The humidity lowered just a tad on Tuesday morning so we snuck down to the beach for an early morning walk. The only gull out and about was on the rocks, a ring-billed one with his bright yellow legs. He wanted to be friends and walk along with us.
When we went down on the sand he decided to come, too, and lead the way.
Then Tim spotted a butterfly flitting about on the wrack line!
When it moved to the sand I tried to get a shot of it with its wings open.
Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and the holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scripitures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon, it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a flash of “outsight” I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction. And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate. ~ Jane Goodall (Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey)
I’d sit on logs like pulpits listen to the sermon of sparrows and find god in Simplicity, there amongst the dandelion and thorn ~ Jewel (A Night Without Armor)
We now have 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,345 confirmed cases. Of those 4 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. I fret over the figures coming out of North Carolina and Georgia, where my children live. Stay safe and take care…
On Saturday afternoon my sister and I did some hiking in the uncultivated part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. It was like being in the woods we played in and rambled through as children. We encountered a doe along our path, she stopped short when she spotted us and then darted off sideways into the woods.
Nature — sometimes sears a Sapling — Sometimes — scalps a Tree — Her Green People recollect it When they do not die — ~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #457)
When I was at the doctor for a check-up last week he said it seemed like he was treating nothing but rashes from these little villains. Why do people even touch them, I wondered? But they can dangle from invisible threads and I was startled when I walked right into one. No rash, so far…
Death is like the insect Menacing the tree Competent to kill it, But decoyed may be.
Bait it with the balsam Seek it with the saw, Baffle, it cost you Everything you are.
Then, if it have burrowed Out of reach of skill — Wring the tree and leave it. ‘Tis the vermin’s will.
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1783)
For some reason I am drawn to trees that seem dead, but sculptural, and yet still have a few green leaves up near the crown. Sometimes dying is a very gradual process.
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~ William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
One will see roots while looking down (photo above), of course, but also when looking up (photo below). The tree below decided it could grow sticking out of a rock face, high above the ground. There must have been just enough soil between the layers of rock for it to sustain itself. Maybe it is strong enough to move the rock some to give the roots more space.
One impulse from a vernal wood May teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can. ~ William Wordsworth (The Tables Turned)
Ferns (above) with visible roots growing on the rock face. Plenty of moss to soften the surface, too.
A tree (above) seems to have been blown over in a storm and left with a large cavity between its roots and the rock below. Stones and boulders, dumped by receding glaciers eons ago, are so ubiquitous in Connecticut and it seems the trees have no choice but to grow above, below, around and between them.
I wondered if someone might have set this stone deliberately pointing up as a benchmark for future hiking adventures. It’s amazing to contemplate that these stone walls deep in the woods once surrounded fields and pastures in colonial days. Farmers used the stones cluttering their land to build the walls but in the end, growing crops was difficult. Many eventually abandoned their homes and headed west for better farmland. The woods slowly came back and claimed the landscape once again.
An inclination to change religions or to split from a denomination because of disagreements over doctrine seems to be a common thread in the lives of many of my ancestors, and many of Tim’s ancestors as well. One example would be my 6th-great-grandfather.
Rev. Joshua Nickerson, son of Samuel and Hannah (Hall) Nickerson, was born 16 June 1719 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in August 1791 in Tamworth (Carroll) New Hampshire. He married 30 July 1745 at Harwich, Thankful Eldridge, who was born 29 March 1728 in Harwich and died October 1813 in Ossipee (Carroll) New Hampshire, daughter of William and Thankful (Crowell) Eldridge.
On 23 May 1750, Joshua, age 30 and already the father of three children, was ordained as a preacher to the “New Lights.” In the 1740s a religious movement among Protestants, the Great Awakening, spread to New England, where Congregationalists became divided between the “New Lights,” who supported the evangelical revival and the “Old Lights,” who opposed what they viewed as excessive emotionalism in the preaching. These preachers traveled from one congregation to another and criticized the local clergy. Perhaps we can imagine Joshua imitating the style of the English open air preacher, George Whitefield, who was known for gesturing dramatically, “sometimes weeping openly or thundering out threats of hellfire-and-brimstone,” and for turning a “sermon into a gripping theatrical performance.”
Joshua & Thankful were the parents of fourteen children, remarkably, all of them survived into adulthood:
1. Rebecca Nickerson, born 3 June 1746 in Harwich, died 10 November 1842 in Searsport (Waldo) Maine. She married in 1766 at Exeter (Rockingham) New Hampshire, Maj. Winthrop Smart, who was born 22 October 1742 in Epping (Rockingham) New Hampshire and died in 1814 in Prospect (Waldo) Maine, son of Joseph and Mary (—) Smart.
2. Elisabeth Nickerson, born 22 July 1747 in Harwich, died 21 August 1828. She married 31 October 1765 in Harwich, Lt. Thomas Burgess, who was born in 1748 and died 11 February 1816, son of Thomas and Mary (Covell) Burgess.
3. Reuben Nickerson, born 24 January 1749 in Harwich, died 1828 in Ohio. He married 31 December 1767 in Harwich, Anna Eldridge, who was born 3 March 1747 in Harwich and died 18 July 1860 in Swanville (Waldo) Maine, daughter of Reuben and Jerusha (O’Kelley) Eldridge.
4. Thankful Nickerson (my 5th-great-grandmother), born 17 November 1751 in Harwich, died in 1838. She married 25 December 1773 in Harwich, Isaac Weekes, who was born there 11 April 1747 and died 12 July 1792 in New Hampshire, son of Ammiel and Phebe (Small) Weekes. Thankful & Isaac were the parents of four children.
5. Jemima Nickerson, born 11 September 1753 in Harwich, died there in 1780. She married 29 January 1773 in Harwich, Jonathan Burgess, who was born 15 February 1748 in Harwich, and died there 25 October 1826, son of Thomas and Mary (Covell) Burgess.
6. Joshua Nickerson, born 15 November 1755 in Harwich, died 25 December 1842 in Washington (Allen) Indiana.
7. Mehitable Nickerson, born 20 September 1757 in Harwich, died 10 November 1822. She married 22 July 1775 in Chatham (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Ammiel Weekes, who was born 11 January 1754 in Harwich and died there 7 October 1787, son of Ammiel and Phebe (Small) Weekes.
8. Sheber Nickerson, born about 1759, died about 1873 in Maine. He married 27 February 1783 in Harwich, Esther Ellis, who was born 21 December 1763 in Harwich.
9. Miriam Nickerson, born 15 February 1764 in Harwich, died 19 August 1812 in Swanville. She married (as her first husband) 16 June 1782 in New Hampshire, Josiah Parsons, who was born 15 June 1769 in Northampton (Hampshire) Massachusetts. Miriam married (as her second husband and as his second wife) 23 February 1802 in New Hampshire, Jacob Eames, who was born 10 March 1754 in Wilmington (Middlesex) Massachusetts and died 7 November 1851 in Swanville.
10. Drusilla Nickerson, born about 1765 in Harwich, died 28 March 1857 in Albany (Carroll) New Hampshire. She married Dea. Daniel Head, who was born 11 August 1762 in Canterbury (Merrimack) New Hampshire and died 20 July 1836 in Tamworth.
11. Hannah Nickerson, born about 1765 in Harwich. She married 9 October 1788 in Tamworth, Enoch Ellis, who was born 29 April 1766 in Harwich.
12. Aaron Nickerson, born about 1766, died 27 December 1818 in Maine. He married Mehitable Nickerson, who was born about 1770.
13. Deborah Nickerson, born about 1766. She married Jeremiah Eldridge, who was born about 1760, son of Reuben and Jerusha (O’Kelley) Eldridge.
14. Jonathan Nickerson, born 31 December 1771 in Harwich, died 2 June 1858 in Tamworth. He married 10 January 1793 in Tamworth, Judith Blaisdell, who was born 15 August 1765 in Salisbury (Merrimack) New Hampshire and died 28 October 1857 in Albany.
GEORGE WEEKES. Born in Dorchester Mass. A.D. 1683. Came to Harwich, Married Deborah Wing: Oct. 13, 1714. Preached to the Indians. Perished in a snow storm, when an old man in the hollow 100 rods south of this spot. He was grand- son of George Weekes, a Hu- guenot, who fled to England and came to America in 1630.
My 7th great-grandfather, George Weekes, son of Ammiel and Abigail (Trescott) Weekes, was probably born on 20 March 1689 in Dorchester-Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, according to town records, although his gravestone says he was born in 1683, and died in April 1772. He married on 13 October 1714, Deborah Wing, who was born 2 May 1687 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there 9 February 1726, daughter of Ananias and Hannah (Tilton) Wing.
It seems that George was a widower for 46 years. Deborah died soon after the birth and death of her seventh child. It’s fascinating that George was most noted for preaching to the Indians. And of course, for the tragic way he died. Researching my family’s history I have discovered that many of my ancestors were deeply involved in various kinds of religious fomentation. According to this gravestone George’s grandfather was a Huguenot, a French Protestant inspired by the writings of John Calvin.
The following is from Wing Family Annals, Vol. 52, No. 1, edited by Grace Wing Barnes (Clinton, Iowa, Wing Family of America, Inc., 1952) pg. 13,14
George Weekes had lived in Boston, but in 1714 removed to Harwich. He was dismissed from the Old South Church in Boston March 27, 1720, and joined the church at Harwich (north side) under the care of Rev. Nathaniel Stone. He afterwards removed to the south part of the town, where many of his descendants now live, and where he carried on a farm.
George Weekes was not “liberally” educated, but was well versed in the theological books of the day, and was familiar with the scriptures. In 1730, though not ordained by human hands, he commenced preaching to the Indians, who were located toward the south and far removed from the the meeting house, which was on the north side of the parish of 23 square miles. Mr. Weekes built a house of worship for the Indians at his own expense. Notwithstanding these facts, the pastor, Mr. Stone, objected, but does not appear to have insisted on a discontiniuance. Learning, however, that Mr. Weekes on one or more occasions preached to some of his white neighbors, who, no doubt, were glad to assemble occasionally on a week day or stormy Sunday for religious instruction and conference, being as they were so far removed from their regular place of worship, Mr. Stone vigorously protested and complained to the church in regard to the matter. His grounds of complaint were that Mr. Weekes had “no more if so much as an early common education,” that he “had thrust himself into the meeting,” that he “had preached to a people of whol I have the pastoral charge, without my leave and against my declared mind.” There does not appear to have been any charge of want of orthodoxy. Some years later, Mr. Weekes seems to have taken pity upon an unfortunate woman and taken her with her child into his house. Some took offense at this and would not come to the Lord’s table with him, in view of which state of feeling he absented himself from communion. On being called to account for his absence, he made explanations which were accepted by the church as in a measure satisfactory, but at the same time he was advised to dismiss the woman from his house and to avoid “her conversations as much as convenient.” There seems to have been no charge against him of impropriety. In the later years of his life, his mind was clouded, which led to aimless wanderings about the country. He died from exposure to the cold in the low ground south of Harwich Academy, known from the circumstance as “Weekes’ Hollow” to the present day — being more than 80 years old.
A sermon preached by Mr. Weekes in 1726, on occasion of the remarkable preservation of Ebenezer Taylor, who was buried for ten hours in a deep well, has been recently reprinted, with an essay entitled, “A Parent’s Advice to his children, in which he declaims and argues very earnestly against the great sin of wearing periwigs and of extravagance of dress.
Deborah & George were the parents of seven children, all born in Harwich:
1. Abigail Weekes, born 29 August 1715.
2. Mehitable Weekes, born 21 April 1717, died 24 June 1750 in Harwich. She married there, 28 October 1736, Eleazer Robbins, who was born about 1715 and died 15 July 1785. Mehitable & Eleazer were the parents of five children.
3. Deborah Weekes, born 26 July 1718, died 22 May 1761 in (Dutchess) New York. She married (as his second wife) 6 February 1739 in Harwich, William Penney, who was born 27 May 1716 in Harwich, and died 21 February 1786 in Fredericksburgh (Putnam) New York. Deborah & William were the parents of two sons.
4. Dea. Ammiel Weekes (my 6th-great-grandfather), born 10 April 1720, died 12 February 1804. He married 12 February 1742 in Harwich, Phebe Small, who was born there 12 October 1717, and died there 21 April 1793, daughter of Jonathan and Damaris (Winslow) Small. Ammiel & Phebe were the parents of six children.
5. Hannah Weekes, born 21 September 1721. She married (as his first wife) 2 March 1742 in Harwich, Jonathan Small, who was born there 26 May 1721, and died about 1810, son of Jonathan and Damaris (Winslow) Small. Hannah & Jonathan were the parents of five children.
6. Elizabeth Weekes, born 16 September 1724.
7. an unnamed son, born 24 January 1726, died soon after.
George Weekes (1689-1772) Dea. Ammiel Weekes (1720-1804) Isaac Weekes (1747-1792) Isaac Weekes (1780-1841) Elisabeth Weekes (1822-1908) Elisabeth Emma Freeman (1851-1876) Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson (1875-1965) Emma Freeman Thompson (my grandmother)
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home – With a Bobolink for a Chorister – And an Orchard, for a Dome –
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – I, just wear my Wings – And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, Our little Sexton – sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman – And the sermon is never long, So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – I’m going, all along.
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)
Save your sermons for someone that’s afraid to love If you knew what I feel then you couldn’t be so sure I’ll be right here lying in the hands of God If you feel angels in your head Teardrop of joy runs down your face You will rise ~ Dave Matthews ♫ (Lying in the Hands of God) ♫
Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!
One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.
November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.
This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.
Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468
[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752. Court Sat by Candle light.” [October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.” [October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day” [October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.” [November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.” [November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”
Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619
It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…
There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!
We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…