Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th memories

I have memories of large family gatherings at Pine Knoll for the Fourth of July. We sat outdoors in the shade of the large pines beside that old house, and visited with the great aunts May and Margaret Nichols, who still lived in that house where they had grown up. A beautifully carved watermelon looked like a basket with a large handle; inside the rind/basket was a delicious assortment of cut fruit. There were of course many other foods served this picnic, and many cousins and other relatives in attendance. As a small girl I barely knew who was who, except that they were all somehow related to us, part of this extended family with connections to this old-fashioned house on the pine knoll in the Hathorne section of Danvers.

I've written before about my memories of Pine Knoll, including tales of July 4th.  (Use the Search Box, upper left, with keywords "july fourth" or Pine Knoll, to find my previous posts.)

Today, instead of repeating those tales, I'm reflecting about how much more I now know, and appreciate, about the family history. For many months this year I have been immersed in "The Pine Knoll Story" – a long book-draft compiled and written by my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin. With her permission, I've been making some edits and preparing the files for sharing. Yesterday I was puzzling out possible designs for a new website on which to post illustrations and charts (e.g., genealogy) to accompany the written story. Stay tuned. I'll announce the site if/when I get it created.

Many family descendants who recall those Fourth of July picnics at Pine Knoll may be interested in the back story, of how and when and why that homestead was built, and the love-story leading to the 1861 marriage of Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Nichols, who had 8 children at Pine Knoll.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Essex Aggie teacher

Peter Tierney, President of the Essex Aggie Alumnae Association, sent me this image of an old torn photograph of "Miss Nichols," a former teacher at Essex Aggie:

Miss Nichols, Teacher
He assumed that she might be related to me.  I'd never seen this photo before, but agreed that she was likely one of my great aunts. At first I thought of Aunt May, a well-known teacher in Danvers who retired in 1932. But soon both Peter and I realized that her younger sister Margaret was the one. 

Peter did a bit more research and confirmed that Margaret Nichols was teaching at the Aggie in 1919. By 1928 she was listed as a former teacher.  Peter says that the photograph above was taken in 1921, and that she taught Home Economics.

Margaret Appleton Nichols was born in 1878, and graduated in the Holton High School class of 1898. See her graduation photo in my March post; she does indeed look like the woman in this 1921 photo. 

I wondered about the setting of that photo. Those steps remind me of porch steps at Star Island, a place that my great aunts often visited. Peter thinks the photo was taken during an outing to Comono Point in Essex; he shared this image of a building there: 

Peter knows a great deal about the history of Essex Aggie. Since 2016 he has been Editor of the Aggie newsletter for alumni.  He invites you to see the newsletters at this address: 
If you download the January 2017 issue, and scroll down to the 12th page, you see that he reprinted (with my permission) an article I had written for the Danvers Herald about the Hathorne Post Office. He added more information at the end, with a photo of the Hathorne train station that was well used by Aggie students.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Aunt May's last drive?

Among family papers I found an old scrap of paper, ripped and scribbled on. Why was it saved?

On the other side Aunt May (my great aunt Mary Eliot Nichols) had written a poignant note, which I think you can read if you click on the photograph below to enlarge the image. 

Click on image to enlarge
"I now feel that I have driven the car for the last time," she wrote on May 26, 1948.

That was 70 years ago today. Aunt May lived another 18 years, until 1966.  I wonder if she really did stop driving after that day in 1948.  I remember her well, and usually saw her at the old family house at 98 Preston Street  ("Pine Knoll") where she lived. I have no memories of riding in a car with her, nor do I recall seeing her drive, but I know she was an independent woman with many connections in the community. She may have recovered her confidence and continued driving for another decade. That's my guess.

I have many memories of Aunt May's earlier car, a 1932 Ford sedan that she gave to my parents in 1940. They named it "Oswald" and kept it for decades. I learned to drive, practicing with Oswald. My father said that if I could drive Oswald, I could drive anything. Oswald even became the "get-away" car at my 1965 wedding. My sister decorated it creatively, with an old stove pipe and many painted slogans (Alaska or Bust!"  "WestWARD Ho!"  "Just Married").  No, I didn't drive it to Alaska; Oswald was no longer registered, so we could only drive on private property, down through the back avenue of Locust Lawn, through the woods to the home of cousin Betty Nichols Clay, where another car had been hidden in advance.  This photo of the decorated 1932 Ford (Model AB) was taken at the Clay's: