all repaired to the House and Senate galleries.  You can scarcely imagine our feeling of sublimity as we mused upon the scene. 

We were in the far-famed apartment that for many years has thundered with a nation’s eloquence and poured forth a nation’s sentiments: here too the courts transpire which fill the public print throughout the land stimulating every mind from the school-boy to the gray-haired veteran, and here is, where men have gained a distinction that shall render their names immortal and mingle them with a nation’s glory in all coming time: here too, is concentrated the political strife of more than 20 million of the human race.  Here Clay and Webster are wont to raise their voices resounding from Maine to Mexico.

    As we were thus wrapped in sublime meditation, Thomas Benton came in with a lion’s authority stamped upon his countenance.  He took his seat and began looking over some books and papers.  He had come in a little before the rest and we soon learned that he was about to make a speech.  In a short time they all came in and took their seats, many of which we recognized by their likeness in books and frames.

    If you have a picture of Henry Clay you know just how he looks.  I think he has the best shrewd, self-possessing and eloquent expression every beheld.  Cass wears an expression very intelligent and noble in appearance but I suppose you would have one speak about a Whig rather than old Lewis Cass, if he is a much smaller man.  I would gladly go on giving a description of things connected with the Capitol but it is getting near bedtime and the sheet is nearly full.

    I will just say that we heard Benton make a speech followed by one from Clay.  As I had but little time to spend in Washington I made it in my way to visit most of the public buildings but was the most interested in the Patent Office where I saw the old original Constitution, the military coat and equipment worn by the immortal Washington, Franklin’s old printing press, and a thousand other things of interest which have not room here to insert.

    I am now in Virginia enjoying myself pretty well.  It is cold here for the time of year and very changeable.  There is not so much difference between seed time here and in Maine as I supposed.  Many are not half through planting yet.  It was as warm here the last of February as it is now.

Darkies are plenty here, but I shall have to leave that subject until another time.  I will write you another letter by and by, giving you a description of the Virginians and slavery.

    I should be happy to have a letter. I have written this in great haste and you must not take it to be a fair specimen of my writing but excuse it.

Yours ever,

George Bryant

 

Sadly, this young man, born May 9, 1830, educated and with such promise and enthusiasm for life died a year after he wrote the letter, June 17, 1852.  He was barely twenty-two years old but had experienced more that most his age, brought up on rural farms in the District of Maine.  He was buried in the neighborhood cemetery just over the stonewall from the house he called home.

George Bryant celebrated America and rejoiced in being an American.  He was in awe of the leaders in the Senate and thrilled to see them, hear them and witness them in action. Back then there was no hint of division, disorder or protest on the streets of Washington.  Respect for their leaders was the order of the day.

On this May 5, 2017, one hundred and sixty-six years after George expressed himself with such joy, passion, and patriotism Washington has become a different place.

RIP  George Bryant

The old homestead where George Bryant lived and died.

Prudence Fish
May 5, 2017

 

Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses. Read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.