Jane Clemmons Martin 1809 – 1871 Marblehead’s First Female Lighthouse Keeper


Jane Clemmons Martin my 2nd cousin 5 times removed, was one of ten children born to Ambrose and Elizabeth (Clemmons) Martin. She was baptized on June 25, 1809 in the First Congregational Church of Marblehead, MA. She must have been a hearty soul as she followed in her father’s footsteps and was the first Light House Keeper on the East Coast. Ambrose was the keeper of Baker Island Light for 25 years, retiring in 1850. Jane had lived with her father and assisted him in taking care of Baker’s Light so was well qualified to handle Marblehead’s Light House.  

The light house was put into operation on October 10, 1835. On August 30, 1831 the Marblehead citizens requested that a lighthouse be erected on the point of the Neck at the entrance to the harbor. Congress appointed $4500 for the lighthouse on June 30, 1834. The building was a 23 foot white tower with a keeper’s cottage attached to the tower by a covered walkway. There were 10 lamps inside the octagonal lantern which was fueled by whale oil. The fixed white light was 53 feet above mean high water. In 1857 a sixth order Fresnel lamp replaced the old system of multiple lamps (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fresnel_lens). Mr. Darling stated to Congress in 1843 that “the tower is leaky about the window casing, there being no recess in the brick for the window frames. The lantern sweats considerably, and formerly I wiped up large quantities of water accumulating from this cause. The dwelling house is very damp, the water comes through the walls and the chimneys are all smoky.” jane-c-martin-boston-transcript

In the Boston Transcript newspaper dated November 17, 1860 we learn that “Miss Jane C. Martin has been appointed Keeper of the Marblehead Light when Ezekiel Darling, the first Light House Keeper resigned due to poor health and being blind. She maintained the light from 1860 to 1863 when James Goodwin replaced her. Her job as keeper was to carry the night’s supply of oil up the 134 steps every morning to fill the well and then polish the lens and pulled down the curtains that prevented the sun from discoloring the lens. Before 7 PM she would climb the stairs again to fire the light.  

She had quite an adventure at the lighthouse in February 1863 when the Schooner Mary E. Hiltz, John Hiltz, Master went ashore on Marblehead Neck during a Sunday night snowstorm at about 9 o’clock. The Captain mistaking the Marblehead Light for Eastern Point Light and the schooner was totally wrecked and one of the crew, Thomas Christopher of Newfoundland was drowned. The six remaining crew members remained on the wreck until Monday morning when they were successful in coming ashore, having lost everything but the clothes on their backs. They reached the lighthouse where Miss Jane C. Martin, the lighthouse keeper made them as comfortable as possible. They then went into town where they were supplied with new and dry clothing. The body of Mr. Christopher was recovered on Tuesday morning and after a funeral service in the stone church he was properly interred.

In 1850 Jane lived with her parents and two siblings in Salem, MA. Sometime between 1850 and 1860 she moved to 150 Webster Street, East Boston and lived with her brother Elbridge Gerry Martin and his children. He was in charge of a pilot boat in Boston. I would presume she went to live with him to help him with his children as he became a widower in July 1852 when his first wife Rebecca Homan Dixey died leaving him with five children ages 1 to 10. In 1854 he married Ceceline Giddings who left him a widower again when she died in 1857, after giving him another son.

In 1870 Jane was also living in Boston with her brother.

She appeared to be an independent and adventurous woman. According to the newspaper article in the Boston Traveler on September 17, 1860 she was involved in a carriage accident. “She was driving through Chelsea Street in her buggy when the horse became frightened and ran off at a great pace until the buggy collided with a wagon which caused the lady to be thrown in violence to the ground cutting her head badly and several other injuries.” She was taken to her residence and a physician was called.

She never married and died on November 22, 1871 in Boston, MA from kidney disease.

 marblehead1896The lighthouse design changed in 1893 when a request was made for a new light and tower and a decision was made to build the 105 foot cast iron tower which is still standing.



Inauguration Day March 4, 1865

Benjamin Franklin MartinAs we approach the historic inauguration of 2017, I thought I would share with you a letter my 2nd great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Martin wrote home to his mother on March 5, 1865. It tells his experience witnessing the 2nd inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC. At the time Benjamin Martin was serving garrison duty at Fort Barnard, VA as part of the 4th Regiment of Mass Heavy Artillery.

Headquarters No. 2 Batt

4th Regt. Mass Heavy Artillery

Fort Barnard, VA  March 5th ’65. 

 March 5th ‘65

           Dear Mother

            Your letter of the 28th of Feb came duly to hand by which as I am glad to learn you are all well. In regard to those shoes I am not prepared to say anything about as I have forgotten what there is there so if there is nothing said say nothing, I will endeavor to let you know more about it should occasion require but I do not think it will.

Yesterday Abraham was inaugurated for his second term of four years which I had the pleasure of witnessing. It had been foul weather for two days previous and was foul in the morning blowing and raining hard and lighting up occasionally looking very much like a rainy day but I had made up my mind to go and see him inaugurated as I may never have a chance to see another so I started in the rain it rained more or less all the way going over and some after arriving but the possession started about 11 o’clock from just above the White House and proceeded towards the capital where after seeing it pass I wended my steps arriving there just about in season to not have to wait long when the dignitaries assembled on the platform in front of the east side of the capitol and from which the President delivered his inaugural address and the oath administered to him by Chief Justice Chase. There was one peculiar feature about it which made considerable impression on me that was the way the weather acted, as I told you it was raining well it was thick and slightly raining while the prossession was moving towards the capitol after arriving the clouds began to grow thinner and finally when the President began his address the sun shone out brightly and it was very warm everything passing off pleasantly which I could not help thinking was symbolic of the nations destiny.

Not only the sun shone brightly but the moon visible and also a star which everybody seemed to be gazing at as it was called the star of peace. But there was one thing about it which was anything but agreeable that was the mud it was horrid about as much as you could wade through in some places. I started for the Fort about 6 o’clock and arrived about eight walking as fast as I could at that as I was in a hurry to get here as there was something up. I immediately as soon as I arrived helped get everything in readiness for an attack being ready we lay on our arms all night turning out at three o’clock in the morning and remaining until after day light. I am well and send my love to all and will write more in my next as this sheet is full.

                                                            From you affectionate son


I love the way he wrote his letters. My favorite line in this letter is “Not only the sun shone brightly but the moon was visible and also a star which everybody seemed to be gazing at as it was called the ‘star of peace’”. Let’s hope one shines from up above on Friday, January 20, 2017.




Charles (Jake) Emery Smith 1900- 1942

I was going thru some family papers and came across an envelope addressed to my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Smith, 24 Orne Street, Marblehead, MA. The return address was from W. C. Sills, 31 St. James Avenue, Boston. Inside was a typed letter from October 4, 1927 telling my grandparents he had enclosed a bank book showing a $100.00 deposit for Miss Barbara Ann Smith. He wrote “please accept this gift from Mrs. Sills and myself along with our congratulations on the arrival of the new baby. We sincerely hope that Mrs. Smith and the baby continuing to get along nicely.”   This money was for the birth of my mother.


W.C. Sills




I had heard my mother and aunt mention Mr. Sills as the man whose yacht my grandfather sailed to Florida for him. We have some photos of my grandfather and the yacht “Charlotte” and I had also heard mention of the Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield. I decided to investigate who this Mr. Sills was. His name was William Clarence Sills and he was born either May 31, 1878 or June 1, 1878 in Belleville, Canada (depending on which document you use.) He arrived in the US by train via the Suspension Bridge in New York on September 12, 1908. His declaration of immigration was dated September 25, 1908. According to his Mason card he died on October 9, 1935 and is buried in Belleville, Ontario. . He married a woman by the name of Charlotte Martin about 1899. They had one child who died young.

Mr. Sills worked for the Chevrolet Motor Company beginning in 1912. He moved to New York in 1914 and took the position of general direction of sales for Chevrolet. In 1921 he returned to Boston and resumed the distribution of Chevrolet cars in New England.

I think he had a summer home in Marblehead which is how he met my grandfather. At some point he purchased the Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield for his summer home. He won many prizes at the Topsfield Fair for his farm animals. My aunt remembers his summer home in Marblehead was near Riverhead Beach and the lawn sloped down to the water.

In 1926 he retired from W. C. Sills Inc. and in 1930 he lived at 130 Franklin Street in Newton, MA with his wife Charlotte E. and 3 servants. His occupation was that executive of an automobile business.

The Boston Herald of October 11, 1935 printed the obituary of William C. Sills. “ He was 57 years old and died at his summer home, the Alfalfa Farm apparently of a heart attack. He had been in excellent health during the day enjoying horseback and automobile rides. Early in his life he was involved in the express business in Canada and came to the US as an employee of the National Express Company. Believing that the automobile business would expand he got a position with the Alvan T. Fuller company, which he held for several years. He then went to the Noyes Buick Organization and finally became the general sales manager of the Chevrolet Company. He became the eastern regional manager with headquarters in New York and then returned to Boston to organize the Sills Chevrolet Corporation taking over the Chevrolet distribution in New England.” When he died his estate was worth $1,050,000. His wife Charlotte died in 1961 and had an estate worth $8,500,000 and she bequeathed it to many charities and to her brother and sister.

Charles “Jake” Emery Smith


Charles Emery Smith, also called “Jake”, my grandfather was born September 28. 1900 in Marblehead, the son of Charles Henry Smith and Ruth Ann Standley.   Charles married my grandmother, Emma Woodfin Foss on October 27, 1923 in Marblehead, MA. He died August 6, 1942 in the Old Mary Alley Hospital. He was a fisherman and spent his life on the water and boating. In the 1930 census his occupation was that of a marine engineer on a private yacht. Mr. Sills’s I presume. He worked for Mr. Sills until the depression when Mr. Sills could no longer employ him. I don’t know how many journey’s he made but I found mention in the Marblehead Messenger November 5, 1925 that “Charles E. Smith left Lawley’s Shipyard, Boston on the Charlotte II, a yacht belonging to W. C. Sills of Florida.

The Charlotte



Jake in Uniform and Mr. Sills
Perhaps Mrs. Sills on Left with Mr. Sills

Perhaps Charles practiced his yachting skills on Black Joe’s Pond because I found an article in the Marblehead Messenger in January 1929 that the Barnegat Ice Boat Club was organized. “ A group of local fellows organized a club and the following officers were elected, “ Capt. Benjamin Stevens, Jr. Commodore; Capt. Emerson Goodwin, Vice Commander and Capt. Dan Peach, Rear Commodore. At present two boats are nearing completion, one owned by Clifford Homan and the other by Jake Smith. It is the intention of the club to race at their camp on Crystal Lake, Henniker, NH.”

From the Marblehead Messenger February 1, 1929 there was an article entitled “Ice Boats to Compete on Black Joe’s” “Two Craft Made in Secret make their appearance for the first time. With the advent of ice-boating on Black Joe’s Pond, in Barnegat a new and thrilling sport makes it first bow to sport fans in town. Secretly the skippers of the two speedy craft have been hard at work for several weeks, making their ice boats and only recently have completed their difficult tasks and given them a trial spin on the pond. The two skippers are Clifford Homan and Jake Smith, who last held races together on the pond, but they had only small boats which were crudely built compared with their present craft. Homan’s ice boat carries a mast 14 feet high and a huge sail. Smith’s boat was even larger, its mast towered 20 feet and the boom swung 16 feet in length. The boat met with an accident on her trial trip around the pond and the mast was broken.

I never met my grandfather as he died when his two daughters were young, however they shared some memories of him with me. My mother remembers him putting her in their wheelbarrow and pushing her from their home on Pond Street down to the beach across from Aunt Sadie’s and taking her out lobstering in his boat “ MarBra.” She describes him as a gentle, thoughtful and caring man. My Aunt remembers the workshop he had in the back yard of their home. She used to love to go out there to help him make lobster pots and knit nets. The shop had a potbelly stove and the room was always cozy. (Must be in the genes because I have the same memory with my step father, going to his shop and banging nails into the traps and treating them with creosote. 

Would love to see any photos of the ice boats on Black Joes’ pond if anyone runs across any please share.

Who was Caroline Etta Chase a/k/a Henrietta Foss

Bill Cobbett

When I started at the Marblehead High School my grandmother Emma Woodfin Foss Smith told me to behave myself because Mr. William Cobbett, the high school teacher was my cousin ( my 3rd cousin 4 times removed, I found out later.)  At that time I didn’t know half the town was related to me and of course I never thought to ask how he was related.  So I tried to behave myself. I had Mr. Cobbett for my homeroom teacher and I made quite an appearance on the first day of school.  I had my new bass weejuns on, a lovely (?) jumper that I had made (green, brown and rust colors) and into the classroom I went, flat on my face.  Those weejuns were slippery before you scuffed them up.

So how did Mr. Cobbett become my cousin? My great grandparents William Lackey Foss and Nancy Stacey Goodwin had 14 children.  When I first started my genealogy work I found and listed them all, when they were born, married and died and that was that, I thought.  I found no Cobbett’s there. Henrietta Foss (the first) was born in 1853 and died in 1855, she obviously never married.   Henrietta Foss (the second) was born in 1858 and that was all I could find on her.  She was a year old when her father died and 6 years old when her mother died, what happened to her and her siblings? Her mother Nancy Stacey Goodwin Foss did remarry in 1873 to Joseph Pratt Powers. 

There was a Henrietta Foss born to William and Nancy in the Marblehead Vital Records, so we know she was born. She did not appear in the 1870 census with her mother and siblings although her sister Kate did, however we know that Kate died in 1867 at the age of 3 months.  Depending on who gave the information to the census taker they may have given an incorrect name and I believe this 2 year old was Henrietta.  Poor Henrietta did not show up in the 1880 census either.  By now she would have been 12.  Her brother Clinton, age 15 at the time, was living with his sister Mehitible and her husband Michael Phillips, but where was Henrietta?

 In this timeframe it was not unusual for families to “farm out” their children if they were unable to care for them and their parents had died.  Family stories said that Henrietta Foss was “taken in” by Charles and Caroline Chase and she does appear in the 1880 census with this family with the name Caroline Etta Chase, age 12. Perhaps the “Etta” was for Henrietta.   I have found no formal adoption papers for her so perhaps they just took her in and started calling her Caroline Chase.  Her marriage certificate indicates she was the daughter of Charles and Caroline Chase but there is no birth record for her under a Chase.  

I was researching at the Marblehead Historical Society in Marblehead and came across some Foss genealogy. A woman in Saugus had researched this line so I got in touch with her.  She was the granddaughter of Henrietta Foss!! She told me that Henrietta a.k.a Caroline Chase was well into adult hood before she knew she was actually a Foss. One day her sister Lizzie Foss Perkins knocked on her door and said “Hi, I am your sister” and told her the story of the family.  It seems that Lizzie was also “farmed out” and lived with the Perkins family who later became her in-laws.  

So everyone but poor Henrietta knew that Caroline Etta Chase was really Henrietta Foss, including my grandmother and Bill Cobbett.

 George Frank Cobbett was born 1865 in Woburn, MA and married Henrietta Foss a/k/a Caroline Etta chase in 1886. They had 3 children and lived in Lynn.

            Harry Leroy Cobbett 1886 – 1930

            William Putnam Cobbett 1888 – 1965

            Ruth Evelyn Cobbett 1904 – 1999.



Foss, Henrietta  George Frank Cobbett 50th ann
Henrietta Foss and George Frank Cobbett
Foss, clinton
Henrietta’s Brother Clinton.  Similar features

It was William Cobbett who married Barbara Abigail O’Donnell and they had a son William Kenneth Cobbett, born in 1933 and  died in 2012 who was a great Marblehead High School Science teacher. 

This is not the only puzzle on this Foss line. Another mystery remains in this Foss family of where did Henrietta’s brother, Charles come from?  There is no birth record of him; he just appears in the 1855 and 1860 census as being Charles Foss, son of William Foss and Nancy Stacey Goodwin Foss.  Maybe it was an oversight and he was not reported at the time of his birth or was in “taken in” by the Foss family? His marriage and death records indicate he was the son of William and Nancy, but perhaps he never knew!

 I have a feeling Henrietta and the entire Foss clan may not be Foss’s at all and may have had a  name change back in the 1700’s.  I have found no connection between my Foss line and the two New England lines in NH or Maine.  Will the real Foss family please step forward!

P.S.  This type of blog is also known as “cousin bait”  so if you know any Foss, Cobbett or Chase families please pass along.  Maybe I will be able to solve the Foss mystery.

Green Street Playground Part II Joel Warren Reynolds 1876 -1931

Joel Warren Reynolds
Joel W. Reynolds


It was voted at the 1932 Marblehead Town Meeting to rename Green Street Playground to the Joel W. Reynolds Playground. It was also decided at the same town meeting to make this the playground where the high school athletic teams would play their games. Joel was a great athlete in Marblehead who passed away in 1931. He was also my third cousin 3 times removed in my Smith line. My fifth great grandfather, Joel Smith was the 2nd great grandfather of Joel W. Reynolds.  

He was born in Marblehead on February 22, 1876 to the Hon. William Reynolds and Elizabeth Allen Magoun. He attended Marblehead High School but did not graduate from there; instead he passed the entrance exams and went straight to school at Bridgewater Normal School. (Normal Schools were schools created to train teachers.) He was the fastest runner at Bridgewater and also pitched on the school baseball team.  After graduating from Bridgewater he was employed as a teacher in the State Normal School at Castine, ME where he taught successfully for six years, at the end of each year he was promoted and given a pay increase. In 1901 after receiving great recommendations from both the principal and the superintendent in Castine, he was appointed principal of the Marblehead High School.

Joel was married on October 21, 1897 in Marblehead to Carrie Gertrude Shepard, known as Gertrude. She was the daughter of William H. Shepard and Carrie Goodwin, born on March 13, 1878 and she passed away on June 26, 1958. She graduated from Wheaton College and was the first female graduate student at MIT. They had 5 children born in Marblehead:

  • Morrill Shepard Reynolds   May 15, 1898 – 1984. He married Theresa Gill in 1925.
  • Joel Warren Reynolds, Jr.   July 22, 1901 – 1979. He married Marion Newhall.
  • William Hooper Reynolds   July 22, 1901 – 1973. He was single and an English professor.
  • Carolyn Edith Reynolds       February 21, 1905 – 1997. She married Ralph H. Morse in 1934.
  • Margaret R. Reynolds         March 8, 1907 – 2004. She married Arba Swain Taylor in 1942.
Joel Reynolds and wife edited
Joel and Gertrude


Joel continued to play baseball for various teams in the North Shore Baseball League. In the Marblehead Messenger of August 26, 1904 there was an article about his athletic career:

            “Joel W. Reynolds, now playing right field for the Lynn Association Nine, was born in Marblehead and is the principal of the high school there.  Everybody recommends Joe as being a perfect gentleman; he is popular and a favorite on the team.  In Marblehead he was known as the town’s fastest baseball product.  He was also an excellent runner.  At a State track meet held in Taunton he won two trophies for running, one for the 100 yard dash which he did in 10. 2-5 seconds and the 50 yard dash in 5. 3-4 seconds.  His first real baseball work was the North Shore teams of several years ago, where he pitched some fine ball. At that time the North Shore Athletic Club had the strongest semi-professional team in the area.  Joe had retired from the diamond to devote his time to his school work, but his friends in Marblehead insisted he play and that he did in the Young Men’s Temperance Team of Marblehead.  The Lynn team scouted him and asked him to play short stop and then right field for their team.”  

Joel also learned to play tennis, playing at the Outing Park which was located next to Seaside Park. This park was run by the YMCA and there were four tennis courts. Joel was one of the star players of the Robinson Farm tennis club, of which he was one of the founders.

It seems that sports and teaching were not his only talents. In an article in the Boston Herald on March 27, 1921 there was an article about his fad and hobby of raising tomatoes.  At that time he was the sub-master at the George W. Putnam School in Roxbury. At his home on Prospect Street in Marblehead he raised 30 varieties of tomatoes.  He raised some tomatoes that grew in clusters like grapes, some shaped like pears and others like peaches.  He obtained the seeds from a chef of a large hotel in the area.  It was said that his wife “had to purchase green tomatoes if she wanted them for pickling as her husband produces nothing but ripe ones and so early that the supply is exhausted by the time the pickling season starts.”  In 1925 he was elected Janitor of the Tomato Club in town and was served a luncheon on his birthday at the club by Dick Phillips

Joel W. Reynolds passed away October 16, 1931 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He was the sub-master of the Theodore Roosevelt School in Boston at the time. Few of the boys at the school knew he was a famous baseball player in the early 1900’s in Lynn and Marblehead in the New England League.  According to the columnist Tom McCabe “he was a pioneer in playground work and did much to build up the spirit that now prevails in this work. Boston was the first municipality to recognize the value of a playground for its school children.  The way boys looked up to him and followed his advice did much good, and many successful business men today in Greater Boston owes his sane view of things to the way he was taught to play by ‘Jo’, as the boys loved to call him.”

Along with being the Principal in Marblehead he was also a Selectman in 1914 and was on the School Committee in Marblehead from 1912 to 1920 and was voted Chairman. He was also a member of the Abbot Public Library trustees from 1906 – 1921. He also served on the Green Street Playground Committee and was on the committee to design the town seal. His funeral was held at the Unitarian Church and he is buried in Waterside Cemetery. There was a fine tribute in the Marblehead Messenger on Friday, October 23, 1931 about his great accomplishments:

            “He was not only a teacher but also a companion.” When he first went to Boston to teach at the Wendell Phillips School in the West End he taught young boys raised in the city where they had taught to be suspicious of newcomers. All their barriers went down when they met Mr. Reynolds and they organized “The Joel W. Reynolds Boys Club” in the West End Settlement House and a banquet was held in his honor.  He also served as principal of the Eliot Evening Program, and as Supervisor of Playgrounds.

When World War I broke out he was 42 years old, but he took the examination for the United States Marines, passed and was ready to join the army, but decided to continue his teaching and family duties.

I will leave you with this letter that was printed in the Marblehead Messenger October 23, 1931 which was sent to him from a former student, while Joel was in the hospital.

            “Hurry up and get well. Marblehead needs you, with your kindly smile, warm and friendly way, and big heart. There aren’t enough folks like you in this world. What an infinitely more pleasant place this world would be to live in if more of us had the blessed gift of your sunny, sympathetic personality! You were my first school teacher and I shall never forget the charm and brotherliness of the atmosphere which surrounded you in old Marblehead High School. Everyone in the school looked on you as a big brother and friend – not as just a high school principal. I envy you the rich treasures of deep and abiding friendship that you have accumulated for yourself during your useful, self-sacrificing, cheery life. As I get older, the more strongly I am convinced that, after all, what really counts in this world is happiness, contentment and friends. The one who possess these is rich and successful no matter what his financial or social status. And all these things you have in glorious measure.” 

I want to thank Jennifer Wach Hickey, Joel’s great granddaughter for letting me use these photos of her great grandparents in this blog.

Green Street Playground – Marblehead, MA Part I


Cows at Green Street  edited copy

“Green Street Playground”, my 5.45 acre retreat located off of Green and Lime Street in Marblehead, MA.  I spent a large portion of my life there, from the time I was probably eight or nine until my late thirties.  My mother was probably tired of hearing “Ma, I’m going down to Green Street.”  I used to be able to walk through the woods from my house on Peach Highlands over to Green Street, this was before Intrepid Way and Hoods Foam were around.  High on top of the hill were swings and other play equipment, but the best part was the huge ledge we would climb on to get there. I am sure they would be required to have some sort of fence around the play equipment for safety reasons in this day and age. There was a path to the top but climbing the rocks was more fun.  We would sit on the rocks and watch the goings on in the park, but I can attest that were a lot of biting red ants on those rocks. There was also a basketball court next to that. If I got bored at home I would take my bat and ball and head to Green Street where there were always kids to put together a team for a game of ball, or even an apple fight.

The playing field is where I spent most of my time. It began when I was 8 or 9 and I went to Park League for half a day in the summer.  Here we played countless games of kickball, arts and crafts and made things with gimp. We didn’t have juice boxes or water bottles; we drank straight from the rusty old bubbler if we were thirsty.  Then I moved on to Lassie League softball for several years and Green Street was where we practiced and played our games.  If it rained hard we could be sure we would either be playing in knee deep wet grass, third base would be under water or our games would be postponed until the field dried out.

Lassie League Jacket
My Lassie League Jacket from the 1960’s

When I got older and could stay our after the street lights were on, my friends and I would sit on the rock on the Green Street side of the playground and watch the women and men play softball in their respected leagues.  We longed to play on the women’s team but we were too young.  I would be in my room doing my homework and see that the lights were on at the park and I knew there as a game going on and off I would go. In the day of Hartley’s and Carlson Real Estate Men’s league, my friend, Wendy Wright Bridgeo  and I would get to sit on the team bench and keep the lineup and scorebook for the men’s game, that was an honor. Didn’t we think we were something to be able to sit with the college boys and watch and score the games.  I finally got to be the age to play in the women’s league and it had disbanned;  but a new one was formed when I was in my mid-twenties and once again I was at the park.  If we weren’t playing our own game that night you could be sure there would be a crowd of players and spectators down there watching the games, sitting on the rocks.  We often thought it would be a good idea to pad those rocks; it got awfully uncomfortable sitting there night after night.


This area of land was located behind 11 Green Street which happened to be owned by my Martin Ancestors. I didn’t know at the time that this land actually belonged to my family; I guess I just never thought about that stuff back then. When I was growing up the house was owned by Edith Cressy Martin Ball and William Ball, the white house next to Mullen’s store. The house was originally built in 1795 and is still standing today.

Martin Ball House copy copy

 In 1835 the Blanchard family sold the 16 acre farm to Joseph Martin, my third great grandfather, who operated a dairy farm there.  In the fall of 1925 the National Park and Playground Representatives visited Marblehead gathering statistics and determined that Marblehead needed more parks within the closely built up areas in the town.  It was their opinion that parks added beauty and dignity to any locality.  It was in December 1925 that Stephen C., Knott V. and Martha A. Martin offered to give the Town of Marblehead the option to purchase about 91,409 square feet of land at the rate of 4.765 cents per square foot making it to be about $4,356.00.  They also stipulated that there should be a right of way granted for horse drawn vehicles or automobiles.  The town took them up on their offer and purchased the land.  I am glad they did as I have many great memories of the park.

The park was known as Green Street Playground until 1932 when it was renamed the Joel Warren Reynolds Park, also a relative of mine.     To be continued next week …..



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