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!

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Today, as I edited a few more pages in Janet Derouin's book about our Danvers ancestors, these words jumped out at me: 

"...and everyone who had a peach or pear tree on their property
had windfall fruit to give away." 

Janet was describing the beginning of September in 1879.  She wrote those words decades ago.  As I read them now, in September 2019, I smile and think of all the peaches waiting in the kitchen. My husband planted a small peach tree in our yard a few years ago. Squirrels claimed most of its meager fruit in its early years.

But THIS year, for the first time, the fruit is coming in such quantities that we can hardly keep up. Fruit falls to the ground daily, even as we try to pick the ripe ones before they fall and get bruised. We eat peaches morning, noon and night. We give peaches to neighbors. We took peaches to friends last weekend. What a crop of delicious peaches!

So of course I'm struck by the coincidence that I happen to have reached this page in Janet's book just as I'm having my own experience with a September surplus of peaches.

Here are a few photos of our peach tree (in Holyoke, Mass).

I don't recall having peach trees in Danvers in my childhood, but we had other fruit, which I'll write about in my next entry.

August 29, 2019
Planting the peach tree, August 2015

Same peach tree (pruned), May 2016 

I did not expect such a bounty of fruit from the very small tree we had planted in August 2015.