Monday, November 16, 2015

Portraits at Pine Knoll

My cousin Dave Brewster has once again delighted me by sharing a batch of scanned images from old Brewster family photographs and slides. I never know what I'll find in each batch, but it is always worth looking. The batch he sent November 14 was titled "Nichols Parties 1961-1978" and contained some photos of my parents as well as many other recognizable relatives. What really grabbed my attention, however, was a series of photos of the portraits hanging on the walls at Pine Knoll.

For instance, look at this photograph of "The Holyokes"...

A few weeks ago a woman in Canada reached out to me, inquiring about my Holyoke ancestry. She is a descendent of Edward Augustus Holyoke, and wondered how we might be related. I called her on November 11. We introduced ourselves and shared enough details of family history to convince ourselves that we are indeed cousins of some sort.

Specifically she was curious about my connection to Mary Vial Holyoke. We exchanged email addresses and I followed up by sending her a list of my lineage going back to Mary.  I wrote, "My father's family goes back to the Holyokes via his father William Stanley Nichols, grandfather Andrew Nichols, great grandmother Mary Holyoke Ward, great-great grandmother Susanna Holyoke, whose parents were Dr. Edward Augustus Holyoke and Mary Vial."

Well, what a surprise to see among Dave's images this week one captioned "...fireplace with Mary Vial Holyoke..." !   See below.

Mary's portrait can be seen just to the right of the fireplace. As a child visiting Pine Knoll I hardly noticed these portraits, nor did I pay any attention to who was who. I wouldn't have been able to tell anyone where Mary Vial's portrait had hung.  I only became familiar with these portraits years later when I read The Holyoke Diaries (published in 1911 by The Essex Institute). Facing page 77 in that book is an illustration of the very portrait we see above.  The index of illustrations lists it as "Mrs. Mary (Vial) Holyoke, age 33."  The caption under it gives this information:

From the pastel by Benjamin Blythe made in 1771 and now in the possession of Andrew Nichols.

Pine Knoll is where Andrew Nichols lived. He built the home in 1861, expanded it in 1880, and lived there until he died in 1921. The portraits on the walls of his home remained in place for many decades longer; two of his daughters lived at Pine Knoll until the late 1960's.  The Pine Knoll parlor, in particular, remained unchanged, with many many portraits on the walls.

Here is a closer look at the portrait of Mary Vial's husband, Edward Augustus Holyoke:

Other images of Pine Knoll parlor walls and their portraits:

This last photo gives, I think, a better idea of the real colors in that parlor.  The pinkish photos above may have been taken with a flash, or faded over the years, or both. I thank Dave Brewster for scanning and sharing these old slides and photographs. (I don't know the original format, nor whether his father David, or his uncle Dudley Brewster, took these pictures.)

In 2012 I wrote a column about my memories of this parlor and included a black-and-white photograph taken by Julie Snow in 1968. It was published in The Danvers Herald November 2, 2012. See Parlor at Pine Knoll.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Occasionally I am contacted by people who have stumbled upon this blog and enjoyed reading an entry. Sometimes they want to add a comment or ask a question.  Often they want to share a related memory.  It is fun to discover that I have new readers – real readers out there in the world, sometimes from far away.

On October 17, this email arrived: "Dear Sandy, I am the editor of the Essex Aggie Alumni Newsletter and I am asking if I can use your article about the Hathorne Post Office in an up coming newsletter. Thanks, Pete."  We exchanged emails and then had a long conversation by phone. I learned that Pete lives in Arizona, but was a student at Essex Aggie in the 1970's.  For the Alumni newsletter he was researching the old train station, seeking to learn why it was called Hathorne. An Internet search pulled up a mention in my blog.  Then he read other parts of my blog and wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed the Screech Owl story.

Coincidently, I had just selected that Halloween story to send to the editor of the Danvers Herald!

And today, a reader of the Facebook group "You know you grew up in Danvers Massachusetts when...."  posted a link to my Screech Owl story, which had been published this week in the Danvers Herald.   (I hadn't known whether it would run this week or next, so I appreciated learning of its publication.)

Other comments on that Facebook group this weekend have left me smiling. I've added replies to some questions asked (e.g., about the old Hathorne school). And I've thanked the readers there for their kind comments about my blog.  It is fun to learn of new readers.

Thank you, readers!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Changing schools

In my elementary school years in Danvers, I was moved from school to school, each September starting in new place.   I've written about this in a column published in the Danvers Herald Thursday September 3, 2015.  It was posted online  today; you can read it by clicking this: