32 Beacon Street Then and Now

32 Beacon Street  edit

32 Beacon Street            Then and Now

This blog is a follow-up to my last week’s story on 32 Beacon Street, Marblehead, MA and Aunt Sadie. After posting the blog I received a message from the current owners Pat and Jim inviting me to come see the house as it is now.  Naturally I took them up on the offer and spent a nice afternoon seeing all the improvements and photos of their renovations and I in turn shared some of the history of the families that had lived in the house. This house had been in my family for about 271 years.

Pat and Jim purchased the home in 1994 when Aunt Ruth put it up for sale because she could no longer get along living there alone and it needed major improvements. Unfortunately at the time no one in the family could undertake such extensive repair work.  Thankfully the home found some lovely owners who restored the home beautifully. 

The home was originally built in 1723 for Peter Homan, my 6th great grandfather and is considered a first period home.  Pat and Jim restored it to that time period, of course with some modern conveniences.  When I visited I got to go in through the front door which was a treat, never having done that before.  We turned right into what was the Smith’s sitting room and Pat and Jim have kept as one.  The many layers of linoleum flooring and the old wallpaper were gone as was the parakeet cage.  What was once a boarded up fireplace was uncovered and restored into the beautiful fireplace that it once was, including the beehive ovens. Because the home had no central heat for years it was cold and drafty so the fireplaces were boarded up over the years to help keep out drafts.   The floors had been stripped of layers of linoleum and were refinished with the original wide board wood flooring. They even kept the little cubby hole on the front wall where the telephone was kept. 

We went up the step to the kitchen and they showed me the side door and where the stairs were that had led to the only bathroom in the house when indoor plumbing was installed. Now I know there was plumbing in the house for Aunt Sadie.  The stairs have been removed, but Pat and Jim reused everything that was salvageable in the house to restore the beauty of the period of the home.  Naturally the kitchen had been updated and modernized but still held the old charm.  The small windows that were at earth level still remained. They had to do some major construction on that area and now you can see day light when you look out of them.  When Pat and Jim were removing the flooring and walls they would come across different artifacts hidden away.  One was an invitation from a Miss Elizabeth Endicott inviting someone from 32 Beacon Street to her 12th birthday party at 4 Orne Street.  Now we have to figure out who Miss Endicott was.

We stepped down into the candy shop which was just as small as I remember, but there were no candy cases and no fudge or caramels waiting for us. Pat did remember how delicious the caramels were though, just as I do.  They tried to save the original door leading to the outside but it was beyond repair. This is now a laundry room. Next we went into the front parlor room which had the green carpet removed to show again the beautiful hard wood floors.  There was beautiful wood that had been stripped down to its natural beauty around the fireplace, windows and doors.  They told me it had been painted black which was  customary to do after President  Lincoln died. 

Upstairs they had taken down a wall and made two bedrooms up there, again with fireplaces and the beautiful wood floor. They had moved the bathroom but the original bathtub (although reglazed) was still there.  We ventured up into the attic which had very low ceilings and again it has been all refinished and what views of the water from up there.

I had brought some of the original  old deeds and we looked at the house history that had been done. This home housed at times up to 15 or more adults and children. It was amazing the number of people that had lived together in that one house.   Homan, Standley, Smith, Martin, Lee, Ashton, and Hooper are some of the names mentioned in the deeds. The house was divided into the Southwest portion and the Northeast portion for a period of time with different family members owning the two sides.  In 1892 the house was undivided and was once again a single home owned by William S. Smith, my second great grandfather.

As much as I hated to see the house leave the family after 271 years, I am glad it went to wonderful people who appreciated it for its charm and restored it so we can still drive by and say “that was Aunt Sadie’s house and the Candy Store”.  Thank you Jim and Pat!!

32 Beacon now




Sarah Jane Roundy Smith 1889 – 1986

Aunt Sadie 1968 edit 3

Happy Birthday Aunt Sadie!   She was Aunt Sadie or the fudge lady to most children in the Barnegat area of Marblehead.  Born Sarah Jane Roundy Smith on March 25, 1889 at 32 Beacon Street, Marblehead, MA and died at 32 Beacon Street, Marblehead, MA on March 22, 1986.  Not many people can say they were born and died in the same house. She spent almost 97 years in that house never venturing very far.  Aunt Sadie attended the Marblehead Public Schools and was a forelady at the Shribman Shoe Factory on Green Street for four years until  the firm moved.  She also took in laundry for people in town as a way to earn money. Sadie never married and lived with her sister, Ruth and her brother Stewart and his wife in the family home.

32 Beacon Street  edit

 It was an interesting home for me to visit as a child. I obviously knew where the candy store was; on the left side of the house as you faced it.  There was a front door, and I am not sure it that was ever used.  On the right side was a path and a door that you entered to get to the kitchen.  I remember it was always warm and smelled of home cooked food or candy in there.  I can see the kitchen table and a stove but never remember a refrigerator; I think it may have been in a room off the candy store.  I know the frozen chocolate candy ice cubes wrapped in gold foil were kept  in there.   From the kitchen you stepped down into a sitting room with a few chairs, a parakeet cage and a bowl with homemade caramels in them.  The caramels were my favorites, buttery vanilla caramels wrapped in a white wax paper wrapper. This is the room Aunt Sadie would sit in and you could see her in the window as you drove by. What a view from that room over to Brown’s Island and beyond.    Across the hall there was the formal living area, which I think I was in once.  It was only opened for special occasions and probably funerals. The Christmas tree may have been in there also.  My Uncle Stewart and his wife lived upstairs, and I guess Sadie and Ruth’s bedrooms were up there. I was never allowed up there.   To this day I always wonder where the indoor plumbing was!!

In the early 1930’s she started making ice cream and opened the store in her home. The ice cream was in my mother’s time, I don’t remember it.  She then began to make fudge, caramels, vinegar and molasses kisses and puffed rice squares.  Unfortunately you won’t find the recipes in this blog because no one has them that we know of, except for Aunt Sadie.  My mother, (Sadie’s niece) and another niece would go to Aunt Sadie’s, pick up some fudge and ride their bikes around town selling it.  There were three squares of fudge wrapped in white waxed paper.

A day at Grace Oliver’s Beach or Brown’s Island was not complete without a visit to Sadie’s candy store. As a relative I would be entitled to a bag of “fudge scraps”.  These were the pieces that were left on the paddle or in the bowl and clumped together to make a hunk of fudge, the best!  She also sold all kinds of penny candy, but I had to pay for that.  We would run up Beacon Street from Gracie’s  in our bathing suits and probably barefoot with our nickel or dime and get a bag of candy.  Sometimes, if it wasn’t a beach day and we just had a nickel we would get a bag and sit on “Old Mrs. Jacques” wall across the street, until she shooed us away. Does anyone remember, could we turn in our tonic bottles there for money for candy, I can’t remember?

Aunt Sadie retired in about 1970 but she will always be remembered as Aunt Sadie or The Fudge Lady and is still talked about today.

Aunt Sadie’s was the second child born to Charles Henry Smith (1860 – 1939) and Ruth Ann Standley (1866 – 1956).

  1. Howard Standley Smith     September 13, 1887 – January 5, 1962. He married Bessie G. (Elizabeth) Whitmore in 1915.
  2. Sarah Jane Roundy Smith    March 25, 1889 – March 22, 1986. Single
  3. Henry Nelson Smith     January 16, 1891 – April 14, 1942. He married Helen Reynolds Trefry in 1920.
  4. Elsie May Smith   July 31, 1892 – September 21, 1928. She married William B. Ball in 1920
  5. Stewart Smith      December 7, 1895 – June 6, 1985. He married Helen Williams Merrill in 1924.
  6. Charles Emery Smith   September 29, 1900 – August 6, 1942. He married Emma Woodfin Foss in 1923. These were my grandparents
  7. Ruth Blaney Smith    March 7, 1909 – June 30, 2002. She remained single and worked at Stowaway Sweets.

CAndy box  edit

Marblehead’s Robinson Crusoe Philip Ashton, Jr. 1702 – 1746

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 Philip Ashton is without a doubt one of my most famous and interesting ancestors that I have come across. He was my first cousin eight times removed.  He was the first cousin of my 4th great Maternal Grandmother, Margaret Ashton who married Benjamin Smith in 1791 in Marblehead.  Philip’s grandfather John Ashton was my 8th great grandfather.  John Ashton may have come to Marblehead via Scarborough, Maine in the late 1600’s.  There is a record that he died on June 16, 1739 in Marblehead.  John had a son Philip who married Sarah Hendley in 1701.  They had a son Philip who had this incredible adventure.

 Philip was born on August 12, 1702 and baptized in the First Congregational Church in Marblehead, MA on April 18, 1703. He became a cod fisherman at a young age, as many boys in Marblehead did. His great adventure began in 1722 at the age of 19 when he was Captain of the Schooner Milton. Much of what we know about Philip came from the narrative he dictated to Rev. John Bernard upon his return home. This is how his adventure started:

Upon, Friday, June 15th 1722, After I had been out for some time in the Schooner Milton upon the fishing grounds off Cape Sable Shoar, among others, I came to sail in Company with Nicholas Merritt in a Shallop and stood in for Port Rossaway, designing to harbour there til the Sabbath was over, where we arrived at Four of the Clock in the Afternoon.”

They had been at anchor off Shelbourne, Nova Scotia for several hours when their vessel was boarded by pirates.  Philip was carried upon the pirate ship, and he was met by the famous pirate Ned Lowe.  For the next week he remained in the hold of the vessel, being brought out several times to have a pistol pointed to his head wanting him to sign the ship’s articles and become one of Ned Low’s pirates.  He refused to do so.

 His first chance to escape came just before the vessel was to set sail.  The pirates had gone ashore at Port Rossaway to get water and left a dog belonging to them behind.  Two men jumped in the boat to get the dog as Philip was about to jump overboard.  He was captured again, had the pistol to his head and fired, but it misfired three times, the fourth time if fired but into the water not at Philip.

  Philip’s journey on the pirate ship which Lowe now called “Fancy” took him to Newfoundland, to the Azores, Canary Islands and ending up near Roatan Harbor in the Caribbean.  It was here on March 8, 1723, 9 months into his journey that Philip had another chance to escape.  He convinced the cooper who was going ashore to take him along, as this was an island and there was no way he could go anyplace.


“I went into the boat with only an Onasburg frock and trousers on and a Mill’d cap upon my head, having neither shirt, shoes nor stockings nor anything else about me; whereas, had I been aware of such an opportunity I could have prepared myself something better.”

 Once ashore Ashton helped fill the casks and take them to the boat and then nonchalantly began to stroll towards the woods.  Once he lost sight of the cooper “I betook myself to my Heels and ran as fast as the thickness of the Bushes and my naked feet would allow me.”

 So here Philip remained, having no way to make fire or prepare food, no shelter and no clothing.  He did have plenty of water, fruit trees and tortoise eggs on the island.  There were plenty of coconuts but he had no utensils to open them with. He built shelter by taking branches that had fallen from trees and stuck them into the ground, split the palmetto leaves and covered the branches.  Unfortunately Philip was a poor swimmer and therefore could not swim from one island to the next to see what else may be available to him. The other problem was that his feet took a beating walking on the hot sand and thick brush with nothing to protect his feet.

Philip remained alone and ailing on the island for nine months when sometime in November 1723 he spotted a canoe coming towards him with an elderly Scotsman in it who had fled the Spaniards. The man remained for several days until one day he went out to hunt some wild hogs and a gust a wind came up and the Scotsman never returned. He had left Philip with some pork, a knife, a bottle of powder, tobacco, tongs and flint so now Philip could make a fire and cut up some of the tortoise for food. He now began to gain some strength.

About two months later while roaming the island he found a canoe but he didn’t recognize it as the Scotsman’s. Now he had some transportation to visit some of the other islands.

Around June 1724, now two years since he had left Marblehead he took his canoe to a small island, leaving his fire burning on Roatan. He spied two large canoes following the smoke towards his island so he headed back and although being scared introduced himself to the visitors.  These men remained for six or seven months with Philip and nursed him back to health.  It was several months later that Philip and his friends set out for Bonacco to gather food.  While there a boat came ashore to gather water and Philip noticed they were Englishman and made friends with them.  They were part of a fleet heading to Jamaica for trade and one of the Brigantines was from Salem, MA.  The commander was Capt. Dove who Philip knew and asked him for a passage home which Dove did and paid him for his work. It was the end of March 1725 that they set sail for Jamaica and the first of April they went through the Gulf of Florida heading to Salem Harbor where they arrived Saturday evening, the first of May 1725.

               “Two years, ten months and fifteen days, after I was first taken by the Pirate Lowe and two years and near two months after I had made my escape from him upon Roatan Island. I went the same evening to my father’s house, where I was received, as one coming to them from the dead, with all imaginable surprise of joy.”


It is not known whether Philip remained in the fishing industry after his return. He did marry and raise a family in Marblehead.  He married Jane Gallison on December 8, 1726 and she died on December 10, 1727, seven days after the birth of their daughter Sarah. Following her death he married Sarah Bartlett (daughter of William Bartlett and Sarah Purchase) on July 5, 1729. Together they had 6 children.

               You can read more of Philips adventures in Gregory Flemming’s book At the Point of Cutlass available on Amazon.com.  Also available in reprint on Amazon is Ashton’s Memorial: an History of The Strange Adventures of Philip Ashton, Jr. of Marblehead. They are both very interesting at least to me, who can just picture Philip’s whole adventure in my mind, especially walking thru the streets of Marblehead on his return home.   Marbleheader’s are a strong and hearty lot!


Who was that woman in the window?

Buchanon, photo margaret buchanan

And who had one of these?

blue blanket edited

Who remembers or better yet, still has their beautiful wool hand woven carriage blanket from the lady who sat in the window?  This is mine from when I was a baby, probably by now it should be an artifact in the Smithsonian.  Of course I still have it; it is a piece of Marblehead memorabilia.

I remember walking by 106 Washington Street, where Tory’s jewelry store is now and watching Miss Margaret Buchanan sitting in the window weaving a way, thinking how fun that would be.

Margaret Buchanan was born on February 27, 1883 in Alexandria, Scotland to Donald and Agnes Whytock Buchanan.  She had two brothers Robert Chalmers Buchanan (1885 – 1979)and  John (1889 – 1980) and a sister, Elizabeth (Tibby) Mary Buchanan (1891-1988). 

Miss Buchanan came to the United States from Scotland in 1911. She and her brother Robert left Glasgow, Scotland on April 29, 1911 aboard the SS California and arrived in Brooklyn, NY on May 8, 1911.  She became a naturalized citizen on September 26, 1917 listing her occupation as a housekeeper and residing at 7 Revere Street Place, Boston, MA. In 1920 she lived at 7 Healey Street in Cambridge, MA with her brother Robert, who was a mechanic in a typewriter shop. According to her passport application of 1923 she was 5’2″ tall, hazel eyes, brown hair and medium complexion. She took several trips back to Scotland to visit with family. It appears her sister remained in Scotland but her brothers came to the United States to live.  In 1924 she was trained as a weaver at Berea College in Kentucky.  She moved to Front Street in Marblehead from Cambridge, MA and opened her shop known as the Buchanan Craft Shop and in 1939 moved to 106 Washington Street.

Miss Buchanan specialized in hand loomed Scottish plaids or tartans, each pattern representing a Scottish family. I tried to determine what clan my blanket was from but didn’t have much luck.  She had two looms, a large one for individual lap or knee robes and a smaller one for tightly woven articles like neckties.  Baby blankets were her most popular item, selling out every Christmas. She received orders from all over the world mainly from tourist who had visited Marblehead and admired her work. She trained her niece, Mrs. Archibald (Nancy) MacDonald, the daughter of Margaret’s brother Robert.

In 1976 at the age of 93 she was forced to move her shop or lose her business. She was given a six weeks notice by the owner of the building to find a new place to live as he was selling the business. I believe she moved to Powder House Court according to a 1976-77 nosy book.  Margaret died ten years later in August 1986 in a Danvers Nursing Home at the age of 103.