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

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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.

 

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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

                                                                                    Frank

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.

mar-5-1865

 

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

charlotte-2
The Charlotte

 

 

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Jake in Uniform and Mr. Sills
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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.

Labor Day – Sixty Years Ago – 1956

Marblehead’s Gerry 5 Hosts their first muster. Muster 1956  crowds

I can’t believe I am writing about Labor Day already, it seems like summer just started. Marblehead hosted a big day in town on September 1, 1956. It was the first time the Gerry 5 Association hosted a muster in town. It was held at Green Street (Reynold’s) Playground. I probably was not in attendance for that one, but I do remember many musters at the playground. They would roll out the brown paper and we would stand towards the end of it so we could get sprayed with the water.

On that Saturday in 1956 an estimated 10, 000 people lined the streets of Marblehead to watch the muster parade sponsored by the Gerry 5. I loved those parades, marching bands, old cars, hand-tubs, bagpipes and the fife and drums. I know my grandmother always liked to see the one from Greenwich, CT, for some reason it was her favorite. I think she lived there for a time after she was married. There were prizes for the winners in the parade competition. That year St. Mary’s Annunciation of Cambridge, MA won first prize of $100, the Scarlet Lancer’s of Chelsea, MA won second prize of $50 and the Tanner’s of Peabody won $35 for third place. . Also competing were St. Jean Baptist, all girls drum and bugle corps from Lynn, MA, Neptune Fife and Drum Corps of Newburyport, Ould Newbury Fife and Drum Corps, and the Oko’s Fife and Drum of Marblehead.

Muster parade 1956

After the parade it was down to the playground to watch the 17 Hand-tubs set up for the muster. Muster competitions originated when two hand tubs would complete against each other to settle the argument of which crew was the best. The first formal muster was held in Bath, ME on July 4, 1849. Originally, the winning hand tub was the one which pumped the highest stream of water, but measuring was difficult and disputes were numerous, probably because of all the beer drinking. The rules were changed to the current format of pumping a stream of water the longest horizontal distance. To be eligible to compete an engine must have been built prior to January 1, 1896 and must have worked at least one fire. Muster competitions are governed by the New England States Veteran Fireman’s League which was founded in Boston in November 1890. For tournament purposes, hand operated fire engines come in five sizes or classes. Class “A” engines have a piston size greater than 7 inches in diameter, Class “B” have a piston size between 4.5 and 7 inches and Class “C” tubs have pistons less than 4.5 inches.

Muster 1956

The Gerry #5 engine, built by Hunneman & Co of Boston was delivered to Marblehead on July 1, 1845 and named after native Elbridge Gerry. It is a Class “B” engine. The Okommkamesit of Marblehead, or the “Oko” as is it called is considered a Class “A” engine. In 1956 a third Marblehead Hand-tub, the Citizen No. 1, a Class “A” tub, made its debut, marking the first time three local tubs had entered a muster. The Citizen was owned by Arthur Jannell of Front Street and was pumped by the Market Square Associates of Marblehead and any winnings would be donated to the polio fund.

The results in Class “B” were:

              First $200           The Gerry                                                        192 feet 9 ½ inches

               Second $100      The Tiger of Newmarket, NH                      192 feet 7 ¾ inches

               Third     $50        Androscoggin No. 2 of Topsham, ME      191 feet 3 ½ inches

               Fourth   $25        Hancock Tub of Ashburnham, MA           190 feet 2 ¼ inches

The results for Class “A” were:

               First $200           The Oko’s                                                        216 feet 11 inches

               Second $100      Protection No. 1 of Newbury, MA            209 feet 10 ½ inches

               Third $50            Citizen No. 1 of Marblehead                       203 feet 2 ¾ inches

               Fourth $25          Neptune of Newburyport                           197 feet ½ inch

This year also held a miniature tub competition with the Gerry, Jr. manned by foreman Larry Doliber, Robin Symonds, Bobby Bohanon and Ray Kearns pumping 41 feet 6 inches, giving them first place for $5. Second place went to the Oko’s Jr. which pumped 39 feet manned by Jack Hinch earning them $5. Third place of $5 went to the Yankee pumped by Dickie Hinch with a 33 feet 8 inch stream.

miniature tubs 1956 muster

 

The afternoon ended when Gerry foreman, Donald Bartlett and Oko’s foreman Gerry Rubino were tossed in the water tank by their respective crewman. A traditional move when hometown hand tubs win a muster. If you have never been to a muster you really should get out to see one and maybe even help them pump the engines.

Muster 1956  2

Unsolved Crime at Marblehead Light House 1895

Tragic and Unsolved Crime at Marblehead Lighthouse – June 21, 1895

This is a tragic story that appeared in the June 21, 1895 Marblehead Messenger and as far as I can tell it was never solved. I don’t usually like to write about sad stories but in this case someone may be missing a leaf on their tree and may not even know it so I thought I would share the article. Maybe some super sleuth can solve it now.

“Mr. M. Twitchell of Melrose was at the Neck on Monday, June 17 with a group of friends, some from Marblehead when he made a horrible discovery. He found the body of an infant child who was murdered and left in the water. Mr. Twitchell was walking across a cove east of the light house when he came upon a brown leatherette traveling bag which had been uncovered by the receding tide. It was located in an area in which another half tide would have most likely covered it up again. There was nothing suspicious about the appearance but curiosity prompted him to open the bag. He discovered inside a young child wrapped tightly in white cotton cloth.”

“Special Officers Nicholson and Knight of the Marblehead police force went to the Neck to retrieve the bag and brought it to the police station for more careful examination. It proved to be the body of a female child, fully developed and weighing about five pounds. She had been wrapped in a pillow case and bound tightly, put in the bag with a seven pound flat iron, intended to keep the bag below the surface of the water. It was carefully planned and only was able to be found because the person who threw it into the water obviously did not know much about the shore and the tides.  The basin where it was found has the appearance at high tide of being a deep hole, but it became bare at low tide.”

“As was required the Medical Examiner Mr. Carleton was notified and the next day, along with Dr. Sanborn of Marblehead an autopsy was held. It was determined that the child was born alive and had lived perhaps twenty-four hours. It was also discovered that death was not by drowning but by blows upon the head. The mark of one blow was upon the forehead, another behind the base of the brain, and both sufficient to cause death.  Someone had a child they did not want, murdered it and threw the body in the water to hide the evidence of their crime.”  Was this act done by a Marblehead resident, a summer resident or an out of towner, we may never know.

The police followed up on several rumors and Trial Justice William Nutting held an inquest which was delayed until December, 1895 while the investigation continued, but nothing turned up.

As reported in the December 20, 1895 Messenger:

Trial Justice Nutting reported today his findings in the inquest held at his office last June, on the recovery of the body of a female infant at Point Neck. The report was delayed with the hope that something might turn up in the way of evidence to point to the guilty person or persons. Absolutely nothing has been learned by the police. The findings are as follows:

            “I find that said child was born alive and came to its death soon after birth on or about the 17th day of June, 1895, by reason of blows dealt upon its head with some flat instrument, or by having its head dashed against some unyielding surface at the hands of some person whom the evidence does not disclose and who is therefore to me unknown.”

            “That after death the body, placed in a valise and weighted with a flat iron, was thrown into the sea at said Point Neck, which valise, containing the body, at receding tide was exposed to view and taken possession of within twenty-four hours, evidently, after its submersion.”

                                                                                    William Nutting, Jr

                                                                                    Trial Judge  

I thought I may have found a clue in the Marblehead Death records for that date of death. There is an “unknown child Gillis” listed as a female, dying on June 17, 1895 with a cause of death ‘death by violence’. So the death was reported to the town, but probably by the medical examiner.  There is a note that the mother was Kate Gillis, but it could have been added later or be a transcription error. As you can see on the image below there were a lot of lines drawn pointing to other lines on the form, therefore it is hard to determine where this Kate Gillis belongs or if it does at all.  The other names mentioned in that column are Manly G. Davis and Rose Gilleo who had a child John Davis who died (listed on the line below the unknown child.)

death record

There was a Katie Gillis who married a William V. Wright in 1896 in Lynn and she was born February 1880, making her 15 at the time of the unknown baby’s death. Could she be the mother? 

What happened to this baby – where is she buried, who did she belong to? A Marblehead unsolved mystery.

 

Old Time Weddings Conly-Hooper 1895

I have been going through some of my old Marblehead Messengers during this hot weather, gathering gossip on Marbleheader’s. One of the things I enjoy reading are the marriage stories. I just love how eloquently the reporter’s wrote in those days and how vividly they described the ceremonies and attire, almost like you were there. Another thing that amazes me is how many weddings and other social events took place in the evenings during the week, not on weekends as they do now. These told timers socialized a lot during the week and got up and did their chores and work the next day.

Here is an example of a write up about my 4th cousin 3 times removed, Ellen Bowden Hooper who married Francis (Frank) E. Conly in 1895. Ellen was born on January 17, 1870 in Marblehead, MA, one of four children born to William LeCraw Hooper and Deborah Girdler. She died on May 1, 1938. Her spouse, Frank Conly was born in February 1866 in Lowell and died on October 20, 1932 in Marblehead. Frank and Ellen had one son William Hooper Conly born October 11, 1899 and he died 1981. He was married to Ruth Garrison Adams in 1924.

This wedding service was so elaborate it was  reported in the Boston Herald on April 26, 1895 with the title: “Neath the floral arch”

               Miss Ellen Bowden Hooper and Mr. Francis E. Conly united for life in Marblehead. One of the most brilliant weddings that has taken place in Marblehead this season was solemnized last evening at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Hooper on Lee Street, when their daughter Ellen Bowden Hooper was married to Francis Edward Conly of that town. The bride and groom are both most estimable young people and number their friends on every hand; therefore the interesting event was witnessed by a large gathering.  

            Rev. H.C. McDougal of the Unitarian Church officiated, the marriage ring being used. The floral decorations in the parlors were very beautiful. In the corner the bridal party stood under a floral arch of carnations, roses, laurel and fern and between two banks of palms and other foliage plants. It was this beautiful bower that the impressive ceremony was conducted.

            The bride wore a dress of white corded silk, en traine, trimmed with point lace. She wore the conventional long veil tulle which was caught at the head with lilies of the valley. She carried a bouquet of bride roses and maidenhair fern.

            Mr. Walter C. Trefry presided at the piano and rendered the bridal chorus from “Lohengrin.” Mr. William L. Hooper, Jr., brother of the bride was best man and Miss Mary K. Roundy was maid of honor. Miss Roundy was tastefully dressed in a gown of organdie muslin with white satin ribbon trimmings. The ushers were Messrs. Lewis B. Hooper, William G. Goodwin, Arthur W. Bartol and Edward P. Jones of Watertown.

          Following the ceremony and at the opposite side of the room another beautiful bank of ferns, carnations and roses had been arranged covering the mantel. This is where a largely attended reception was held at which the happy couple was assisted in receiving their guests by Mrs. Hooper, Mrs. Lefavour, Miss Roundy and Mr. W.L. Hooper, Jr. These festivities lasted well into the night.

         Mr. and Mrs. Conley will reside at No. 58 Lee Street in Marblehead taking an apartment at the residence of the bride’s parents. They certainly begin with the sincere wishes for continued prosperity from all their friends.  Below are the names of those guests attending the wedding. I see some of my relatives attended the gala social event, did any of yours?

Hooper 2

 

 

 

They Swear Like Pirates!

This was the title of an article I found in the Boston Herald for September 19, 1893. Not only did it make the Boston Papers, excerpts were reprinted in newspapers in Ohio, Illinois, Idaho and California. Word traveled fast about our little town and their bad language. This was not to be the subject of this blog but as usual when researching something else I got led down another path and had to investigate.

Marblehead has many claims to fame, “Birthplace of the American Navy”, “Yachting Capitol of the World” and in 1893 it was known as the “Profanity Center of the World”, an honor we did share with Gloucester, MA. Most of us are familiar with the common Marblehead expressions, “Whip”, “Down Bucket”, “Up for Air”, and others, but profanity! I know it was never allowed in my house when I was growing up. I can still taste that bar of Palmolive soap in my mouth. I always thought “Whip” and “Down Bucket” were swear words but I guess not, as I could say them and not get into trouble. “Shittin Hill” was also allowed to be talked about at home, as it was a  landmark in town, so I guess in that context it was not profanity. (For those of you unfamiliar with this area of town, it is the hill coming down from Abbot Hall towards the Boston Yacht Club. The corner of the house that was cut off, supposedly for Lafayette’s carriage to make the turn; it was actually removed so the “slop” from the hill could find its way to the harbor. Or so the legend goes.)

According to the article there was a crusade going on in town in 1893 against the vice of profane swearing, which even the inhabitants of the town acknowledged with sorrow, was indulged in to an alarming extent by men, boys and even some women and girls. A prominent townsman gave a talk at the YMCA and took the young people to task for indulging in blasphemous expressions and suggested that they purge themselves of this bad habit. Discussions went on for months and the “Marblehead Anti-Swearing League” complete with a constitution and bylaws was created and signed by many charter members. It was agreed that each member should work to reform some confirmed swearer, just the same as the temperance people got to reform a man who had taken to tippling. According to the bylaws there was to be no swearing on the streets at the end of a year.

So where did this swearing habit originate. In 1894, James J. H. Gregory commented about profanity in town, saying “profanity was shockingly common in town. I know of no place where I have ever heard so much of it as in this town. It is a relic of the rude old age which had been passed down to Marblehead people.”   One gentleman who was staying at a local hotel in 1893 was interviewed by the writer of the original article and here is his story:

            “I am not a native here and when I came here three years ago I was pained beyond endurance by the profane expressions dropped in conversation. I’ve heard a crowd of boys playing in the streets talk like a crowd of Bowery gamins. The girls too, are not free from it. Everybody here though takes it for a harmless eccentricity for the users of the profane words do not attach any significance to the words they utter. It is purely mechanical, that is all.”

A local at the town wharf was also interviewed and here are his thoughts on the subject.

   Reporter: “What is the story about a crusade against swearing in Marblehead?”

Local: “I’ll be _______if I know, it may be needed though. Seems to me, come to think of it I have heard one or two ________cranks talking about it.

Reporter: “Is there much swearing here?”

Local: ‘Oh ______yes, I suppose, but Gloucester can beat us hands down. It has become such an everyday habit, that it seems to make but very little difference what people swear about. One cannot walk along the sidewalks at night without being shocked if he is at all impressionable. It may be that the uses of profane words put them in more because they have an imperfect knowledge of English and wish to fill up a break in their talk. In my own case, I frequently drop a swear word just as naturally as I breathe and just an involuntarily. A good many boys acquire the habit because they think the words sound big and brave.”

So what was the result of this crusade? As the one year anniversary approached of the Marblehead Anti Swearing League one of the members declared that the anniversary could be celebrated as a failure. There was no reform at all, the swearing continued. Just another one of Marblehead’s quirks that makes Marblehead a grand old town and makes people say we are a unique place and unique individuals!! “Whip”