Sunday, March 12, 2017


The Inspiration
A Bit of History
Prologue  - Moss on Stone

Sandra Williams taught Language Arts, World Literature, and Reading/Writing & Research for over twenty-five years at both high school and university levels. Having always written poetry and essays, with several articles published in New View magazine, UK, she has recently published Moss on Stone, a local historical novella based on the diary of Susannah Norwood Torrey, a young woman of mid-nineteenth Rockport, MA. 

Sandra loves living on beautiful Cape Ann with her artist husband, Robert www.robertlouiswilliams. Both are inspired by its beauty and its community of creativity. She is a member of the Finish Line writers’ group at the Gloucester Writers Center where she offers group work in poetry and is on the Education Committee.

Time and Tide, a collection of short stories, will be published in the fall of 2017. 

About Time and Tide: a collection of short stories, speaks of change— sometimes a long time coming, sometimes in an instant, but always inevitable. The introductory story “Time and Tide” frames  the stories that follow. Helen, an American who has been living in Italy, believes her creativity is gone forever as she returns to her childhood home to care for her mother. A curious encounter in a clock shop leads her to a strange experience wherein:
     All manner of dark and light beings began to flash and flutter before her—some in     images like holographs,  their voices heard in whispers and secret thoughts. When they came, they came like a swift, incoming tide, surreal, filled with beauty and sadness, old regrets and new life—all muddled and intertwined as in a dream….She understood them, loved them. She both dreamed their dreams and was in the dreams—hundreds of them, maybe enough to last a lifetime. She would speak as them and for them.

Each subsequent story in the collection, with Helen as conduit, brings into focus the strange alchemy of human experience, distilled through the characters’ longings, illusions and imaginations— bringing forth golden revelations, not only for them, but for the reader as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2016



GLOUCESTER WRITERS CENTER - April 5, 2017 at 7:30
Joined by author Jan Blais - Finding Boticelli

MEET THE AUTHORS - Thursday, May 18th from 6 - 8 pm
Moss on Stone- Sandra Williams
Brother, Brother, Dan Duffy
Rocky Neck Cultural Center
6 Wonson Ave. Gloucester, MA 

IDEAS BOOKSTORE - Dec. 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm
2234 Kimberton Road, 
Kimberton, PA

The inspiration for the novella, Moss on Stone came gradually, triggered by a small sign. While my husband and I were taking a walk in the lovely town of Rockport, Massachusetts on a warm day in May, admiring the trees and spring flowers in bloom, we passed the Inn on Cove Hill. On the gate was the sign: "Built in 1771 by Caleb Norwood with pirate gold found at Gully Point. Hmm...interesting, but was it true? I wondered.

A few weeks later, I went to the Rockport town library, and the Sandy Bay Historical Society (SBHS) to do a little research. I found the Ebenezer Pool papers--a chronicle written by hand (1822-1870). He wrote that there was a discovery of gold by Caleb Norwood and that, "the money find was not made public, but was of many thousands value."

     Hmmm...even more interesting! Gwen Stephenson, kind and patient curator at SBHS, directed me to Fish, Timber Granite & Gold by Eleanor Parsons. In it there is reference to later research which found documents to support a discovery of gold by Caleb Norwood. Parsons also mentions Caleb's great granddaughter, Susannah, who had kept a diary (March 1849 - August 1849) when she lived in that very house we had passed on that spring morning!

     Sandy Bay Historical Society and Museum had a copy of Susannah's diary. I then found it had also been published by Lucy B. Painter, a Norwood family descendant. When I read her entries,  I became enthralled by her thoughtful and eloquent expression. The diary revealed a young woman with fine sensibilities, reflective mind, a sense of humor and many interests. Most notably, she was a keen observer of nature who seemed to live for solitude--in her "garret," or at the seaside, fields and woods of Cape Ann, where she gathered mosses to arrange into beautiful designs on paper.

      I wanted to (had to) bring Susannah to life again with her diary entries as a springboard to expand into a "story" consistent with her recorded thoughts, feelings, and the events found in the diary. Ironically, the novella's perspective has Susannah telling her story from an afterlife, "waiting to return to life anew."

Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet. 
(W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore) 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


37 Mt. Pleasant Street ~ Inn on Cove Hill 
In 1605, Samuel deChamplain and John Smith, a decade later, came to Cape Ann. Champlain called the area Island Cape, and Smith called it "Cape Tragabigzanda," thought to be the name of a Turkish princess. Later, Prince Charles renamed it Cape Ann (after his mother, Queen Anne, the wife of James I). In a guide book of New England published by Smith, he refers to Cape Ann as the “Paradise of New England.” By 1645 Cape Ann was chartered, and fisherman were coming to settle. 

     Francis Norwood (1636-1709), Susannah's Norwood Torrey's great, great, great grandfather was of aristocratic heritage by all indications. He traveled to Saugus, MA in 1657 from Gloucestershire, England with other members of his family, perhaps seeking a safe haven from the Cromwell years when his father (Thomas), was killed and King Charles I was beheaded. Francis’s uncle (brother of Thomas)  took guardianship of his young nephew, Francis. He lived with his uncle, his aunt and nine cousins at Leckhampton Court, a 2000-acre property with manor house in Gloucester, England. 

     Six years later, Francis moved from Saugus with his wife Elizabeth Coldum to Cape Ann.  In 1664 he received a six-acre land grant in Goose Cove (Annisquam), then a remote settlement. The house is still standing. The Pools, Tarrs, Allens and Haskells were other families who settled and made significant contributions to Gloucester and Rockport. Some of those families' descendants still live on Cape Ann.
     Francis and Elizabeth began the “Norwood Dynasty.” By the time Francis died (buried in Bayview Cemetery, Gloucester), he had acquired 170 acres on Cape Ann from Goose Cove to Pigeon Cove, where his 8th child, Joshua (1683-1782), and his wife (also an Elizabeth) settled (north end of Curtis Street) in Garrison House, also known as the Witch House or Old House. This house is associated with the long-circulated story that an accused witch from Salem was sheltered there because of its obscurity in the woods of Pigeon Cove. Some believe the sheltered “witch” was Elizabeth Proctor, whose story is told in Arthur’s Miller play, The Crucible.
     Joshua sold Garrison House and moved to Cambridge and Attleboro, MA for a time.  He came back to Cape Ann and bought property across Sandy Bay behind Straitsmouth Island. There he would have had a view of the comings and goings of pirates and privateers, who had scouted the coves trading in rum, molasses and sugar, Gully Point and Gap Cove being among their known haunts. The Davises, Allens and Norwoods were aware of and sometimes tolerant of these “visitors,” as many were British from their homeland. Joshua's cottage was later moved from Straitsmouth to Atlantic Avenue in Rockport and still stands. Records reveal that Joshua and his father were referred to as "gentlemen" because of their land holdings and business dealings.

     Susannah’s  great, great grandfather was Joshua (AKA Old Joshua). Her great grandfather was Caleb (AKA Red Cap), and her grandfather was Caleb, Jr., one of whose children was Charles. Susannah was the daughter of Charles and Susanna Norwood. Both sets of grandparents were Norwoods. Susannah kept a diary from March of 1848 to August of 1849, which was the inspiration for Moss on Stone.

     Caleb (1736-1814),nicknamed "Red Cap," the youngest son of Joshua and Elizabeth, married Elizabeth Grover, who died after 10 years and five children. Caleb, Jr. was the last child from this marriage. He remarried Jerusha Story of Ipswich, MA within three months (she had other children). Together they had an additional three children, one of whom was another Francis (1771-1823), William, and Lucy (half-siblings of Caleb Jr.)—part of the third generation of Norwoods on Cape Ann. 

     When Caleb died (1814), he left 14 acres (from Atlantic Ave. to Norwood Ave.) to three sons, Caleb, Jr., (1762-1839) from Caleb’s first marriage, and to William and Francis. Caleb, Jr. married another Jerusha, a cousin, or step-sister (sources revealed two different versions), also named Jerusha.

     1771 was the year Thacher lighthouses were illuminated and also the year the rumors began of Caleb’s discovery of pirate gold, which is referred to in the Ebenezer Pool papers (Sandy Bay Historical Society). He writes that “the money find…of many thousands value” was found, “south of the seashore Gully….” It is thought that Caleb shared his find with neighbor, Francis Pool, on whose land the gold was said to have been found—estimated in 2001 with a conversion value of $700,000. 

  Though gold discovery remained a rumor, it seems very probable according to the findings of Peter Bergholtz and Donald Dawson, researchers for Parson's book, Fish, Timber, Granite & Gold. They uncovered evidence of out-of-the ordinary wealth of Caleb Norwood and Francis Pool from their significant investments in Revolutionary War bonds. They also well bought up property and built homes--ones not of usual construction, style and size for the average person at the time. All these expenditures and expansions also fueled the discovery of the gold rumors. 

   The Norwood family, 20 years after the said discovery of the gold, had their status, according to Gloucester tax records, at the highest assessment in town, much more than the average fishermen/granite workers, and had built six large houses, two of which were homes to Susannah Norwood (1826-1908), 37 and 39 Mt. Pleasant Street, both also still standing in Rockport (see picture above of 37--Inn on Cove Hill).

     At age 17, in 1843, Susannah married Solomon F. Torrey, a stone cutter, who for his father, William Torrey, the owner of quarries in Rockport and Quincy. After their marriage, they lived at 39 Mt. Pleasant Street with her maternal grandparents, William Norwood (Caleb Jr.s’ half brother) and Susanna Wheeler, who had built an addition on the home for the couple. Susannah and Solomon had a child, William Francis, in 1845. Sadly, he died a few days before his first birthday.  

     When Solomon left with 10 other young men from Cape Ann for the gold rush in California, Susannah moved next door with her parents, Charles and Susanna (Norwood) Norwood, to 37 Mt. Pleasant Street, now the Inn on Cove Hill.
     When Solomon returned home, he and Susannah built a large house they referred to as “stone cottage” (known today as "Granite Lodge") on Norwood Avenue, which is still standing. They had two daughters, Aria and Susannah, but Solomon lived only 5 years after his return. Susannah lived a long life as a widow thereafter, died at age 82 in 1908, and is buried at Union Cemetery in Rockport, MA.


Callam, G. Marion Norwood. The Norwoods II: A Chronological History. Bexhill-
     on-Sea. East Sussex, England:  published by the author, 1997.
Parsons, Eleanor. Bergholtz, Peter and Dawson, Donald, researchers. Fish, Timber, Granite & Gold. Sponsored
    by Sandy Bay Historical Society and Museums: Rockport, MA, 2003.
Saville, Marshall, H. Champlain and His Landings on Cape Ann 1605, 1606. 
     American Antiquarian Society, 1933. Collection of Sandy Bay Historical 


Sunday, April 24, 2016



To have a dream is to remain hopeful—a vision of some future time when all will be well and worry ceases. I found that when dreams fade there are other ways, if not to cherish thoughts of the future, or to reflect upon regrets of the past, then to sustain us day to day with a small measure of light. Mine were things of beauty—moss on stone.

Now, from this distance of space and time, indeed the absence of those illusions that do not exist here, I linger— preparing to return to life anew. What did I leave behind? A portrait for others to look upon, a scrapbook of moss designs, a diary and a stone cottage by the sea.

I review my life as one would a colorful tableau, with the insights and knowledge that come when the physical body is no more. I see that mine was a life worth living. I will tell you something of that life: of dreams and dreams fading; of intimations and transformations; of time passing; of dear family and friends loved and lost; and of people and places changed. Through it all, there were the immutable gifts of nature to renew my soul with unequaled joy, asking nothing in return.

     Between this thicket and the wood, lay the sought for valley covered with rocks piled one about another…and these rocks were covered with the most beautiful mosses that I ever saw. (October 17, 1848)

Illustrations:  "Moss" from original scrapbook of Susannah Norwood Torrey's moss designs and "Between this Thicket and the Wood" by Robert L. Williams