Friday, November 22, 2019

260 years ago

On the 22nd of November two hundred and sixty years ago (1759),  a young woman named Mary Vial married Dr. Edward Augustus Holyoke.  She was 21; he was 31.  It was her first marriage, his second.  [The Doctor's first wife (Judith) and an infant daughter had died in 1756.]

Here are two portraits of Mary:
Mary Vial at 15 years old (painted 1753)
Mary Vial Holyoke at 33  (painted 1771)
















By the time of the 1771 portrait, Mary was the mother of 8 year old Margaret ("Peggy"), her second child. Her first child had died before the age of four.  Five other babies had arrived, but each died in infancy. This must have been a very difficult period for Dr. Holyoke and his wife.

Mary was pregnant again in 1771, giving birth that September to Elizabeth ("Betsy"), who would live until 1789.  In all, Mary birthed twelve babies!  I am descended from the 11th one, Susanna, born April 1779.  Mary lived to age 64 in 1802, with three daughters surviving her and living on for decades.

Dr. Holyoke lived "one hundred years and eight months, lacking one day" – according to the introduction to the Holyoke Diaries [published by the Essex Institute, 1911].  He was a well-known doctor in Salem, "very attentive to his medical practice." "His charge books show an average of eleven professional visits a day for a period of seventy-five years."

On this November 22, I am thinking of the wedding anniversary of Dr. Holyoke and Mary Vial, and the family connections, leading eventually to my family in Danvers.

Their daughter Susanna, my great-great-great-grandmother, lived a long full life, into her 80th year.  Susanna's daughter Mary, born in 1800, lived to 1880. The next generation included Mary's son Andrew Nichols, who was born in 1837, built the Pine Knoll cottage in Danvers in 1861, and lived there until his death in 1921. His youngest son, William, born 1872, became my grandfather and in the 1940's and 1950's lived right next door to us, so I remember him very well.  I didn't at that time care about history or pay much attention to family stories about ancestors. Now, in my older years, I'm looking at the connections back through the years.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Pine Knoll Story update

I am pleased to announce that Part II of The Pine Knoll Story, covering the period 1861 to 1880, is now available for sharing. I have spent months editing the draft that my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin created. Today I posted the results on my website about this family history project:


Select the tab for "Janet's Book" and you will see information about the organization of her book, and links to pdfs of the finished parts.  Part I (The Courtship Years, 1856-1861) has been available since last December.  Part II, posted today, was so large that I needed to divide the file into two segments:

  • 1861-1870 (149 pages)
  • 1871-1880 (270 pages)
For the Danvers Archives, I will offer the entire Part II in one file (pdf, 2.5 MB).  I regret that it has taken me so very long to prepare this material. Mr. Trask had expressed interest in obtaining a copy of Janet's book draft more than a year ago.  I had already started editing Part I by then, and wished to complete the editing project first.  Many delays and distractions of everyday life interfered with my ability to make progress on the editing. I'm relieved to have reached this milestone.

Part II begins with the September 1861 wedding of my great-grandparents, Andrew and Lizzie Nichols. For a quick introduction to the story, read the excerpt in my December blog posting, "Farmer Takes A Wife."   

Friday, September 6, 2019

Pears and other fruit


We had a large pear tree in the backyard of our small house at 120 Nichols Street. It produced lots of fruit, but I remember my mother's frustration that the neighborhood kids climbed the tree and sampled the fruit before it was ripe. They'd throw down the hard fruit after tasting it, thus spoiling what would have ripened. The next week they'd be back, tasting more pears, hoping for sweet ones, but lacking the patience to wait.  The pears were Bartletts, I believe, with yellow skin.

We had more luck with our crab apple tree, which grew by the back door. My bedroom window looked out on that tree. The fruit was tart, and tasty. That tree produced plenty of fruit and my mother made crab apple jelly each year. I remember the beautiful color of that jelly as light from the kitchen window passed though the small jelly glasses lined up in our kitchen.

We also had Concord grapes. The grapevines grew along a fence at one edge on our yard.

In summer we had wonderful blueberries. "High bush" blueberries. My mother had planted those bushes around the edges of the laundry yard south of our house, on a lower level close to the pond. In springtime when pond water flooded that level, Mommy would wear tall rubber boots as she hung out the sheets and clothes. Those bushes thrived. They grew taller and taller, eventually overshadowing parts of the laundry lines. Mommy let them grow, as she valued those small wild blueberries.

Granddaddy, meanwhile, preferred the large cultivated blueberries that grew on medium-sized bushes he'd planted along the garden path that ran west from our yard towards his yard. It was a friendly rivalry: cultivated blueberries versus wild ones, trim round bushes versus tall gangly ones. The big cultivated berries certainly looked better, but the small, darker wild ones had just as much taste, if not more.

Yesterday I began writing about fruit because of what I was reading in The Pine Knoll Story written by my cousin Janet.  Here's another quote, so timely for this season.

"At Pine Knoll, what apples hadn't dropped in the storm were beginning to ripen, 
and the children were back in school."

She was writing about September 1879.  Those children included seven-year-old Willie, who would grow up to become, among other accomplishments in his long life, a loving grandparent to Janet and her younger brother Bill, and to me and my younger sister Jean.

For a time in the 1950's, while Jean and I were in middle school and high school, and Granddaddy (William Stanley Nichols) was in his eighties, cousin Janet and her husband and their young sons lived with him, next door to us. Pine Knoll, the family home where Willie had been born and raised, was within easy walking distance, and two of his siblings (whom we called Great Aunt May and Great Aunt Margaret) enjoyed our visits.  Such memories!
-->