Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Inspiration

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, and I then found it had also been published by Lucy B. Painter, a Norwood family descendent. When I sat quietly to read the entries, I became enthralled by its quiet and eloquent expressions. 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) 



Book Stew Wilmington TV Finish Line Writers Group Interview and Readings:  https://vimeo.com/1653255

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Bit of the History

37 Mt. Pleasant Street ~ Inn at 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 was 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' decedents 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 also remains, associated with the long-circulated story that an accused witch from Salem was sheltered there because of obscurity of the woods in 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 relating to fishing, but also perhaps because Joshua’s son, Caleb, had indeed discovered or somehow acquired gold, which has never been officially proven, but very likely/probable according to the findings of Peter Bergholtz and Donald Dawson, researchers for Parson's book, Fish, Timber, Granite & Gold

     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 who kept a diary from March of 1848 to August of 1849, which was the inspiration for Moss on Stone.

     Caleb (1736-1814), the youngest son of Joshua and Elizabeth. Caleb, nicknamed "Red Cap," married Elizabeth Grover, who died after 10 years and five children. Caleb, Jr. was the last child from this marriage. He remarried Jerusha Story from Ispwich 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 (AKA Redcap) discovery of pirate gold, which is mentioned in Ebenezer Pool’s 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. Some think that it is not improbable that the Norwoods were involved in coastal privateering and possibly acquired the gold on their own.

     Evidence was noted for out-of-the ordinary wealth, in the research of Bergholtz and Dawson for Fish, Timber, Granite & Gold: Caleb’s and Francis Pool’s investing fortunes in Revolutionary war bonds, buying up property and building homes--ones not of usual construction, style and size for the average person at the time. All these expenditures and expansions fueled the rumored discovery of the gold.  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-also still standing.

     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.

References

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 

     Society

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Moss on Stone - An Excerpt



I
Prologue

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