In my defense, the leaves look very similar. Back in April 2013 I found this lovely tree in Stonington Cemetery and eventually identified it as an elm tree. For our walk today we decided to visit “Grandmother Elm” and wander around the hilly graveyard. When we got to the tree my eye was immediately drawn to an ID tag someone had added, evidently in 2018.
When we got home I was very surprised to learn that tilia × europaea is a common linden! I stand corrected!
After our walk we decided to go to a local nursery to buy a geranium for our balcony. Since we’re still staying home we weighed the pros and cons of doing this very carefully. We didn’t have to go inside the building because most of the plants were outside, even the cashier was outside. Everyone was wearing a mask and everyone was respectfully keeping their distance. The 6-foot-apart spaces to wait in line were well marked. Wearing our masks, we grabbed a geranium, paid for it, had the cashier keep the change, and used our hand sanitizer before getting back in the car. I was very nervous about all this. I am terrified of the virus and not ashamed to admit it. Having heard so many stories about some people taunting others for wearing masks and practicing social distancing I was concerned about a possible confrontation. But on the way home I realised my faith in human decency has been restored, at least for the time being. Thank you, my fellow Nutmeggers!
The other day I went out with Larisa so she could vote. (They have early voting in North Carolina. Tim & I used absentee ballots before we left Connecticut.) We pulled into the Carrboro Town Hall parking lot and a HUGE tree caught my eye. We parked under its massive branches. I looked at the leaves and said, “I bet that’s an elm tree!” An American Elm.
While Larisa went inside to vote I got out of the car and had a nice long visit with the tree. According to the Town of Carrboro, the elm has a spread of 114 ft (35 m) and a height of 40 ft (12 m). It was registered with the Elm Research Institute in 1985.
The American elm was the most popular tree to plant in the booming cities of the 19th century, so that by the 20th century many streets were lined with only elms and were shaded in summer by a cathedral-like ceiling of their branches. When Dutch elm disease (which actually originated in Asia) spread to the US in the 1950s, it was able to mow down elm after elm through their grafted root systems or with the help of a beetle. Today, arborists and foresters are careful to plant a diverse range of trees that will not all be vulnerable to any particular pest, disease or weather conditions. ~ The Morton Arboretum website
Some of my readers may remember Grandmother Elm, the tree I fell in love with when I was going through one of the most difficult years of my life. She was a great source of comfort and wisdom. Interestingly, Grandmother Elm is 60 ft (18 m) high, 20 ft (6 m) taller than Carrboro’s American Elm. But this elm is much wider than the one in Connecticut. Both of them are lovely, just the way they are.
Sometimes I think it must have been much easier to live and die at the time of our ancestors, the Vikings. When they buried their relatives, they also buried many objects together with the body. This was to be sure that the dead would not miss anything in their new environment. It also an assurance for the family members who remained that they would not become obsessed with spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut. Very clever. ~ Margareta Magnusson (The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself & Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter)
You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room.
Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in. Now that there is a lull in the stream of summer activities I am annoyed by the droning of the air conditioners. But I since learning about the autism I am aware now that I am much more sensitive to noise than neurotypical people, so, I will wait patiently for some cool, dry, quiet weather to return.
We enjoy going to estate sales. We rarely buy anything but a few days ago we found a large file cabinet in excellent shape at a great price. It is now in the genealogy/guest room waiting for me to make use of it. After my grandmother died my grandfather offered us anything we wanted in the house. I chose my grandmother’s mahogany secretary which I still have and treasure. Grandfather said he didn’t want us grandchildren to be burdened with all the stuff. I don’t want my children to be burdened either.
I’m also sad about the changes at my beloved beach. The city has installed a gull repellent system. Every three minutes a recording of a gull in distress blares out from the loudspeakers. There are maybe two or three fearless gulls left on the roof of the beach house. All the laughing gulls are gone, all the different kinds of gulls are gone. I suppose I will never see my friend with the mangled foot again. It’s all too much for me to bear and I’ve been reduced to tears more than once this summer.
I visited my elm tree, Grandmother Elm. I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I have gone! I used to visit all the time when Tim’s brother was living with us, the year he died here of cancer. Now she has small stems and branches growing out at the base of her trunk, covered with leaves. When I read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben I believe he said this was a sign of distress. No other tree in the cemetery was like this. Perhaps she is suffering, too. Still, her wordless wisdom comforted me.
Located just a few miles from where we live, Elm Grove Cemetery (197 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, Connecticut) is where five 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.
My 2nd-great-grandfather, 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, Ellen C. Hill, who was born about 1844, daughter of John and Polly S. (—) 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 Ellen, who had also been living in the same household with her relatives, his aunt and uncle, in 1860. Ellen came to be living there sometime between the 1850 and 1860 censuses, between the ages of 6 and 16. When she was 6 she was living with her parents.
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 his son Rufus.
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, died about 1954. He married (as his first wife) on 5 April 1885 in Easthampton (Hampshire) Massachusetts, Mary Ellen Twomey, who was born before 1 April 1867 in Ireland and died about 1899, daughter of Michael and Julia (Dronny) Twomey. William & Mary were the parents of four children. William married (as his second wife and as her third husband) 2 July 1902 in Greenfield (Franklin) Massachusetts, Anna C. (Schickedantz) (Jones) Hess, who was born in August 1861 in Madison (Lake) Ohio and died 20 November 1944 in (Clark) Ohio, daughter of Christopher and Judith A. (Clemens) Schickedantz, and widow of Edward C. Jones, and widow of John L. Hess.
2. 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. He married 27 November 1895 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Elizabeth C. Anglum, who was born c. 1873 in Mansfield (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Matthew and Hannah (Hayes) Anglum.
4. Rufus Burton White, born about 1870. He married 19 September 1894 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts, Rosalie Weymouth Brightman, who was born 28 January 1871 in Rochester (Plymouth) Massachusetts, daughter of William Taber and Lucy Ann (Bumpus) Brightman.
5. Samuel Minor White (my great-grandfather), born 7 July 1873 and died 2 July 1949 in Abington (Plymouth) Massachusetts. He married 21 November 1902 in Rockland (Plymouth) Massachusetts, Emma Flora Atwood, who was born 5 January 1873 in Abington and died 2 February 1955 in Foxborough (Norfolk) Massachusetts, 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.
My 3rd-great-grandfather, 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 and a laborer. His marriage to Lucy Ann, a homemaker, 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 about age 10.
2. William Martin White (my 2nd-great-grandfather), born 15 November 1836 in Stonington, died 18 November 1925 in Fairhaven (Bristol) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) 30 October 1860 in Old Mystic-Stonington (New London) Connecticut, Ellen C. Hill, who was born about 1844, daughter of John and Polly S. (—) Hill. William & Ellen were the parents of five sons and were divorced on 26 September 1876. William married (as his second wife) Martha Bennett, born 27 July 1849 and died 16 April 1921, daughter of Henry and Caroline (—) Bennett. William & Martha had no children.
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” in Historical Footnotes (Stonington Historical Society) 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-grandfather, Oliver White, was born 27 July 1764 in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut, and died 22 September 1822 in Stonington, son of Lawrence and Elizabeth (Vallans) White. He married, about 1797, Lydia, who was born about 1772, and died 9 February 1833 in Stonington.
An Oliver White served in the Revolutionary War, was listed in Zebulon Butler’s 4th Regt. Continental Lines.
Lydia & Oliver were the parents of five children:
1. Lydia White, born 22 April 1798 in Stonington, died there 3 July 1877. She married 24 December 1826 in Stonington, Rufus Hill, born in February 1799 in Groton, and died 10 March 1881 in Stonington, son of Robinson and Lydia (Briggs) Hill. Lydia & Rufus were the parents of a son, Rufus. At the time of the 1860 census they also had living with them Ellen C. Hill, age 16, probably a relative, and Lydia’s nephews, William M. White, age 24, and Rufus C. White, age 21. (See her headstone in the next section.)
2. Abby White, born about 1800, died 27 April 1873. She married Ephraim T. Bennett, who was born 12 May 1796 in Stonington and died there 6 March 1876, son of Elisha and Esther (Davis) Bennett. Abby & Ephraim were the parents of a son and they lie buried in the White plot at Elm Grove Cemetery, along with her parents and a brother and sister.
3. Oliver White, born 30 April 1802 in Quenebaugh-Thompson (Windham) Connecticut, died 7 January 1861 in Hartford (Hartford) Connecticut. He married 3 January 1830 in Stonington, Eliza Minor, who was born 25 October 1806 in Stonington, daughter of Jesse and Sarah (Hilliard) Miner.
4. Austin White (my 3rd-great-grandfather), born 20 August 1806 in Stonington, and died 29 June 1882 in Preston. He married (as his first wife) 19 September 1830 in Groton, Lucy Ann Thompson, who was born 20 August 1808 in North Stonington, and died 29 December 1852 in Stonington, daughter of Elias and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Davis) Thompson. Austin & Lucy were the parents of three children. Austin married (as his second wife) 31 March 1854 in Stonington, Melissa S. Cole. Austin married (as his third wife) Lydia (—).
5. Samuel Minor White, born 12 May 1808, died 11 August 1894 in Sandusky (Erie) Ohio. He married 10 June 1832 in Stonington, 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 my 3rd-great-grandaunt, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877), who is buried here. I don’t know where her husband Rufus is buried, however, though his wife and parents are all buried here.
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.
And lastly, the graves of Robinson Hill & Lydia Briggs, Lydia (White) Hill’s parents-in-law. 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.
Trees are the largest and most spiritually advanced plants on Earth. They are constantly in meditation, and subtle energy is their natural language. As your understanding of this language grows, you can begin to develop a relationship with them. They can help you open your energy channels and cultivate calm, presence, and vitality. You can reciprocate by helping them with their own blockages and devitalized areas. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that needs cultivation. ~ Mantak Chia (Chi Nei Tsang: Chi Massage for the Vital Organs)
It had been well over a week since I had last visited Grandmother Elm. Almost two weeks – thirteen days to be exact. I might not be visiting her as often as I had hoped to in the days ahead. As you might imagine, having a cancer patient in the house has made planning our days unpredictable, as we slowly adjust to expecting the unexpected. But look how well the elm’s leaf canopy has filled in during my absence!
Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”
~ Mary Oliver (Thirst: Poems)
According to one Celtic tree calendar, my birth date (January 12-24 and July 15-25) makes the elm, the good-tempered tree, my guardian tree. And my gemstone is the moonstone. Deposits of moonstone can be found in Norway!
You are probably quite unaware of the value of your ability to conquer anxiety, just as you are unaware that you are hard-working, reliable and creative. You don’t try to belong to any group and you don’t want to be organised. On the contrary, you are allergic to labels, even respectable ones. You are overcome by embarrassment when the spotlight falls on you. Your sense of moderation alerts you to the fact that an excess of light for one person can soon become too little for someone else. You would rather hide your own light under a bushel than take it away from anyone else. You prefer to praise your fellow men than to be exposed to their praise. ~ Michael Vescoli (The Celtic Tree Calendar: Your Tree Sign & You)
Well, all those things above do describe me well, not only am I overcome by embarrassment when a spotlight falls on me, I blush to a very bright red, which only adds to my distress. Oh how I love to keep a low profile and hang around in the background! 🙂 The things I am discovering by means of my elm tree!
During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom. In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. He who steps unseeing on May dandelions may be hauled up short by August ragweed pollen; he who ignores the ruddy haze of April elms may skid his car on the fallen corollas of June catalpas. Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education. ~ Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here & There)
Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.
My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. ~ Hal Borland (Countryman: A Summary of Belief)
Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.
Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind. Enjoy!
Our lives have taken on a surreal quality, a numbness, in recent weeks. Tim’s brother Toby is now living with us, and sadly, has been diagnosed with incurable bladder cancer. A few days after receiving this devastating news, we were stunned to hear that Tim’s cousin has also been diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer. Radical treatments will buy them both a little time, but how much is uncertain. This is all so uncomfortably familiar, having lost three of our middle-aged parents to cancer when we were young adults. And yet, this is now all so terribly new to us, cancer striking our generation for the first time. Insidious, unrelenting, cruel…
Zoë has been wonderful company for me – I’m thinking of getting a cat harness and leash for her so she can come out into the garden with me. She seems rambunctious enough to enjoy an outdoor adventure. 🙂 Toby is doing angelic things in my garden – he loves gardening and it gives him something satisfying and distracting to do between medical appointments. And Scarby has been wonderful company for Tim – she is coming out of hiding more often and enjoys sitting on the cat tree to look out the window and soak up the sun. She often sits on his desk and watches him work.
The other day I sent Tim a link to an article, how to calculate tree height using a smartphone. And then, Voilà!!! Mr. Logic found the app and used it on our next visit to my tree! He determined that my tree is 60 feet tall! (That’s about 18 meters tall for those of you on the metric system.) An interesting bit of information to ponder, since I still cannot see the shape of its leaves just yet.
Janet and I took a train to New York City. We met Larisa at Penn Station and went shopping in the fabric district for material for her wedding dress! She is sewing it herself with a little help from her friends. Seeing her drape the different shades of purple fabric over her body to see which one she liked best, well, they were some of the happiest moments in my life. My lovely daughter is going to be a stunning bride in just a little over a month!