Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Vision of the Four Elements, Part 1 - Earth

En route to Kakamega Kay and I advanced our clock through seven time zones until we reached the Kenya Comfort Hotel in boisterous Nairobi late on our second evening of travel. A few hours later we waited in Peter Thiong'o's vintage taxi for the gates to open at Nairobi National Park.

We started our 'safari' at daybreak. Before long a water buffalo blocked the road in light too dim for a photograph. Peter waited for it to amble off, averting a mismatch between the little sedan and an irate bull.

Out on the savannah our guide jubilantly proclaimed it a lucky, lucky day when he spotted a rhinoceros. Do 'massive' and 'exquisite' fit together comfortably?  Peter allowed me to roll the window down for a photo. Tall grass obstructed the camera focus, but we tasted the wild aura of Africa.

Black rhinoceros
Some of the creatures seemed to invite petting, but you never know whether something with claws and fangs might be admiring them too. The Park insists that no one gets out of a vehicle.

Remains of an eland
Lion resting with full belly
Peter ventured down a side trail to discover a rare view of fully visible lions immobilized by a recent meal. It was as close as he'd ever been to these monarchs. We argued over how far I could open the window as he backed the car around. The cats got restless.

Time and distance carry their psychic as well as their physical dimensions. We did not intend to test feline reflexes against electric window speed. We parted peacefully.

Baboons pilfering picnic barrel
At one place in the Park dismounting is allowed, where a kind of détente prevails with scavenger baboons who claim sovereignty over the picnic area.

Further along we came to the congregation center of another Park denizen that helps itself to trash. Marabou storks frequently scavenge landfills and the street-side debris of Kenyan towns.

Marabou storks

A pair of hunters-on-the-wing surveyed surrounding grasslands from a treetop perch.

Black-shouldered kite

They bore only the slightest resemblance to the fleet-footed but flightless ostrich.

The ostrich seems modeled more on the lines of a giraffe, but it does come from an egg.

African tickbirds satisfy themselves and the giraffe.
 A remarkable diversity of gentle and ferocious creatures coexists, but elephants no longer roam these plains. At a large pyre of ivory ash in the Park Kenyan authorities burn tusks confiscated from poachers nationwide.

Zebras on the road
A dammed stream
An electric fence traces the boundary around the Park's forty-five square miles. Nairobi skyscrapers sprout incongruously along its northern flank. The Earth waits existentially.

Traversing a remote valley we came upon a rhinoceros family in a damp wallow. The parents closed protectively around their calf in an earthly microcosm. The sight made Peter the happiest man in the land.

Peter Thiong'o drops us back at the hotel.
Nairobi thrums with the aspiring lives of 3 million people, where Karen von Blixen (Out of Africa) managed a coffee plantation only a century ago. The Earth quivers.

We flew to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, en route to our sojourn at the Kakamega Care Center, giving kids a chance. They speak three languages: their tribal earthly tongue; the Swahili that unites them; the English of progressive life. We heard that 30 million people live along the shores of Lake Victoria in a constellation of countries.

We sifted thoughts of equity and fairness. We experienced hugs and smiles. We reverberated with William Blake's "for mercy has a human heart/Pity a human soul."
We pondered the muse of social engineering in the future of the Earth, whether wisdom has a soul, whether any comprehensible process is at play, the nature of restraint and the restraint of Nature. 

Like Earth we enjoy our own importance, the extent of our moments, the singularity and the oneness that forge our brief orbits.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

To Kakamega

Today Kay and I depart for Kenya to spend a week at the Kakamega Orphans' Care Centre, particularly to help with arts & crafts activities for their summer (actually winter, in the Southern Hemisphere) camp.

We were introduced to these children back in 2006, before most of the facilities existed.
Sukie Rice with photo of founder Dorothy Salebwa
Sukie Rice from Portland Maine, the founder of Friends of Kakamega, made a poignant presentation to our North Shore Friends Meeting showing how Kenyan Quaker women had salvaged the lives of children in their town who had lost their families to the AIDS epidemic. We saw hope restored to the children's faces by a daily communal meal, a little shelter and a lot of love.

Since that time our family has been supporting a boy and paying his school tuition. Augustan is now a young man whom we are going to meet.

Rachel Williamson reporting
This plan took hold of us unexpectedly when we attended a program at Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse last April. High school student Rachel Williamson described her experiences from three service trips to Kakamega.

Pastor Nelson Ida spoke charismatically as the welfare administrator of the orphanage. His brotherly spirit moved every heart in the room. Kay said, "Let's go."

After leaving Kakamega we will enjoy a short stay in Istanbul and ten days in France. We'll have much to share when "Notes from Halibut Point" resumes in a few weeks. 

To learn more about the Care Centre or to donate to its work, see the website Friends of Kakamega.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part 7 - Renaissance

At the very time in 1893 that the defaulted fortunes of Jonas French and the Cape Ann Granite Company resulted in the acquisition of his Bay View enterprise by the Rockport Granite Company, rumors flew that Colonel French had secured title to the former Bay State Granite Company. It was understood that he intended to build a mile-long railroad from its principal quarry (now Bianchini's) in Lanesville over the ox track to the wharves at Pigeon Cove. 1 Before long the Gloucester Daily times exulted that he owned "the best piece of quarry land on the Cape." 2

A new corporation 3
Subscribers to out-of-town newspapers might have discerned that the Colonel was re-launched from the State of Maine. His new holdings included red granite quarries in Jonesport. Somehow he had drawn together founding assets of $100,000.

Re-orientation of the Cape Ann Granite Company 4
Bay View, Gloucester 1869-1893
Pigeon Cove, Rockport 1894-1902
In repositioning from Bay View to Pigeon Cove the Cape Ann Granite Company traced an arc almost completely across the hinterlands of Halibut Point, first from the western, then the eastern flank of Lanesville.

Initially the new Company took its products by cart down to Lanes Cove for shipment. Perhaps it hadn't yet won privileges to stockpile stone on the wharf while awaiting a vessel. One day before Christmas 1894 the men loaded 45,000 paving blocks onto the schooner Emma C. Cotton in 7½ hours, claiming "the quickest time on record where the entire freight has  been set in by [horse-drawn] teams." 5

Main Street, Pigeon Cove - Cape Ann Tool Company on right 6
Meanwhile crews began setting tracks down the long incline from upper Lanesville to Pigeon Cove. J. M. Gamboa's barber shop was moved to make way for the railroad. Col. French negotiated agreements to cross Granite Street to reach the wharf. A large portion of the stock of the Pigeon Cove Harbor Company had come with his quarry purchase. "Big times in Pigeon Cove in the sweet-by-and-by," chimed the Times reporter. 7

Locomotive Nella delivered to the Rockport depot, April 1895 8
Col. French named the new locomotive for his wife Nella. From the Rockport train depot it had to reach Pigeon Cove in a leap-frogging advance of rail segments up Granite Street. Four years later an easier transport was on hand when the engine set out for repairs in Portland Maine. A switch joined the company's track to that of the new electric railway enabled Nella to be taken over the trolley line at 2:00 Sunday morning and put in tow of the freight to Beverly. 9

Nella at work for the Cape Ann Granite Company 10
  It is said by those who are supposed to be good judges that the Cape Ann Granite Company's granite quarries at Lanesville are the best on the Cape. Last Wednesday, under the direction of foreman Thomas A, Erwin, a blast was made, six holes nineteen feet deep having been made, which were loaded and fired by a battery. The result of the blast was a large pieced of granite, 130 feet long, 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep, which would weigh 10,636 tons. 11

Railroad terminus at Pigeon Cove Harbor 12
In September 1897 the Company completed its first contract for putting 240,000 tons of stone on the Sandy Bay Breakwater. It commissioned a new steam lighter, the Jonas H. French.

The steam lighter Jonas H. French 13
Col. French adroitly navigated the public-private facets of commercial success. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Sandy Bay Breakwater, an immense Federally-funded project, he toured dignitaries to the offshore project aboard the Jonas H. French and joined Massachusetts Senators Hoar and Lodge in a speechmaking banquet at the Turks Head Inn. 14

Mrs. Nella French hosted at her home a meeting of nearly one hundred women to organize a Ladies Aid Association for Addison Gilbert Hospital. She was elected president pro tem "with the grace for which this lady is noted." 15

Headline of a Letter to the Editor, 1898 16

At the end of the century Col. French was facing evolving challenges in technology and labor. Along with other local industry leaders he hosted Mr. Stanford, engineer in charge of building the Charlestown naval dry dock, in an effort to convince the government to choose granite over concrete as a superior but more expensive material. 17 

On the labor front, emotions were running high during the quarrymen's strike for a nine-hour work day. When the Rockport Granite Company was slow to implement the settlement terms in June 1899 a bomb exploded on its tracks at Granite Pier. Col. French had come to terms with his workers and kept his crews employed. The newspaper mused that "the Rockport Granite Company has the cow by the horns, the Pigeon Hill Company by the tail, while the Cape Ann Granite Company is quietly getting the milk." 18
Portrait of Jonas H. French 19
The Gloucester Daily Times carried effusive details about the wedding of Stella Evans French to sugar magnate Charles Alphonzo Farwell of New Orleans. The bride was the widow of the late Harry G. French, the only son of Colonel Jonas French. The marriage took place at his home in Bay View, sumptuously decorated with ferns, lilies and roses. "Aside from the bride and groom the two persons who attracted the greatest attention were Col. French, tall, dignified and military in his bearing, and his gracious wife." 

My fellow readers must be tantalized by the note that "Mrs. Albert Baldwin, Jr., of New Orleans, becomingly gowned in white silk, lace yoke and chiffon garniture, carrying a bouquet of red roses, attended the bride as matron of honor." 

Following the wedding Col. and Mrs. French took the afternoon train to spend a week at their Boston residence, leaving the bride and groom to honeymoon at Rocklawn.
Catalog of the estate sale of Col. French's library 19
By 1902 the Cape Ann Granite Company had fallen victim to financial trouble and was sold at auction. Colonel French died of apoplexy a few months later, his passing noted in The New York Times. General Butler's children were startled to discover that Mrs. French promptly sold Rocklawn to the Archdiocese of Boston and that Archbishop O'Connell  was their new neighbor. Upon his elevation in the Church hierarchy it became known as The Cardinal's. 20 

For a murky few years the assets of the Cape Ann Granite Company came unsuccessfully under operation of the New England Granite Company controlled by a Boston financier from Jonas French's circles. The Rockport Granite Company eventually acquired everything. In 1911 Nella went by barge to the Folly Cove Pier for locomotive service bringing blocks down to the pier from the Babson Farm Quarry at Halibut Point, to cap the Sandy Bay Breakwater. 

The granite quarries and the granite industry each entwined aspects of brutality, beauty, and aggrandizement. They incorporated modern human themes of dominion over the land and of advancing a better life. Talents, desires, and limits to power shaped the physical and social landscape. Every block of stone bore the marks of aspirations.
1. Gloucester Daily Times (GDT ), September 9, 1893.
2. GDT January 16, 1894.
3. Boston Journal, February 7, 1894.
4. Drawing adapted from "Cape Ann Quarries" map by Barbara Erkkila, Hammers on Stone, 1980.
5. GDT December 26, 1894.
6. Postcard view courtesy of Robert Ambrogi, Vintage Rockport.
7. GDT October 26, 1894.
8. Photograph courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Association.
9. GDT April 10, 1899.
10. Moulton stereograph, courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
11. GDT March 12, 1898.
12. Postcard view courtesy of Robert Ambrogi, Vintage Rockport.
13. Photo from Barbara Erkkila, Hammers on Stone, 1980.
14. GDT August 25, 1897.
15. GDT October 14, 1898.
16. GDT October 24, 1898.
17. GDT September 17, 1898.
18. GDT June 13, 1899.
19. Portrait printed in the catalogue, from the Cornell University Library.
20. GDT September 12, 1900.
21. Harriet Robey, Bay View, 1979.