Thursday, January 26, 2017

December Dawn

Restless energies from a nocturnal netherworld
dash between states of materiality,
unprepared for the suddenness of the day.
They experiment with vapors, then
condense, dissociate, crystallize.
The dawn spies on a boudoir of elements
and calls forth animation.

Is the light 'light' without eyes to see?
Life maneuvers just so, searching for sustenance above the waves,
sunlight transmogrified in a food chain taken to flight.
Vapors feed the clouds.
The rocks transform in geologic time, liquid, solid, liquid, solid.
I depend on their familiar order.

The sky mediating all things, brings the day, a promise kept.
Thermodynamics makes space for quantum mechanics
in the laboratories of curiosity and creature comfort.
Within a molecule vast entities jostle and hum.
Vapors change domains in the living cells.
Reveille frolics on the relative warmth of the sea this morning
while the color blue, rare and precious on land,
lavishly relieves the shadows of the night.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Yankee Bodleys

The branch of the Babson clan associated with Halibut Point flickers on in The Yankee Bodleys (1936), the first published novel of Naomi Lane Babson (1895-1985). 

Naomi spent her early years surrounded by the Babson Farm which was no longer cultivated by the family. Her father Frederick was the great-grandson of David Wallis Babson and grandson of Horatio Babson. Frederick attended Colby College in Maine but was called home upon the illness of his father to help operate the family business in Pigeon Cove, the David Babson Fish Company.1 The names and occupations in this lineage, somewhat re-ordered, figure centrally in the novel. 

Miss Babson taught school locally from 1913 to 1920 before entering Radcliffe College. She left "at the end of two years in Cambridge, when my money and my simple faith in a college education gave out."2 She went to China as a teacher of the children of staff members at Lingan University, Canton, where she met her husband Paul Grieder. After the death of their first child in 1933 the Grieders returned to the United States. All these experiences gave Naomi the time, distance, and perhaps the heavy heart to compose The Yankee Bodleys. The book struck Cape Anners as a tell-all view of family secrets and dissolution.

Naomi herself grew up across the street from the Babson homestead, on one of the properties granted or sold from the original estate to launch new family households. This nuclearization of the land along the western side of Granite Street prefigured a pattern in the book. Over the later decades of the nineteenth century the aura of the 'manor house' brightened then dimmed according to the fortunes, and the cohesion, of the owners. 

The author places her story in the desiccating patrimony of Horatio Bodley during a time span equivalent to the second generation of Babsons at Halibut Point. Horatio marries Adelia in 1834. Their lives, as well as the those of their seven children and very few grandchildren, form the threads of the book. Their tensions and contradictions remind the reader of Jane Austen's characters searching for position in Pride and Prejudice. 

Jessica wore the green satin dress made the summer before by Angie Sparrow's rapid needle. A gown the color of a wave as it curls to break, with a ruffle of lace like a ruffle of foam round Jessica's white shoulders. Her hair was pinned in a high knot--a style new to her, and very becoming. She was thirty years old, and had never been more beautiful; her charm was self-assured and in some sort virginal. Jessica had not spent herself; her loveliness was cold and perfect, as if it had been preserved on ice. She sat now half turned from the stove; her hands stretched out to the warmth of glowing coals, but her eyes were on Wilfred who was at the table, drinking port. They were engaged in the unending quarrel which had lasted since the summer, the quarrel over Wilfred's future. 

Granite Street unites the geography of the Bodley world from Folly Cove to Handsome (Pigeon) Cove. Beyond these bounds it links vaguely to Crownport (Rockport) in one direction and Ancester (Gloucester) in the other. The roadway aggrandizes from dust to trolley tracks to pavement as the Bodleys, conversely, falter and disperse.

Naomi Lane Babson, 1936
Adelia and her four daughters receive the fullest attention from the author's pen, but much of it is directed to their grief and disappointments.  First-born Zillah's marital bliss is cut short by widowhood in the Civil War. Her zest withers concurrently with the vitality of the Bodleys. Her father counted himself a man of note, but she didn't know who upheld his reckoning, and he was a smaller figure, if it came to that, than his father or his grandfather before him. For her part she'd rather be at the beginning of a family than at the end of one. 

Jessica, the proudest, opens the story reminiscing over a family photograph after all the others have passed on. At the end she boards a bus to attend the reopening as a Community Center of the old Universalist Church that Horatio helped to build for her wedding. She arrives in her black silk dress with its chiffon ruching that she always wore for best, fixing side-combs set with brilliants in hair that was still abundant. Jessica looked an old woman now, but she did not look eighty-five. She stood tall and straight; she held up her chin, and her eyes could flash with anger or amusement; beauty had fled but its reflection lingered like the pale afterglow of a sunset on the bay. 

There is no one present to appreciate the stained glass windows donated by Horatio Bodley. In Jessica's mind the little girls performing in skimpy costumes on stage profane the sanctity of another era. She swings her ivory-knobbed umbrella at a window overhead to smash a little white lamb in its ruby circle.  

Jessica walks home alone, lights the stove, singing as she works and dreaming of a party. She had seen, beyond the shattered glass and the rows of startled faces turning toward her, an unforgotten splendor shining: she was Jessica Bodley, belle of the Cove, handsome, young and fearless....
1. Ann Theopold Chaplin, The Babson Genealogy: 1606-1997.
2. Letter to her mother, March 4, 1936, courtesy of the Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University. 

The Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University
Naomi Lane Babson went on to publish four more novels and many shorter pieces in magazines such as Collier's, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Redbook, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Writer. She bequeathed her literary estate to Boston University.

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.