Monday, October 12, 2009

Common ground

We left Jacquie and Barry's on Wednesday evening, heading for what I thought was going to be Salem. But the off-ram was jammed so we went on to Wenham, which was one of the places I had wanted to go. It was the only place that I was able to locate ancestors for both of us. Ben's ancestor Chloe Claflin lived in Wenham, as did my ancestors, John and Lydia Porter.
It was almost dark when we arrived. A quiet town, not much happening, and no places to stay. We googled accommodations on Ben's Iphone, and discovered the Nightingale Inn, less than 10 minutes away. Turns out it was an early 20th century Mediterranean style villa, built by a Nightingale, and lived in by his widow for nearly 50 years. She slept on a screened-in porch most of the time, although there were beautiful (at least now) rooms upstairs.
In the morning we were treated to a breakfast of oatmeal and raisins, orange juice, coffee and tea, while listening to the proprietor, Moshe Mazin, hold forth on Jewish history. We sat for two hours, listening with rapt attention. Another one of our "experiences," along the way that we felt led to.
I was still thinking we would go to Salem, but instead ate at the Cygnet, a restaurant where we had eaten the night before. Then we went down to the beach at Beverly, and walked for 30 minutes on another sparkling day.
Then we went to Wenham. John Porter III was the only son of Samuel Porter, a mariner, who died at 23 headed to, or returning from, Barbadoes in 1660. Samuel was the second son of John Porter, Sr, and Mary Endicott, who had come to America in 1635 and landed in Hingham. Apparently, John, Sr., was one of the wealthiest men in the Salem area, leaving a lengthy last will and testament when he died. He left money to Samuel, who, in turn, left a "large farm," to his wife, Hannah Dodge, when he died.
John lived to be 95, died in 1753, and had 11 children with a combined age at death of 955 years. There were two sisters who lived to be 100. No one died before 80.
We found the Wenham Cemetery and started toward the back, Ben driving, me walking. Finally, we spotted the oldest part of the cemetery, grave stones perched upon a knoll overlooking the main street, under Maple trees spreading their limbs over the resting places of the Porter, Kimball, Dodge, Gott, and other clans.
I found the Porters, and then, John Porter and next to him, Lydia Herrick Porter. John was born in 1658 and died in 1753. Lydia's inscription was harder to read and her birthdate was around 1660. I'm not sure what it is to come about an ancient grave of a long-gone ancestor, but there is something spiritual, a re-connection, a re-membering, a putting back together.
After wandering through the cemetery, finding what were surely, John and Lydia's descendants among the Porters, we headed into town to the museum and the Claflin-Richards House, an 18th century home, where Robert MacClaflin had lived in the 1660s. We didn't have a lot of information about the Claflins, but will try to track it down.
The rest of the day was spent driving through Ipswich, Boxford, and other towns where the Tylers (maternal side) had also made their way in the 1660s and early 1700s, before heading west to Michigan. There are few grave markers from the 1600s. They are either destroyed by time and elements, or buried under towns and progress.

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