Thompson Cemetery

7.5.19 ~ the first map used to try to locate the Thompson Cemetery

What a day! I was doing some research early in the morning and found the address to a cemetery in North Stonington where one of my 5th-great-grandfathers is buried. Tim suggested we go find it and so we set out. The address was incorrect. We couldn’t find it. But we found the town hall and a very helpful clerk there who solved the puzzle for us, using a variety of maps. We were on our way once again.

7.5.19 ~ found at last!

It’s a very small family cemetery on private property. The gate was locked so we somehow managed with our old aching bodies to climb over that stone wall. That’s determination for you. We landed in poison ivy and other greenery, full of ticks, for sure. But we found what we were looking for, tucked in the back, close to the stone wall.

In
Memory of
JAMES
THOMSON
who died
Jan. 30, 1808
Aged 92 years

In
Memory of
MARY,
wife of
James Thomson
who died
April 10, 1803
Aged 73 years

7.5.19 ~ the back of Mary’s headstone, nestled between a lovely tree, the stone wall, and her husband’s headstone

I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, to not discover Mary’s maiden name. I went to the cemetery believing she had given birth to 15 children and wondered what her life must have been like. Something about the data I had at home didn’t quite seem to add up.

When we got home we first took showers to wash away any possible poison ivy oil.

And then I was back online for hours trying to see if I could find anything else about Mary. Well, it turns out that there were two Marys! James’ first wife was Mary Dixon, the mother of 5 of his children, and his second wife was Mary Denison, the mother of 10 of his children. The Mary in the cemetery is the second wife, and my 5th-great-grandmother. It’s no wonder there is so much confusion but I think I’ve finally got it sorted out.

I descend from Mary Denison’s youngest son, Elias Thompson. He was born here in 1773 but moved to Kendall, New York and died there in 1848. His daughter, Lucy Anne, married Austin White and stayed here. I’m learning how deeply connected to southeastern Connecticut my roots are and why I feel so at home living here.

James Thompson (1724-1808) & Mary Denison (1728-1803)
Elias Thompson (1773-1848)
Lucy Anne Thompson (1808-1852)
William Martin White (1836-1925)
Samuel Minor White (1873-1949)
John Everett White (1905-2001) ~ my grandfather

After getting bleary-eyed online we finally went to the beach for supper. While waiting for our order and looking out over the water I suddenly saw my gull friend sitting on one of his posts! “My friend!” I exclaimed and rushed down the stairs and over the grass to say hello. He acknowledged me and took off, flying in a great circle and then came back and landed on a rock, safely away from some gull-chasing children. We gazed at each other for a long time and then he reached down into the water and brought up a large crab. He flew his catch to a rock closer to me and proceeded to break it up and eat it. I was mesmerized. It was so wonderful to see him again.

Of course I hadn’t brought the camera or my cell phone. But Tim got this picture of him. It’s kind of amazing, I first met this gull in 2011, 8 years ago. Most gulls can survive from 10-15 years in the wild. Perhaps we’ll be friends for a few more years to come.

Our first meeting: in the offing. It was a perfect ending to a great day. (And let’s hope we don’t wake up with poison ivy tomorrow…)

getting started

Papa at work in his lab

Finally, after years of eldercare, our own health problems, and helping to welcome our grandchildren into the family, I find myself with actual free time! It feels very strange.

So, I’ve been able to roll up my sleeves and tackle the pile of stuff taking up half of the guest/genealogy room. Three large boxes of stuff have been donated (mostly knick knacks) and a couple of large bags have gone to the dumpster. And I’m starting to find some of the buried treasure. Tim set me up with a scanner so I’m on a roll now!

Grandfather examining refrigerated bottles of ?

These two pictures were taken by my grandmother, probably sometime in the 1960s. It makes me smile to think that my father took his in-laws to work with him one day, probably while my sister and I were at school and my mother was at work. They were very proud of his accomplishments. He was the first in our family to get a PhD. My sister would become the second.

We should be getting some snow tomorrow ~ that would be nice if only the rain wasn’t predicted to come wash it all away.

Mum & Pop

1957 ~ My great-grandparents, Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson & Amanda Eliza Hamblin, welcoming me to the family.

My great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson, son and only child of Martin Edward and Elizabeth Emma (Freeman) Thompson, was born 29 March 1875 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died 13 July 1965 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married in 1894, his fifth cousin, once removed, Amanda Eliza Hamblin, who was born 2 August 1879 in Dennis, and died 6 July 1966 in Taunton (Bristol) Massachusetts, the daughter of William Nelson and Anna Eliza (Baker) Hamblin.

Martin Thompson and Edward Swift

Martin was for a time the captain of the King Philip, a fishing boat out of Boston. He was a pilot and a sea-captain. In 1906 the couple resided at 69A Whiting Street, in Lynn, Massachusetts and later lived at 13 Wilson Drive in Abington. Probably sometime after his father’s death in 1928 they moved to the family home at 114 Depot Street, in Dennis Port, and were certainly there before 1957. For a time Martin & Amanda resided at 10 School Street in Woods Hole with their daughter and son-in-law, who were caring for his aunt and uncle, Edward and Susan Flora (Freeman) Swift.

Amanda had a very close relationship with Martin’s cousin, Annie (Thompson) Kelley. She cherished unrealized dreams of becoming an actress, but was well-known for the beautiful doilies she crocheted. Many of the doilies were given to her great-granddaughter, my sister Beverly, who seems to have inherited the crocheting genes. Beverly reproduced some of Amanda’s designs and has mounted some of the originals for safekeeping.

Amanda Hamblin (1879-1966)

Amanda suffered from dementia in her final years, and for the year after her husband died, could only accept that he was at sea, and would only be made to rest easier when she was told that he was coming home soon. Amanda was called “Mum” and Martin was called “Pop” by their daughter and grandchildren. Both Mum & Pop died of pneumonia, a year apart, and lie buried together in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis Port. Martin’s Namesakes: his father Capt. Martin Edward Thompson and his mother Elisabeth Emma Freeman. Amanda’s Namesakes: both of her grandmothers, Amanda Bearse and Eliza R. Eldridge.

Amanda & Martin were the parents of one daughter:

1. Emma Freeman Thompson (my grandmother), born 8 June 1906 in Lynn (Essex) Massachusetts, died 3 September 1996 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts. She married 30 November 1929 in Harwich, John Everett White, who was born 8 June 1905 in Rockland (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 4 April 2001 in Dennis, son of Samuel Minor and Emma Flora (Atwood) White. Emma & John were the parents of two children.

Elm Grove Cemetery

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William Martin White

Located just a few miles from where we live, Elm Grove Cemetery (197 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, Connecticut) is where at least eight of my ancestors lie buried. The most recent gravestone belongs to my 2nd-great-grandfather, William Martin White, and his second wife, Martha Bennett. I didn’t grow up in this area and it’s a bit of synchronicity that without knowing it, not long after I married, we moved to the area where so many of my ancestors lived and died.

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William Martin White, son of Austin and Lucy Ann (Thompson) White, was born 15 November 1836 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 18 November 1925 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) 30 October 1860 in Methodist Episcopal Church, Mystic (New London) Connecticut, his first cousin, Ellen C. Hill, who was probably born about 1844 in Stonington, daughter of Rufus and Lydia (White) Hill. William and Ellen were divorced on 26 September 1876.

William worked both as a sailor and a farmer. For most of his life he lived at what is now 347 New London Turnpike in Old Mystic. It used to be called Old Turnpike Rd. William married his cousin, Ellen, who had also been living in the same household with her parents, his aunt and uncle, in 1860. Ellen was living with her parents by 1860, when she was about 16 years old. However, she was not living with her parents in 1850, according to the census, when she was 6 years old.

The marriage was apparently troubled. In August 1865 the following item appeared in The Stonington Chronology 1649-1949:

A scandalous month-while Wm M White of Wolf Neck, Stonington, was on a fishing voyage, his wife eloped with a gay deceiver named Pendleton who is also a deserter from the regular army. She left 2 children, one 6 mos. old, and took with her $500.

It seems that the couple reconciled for a while, and had three more sons together, but finally were divorced after almost 16 years of marriage. William had custody of the boys and the youngest, Samuel, was told that his mother had died. However, on the 1880 census, Ellen, age 38, was residing in the Poor House of Stonington, identified as a “widow,” and had with her two young illegitimate children, born after she was divorced from William. Their birth records contain statements from William denying paternity.

Sadly, I have no idea what became of my 2nd-great-grandmother Ellen.

After the divorce, William married (as his second wife) Martha Bennett, born 27 July 1849 and died 16 April 1921, daughter of Henry and Caroline (—) Bennett. William’s last residence was 67 Pleasant St. in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts, and he died there of arteriosclerosis with senility. Perhaps he was living with a son.

In the summer of 1999, my grandfather, John White, and I visited the house of his grandfather, William White, at 347 New London Turnpike in Stonington, then owned by Millicent House Goodman, who very kindly showed us around. Grandfather had only seen it one time when he was a boy. He remembered coming to Mystic by train with his father and two brothers, and then taking the trolley to Old Mystic and then walking “a great stretch” to the house. He slept in the attic with his brothers and saw a sextant there. The next day they went clam digging. They were instructed to call Martha, “Aunt Martha.”

A history of the house William & Martha lived in is recorded in the book, A History of Old Mystic:

In 1717 Samuel Turner purchased land from Ephraim Fellows. He probably had this house built around 1725 when he was courting Rebecca Davison. This house is located on Rt. 184 about ½ mile east of Rt. 201. They were married on March 4, 1727/28. They raised 5 children here and it stayed in their family until 1765. In the Historic Resources Inventory done in 1981 by Blanche Higgins Schroer, she describes the interior as ‘having a large fireplace (brick with granite sides, wooden mantle) East parlor with deep sills and delicate Federal corner cupboard.’ In 1788 it was purchased by Joshua Brown and his wife Joanna Rogers Brown. This couple raised 10 children here and it stayed in the family for 100 years. In 1802 according to an old newspaper “to settle protracted dispute over highway from the Borough to Old Mystic, the country court appointed Benjamin Coit, John Hillhouse and Joshua Huntington to determine its course (the present route) but Joshua Brown’s claim for re-assessment of his land delayed construction and there was much opposition from the people in the northern part of the township since the route by-passed the Road District which was still the center of town.” In 1818 when the Post Road was established with the toll houses, the road went right past their front door. This home has had many owners and in 1981 it was purchased by Mrs. Millicent House. Soon after the ell on the back burned along with part of the house. Mrs. House rebuilt the ell enlarging it yet maintaining its colonial character, at this time she also added height to the upstairs rooms.

Ellen & William were the parents of five sons, all born in Stonington:

1. William Henry White, born 8 February 1862, married Mary Ellen Toomey. William & Mary were the parents of four children.

cemjameswhite062. James Courtland White, born 15 May 1864, died in June 1879, about age 16. In the U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885, states James’ cause of death was a gunshot wound. He lies buried near his father in Elm Grove Cemetery.

3. Walter Price White, born about 1866.

4. Rufus Burton White, born about 1870.

5. Samuel Minor White (my great-grandfather), born 7 July 1873 and died 2 July 1949 in Abington, Massachusetts. He married Emma Flora Atwood, daughter of Reuel Gardner and Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood. Samuel & Emma Flora were the parents of three sons.

Ellen was also the mother of two more children:

1. Lydia F. White, born about 1876.

2. John F. White, born about September 1879.

William’s parents, my 3rd-great-grandparents, Austin White (1806-1882) & Lucy Ann (Thompson) White (1808-1852) lie buried together in this plot, too.

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Austin White, son of Oliver and Lydia (—) White, was born 20 August 1806 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 29 June 1882 in Preston (New London) Connecticut. He married (as his first wife), 19 September 1830 in Groton (New London) Connecticut, Lucy Ann Thompson, who was born 20 August 1808 in North Stonington (New London) Connecticut, and died 29 December 1852 in Stonington, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson.

Austin was a farmer. His marriage to Lucy Ann was performed by Ralph Hurlbutt, Justice-of-the-Peace. Austin married (as his second wife), 31 March 1854 in Stonington, Melissa S. Cole. He married (as his third wife), sometime before the 1880 census, Lydia (—).

Austin & Lucy Ann were the parents of three children:

1. Lydia A. White, born 1833, died 1843.

2. William Martin White (my 2nd-great-grandfather – see above), born 15 November 1836, died 18 November 1925.

3. Rufus C. White, born 6 June 1839, died 16 May 1864, age 24, at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. Rufus served as a private in the Union Army, Company E, 21st Infantry Regiment, Connecticut and was killed at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. In the 1860 census, Rufus was recorded as a farmer with a personal estate of $100.

Tim & I visited the battle site in May 2000, after reading about the battle, and as a stop on a trip to Florida. The following is from “Stonington’s Forgotten Heroes of 1861-65” by James Boylan:

The second large Stonington unit was Company E of the 21st Infantry Regiment, which was recruited in the summer of 1862 from eastern Connecticut. About seventy Stonington men served in Company E, under Captain Charles T. Stanton, Jr., of Stonington. Like Company G of the Eighth, this company became involved in the fogbound battle of Drewry’s Bluff, in which Stanton was severely wounded, and the siege of Petersburg, where Captain Henry R. Jennings of Stonington was wounded. Partly because its term of service was shorter, it suffered fewer casualties.

My 4th-great-grandparents, Oliver & Lydia (—) White are also buried here.

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Oliver White (c. 1764 -1822)
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Lydia (—) White (c. 1772-1833)

Oliver White, was born about 1764, and died 22 September 1822. He married, Lydia, who was born about 1772, and died 9 February 1833 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut.

It is possible that Oliver was the one born in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut, 25 July 1765, and was perhaps the son of Lawrence and Elizabeth (Vallens) White, but further research is needed to establish a link, if there is one. An Oliver White served in the Revolutionary War, was listed in Zebulon Butler’s 4th Regt. Continental Lines, but there is no probate record for him in Sharon or deeds found in Salisbury.

Lydia & Oliver were the parents of five children:

1. Lydia White (my 3rd-great-grandmother – see below), born about 1798 in Stonington, died there 3 July 1877. She married Rufus Hill, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill, on 24 December 1826. Lydia & Rufus were the parents of at least two children.

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Abby (White) Bennett (1800-1873)

2. Abby White, born 1800, died 27 April 1873. She married Ephraim T. Bennett, who was born 1797 and died 6 March 1876, son of Elisha and Esther (Davis) Bennett. Abby & Ephraim lied buried in the White plot at Elm Grove Cemetery, along with her parents and a brother and sister.

3. Oliver White, born about 1802 in Quenebaugh (Windham) Connecticut. He married 3 January 1830, Eliza Miner, who was born 25 October 1806 in Stonington, daughter of Jesse and Sarah (Hilliard) Miner.

4. Austin White (my 3rd-great-grandfather – see above), born 20 August 1806 in Stonington, and died 29 June 1882. He married Lucy Ann Thompson, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson, on 19 September 1830. Austin & Lucy were the parents of three children.

5. Samuel Minor White, born 12 May 1808, died 11 August 1894 in Sandusky (Erie) Ohio. He married 10 June 1832 in Sandusky, Damaris Pendleton, who was born 5 March 1800 near Westerly (Washington) Rhode Island, and died 6 October 1872 in Sandusky, daughter of Abel Pendleton.

Oliver & Lydia were the parents of another of my 3rd-great-grandparents, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877), who is buried here. I don’t know where her husband Rufus (my 3rd great-grandfather) is buried, however, though his wife and parents are all buried here.

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LYDIA,
Wife of
Rufus Hill,
Died July 3, 1877.
Aged 79 Years 2 Mo.
& 11 Ds.
———-
The memory of the just is blessed.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
do it with thy might for there is no work,
no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom,
in the grave whither thou goest.

Rufus Hill, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill, was born about 1799 in Connecticut, and died 10 March 1881 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut. He married 24 December 1826 in Stonington, Lydia White, who was born abut 1798 in Stonington, and died there 3 July 1877, daughter of Oliver and Lydia (—) White.

Lydia & Rufus were the parents of two children:

1. Rufus Hill, born about 1839.

2. Ellen C. Hill (my 2nd-great-grandmother), born about 1844.

And lastly, the graves of another set of my 4th-great-grandparents, Robinson Hill & Lydia Briggs. For the longest time I felt frustrated that Lydia was identified only as a “relict” of Robinson Hill. But finally I think I can place her in the Briggs family of Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, and so have another place to go looking for gravestones.

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ROBINSON HILL died Feb. 14, 1817. Aged 52 years.
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LYDIA, Relict of Robinson Hill, died Sept. 20, 1848. Aged 81 years.

Robinson Hill, was born about 1765 in Block Island, New Shoreham (Washington) Rhode Island, and died 14 February 1817 in Mystic Bridge (New London) Connecticut. He married in New Shoreham, Lydia Briggs, who was born 21 February 1767 in New Shoreham, and died 20 September 1848 in Mystic Bridge, daughter of Joseph and Marjorie (Dodge) Briggs.

Lydia & Robinson were the parents of:

1. Rufus Hill (my 3rd-great-grandfather), born about 1799 and died 10 March 1881. He married Lydia White, daughter of Oliver and Lydia (—) White. Rufus & Lydia were the parents of two children.

 

Last Revised:  11 January 2019

Mount Vernon Cemetery

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Reuel & Louisa Atwood

Mount Vernon Cemetery in Abington, Massachusetts, is where my great-grandparents, Samuel Minor & Emma Flora (Atwood) White, and my 2nd-great-grandparents, Reuel Gardner & Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood, lie buried. I have many Atwoods on my family tree, with a lot of cousin marriages crossing the branches. Reuel & Louisa were half second cousins, once removed, both descendants of Nathaniel Atwood (1693-1767).

Reuel Gardner Atwood, firstborn son of Reuel and Abigail Savery (Tillson) Atwood, was born 5 February 1833 in Middleborough, Massachusetts, and died 19 August 1908 in Henniker, New Hampshire. He married 26 November 1860 at Middleborough, Louisa Jane Atwood, who was born 6 April 1840 in Carver, Massachusetts, and died in 1928 in Abington, Massachusetts, fifth daughter of Ebenezer and Waitstill (Lucas) Atwood.

Reuel worked as a box maker and a fisherman. After Reuel’s death Louisa was living in Henniker, New Hampshire with her son, Frederick, and his family in 1910. By 1920 she was living with her daughter, Emma Flora, and her family at 170 Linwood St. in Abington. Her grandson, John Everett White (my grandfather), fondly remembered the wonderful mittens she knitted for her three grandsons. They had a new pair every winter. Louisa died of tuberculosis at the age of 88.

Louisa & Reuel were the parents of eight children, but only three survived to adulthood and the others are buried here with their parents.

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1. Elsie Fremont Atwood, born 9 August 1862 in Middleborough, died there 25 October 1863, age 1.

2. Elbridge Lincoln Atwood, born 10 August 1865 in Abington, died 20 December 1878 in Boston, Massachusetts, age 13.

3. Frederick Reuel Atwood, born 28 December 1867 in Abington, died 4 February 1963 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, age 96. He married Janie Mary Patterson, daughter of Thomas S. and Anna M. (Greives) Patterson. Frederick & Janie were the parents of four children.

4. Eustace Lorenzo Atwood, born 2 November 1870 in Abington, died there 22 November 1880, age 10.

5. Emma Flora Atwood (my great-grandmother), born 5 January 1873 in Abington, and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, age 82. She married Samuel Minor White, son of William Martin and Ellen C. (Hill) White. Flora & Samuel were the parents of three sons.

6. Amy Grace Atwood, born 17 April 1875 in Abington, died there 23 August 1877, age 2.

7. Samuel Ebenezer Atwood, born 10 March 1877 in Abington, died there 5 December 1880, age 3.

8. Everett Mason Atwood, born 26 November 1880 in Abington, died there 26 October 1971, age 90. He married Alice Matula Merrill and they were the parents of five children. Everett’s nephew was my grandfather, John Everett White, who was named in his honor.

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Samuel White

Engraved on the back of the Atwood stone are the names of their daughter and her husband. Samuel Minor White, fifth son of William Martin and Ellen C. (Hill) White, was born 7 July 1873 in Stonington, Connecticut, very close to where I live now, and died 2 July 1949 in Abington, Massachusetts. He married 21 November 1902 at Rockland, Massachusetts, Emma Flora Atwood, who was born 5 January 1873 in Abington, and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, second daughter of Reuel Gardner and Louisa Jane (Atwood) Atwood.

When Samuel was about 12, he ran away from home because he did not get along with his stepmother. He would not discuss with anyone his whereabouts between leaving home and marrying Flora, although his sons speculated that he probably went to sea. He had been told that his mother was dead, but I discovered that his parents were actually divorced and that his mother was living in the poor house of Stonington with two illegitimate children who were born after the divorce. Samuel was named after his grand-uncle, Samuel Minor White.

emmafloraatwood
Flora Atwood

In 1901 Flora was working as a bookkeeper. She was working in Whitman, Massachusetts, where her cousin lived when she met Samuel. Samuel & Flora were married by Fred Hovey Allen, Clergyman. Samuel was a hard-working laborer and in 1905 was working in a box mill. Flora inherited the house at 170 Linwood St. in Abington, where the couple raised their three sons. She had a baby grand piano she loved to play.

My grandfather, their son, remembered that the house had a huge elm tree with an oriole nest and a lawn swing. Flora treasured her bed of dark red peonies. The family always had one horse, one cow (sometimes up to three), sometimes pigs, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Samuel worked at a slaughtering house and at times slaughtered his own pigs. Each morning he left a list on the kitchen table of chores to be done by his sons, which weren’t always completed.

During the boys’ college vacations, a man came to cut firewood into stove lengths and all helped to stack the wood in the basement. Samuel also worked for a Mr. Dudley peddling ice. The ice was harvested from Mill Pond and the wagon served the city of Brockton. Sometimes the ice was harvested with horses. The horses pulled chisels which cut the ice, which then floated down the pond where machines pulled it up to the ice house. Sometimes a team of horses would slip into the water. Ladies would have to order the ice desired, and a meat cart came once every two weeks. My grandfather and his brothers would wait for the cart and a slice of bologna was often tossed out to them.

Flora & Samuel were known as Grammy & Grampy to their grandchildren. My mother spoke fondly of them, which is why I wanted to be called Grammy by my grandchildren. Tim didn’t want to be called Grampy, though, so he goes by Grandpa. Samuel died of colon cancer five days before his 76th birthday. Flora died of an ear infection and mastoiditis at the age of 82.

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Flora & Samuel were the parents of three sons:

1. Earl Martin “Bob” White, born 5 December 1902 in Rockland, Massachusetts, died 9 October 1965, age 62. He married Ruth Lois Tilden, daughter of Henry Edward and Ruth Ann (Crocker) Tilden, who was born 20 October 1905 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and died 7 July 1991 in Bourne, Massachusetts. Bob & Ruth were the parents of two daughters.

2. John Everett White (my grandfather), born 8 June 1905 in Rockland, died 4 April 2001 in Dennis Port, Massachusetts, age 95. He married Emma Freeman Thompson, daughter of Martin Freeman and Amanda Eliza (Hamblin) Thompson. John & Emma were the parents of two children.

3. Lincoln White, born 11 February 1909 in Abington, died 31 August 1993 in Monson, Massachussets, age 84. He married Marjorie Elizabeth Cary, daughter of Herbert Francis and Elizabeth (Blagborough) Cary. Lincoln & Marjorie were the parents of two sons.

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Emma Flora (Atwood) White (1873-1955)

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Samuel Minor White (1873-1949)

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This marker on Reuel’s grave probably indicates that he served in the Civil War. He was 28 years old when it began.

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This tree’s branches reach over the Atwood plot.

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View of the Atwood plot. Reuel & Louisa and their children lie buried behind the large stone, with flat stones marking the individual graves. Other Atwoods, children mostly, lie buried in front of it with various kinds of stones. I’m not sure how these Atwoods are connected to Louisa & Reuel.

Tim and I revisited this cemetery on March 5. Our first visit was so many years ago, but now that I have a better camera I want to return and photograph as many family plots as I can, retracing our steps.

Sea Shell Motel

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before sunrise from our balcony ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

An incurable early bird, on the last morning of our little weekend getaway I found myself unable to sleep and so decided to get up and read and gaze out of the sliding glass doors of our room at the Sea Shell Motel in Dennis Port on Cape Cod. It was about 40 minutes before sunrise and there was an intense yellow orange glow on the horizon.

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walking over the dune ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

As sunrise approached I decided to bundle up in my coat and my new Norwegian wool hat with ear flaps and walk down to the windy beach to take some pictures and enjoy some early morning solitude. It was the best moment of the day.

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sunrise on the beach ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

Thoughts turned to beloved grandparents who lived in Dennis Port, just up the street. When I was little we stayed with them at their house but sometime in the late 1980s, when my own children were little, my grandmother’s health problems became such that staying in a motel nearby became necessary. There’s no way to count the times we have stayed at the Sea Shell in the past 30 years or so. Each room is unique and charming, well-worn but clean and comfortable. No frills, just a short wooden walkway over the dune to the beach, the sounds of waves breaking close by.

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the sun keeps rising ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

I wanted to come here for old times’ sake. So often on this recent trip nature would vividly illustrate the simple truth that nothing is solid in the boundless flow of time and place, there is nothing to grasp. It was here that my grandparents embraced me with abiding wisdom and persisting love. But now they are long gone, even though I feel their presence still. The waves break on the sand and disappear and yet are still there, like the voices of my small curious children. Cape Cod is slipping into the sea.

flying history

Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!
Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!

My mother and her parents loved to travel but were afraid of flying. During my childhood we never flew anywhere so I didn’t notice this and it somehow never came up in conversation. It didn’t even occur to me when I was 15 and my father was offered a job in Greece and my parents decided to move us there. We traveled across the mighty Atlantic Ocean on a cruise ship, the TSS Olympia, from New York to Athens, with a stop in Haifa, Israel.

My first flight on a jet, from Athens back to New York, was memorable. It was just me and my sister, nervous and holding hands for most of the trip, on my 17th birthday, on a 747, shortly after the Greek army had deposed Col. Papadopoulos in a bloodless coup. Our parents were to follow us a couple of weeks later. The perimeter of the airport was surrounded by tanks, reminding us of the fear we felt at dawn weeks earlier, when we awakened to the sound of tanks rolling down our street and military music playing on loudspeakers.

We loved getting pictures of Katie and her parents while we were away on our trip!
It won’t be long before she masters the technique!

We were in the middle of a row on the plane and did not get to look out the windows. There was a stop in Rome, but we didn’t have to get off. However, when we landed there my ears started to hurt, a sharp, stabbing pain. The pain subsided a bit as we flew on to New York, but returned with a vengeance when we landed there. I didn’t fly again for 34 years!

My mother made a dear friend in Greece, a Canadian woman named Carol who was married to a German man, Ernst. Mom overcame her fear well enough to fly to Lebanon with Carol & Ernst and my father, and to visit Carol & Ernst when they moved to Germany, and to Ukraine with my father and his sisters to visit the land where his parents were born.

My grandparents remained fearful of flying. When they came to visit us in Greece, to economize, they sailed on a freighter that accepted a few passengers! It was a rough and tumble passage, and I loved listening to their stories about their adventures on board. Grandmother died without ever having flown, in spite of her son’s repeated efforts and offers to take her up into the sky. He was a pilot, after all.

When Grandfather was 90-something my uncle persuaded him to fly from Cape Cod to Florida to spend the winter down there with him. Tim & I met Grandfather and his physical therapist at the airport to see him off. The captain was the son of the physical therapist, who had kindly arranged everything, and he came out personally to welcome my grandfather and then pushed his wheelchair onto the plane himself as we waved goodbye. Right then and there I decided that if Grandfather could face his fear so late in his life, I could do so as well.

"Daddy, where's my menu?"
“Daddy, where’s my menu?”

Grandfather’s physical therapist also had made him a sandwich and put it in a zip-lock plastic bag. When my uncle called me that night he told me that when he asked Grandfather what he thought about the flight, Grandfather went on and on about the zip-lock bag. He had never seen one before and was marveling at the technological genius of its design! Never did say much about the flight itself!

Finally, my opportunity to try flying again came along when I was 51. Larisa, Tim and I flew down to Florida to visit his stepdad, who was dying of cancer. Much to my surprise, I loved it! Being a dreamer without much aptitude for logic, science and technology, I found myself in awe of the human minds who had figured out how to fly and it still seems like nothing short of a miracle to me every time we take off or land.

And the curve of the world passed
With all of that flying
Above the mighty ocean
Now we all are arriving

Grab the carry-on baggage
Join the herd for the mad run
Take a place in the long line
Where does everyone come from?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve flown in the seven years since, sometimes even by myself, to Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to visit family. It’s still a thrill! So last month Tim & I boarded a Delta 737 in New York and flew to Frankfurt, Germany, our once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit his brother and sister-in-law and to visit Venice and Norway with them. Seven international flights in a month!

It was dark for the flight over, and uneventful. But I had a window seat and a flight tracker so when we caught up with the light over Europe I got to see all the fields and forests in Germany as we began our descent. Some fields were bright yellow – I later learned these were growing rapeseed. After we landed it took us less than a minute to go through customs.

As we shuffle on forward
As we wait for inspection
Don’t be holding that line up
At the end lies redemption

Now I’m stamped and I waved through
I take up my position
At the mouth of the canyon
Saying prayers of contrition

A few days later we took a cheap flight on a budget airline, Ryanair, to Venice. It was cloudy so I couldn’t see anything, and it was definitely a no-frills, sardine-in-a-can experience. On the trip back to Germany three days later, however, the sky was clear and we flew over the Alps, much to my delight! It was amazing looking down on those snow-capped peaks.

Please deliver my suitcase
From all mischief and peril
Now the sight of it circling
Is a hymn to the faithful

Forgive me my staring
For my unconcealed envy
In the hall of arrivals
Where the great river empties

A few days after that trip we flew from Frankfurt to Oslo on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Even the inside of the plane had that Scandinavian feel, light and airy, you could even see through under the seats. After a magical week in Norway, we flew from Bergen to Stockholm, and on that flight, out of the blue, I got such a sharp stabbing pain in my nose, cheek and temple that tears were squirting out of my eye. At first I thought it was a sudden migraine, but I suspect there was something off with the air pressure. It brought back the memory of the ear pain flying home from Greece all those years ago.

We changed planes in Stockholm and then flew back to Frankfurt after having the best Swedish meatballs ever, right there in the airport restaurant. And unfortunately the pain came back on that flight, too.

Its hand carts and quarters
All the people it carries
To be greeted with flowers
Grandfathers and babies

The friends and relations
Leaping over hemispheres
Transcendental reunion
All borders vanish here

A little over a week later I took a 12-hour Sudafed before boarding the Delta flight from Frankfurt to New York, just in case. Not sure if it was needed but there was no pain on the return flight home. I love Delta because it has a flight tracker at each seat. I was able to identify the English Channel, Great Britain, the Irish Sea, Ireland, and stateside, my beloved Cape Cod, as we flew over. We also flew over Nova Scotia (thinking of Sybil then) but I couldn’t see the land there because of the clouds.

Too bad customs was overwhelmed when we arrived after having such a great flight. It took us almost two hours to get through the maze of lines and scanners and official agent desks! I’m glad my sister and brother-in-law did not give up waiting for us to appear through the arrivals door!

We are travelers traveling
We are gypsies together
We’re philosophers gathering
We are business or pleasure

We are going or coming
We’re just finding our way
To the next destination
And from night into day

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Transcendental Reunion) ♫

It’s good to be home. We continued to receive pictures of Katie in our email almost every day while we were gone. Thank you, Larisa! I have thousands of pictures to go through and many posts to write about this trip which I will get to, even if it takes me all summer. We went to the nursery to get flowers for the balcony and nasturtiums for  Zoë to nibble on. We ate at our favorite restaurant and went down to the beach. Tim went to the eye surgeon yesterday and we found out that he will definitely have to have cataract surgery for both eyes in July. At the same time the surgeon will fix his astigmatism so he may not need glasses for the first time in his 62 years! That will be something else indeed… Life returns to normal…

deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco-dec06
junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer

Grandfather

Grandfather & Barbara ~ Dennisport, Massachusetts
photo of Grandfather & me, taken by Larisa

When we went down to visit Larisa & Dima last month, I was pleasantly surprised to find this picture of my grandfather and me pinned to their wall. Larisa must have taken it on one of our many trips to Cape Cod to see him, sometime between 1996 and 2001, I suspect closer to 1996. In either case, Grandfather was in his 90s when this was taken.

John E. White, my grandfather
John E. White

But I want to tell a story about a very special time Grandfather & I had together, after my grandmother died and he came to visit me.

Grandfather had a mystery in his family history, a well-guarded secret that I discovered while doing some research. His father, Samuel, who married and settled in Abington, Massachusetts, would not answer any questions his sons asked him about where he was born or who his parents were. But, one day, he relented a little and decided to take his sons to meet their grandfather, William White, who lived in Old Mystic, Connecticut.

sextant
sextant

Grandfather remembered coming to Mystic by train, as a small boy, with his father and his two brothers. From Mystic they took the trolley to Old Mystic and then walked “a great stretch” to his grandfather’s house. The boys slept in the attic and they saw a sextant stored there. The next day they went clam digging. Their grandfather, William, had a wife who was not their grandmother, and they were instructed to call her, “Aunt Martha.” It was the only time they ever went to visit their grandfather.

When Samuel was a child, he was told his mother had died. He did not get along with his stepmother (Martha), so he ran away as a  teenager. But doing some research I discovered the following about his mother, Ellen, in The Stonington Chronology 1649-1949, August 1865:

A scandalous month-while Wm M White of Wolf Neck, Stonington, was on a fishing voyage, his wife eloped with a gay deceiver named Pendleton who is also a deserter from the regular army. She left 2 children, one 6 mos. old, and took with her $500.

Samuel M. White, my great-grandfather
Samuel M. White

This was at the end of the Civil War. It seems William & Ellen reconciled for a while after this incident, and had three more sons, but were finally divorced on 26 September 1876, when Samuel, the youngest was three years old.

I also found Ellen four years later, on the 1880 census, age 38, living in the Poor House of Stonington, claiming to be “a widow,” and living there with her were two young illegitimate children, born after she was divorced from William. Their birth records contain statements from William denying paternity.

I often wonder what my 2nd-great-grandparents were like. I don’t feel I can judge Ellen – perhaps William was cold or abusive and she felt driven to find love and comfort elsewhere. Or perhaps she was the irresponsible one, or most likely, they were poorly matched. It’s all very sad and Grandfather was not too pleased to hear about it.

1958 ~ Barbara & Grandfather
Barbara & Grandfather

William White’s house is just a few miles from where I live now. When Grandfather was visiting me in the summer of 1999, I asked him if he would like to see the house and he was thrilled with my proposal. After we drove down the driveway I decided to knock on the door and ask if the owner would mind if we took some pictures of the house, hoping they might offer to show us the inside, too. No one answered the door but I could hear two women’s voices in a nearby swimming pool. I tentatively found my way over to the pool and did my best not to startle them with my presence.

At first they were puzzled but when I finally managed to explain why we were there they were very excited to come meet my grandfather, who was waiting patiently in the car. They graciously invited us inside and showed us around and explained what changes and additions had been made in recent years. I could tell Grandfather was taking it all in and was deeply moved.

A few days after I drove him home I received a wonderful thank you letter from him. He said his whole being was bubbling with gratitude for the gift I had given him that day. It seemed like a dream to him and he couldn’t believe he had actually been there.

I still miss my grandfather terribly – losing him was one of the hardest things I ever went through. He was the adult who understood me the most, who supported me when I was a passionate, naive and impulsive teenager, and who would listen to my spiritual longings and doubts without judgment. He was a man of quiet strength and wisdom, a gentle spirit.

Happy Birthday, Grandfather!