Thursday, January 12, 2017

Babson Farm

It seems inevitable that the Babson name should be stamped on Halibut Point. Since 1632, when Isabel brought her midwifery service to Gloucester, Babson family members have prospered, multiplied, and initiated valued enterprises in all corners of Cape Ann.

Apparently Isabel lost her husband during the voyage from England. Her son James established the 32-acre farm and cooperage at Beaver Dam, as a result of a grant from the Town in 1658. It straddles the road to Sandy Bay Parish that formed Rockport when it was separately incorporated in 1840. James's son Ebenezer legendarily killed with his knife a bear that attacked his nephew and stretched its hide to dry on the shoreline at a place that came to be called Bearskin Neck. 1
The James Babson Cooperage, c. 1658
Five generations from James, David Wallis Babson entered the world in 1772. When David married Charlotte Wheeler of the Garrison (Witch) House in Pigeon Cove, her father Moses Wheeler presented the newlyweds in 1802 with a parcel of his land where they built a house at what is presently 231 Granite Street. 2
David and Charlotte purchased the land that became known as "The Babson Farm" from the estate of James Norwood in 1819. This is the same land that had devolved away from Samuel Gott's farm, as described previously when his sons Joseph and Benjamin split their inheritance down the middle of the house and land in 1748. For the remainder of the nineteenth century the Babson Farm abutted the Gott Farm.
A neighboring house to the Gott House (1702) has stood on the premises since 1705 when Captain William Woodbury lived there. His building was either enlarged into or replaced by the Babson residence, which was ultimately expanded further as the Old Farm Inn.
The 1824 deed conveying a sheep pasture
from Joshua Gott to David Wallis Babson,
still in the Gott House today
David Wallis Babson along with his sons and grandsons pursued various enterprises in addition to farming. By 1850 there were five family members bearing the name David in Rockport. Distinguishing their individual achievements takes some care. 3

David Wallis and several of his descendants worked in the fishing industry, both on the water and as retail merchants. The family extended its landholdings to Folly Cove in 1883 where they acquired fish houses and a pier. 4 Sons Gorham and Horatio invested successfully in shipping, merchandise, and real estate. One of their schooners carried the name David Babson on its transom.
The Babson fish houses, Folly Cove
The Picture History Committee, Rockport As It Was, 1975
After David Wallis' death in 1851 his son Joseph bought twelve of the Babson Farm acres from other family members to organize a stone cutting business. Small-scale granite quarrying operations had sprung up along the Folly Cove shoreline during the previous two decades.
Nascent granite shipping operation at the Folly Cove pier
The Picture History Committee, Rockport As It Was, 1975
The farm acquired a gentlemanly tone under the administration of grandson Horatio, Jr.  In 1884 the Cape Ann Evening Breeze congratulated him on "a fine plot of corn at the 'Babson Farm' ....It is estimated that the yield will be in the neighborhood of a hundred and fifty tons. He has two silos, the only ones in town, as far as I am aware. Since this property has come into Mr. Babson's hands, great improvements have been made, and the place bids fair to become one of our most beautiful summer resorts." 5
The property was  undergoing a transformation along the lines that Horatio's  first cousin George was helping to bring to the coastline down toward Pigeon Cove, as the local partner with Eben Phillips in the Ocean View development along Phillips Avenue.
The "farm house" at its finest
Photo from John and Betty Erkkila, Souvenirs of Pigeon Cove, 2014
The refinements drew praise from the newspaper."One of the most beautiful places about here is the 'Babson Farms.' The location is all that could be desired, its broad sloping lawns and magnificent trees are objects of beauty that cannot fail to call forth the admiration of the beholder. In the rear of the stately residence a very fine and extensive view may be had across Ipswich Bay and along the low coast line that stretches far away to the east.... the Honorable T. Kitto, Consul, and Mr. Kasahara of Japan [are current guests.]...This evening a "progressive leap frog party" takes place. Mr. Kitto will dress in the costume of his country. A recent hay-rack ride by moonlight was a most enjoyable occasion, and all who come to his delightful place have only pleasant things to say of it." 6
Four years later in the spring of 1894 readers learned that local quarryman Edwin Canney had purchased the entire 70-acre Babson Farm. Then in the fall they were informed that the Rockport Granite Company purchased all of Mr. Canney's assets. The Horatio Babson family moved to Boston on November 10.7 Industrial-scale mining and shipping would redefine Halibut Point over the next thirty years. Its major feature was the Babson Farm Quarry.

Plowing the Babson Farm fields, early 1900s
Charles Cleaves photograph, courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
On the opposite side of Granite Street the most arable acreage of Babson Farm attracted the attention of Antone Balzarini. Antone rented this portion along with the house to raise horses for hauling granite at the quarries. His daughter Mary has left us a charming account of her rustic girlhood with eleven siblings, self-sufficiency on the land, and driving twenty cows to pasture on Pigeon Hill. 8
The field as pasture.
Tinted photograph from the collection of Sarah Dunlap
After the granite industry faltered in 1932 the Balzarini family purchased and relocated down the street to the farmland that eventually became the Windhover Performing Arts Center.
John Balzarini reconstructing The Old Farm Inn, 1964
John Field photo, courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
Many years later John Balzarini and his wife Mabel were able to found the landmark Old Farm Inn at the place of his birth.

1. Babson Historical Association website.
2. Allen Chamberlain, Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers & Their Farms 1702-1840, 1940.
3. Ann Theopold Chaplin, The Babson Genealogy: 1606-1997.
4. Cape Ann Advertiser,  April 20, 1883.
5. Cape Ann Evening Breeze,  September 9, 1884.
6. Gloucester Daily Times, July 9, 1890.
7. Gloucester Daily Times, April 20, October 29, November 12, 1894.
8. Mary Balzarini Anderson, in Rockport Recollected, ed. Roger Martin, 2001.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Gott Ancestry

The well, pictured in the foreground.
Postcard courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society.
The conservative power of the Gott House held off indoor plumbing until the 1970s. Current owner Steve Amazeen recalls that, during his youth, everyone drank from a common dipper at the well across the street.

A plaque inside the beehive oven.
Steve Amazeen photo
Nine generations of the family have lived with the above inscription. Stern ancestors embraced life and stared at death as elements of the ground they walked daily. They also carried a heritage of service to, then rebellion from, the English Crown.

Charles Gott arrived in Salem in 1628 aboard the ship Abigail as a part of the Puritan contingent led by John Endecott, the first governor of Massachusetts.1 Charles became a distinguished citizen at Wenham. His grandson Samuel, listed in Town records as a weaver, purchased land on the sparsely settled northern tip of Cape Ann in 1702. There were no roads to Halibut Point. Until fourteen years previously it had been held in common for the citizens of Gloucester. The townspeople voted to divide unsettled land into six-acre lots in 1688, awarding the lots by lottery to male inhabitants over age twenty-one, to encourage husbandry of both the land and the populace. As private property, ownership could now and did change hands speculatively to accommodate the aspirations and burgeoning growth of colonial families.

Samuel Gott (1677-1748) purchased eight of the 6-acre lots on Halibut Point from an Essex resident.2  He carried the title Lieutenant from his militia service. Indian Wars were still a vivid part of New England life and the territorial claims among European monarchs in America had not yet been pacified. At about this same time a Native American named Samuel English claimed ownership of a considerable portion of Essex County, as the grandson and heir of Masconomet the Sagamore of Agawam. A delegation of Gloucester men succeeded in obtaining a deed "assigning forever all Indian rights and title" within the entire township of Gloucester, for the sum of seven pounds paid to Samuel English in 1701.3 The following year Samuel Gott bought his eight lot parcel for sixty pounds.

Samuel Gott arrived from Wenham in 1702 with his wife Margaret (Andrews) and two young children. He quickly sold three of the lots to Margaret's brother William who established the adjacent Andrews farm. Margaret's sister Elizabeth married Joshua Norwood of the Garrison (Witch) House, the next settled property toward Pigeon Cove and one of the few houses in the area constructed earlier than the Gott House. With these contiguous holdings the extended family established an apparently snug enclave on the northern edge of Gloucester.

Map from Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers &Their Farms, 1702-1840 2
The industrious Gotts added ten more children to their household until Margaret died in 1722. Samuel thereupon married Bethany Cogswell of Ipswich. She bore twin boys Benjamin and Joseph in 1725, to complete the progeny. When Samuel died in 1748 he left a complex estate. Benjamin and Joseph jointly inherited the house and 59 acres on the north side of Gott Avenue with a charge to take care of their mother for the rest of her life. Women could not own property in that era.

The twins did not look forward to a lifelong partnership. They sought counsel to divide their inheritance evenly and part ways. The resulting property line split the house through the middle of the front door and the chimney. Benjamin liquidated his half and moved to Annisquam. When Captain William Norwood acquired it he moved into the western side where he sired fifteen children. Ultimately Joseph recovered the western half of the house but not the 27.5 acres that had been sold with it.

Joseph married Deliverance Pool in 1745. Their son Joshua (1754-1846) came of age just as the War for Independence began. Joshua enlisted with the Revolutionary Army as it was being formed in Boston. When the British evacuated in 1776 he joined General Washington's forces in the unsuccessful defense of New York. He stuck with Washington through the bleak battles of Trenton and Princeton that winter, then shipped on a series of privateers for the remainder of the War, twice enduring capture and imprisonment in the West Indies but also triumphs of adventure and prize money enrichment in the disruption of British shipping throughout the Atlantic. He returned home to lead a long and useful life as farmer and fisherman, referred to as Captain Gott. "Indeed, such was the general state of his health, that had not his death been occasioned by the mortification of a foot which was frostbitten while he was in the army, he bade fair to have survived some years longer." 4

Joshua had married Deborah Pool in 1779 during a visit home from his privateering expeditions. Their son Joshua (1798-1873) became executor of his father's estate in 1846, and the next owner of the Gott House. Both he and next door neighbor David Babson, Jr. served as founding directors of the Pigeon Cove Harbor Company in the 1830s-40s, initiating the granite seawalls that vastly improved safe anchorage for local fishing boats.5 Perhaps because of these endeavors, or a life at sea, he like his father was known as Captain Gott.

Headstone of Joshua Gott (1798-1873)
Locust Grove Cemetery, Sharron Cohen photo
Joshua the Second married Susanna Story in 1820, resulting in a daughter Phoebe (1835-1911) who married Charles McLellan (1821-1892). Their son Kenneth married Lizzie Mae Orne, Steve Amazeen's great-grandmother, bringing the family chronology into the memory of the present owner of the Gott House.

1. Phillip Porter Gott, Ancestors & Descendants of an Ohio Gott Family 1628-1972.
2. Allen Chamberlain, Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers & Their Farms, 1702-1840, first published in 1940 on the centennial anniversary of the Town of Rockport; 2nd ed. 1999, Sandy Bay Historical Society.
3. Sidney Perley, The Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts, Salem, 1912.
4. From an account of the career of Joshua Gott in the Gloucester Telegraph, September 18, 1850.
5. See advertisements in the Gloucester Telegraph, December 24, 1834 and October 20, 1841.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Old Gott House

The Gott House a century ago
The parking lot to today's State Park occupies the pasture to the right.
Postcard courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Association
Samuel Gott, weaver, came to Halibut Point from Wenham in 1702. Over the next nine years he amassed some 120 acres of colonial-era lots, early on selling to his brother-in-law William Andrews the south-eastern portion, which became Andrews Point. Prior to their coming the land had been thoroughly timbered. 

Among the immediate demands on Samuel's energies were a dwelling place for his family that grew to fifteen children, and sheep enclosures built from boulders scattered over the land. He dug a well and sized up the possibilities of the rough countryside.
Samuel Gott's spinning wheel in the house today
Samuel Gott's descendants have occupied the house continuously since its construction. Patrimonial names have evolved through intermarriages with other old-stock families around Folly Cove, the Woodburys and the Amazeens.

Kenneth and Lizzie Mae McLellan, 1919
The last owner bearing the original surname was Phoebe Gott (1835-1911), who married Charles McLellan. Their son Kenneth and his wife Lizzie formed the next generation in residence. The bloodline if not the name remained unbroken.

The Gott House today
The house itself has changed very little over the centuries. Current owner Steve Amazeen has managed to square it up sufficiently to replace the six-over-nine windows with insulated ones so the wind doesn't blow through. His great-grandmother Lizzie Mae "Ma" McLellan wouldn't allow electricity and indoor plumbing to be installed during her lifetime. She was the matriarch of the family. Steve remembers that "everybody came there to live at different times, or to visit." He himself spent many summers in the house and a couple of years when he attended the Pigeon Cove School. And Ma was there with a room for him when Steve got out of the Army.

Lizzie Mae "Ma" McLellan (1883-1965)
Ma's daughter Leonie married Karl Amazeen who was of Woodbury lineage down in Folly Cove. Steve grew up in his grandmother Leonie's colonial-era Woodbury house. As a teenager he stripped off layers of paint to reveal its rosy, original pine paneling. He mentioned to Leonie after she inherited the Gott house in 1965 that he'd like to do the same thing up there.

"Ma" McLellan with her daughter,
Steve's grandmother Leonie Amazeen (1907-1984)
Leonie understood that Steve would be the best steward of the old house. In her will she conveyed a half share of it to him, which he inherited in 1984.  Through a couple of intra-family purchases he eventually consolidated the remainder. Over the past twenty-five years he and his wife Pat have coaxed the building into year-round comfort while preserving its antique features.

Steve Amazeen and restored paneling around the fireplace
During his renovations Steve has been into most of the nooks and crannies of the house, developing a knowledgeable relationship with it that he plans to share in a program at the Sandy Bay Historical Society in the coming year.

The beehive oven
Steve Amazeen photo
New wiring snakes between a rafter and its collar tie
which were paired and marked on the ground prior to erecting them.
Steve Amazeen photo
An H&L door hinge,
said to stand for "Help Us Lord"
Chestnut posts
To either side of the front door, and at the corners of the house, 'gunstock' posts - wider at the top than the bottom - support the structure. Little boys willingly heard stories that the mortised holes beside the door held barricades against Indian attack. Family legend also attributed the chestnut posts to beams from the ship carrying Samuel Gott to his new home on Halibut Point. All the rest of the wood is fashioned from white pine. 

The chestnut was originally among the most prevalent hardwoods in the northeastern forest. A blight introduced from Japan obliterated the species in the first half of the twentieth century. The Gott house, on the other hand, has withstood innumerable challenges in service to a family, through the care of a few of its determined members.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 6 - The Great Blue Heron, 3

A perfect backdrop rises across the water.
Its tones and highlights reverse the coloration of the bird.
Fractured cliffs juxtapose the smooth coherence of flight.

The heron gathers for its moment of ascent.
Animation springs from its eye, its summoning eye.
The wings unveil their repertoire. 

The eye compels extension
into feathered spinnakers.
Supracoracoidei contract.

Wings tuck and return aloft, sculling the air.
Feathers part in upstroke. The air slides by.
A ripple crosses the quarry.

I consider an apology for the intrusion
that forces it to a distant shore,
but fly home with my treasure.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 6 - The Great Blue Heron, 2

In the tumult of planes and space
the heron's head reconciles necessities
to the alignment of its own perfect horizon.

Its body follows, in splendid obedience
to equilibrium
and its ready architecture.

Laterally retracted, axially extended,
the heron consolidates its ascent
with a sweep of its primaries. 

It considers gravity. It recruits
the apparent emptiness of space
and glides away.
Its head compels elegance
onto the details of its flight,
a reckoning of beauty and predicament.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 6 - The Great Blue Heron, 1

Time and space, emptying themselves, sketch fermatas in the sky.
An incongruous croaking lifts my gaze above the quarry rim
to silhouettes perplexing the buoyant air.
Great blue herons settle in the crown of an oak,
conjuring perches among the leaves and twigs.
Their verticals hold and rise in a magisterial skyline. 

Time and space stretch taut, tuned strings
that sing to a pedestrian moment
above the world.
Wind, or a thought, or the conflict of grace and gravity
unsettles the pose. The birds become avians again.
My logic embarks on wings. 

Ribbon legs trail behind retracted curves
of terrestrial business. An ordinary bargain deploys against the sky.
I raise my camera, an agnostic to miracles.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Quickened Pace of Autumn

There's a new quality to the familiar terrain of Halibut Point, evident in the thinner air, shortened days, and all the transformed bits of decor. It's a shift from andante to allegro. The easy-going summer days have sobered into fall effecting a gradual change of pace on visitors, from carefree shirtsleeve strolls to brisk, focused 'constitutionals.' We're stepping lively until we see something arresting.

Catkins, Gray birch
Tree leaves have finished masterminding their services to the plant. After engineering the seed cycle they depart with a colorful flourish.

Yellow-rumped warbler
The migrant birds that passed through in spring mating array come back wearing subdued, sensible plumage. Warblers weighing less than half an ounce hurry south across the continent.


All summer prolific greens covered the landscape. Now idiosyncrasies stand forth as plants disrobe and the diminished sun lights their surfaces experimentally.

American copper

A late-season butterfly settles on a warm granite outcropping. Not a migrator, it is on the verge of finishing its life cycle.

Showy goldenrod

Goldenrod emblazoned the ledge for the last of the pollen-eaters.

Slate-colored junco

The reappearance of juncos implies imminent winter. Their blue-grayness and pink bills relieve fading earth tones in the meadows. White tail feathers spark their take-offs.

Slaty colors in the ocean and sky complicate November with moods of grand inhospitality. The coastline often wraps itself in primal power.

Turbulent surf resolves into capillary froth. Tidelets explore crevices and rearrange themselves in ceaseless confections.

Black-bellied plover
Shorebirds regard the surf ambivalently. Waves stir up morsels to eat, thank  you, as they spread boisterously over the rocks.

Cranberries mature in a damp mining excavation overlooking the sea.

White oak
Wind ripples the surface of the great quarry into speckled constellations.


The wind accepts cattail progeny for dispersal across the quarry, and to distant wetlands.

Beaver industry

A beaver strengthens his abode and larder for the comfort of life beneath winter ice.

Drill marks and black cherry

Here and there vignettes of time contrast human history with natural passages.


Water seepage through the fractured ledge sustains a deciduous holly in a ravine on the quarry cliff. Falling leaves are beginning to reveal the berried twigs popular in Christmas decorations. Autumn presents a prettier cameo while the fruit and foliage are both present. 

The cooler, drier air clarifies subtleties on the granite walls across the water. When snow comes to blanket the quarry sunlight will bounce upward to model new colors and shadows. Then the charms of the winter will draw visitors with warmer clothes and an even quicker step than autumn.