Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Inn

As I was researching my paternal family tree, I was delighted to find out that one of my earliest Sudbury, Massachusetts ancestors was the original innkeeper at Longfellow's Wayside Inn, a place that played an important role in my childhood and on into my adulthood. It was a place where my family and most people who lived in town would gather to mark special occasions in their lives. Hardly a birthday nor graduation celebration would go by without a visit to the Inn. This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continually operating inns in the US. It was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his "Tales from a Wayside Inn" An excerpt:

"As ancient is this hostelry,
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality."

Today an extremely popular restaurant and an historic landmark known by folks all over the US, spending the night there is a memorable event. There is no TV but lots and lots of  history and a warm and comfortable environment filled with antiquity, along with a surprise for all overnight guests, a hunt of sorts. But, you have to stay there to discover it. I won't be a spoiler here, but let's just say, you will have plenty to keep your mind occupied in spite of there being no television in the room. The rooms are few, so it is a special treat to be able to make a reservation there.

The familiar smell of the woodsmoke permeates the old wood beams and walls. The mouth watering smell of good hot American food like roast beef and baked potatoes fill the dining rooms on any given evening.  In the winter, the crackle and occasional sparks from the fires in the huge walkin fireplaces, bounce onto the hearths. In the summer,  fireflies can be seen sparkling in the rose garden and by the wooden bridge that covers the brook nearby, as people stroll around the grounds, imagining a time gone by.

But perhaps all isn't peaceful and serene all the time, as it was recently featured in an episode of Ghost Adventures. It is rumored that Jerusha How's ghost still walks the halls of the Inn, although I saw no such evidence during my stay.

My ancestor was David How. Through his youngest son Ezekiel's line and then on through Ezekiel's youngest child, Jane How Eames, runs our family tree. The How family left a long and interesting family history behind. Certainly deserving of more than a few lines here, perhaps one day I will do a lengthy post about the Inn's history and the innkeepers. The strong emotional feelings I have always felt for this Inn may have had more to do with the ancestral connection not yet discovered and less to do with the award winning chicken pot pie, or fresh hot corn muffins, made from corn milled at the grist mill down the street that are served at every meal or that yummy Jerusha Peach salad that I have loved ever since I was a kid. 

Today I am including a short poem. A poet always wants her readers to "get" her poem, so just to give you a little bit of a back story, in this one I used the metaphor of an inn to illustrate the genealogy hunt I enjoy so much, the hunt that all started with Henrietta of the blog. The inn in the poem is not our Wayside Inn, but it certainly inspired the idea.

The Inn
Suzanne Hall Eaton

My journey led me by an inn, an ancient looming ghost,
Near brook and wood and field I knew, yet I felt that I was lost.
This way I come most every day, the brook I cross is there.
The creaking bridge remembers me and the brief exchange we share.

But this old inn, I don’t recall ever seeing it before;
Mystified and unafraid I approach the weighty door.
A gentle push is all it takes, it gives in as if to say:
“Come in. You’ll find your truths are here”; the hearth-fire lights the way.

Along the hallways, left and right are doors, each like the next,
Secured and locked tight from inside protecting every guest.
Whispering at a door I ask “What secrets do you keep?”
But no response comes from within, so deeply do they sleep.
Peeking through the keyhole, the mystery unfolds
Just enough to feed the need to know what secret that room holds.
There must be some connection between these guests and me;
Some Master plan has brought me to this Ancient Hostelry  
To find the key, unbolt the doors and share the truths revealed;
Then rest awhile at this old inn, near brook and wood and field.

May 26, 2011


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Twenty Six Habits of Highly Successful People?

In a small stationary box, the size of a 4 x6 note card I found a piece of paper, torn from an old ledger book, columns in faded red ink ignored by the writer. Folded over and over to fit inside the little box, the page is creased but quite legible. Written in fountain pen ink in my maternal great, great, great grandmother's hand is the following:

Here is the transcription of Lorena Pelsue Hyde Berry Grammer's, (or Gramma Grammer, as we have come to know her,  page: 
  • Attend carefully to details of your business
  • Be prompt in all things.
  • Consider well, then decide positively
  • Dare to do right, fear to do wrong
  • Endure trials patiently
  • Fight life’s battles bravely, manfully
  • Go not into the Society of the Vicious
  • Hold integrity Sacred
  • Injure not another’s reputation nor business
  • Join hands only with the virtuous
  • Keep your mind from evil thoughts
  • Lie not for any consideration
  • Make few acquaintances*
  • Never try to appear what you are not
  • Observe good manners
  • Pay your debts promptly
  • Question not the veracity of a friend
  • Respect the counsel of your parents
  • Sacrifice money rather than principal
  • Touch not, taste not, handle not intoxicating drinks.
  • Use your leisure time for improvement
  • Venture not upon the threshold of wrong
  • Watch carefully over you passions
  • Xtend to everyone a kindly salutation
  • Yield not to discouragement
  • Zealously labor for the right                               
            •   “And Success is Certain.”

It took me a little time to figure out that this was an A-Z list of rules to live by, with a little poetic license taken with the letter X. There was nothing identifying where this came from, where she may have read it or if she had composed it herself. I looked through the book of newspaper clippings I have belonging to her, her daughter and granddaughter, but found nothing there that would help me find the origin of the piece.

Clearly, it impressed her, or she wouldn't have taken the time to write it all out, nor would she have kept it with her other correspondence. In fact, it may have been mailed to her daughter or granddaughter, to whom she wrote frequently, who was the one who actually decided to keep it with other written keepsakes. Most of the letters in the little box are written by Gramma Grammer to my great, great grandmother and to my great grandmother,  who kept them always. 

From her letters, I am sure she was the kind of woman who made every effort to follow these twenty six 'suggestions'. I have no doubt that she observed 'good manners' and I bet that she 'never touched, tasted or handled intoxicating drinks'. But I did wonder about it and so I went to Google-my favorite research tool of them all.

Sure enough, I did get some hits. Nothing too specific,  and I had to keep digging deeper into the hits I did get to find anything of interest. I determined that the list had a title: "Alphabet for Success". The first place I found it published, was in "The Home Comfort Cookbook" published by the Ladies' Sewing Circle of the Congregational Church of Shirley, MA in 1908.

In the cookbook, immediately following the 'Alphabet for Success', and preceding the table of weights and measures, was the following related verse: 

"With weights and measures just and true,
With stoves of even heat;
Well buttered tins and quiet nerves,
Success will be complete."

Unfortunately, neither piece was attributed to any particular author. As far as I know, Gramma Grammer didn't have any connection with the Congo Church in Shirley, and I wasn't sure that was really the earliest it may have appeared. Based on the clarity of Gramma Grammer's penmanship, it was most likely written earlier in her life when her hand was steadier. In 1908 she was already 74. So, I kept looking.

The next appearance of the list that I found was in something called The Washington Newsletter, A Monthly Magazine of Divine Healing. In this magazine in 1904 an article entitled Alphabet of Success, prefaced the list with the following: 

The following alphabet is printed on a neat card and hung
up in coffee taverns and places of resort and business
 in Great Britain:

This magazine's editor and publisher was Oliver Corwin Sabin, self-appointed Bishop of the Evangelical Christian Science Church, which he founded. I learned the following about Bishop Sabin from this obituary published in 1914.

This gave me a little bit of interesting info on the departed Bishop, but nothing more about the Alphabet for Success. The Bishop gave no credit to any author, either.

Going back further chronologically, the next reference to the Alphabet that I found was dated May of 1904 when it was printed in a magazine called "Salesmanship: Magazine for All Who Sell Or Have to Do With the Selling End of Business."

In the April 1904 issue, for just $1.00 you could buy 12 issueds of the magazine AND a certificate making you eligible for a chances to enter into a contest with cash prizes amounting to $75,000. All you have to do to win is guess the number of paid attendees to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. 

There are some interesting articles in the issue I looked at covering everything from the evils of tipping to the idea of the saleswoman, something new on the scene in 1904, primarily relegated to retail rather than the door-to-door variety. Here is one quote from that article that I thought was interesting:

"But how about the saleswoman? How many of them look forward to a successful business career? What is their life's goal? There is but one answer to this: marriage and a happy home, and they would not be women and have it otherwise.  This may suggest to some a solution of the perplexing problem of how to bring this branch of our business nearer to perfection.  It is a matter of deep concern and regret that we must recognize as a fact that many of them show a want of appreciation of the requirements and necessary qualifications of their position,  want of attention to details and in many cases the partial disregard of established rules and regulations may with all fairness be attributed to the conviction that their present position is after all only temporary, that the necessity of work will cease sooner or later and therefore any effort at advancement is not worth while."

For the first time, there was a reference to where this alphabet came from. Ironically, the editor wrote : "The Alphabet for Success" was recently printed in the Ladies' Home Journal." I think that's kind of interesting.  
I found another reference to the list, also attributing it to the Ladies' Home Journal. In the Peirce School Alumni Journal dated May of 1903, it was also reprinted. The Pierce School was founded in Philadelphia in 1865 particularly for returning Civil War vets who were finding it hard to find employment in the post war years. It was founded to retrain these adult veterans when they returned from the war. Today it is a "private, four-year, specialized institution providing practical, leading-edge curricula to primarily working adult learners." I'd say the Alphabet for Success was probably well received by the alums in 1903.

Still, I was trying to find the very earliest appearance of the Alphabet, strictly to satisfy my curiosity. Now I knew it came from the Ladies' Home Journal before appearing in the Alumni Journal and the Salesmanship Magazine. The earliest date I had so far was 1903. I found one more reference to the "Alphabet", in what I think is the most interesting of all publications I came across. I found it printed in an issue dated January 1901 in a publication called "Our Paper". 

"Our Paper" was published by the inmates of the Massachusetts Reformatory in Concord, MA from 1884-1947. The superintendent was the editor but the inmates provided the written articles. It included articles reprinted from other publications as well as original articles. They would write articles about local life, local baseball league standings, visiting preachers to area churches, letters to the editor, some of which are quite interesting; political speeches and races; accounts of fairs and shop openings, and so forth. Letters to the editor were written by inmates and people outside of the prison who were regular readers. Some regular readers were inmates' family members and friends, but subscriptions to the paper were also sold to the townspeople in West Concord. One of the letters I read congratulated the talented prison choir, comparing it to some of the best choirs around Boston. Evidently, people came to the prison on Sundays to participate in the services held there. Another letter was written by a "graduate" of the prison who wrote that he was about to enter college. Some of the articles were about world news and some were about historical look-backs at various events. There seemed to have been a lot of interest in the building of new roads around town. Were they interested because they might end up working on them or because they may find a new way "out of town" some day? Hmmmmm.. There are random bits and pieces of deaths in other parts of the country, no explanation as to what connection the deceased may or may not have to the inmates or the prison. Some funny stories and just about anything they can find to fill up the space. All in all, it was a kind of interesting find during this little investigation.  Click here for a link to an issue of Our Paper

I didn't find out if The Ladies' Home Journal attributed the Alphabet for Success to "Our Paper". "Our Paper didn't attribute it to the Ladies' Home Journal. I don't know how many inmates followed these guidelines an became successful in their later lives, but there may have been some. And, I don't know if Lorena Pelsue Hyde Berry Grammar ever read the Concord Prison's Newspaper. However, there is a reference to one Mrs. E. R. Hyde who was a regular reader of "Our Paper". She sent poetry in to them for them to publish from time to time. I haven't been able to determine if this Mrs. Hyde was any relation to our Hyde family, or to Lorena specifically, but, I'm just saying...

Actually, my best guess is that Gramma Grammer probably read it herself in the Ladies' Home Journal sometime in 1901, or in a reprint in her local newspaper about that same time. It seems to have been a  popular list of guidelines for a successful life that appeal to folks with widely disparate interests. These were just a few of the references found on-line. There were references to this list in other publications  all through the 1920s, into the 1960s and right up through to today on someone's Facebook page.

This seems like a long list, yet I think we all strive to follow almost all of these guidelines in our lives. I don't know if success is certain, however, But for the most part, it's advice well-taken that has stood the test of time.

Personally, I think the guidelines for successful baking will be easier for me to follow. I always carefully measure my ingredients and my tins are always well-buttered. But I may have to work on the quiet nerves thing.

*The actual entry for the letter "M" reads "Make few special acquaintances" in all the publications I have found. Gramma Grammer's handwritten page leaves off the word 'special'.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

If You're Fond of Sand Dunes and Salty Air...

Cape Cod is a uniquely shaped peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic. Often compared to an arm, in Thoreau's Cape Cod nobody does it better:

"Cape Cod is the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts: the shoulder is at Buzzard's Bay; the elbow or crazy bone at Cape Mallebarre*; the wrist at Truro and the sandy fist at Provincetown- behind which the State stands on her guard with her back to the Green Mountains, and her feet planted on the floor of the ocean, like an athlete protecting her Bay,-boxing with northeast storms and ever and anon heaving up her Atlantic adversary from the lap of earth,-ready to thrust forward her other fist which keeps guard the while upon her breast at Cape Ann."

I spend my summers in South Yarmouth on the Cape, which is just about midway on the humerus, about the bicep area. As a child the first summer vacation I ever remember was in Yarmouth, off Lewis Street, turning at the big white Congregational Church off Rte. 28. We rented various cottages in the area until my parents bought our very own little cottage in the neighboring town of  Dennisport, on a perfectly straight, unpaved street, lined with cottages one right after the other. Leading directly down to the beach, it was just a short walk, taken hundreds maybe thousands of times over the years that we spent there. It was Uncle Rolf Road-number 13 and 1/2, the 1/2 having been added by the Triskaidekephobian former owners.

13 and 1/2 Uncle Rolf Road

This is our cottage on Uncle Rolf Rd., Now number 77. The white clapboards with light green trim
has been replaced by natural wood shakes. But, everything else looks pretty much the same.
The road is still unpaved.

I was never happier as a kid than when we were on the Cape. The beach, the sun, the sand, the salty air. We had a large group of friends, many of whom returned to their family's favorite rentals year after year on Uncle Rolf Road. We would forever identify certain weeks of the summer as belonging to this family or that family. As a young teen-aged girl I was  lucky to have a brother only a year older than me who introduced me to some cute boys during the summers as well as off-season. We became particularly close friends with some of the 'townies' during our off season weekends, in fact, some 40 years later I married one of them! But that's another story.

All day we'd spend at the beach, leaving only to walk to Caroline's store for a Coke or the latest issue of Mad Magazine or Teen Idol. We'd walk the beach, we'd walk to the store, we'd walk to our friends' cottages. We walked and walked and walked everywhere. At night, we'd walk to the Tastee Tower of Pizza in Shad Hole or hang out behind Bastian's 5 and 10 at the miniature golf place where they also sold ice cream. We would hang around until they chased us away and we'd just move the group to the next spot. The boys might give a little macho lip to the grownups who had told us to move along, but it was part of the routine and it became expected, something to laugh about, more fuel to the "them against us" generation gap mentality of the 60s. We'd walk back to Uncle Rolf Road and gather on our porch and listen to records or maybe walk  further down the street, toward the beach and all sit on the wooden fence under the streetlight, listening to the cicadas and the constant ocean, always there as the backdrop to whatever we did and wherever we walked.

My husband Ed and his family are Yarmouth natives, although he lived in Dennisport when I met him. But his mother's family, the Crowells, go back to the Mayflower and as far back as there are records for Yarmouth. Ed's sister still lives in Bass River, a part of Yarmouth, where I now spend my summers.

When I was looking through some of my family photos, I came across a photo from back in the 30s, or maybe even the late 20s.  Handwriting on the face of  this photo identify my great grandparents, May Budd and Leslie J. Hall, who lived in New York City at the time. Also in the picture is my great grand Aunt Lillian Goodnow. Lill was Leslie's sister who lived in Sudbury, MA with her husband Howard, who may have taken the picture. (For you regular readers, Leslie and Lillian were two of Henrietta's children.)

In addition to identifying the people in the photo, in the same person's hand are written the words "Yarmouth Mass". When I first saw this photo a few years ago, I was shocked because as far as I knew, we were the first in our immediate family to spend time on the Cape. My grandparents never spoke about going there and didn't seem very familiar with the Cape when we spoke about it, nor did any of my Aunts, Uncles or Cousins. But here I have proof that my great grandparents at least visited there at some point 80 or 90 years ago.

I was so curious about this photo that I decided to send it to a friend of mine, John Sears. John is a good friend of Ed's sister and her husband and he and I have had many very interesting discussions about Yarmouth's history and the local genealogy. He knows everything about the area and I was pretty sure he'd have some idea about the buildings in the background. Sure enough, he did. He suggested that this was probably  the Methodist Camp-meeting Grounds. I hadn't ever heard of the place, nor had I any idea where it is located in Yarmouth. I set the photo aside and went on to other research and stories.

But, this photo kept coming up to the top of the pile and finally, I decided to spend a little time with it. On Ed's behalf, some time ago I joined a group on Facebook called "Descendants of the Settlers of Yarmouth, Massachusetts". I posted the photo there a few days ago and asked if anyone could confirm John's identification of the Camp-meeting grounds. Sure enough, four different members of the Facebook group all agreed with John. One even gave me directions so I will be able to go find the spot this summer. And, another person is going to identify the exact cottage in the photo for us.

Having answered the question about where the picture was taken, I wanted to know more about this place known as the Methodist Camp-Meeting Grounds and so I set out to see what I could find.

The "Methodist Camp-Meeting" was a "happening" that took place every year in grounds selected by the Camp-Meeting Association in the area. These meetings took place all over the country beginning in the early 19th century. It was a place where people thirsting for a "religious" experience that was out of the ordinary, something different and more intense than the weekly services in the white-steepled houses of worship to which these New Englanders of puritan heritage were accustomed.  Folks from miles away would gather for a week or ten days, listening to preachers, joining in hymn singing, praying, weeping converting while enjoying the experience of camping with their families and church associates. These Camp-meetings became wildly popular all over the country.

Prior to settling at the Yarmouth site, this particular Camp-meeting began in Welfleet in 1819, the first on Cape Cod. Then it moved to Provincetown and Eastham before finally moving to  Yarmouth in 1863, when the railroad line came to town. Also about the same time, another Camp-meeting was underway on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Cape. This Camp-meeting was very successful and most people who visit the Vineyard today are familiar with the Oak Bluffs location.

Henry David Thoreau
However, when Thoreau was on the Cape he came across the Eastham Camp-meeting grounds, a couple of decades before the Camp-Meeting was moved to Yarmouth. Thoreau wrote the following about what he had seen:

"It is fenced and the frames of the tents are at all times to be seen interspersed among the oaks.  They have an oven and a pump and at all times keep all their kitchen utensils and tent coverings and furniture in a permanent building on the spot.They select a time for their meetings when the moon is full. A man is appointed to clear out the pump a week beforehand, while the ministers are clearing their throats; but probably the latter do not always deliver as pure a stream as the former. 
I saw the heaps of clam shells left under the tables, where they had in previous summers and, supposed of course, that that was the work of the unconverted or the backsliders and scoffers. It looked as if a camp meeting must be a singular combination of a prayer meeting and a picnic."

(Thoreau really did have a sense of humor.)

In the early years, the attendees would sleep in huge communal tents, with the men on one side and the women on the other, separated by a curtain drawn between them. As the years went on, these large communal tents fell out of favor and were replaced with smaller individual tents. By the time they moved to Yarmouth, there were about 175 family tents and 40 "society" tents that would accommodate church groups from visiting churches.

They'd bring their whole families, from little babies to the elderly, or come in groups from churches, bringing food and provisions for ten days for everyone in their party. Trunks and baggage filled with all of their needs must have been heavy and difficult to carry. The railroad allowed people from off Cape to attend more easily attracting crowds of thousands where before the railroad it was just the locals who would attend.  The railroad opened the Cape up to everyone.

"Getting to the old Eastham camp ground on Cape Cod, for example, required an effort of biblical proportions. Parishioners took a carriage to the Old Colony road to Barnstable, transferred to the ferry to Eastham,. Rowed ashore until the boat ran aground in the tidal flats, hoisted their clothes, books , cooking gear, and elderly relatives onto an amphibious wagon, and splashed to shore through three feet of water until they reached solid ground, at which point they unloaded their baggage and walked a mile to the grove. When the steel rail came to Cape Cod…They needed only to unload their bags at the railroad station, where guests enjoyed the services of a stationmaster, a ticket window, a waiting room, a telegraph operator a baggage master, and a large baggage room. From the station, visitors walked only a few hundred yards to their tents or cottages.”

From The Chautauqua moment: Protestants, progressives, and the culture of modern liberalism By Andrew Chamberlin Rieser

A family tent at Martha's Vineyard Camp-meeting Grounds
(from A City in the Woods by Ellen Weiss)
 In the mid 1870s, replacing the tents, little permanent cottages were built to house the participants. These permanent little buildings, with gingerbread trim and arched windows may have been the beginning of the custom of renting cottages for a vacation on the Cape because the grounds no longer closed before or after the Camp-Meeting each year. Instead, they'd rent out the cottages to individuals and groups, some associated with churches, some not at all. 
Yarmouth Camp-meeting cottage.

Cottages at Camp-meeting Grounds Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard 1859
(City in the Woods by Ellen Weiss)

Oak Bluffs Martha's Vineyard Camp-meeting Cottages Today
There was also a  huge wooden tabernacle constructed at the Yarmouth Camp-Meeting Grounds that held 1,500 people. The large services were held here.

Becoming Cape Cod by James O'Connell

Interior of Yarmouth Tabernacle
Becoming Cape Cod by James O'Connell

The prayer meetings at the beginning of the day were followed by services in the tabernacle. Hymn Sings were a staple and Camp-meetings inspired hymnals made up of hymns written for these Camp-meetings.

Then, during the day I imagine it was a little like the fairs and festivals that they have all over the Cape these days. The crowds would move along, stopping to listen to various preachers in tents pitched in a circle among the trees, similar to the booths today's crafters set up at today's fairs. The families might stop and learn some new hymns in one tent, then stroll on to the next where they might sample some oyster soup or clam chowder or a piece of saltwater taffy for the children.
 In an August 1864 article in the New York Times, the writer tells us that there was a tent with a barber and another with a dentist at the Yarmouth Camp-meeting. And on Thursdays, the "outsiders" and "roughs" from Boston and other cities would arrive for the weekend. I wonder Lady May and Great Grandfather Leslie were considered "roughs". Probably not.

When the bell would ring at various times during the day everyone would go to the Tabernacle and seated on the wooden chairs and benches they'd listen for hours to the preachers who had become well-known to them. Like the keynote speakers at a convention today, attendees would look forward to these special guest speakers. Moans and cries of Amen and Glory to God would ring out from the crowd of people, some so  filled with the 'spirit' they couldn't contain themselves. Although difficult for me to imagine, these otherwise straitlaced, reserved New Englanders would be so fired up they'd actually engage in public displays of faith and emotion. Who knew?

At night, after supper, they'd all gather at the tabernacle for evening services; and when the benediction had been said and the last hymn had been sung, they'd head in small groups to their society tents for prayer meetings to close the day. The families would then walk back to their own cottages and tents, fireflies punctuating the salty August air, fathers carrying the littlest sleeping children in their arms past dying campfires; the older ones skipping on ahead with a final burst of energy for the day, their faces pink from the sun and full of the 'spirit' and ready to climb into their beds. Can someone give me an Amen?

Though some Camp-Meetings still survive today, including the one on the Vineyard, the Methodist Camp-Meeting in Yarmouth lasted from 1863 until 1939.                  


Lady May,
My great Grandmother

Leslie J.
My great Grandfather

My great grandparents may have just been there for a vacation from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Although they were members of the Park Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. So they were religious folk and active in their congregations.

So I can't know for sure if they were Pilgrims who had traveled many miles to attend the Camp-Meeting, but if they were, well then, I guess Ed isn't the only one in the family with ancestors who were Pilgrims on Cape Cod!

*Today Cape Mallebarre is known as Chatham

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here's to Unknown Parts

I have been a little preoccupied with the 'present' this week, planning and running a yard sale with Ed and having our house on the market and holding an open house kept me busy. So, I haven't spent much time in the 'past' researching ancestors in my tree. Because of that I don't have any story about my ancestors for Henrietta this week.

Instead, I picked up that little scrapbook of newspaper clippings I have, which I have told you about before and I found an article that piqued my curiosity.

Maggie is always a helpful assistant when I am working on Henrietta. Here she fetches the scrapbook.

This scrapbook is filled with articles, mostly obituaries, primarily from the town of Southbridge, MA where my maternal grandmother's family lived.

This is the article that caught my attention:

 Leaves For Unknown Parts

Hayes J. Brackett, a well known citizen of Southbridge and for many years a trusted employee at the A. O. factory, has taken his departure from Southbridge, and has left for a distant part of the world unknown even to his most intimate friends. Every effort to find where he intended to make his future habitation was made in vain before he set forth on his journey. This is a step he has been contemplating for a long time, so it is rumored, and a fair opportunity presenting itself he availed himself of it. It is said that he wishes to forget Southbridge and hence has made no arrangements, so far as known, for correspondence with any local person whatsoever. The fact that he severed his connection with the American Optical Company, where he was held in highest esteem, did not become generally known until today, the first intimation to the public being made through the columns of this paper.

Mr. Brackett is a native of Southbridge and has always lived here. In recent years he has done more or less travelling for the American Optical Company.

All surmises as to the part of the world he is headed for are of equal value. He did not state where he was going, nor leave any hint, beyond the fact that it is far distant from Southbridge, and there among new scenes and new faces he hopes to pass the rest of his earthly days. His affairs here he has left as they are, and whatever becomes of them will be of little concern to him. He just simply reached that attitude of mind which compelled him to get out of this environment, and beginning life anew elsewhere he expects to find contentment and even happiness. He left in good spirits, nothing at all depressed with the thought that he was taking a long, perhaps eternal farewell of the scenes which have been familiar to him from his infancy.
Two notes, written by two different pens at different times, are added at the bottom of the article in my great great grandmother’s hand:

1st note:
Mch 1st 1913
Left Saturday

2nd note:
Returned Feb 20th 1914
5 o’clock PM car from Worcester

Here is the article, on the left side of the page.
Notice handwritten notes at bottom.
You can click on it to enlarge it.

The title of the article was intriguing, of course, but as I read it, I wondered if the person writing it didn't have some inside information. Was it written by someone who knew Hayes J. Brackett well or just by a journalist who wanted to be an investigative reporter in the worst way. It sounds as if the writer knows even more than he's willing to reveal. I am sure it was a big story in the little town. Maybe the reporter was covering for him. Perhaps they were old classmates. Hayes didn't make any secret that he was leaving, apparently, but he didn't tell anyone where he was going, either. The writer makes it seem as though Hayes was setting off on an exciting adventure, a cast-your-fate-to-the-wind sort of  life for which circumstances made him more than ready. And, I might even think, reading between the lines, that the writer was just a bit envious.

American Otpical Company
So, curious as always, I did a little research on old Hayes Brackett. Although I didn't find any ancestors we shared in common, my great great grandfather Harlan Tiffany and his son-in-law, my great grandfather James Lonsdale Paige, were both employed as executives for American Optical and were probably quite well acquainted with Mr. Brackett. They might have even known more about his plans than the article divulged. I can only assume that great great grandmother was just as curious as I was when she read the article, clipped it out and pasted it into the scrapbook. Maybe while she waited for the mystery to play out  she did some digging of her own. I'd like to think she did, just for fun, polling the locals and grilling her husband and son-in-law about the incident. But even if she didn't, the fact that she went back to write the note when Hayes returned indicates to me that it remained on her mind the whole year he was away.   
I was able to find out a few things using the 21st century tools I have to work with. Hayes Jurien Brackett was born in Southbridge on September 16, 1876. He had a twin brother named Haven Darling Brackett. In 1880 three year old Haven and Hayes were living in Southbridge with their parents, Fannie and George. Fannie and George certainly came up with some interesting names for their twins. This family were neighbors of my great great grandparents at the time, living only a few doors down on the same street. And I just know that great great grandmother was itching to find out all about what was going on with her neighbor's son when she heard about it.

Hayes was married to Marian W. Bickerstaffe, another Southbridge native, on Halloween in 1898. A year later, daughter Marjorie Viola was born. They were in their early twenties when they married. Hayes was a spectacle maker at American Optical then, having been out of work a while that year, he was glad to have his job. Marian was at home with the baby and an elderly Aunt of Hayes' whose name was Tamison Darling Bainbridge also lived with the young family.

Unfortunately, their marriage didn't last. As early as 1907 Marian and Hayes are living apart. In 1910 when daughter Marjorie was just 10 years old, Hayes is renting a room in a boarding house, alone. He had by then become a travelling salesmen for American Optical Co. He told the census taker that he was still married and had been for 11 years. Marian, on the other hand was renting a house on Dresser St. in downtown Southbridge which she was sharing with her daughter Marjorie and Marian's older brother John Bickerstaffe. John moved in to help her out. He worked at the American Optical Company, too, and probably knew Hayes fairly well. Marjorie was making ends meet by working as a salesclerk in a local dry goods store. 

When this article appeared, I bet it became the topic of discussion over tea when the ladies of the neighborhood got together. The whole town, at least fellow employees and their wives, were probably shaking their heads, and saying that they knew it was just a matter of time. The men in town may have been wishing at some level they could also just drop their responsibilities and head for "Unknown Parts". But, fortunately for their families, just Hayes headed there.

Just a random salesman's photo I found.
Could be Hayes. You never know!
A travelling salesmen might have had a reputation then, deserved or not and who knows who everyone blamed for the disapearance and disollution of the marriage. Brackett was an old family in this town and tongues were sure to be wagging. They didn't have All My Children or General Hospital to keep them occupied back then. I am thinking this may well have been how my grandmother learned to love her "stories" when they television finally provided her with afternoon entertainment.

As I was looking for records on Hayes, in 1920 I found his twin brother Haven Darling Brackett living with a wife named Marian, in Worcester. When I found out that his wife was Marian, I was just a little suspicious that the boys had shared more than a birthday, but no, it was just a coincidence that Haven also chose a bride named Marian.

Haven was easier to track as he was a much more public figure. He graduated from Harvard and became a professor of Greek and Latin at Clark University. He was a member of many academic organizations and  received several honors that show up in various educational publications. Professor Haven Darling Brackett travelled extensively and I found several records of passage for him on ships to and from Europe about the time Hayes disappeared. I was hoping to find him accompanying his brother on one of these voyages but did not.  
In 1920 Hayes resurfaces in the Southbridge census records, once again a travelling salesman with American Optical. They must have welcomed him home and back to his former position when he returned in 1914 after a year-long absence. My guess is that the good old boys who ran the company might have been living vicariously through Hayes' exploits way out there in "Unknown Parts" and what better way to  hear all about it than to take him back into the fold. By this time Hayes has a new wife whose name is Ada, although I never found a divorce record for Marian and Hayes.

Ada and Hayes lived in the neighboring town of Charlton in 1930, presumably a happy couple. They had no children. I found no record of his first wife Marian or his daughter Marjorie after 1910 and what happened to them is still a mystery to me. But I did find Haven and his wife Marian and Hayes and his wife Ada all buried in the cemetery in Charlton. Haven and Marian died in 1956 and 1963, respectively. Hayes died in 1962 and Ada outlived him.
My great grandmother's notes written at the end of the article indicate that Hayes was living in "Unknown Parts" just under a year. I wonder if there was some intention on Hayes' part to establish a case for abandonment so that Marian could file for divorce and get out of the marriage gracefully. Could it be that Hayes was planning his marriage to Ada? Or was the whole idea Marian's who would later leave for "Unknown Parts" herself, remarry and get on with her life? 

There is one more record that I found of some interest. In 1915 I found Hayes returning from Bermuda on the ship The SS Bermudian. The record indicates that he is married, but I don't find him travelling with anyone specifically. However, the records aren't always accurate. And, Bermuda makes a fine spot for a honeymoon, don't you think?


I love to find information about my ancestors because I feel that connection to them and to the past. But it's also fun to pull out a character from some random newspaper article like I did with Hayes Jurien Brackett and see what we can find out about them, making even a stranger seem more real. Just to follow that thread, one clue leading to the next is really fun for me. It's like solving a puzzle and once I get started, it's tough to stop. It's like I have been saying all along, it's all about the HUNT.