Monthly Archiv: May, 2014

MEETING THE GURGLES (This is the House)

Once Elijah has courted Molly on the beach and in Mrs. Warden’s garden, they become engaged and proceed to the next required step: meeting Mother. Formidable for any prospective daughter in law, but as we know, Mother Merrick is opposed to the marriage even before she meets Molly. Advised by Elijah to  be tactfully high-handed, Molly practices at Rockford’s mill stream, where the happy couple refreshes themselves on the way to the Merrick homestead.

“Ah!” she exclaimed, with an artificial song in her voice. “I see my dear friends, the Gurgles. Pray, my dear Elijah, let me introduce you.” She led him close to the stream where a rock impeded the flow of water. “Mistress Gurgle, I should like you to meet my friend Captain Merrick. He has recently returned from Timbucktoo. Captain, this is Goodwife Merrily Gurgle.”

He bowed, and the brook babbled on in acknowledgement.

Here’s the mill:

old mill

The building standing there now replaces one that burned down some years ago (there were several fires). It’s pretty old, and the Mill Sites Committee operates it on certain days in the summer so that you, too, may purchase authentically ground corn meal and get your teeth ground down at the same time (I read that by the time they were old, colonists didn’t have any teeth left, only roots, since there was mill stone dust mixed in with the meal).

Then, of course, the stream itself:

herring run


The above photo is downstream from the mill. The herring “ladders” (openings in the cement steps) facilitate the spring migration of alewives. In the early ‘70’s, when the author’s family lived in Brewster, netting herring was a wonderful “sport” and everyone did it, though herring are too bony to eat. Not so the roe! Out of season it really is a peaceful place with almost no one around. During the run, though, the gulls flock there (as you can see), making a huge racket while they somehow swallow those fish whole (alewives aren’t small). Doesn’t seem fair, somehow, that these poor anphibs full of eggs have to jump up waterfalls three and four times their height – some even more – and dodge the gulls and nets at the same time. C’est la vie. Not all of them make it, by any stretch of the imagination, but enough have always done so that the supply has been kept going from ancient times until now, when the numbers have suddenly dropped.

The newly-hatched alewives produced in one summer don’t return for five years. No one knows where they go to grow up, but five years after they’ve left, they’re back sometime in March. Each herring run is revisited by the fish that hatched there (rather than some other run) and the New England coastline sported countless streams to the sea, fed by ponds large enough to permit spawning. Most likely it isn’t necessary to remind anyone that it was these self-same alewives that Squanto showed the Pilgrims how to use for fertilizer. And once they were dried, their bones became small enough that they could be consumed, like jerky. And then, as mentioned before, there was the roe, pan-fried in butter and seasoned just so. I think it’s still legal to take herring in season, and it would be worth going down there next spring, just for a tiny taste of roe.



RAMBLING AROUND IN CH. 2 (This is the House)

Chapter two of This is the House introduces us to Elijah, brought up on a neighbor’s farm after his father was lost at sea and his mother had more children at home than she could feed. In this chapter we learn that to be the master of a brig was the dream of every boy. The alternative was farming – a back-breaking job done almost entirely by hand. Do you remember in Cold Mountain, when the girls were plowing the field? One of them took the place of the horse, dragging the plow, the other steering and keeping the blade in a straight line. If you didn’t have a horse, that’s what you would have to do. Fortunately for Elijah, Farmer Crosby did have a horse – which eventually dragged the injured boy home on a sledge.

wooden sledgesledge




And, let’s not forget the modern day sledge:sledge2

Of course, you could be a fisherman. There was a cash market for fish, but the war had ruined the fleet, the boats of which had been pulled out of the water for the duration. Besides, Cape Cod’s North Shore boys weren’t interested in fishing; they had their eyes on Boston, right across the bay:



Previous to the revolution, mariners sailed for the Crown, on ships that belonged to the king. New ones had to be built, but this was not a problem; the colonies had built ships from the get-go, there being lots of timber around.


Brigs were about 100’ long, shaped like a bathtub, and had carried the world’s commerce up to then. They had two masts (that’s how I recognize them) and a lot of room for trading goods. Mastering one blows my mind – but they went everywhere (Captain Warden traded on the west coast, so obviously he sailed around the horn). I “made” one as a display item when I’d be selling copies of This is the House at bookstores. My camera work is usually blurry because I use my cell phone and unless I have a place to prop my arms, that’s the best I can do.

Having ascertained in the last blog that Elizabeth Warden did have a two-chimney house such that Molly knew all about them, now we are at the point of being able to establish that yes, Elijah did go to district school #3, and the Warden’s had sent John there too, so that he’d have the “common touch” and, living in Yarmouth, were in a position to do so. Remembering that the eastern reaches of Yarmouth, in the early days, overlapped the western boundaries of Harwich before Harwich was established, and considering that Rockford has been created and lies in between them, it’s perfectly plausible that John could walk east  to get to school and Elijah would walk west, and they’d meet. (Dennis didn’t exist then. It was still part of Yarmouth, and for all I know, the Wardens lived where Dennis is today. Here’s the map, in case you need to be reminded). So presto! It is accomplished. It’s perfectly plausible that John and Elijah would meet at school.

map with Rockford

And important, because Elijah’s friendship with the Wardens was the occasion for his meeting Molly in the first place.


Now that we’ve figured out how the Wardens came to be in Yarmouth, and have decided they did live in a house with double chimneys, giving Molly a good idea of the kind of house she wanted, we might ask: how did this kind of building make a new life-style possible? Two story houses had been built for years, of course, even on Cape Cod, They sported a single centered chimney like the one on the Yarmouth Inn.

Yarmouth InnThe central chimney provided plenty of warmth, since the open hearth was the site of heat, cooking, and hot water. Yet, if you’ve ever done any winter camping, you know that the campfire will keep only one side of you warm at a time. You have to keep turning, like a turkey on a spit. Half of you is too warm and half of you is too cold. At home, or at the Inn, in wintertime you were a turkey. And if you slept upstairs, which you would certainly do if you were staying at the Inn, there’d be no heat at all — only what came up from below through the floorboards, or emanated from the body of the person in bed with you, whom you might — or might not know.

Yarmouth house 2

Now, with a chimney at either end, the keeping room, at back of the house, would have two open hearths instead of one. That’s got to be easier on the hired help! Since a flue can serve more than one fireplace, one of the double chimneys could also be used by a hearth in the front room adjacent to it, perhaps the parlor. The other keeping room chimney can share its flue with its adjacent front room – perhaps the dining room. Both the parlor and the diningroom could be heated at will, of course – but that’s not all. The dining room and the parlor were separated by the stairs going up, and depending on where the stairs started, there could be plenty of space for a decent entry – a vestibule, which could hold quite a few people all by itself.


This beautiful staircase may be found at the Candleberry Inn, in Brewster MA. The Innkeepers, Charlotte and Stuart Phyfe, opened their home to a walking tour of Molly’s World in 2012, because their house lies on the site of a family mentioned in This is the House. While we were there, I saw this lovely staircase and knew it was just the one I envisioned for Molly’s house. She used it as an extra room when the Merricks were entertaining, and it is here (well, not HERE, but in a setting much like it) that Isaac Warden enters her life again. And, yes, the Candleberry Inn is a two chimney house:


Upstairs, the two chimneys also carried flues for all the bedrooms. Each could be separately heated at will. While the New Englander of old wouldn’t have wasted fuel heating a room he or she wasn’t going to be awake to enjoy, the Wardens entertained guests from all over the seaboard, and had servants. These could lay a fire ready for use and carry away the ashes, so over-night guests could use their assigned room as they wished, maybe linger to write letters or keep a journal up to date, even in winter. They’d want warmth, and due to the new style, they’d get it.

And so a new style of living was possible, too, and Elizabeth and Abel Warden, though Plain people, could provide a gathering place not only for the Quaker community of Yarmouth but also for out-of-town merchant visitors, relatives from Philadelphia, and, as we know, family friends like Elijah Merrick, stopping by when he came home from sea.


By page 10 of This is the House, the mother of my main female character enters Barnstable as a “housekeeper” to a man returning from the war. Which brings us to Sandwich, through which they must have passed on the way. The people who settled Sandwich were an interesting group, worthy of an historical digression, and rather than move directly on to further discussion of This is the House, I’m diverting right now to the earlier days of the little Pilgrim foothold in Plymouth and its decision to expand its “plantation”.

Before I start, let me answer the obvious question: you are telling us about Sandwich because….?

Because of Elizabeth Warden, Molly’s mistress and mentor, a lovely woman whom all readers I have spoken with love and admire. A Quaker. I refer to her Quaker faith quite often, and it’s only natural (I think) to wonder how this sect came to be in Yarmouth, since in the days these towns were founded, Plain people were very much discriminated against. It started with the founding of  Sandwich.

The primary reference for the history of Cape Cod is a tome compiled by Simeon Deyo, and in it we learn that early on, Sandwich was having a lot of trouble with its church. In fact, one of the first ministers left and the pulpit was vacant for a year or two. This was definitely not OK. The Plymouth Court seems to have remonstrated about this situation, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to do much about it. The other early towns were nothing like this. Everyone knew that a town had to have a church, the membership of which would run the place. Who, pray tell, was running Sandwich?

We must back up. Boston was settled by Puritans in 1630. Led by John Winthrop, a fairly wealthy gentleman, five ships landed and built fortresses and churches on the Boston peninsula and the surrounding spots nearby in order to present less of a target for Native Americans who might be unhappy, and because there wasn’t room for them all in just one place. More and more boatloads of people arrived, running from the harsh treatment of Separatists in England – ten thousand of them. That’s a lot of people, and needless to say, not all of them were there to purify the Anglican Church. But Winthrop and his brand of separatism prevailed (after all, he had led the expedition and financed it). Here’s his fleet, as depicted in Wikipedia.


In 1632, two years after the arrival of Winthrop, a boatload of newcomers led by one Stephen Bechelder was allowed to settle in Saugus (today’s Lynn). But unknown to Winthrop, (at least I assume he didn’t know) they were of a mystic separatist sect called Familists. (I’ve never heard of these. Have you?) They believed that a part of God is in every person. They denied the Trinity, and repudiated infant baptism. They held that no man should be put to death for his opinions, and objected to the carrying of arms and to swearing an oath. They were quite impartial in their repudiation of all other churches and sects. In fact, they were Quakers waiting to happen.

Part of Bechelder’s church applied to Winthrop for permission to settle elsewhere. Granted. They applied to the Plymouth Church for permission to settle on Cape Cod. Granted. These were the “ten men of Saugus” who get credit for it:

ten men

Not only were they given permission to start a town, but they were also given space to expand up to 3 score of families, and very quickly a whole lot more settlers followed. I don’t know if they were all Familist sympathizers or not, but I’m a little suspicious…

Now comes the part I can’t quite figure out, but a few guesses here and there fill the gaps. As we know, in the settling of any town, a meeting house complete with minister, was required. Most certainly Plymouth believed that the ten men of Saugus were proper puritans; they’d come from Winthrop’s jurisdiction, after all, and those that followed them were most likely believed to be regulation Puritans too. A meeting house was built, but this congregation, as one might expect, was pretty slow to take orders from Plymouth, and when a proselytizing Quaker arrived soon thereafter, clearly the whole church, Familists one and all, converted. They were so close to Quaker thought anyway that it’s hard, from this distance, to see the difference between them.  But they couldn’t say so! In fact, most of them became closet Quakers, and continued on with the running of the town according to the laws of the time. After all, Plymouth would have been perfectly within its rights to make them leave if they were found out. But they had trouble keeping a minister, as we might expect, because a regulation Reverend would have found this flock apathetic in response to his preaching.

In the minimal record left to us, we find reference to the church being censured for one breach of conduct or another by Plymouth, including failure to install a whipping post and stocks. While not as stringent as the Puritans in Boston, the Plymouth Court was zealous in its defense of the Standing Order, and meted out a variety of punishments for anyone in the Sandwich Church who affirmed Quakerism and imposed fines on self-declared Friends that kept them impoverished.

Barnstable (where Hannah lived) was created in 1639 on the east side of Sandwich, and then Yarmouth, further east, where at last we meet Elizabeth Warden with a strong Quaker heritage behind her. And that, as I recall, is why we explored the settling of Sandwich in the first place.

Any questions?