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August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York) < Previous News  |  Next News >

 

Digging Up My Ancestors in Ipswich and Rowley

When I got up the next morning, the air was almost as hot and steamy as it had been the previous evening, and the quick, cold shower that I took (no jokes, please) was a welcome relief.  I left the campground at Harold Parker that morning and drove up to Ipswich, Massachusetts, a small coastal town about an hour north of Boston, and a place that I'd been wanting to visit for several years.

 

If you've been following my website, you know that one reason I'm taking this trip is to trace my genealogical roots.  I wanted to visit Ipswich because I had learned that ancestors on my Dad's side, with names like Bradstreet, Chaplin, and Hastings, were among the first settlers in America and emigrated from England to Ipswich in the 1630s, just a few years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth.  I discovered all this while I was still in Portland a few years earlier by using the Mormon's genealogy website (www.FamilySearch.org), so I'm probably the first person in my family to visit Ipswich in over 100 years, maybe 200.  At this point, my Ipswich ancestors were just names that I saw on the Internet and didn't really mean anything to me.  I was hoping to find out something about these folks during my visit here and add some meaning and substance to our family tree.

 

As I walked into the Ipswich Public Library, I wasn't sure if I'd find any information here about my ancestors so I was ready to hop on the Turnpike that afternoon and drive the six hours to my brother's house in New York, my next planned stop.  However, with the help of a nice Reference Librarian named Paula, I spent the entire afternoon in the Archives Room and dug up a lot of information about my ancestors, including a fellow named Humphrey Bradstreet who was a Puritan aristocrat and Hugh Chaplin who was a weaver, both of whom came from England to Ipswich in the 1630s.  It was pretty interesting to read about these people and I tried to imagine what life must have been like for them here back then.

 

After spending several hours in the nice-and-chilly Archives Room, I left the library and walked down to the Ipswich marina to see the exact spot where these and other ancestors from England landed in the New World seeking a better life... not to mention Happy Meals.  Sitting here at the Ipswich marina and envisioning my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Humphrey Bradstreet (obviously, he was really great) stepping off the ship "Elizabeth" at this exact spot in 1634 was a pretty stirring moment for me.  After a few minutes, I walked down to the water and dipped my hand into the sea to reconnect a bit with my past... and also to wash off the residue from Walden Pond.

 

       

Above left:  Camping at the very hot and sticky Harold Parker State Park after leaving Walden Pond.  This is a typical evening scene: downloading photos while eating chili and Doritos.  O.K., so I'm not a connoisseur...

Above center:  Downtown Ipswich, Massachusetts.  This is a place I've wanted to visit ever since I learned on www.FamilySearch.org that my ancestors lived here in the early 1600s and were among the first white settlers in America.  

Above right:  I spent four hours in the library's Archive room finding lots of interesting things about my ancestors (many thanks to Paula, the Reference Librarian).

 

       

Above left:  Here's the site in Ipswich, Massachusetts where my ancestor, Humphrey Bradstreet, landed in 1634 after sailing from England on the ship "Elizabeth."  As I learned, these folks were strict Puritans and came to America because, among other things, they didn't think that people should be allowed to dance or play games.  Maybe that's why I hate to dance...

Above center:  This is the lot in Ipswich that my man Humphrey Bradstreet bought in 1635 (the house was built a few years later).  It was pretty exciting to discover the exact place where my ancestors lived during the Puritan age.

Above right:  Visiting Rowley, just north of Ipswich, where I traced some more ancestors.  Rowley and Ipswich are two of the oldest cities in America.

 

Say What?

I drove back to Harold Parker State Park late that afternoon and camped there another evening.  It "cooled" down that night, if you can call it that, to about 85 degrees.  To make matters worse, it was really, really sticky, so I slept in a pool of sweat during the entire evening -- definitely the most unpleasant night of my trip so far and even worse than in southern Louisiana.  But, hey, it only cost $12 compared to $110 for a Motel 6.  Plus, the cold shower the next morning felt great (again, no jokes please).  

 

After my shower, I continued my ancestral search in the nearby town of Rowley which, along with Ipswich, is one of the oldest settlements in New England.  With the help of a pleasant Town Clerk there named Susan Hazen, I discovered several gravestones of my ancestors from the 1600s and 1700s in the Rowley cemetery.  Seeing the old gravestones was a real thrill and I even got goose bumps -- and that, as you may know if you've been reading my website, only happens when I watch "Titanic."

 

One of the things I like about New Englanders is their unusual accent.  I'd been chuckling to myself for several days during various conversations that I'd had with New Englanders while grappling with their thick accent.  Although New Englanders have been around for over 300 years, in all that time they still haven't learned how to pronounce the letter "R."  They don't drive "cars" here.  Nope, they drive "caaahs" which are sometimes "paawked faa away."   These, of course, aren't to be confused with the "coahs" that they drive in New York and New Joisey.

 

This idiosyncrasy really hit me that afternoon when I stopped at the lively and funky Clam Box restaurant just outside of Ipswich, where I ordered a box of fried Ipswich clams.  The Clam Box, as I found out, is a great place to load up with all kinds of tasty deep-fried seafood that will clog your arteries in no time flat.  As I picked up my large order of clams, I asked an attractive young waitress there named Tina for a plastic fork and I almost cracked up when she asked me, "What?  You want a fock?"  I was thinking to myself, "Well no, I just want a fork, but gee, now that you mention it...".  

 

After my humorous encounter at The Clam Box, I could've used one of those cold showers but, alas, it was time to head on to New York.  Therefore, after a couple of days in Rowley and Ipswich researching my ancestors, I got in my caaah and hit the road with my Ipswich clams in hand and with a smile on my face, still chuckling over my simple request.

 

       

Above left:  My jaw dropped when I saw this sign for the "Platts - Bradstreet House" in Rowley.  This house, which is now a museum, was built in 1677 by two of my ancestors, the Bradstreets and the Platts. 

Above center:  I spent a couple of hours walking through the Rowley Cemetery looking for gravestones of my ancestors.  I found a lot of familiar names here and we had a family reunion, of sorts... though I was the only one there talking.

Above right:  Here's the barely-readable gravestone of Moses Bradstreet, my 7-times-great-grandfather who died in 1690.  This is the oldest gravestone in the cemetery.  Finding Moses' old gravestone has been the biggest highlight of my trip so far.

 

       

Above left:  The oldest house in Rowley (and one of the oldest in America) is this one built by my ancestor, Joseph Chaplin, in the 1660s.  The bushes came later.

Above center:  Searching for your ancestors builds up an appetite, so I got a box of delicious Ipswich fried clams for lunch...  in Ipswich, no less. 

Above right:  Don't ask for a fork here unless you want to laugh.

 

Western Massachusetts:  Basketball, Volleyball, and a Bunch of Athols

I left Ipswich that afternoon and turned west for the first time on this trip, heading to New York to visit my brother Don and his family.  After camping in another state park that night, I made a few more stops in Massachusetts the next day including the towns of -- now get this -- Athol and Belchertown.  While driving through these towns and wondering about their names, I adhered strictly to a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  After chuckling over these names for a while and still grinning over the "fork incident" in Ipswich, I decided that Massachusetts was a pretty amusing place to visit.  

 

From Athol, I headed south that morning to Holyoke, Massachusetts, an old mill town with a population of about 50,000.  Holyoke was constructed around 1850 at a bend in the Connecticut River on the "Fall Line" (i.e., a waterfall).  A large dam was built here to divert the river water into a series of parallel, stepped canals that were built throughout the city, amidst all the houses and businesses.  Each drop in water level, from one canal to the next, was harnessed to power the textile and paper mills that were constructed here... quite an engineering marvel, really.  

 

Here's Boston's own James Taylor singing Millworker, a poignant tune about a woman who works in a New England factory.

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Holyoke today though, like so many former mill towns in New England, struggles with unemployment, is filled with empty brick buildings, and is trying to attract new industries.  Nevertheless, I found Holyoke pretty interesting and spent a couple hours here. 

 

Amazingly enough, not one but two popular sports were invented in this area during the late 1800s.  First, James Naismith invented basketball in nearby Springfield, then a few years later his friend William Morgan invented volleyball in Holyoke.  Volleyball is my favorite sport and I was looking forward to seeing the Volleyball Hall of Fame, which is in downtown Holyoke, but when I got there I was disappointed to learn that it was closed that day.  I walked over to a nearby museum and met a friendly and outgoing caretaker there named Charlie.  After we talked for a while, I told him that I'd been looking forward to visiting the Volleyball Hall of Fame and Charlie replied, "I'll tell you what -- I'll go over and open it up for you if you want to go inside." 

 

Sure enough, Charlie walked over, opened up the Hall of Fame for me and said, "I'm going back to the museum.  Just let me know when you're done."  So thanks to Charlie, I walked around Holyoke's brand-new Volleyball Hall of Fame for the next half-hour and had the whole building to myself. 

 

Later that afternoon, I drove to Springfield which is just a few miles away.  Like Holyoke, Springfield is an old manufacturing city that's seen better days, filled with lots of empty brick buildings.  Although I didn't have time to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame there, I did stop by the Springfield Armory.  After producing weapons for nearly 200 years, the Armory was shut down in 1968 and the grounds were converted into, interestingly enough, a Community College.  Part of the Armory, though, is a National Park site and it's a great place to visit if you like guns.  I've never owned a gun and never will, but nonetheless, I thought the Armory was pretty fascinating.  In fact, I could've spent several hours there, but (or I should say, "butt") once again, it was time to hit the road.

 

I left Springfield that evening and headed west on the Mass Pike (i.e., Massachusetts Turnpike), arriving a few hours later at my brother's house in Manlius, New York, on the outskirts of Syracuse.  I'd spend the next several days in Manlius getting ready for my trip West.

 

       

Above left:  A rude town in Massachusetts.

Above center:  Holyoke was developed on a bend in the Connecticut River.  Note the dam in the upper right corner and the series of diversion canals in the lower left corner, each of which provided power to mills throughout the city.  

Above right:  One of the many abandoned mills in Holyoke.

 

       

Above left:  My favorite sport, volleyball, was invented in Holyoke during the 1890s.  William Morgan, director of the Holyoke YMCA, wanted to create a sport that was less strenuous than that new sport called "Basketball" invented a few miles away in Springfield by his friend, James Naismith.  Morgan strung a tennis net across the wall... and the rest is history.

Above center:  Thanks to Charlie, I got to see the Volleyball Hall of Fame.

Above right:  Inside the Hall of Fame where I proved once again that white men can't jump.

 

       

Above left:  After leaving Holyoke, I drove a few minutes down to Springfield.  I didn't visit the Basketball Hall of Fame but I did stop by the Springfield Armory.  This is probably the only National Park site that has a metal detector at its entrance... not to keep guns out, but to keep the guns IN.

Above center:  The armory is a great place if you like guns.  Millions of armaments have been produced here for every military conflict in American history from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam.  I saw enough locks, stocks, and barrels to last a lifetime.

Above right:  A tool manufacturing plant in Massachusetts, where they make 'em the old-fashioned way.  There are lots of "backwater" industrial towns like this throughout New England, many of which are located on waterfalls.  Back in the 1800s, the waterfalls were used, of course, to power the mills.  Today, they make nice photographs.

 

       

Above left:  I think I know why people go here.

Above center:  Back on the "Mass Pike" (i.e., the Massachusetts Turnpike -- people in Massachusetts shorten everything).  This is rolling through the Berkshire Mountains, or, as they probably call them, the "Berk Mounts."

Above right:  Driving on the New York Thruway (I'm in New York here, so full words are used instead of abbreviations).  This is heading to my brother Don's house near Syracuse.

 

 

Next News

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

 

Previous News

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts))

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

 

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