Thursday, July 29, 2021

Prince-Osburn house

Today on Facebook I was delighted to see this image of the Prince-Osborn house in its original location on Spring Street:  

Jack Rybicki posted this photo in the Facebook group "You know you grew up in Danvers Massachusetts when......." 

I'm familiar with the house in its current Maple Street location, and recall walking by it when I was young – long before I learned of its history or its relation to my own family.

Here's a story I wrote years ago about my discovery of that history:

In May 1992 my sister Jean and I flew east to visit our hometown for a ceremony commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Salem Village witchcraft tragedy. In preparation for that trip, I decided to investigate the rumor that we were descended from one of the accused witches. I didn't know the name or any details. I pulled out the genealogical papers that my mother had worked on years ago and I looked for ancestors in the Salem area in 1692. I saw a "Sarah Warren, d. in jail 1692" -- a likely prospect. Her married name was Sarah Prince. I searched in many history books about the Salem witchcraft crisis, but didn't find her name. Finally one book had an index entry for Sarah Warren, leading to a single mention that this was the maiden name of Sarah Osborne. Aha! Most of the books had long sections about Sarah Osborne (Osbourne; Osborn). She was one of the first accused and the first to die. My sister and I watched the unveiling of the Danvers Witch Trials Memorial, and saw Sarah's name at the head of the list.

A remarkable discovery (for me and my sister) is that Sarah Osborne's house still stands in Danvers. It was moved once (~1914) from Spring Street to 272 Maple Street. We had passed it on Maple Street hundreds of times, and played with the son of the family that owned it. Never did we know of the interesting history or connection to our family. Our Great Aunt May knew. Her handwriting on the back of a photo of Sarah's house tells the story. But I didn't see that photo until after I had discovered the connection for myself using books in a California library.

Sarah Osborne's land -- "the Prince land" she acquired through marriage and then the death of her first husband -- figures prominently in her story. Her sons later, after Sarah's death, fought in court against Alexander Osborne (their stepfather) to regain title to the Prince family land. I remember my mother walking with me in a small cemetery and pointing out a stone marked John Prince. She said I would have been named John Prince Nichols if I had been a boy! I don't remember hearing that we were related to the Princes. I thought she just liked the sound of that name. NOW I realize that I was walking on the Prince land and that I AM a descendant! That cemetery was near Spring Street (where Sarah's house used to stand). I grew up on another street, Nichols Street, and played often in the woods and fields between Nichols and Spring streets. I have come to realize that the wonderful 35-acre property called "Locust Lawn" was once part of the Prince land. Amazing. I grew up playing on Sarah Osborne's land and knew nothing about her. I hated history in school, and didn't pay much attention to the frequent family stories about ancestors. I doubt, however, that much was said about the unsavory parts of family history. Stories tended to be about the Holyokes, of whom my great aunts were proud. 


 Here's another photo posted by Jack. Its caption provides some details I had not known. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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