Thursday, October 4, 2018

David Balser

Rest in Peace, David Balser.

News of his death reached me this evening.  He was 75, and we were in classmates at Danvers High. I thank classmate Marsha Coogan for informing us, sending a link to this notice in the Salem News yesterday:

"David K. Balser, a resident of Newburyport, died peacefully at his home on September 30, 2018 with his wife, Susan, and his dog, Brady, by his side.

David was born in Salem, MA on January 19, 1943 to the late Arthur and Wilma (Wentworth) Balser. David grew up in Danvers, MA and attended Danvers High School and graduated from Brewster Academy. During his school years David particularly excelled in basketball at Danvers High School. He coached Little League Baseball and Youth Soccer in Danvers."
  For more information, see
         https://www.tlcfuneralhome.com/notices/David-Balser

Friday, August 10, 2018

Betty Clay

Today I am remembering my cousin Betty Clay, who lived in Danvers 93 years. I visited her last October, and enjoyed hearing her stories of earlier days.

News of Betty's death reached me today in CA, where I happen to be visiting Stuart Brewster, her cousin and mine.

You can read about her life here:   Salem News notice re Betty Clay

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:
         http://essexaggie.org/alumni/newsletters/newsletters.html 
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:



Friday, May 4, 2018

White-Throated Sparrow


The clear song of the White-Throated Sparrow pulls me back in time, reminding me of my mother. She could whistle a good imitation of that bird's song, and enjoyed doing so.

For photos and sound samples, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site:
       https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-throated_Sparrow/id
The songs are described as thin whistles that last about 4 seconds, and usually go up or down in pitch on the second or third note.

In recent weeks in my back yard in western Massachusetts, I've heard the distinctive whistle with the pitch going up, just the way my mother used to whistle it.  The pattern is like this:  __ – – – –     __ – – – –

I smile as I think fondly of my mother.  May 5th is the anniversary of her birthday, so I am especially happy to hear the White-Throated Sparrow right now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Danvers Women's Association



In 1902, when the Danvers Women's Association held its 20th anniversary, Miss Mary Ward Nichols was its President. She lived in Danvers at 98 Preston Street with her brother Andrew Nichols, his wife Lizzie (Elizabeth Perkins Stanley Nichols) and their children. This newspaper article mentions that "Fine piano selections were given by Mrs. Nichols and Miss Lena Putnam."  I wonder if "Mrs. Nichols" was Lizzie, my great-grandmother, or her son William's wife, Nellie E. Nichols (my Nana, who supervised my piano practicing in the 1950's).

Among family papers I've found a few documents about the Danvers Women's Association, including this little booklet (4.5" x 6.5") from 1950/51:

In its address list of Active Members (pages 19-26), I find many relatives: Mrs. Annie Nichols Brewster, Miss Margaret A. Nichols, Miss Marion B. Nichols, and Nellie E. Nichols (Mrs. William S.).  Complimentary Members (page 27) include Bernice H. Nichols (Mrs. Andrew, 3rd) of 10 Berry St, and Miss Mary E. Nichols of 98 Preston St.

I'll add photos of the title page and list of Presidents (1882-1950)


Click to enlarge


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Old clippings

My great Aunt May (Mary Eliot Nichols) loved to write about family history and to collect and save relevant newspaper clippings. She also tended to make scrapbooks. She pasted (or glued) various clippings onto the pages of blank books, or sometimes onto pages of real (but no longer needed) books. 

Here is an example of a few isolated pages that probably had been been in a 3-ring binder. Small clippings are attached on both sides of each page. Aunt May wrote on the first one: "Found in pocket of an old diary these clippings"

Click on image to enlarge

Unfortunately she didn't date when she did this, nor reveal whose diary contained the collection of clippings. Nor did she arrange the clippings in order by date. Many of them lack dates, but even those that are dated seem in random order. The common theme is death notices of family members or family friends. Fascinating tidbits of information about people are included, but in a rather frustrating format, lacking context of when published or in which newspaper. All of these people had connections to my Danvers ancestors, and their death dates could be confirmed in genealogical records. (MyHeritage.com is the resource I have used this year as I've sorted family papers.)






Note: You may click on any of these images to view enlarged versions.  I will write my next blog entry about some of the items in this last page of clippings.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Crossing the Threshold

On April 15, 1880, my great-great grandmother crossed the threshold from life to death.

I know this because I’ve been reading my cousin’s written history of the family, including quotes from diaries kept then by various family members. For weeks now I have been slowly making my way from the 1850’s to the 1880’s. From the diary entries I am catching glimpses of life in a different age, daily details of goings and comings in Danvers and Salem – a time of horse cars, frequent trains, and prompt postal service, without telephones or indoor plumbing.

All the writers of those diaries have died, of course. They are ancestors and relatives of ancestors, old names that floated in the air of family storytelling during my youth, when I wasn’t paying much attention. Now I’m learning who was who and the conditions under which they lived, so long ago. But this week, as I turned a page into 1880, the long-ago past suddenly felt closer.

A new voice had entered the story. A 10-year-old girl in Danvers was writing in her very first diary. She’s my great Aunt May, a person I really knew. I remember her clearly, as her life overlapped mine for two decades (1940’s -1960’s) and she lived at Pine Knoll, not far from our home.

On January 1st, 1880, May wrote, “went to school all day   mamma went to Salem”. On January 2nd, “went to school all day   papa went to the plains in the afternoon.”
By that spring she was aware that her grandmother Nichols, who lived in Salem, was very ill. One day in April she wrote, “Grandma died at 9 o clock.” On April 17, she wrote, “Saturday. ... I saw Grandma    I and Josh and John went to the funeral   it was first funeral I went to.”

Aunt May lived 96 years (1870-1966) and I attended her funeral, which was held in the parlor of Pine Knoll. It was my first experience of a home-based funeral. Aunt May had been born in an upper bedroom in that same house, and I recall visiting her there near the end of her life, as she lay quietly in her bedroom.  So many memories and connections!   It was Aunt May who lent my mother the antique “Nichols veil” that adorned my head as I married Peter Ward in 1965. Comments were made then about the curious fact that I was a Nichols bride marrying a Ward, whereas the original bride wearing that veil in 1833 was a Ward marrying a Nichols!

My cousin Janet Nichols Derouin, the author of the book draft I am now reading, arranged that veil on my head, turning me into a beautiful bride as I crossed a threshold to marriage. I did not know much then about the first bride, Mary Holyoke Ward, who was marrying Dr. Andrew Nichols. Now, from her diaries and Janet’s history, I have much information about her life, and know that she lived until April 15, 1880, dying in her home with many family and friends attending to her needs in her final days. Her daughter’s diary entry for April 15 brings us to the scene: “Mother had a very quiet night & very feeble this morn, but bright & quiet in the afternoon. Said over & over ‘It isn't possible it is all over.’  Grew very sick about four o'clock & grew sicker, or rather was dying & drew her last breath at 20 minutes of nine in the eve. Her breath grew shorter & shorter & then stopped without a struggle.”

In the days before she died, she requested that family members read specific poems or hymns. On April 4 she requested, “The Dead are like Stars by Day,” which begins with this stanza:
 The dead are like the stars by day,
Withdrawn from mortal eye,
Yet holding unperceived their way
Through the unclouded sky.
 --------------------------

[Note: I wrote this Remembering Danvers piece 2/24/18 and submitted it to the Danvers Herald 2/27/18.  It was published in the March 15 print edition, but not posted online for a while. I've corrected one name, and added the specific date of my great-great-grandmother's death. This blog post will appear on April 15, the anniversary of her death.]

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pine Knoll expansion 1880

This week I discovered a document that helps me understand changes made to "Pine Knoll," the old Nichols homestead at 98 Preston Street in Danvers. I've long known that the Pine Knoll home was started as a cottage in 1861, and significantly expanded in 1880. I often visited in the 1940's-1960's, but never had any sense of which parts of the house were original, and which rooms were added later. To my young eyes, it all looked old, very very old, and unchanging. It seemed a sort of museum, unchangeable, though cousins and great aunts were living there.

Now I have a composition by one of those aunts, Mary Eliot Nichols, also known as "Aunt May," recalling the changes she witnessed in HER childhood. She was 12 years old when the house was extended. She lists all eight children born in that house; seven of whom were still alive in 1880, and lived there for many more years. (Aunt May and her younger sister Margaret were still living there in the 1960's!)  The house expansion was financed by funds inherited after the death of a grandmother, and required in part by the need to provide housing for an unmarried aunt (who also contributed inherited funds and property to Pine Knoll).

Aunt May's composition was later typed by another relative, who added sketches to show the layout of the house before and after the great remodeling of 1880. Unfortunately I do not know the date of her composition, nor the date of this typed version. Nor do I know the accuracy of the sketches, though the drawings on the left side (first-floor rooms) make sense to me, matching my memories.

Click on image to enlarge

I am not the first person to consider Pine Knoll a museum, nor to comment about the blending of old and new sections. A visitor in 1881, soon after the expansion of the house, titled his report "Nichols Museum" (published in the Danvers Mirror, May 7, 1881). He wrote, "we made a call at the cottage among the pines at the corner of Newbury and Preston streets, occupied by our friend Andrew Nichols, the civil engineer, who when asked last fall what he was doing to his house? replied that, he was building on an ell, as he found after nearly twenty years' trial that his house was too small for the wants of his family, --now consisting of ten persons."

"Over the wide doors to the spacious parlor hangs a coat-of-arms of the Appleton family of Ipswich, made by Margaret Appleton, a great-great-grandmother of its present owner. Upon the walls of this room hang the portraits of seven generations. All the furniture of this room, with one or two exceptions, has been doing good service for a long time in the family."

"Mr. Nichols has made many plans of houses built by others, and made all the plans and attended to the construction of this “house of seven gables;” and as he wished to have a house unlike any other, we think that he has accomplished his object, and so well is the old and new blended that it is hard to tell where old and new unite."

"The outside is shingled with fancy sawed shingles (done by his boys in their summer vacation) down to the second floor, then clapboarded. Nathan T. Putnam did the carpenter work, H. McGaughlin the stone, Frank Flint the brick, Charles F. Aiken the plastering, Sylvester Trask the painting, George H. Little of Peabody the steam piping, and Caskin & O'Connell the plumbing."

For the full Danvers Mirror article, see http://www.nonotuck.us/sandy/nicholsmuseum1881.html

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

High School Class of 1898


My great aunt Margaret Appleton Nichols (1878-1968) was a member of the Holton High School Class of 1898.

Among family papers inherited from the estate of her father (my great-grandfather) Andrew Nichols of Danvers,  I have found a box of photographs of her classmates – 33 photographic portraits by A. O. Elwell of Danvers.

Click on image to enlarge
Her photograph was not in that box. In another file I found two copies of her photograph, also by A. O. Elwell, in the same style, but now in very poor condition.  One is torn, the other marred by foxing.

I wrote to Mr. Richard Trask, Danvers Archival Center, to ask if the Archive already contains copies of these graduation photographs. He replied that the Archive has such photographs, but only seven for the Class of 1898. Fortunately one of those, in excellent condition, is of Margaret Nichols. He scanned that image for me and I am posting it here:

Click on image to enlarge

I am thankful to have this much clearer image of my great aunt Margaret.  I remember her well, though only when she was much older.  It is fun to catch a glimpse of her younger self.


I imagine that she is the one who wrote notes on the back of some of the photographs, adding information about college attended, or a married name, or other new information about her classmate.



Here is one example:


D. F. Lyons,
D.H.S '98

Dartmouth '02


Most of the students are identifiable by the names handwritten (signed?) on the back. As I compare the various cards, I see that the handwritings vary, and do look like signatures written in ink.

The supplementary notes are all in pencil, in a consistent hand (probably by Margaret).


It is my intention to donate the box of 33 photographs to the Danvers Archival Center, to join the seven there. Hopefully that will make a complete set, or close to it.

Only one card lacks identification. I'll post her photo below. Perhaps someone who views this blog will be able to recognize this student and provide her name.
Click on image to enlarge
Mr. Trask reports that 41 students graduated in 1898, according to the annual report shown here. And now we can see a list of all the names, and the courses of study they completed. Thank you Mr. Trask!


Click on image to enlarge

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1st vote by Danvers women


Here's a diary entry from a 10-year-old girl in Danvers in 1880:

Mar. 1. staid at home all day      mamma went to vote     cast the first vote buy the women in the town of Danvers

The "mamma" was Lizzie Nichols, my great-grandmother (Mrs. Andrew Nichols, living at Pine Knoll, 98 Preston Street, Danvers). Her maiden name was Elizabeth Perkins Stanley, and she lived from 1836 to 1929.

Was she really able to vote in March 1880?  What was the election?

My cousin Janet, who spent years reading old family diaries and documents as she chronicled family history, commented,

This is a most interesting entry because Lizzie had been actively involved in the vote for women, as well as prohibition, since her early twenties.

I have discussed this entry with the Danvers' archivist and it is not possible to research what she was allowed to vote on. Mr. Trask said it would have been a town election, and most probably a contest that involved the selectmen or school committee. He also said that many of the individual towns decided to allow the women to vote on local issues about that time, but there is nothing in the Danvers records to help me for that date.

Lizzie wouldn't have cared how the women got their foot in the door and it must have been a banner day at Pine Knoll because her husband was a kindred spirit to both of those causes.
The young girl? Her name was May (Mary Eliot Nichols), one of my grandfather's older sisters.  To our family in the 1940's-1950's, she was "Aunt May."  In 1880 she had just started her first diary. Her spelling was irregular, but her observations of life around her were quite clear.

Both Janet and I wish that Lizzie had also written a diary, but we understand that she was entirely too busy raising her large family. By March 1880, she had 7 living children, the youngest barely 19 months old. 


Monday, February 5, 2018

Women's Rights 1870's

My great grandmother Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stanley Nichols (Mrs. Andrew Nichols, 98 Preston Street, Danvers) gave birth to her sixth child in May 1872.  Her unmarried sister-in-law Mary Ward Nichols, who lived in Salem, made frequent trips to Danvers, often by horse-car or train, to visit. Mary sometimes took the older children to Salem to spend days with their widowed grandmothers (Grandmother Stanley at 20 Andrew Street; Grandmother Nichols at 34 Summer Street, Salem).

I know these facts because I've been reading family history compiled years ago by my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin from old letters, Mary's diaries, Mary's mother's diaries, and other sources from the period. Last night I read this entry, quoted from Grandmother Nichols's 1873 diary:

Nov 18.  Mary went to the Woman's Rights Convention with K. Johnson & M. Stone.  

Janet had written these paragraphs to provide context:
There were two interests that Mary and Lizzie shared.  They both had a burning interest in the subject of women's rights and temperance and I imagine Nell Stanley was interested as well but I have no documentation of it.  As you remember in Part 1 before Lizzie was married, she was a member of The Band of Hope, a youth temperance organization. 
All of the woman's rights organizations grew out of temperance groups, which really began in England in the early eighteen hundreds.  As you know, the north-eastern part of the United States proved to be an early hot-bed of women asserting themselves on the subjects of slavery, temperance and woman's rights.  On a national level, there were over one-hundred-thousand females in various anti-slavery and temperance organizations by 1830. 
Both Lizzie and Mary read anything they could get their hands on concerning the on-going efforts for these causes and Lizzie subscribed to "The Union Signal" which was a publication of The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, organized in 1874.  The paper was published in Chicago, Illinois, it cost $1.50 a year for fifty-two issues of fifteen pages or more and it preached total abstinence from alcohol, including beer and hard cider.  
From that era on, through The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the National Temperance Society, women were able to communicate their feelings to each other through the printed page, eventually gaining the largest political female clout in the history of mankind.
Wow! After reading pages and pages of domestic details, quaint facts about housekeeping in the 1870's, afternoon "teas" and social visits, frequent childhood sicknesses (scarlet fever killing Lizzie's 8-year-old daughter in February 1873), this page suddenly brought me up to 2018. Women's marches. Resistance movements. Activism against sexual harassment, against discrimination.

I looked up Woman's Suffrage history, attempting to learn exactly which convention Mary attended. I found Susan B. Anthony's 1873 address. (She had been arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1872 presidential election.)  It is amazing how RELEVANT her words sound today. She gave this speech many times, and it is posted online in many forms. For a quick read, I recommend this short version:  www.historyplace.com/speeches/anthony.htm

Longer version:  Constitutional Argument: Speech After Being Convicted Of Voting In The 1872 Presidential Election, by Susan B. Anthony.  http://gos.sbc.edu/a/anthony.html