Then Marblehead Forever! God bless the good old town!

May she never shame her noble ancestry!

She was first in Revolution, was first in ’61 !

And from whiskey bondage we will keep her free!

 Was everyone singing? In honor of Patriot’s Day I will tell you about my 5th great grandfather, Captain Joel Smith who served in the Revolution. I don’t know much about him so I am hoping to connect with someone who may.   I am sure all of us ‘headers have at least one patriot in our family.  How many of you are members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, (DAR) or Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)?  I am not, but I could be as many of my direct ancestors served in the Revolution in 1776.  Capt. Joel Smith was the Captain of Company One of General John Glover’s 21st Regiment.

This is a copy of Joel Smith’s service record found in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/213956. He was engaged in the war on April 24, 1775 for a service of 3 months and 16 days; he may have returned to duty in October 1775. In November, 1777 he was raised to serve in the Continental Army for a term of eight months.  


 As far as I can tell Captain Joel Smith was born June 29, 1734 to Joel Smith and Sarah Haley in Biddeford, Maine. He was married twice. He married his first wife, Sarah Blackler on March 3, 1757 in Marblehead and she died April 17, 1769. He then married Sarah Burrill on May 7, 1772. Joel died June 11, 1781 and is buried in Old Burial Hill, Marblehead, MA. He was a carpenter by trade. Joel and Sarah Blackler had 4 children:

  1. Sarah Smith – born August 27, 1757 and died August 30, 1844. She married Phillip Follet on January 11, 1778 in Marblehead and he died just over a month later on February 25, 1778. She married again to William Hooper Reynolds December 6, 1779
  2. Mary Smith – born September 18, 1762 and died on April 8, 1838. She married Michael Trefry on December 19, 1780. They named their second son Joel Smith Trefry.
  3. Benjamin Smith – born April 14, 1767 and died July 12, 1823. He married Margaret Ashton (remember that name from Marblehead’s Robinson Crusoe) on April 28, 1781. They named their fourth child Joel Smith
  4. Ruth Smith- born March 23, 1769 and died September 17, 1769.  

It was at this point that Joel’s first wife Sarah Blacker died on April 17, 1769 leaving Joel with 3 small children to raise. He remained a widower for 3 years and on May 7, 1772 he married Sarah Burrill in Lynn, MA.  They had 2 children before she died August 25, 1777, most likely as a result of childbirth as her daughter Lydia died on August 23, 1777.  

  1. Anne Smith was born December 29, 1775 and died March 16, 1781.  
  2. Lydia Smith was born August 14, 1777 and died August 23, 1777  

Once again Joel was left with several young children, a daughter and his second wife to bury within two days of each other.  

On April 12, 1772 Joel signed a deed to purchase a house from Ruth Witt, a widow from Marblehead for 14 pounds lawful money. He purchased the house and land formerly owned by Mark Morse, a fisherman. I need to do a lot of plotting and platting to determine where this is, but I have a copy of the deed to help me out.  On July 16, 1766 Joel and his wife Sarah sold to Sanford Flack for 20 pounds lawful money the land that was willed to Sarah by her father William Blackler.  She had received 2/3 of his real estate. 

When Joel died an inventory of his estate was taken by his executor William Hooper Reynolds, husband of his daughter Sarah. It appears he may have been a pretty well off man as his real estate totaled £350 (350 pounds) and his personal estate was £332 and with some old debts paid to him his estate was valued at about £557 or about $80,000.  Some of his belongings were a black walnut desk, mahogany table, round chair with a looking glass foot, delft plates, wine glasses, a large bible, brass candlesticks, 3 pairs of gloves, and 3 pair of deerskins women’s slippers, clapboards and nails. His lot of land and house was divided three ways to his heirs. 

I wonder if Captain Joel Smith helped row George Washington across the Delaware or what role he actually played in the Revolutionary War.

Joel Smith grave


More Information on Marblehead and the Revolutionary War can be found on the Marblehead Museum website http://www.marbleheadmuseum.org/archives/marblehead-soldiers-sailors-and-pows-in-the-american-revolution



A Bridge in Barnegat??

Postcard cropped

A Bridge in Barnegat??

We all know there is only one way in and one way out of Marblehead. Could it be that all those times when a tourist stopped and asked me how to get to Gloucester and I told them to go to Fort Sewall and take the bridge, it really wasn’t that big of a lie – there really was a bridge in town once. This story was printed in the Marblehead Messenger December, 1929 and was told by Joseph Stanley Robinson.  I take no credit for this story, I just thought it was interesting and I love the way they wrote before text messaging language took over.

“Once upon a time there was a bridge in Barnegat. There had been a railroad bridge on Village Street so you could cross the tracks but we know that wasn’t in Barnegat. The Barnegat Bridge was unknown to most Marbleheaders. It was the dividing line between Marblehead and the tiny bit of shore and rocky hillside known as Barnegat.  ‘Just over the bridge,’ they used to say, and nothing more need be said. Just over the bridge — that was Barnegat.”

“This bridge crossed the old road leading from town to this little village, this cluster of houses along the shore, where fisherman lived when the town was founded; the oldest part of town. Before paved roads and covered drains there were many brooks that used to flow across the slopes of the town heading towards the ocean. One of these brooks, large and powerful by the time it reached Barnegat, rushed down the side of the steep hill rising from Orne Street, swept across the street and splashed and swished over the stony beach to join the waters of Little Harbor”. (This was High Street going onto what is now Doak’s Lane.) “On occasions the brook became a raging torrent and tore great gullies out of the road.  A bridge was needed if communication was to be maintained between Barnegat and the village.  Not a very large bridge for the road was but a lane wide enough for the two-wheel carts to pass along.  The bridge was made of great rough-sawn planks supported on heavy timbers.  The bridge never wore out even though it saw hard use as the fish carts with their heavy loads taxed the strength of the timbers and planking.  It never wore out – it was washed away.  In the spring, when the snow on the hillside began to melt into the brook they swelled into streams and the waters rushed madly along their course to the sea.  Each spring the bridge at Barnegat was the victim of this torrent.  If it was not washed away it was in dire need of repair. Often times it was found washed off its foundation and sometimes found on the beach.”

“Modern drains and modern streets were built to withstand the surging waters, but the road to Barnegat remains – Orne Street, one of the ancient roads of the town. On one side was Marblehead on the other was Barnegat.”


Map of Barnegat    Black square outline on right is about where the bridge would have been
High Street
Current View of High St. to Orne St.  on the right by the hydrant is Doak’s Lane about where the bridge was.

Mr. Robinson also told us the history of Barnegat in an article in the Marblehead Messenger, March 7, 1930, just for those of you who do not know what “Barnegat” is. According to legend “Fisherman, one and all, were the founders of Barnegat, and a more uncouth assemblage of ruffians probably could not be found anywhere in the colony.  It is said you could tell a Barnegater half a mile away, when he said anything he said it for all to hear and the well – known “Marblehead language” was founded.  Residents of the more respectable part of the town began to poke fun at the noisy tribe of outlaws.  If something was lost in town people would say ‘Oh, you will find it down among those pirates in Barnegat.’” The name Barnegat is still used today as the distinguishing title of a tiny rugged bit of seacoast in Marblehead.  I am proud to be a Barnegater!!!

Robinson twins   Marblehead Mass Old photos
Charles and Joseph Robinson                     found on Facebook  Marblehead Mass. Old photo’s.


Joseph Stanley Robinson and his twin Charles Hidden Robinson were born March 17, 1903 in Marblehead to Fred and Emeline L. Caswell Robinson. Charles remained in Marblehead marrying Mildred L. Holloway. He died April 13, 1976.  Joseph married Elizabeth Childs on June 21, 1929 residing in Marblehead for a while, summering in Meredith, NH before moving there permanently. They had one daughter Sylvia L. Robinson. Joseph died on April 29, 1985 in Meredith and is buried in Waterside Cemetery. His occupation was that of a writer and reporter. In 1936 he published his book “The Story of Marblehead.” He wrote other stories like the ones I quoted that were published in the Marblehead Messenger from time to time.


 “Barnegat Bridge” first told by J.S. Robinson and reprinted in the December, 1929 issue of the Marblehead Messenger.

 “Barnegat” by J. S. Robinson printed in the Marblehead Messenger March 7, 1930.




Marblehead’s Warwick Theatre

old Warwick copy

Warwick Theatre   a/k/a ” The Warhoop”

What was the first movie you saw at the Marblehead Warwick Theatre? I believe mine was Old Yeller in probably the early 1960’s.  I think I went with my cousins, Linda, Lois and Chipper.

A few weeks ago on one of the Marblehead Facebook pages someone asked the question of when the theatre was turned from one theatre to two, so I thought I would tell a little history of this town landmark. In July 1916 a group of businessmen formed the Warwick Theater Company of Marblehead.  The incorporators were:  W. L. Terhune and his son Everit, W. H. Bunting, Clarence H. Holloway, Greely S. Curtis, Herbert Humphrey, Nathaniel C. Lyon, W.C. Gregory, B.W. Hobart, H.J. Adams, Samuel Shuman, Calvin Tilden, Arthur W. Hugeley, Mrs. Nellie C. Huguley, D.B. H. Power, Charles W. Conklin and Richard W. Drown.  Greely S. Curtis was the President, W.L. Terhune, Treasurer and Business Manager; Calvin Tilden, Clerk.  Mr. R.W. Drown was in charge of the producing management as he was connected with many successful theatres in the country. The organization purchased what was the old bowling alley on Pleasant Street next to the Rechabite Building from Mr. Herbert T. Curtis. The bowling alley was demolished and construction on the theater began.

The name “Warwick” was from a quaint English town with a historical castle. They decided that the name was something different from the ordinary names used for theaters in the time. Mr. Terhune once remarked “Unless I am greatly mistaken, Marblehead will have in the Warwick Theater the handsomest and neatest little house of its kind of any town of its size in New England.”

Warwick-Theater-Dan Dixey from Dave Crowley's site copy

The Warwick was designed by Architect Penn Varney of Lynn, MA. The building was 49 feet across the front and 125 feet deep, built of stucco walls.  The auditorium was 45 by 100 feet and was 23 feet in height providing for good ventilation.  The stage was 26 feet by 15 feet enclosed with a plush asbestos curtain, similar to those being built in New York City in that time. In the front of the building was a 20 foot square foyer with the ticket booth in the center.  Up a small flight of stairs were two large entrances to the auditorium which had a floor that sloped toward the stage.  The seating capacity at that time was about 1000 folding chairs.

The woodwork was all mahogany and the walls were painted green on the lower half and the upper was a rose color. The building was heated with steam and lit by electricity.  The stage had white pillars and trellises decorated with flowers. In front of the stage in the area of a theatre usually used as an orchestra pit, in the Warwick there was a large orchestra organ.  There were two toilet rooms, as they were called, in the corners of the auditorium one for men and one for women.  The projector was in a small room over the entrance of the building and was made fireproof by using bricks 12 inches thick and lined with asbestos. There were several extra exits so in case of fire the theatre could be evacuated in 3 minutes.  There was a large American Flag which was donated by Clarence H. Holloway and a second one donated by W. L. Terhune who supervised the construction of the theatre.

Cutler Titus of Swampscott was the general contractor for the project. A.J. Sanford of Marblehead did the heating and ventilation; Connell and McDermott of Swampscott did the plumbing; Ralph Melzard of Lynn was the electrician; and the stage setting was constructed by Essex Lumber of Lynn.  The Pipe Organ was made by Seeburg and Co. of Chicago and installed by M. Steinert and Sons of Boston.

The employees on opening night were: R. W. Drown, General Manager; W. L. Terhune, Business Manager; E.B.Thomas, House Manager; John Morgan, Ticket Seller; Knott Bartlett, Ticket Taker and Caretaker; Miss Gertrude Vincent, Ticket Seller.

opening night warwick

Opening night was April 9, 1917 featuring E. H. Sothern in “The Man of Mystery.” As was customary in the early days of movie theatres there was an opening act and this night it was Hughie Mack.  During this week the Warwick also showed the moving pictures taken of the infamous Tenth Deck Division of Marblehead of the Massachusetts Naval Militia as they left for WW I,(You can learn more about the Tenth Deck and the War in my book “Marblehead and WW I: At Home and Overseas.”  The receipts for opening night were given to the committee in town in charge of raising funds for the dependents of the Marbleheader’s serving in the war.  I am wondering if this had something to do with why some of us called it the “War –hoop”, as it was opened during World War 1.

From what I found the McNulty’s purchased the theatre in 1922 from Fred M. Libby who was the former owner of the Lyceum in town. It remained in the McNulty family until they sold it in 1999. Many renovations were done over time to keep the theatre modern.  In December 1929 they installed talking movie equipment and spring cushioned upholstered chairs. The walls and ceiling were repainted a light shade of buff and the lower half of the walls were green.  The cost of these upgrades cost about $26,000. The most drastic renovations were done in 1980 when it became a twin cinema. In 2012 it was reopened under the name of Warwick Place.  Thankfully we still have the marquee hanging outside.  In 1948 the McNulty family commissioned C. I. Brink, the company that built the Citgo Sign in Kenmore Square, to construct the neon and steel marquee. Some of the people that worked when the McNulty family owned it were: Bob Manley, the chief projectionist, Helen Lund, head cashier and Tom Caswell who managed the concession stand.

So be truthful – how many of you tried to sneak into the theatre thru the side door on the right side of the theatre. I never did, but I admit I did open the door to let someone in!!.

Copyright 2016 @ Marge Armstrong     Marblehead’s Warwick Theatre.wordpress.com