Monthly Archives: June 2016

Re-enacting history

David Lambert tintype
A modern tintype

I have questioned published history my whole life, and have sought out the stories from the documents or in some cases the source. I was the obnoxious eight-year-old kid who went to Plimouth Plantation and posed my questions to the re-enactor John Alden. I did not ask standard questions like the rest of my class: “What do you do for work?” or “How do you survive without television?” I inquired of Mr. Alden who his parents were and where he was born exactly. The evil look I received back from the modern Mr. Alden was almost as bad as the glare from my second grade teacher before she grabbed me and led me out of the Alden home. Continue reading Re-enacting history

The secret history

Marston 4
Warren Gould Child

If you have been binge watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black, you may have learned an interesting bit of trivia, courtesy of the Martha Stewart/Paula Deen-inspired new character of Judy King, who mentions that Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) had “two wives” simultaneously.

As explored in Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Marston married Elizabeth Holloway in 1915 and had two surviving children with her; Marston also lived in an extended relationship with Olive Byrne, by whom he had two more children, who were then adopted by William and Elizabeth Marston. Continue reading The secret history

‘He felt perfectly well’

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from Regina Shober Gray’s diary began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In 1878, the Grays went abroad for much of the year: it was such a momentous trip that Mrs. Gray[1] took two diary volumes to chronicle their journey. The Gray family hoped that this Grand Tour would help Dr. Gray, who was often deeply depressed about his health; indeed, during their Atlantic crossing, and “in spite of the storm, Dr. staggered into our room, to bring us, he said good news – that he felt perfectly wellhis mind [was] as clear as ever and had had such a happy day thinking how much we should all enjoy together!

“Good news indeed! which made even the raging storm bright to us; and which tided him well through it – of course it could not last so… – and he has been very wretched since, but will rally, I hope, now that the worry & bustle of landing [in England] is over.”[2] Continue reading ‘He felt perfectly well’

Beyond price

Ed Hawes croppedSome photographs of our ancestors are beyond price. This one of my mother’s father, Ed Hawes, was taken in 1899, when he was still planning on a Naval career. Unfortunately, as a midshipman, he was thrown down a hatch in a hazing incident that shattered his hip.

Ed, the son of a street railway motorman and mechanic, had inherited his father’s skills with tools, so with the Navy out of the picture, he started working in a bicycle store – the same store, the story goes, as Peter Fuller (son of Massachusetts Governor Alvan Fuller and later a millionaire Cadillac dealer). As a young man at the turn of the twentieth century who knew how to drive an automobile, Ed was hired as chauffeur by Harrison Harwood, owner of the H. Harwood and Sons Baseball Factory in Ed’s home town of Natick, Massachusetts. Continue reading Beyond price

A beautiful view

Belvoir Castle
Belvoir Castle, seat of the Duke of Rutland.

My Simons ancestors came from a picturesque region in England known as the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced “Beever,” and meaning “beautiful view,” from the French), found at the intersection of three counties: Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Vale with my uncle, Herbert Simons, to become acquainted with the towns and villages where our paternal ancestors lived from time immemorial. Records of the Simons family (variously spelled Simon, Simond, Symonds, Simons, etc.) stretch back in the Manor of Langar as far as 1340, when it was noted that William Simond “has one messuage and one bovate for homage and fealty and pays five shillings at Saint Martin’s and Pentecost …” Continue reading A beautiful view

The real Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth, June 1778. Copy of engraving by J. C. Armytage after Alonzo Chappel. Courtesy of NARA

I recently stumbled upon a reference to Molly Pitcher, a woman from Pennsylvania who fought with her husband during the Revolutionary War for a New Jersey militia unit, and whom New Jersey has adopted as their own heroine of the war, lifting her to almost cult status. Who was this legendary woman? Was she a real woman who fought in the war?

In Emily J. Teipe’s 1999 article “Will the Real Molly Pitcher Please Stand Up?” in Prologue Magazine, she cites Robert Leckie’s text,[1] which states that Molly Pitcher was actually Mary Ludwig Hayes, a daughter of German immigrants, who fought alongside her husband, John Hayes, in Captain Francis Proctor’s company in the Pennsylvania Artillery.[2] Continue reading The real Molly Pitcher

‘Three sorrowful households’

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from the Regina Shober Gray diary began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The year 1876 marks the onset of Dr. Gray’s debilitating illness. He had the first of a series of operations in March, to correct a problem (according to Mrs. Gray) stretching back “these 30 or 35 years past.”[1] While he would live another four years, the diarist’s husband was henceforth rarely free from pain.

Another feature of the Gray diary from this point is the comparative failure of Dr. Gray’s brother, William Gray (1810–1892), who had hitherto been a mainstay of the family, his wealth and generosity easing things for Dr. and Mrs. Gray and their children.

Boston, Tuesday, 13 June 1876: Wrote yesterday to decline Sallie Gray’s[2] very kind invitation for Doctor and myself to make them a visit [in Brookline], beginning next Thursday. At first, Dr G. was much pleased at the idea and felt sure he should like to go. I knew his courage would fail ere the time came – but I encouraged him all I could; …yesterday he decided it was quite impossible for him to leave home. Continue reading ‘Three sorrowful households’

‘Their furrows plough’

Daly_Marie photoSeveral decades ago, my father was planting bulbs in our backyard flower garden. An old stone wall borders the garden and our yard, as well as all the neighbors’ yards on my street. Digging into the soil, my father found more than the usual collection of rocks and earthworms – he disinterred a pair of nineteenth-century lady’s boots. Continue reading ‘Their furrows plough’

A family tradition

Mollie Braen Peleg
Courtesy Hill Farmstead Brewery.

Last March, I made the move from Los Angeles to Boston. It was a pretty big change: not just the fact that, for about six months of the year, really cold stuff falls from the sky, but definitely the history, culture, and way of life mean an adjustment from the large, fast-paced, relatively new city of Los Angeles, founded 4 September 1781 (compared to Boston, founded 7 September 1630).

And yet I bring my own history to Boston. Not only was my mother born and raised in Boston and the surrounding areas, but my parents were actually married in Salem thirty years ago this August. But my parents weren’t the first Massachusetts settlers: my great-great-grandparents on my maternal side were the first to come to this country, settling in Revere, Massachusetts, in 1900. Continue reading A family tradition

A voice from the Revolutionary War

Andrew Krea hut
One of the huts built for Continental soldiers later in 1780. Courtesy of Revolutionary War New Jersey, the Online Field Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Historic Sites,

While recently researching an American Revolutionary War soldier who was a lieutenant in the Eastern Battalion of the Morris County, New Jersey militia, I encountered a fascinating historical text from 1975 entitled New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763–1783, A Documentary History. This text was produced by the New Jersey Historical Commission and edited by Larry R. Gerlach.

There are countless texts and online resources available which accurately state the causes and consequences of the Revolutionary War, but I have encountered few sources which display first-hand accounts of men (and women!) in such a detailed and biographical sense as this text. Continue reading A voice from the Revolutionary War