Winter in Gloucester still brings a smile.
Clarence Manning Falt (1861-1912) was a Gloucester poet and photographer, a son of a Canadian immigrant & fisherman and a Gloucester mother & homemaker (born and raised in a fisherman generations family herself). They had seven children. The Falt family eventually purchased 172 East Main Street; Clarence and his surviving siblings continued to live there as adults. It’s a huge home.
photo caption: 172 East Main Street, Gloucester, Mass. An Edward Hopper drawing of this Gloucester house, which I identified, was gifted to the Minneapolis Art Institute and included in a travel exhibition highlighting major drawings from this famous repository.
Clarence Manning Falt clerked for various businesses on Main Street to support his art practice.
By the 1900 census, clerk was dropped from the “occupation” category, “Author” stood alone.
Falt photographed and wrote about Gloucester, where he was born and raised during the late 1800s. His work reflects his own personal experiences including the fishing industry of his parents’ world. The best ones connect readers to this world because of his talents and an insider’s careful observations. Some of the writing relies too much on tropes and can be a chore, though never as difficult as the jobs he portrays, and may stick with you just the same because he is successful in providing such accurate and detailed examples of the business of fishing and the beauty of Gloucester. Some poems rise to evoke a full and cinematic day at the docks and ideas to mull over.
POINTS OF INTEREST: GLOUCESTER IN SONG
Falt’s book of poems and photographs, Points of Interest Gloucester in Song, was published in 1894, the year after his mother died. He dedicated the volume to her. Examples of his original and stunning photographs are from the copy held in the collection of the Library of Congress which was digitized. The pairings aren’t always successful and one might long for more photos, as I have. A few appear to be source photos for vintage postcards.
“To those who have grown up from childhood amid the grandeur and solemnity of these scenes, to the stranger who has become familiar with them, may their hearts be quickened with a keener appreciation for, and a deeper sympathy with, all that has made Gloucester and its suburbs charming and historic.”Clarence Manning Falt
Have you seen this rock face profile?
photo caption: The Watcher
Have you walked past this balancing skinny topper?
Poem titles and links for the photo grid below:
- Night-Fall at Brace’s Cove
- Mother Ann
- Nightfall at Turk’s Head
- Towards Norman’s Woe
- To The Annisquam River
- To the Willows of Riverdale
- At Patch Willows
- Evening at Wingaersheek Beach
- At Bass Rocks (with view Sherman’s Cottage and back to Good Harbor Beach)
- The Iron Cross at Magnolia
- At Pigeon Cove
- A Day With Shakespeare at the Singing Sands
(take time to enlarge the photos!)
Falt poems from nature (without photographs) from this volume and worth a read
THE BLUETS IN mosses green A charming scene, To me a sweet surprise, In bright array This fair spring day The bluets greet my eyes. Each dainty cup, Is lifted up With tints of heaven’s hue; Each budding gem A diadem Bespangled with the dew. Like tiny shields Amid the fields, On bodies, slim and frail,, They wave and bend And sweetly send The Welcome Spring’s All hail! Where bright sunshine By one divine Can reach each fragile heart, They lovely gleam Like some sweet dream And Joy’s sweet pulses start. My better self (The heart’s stored wealth) Enraptured at the sight On each sweet face See’s Heaven’s grace And life, immortal, bright. On, tiny blooms, When waking tombs Lie buried ‘neath the snow, And Death doth keep Guard o’er thy sleep And blust’ring winds they blow, Backward apace My heart will trace, And bring, begemmed with dew, ‘Mid mosses green The charming scene Of you, sweet buds of blue. -Clarence Manning Falt, 1894, in Gloucester, Ma.
Bluets, photo courtesy Justine Vitale
WHARF AND FLEET
Falt’s volume of poems and photographs, Wharf and Fleet: Ballads of the fishermen of Gloucester, was published in 1902. A copy of the book held at the University of California was digitized and uploaded in 2006.
This one was dedicated to Winthrop L. Marvin* (1863-1926), author of The American merchant marine; its history and romance from 1620 to 1902, also published in 1902.
“…Ever since 1713 Gloucester has been the peculiar home of the schooner, and this is now and long has been the unvarying rig of her unrivalled fleet of deep-sea fishermen. The first entry of a schooner in Boston’s commerce occurs in 1716, — “Mayflower,” Captain James Manson, from North Carolina. As Captain Andrew Robinson was a direct descendant of John Robinson who preached to the Pilgrims at Leyden, it is conjectured that this “Mayflower” was the fist schooner, the original Gloucester craft. Be this as it may, her useful successors are numbered by the thousands,…”
and re: the 100 days War with Spain:
“At the Gloucester recruiting station, in the early summer of 1898 , 76.5% of the men examined were accepted. At Boston the percent accepted was 14.5; at New York only 6. This means that in physique and intelligence the fishermen of New England are very much superior to the merchant sailors of the great seaports. So valuable a national resource as the deep-sea fisheries cannot be suffered to decline.”*Winthrop Lippitt Marvin – U.S. journalist, and author; Civil Service Commissioner of Massachusetts; secretary of the Merchant Marine Commission
Back to Falt
Clarence Manning Falt was clearly proud of his parents and hometown and had a linguist’s ear and aptitude for the music of words. He studied public speaking and drama in Boston and New York. This book incorporates strongly stylized dialect deliberately, heavily.
More From his intro
Gloucester’s “population at the writing of this work is about 29,000. As a fishing-port, it is the largest in the world. Here can marine life be studied in all its phases. Here, lying at their moorings, will be found the up-to-date Gloucester fishing vessels, for the modern type of fishing vessel is t he pride and delight of a Gloucester skipper’s heart. He considers his stanch craft his ocean home. Indeed, these handsome vessels are as fine as the stately yachts that daily grace the harbor, for one would immediately note their fine sheer, perfectly fitting sails, clean decks, trim rig, and crews of able-bodied seamen, marking a wonderful and almost magical development from the primitive types of the quaint shallops, pinnaces, and pinkies of the olden days.
Gloucester harbor, like some might arena of old, is terraced with impregnable bastions of rugged hills and seared and time-furrowed cliffs…At night its beauty is unrivalled. Seaward its light-towers flash and gleam…the fleets glowing to port and windward, vying landward with the city’s brilliant reflections, sparkling with the shimmering glows of the wharf lights, the anchored fleets, and the inverted spangles of the stars of heaven… The wharf life has also developed marvelously. Every up-to-date method of prosecuting this industry is employed. This development has brought many new occupations and newer characteristics of the life. ”Clarence Manning Falt, 1902 excerpt from his introduction Wharves and Fleet
A Matter of the Ear
“Packin’ Mack’r’l” — that does sound musical, and easily missed! How it makes me smile imagining Falt enlivened by the sights and sounds all about, fishing for just the right words and photographs; all the while diligently preserving a specificity of Gloucester’s fishermen’s dialect; a language all its own, encompassing many nationalities; one in which he was fluent and could translate and that he felt through his art. I wish that there was an audio recording of his reading aloud (or under his direction).
reminder comparable- post Civil War there was an uptick of slang dialects expressed in American writing, notably Tom Sawyer published 1876 and Huck Finn 1885(US)
Falt poem & photos- Gloucester sound and “see”scapes
SELECTION OF FALT’S POEMS
Many of the poems from Wharves and Fleet include vivid definitions tagged beneath which are delightful, personal and informative.
In building a wharf, the piles are first inserted into holes made in the dock, then after being carefully inserted and put in shape, they are driven down to a certain point by a heavy iron weight suspended from the top of the scow.
“Fly an’ spider”: figuratively used when the heavy iron weight (“th’ spider”) strikes the top of the pile (“th’ fly”). An old saying, long handed down by the fisher-folk**.Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
**have you heard this expression?
Ride stilts- “reflections of the piles at low tide. As the hawser lifts and drips and the crew hauls upon it, the phosper at night gleams most beautifully.Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
Dryin’ time after a heavy rain or spell of easterly weather, one of the most picturesque scenes of the harbor is the hanging of hoisted and half-hoisted sails from all sorts of crafts to dry in the coming forth of the sun.Note about “Drying Time” – Clarence Manning Falt
Some of the poems I like most helped me learn about ancillary jobs and a bigger , tender portrait of this port.
GITTIN’ UNDERWAY In th’ early dawn ere th’ doors unlock, Then it’s crick, crick, crick, an’ it’s crock, crock, crock An’ it’s ho an’ hi fer th’ blocks ter talk In th’ early dawn e’er th’ doors unlock. Then it’s ho na’ hi fer th’ dreams ter die, Fer th’ crews an’ th’ bunks ter say good-by, Fer th’ yawn an gape, fer th’ stretch an’ sigh, In th’ early dawn ere th’ cocks crow high Then it’s ho fer doublin’ th’ Woolsey smocks, An’ twicein’ th’ toes in th’ home-knit socks, An cuddlin’ th’ ears up under th’ locks, An’ haulin’ down tighter th’ souwes’ chocks. Then it’s ho fer housin’ th’ rubber boots, An’ firmin’ th’ heart in th’ stiff oil suits, W’ile the cuddies blaxe, an’ th’ coffee goots, An’ th’ windlass creaks, an’ th’ horn it hoots. Then it’s ho fer grubbin’ an’ hi fer drink, Then shadder th’ gangway an’ meet th’ brink Ter shape out th’ course an ter careful think In th’ early dawn w’ile th’ stars still blink. “Block ter talk”: the hoisting of the sails. “Woolsey smocks”: flannel shirts. “Souwes’ chocks”: the flannel-line lappets that are attached to the sou’westers. “Housin’ th’ rubber boots”: pulling them on. “Cuddies”: forecastle. “Windlass”: it is located forward the foremast, and is used in weighing up the anchor. “Horn”: the hand foghorn. “Shape out th’ course”: making the grounds by chart and compass. “Sou’wester”: a broad-brimmed oil-cloth hat with ear-lappets lined with flannel. ------- Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902, Gittin’ Underway, p. 37-38
TH’ NIPPERWOMAN I SEE her black shawl mid th’ butts Clutched tight erpon her breast, I see her black cloud full uv ruts Er shamin’ off its best, I see her pinched an’ wrinkled face Er quizzing uv th’ crew, An’ this ter-nigh is ole Mart Place, That once wuz Marthay True. I see her lookin’ down th’ deck Ter git some welcome nod, Or still perchance th’ courage beck Ter put her feet erboard. I know her arms are tired out Er holdin’ uv th’ string, Fer ev’ry one is knitted stought Ter pace th’ haddickin’. Oh, Marthay True uv long ergo, Could you have looked ter see Yer rosy cheeks an’ eyes erglow Come cryin’ back ter thee, Could you have looked ter see each braid Thin twisted stran’s uv snow, I know yer would ter God have prayed Fer ankrige long ergo. Oh, Marthay True that bird-like sang, An’ twined th’ red rose high, An bade my boyhood’s heart ter hang Er love-light in thine eye, Could you have known th’ years would fling Yer, stranded wreck uv Time, Ter sell with ev’ry knitted ring Er dead heart’s silent chime, Er Nipper woman in th’ cold, Unnoticed an’ forlorn, Mid fisher faces sad an’ bold, With hearts bruised like yer own, I know yer would ter God have prayed Fer ankrige long ere this, Than rather been by Fate errayed Er thing fer chance ter kiss. O, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo, An’ twine th’ red rose high, An prate, an’ tell what we will do, With laughter in our eye; But way down in our hearts we know Time’s but er fickle thing, An’ ere life’s winds begin ter blow Come grief an’ sufferein’. Oh, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo, An’ twine th’ red rose high, An prate, an’ tell what we will do, With laughter in our eye; But soon, too soon, our castles fall, Our gay ships drink th’ sea, An’ what should been joy’s merry call Jest tears fer memory. Oh, Marthay True, God wot that thou Meet luck with all th’ fleet, An if er kind word will endow I’ll speak it quick an’ neat. I know er fisher’s tender spot Is ankered in his heart, Fer once with Christ they threw th’ lot, An’ hauled er goodly part. Oh, Marthay True, yer tale is told. Th’ hearts are tried an’ staunch, An, they have trawled er sum uv gold Ter speed yer in joy’s launch. God wot that thou mayst happy be. Jest keep yer sad heart bright, An’ He will steer yer down Life’s sea Ter find Hope’s port erlight. Nipper woman: one of a class of women who knit and sell to the crews of the fleet the woolen nippers worn to prevent chafing of the fishing lines. It is an industry pursued in the winter and sold to the firms and the crews in the early spring, at the fitting out or in the fall at the “shifting of voyages.” Nippers: when the trawl gets caught, --“hung up,” in fishing vernacular, --mittens are removed and the trawls are hauled in with a pair of nippers, bracelets of knitted wool or cloth held in the palm of the hand, creased to allow of a better hold of the line. ------ Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902 Th’ Nipper woman, p. 37-38
Woolen nippers from Gloucester on view at the Smithsonian were exhibited in the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. I think of Falt’s poem, Th’ Nipper Woman, above, when I see this display, and find it all the more poignant now picturing the women & men working the dock and sea and seasons at port. Intimate and full. Gentle and rough.
GAFFIN' FISH W’EN th’ tide is out er flirtin’, An’ fergits ter shut its door, An’ th’ happy clams are squirtin, Playin’ injine with the shore, An th’ kids are ripe fer junkin’, An’ fer skippin’ rocks an’ shells, An fer woodin’ an’ fer punkin’ Bobbin’ bottles in th’ swells, An’ yer hear th’ rats er squalin’ Frum th’ black cracks in th’ walls, An’ yer quiz th’ tomcats stealin’ Nearer, nearer ter th’ calls, An’ yer mark some ole trap histid, Like er giddy thing on cogs, With its body kind uv listid T’ward th’ black spiles an th’ logs, All togged up in robes uv coal tar, Yaller oaker, sash’s an’ bo’s, P’r’aps er crimson-pintid five-star Sunburs’in’ its puggy nose, Like some poor, ole primay donnay Thet has wobbled all her say, Now shoved further ter th’ corner W’ile th’ daybute works her lay, P’r’aps er ole T.D. er puffin’ Frum er drollin’ mouth er stern, Use ter bluffin’, use ter cussin’, Use ter words I know yer’v hern, Then yer know time’s ripe fer gaffin’ An’ fer puntin’ roun’ th’ docks, Fer it’s then th’ crews git chaffin’ An’ er rattlin’ th’ pitchforks, Fer it’s then th’ strays go slippin’ Frum th’ ole caps with er thud, An’ th’ guick gaffs raise ‘em drippin’ Ter th’ sly punts frum th’ mud. Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ sneakin’ Uv th’ puntin’ through th’ spiles, Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ peekin’ Uv th’ gaffers an’ th’ wiles, Fer it’s thievin’ pure an simple An’ it’s skittish work at bes’, Though th’ cheek may wear th’ dimple, An th’ eye stan’ heaven’s tes’. Oh, it’s risky work er gaffin’, Full uv duckin’s, fights, an’ jaws, Full uv skuddin’, full uv chaffin’, Full uv haul-ups, full uv laws. Fer if caught, as sure as Moses, Yer’ll be chucked deep in th’ dump, W’ile th’ smells uv sweet June roses Won’t c’logne up th’ homeward slump. When the trips are being taken out, often many fish slip from the pitchforks and sink to the docks. A class of young men and boys then row around in little boats, called punts, and gaff up the fish beneath the wharves and sell them. It is an illegal business, and if caught, they are subjected to a fine and imprisonment. It is operated at low tide. “Ole trap histid”: the old-fashioned shore boats that haul up on the dock flats for repairs. "Pintid five-star”: an old-fashioned emblem For decorating ends of bowsprits. ------ Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Gloucester Fishermen, 1902 Gaffin’ Fish, p.39-41
For me, this one is a compelling balance: he carries water for the skippers and (less) for the gray market hustlers. It’s messy. His dad’s guiding hand on this one. Scroll back up and look at the “Th’ spider an’ th’ fly” photograph, the pilings and surface of the water. The images and words flow and force, back and forth. The pairings aren’t so cut and dry.
Clarence Manning Falt fast facts:
|Born||August 1861, Gloucester, Mass.|
|Father||Cpt. Walter M. Falt |
(b. Canada April 18, 1823- d. Glouc. 1904)
emigrated in 1845; fish dealer aka fish merchant 1870 census; skipper; master fisherman 1880 census; day laborer 1900 census
misspelled as “Fault”, Cpt and Master Sea Foam 1878
|Mother||Mary Carlisle Robinson|
(b. Glouc. 1826 – d. Glouc. 1893)
parents married Nov. 30, 1847
|Resided family home||172 East Main Street, |
he and his siblings with their parents
Edward Hopper drawing of this house in the collection of the Minneapolis Art Inst.
|Day job||clerk for downtown businesses (drugstores on Main)|
|University||studied oration and acting|
|Occupation||“clerk” and “apothecary clerk” on earlier census|
“author” on 1900 census
|6 siblings||dates on family headstone|
Marion, (1849 -1931) 1848?
Walter P. (1851-1877) laborer 1870 census
Julia Procter (1852-1924)
Clarence M. (1861-1912) author 1900 census
Austin C. (1866-1915) stevedore 1900 census
Roland H. (1868-1870)
Mary Taylor (1876-1917) 1874?
|Published works||1894- Points of Interest: Gloucester in Song|
1902- Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Fishermen of Gloucester
|Grave||family plot, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery|
Under a Banner of Many Nations
Note from the author: Over the past week, I’ve shared Boston Globe Gloucester stories about immigrants: Swedish, Canadian, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese , Irish, Scotch and so on. I thought of Falt’s books with each post.
Nations jump from the page when scanning vital stats documents, too- like this one from Gloucester birth registry 1868 – scroll over to the right through Occupation / place of Birth of Father/ place of Birth of Mother.
(To get the full experience, go big! The wordpress format reduces the size, however all photos in this post can be clicked, double clicked through, or pinch & zoomed to enlarge)
1897 Boston Globe century list of top captains
- Captain Thomas Bohlin #3 “king pin among the halibut fishermen” (born in Sweden)
- Captain Charles Harty tie for #2 mackerel “as a seiner his reputation has been made.”
- Captain Solomon Jacobs #1 OG “widest known fisherman this country has ever produced…having started out as record beater, has had to live up to his reputation and has succeeded…” codfishery then mackerel seining – global expansion, lost everything & came back again “at the foot of the ladder. His old time luck had not forsaken him…” (born in England, brought to Newfoundland when a baby)
- Captain Alex McEachern #7 high lines, particularly Grand bank codfisheries beat all records in 1897 (born Cape Breton)
- Captain John W. McFarland tied for #2 “the only one to make two newfoundland herring trips, and marketed them in New York, on one season” (born in Maine)
- Captain Andrew McKenzie #8 Iceland halibut and Newfoundland herring (born in PEI)
- Captain Lemuel F. Spinney #5 “high line halibut catcher who is in the first flight of the “killers.” (born in Yarmouth, N.S.)
- Captain Charles Young #6 halibut fleet -1895 record for most trips in one year (born in Copenhagen)
- Captain Richard Wadding #4 halibut (born in England)
A June Morning – arch yes to my ear, and interesting catalogue of flora and fauna then
This story was the first time I was acquainted with anything written by one, “Tom Herbert”, a reporter the Boston Globe featured regularly pre 1900.
This heartwarming read published on Christmas day in 1890 has enough convincing details to engage readers of all ages with a Christmas wish come true story. Is it fairytale or truth enchanted? The mention of a charming cottage in East Gloucester piqued my interest enough to research surnames, just in case, and the off chance I might locate a house story to boot while re-discovering work by this writer. One article was another in this vein I categorized ‘fairytale reporting’ which I shared yesterday ; and a third from a tuna fishing trip he covered for the Boston Globe (embellished with a fantastic headline).
Local details mentioned: Norman’s Woe, Proctor’s Store, ferryboat Little Giant, James (Jim) Lawson, Jeannette Olsen (children Andrew and Alfred), Eastern point, fisherman, Swedish immigrants, East Gloucester, Swedish consul, Court Square Boston, Grand banks, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, shipwreck, Cunningham & Thompson’s wharf, Boston’s salt fish dealers
Her Christmas Present, A True Story of Gloucester Fisher Folk
By Tom Herbert
“Shaw! Jeannette, don’t talk of Christmas presents: you should have dropped those childish notions when we were married. Here am I, a poor fisherman, with a few hundred dollars, and you know I want to build or buy a house in East Gloucester, so that we can have a home of our own next year, and now, the middle of October, I am almost forced to make a fresh halibut trip, or stay home and eat up my hard earned money; and we must be saving, for the owners have promised me a vessel next spring.”
The next day he was to sail, and with tears in her eyes, Jeannette hurriedly got together socks, mittens and the rest of his sea clothes, all of which were neatly patched and darned ready to be placed in the calico pillowslip and taken on board the vessel.
“You’ll buy me a present this year, won’t you, Jim?” said she the next morning.
“Well, I don’t know. It’s according to whether we make a good trip or not, and even so, you must not expect anything that will cost much.
So they parted with a kiss, at the door of the little house on a side street in Gloucester, and were it not for the cry, “Pa-pa-pa” of little Andrew in the crib up stairs, she might have lingered at the door and watched the passage of the vessel as her prow was turned towards Norman’s Woe.
“Jim will be home before Christmas,” mused she, “and if ‘twas only a cheap pocket-book he’d buy for me, I would cherish it so much.”
That night, after “baby” was sound asleep, she visited a friend, and as she passed Proctor’s Store and the post office on her way home she heard a fisherman say: “The ‘glass’ is down 2-10 below 29.”
This was news for her, as almost every Gloucester woman understands the working of a barometer, and surely a heavy westerly was coming that night.
It was 12 o’clock that night when the expected nor’wester burst, and she was awakened by the noise of a swinging blind.
‘Tis a fair wind for Jim, thought she, as she secured the shutter, and if it lasts a day or two he will make a quick run to the Grand banks. Little she knew at that time what misery the same gale brought to her husband.
The next day everything went wrong about the house, the fire went out, although there was a splendid draft to the chimney, things seemed to be strewn around the kitchen in all directions, the baby yelled like mad, and tried to get out of his crib alone for the first time, and in the afternoon she scalded her foot with hot water while making a pot of tea.
Jeannette was not superstitious, yet she could not help paying some attention to what seemed to be presentments of trouble, and were it not for a letter from a lawyer that she received asking her to come to Boston to transact important business she might have and had a good cry.
“I wonder what it can be,” said she, as she put on her best wraps,” surely it cannot be any news from home so soon, and now, come to think of it, I’m sorry I didn’t tell Jim that the property in Sweden was being settled up.”
The train seemed to move slower than usual that day, yet it arrived in Boston on scheduled time and soon she was seated in a law office in Court Square.
“I called,” said she, addressing a smooth faced man, “in response to your letter.”
“Oh, yes! You are Mrs. Lawson, are you not?” said he, showing the way to his private office, “And your maiden name was?”
“Jeannette Olsen, sir. I was born in Stockholm 23 years ago.”
“Yes, the very same,” said the lawyer; “and now, Mrs. Lawson, I have some good news for you. The Swedish consul has a check for you at his office, payable in gold, to the amount of $3800; small, but not so bad. I believe your husband is –“
“A fisherman, sir,” said she, helping him answer his query.
“Now all that remains,” continued the man of law, “is for you to be identified and the check is yours; are you acquainted in Boston?”
Yes; she had relatives there, and half an hour later the office boy brought in two persons that knew her when at home and also her family.
Without much delay the check was received by her from the consul and cashed at a neighboring bank, and with that—never had so much money before feeling—she wended her way towards the depot.
Once on the cars her thoughts went out to sea and she wondered how Jim’s vessel had weathered the gale, and what he would think if he only knew their good fortune, and how sorry she felt for having kept secret her letters from home, but the next moment her thoughts were in another channel. She had resolved to buy Jim a Christmas present that would cost “something.”
The day following was one of excitement to her. She visited the bank, crossed the ferry a number of times in company with real estate men, all of which set the neighbors a wondering, and for two weeks she was busy every day.
When she had time to read, she studied the Boston papers, and from the reports of incoming vessels she knew that it had been rough weather at sea.
Soon the name of the vessel that her husband sailed on was becoming talked of in the town, no news had been heard of her, and she became sad-eye, and the bloom of youth left her cheeks.
The neighbors called and sympathized, and one old lady, who had a son on the same vessel, said, “that if the schooner was not in by tomorrow the owners were going to give her up as lost with all on board.”
Why, tomorrow was Christmas day!
Vessel and all hands lost at sea!
What a cup of bitterness there was in store for her when she had planned for a day of happiness!
“But it must not be,” she cried; “surely God will not send us such terrible news on the birthday of His son!”
That night she knelt by the baby’s crib and prayed that the father of the little one might be returned to him and her.
Morning dawned and she arose after having passed a sleepless night; baby’s breakfast must be gotten ready, and as she rolled the crackers, the crumbs were moistened with her tears.
Noon came and the dreaded news had not arrived, and seating the chubby little chap in the high chair near the window, they ate their Christmas dinner.
An hour later she was ready to swoon, so weak was she from loss of rest and nourishment, and with arms on the table and head bowed down she cried herself to sleep.
How long she remained in that doze she could never tell, but she awoke with a start; little Alfred was tapping on the window pane with his spoon, and calling “pap-pa! pap-pa,” at the top of his voice.
“Be quiet, child,” said she, hysterically; “you have no pa—“ She never finished that sentence, for there, outside the window, was Jim, with a full beard, and looking very pale.
Was she dreaming?
No! for he has moved towards the door, and is now rapping; she notices as he passes his arm into a sling; he has been hurt.
The bolt shot back, the door swung on its hinges and she would have fallen to the floor, but he caught her with his uninjured arm and in a cheery voice said:
“Jeannette, cheer up; is this the way to welcome your Jim? Why, I’ve brought you a Christmas present: ‘tis myself.”
The joy of the wife at the deliverance of her husband no pen can describe, and when she could speak she told him of the long and weary hours she had waited, and listened intently to his tale of suffering while she put new bandages over the splints of his shattered arm.
He told her that after they sailed out by the light on Eastern point everything went wrong on board the vessel, as though a warning to them, and that night, as they scudded before the gale, one of the crew was knocked overboard by the main boom while returning the mainsail, and was rescued with much difficulty.
The next day the gale increased and the weather was intensely cold.
That afternoon they carried away the foremast head while jibing the foresail, and before it could be prevented the mainmast went by the board and injured five men.
They were then 200 miles at sea and almost a total wreck.
Under short sail they headed for Nova Scotia, and then within 20 miles of the shore a heavy snowstorm set in and they were driven off the coast.
The ice that formed on the vessel in large quantities made her unmanageable, and for four weeks they drifted about the ocean without seeing any craft.
Another heavily westerly gale sprung up, which drove them farther out to sea, the schooner had sprung a leak, the pumps were frozen solid, and the decks were washed continually by the heavy seas.
That night the wind shifted, and the captain, judging himself in the vicinity of Newfoundland, heaved the vessel towards the shore, and under a close-reefed foresail they made fair progress, and got ready the only two dories that had not been smashed.
Towards morning they made the land dead ahead, and all the men that were able stood ready, and the injured and frozen men were placed in the dories which were ready to launch.
The suspense was fearful, but for a moment only, for she struck a reef of rocks with a crash, and when the next sea carried her over the ledge she sank in 15 fathoms of water.
That was all he remembered for one week and when he came to his senses his head was bandaged and his arm was in a splint.
Kindly the wife of a fisherman cared for him, and eased his mind when he asked for “Jeannette,” saying, “She’ll soon be here.”
When able to be about he was sent to Fortune bay and took passage on a herring vessel bound for Gloucester.
The rest of the crew had been badly frostbitten, and when all well would follow by steamer.
He was set ashore at Cunningham & Thompson’s wharf, and arriving at the house saw his baby Alfred at the window, and was answered by the little one.
After Jim Lawson had told his story, Jeannette threw her arms around his neck and said, “James, you know you promised me a Christmas present, but I don’t expect one now, and Jim, dear, don’t feel sad. I know you doted on a little home, so I bought a nice little cottage over on Eastern point.”
Should his dory have capsized in a calm, Jim could not have been more surprised than when his wife spoke of buying a house, and an hour later the ferryboat Little Giant brought the happy couple to their new home.
Jim Lawson quit going fishing, by request of his wife, and today is a salesman for one of Boston’s salt fish dealers.
This year it is said that a new piano will be moved in to the snug little cottage, just for a Christmas present.“Her Christmas Present A True Story of Gloucester Fisher Folk”, Boston Globe, Dec. 25, 1890 by “Tom Herbert”
Who cares that the baby is alternately named Alfred and Andrew (perhaps there is more than one child?)! Husband and wife are both heroes! And there are helpful lawyer and realtors, unrelated to the shipwreck! (Wait. Was $4000 a small amount in 1890?)
Art, poetry, novels and news- fishing tales were popular no matter the media. Timeline comps: Longfellow’s Wreck of Hesperus was published in 1842; Winslow Homer first documented extended stay in Gloucester, 1873; Elizabeth Phelps residing here by 1890; Joshua Slocum’s Voyage of the Liberdade 1890; and Kipling’s Captain Courageous in 1897. For Christmas eve decades prior, The Night Before Christmas, attributed to Clement Moore, was penned in 1822.
“Lawson” in the 1882 Gloucester directory
Perhaps some families have heard versions of this same yarn. For fun, some cursory digging: there is no James “Jim” Lawson-Jeannette Olsen (olson)-Alfred trio; though the surnames are common. Some Lawsons resided downtown and East Gloucester: Charles Lawson, fisherman, house 10 Traverse St; Charles J. captain 21 Addison; William J Lawson 23 School Street, then 13 Summit St. In 1870 John Lawson arrived from Canada fisherman, bds Middle, corner Wash. (same as Edward Hopper). Child named Alfred or Andrew with a mother born in Stockholm, Sweden? Sure. What Eastern point cottage would fit the bill in your mind’s eye?
Harpooning Swords. Work that is all excitement and no fun–
Globe reporter on a Fishing Expedition to Cape Porpoise, by Tom Herbert, Boston Globe, August 25, 1890
Taking a ride on Sunday went down to Eastern point and the city looked so pretty on a fall day.
Gloucester awaits for Adventurer Schooner to sail again.
Photo by Adrian Hewitt (email@example.com)
Covid-19 and summer brought an old post to mind. Reposting summer 2020; First published in July 2016.
Are you up for a Gloucester beaches challenge?
A mid-week vacation day is the easiest. Oh, and you’ll need your resident beach sticker. We prepped our car with a picnic blanket for the seat, extra towels, and ice waters. Start early and grab a big “lobsterjack” breakfast because you’ll need the fuel. End late.
Let’s establish some base rules here.
First off, you need to spend at least 15 minutes at each beach. (You can tweak this a little if you want.) Next, you need to dive under. We suggest a ritual for each beach, e.g. ‘The Five and Dive’. Finally, you have to stop for ice cream and candy. Remember, you can do these beaches (or others or quarries in Gloucester) and jumps in any order. Be flexible for different ages and unexpected delays like staying at one beach for hours, or a friend asking you to drop off a sub (*cough* Joey *cough*). Most importantly, you have to do at least 13 beaches and 2 jumps in one day. Mind the tides. Be grateful we have so many choices.
The Beaches- partial list
Annisquam lighthouse. Coffin’s beach. Good Harbor beach. Long beach. Magnolia beach. Niles beach. Pavilion beach (by Beach Court). Pavilion beach bonus (by the cut). Plum Cove beach. Rocky Neck Oakes Cove beach. Stage Fort Park (1) – Cressy’s beach ( our alt. title ‘sea serpent’ big beach). Stage Fort Park (2) – Half Moon beach. Wheeler’s Point. Wingaersheek beach.
The Jumps- partial list
Annisquam bridge. Magnolia Pier.
*We did this challenge at least once each summer. (In 2016) we started off with breakfast at Willow’s Rest and continued from there. Our timing was random especially as we spent hours at Wingaersheek. The second meal to get us through the day came from the sandwich counter at Annie’s by Wingaersheek. Yes, they have a sandwich counter.
Scenes from around the eastern end of Gloucester – churning seas, leaden clouds, and great puffs of wind – the waves weren’t super, super huge at 4pm but there was still great crashing action over the Dogbar.
I hope you are all doing well, or as well as can be expected during this heartbreaking pandemic event. The following kind words were spoken by Pope Francis today and I think they could not be truer.
“We are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed,” he said.
“All of us called to row together, each of us in need of each other.”
In the world of wildlife spring migration is well underway and gratefully, nothing has changed for creatures small and large. That may change though in the coming days as resources for threatened and endangered species may become scarce.
A friend posted on Facebook that “we are all going to become birders, whether we like it or not.” I love seeing so many people out walking in the fresh air and think it is really the best medicine for our souls.
Several times I was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend and people were being awesome practicing physical distancing. Both Salt Island Road and Nautilus Road were filled with cars, but none dangerously so, no more than we would see at a grocery store parking lot. I’m just getting over pneumonia and think I will get my old bike out, which sad to say hasn’t been ridden in several years. Cycling is a great thing to do with a friend while still practicing distancing and I am excited to get back on my bike.
An early spring wildlife scene update
The Niles Pond juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron made it through the winter!! He was seen this past week in his usual reedy location. Isn’t it amazing that he/she survived so much further north than what is typical winter range for BCHN.
Many of the winter resident ducks are departing. There are fewer and fewer Buffleheads, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks seen at our local waterways and ponds.
No sign lately of the American Pipits. For several days there were three! Snow Buntings at the berm at Brace Cove.
As some of the beautiful creatures that have been residing on our shores depart new arrivals are seen daily. Our morning walks are made sweeter with the songs of passerines courting and mating.
Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Chicadees, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Carolina Wrens are just a few of the love songs filling backyard, fields, dunes, and woodland.
Cape Ann’s Kildeers appeared about a week or so ago, and wonderful of wonderful news, a Piping Plover pair has been courting at Good Harbor Beach since they arrived on March 22, a full three days earlier than last year.
Why do I think it is our PiPls returned? Because Piping Plovers show great fidelity to nesting sites and this pair is no exception. They are building nest scrapes in almost exactly the same location as was last year’s nest.
We should be seeing Fox kits and Coyote pups any day now, along with baby Beavers, Otters, and Muskrats 🙂
It’s been an off year for Snowy Owls in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic with relatively many fewer owls than that wonderful irruptive winter of 2017-2018 when Hedwig was living on the back shore. 2019 was a poor summer for nesting however, reports of high numbers of Lemmings at their eastern breeding grounds are coming in, which could mean a good nesting season for Snowies in 2020, which could lead to many more Snowies migrating south in the winter of 2020-2021.
Take care Friends and be well ❤