Friday, September 17, 2010

If you can't smile, don't come in.

I woke this morning to a slate-gray sky and cool breezes blowing across my bedcovers. I love to sleep with the windows open and will covet every morning for the next two months until the frost sets in. My mother scolded me as a girl for running around in my bare feet: "Donna May, Dr. Schneider's already told you that you'll catch pneumonia... put some socks on." I'd roll my eyes and make a u-turn back to the bedroom. Why she felt the need to throw Dr. Schneider into the conversation, I'll never know as his office visit lollypops were no match for her oak twig switches. To this day I associate doctors with tubesocks.

Winter mornings, I'd sprint from my bed to the livingroom and straddle the floor furnace in my long cotton nightgown and let the warm air fill me like a balloon before heading for the bathroom. Floor furnaces in those days were large natural gas burners with a blower and an iron gate fitted tightly across the firebox, then dropped into a crawlspace or basement such that the iron gate was flush with the flooring. The trick was not to step on the gate least you end up with a nasty burn. Except for a small gas space heater in the bathroom, the floor furnace was the only heat for our house and so on really cold mornings, Mama would crank up all the burners on the kitchen stove, light the oven and leave the door open. At night, she'd twist bathtowels into long snakes and stuff them under the cracks in the front door to guard against "blue northerns."

A cousin left some comments in the blog's photo gallery last night, but didn't leave her contact information, and so I'd ask each of you to please leave an email address; your stories are so important. So thank you cousin, you were correct in that I had the photo of great aunt Eliza and Maggie Pigg right, but the woman in the center was 2nd great grandmother Millie Tucker. Uncle Thurman (Walter Thurman Hicks) gave me his collection of family photos to copy; included is great grandmother Julia Pigg Dudgeon's scrapbook. I loved the the inscription you left on the photo of her and great grandfather Dudgeon and thought it a fitting title for today's blog.

The book is full of newspaper clippings about townspeople from Orrick, Missouri, clippings about the state of the war (WWII), recipies and dozens of poems and inspirational thoughts. She made a scrapbook for her grandaughter and my aunt Rosemary that's been passed down to me. In the back is a poem entitled "Memories of Home for Rosemary."

"I am thinking of my childhood home, that's many miles away
Where we lived down by the school house and where we children loved to play.

The old house is torn down now, but the cedar tree still stands. And I like to think things over when I had things at my command.

There was my brothers and my sisters, mother and dad, the Lord was very good to us and the good times that we had.

We didn't think about it then, but now that it is gone, we do.
How we gathered around the old piano, dad loved to sing and we did too.

The war came and took two brothers, and two cousins away far over the sea, God spared them to come back to the good USA.

It was close by the old Missouri River where we attended country school and church, but we all were very happy, just the little Dudgeon bunch.

Grandma and Grandpa were glad to see us, we were all sure of that. Santa made his trip so regular with his white whiskers and red hat.

But we are grown and I am married, and have a daughter of my own. But our minds go back to childhood where our cares were all unknown.

What good times we had at Christmas, Aunt Laura and the children came. Mother, Dad and Uncle Cecil, but now we have began to roam.

I am going back home some day, to where I spent my early life, those happy days of childhood we will cherish and forget the strife." (signed Memories of Grandma Dudgeon 1947 -- Dad 59; mother 47)

The ceramic floor tile feels cool to my feet this morning. When the seasons turn is when I miss my mother the most and would call just to hear her voice, and get a weather report. I told her once that she was grounded from the Weather Channel, and she giggled. Reaching for a clean t-shirt this morning, I bypassed the socks just to hear her whisper "Donna May, Dr. Schneider said..."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Martha Allen Carrier

August 5, 1692 five residents of Andover, Massachusetts were led to the gallows and, in front of a large crowd of witnesses, hung atop Gallows Hill in Salem for practicing witchcraft. The frenzy behind the Salem witch trials was based on the testimony of three young girls: Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Susan Sheldon, and reinforced by townspeople who used the accused as scapegoats for their own misfortunes and to escape persecution. Four of the condemned were men, including John Proctor, the main character in Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible." The lone woman was an Andover housewife named Martha Carrier. It is Martha, my 8th great-grandmother, I'd like to honor today.

She was born Martha Ingalls Allen in 1643 to Andrew Allen and Faith Ingalls, two of the original 23 settlers of Andover, Massachusetts. In 1674, she became pregnant with the child of an older Welsh servant, Thomas Carrier, who she married. The newlyweds relocated to Billerica. In 1676, they were blamed for a smallpox epidemic that claimed the lives of thirteen people including two of the Carrier children, Martha's father and two brothers, her sister-in-law, and a nephew. A group of selectmen ordered the family to leave town immediately or pay a surety of 20 shillings per week if they wanted to stay. The Carriers were barred from entering public places. Although Martha, Thomas and the other children were afflicted with the disease, they survived. This was later was used as evidence of Martha's "special powers."

Thomas' past is somewhat sketchy. According to Carrier family stories, Thomas's exceptional physical size (he was said to be over 7 feet tall) strength, and fleetness of foot, led him to be chosen as one of the King of England's Royal Guard. In 1649, when Charles I was put on trail and sentenced to death, it was Thomas who acted in the historic position as executioner. Unfortunately for Carrier, Charles's son Charles II would re-take the throne and gain control the country. In May 1660, Charles II ordered the arrest of those responsible for his father's death. Carrier adopted the surname "Morgan" and escaped to America around 1665. It seems that Carrier lived an unsettled life at first, moving three or four times between Billerica and Andover. Although the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not approve of Charles I, they also did not approve of regicide. The facts behind Carrier's actions may have found their way to the new colony and played a part in Martha's undoing.

To make matters worse, Martha took charge of her father's estate. She immediately ran into friction with her neighbors, threatening vengeance upon those she believed were cheating her or her husband. She was described by Magistrate Cotton Mather as "a woman of a disposition not unlikely to make enemies; plain and outspoken in her speech, of remarkable strength of mind, a keen sense of justice, and a sharp tongue."

In an excerpt from "Historical Sketches of Andover" the author notes that most of the accused confessed and thus averted the extreme penalty of death. Only Martha did not, at some time, make an admission or confession. "From the first moment to the last, under all the persuasions and exhortations of friends, under denunciations and threats of the magistrates and examiners, she held firm, denying all charges, and neither overborne in mind nor shaken in nerve, met death with heroic courage." Martha's three eldest children: Richard, Andrew, and Thomas were accused of witchcraft with their mother and tortured until they confessed. Their seven-year-old sister Sarah was not accused, but afraid and prompted by the interrogators, made to testify against her mother in court.

Several women accused confessed that Martha had led them to practice. Ann Foster said she rode on a stick with Martha to Salem Village, that the stick broke and that she saved herself by clinging around Martha's neck. Her nephew, Allen Toothaker testified that he lost two of his livestock, attributing their deaths to Martha. Samuel Preston blamed the death of one of his cows on Martha stating that they'd had a disagreement and she'd placed a hex on the animal.

On August 19, 1692, Martha and four men were carried through the streets of Salem in a cart, the crowds thronging to see the sight. Even from the scaffold, Martha Carrier's voice was heard asserting her innocence. Her body was dragged to a common grave between the rocks about two feet deep where she joined the bodies of Reverend Burroughs and John Willard.

On October 17, 1710, the Massachusetts General Court passed an act that "the several convictions, judgments, and attainders be, and hereby are, reversed, and declared to be null and void." They ought to have extended the act to all who had suffered, rather confined its effect to those in reference to whom petitions had been presented. On the 17th of December 1711, Governor Dudley issued his warrant for the purpose of carrying out a vote of the General Assembly stating "by and with the advice and consent of Her Majesty's Council, (to pay) the sum of 578 pounds to such persons as are living, and to those that legally represent them that are dead." Martha Carrier's family was awarded 7 pounds, 6 shillings.

On Tuesday, March 16, 1999, the Board of Selectmen from the town of Billerica, Massachusetts voted to rescind the banishment of the entire Carrier family as an "appropriate gesture" to the Carrier family. It was unanimously approved.

In October of 1995, I booked a two week's vacation just south of Bar Harbor, Maine in a little fishing village overlooking an inlet. I'd hoped to visit all of the lighthouses along the coast and then rather play the rest of the vacation by ear. After the first week's sampling of fresh fish and realizing that most of the lighthouses were off coast, decommissioned, or simply lighted totems and not reachable by car, I rambled south along the coast toward interstate 95 and home. It wasn't a planned detour. Passing through Danvers, Massachusetts enroute to interstate 90, I noticed the signs for Salem. And took the exit.

Early in October, the town had already started preparing for Halloween celebrations. Banners flying from poles and windows accented by the golden red leaves painted a watercolor backdrop against the wrought iron fencing and granite stones in the memorial graveyard. Following the curve of the rough-carved letters with my fingers, I read "Martha Carrier, Hanged, August 19, 1692." Grandmother.