Thursday, February 23, 2017

Phebe Gott's Quilt

People on the Land at Halibut Point, Part 4

October 27, 1908

My dear Lizzie, 

            You have married into a family with roots. I want to welcome you with this quilt. It shows how we have lived on this spot over 200 years. 

            My grandfather Joshua Gott is the thread running through this quilt. He told us stories by the fireplace all winter. He told us his grandfather Samuel built this house from the ship timbers that brought him here from Wenham in 1702. 

            In those early days there were hardly any other settlers near here. Samuel and his wife Margaret already had two children when they arrived. They bought some adjacent lots for Margaret's brother William Andrews. One of Margaret's sisters married Joshua Norwood at the Garrison House. You can see their three houses in the First Panel of the quilt, homesteading the land all the way from Halibut Point to Pigeon Cove. 

            In the Second Panel you notice that the Gott family depended on sheep. Samuel was a weaver. He and his sons made sheep enclosures from the stones they cleared out of the fields . The house had a lean-to kitchen. Samuel acquired other property for some of his fourteen children. Eventually just his son Joseph's branch lived here, but they had to share it with Captain Norwood who raised fifteen children in his half of the house. 

            That's how my grandfather Joshua grew up. Just as he turned twenty-one the Revolution broke out. He joined George Washington's Army for the defense of Boston and New York. Then he shipped out on the privateer Stark. There they are in the Third Panel, chasing a British prize at sea. When he came back from the War the United States were independent but Sandy Bay was still part of Gloucester. 

            Grandfather Joshua lived in this house with his wife Deborah, whom I never knew. He lived to be ninety-two. He took care of the orchards that you see in the Fourth Panel. In my childhood only two of his seven children were still alive, my father Joshua Jr. and Aunt Lucy. Grandfather Joshua always had time for us and his many friends. Perhaps he loved the sea more than the land. He sold the Fatting Pasture to David Babson in the 1820s. 

            Aunt Lucy must have had his grit. She married three times. Grandfather gave her second husband Job Dennen lifetime rights to take stone from ten acres of land out by the shoreline. You can see Job splitting a ledge in the Fifth Panel. My husband and I sold that land to him fifty years ago. Later on Ezra Eames tried to make a go of quarrying there. The Rockport Granite Company is working the Babson Farm pretty hard, but they never did get that piece of land from Ezra Eames's daughter Sarah Weatherell, who owns it now. 

            Back in 1835 my father Joshua was the first clerk and director of the Pigeon Cove Harbor Company. They built the breakwater and wharf that you see in the Sixth Panel. People called him Captain, like they did his father. Our land wasn't big enough to make much of a farm any more. He had a surveyor make up a plan with lots for each of his children, and the common pasture for all of us down on the shore between Sarah Weatherell's land and the Phillips' Ocean View Estate coming at us from Andrews Point. 

            My husband Charles McLellan and I inherited the lot with this house on it. We had to make a few property adjustments with my brother and sisters. We're the ones who wanted to keep the family going here, even though the surname has changed through my marriage to Charles. Everyone still calls it the Gott House. The Seventh Panel shows it bracketed by the estates at Ocean View and the quarry derricks on Babson Farm. 

            Charles is gone now too. Most of our children have gone footloose, which I understand. My brother and sisters and I gave up the pasture. We have a neighbor on the lot that Susan sold. Change is coming on the others. The electric railway goes by on Granite Street, and automobiles. People are on the move in the Eighth Panel. 

            Lizzie, it seems you and Kenneth are going to make a home here together. This is the oldest gambrel-roofed house on Cape Ann. I've jostled with it for seventy-three years. This picture in the Ninth Panel is the way I feel about it. Just like us it needs plenty of caring. I'm pleased you feel that way too. With you and Kenneth it is in good hands. 

            This is the best way I could tell my story. You will have it with the quilt over you every night. You will be blessed as I have been blessed in this old house, even as the world swirls around. 

Phebe Gott McLellan

I have invented the Quilt and Phebe's Letter to convey how she might have felt about these facts and trends of family history.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thomas Gaffield

People on the Land at Halibut Point, Part 3

Thomas Gaffield (1825-1900) 1
Thomas Gaffield, a self-made innovator in the field of glass manufacture, turned his talents to real estate investment in the Boston suburbs and beyond. His success enabled him to fund both commercial ventures and generous philanthropy.

Gaffield bought an Ocean View lot in 1883 adjacent to John Stowell's Meadowcliff, for a personal seaside residence.2 How far he got with building there is not clear, because he sold the premises in 1887 to John Way, who put up the most architecturally lavish cottage on Andrews Point. None of these edifices survives today.

Halibut Point development plans
From the George W. Stadly Atlas, 1899
Thomas Gaffield took note of real estate opportunities on the north-westerly side of Halibut Point. In 1885 he took ownership of the twenty acre parcel that had lain dormant since Eben Phillips bought it from Mary Babson in 1873. He advertised his amenability to selling this "Sunset Hill" as a single lot or as multiple building sites.

Gaffield's Halibut Point real estate for sale 3
Gaffield worked closely with two grandsons of David Wallis Babson to construct a road network through their adjoining properties. Boating and bathing facilities were envisioned at Folly Cove. A newspaper reporter affirmed the prospects: The lots on the highland between the Fatting Pasture and Gott's Lane are especially desirable, on account of their elevated position, the fine view, and the rich soil; the latter condition rendering these capable of high improvement. Gott's Lane is undergoing a thorough transformation, the old walls being torn down to give place to new, or being rebuilt, and ledges blown out.4

Later in the summer of 1885 the reporter returned to admire the progress on Sunset Hill, and to verify rumors of a hotel in the offing. The report that Mr. Gaffield is to build a hotel here, which gained circulation, is without any foundation in fact. He, however, says that he will make a gift of a reasonable amount of land to any party who will put up a hotel on the property in which he is interested.5

A closer view of the Gaffield plan
Residential buyers did not materialize briskly. In 1894 the Babsons sold their entire seventy acre farm to quarrying interests, which soon consolidated with the Rockport Granite Company.6

The treeless skyline of Halibut Point c. 1890,
looking east from Mason Square, Lanesville.
Neither trolley lines nor major quarrying are yet in evidence.
One house sits just visible on the ridge, likely within the Gaffield realm.
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo.
Thomas Gaffield himself was able to come to terms with only four house lot buyers. He planted shade trees along Gaffield Avenue. Perhaps no more than one house was actually constructed, enhanced with a tennis court.7

Mr. Gaffield's public spirit was undaunted. In 1889 he presented the Pigeon Cove Free Library with fifty or more finely bound volumes, consisting of works of Carlyle, Emerson, Goethe, Geo. Elliot, Thackeray, and the Waverly Novels. Mr. Gaffield's timely gift is highly appreciated, and heaven, for such are its decrees, shall bless the hand that blesses.8

The blessings continued on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, and the Perkins Institute for the Blind, which received "Sunset Hill" as a joint bequest from Gaffield upon his death. Several years later in 1907 the land passed rapidly through a straw owner, to George Rogers (an affiliate of the Rockport Granite Company), to the corporation itself. The transition of Halibut Point from agriculture to industry skipped over residential development which, even considering the drastic alterations by quarrying, would have generated greater long-term changes.

1. Arthur Wellington Brayley, Schools and Schoolboys of Old Boston, 1894.
2. These and other real estate transactions may be traced through the Salem Registry of Deeds.
3. Boston Daily Advertiser, May 6, 1886.
4. Cape Ann Evening Breeze, July 1, 1885.
5. Ibid, August 17, 1885.
6. See "Babson Farm", Notes from Halibut Point #173, January 12, 2017.
7. The Trustees of Reservations, "A Chronology Highlighting Settlement of Rockport, Massachusetts, and the Preservation of Land at Halibut Point", n.d. (courtesy of Les Bartlett).
8. Cape Ann Advertiser, May 17, 1889.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ocean View

People on the Land at Halibut Point, Part 2
Alfred J. Wiggin, Pigeon Cove Harbor, painted in 1846
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Recreational visitors began to find tranquility in the North Village of Rockport in the 1840s. Summer boarding houses that hosted the bright adventurers of Cambridge and Boston expanded their comforts into seasonal hotels as the railroad reached Town from the City. The mastermind of development potentials in Pigeon Cove was Eben Phillips of Swampscott.

Eben Phillips (1808-1875)1
The train reached Rockport in 1862. Eben Phillips had begun acquiring land north of Pigeon Cove in 1855.2 The transportation link to Boston freed the seaside pastures from the humble limits of subsistence farming. Rail patrons could commute to the occupations and wealth of the cosmopolitan world. Society flowed in, guided by entrepreneurs. Diverse livelihoods for local youth opened up both on and off Cape Ann. The family farms that had always been a marginal solution for children, and to their own estate integrity, gave a new harvest to recreational and suburban living.

Promotional map of Ocean View
Rockport Town Hall archives
Eben Phillips began his offering with 175 residential lots bordering Phillips Avenue, a mile and a half in length. His advertisement made a bridge to elysian living for city folk: Broad off the shore, easterly, is the old ocean, spread out before you in all its magnitude and grandeur.... in connection with the bathing and the healthy and invigorating atmosphere, the many pleasant drives, the rambles in the woods and by the shore, and the excellent facilities for gunning fishing, and sailing, make the place one of unequalled attraction for those who are in quest of health or pleasure.

The intersection of Babson and Ocean Avenues, c. 1870s
Phillips stereograph, Cape Ann Museum
The newspaper cheered on the progressive foresight of Eben Phillips and his local partner. "Mr. George Babson is pushing ahead the work on Ocean Avenue. This enterprise is one of great importance, and it is hoped that it will prove profitable to Mr. B. He has been assiduous in his labors and is well deserving of a handsome pecuniary reward. It has already advanced the interests of this community, enhancing the value of real estate and centering an interest here that will be of great advantage. It will be but a brief time before fine residences will dot these vacant lots, and the public will then more fully appreciate the sagacity which prompted the improvement." 3

Meadowcliff, on Phillips Avenue4
Mr. John Stowell of Charlestown began work on his Meadowcliff overlooking the ocean at Andrews Point in 1875. As he refined its surrounding moors the estate came to be considered "one of the most beautiful places on Cape Ann, if not the Massachusetts coast." 5

The Meadowcliff landscape4
"Year by year, Mr. S. who has rare artistic taste, is adding to the beauty of this place which is now as beautiful as a poet's dream." 5

Meadowcliff on the corner of Phillips Avenue, adjacent to Halibut Point
From the G. M. Hopkins Atlas, 1884
The acquisitional momentum of Ocean View surged past Meadowcliff into the pastures and moors of Halibut Point. Embryonic Glen Avenue appeared on the map next to John Stowell's estate, aimed northwest into the heart of Andrews Hollow. In 1873 The Phillips purchased the twenty acre lot from Mary Babson, between Babson Farm and the Gott House (see above). A short segment of roadway could now connect the Ocean View neighborhood with Gott Avenue and its surrounding open land.

George H. Walker lithograph, 1886
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library
Peninsulas jutting right, bottom to top, into the Ipswich Bay:
Andrews Point, Halibut Point, Folly Point

The Phillips Estate sent a team of cartographers aloft in a hot air balloon to portray the extent of their realm, published in the Walker lithograph. But the founders of Ocean View did not live to pursue further development. Eben had died in 1875 and his widow Maria in 1882. In 1885 the twenty-acre Babson Farm parcel was sold to Thomas Gaffield. Except alongside Phillips Avenue much of the Andrews Hollow acreage remained pristine for a century.

The checkered stripe discernible in Walker's aerial view, crossing the crest of Halibut Point, outlines Thomas Gaffield's early endeavors to pick up the baton of development from the Phillips. 

1. D. Hamilton Hurd, History Of Essex County Massachusetts, With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers And Prominent Men, 1888.
2. Marshall Swan, Town on Sandy Bay, 1980.
3. Cape Ann Advertiser, May 7, 1869
4. Rockport As It Was, Town of Rockport Picture History Committee, 1975. Photos from the Sandy Bay Historical Society.
5. Gloucester Daily Times, May 9, 1893.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Old and the New

People on the Land at Halibut Point, Part 1
Halibut Point, 1851
From the Henry F. Walling Map
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library
In the century and a half after Samuel Gott's 1702 settlement relatively little changed in land use at Halibut Point. Babsons replaced Woodburys. Subsistence farming supported families. Pockets of arable fields intermingled with meadows and pastures. Fishing supplemented agriculture.

The large number of children born to many of the early families may have provided additional hands for the chores, but they also presented more mouths to feed. As the children grew up they needed supporting ventures of their own. Whether or not subsistence farming appealed to them, there wasn't much room on the small farm. And when the time came to bequeath their estates equitably among their children, land holders without other resources faced the problem of having to divide their parcels into fractions.
Outside forces caught up with the undeveloped areas adjacent to Halibut Point in the mid-nineteenth century. Fish oil tycoon Eben Phillips witnessed the transformation of his native Swampscott by the railroad. He recognized that modern transportation would make the sleepy seaside neighborhood north of Pigeon Cove very valuable. Along with local partner George Babson he bought and gentrified an extensive tract reaching almost to Halibut Point, marketing the lots as Ocean View. 1
Gentlemen at Cathedral Rocks, Ocean View
From a Moulton stereograph, Cape Ann Museum
Twenty years after the passing of David Wallis Babson in 1851 three of his sons still figured prominently in the ownership of Babson Farm, although the land had been much divided. When one of these sons Gorham died, his widow Mary sold her twenty-acre parcel to Eben Phillips in 1873. Thereby the Phillips dominion crossed Gott Lane and Halibut Point to the Ipswich Bay, by the route of present-day Gaffield Avenue, bisecting Babson Farm.
Bostonian Thomas Gaffield had discovered Cape Ann as an investor in Ocean View lots. He began his own estate on one of them at Andrews Point. After the deaths of Eben and Maria Phillips he acquired that twenty-acre parcel formerly held by Mary Babson. With the assistance of George Babson's first cousins David C. and Horatio Jr., Mr. Gaffield proceeded in 1884 with plans for a subdivision and road network.2
Local citizens complained about the hiring of low-wage immigrants for the project when the newspaper reported that "a band of about thirty Italians have arrived to labor on the new road to be built by Mssrs. Gaffield and Babson on the Halibut Point estate. They have taken up their abode in one of the fish houses at Folly Cove where they have formed a community of their own. It is said they receive $1.25 a day." 3 Most likely the Babsons owned the fish house.
At about this same time Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements, a forerunner of another immigrant group - the artists - took up residence in Folly Cove. Some years later in 1901 she photographed laborers installing trolley tracks on Granite Street, within a stone's throw of the Bay View Avenue that Gaffield and Babson had commissioned from Folly Cove up through The Fatting Pasture into Halibut Point. The construction methods were essentially the same.4

Splitting boulders for road material on Granite Street, Folly Cove
Crushing stone into gravel with sledgehammers
Rolling a boulder onto a horse-drawn cart
Several Italian immigrant families made a life on the land around Halibut Point in the early twentieth century. The Puccis farmed property across Gott Avenue from the Gott House. Their daughter Maria came to be known as Mary during her school years. One of Mary's special inspirations was Lizzie McLellan, a natural teacher and ecologist, daughter-in-law of Phebe Gott McLellan.5
Mary Pucci (left) with Howard and Phoebe McLellan
(two of Lizzie's children) on the steps of the Gott House, c. 1929
Precocious Mary came to the attention of artist/photographer Clements, who sponsored the girl's studies at Simmons College. Knowing the pride Mary took in her Italian heritage Ms. Clements presented her with a set of Dante's Divine Comedy. Mary went on to graduate from medical school.
The set of Dante's Divine Comedy presented to Mary Pucci in 1943
The inscription to Mary Pucci, from Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements
Dr. Mary Pucci Couchman treasuring the Dante works
and wearing her Italian grandmother's ring, 2014
Dr. Mary Pucci Couchman's marriage and medical practice took her to the Midwest. She maintained a lifelong connection to her roots through a summer home on Granite Street across from Halibut Point, in one of the houses carved out of Babson Farm for its progeny.
1. See Notes from Halibut Point "The Avenues", December 12, 2014.
2. Cape Ann Evening Breeze, October 31, 1884.
3. Ibid, April 10, 1885.
4. Glass plate negatives from the Hale/Clements Collection, Sandy Bay Historical Society.
5. Interview with Mary Couchman, June 2014.