Saturday, March 17, 2007

Chapter 12: Sunday, March 17, 1607

It's St. Patrick's Day as I write this, a Catholic holiday to be sure.

The Puritans loathed the Catholic ways and teachings, and my ancestors of the Puritan persuasion would be hard pressed to agree with my celebrations of a calendar day being designated for a Catholic Saint.

Yet I have to wonder at how both Puritan Hannah Dustin and Catholic Patrick were kidnapped by "heathens", and how after Patrick fled his captors, he then returned again to them to share his faith in the one true God.

How did Puritan Hannah view her "heathen" captors?
And what affect did the trials and hardships of her captivity have upon her personal faith?

By the Gregorian calendar, March 17th fell on a Sunday.

Back in Haverhill, the citizens would surely have gathered for worship. Their minister was Mr. Benjamin Rolf. Most likely the dead had been already buried in the typical Puritan manner; laid in a grave yard set apart from the church, utilizing the poorest of land.
The bodies would have been buried with their feet to the east and their heads to the west, to allow the dead to arise one day facing to the east, looking towards the rising sun.

Baby Hannah's body would likely have been discovered fairly quickly; the apple tree upon which her head was struck was on the edge of the Dustin property. That gruesome discovery undoubtedly would have verified to Thomas that Hannah and Mary were not just hiding from the Indians somewhere, but rather that they had been taken captive in a cruel heartless manner.

Saturday must have been difficult. Beyond the grim duty of burying Martha next to her dead older sister and two brothers, there was also the need to recover what could be salvaged from the burned Dustin home. With several families now homeless, the community would have had to share whatever they could to feed, clothe and house the broken families as best they could.

Thomas quickly returned to work on the new house. It, along with several other homes, was now being designated as a garrison house. Soldiers were placed to guard over his work at the clay pit, and by April 5th, there were orders given establishing the new house formally as a garrison.

Somehow, in two weeks, Thomas managed to complete his dream home in order to shield his neighbors from nightmarish danger.

Thomas was appointed Master of the Garrison, and he assigned six men to serve as guards, including Mr. Thomas Kingsbury, he who had lost his children during the March 15th raid.

I confess I hurt thinking about what it meant to Thomas to have had to been working on that home as he grieved.

To work on a house he could no longer furnish. A house that for now he would not share with his wife.

The Puritan marriage was a place of great passion. The pleasures of marriage were viewed as a means to experience passion as they should experience passion toward God.

It was the Puritans who first offered the summation of the duty of man:
To know God and enjoy Him forever.
That passion for enjoying God, and their marriages was reflected in their writings.
Puritans who loss their spouses were often inconsolable. Their love for the spouses and their love towards God was deeply intertwined.

It also hurts to imagine what it must have felt to Thomas to have had to bury yet another child.

It had only been five months since his 15 year old Mary had died!

It hurts when I imagine the shock of finding Martha dead, the shock of seeing all worldly belongings in flames, and not knowing the fate of his beloved wife.

I am sure on that Sunday, Thomas and the children were at church.
I am sure that there was a sermon given, likely exploring the reasons why life was short and death was nigh for all.
There would have been prayers prayed seeking God's strength and care for the mourning.
And I am sure there were prayers, both corporate and private, entreating God's watchful care over Hannah and the other now unaccountably missing from their midst.

As they prayed did Thomas yearn to gallop off looking for Hannah?
Did Hannah's brothers, John, Samuel and Jonathan talk of tracking the Indians, or going out looking until they could find their sister and bring her home safe?

Or did the Puritan teachings of predestination override their urge to short circuit her destiny which even then was unfolding?

While they prayed, did Hannah's four living sisters long to reach over to comfort their sister's children seated in the service beside them?

I imagine they did. I imagine families back then were little different than families today when it comes to caring for one another's children in times of crisis.

Interesting, the Puritans often reflected on death in their sermons. They did not enjoy a reassurance that upon death their souls would fly to heaven, rather, because they believed in pre-destination they felt that only an elect few would attain heaven.
They reflected on their short comings, and yearned to know God "in their hearts" more than simply in their minds.

Death stalked them. Burial was a simple affair, a rejection of the Catholic ceremonies. Graves were marked with symbols of death, such as skulls, a warning to any who would see the grave that death had come and would come for the viewer one day as well.

The body was merely resting there until the Resurrection. The grave in fact had stones at the head and the feet, and often rails connecting those stones, creating to the viewer an image of a bed.

As I write this I am exhausted by the consideration of all that day must have meant to Thomas, and the Haverhill community. I find myself like those who have had a crisis explode in their life.

My thoughts are jumbled.

There's so many facets to consider. So many things I will never know or fully understand on this earth.

But I do know one thing for sure.

Thomas and his community were at prayer.

And Hannah was praying as well.

Top o' the Morning to you!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Are you wearing green?
I remember when I was a kid that the custom was that if you weren't wearing a bit of green on St. Patrick's Day, you were fair game for receiving a pinch from anyone who noticed the fact.

In these litigious time, a giving someone a pinch is enough to get you convicted of an assault charge.
Better re-think that one.

I used to get up early on St. Patrick's Day, and go outside on the dewy lawn, hunting four leaf clovers.
I would gather as many as I could, (my father's unusual dichondra lawn always seeming to have several robust patches of four leaf producing clovers for my pleasure) and placing my bounty into a tiny bottle, I would head off to school.

There I would offer clovers to my friends, and to anyone who had neglected to wear a bit of green.
If I had managed to pinch any one, I probably would have been slugged back.
It wasn't worth the risk.

Of course some of my classmates slyly let it be known that they were wearing green underwear.
A hint of a waist band was usually pulled out to prove that their claim was true.
Green socks were also popular. Anything where the green wasn't apparent that might cause a wrongfully delivered pinch that could be repaid with, what was it, ten pinches?

Or a wallop, if no teacher was looking.

Ah...childhood memories.

As an adult I routinely cooked a meal of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, a delicious treat that my mom always made in a pressure cooker (the beef part, not the cabbage.)
None of my fellow wives bothered, informing me that they didn't like tough meat.
It wasn't until I began inviting people over to enjoy the traditional holiday meal that I discovered most people boil their corned beef, and indeed, that usually produces a tough slab of salty meat.

Pressure cookers, I have two in order to cook enough corned beef for a crowd.
Most people do not own even one!

The potato leek mix called colcannon was a part of the meal , with a small coin mixed in to be found by one lucky guest.

The night before I would make shamrock cookies, and Irish soda bread with fat raisins and a cross cut on the top.
I'd get out all our Chieftain albums, and the video tapes of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", "The Quiet Man" and later the video of the Irish dancers in "Riverdance."

Brewing up a large pot of Irish Breakfast tea for breakfast, (and planning Irish Coffee for later), we'd open St. Patrick's Day cards, and look forward to an after school party.

If the day fell on a Saturday, we'd invite everyone over for tea and a plate of Irish food.

Now I know that in Ireland proper the day is lightly celebrated. A trip to church for mass, and that's about it my Irish born friends inform me. They scorn the green beer, green garb, green rivers and lunacy that America has engendered to their simple St. Patrick's Day.

And corned beef?
More likely would be Irish stew, or fish on the supper plate.

Oh well.

Today daughter Laura will be wearing outrageous green eyeshadow, a "Kiss me I'm Irish" teeshirt, and having a blast with her friends in San Diego.
Bernie, Jeff and I are headed to the famous pancake/waffle house that is locally owned here in Salt Lake.
Wonder if they'll serve green pancakes?

Then we plan to visit Red Butte Garden to see what is blooming, and look for a lamp shade for a lamp that came with the house.
A lamp that Jeff would never have purchased, not once in a million years.
But hey, the price was right (free!) and it looks great in the guest room, so I get to pick out a shade.

Luck of the Irish you know.

So tell the truth...
Are you wearing green today?
If so, please leave a comment and let me know.
If you're not, well, I promise not to give you a pinch.
Just type something in green on your blog and we'll call it close enough!
And in case you are wondering,
you "pinch" a blog by commenting
like this:
(Have fun with that!)

Oh, and here's a tip:
For a romantic St. Patick's day evening, rent the Pierce Brosnan movie "Laws of Attraction."
It is filmed in Ireland, and is a "put a big smile on your face" romantic comedy.
A perfect way to put a jig in your heart towards romance.

(Oh, and look!
Here's your lucky clover!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chapter 11: Hannah's story

The most interesting part of the Three Hundred Year Anniversary gathering in Haverhill, back in 1997, was the opportunity to meet other women like myself, who grew up with the last name Dustin.

We came from all over, and for the most part, we had never before had met.
Most of our ancestry had not included a common ancestor for a hundred years or two hundred, or even more years.

Yet we women all had something in common: We were the daughters of Hannah Dustin.

We were raised knowing her story. Many people are the descendants of famous men; war and politics assure many opportunities for men to acquire fame.

But women? Famous women are few and far between.
We, the decendents of Hannah, were self assured, savvy and strong.

It was interesting to meet so many confident women at once.

For awhile Thomas Dustin was the famous one. During the early 1800's his story appeared in every American child's school book, a shining example of fatherly love. America embraced the image of the father figure in the home. The success of the family, society, and the nation at large rested upon the father figure's shoulders.

John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne praised his historic exploits in their writings.

Yet it was Hannah whose name and exploits has inspired the placement of five monuments in her honor. No other American woman can make such a claim, it truly is remarkable.

And it was Hannah's stirring story that made her the first woman in America to have a statue erected in her honor.

Here I will begin her story.

As soon as her husband left to protect their children, the Indians invaded the cabin. Mary Neff attempted to leave with the infant Martha, but she was easily caught.
The "savages" force Hannah to rise, and to dress herself. In her haste to dress, she neglected to put on one of her shoes. She seated herself in the fireplace, which in those days were huge spaces, often with stools upon which one could sit to warm oneself or tend to the cooking.

Sitting despairingly in the chimney, she watched them rifle the house, of all that they could carry away. She watched as they ripped her weaving from her loom.
Grabbing Hannah roughly, the Indians dragged her outside while they fired the house.

A few of the Indians then dragged Hannah and Mary who carried the baby towards the woods. The rest of the Indian band was rejoined by those who had been pursuing Thomas and the children. Together they set about attacking the other houses in the village, killing twenty-seven people and capturing thirteen of the inhabitants.

Mary Neff carried the baby, assisting Hannah as she could via that small favor. The Indians were traveling fast; it was only a matter of time before the village would roust a mob to ride after them.

In the chaos, the infant Martha wailed, and Mary began to struggled to keep up.

One of the Indians settled the matter. Pulling the screaming babe from Mary's arms, the Indian swung Martha against an apple tree, dashing out her brains before her horrified mother's eyes.
Tossing the lifeless infant's body aside, Mary was shoved forward, and onward, as was Hannah as well.

The Indians forced the women to their utmost pace, at last reaching the woods and joining the squaws and Indian children who had been left behind there the night before. Here they were soon after joined by the rest of the savage band, bringing their plunder and other captives.

Fearing a prompt pursuit, the Indians immediately set out for Canada with their booty.

Along the way, some of the weaker captives, unable to keep up, were callously knocked on the head with a hatchet, and then they were rapidly scalped.

Miraculously, inspite of her post-partum condition, poorly clad in a simple shift and partly shod, Hannah, assisted by Mary Neff, somehow managed to keep up.
By her own account they marched "about a dozen miles" that day. Truly a remarkable feat.

During the next few days Hannah, Mary, the Indians and few others traveled about a hundred miles through the unbroken wilderness.
They journeyed on rough trails, in places still covered with the winter's snow, sometimes deep with mud. They crossed icy brooks, while rocks tore Hannah's half shod feet, and their poorly clad bodies suffered from the cold-each step a terrible journey, punishing them both physically and emotionally to the utmost.

Martha was dead. Her friends and neighbors, at first a small comfort of comradeship in the hardship had also been murdered before her eyes. The images must have been burned into her mind: The blood poured from their clubbed head, mixing with brain matter on the ground as they fell.

And then the scalps, there was the scalps that still swung from the belts of the Indians that shoved and threatened them even now.

Perhaps those horrors sealed Hannah into a state of emotional numbness. The hardship of trudging, slipping, through snowy passes and rough terrain probably no longer registered in Hannah's mind.

For Hannah, then, there was no way of knowing if Thomas lived, if the children could have reached the Marsh house safely. Perhaps, most likely, in her mind, they too had been killed.

As far as she knew, her family was dead.

Perhaps she wanted to be dead too.

Chapter 10: After the dust settled and the smoke cleared

I slipped on snow this morning. While I love looking at snow, especially falling snow and snow on mountain tops, my ability to traverse snowy patches is limited. I routinely slip.

Thankfully, this time I did not fall. I made my way into the lobby of the Goldminer's Daughter lodge, a ski resort above Salt Lake City, and sought out a wireless hot spot.

When I couldn't connect using my laptop, the staff quickly gave me a loaner lap top to use.
I'm not even a registered guest. Amazing. Gracious hospitality in the northern climes.

While my husband and son carve the rapidly melting ski slopes, I am happily ensconced in an overstuffed chair, wearing a light tee shirt, and ready to tackle the next phase of the Dustin family saga.

The part which later includes snow.

Chapter 10

Eventually Thomas Dustin ventured out of the garrison house. Smoke enveloped the area, eight houses were burning and fields were aflame.

Twenty-seven people lay dead, gruesomely tomahawked, their blood soaking the ground about them. Among of the dead were the children of Thomas Kingsbury. The band of twenty Abenaki Indians had impacted the community greatly.

This had not been the first Indian raid upon Haverhill. Lives had been lost before, people had been taken captive before. Some of the captives escaped, others integrated into the Indian tribes, others simply died of the ordeal. Some had been sold into slavery to the French, later to escape and return to their home.

The entire region has suffered great loss during the proceeding ten years of the King William's War

"During its continuance, the north-eastern tribes had taken and destroyed all the settlements in Maine, with three exceptions, killed more than seven hundred persons, and carried off two hundred and fifty captives, many of whom never returned."

Seven hundred people had died. Not soldiers. Simply people who had settled the area seeking religious freedom.

One of the eight houses engulfed in flames was the home of Thomas Dustin.

There was no sign of Hannah, Mary or the babe.

The town people must have been in shock. It had only been a few years since the last Indian raid, and the garrison houses and troops were presumed to afford some safety. Perhaps they did, for who knows how many lives would have been lost had the garrison houses not been near at hand?

But for now Thomas and his children could only look at their home, and consider their loss: All that the family had owned, the bed, the loom, the spinning wheel, bowls, benches, quilts, grain, books, clothing, all were lost. And worse. Where was Hannah? What had happened to her?

It must have been difficult to grasp for the children. For now it appeared they were both homeless, and apparently motherless.

Chapter 11: Hannah's story

(Check back will be posted today as well)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chapter 9: "Impossible to choose": Thomas and his children

I'm posting twice today, this being March 15th, and the actually 310th anniversary of the events which occurred in Haverhill, Massachusetts to my family on March 15th, 1697.

If you missed reading chapter 8, please scroll down if you wish to read the story in order.
If this is your first visit to my blog, or this story, you can reading the story from the beginning by using the side bar to find the post which was dated March 8th.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and thank you for reading my story!

Above: "The Escape of the Duston Family," illustration from "The Duston Family" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Yes, that Nathaniel Hawthorne.)
From The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge vol. II, published by the Boston Bewick Company, 1836

After Thomas left his wife and infant to their fate, he rode quickly to overtake his children who were escaping into the woods.

Thomas told this part of the story himself to a writer of the time, just a few weeks following the incident.

This is what was reported about the event published in 1697:

"Ere she (Hannah) could get up, the fierce Indians were got so near, that, utterly desparing to do her any service, he ran out after his children; resolving that on the horse which he had with him, he would ride away with that which he should in this extremity find his affections to pitch most upon, and leave the rest unto the care of the Divine Providence.

He overtook his children, about forty rod from his door; but then such was the agony of his parental affections, that he found it impossible for him to distinguish anyone of them from the rest; wherefore he took up a courageous resolution to live and die with them all.

A party of Indians came up with him; and now, though they fired at him, and he fired at them, yet he manfully kept at the reer of his little army of unarmed children, while they marched off with the pace of a child of five years old; until, by the singular providence of God, he arrived safe with them all unto a place of safety about a mile or two from his house."

The idea that he was able to get a shot off is questionable. The Dustin/Duston family book says this about the incident:

"Quickly seeing that he was too late, and doubtlessly urged by Hannah, he (Thomas) rode after the children, resolving to escape with at least one. On overtaking them, finding it impossible to choose between them, he resolved, if possible, to save them all.

A few of the Indians pursued the little band of fugitives, firing at them from behind trees and boulders, but Thomas, dismounting and guarding the rear, held back the savages from behind his horse by threatening to shoot whenever one of them exposed himself.

Had he discharged his gun, they would have closed in at once, for reloading took considerable time. He was successful in his attempt, and all reached the garrison safely, the older children hurrying the younger along, probably carrying them at times."

What Thomas meant when he stated that he resolved to save the one his affections "pitched on" is puzzling.

Perhaps he meant that as he rode he realized it was unlikely he would be able to rescue all seven children (presumably the eldest, Hannah, at 19 was not one of them.)

Perhaps he felt he would just grab which ever one he first encountered, or perhaps he secretly did have a favorite. Whatever the case, when he saw their faces, he realized he could not abandon any as readily as he had already abandon his wife and infant.

The mile to the Marsh Garrison must have seemed endless. Reading the book "Blink", I learned that in times of crisis, the heart rate rises, and changes in the human body occur to safeguard against injury. Unnecessary functions shut down, and often tunnel vision occurs, no sound is heard, yet everything seems to happen in slow motion.

As the family rushed into the Marsh garrison house, I wondered what Thomas did with his horse. Garrison houses specifically were built with small narrow doors, which would only allow one person to enter at a time.

Did Thomas jump off his horse, and run into the garrison, or did he discharge his weapon first?
Did the horse gallop away, or was it taken by the Indians?

How did he answer his children's questions concerning the well being of their mother?

And how long did they stay in the dark safety of the place, as other rushed in seeking safety.

How much could they hear of the mayhem that was being unleashed upon the neighbors and friends? Were the men tempted to go out and fight? Or did they wait until they thought the danger had passed before they ventured out from the garrison house again?

Two of my ancestors huddled in that garrison house so long ago: Thomas Dustin, age 45, and his son Nathaniel, age 12.

Also present were 17 year old Elizabeth, 14 year old Thomas Jr., 9 year old Sarah, 7 year old Abigail, 6 year old Jonathan and 5 year old Timothy.

I wonder what they thought when they most probably read their father's report that he had resolved to save the one whom his affections "pitched upon."

In truth, I like to think it was Nathaniel that he loved the most.

And I am glad that they all were saved.

Next chapter: "When the smoke cleared and the dust settled."

Chapter 8: "...and then all hell broke loose."

It is a curious thing, how the phrase "out of the ordinary" always meant to me "not part of the ordinary." I've been thinking about times in my life when shattering event encroached on my everyday life.

The retelling of those events, 9/11, deaths, car accidents, always begins with the telling of how ordinary things were moments before the event. "I was just...", like the benign activity should not have warranted the dreadful event that followed.

I've come to a conclusion: Like a child born out his mother's womb, so trauma is born out of the ordinary.

Onesiphorus Marsh's Garrison House
on Pecker Hill
March 15, 1697: The day probably began in what was later remembered as a most ordinary of manners. The family had slept snugly in the small home, likely in a single room with children clustered around the fireplace, slumbering on pallets of goose down quilts. Thomas and Hannah, married nearly twenty years, slept in the bed in which each of their twelve children had been lovingly conceived, and later born.
Six day old baby Martha undoubtedly had awoken Hannah at least once in the night, and had been nursed and tended in the wee hours, held and kissed in the mussy sleepy state that all nursing mothers experience with their newly born children.
I imagine Thomas slept through the feeding, his daily labor creating a state of exhaustion that would not have been easily disturbed.

Perhaps some of the older children stirred. Perhaps five year old Timothy, the next youngest child crept into their bed seeking warmth and reassurance of his mother's love.
Hannah must have recalled him as an infant, and wondered at how simple it was to care for Martha, a single baby, after the hectic needs that her last born twins had required. Nursing twins Timothy and Mehitable with her other son Jonathan only two, well, those were busy months, until Mehitable died at three months of age, on a cold December day.

They always named their children at birth. Many families didn't, calling the newborn "it" until it was clear that the babe would survive its infancy.

She and Thomas named their children as soon as they were born, honoring family members and enjoying the bond between their children and their aunts and uncles, or searching the scriptures for biblical names, to inspire Godly character.
Likely Martha's wails awoke the family again at dawn. While the babe nursed, the family roused, the fire was stirred and a simple meal was cooked by the older girls. They would soon be wives as well, and knew what was need to know to prepare a meal for a hungry family.
But before the family would have eaten, Thomas would have lead his wife and children through a brief study of the Bible, a "devotion" and a prayer.
"The Puritans viewed the male head of the household as the one Biblically responsible for commanding and instructing the family in the way of the Lord. Historians of New England agree on the prevalence of this pattern in the 17th century.
According to the standard work on this subject: "Every morning immediately upon rising and every evening before retiring a good Puritan father led his household in prayer, in scriptural reading, and in singing of psalms"

New England Puritans, like their counterparts in England and Scotland, did not view family worship as a rival to congregational worship, but rather as its complement: "Domestic instruction and worship was considered indispensable to the success of the weekly services in the church, for religion was too important a matter to be left to weekly lessons"
Historians also have observed that the Puritan family was expected not only to be a little church but a little school, and a little commonwealth. One of the leading new historians of the period affirms that "The family was regarded as a religious society with the obligations of group Scripture reading, prayer, and catechizing... Within the family the husband was without question the master. He was prince and teacher, pastor and judge in his household" (Francis J. Bremer, The Puritan Experiment, p. 177). "
A sample of a morning prayer, from a collection of prayers used as by the Puritans as a model, was as follows:
Almighty God, as I cross the threshold of this day I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends, to Thy care. Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me. Incline my heart to thy ways. Mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay. May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound Thy praise.
Let those around see me living by Thy Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armour of God, shining as a never-dimmed light, showing holiness in all my doings. Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands. May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.
In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven, and my love soar upwards in flames of fire, my gaze fixed on unseen things, my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities. May I view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of my Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth.
Order this day all my communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable. May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day."
"The potter molding clay." How real that phrase must have sounded to the family gathered for prayer. How impossible the final phrase must have sounded. Surely this phrase was almost unthinkable.

The meal would have been brief, there was work to be done. Mary Neff arrived, her services as a nurse continued to be offered to support Hannah as she recovered her strength from childbearing.

Thomas rode out to work near his new house, his gun near at hand if it be needed. Looking up from his labor, he saw movement in the woods, one, two quick flashes. He stopped, reached for his gun, and looked again.

An entire band of Indians were stealthily emerging from the woods.

Quickly Thomas mounted his horse, and galloped back to his house, shouting for his children to run to the garrison house while he dashed inside hoping to save his wife and baby.

The children obeyed instantly. They ran into the woods, heading towards Pecker's Hill, and the safety of the Marsh Garrison house.

Inside the home Hannah was in bed, still in her nightdress, Mary Neff by her side.
There was little time talk, the Indians were now rushing towards the house.

In a conversation that was never recorded, a decision was made: Thomas would go and protect the fleeing children, leaving Hannah, Mary and the child to their fate.

The town had been raided before, as had many of the villages in the colony. Frequently the men were killed while children and younger women were taken captive, to be later sold as slaves by the Indians, in order to raise money for French/Indian war chest.

Perhaps it was hoped that an older woman, newly delivered of a child, the babe in arms, would stir sympathy from the savages, and be left unmolested. Hannah surely faced a horror beyond imagination as she saw her husband gallop away, and their house was invaded by the marauding Indians.
Tomorrow: Chapter 9: "Impossible to choose: Thomas and his children"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chapter 7: A quiet day...

The Dustin House
Haverhill, Massachusetts

It's raining and thundering here, and my darlin' husband had a bumpy flight home this afternoon.

We're keeping one eye on the Weather Channel, mindful of weather alerts.
As long as I was checking the weather map, I took a look at the weather today in Haverhill Massachusetts. It is 70 degrees, which seems unseasonably warm to me, and showers are expected later.

Now back to our story:

March 14th, 1697 fell on a Thursday according to the Gregorian calendar.

Thomas Dustin, farmer, brick maker, past constable for his end of town, husband and father of eight undoubtedly had enough to keep him busy from sun up to sun down.

He had volunteered for one additional task within the community; bringing firewood for the new minister.

The first house that Thomas and Hannah lived in was built of bricks imported from Europe. Upon discovering a clay pit on his property, Thomas experimented with making bricks himself, apparently with great success. There was later comment in New England noting the quality of bricks from Haverhill.

As to the house which Thomas was nearly finished constructing, modern examination reports the following:

"As it (the house) is still standing, it is possible to tell of its construction. A Haverhill writer says that " white oak, which is today well preserved, was used in its massive framework, and the floor and roof timbers are put together with great wooden pins. In early days the windows swung outward, and the glass was very thick, and set into the frames with lead."

Beyond that, what other activities were undertaken by the family on this day can only be imagined. A historian commenting on the times had this to say about the typical day of the times:

"Their every-day dress was plain, strong, and comfortable, and was the product of their own looms and knitting-needles. A cocked-up hat, a short frock of strongest warp, a pair of old leather breeches, and leggings confined above the knee and tied over the shoe with a string round the middle of the foot, was the costume of the man.

The farm work obliged them to be up before daylight. The early breakfast consisted of pea or bean porridge, boiled with salted beef or pork, served in wooden bowls, together with bread and beer. The bread was generally some preparation of Indian-corn mixed with rye. Dinner at noon began with Indian pudding and ended with boiled salt pork, fried eggs, brown bread, cabbage, and cider. Sometimes they had succotash, a native dish of corn and beans boiled together in the milk. Hasty pudding, consisting of the boiled meal of maize or rye, and eaten with molasses or milk, was a common dish.

The spoons were pewter, the plates "wooden trenchers." Their sofa was the settle, their carpets clean white sand, their ceilings rough boards and rafters, and their parlor was at once kitchen, bedroom, and hall. Besides other household labor, the women did all the sewing, knitting, mending, spinning, cooking, and washing. Their toil was unremitting. Religious exercises, morning and evening, were never omitted. By eight o'clock the entire family were in bed."

And with that, I will leave the family to their chores and domestic pursuits, at peace, for the moment.

Stay tuned for tomorrow episode: "Chapter 8...and then all hell broke loose."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chapter 6: A brief intermission, and then back to our story : And then it got worse

We interrupt this story briefly to bring you another story:

I have a funny story to tell before I continue with the Dustin family saga. Yesterday I while I was out and about, I scooped up some great bargains on my favorite style of shirt, found a dress that will probably be the one I will wear on Easter with the new hat, saw several Easter hats priced between $250 to $500 (whoa!) and polished off the day by treating myself to a pedicure at a shop outside of Kingwood, where the prices are much more reasonable than in my particular zip code.

I thought I'd get a St. Patrick's day pedicure, as I am sure most of my readers have already procured, or will do so in the next day or two.

Being a walk-in appointment, I was told to select my nail polish color and take a seat in the massaging chair.

It took a few minutes for me to select from the several shades of green polish available, but I made my choice, and told the receptionist/head manicurist/best English speaker what I had in mind: Green polish, white four leaf clovers and an emerald gem in the center of each clover. She smiled and I (silly me!) presumed all was well.

May I just say that the concepts of "clover" "St. Patrick" "emerald", "green jewel, not blue jewel", "four, not five", and "leaf points go into the middle,not outward" are difficult to communicate to non-English speakers?

I resorted to drawing a picture of a clover on the back of an envelope to illustrate what I wanted. The poor woman whose sorry lot in life had been to get me for a customer wrinkled her brow at the picture, and gave me a look that communicated clearly that she was feeling very sorry she had ever left Viet Nam all those years ago, and besides which, applying green polish to toenails made her feel ill.

Too bad, so sad. We got through it.

But then it only got worse. Silly SILLY my toes were drying I remembered I also needed a touch of wax to smooth my middle aged hormonally wacky chin and upper lip.

I spoke to the receptionist again, and she nodded and let lose a volley of vowels and consonants towards my non-English speaking pedicurist that I (not having learned my lesson previously) presumed meant : Give her a wax job.

And she did give me a wax job. A very good one I might add, with great and tender attention to details.

But her true feelings had their vent: With each rip of the wax, and my involuntary flinch, she gave way to a burst of laughter.

My deeply embedded Christian heritage lived out in modern times is oft found within the scriptural boundaries of "Vengeance is mine" saith the Lord "I shall repay!"

Had I experienced the teaching of another way?

Hard to say. But I wondered...could it be?

"Vengeance is sweet", perhaps saith the Buddah, "You yourself can repay!"

It probably was sweet. And she got a nice tip to boot.

Now, back to our story in progress...

Elizabeth was certainly a wayward soul, yet in her promiscuousness, she was much like a lot of the people of the day. Colonial records show that nearly a majority of all brides were pregnant on their wedding day, and fornication charges were frequently seen on court dockets.

Unmarried people caught in a "private" moment were fornicators. Married people having a fling apart from their spouses were adulterers. A single woman and a married man? She was engaged in whoredom.

Elizabeth no doubt had in effect lived the "scarlet letter" experience with the birth of Dorothy. Pregnant again, she had many fears. It was against the law to conceal a bastard, perhaps a law designed to assure that such children would at least receive minimal care as opposed to being abandoned.

Perhaps that was Elizabeth's greatest struggle. The children had been born silently. No one knew. I wonder why she didn't just take the tiny bodies out to the woods or drop them into the river, instead of sewing them into a bag, and then burying them where surely someone would notice. Maybe her heart was tender to her children, and she wished to provide them with a decent burial.

On the following Sabbath day Elizabeth stayed home, telling her parents that she felt ill. Likely she used the time to do the digging and burial regardless of how she felt.

That decision probably sealed her fate.

The Puritans had risked everything to come to the New World for religious freedom. They believed that their only hope for survival was the providence of God, and His Favor. Obedience to the Word was critical in their thinking, lest God tire of them and leave them defenseless in a land that they believed was solely inhabited by devils prior to their arrival.

They watched for evidence that the devils, that had fled upon their arrival, might be attempting to reclaim their territory.

The best defence against spiritual lapse was regular fellowship. Sabbath observation was the law, and should someone not be at the regular Sabbath church meeting, a committee would soon be at their door, inquiring as to the reason for the neglect. In a way this was a kindness; should a person or family be taken ill, needs could be identified and care could be given.

Neglecting the sabbath for reasons other than serious illness was rare, as for each instance there were escalating fines levied upon the sinner. Few chose to miss church except under the most difficult of circumstance.

I will quote here below from the researcher at the University at Southern Maine:

'The Sunday following the birth, while her parents were at church, some concerned citizens of Haverhill who suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant went to the Emerson house to find her.

When they arrived at the Emerson home they inquired after Elizabeth's health which she descibed to them as "not well."

She was read a warrant and told that the women who were present were appointed to examine her. Elizabeth submitted to this examination without protest.

Meanwhile, the men went into the backyard and found the bodies of the two infants sewn up in a bag and buried in a shallow grave.

The discovery of the bodies led to statements being taken by Nathaniel Saltonstall. The depositions of the parties involved were similar. They suspected Elizabeth of being with child and therefore sought her out that Sunday morning with the intent of making inquiry.

Elizabeth denied any wrongdoing, stating that she "never murdered any child in my life."
She also said "I never committed a murther that I know of...."
But the evidence against her in the form of the infant bodies and the physical examination by the women present, where they discovered Elizabeth to be post partum, was overwhelming."

Most of the women of the time spent the majority of their childbearing years pregnant. They knew the signs that betrayed a woman's condition. And the woman who later testified in court concerning Elizabeth's condition was the town's midwife.

Mary Neff. The same Mary Neff who would later be with Hannah as she bore her twelfth child Martha.

"The following day, May 11th, Elizabeth, Michael and Hannah Emerson were all questioned and a transcript of that exchange is still extant. Elizabeth was asked her husband's name to which she replied, "I have never [had] one." She confessed that she did give birth to twins.

When asked where they were born she replied, "On the bed at my father's beds feet...."
She stated that she did not call for help during her travail because, "there was nobody near but my Father and Mother and I was afraid to call my mother for fear of killing her." When asked if she told her father or mother afterwards, she replied, "No, not a word; I was afraid." Elizabeth was then questioned as to whether either of her parents knew of her pregnancy to which she replied that they did not know of the pregnancy, birth or burial of them.

How could Elizabeth have given birth to twins in the same room her parents were sleeping and kept it a secret from them? The record indicates that her mother did suspect Elizabeth of being pregnant but was told "no" every time she inquired of Elizabeth. Elizabeth's fear of "killing" her mother denotes a certain amount of love and respect, but what of her statement, "No, not a word; I was afraid"?

Elizabeth had, after all, been in this position before. She already had one illegitimate child which her father had unsuccessfully tried to pin on Timothy Swan. Could it be that the treatment she had received from her father after the incident with Robert Swan, Sr. made her loathe to reveal to him her latest indiscretion?

After all, Michael was known to have beaten her severely at least once; perhaps she was afraid of similar treatment if the truth was made known to him. Whatever her reason, it must have been compelling for her to have given birth to twins in complete silence while her parents slept mere inches away.

Michael was also questioned on May 11th regarding his daughter's crime.

According to the transcript, he did not even suspect that Elizabeth was with child, nor did he know of the birth or burial of them. When asked if he knew who the father was, he stated for the first time on the record, that the father of the children was Samuel Ladd.

Ladd was a resident of Haverhill. He was considerably older than Elizabeth, for he was married to his wife on December 1, 1674 when Elizabeth was 9 years old. At the time of the twins birth... his age as 42 and Elizabeth's as 28. Although Samuel Ladd was named as the father of the children a number of times in the court records, he was even said to be the one person who knew of Elizabeth's pregnancy, he was never questioned about the matter."

And in yet another odd twist of fate, Mrs. Samuel Ladd was likewise delivered of twins at nearly the same time as Elizabeth delivered her twins.

"Hannah was the next to be questioned regarding her daughter's crime. She stated for the record that she suspected her daughter was pregnant but as she was big, she could not tell and Elizabeth would not confess to it.

She was then accused of being the one to sew them up in a bag but again she denied any knowledge of it. She too named Samuel Ladd as the father of the children.

The women who were sent to the house to examine Elizabeth also gave testimony at the same time as the Emersons. They testified that one of the children had its navel string twisted about its neck. There was apparently no sign of violence to either of the children but in their opinion one or both of them died "for want or caer att the time of travell."

With these statements went another intriguing document. In it, Elizabeth confessed that Samuel Ladd was the father of the children and that the "place of his begetting...was at Rob't Clements inn house." Elizabeth also states for the record that Samuel is the only man with whom she had slept, indicating by this that he was not only the father of the dead twins but the father of Dorothy as well, contrary to her father's assertion that Timothy Swan was the father of Dorothy."

Following that bit of detective work in Haverhill, "Elizabeth was remanded to the custody of the Boston prison on May 13, 1691, accompanied by a letter from Nathaniel Saltonstall (a military officer charged with the care of Haverhill. It was he who later gave orders to build the extra garrison houses for the citizen's protection against Indian threat.)

In (the) letter (Saltonstall) writes that he had Elizabeth before him on May 11th and 13th..."upon examination for whore-dom." He then reiterated the facts of the case as they were known and commanded the prison keeper to safely keep her in prison until she "shal be thence delivered by due order of Law."

Elizabeth was kept in prison until September 1691 when she was sentenced to hang for her crime. Previous to this case it was a crime in England to conceal the death of a bastard child. This law, though repealed in England by the time of the Emerson case, was still on the books in the Massachusetts Bay.

Therefore, while it was never sufficiently proven that she intentionally killed her children, such proof was unnecessary as their very concealment was considered to be a crime.

She did maintain her innocence of the charge throughout the proceedings but that was of little consequence, even though by 1691 convictions on the charge of concealment of the death of a bastard were waning.

Nathaniel Saltonstall's comment that she had been examined for "whore-dom" was, perhaps, more to the point.

It could be that the good people of Haverhill had tired of the antics of Elizabeth and had determined that being a whore, she could just as easily be a murderess. The society at large may have wanted to point to her as a warning to their own children. At the time, fewer and fewer of the children of the first settlers were owning the covenant and that was certainly a cause for great concern among the "saints." (And certainly political and military issues were simmering as well.)

And what of Samuel Ladd? No legal actions were brought against him whatsoever. Yet in another twist of fate, perhaps we can conclude that justice was ultimately served. There will more to his story later.

"Although convicted in September 1691 Elizabeth was not hanged until June 8, 1693. In the interim she came under the care and guidance of the Reverend Cotton Mather. How he found time to minister to Elizabeth while at the same time actively pursuing the Salem Witch Trials is unknown."

Yes, that's right. Poor Elizabeth was in prison in Boston at the time that the Salem Witch trials were in full swing.

About the Salem Witch Trials:
"In Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 there had been a bitter strife between the minister, Samuel Parris, and his congregation, when the delusion of witchcraft gave him an opportunity to wreak a terrible vengeance. Person after person, disliked by him, was accused by members of his family, and put to death. Other people made it an occasion to get even with enemies, and fear laid hold on the hearts of all.

A group of young girls began having hysterical fits. The girls claimed that witches afflicting them and began to name certain people in the village as witches. Based virtually on the testimony of these girls alone, authorities began to arrest and then to try several astonished Salem citizens.

Nineteen people were hanged; one man was pressed to death with heavy weights; an unknown number died in prison.

Fifty-five were tortured or terrified into making confessions, and the jails were full. One hundred fifty prisoners awaited trial; two hundred more were accused of suspected. If an officer refused to arrest a person accused of being a witch, he was in turn accused and imprisoned. The craze spread to other communities and the country became aroused.

Ironically, only those who maintained their innocence were executed; those who confessed escaped the hangman's noose. Realizing this fact, some confessed in order to save themselves. Others could not do so in good conscience. Mary Easty said to her judges, "I know not the least thing of witch craft, therefore I cannot, I dare not belie my own soul. I beg your honors not to deny this my humble petition from a poor dying Innocent."

She was hanged anyway.

It should be said in Mather's defence that he spoke firmly against the hysteria.

"Several facts are ignored in the blast of accusations hurled at the Puritans. The ministers of Massachusetts, rather than being persecuting fanatics, actually counseled caution and restraint to the more zealous civil authorities. It was the opposition of some of the clergy, in fact, that helped end the witch trials.

Boston pastor Cotton Mather, who is often falsely accused of urging authorities on, said, "It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than that one innocent person should be condemned."

Part of the Witch Trials was fueled by the thought that the failed navy offensive against Canada was indicating that God providence was being withdrawn and the devil's were attempting to reclaim their hijacked land. The Native American, untouched by Scripture and Redemption, were viewed as devilish ambassadors.

The majority of the people in prison with Elizabeth Emerson were older women charged with witchcraft. And astonished to be so. A thing called "spectral evidence" was being hotly debated, the idea that if someone was to see your shape in a vision, either indicated that you gave your permission to the devil for your shape in image for to be used, or that you DIDN'T give your permission, and the devil used your shape anyway.

All it took was for a grumpy word to be uttered concerning another, and it was counted a curse, and off to the slammer you went. Likewise, all it took was for someone to report a fantastic dream in which you appeared, riding a dog, or whatever, and again, you were shown to your jail cell.

Elizabeth Emerson must have heard an earful while she was there. The case against the rest of the people around in her rested on theological detail. I imagine the inmates were pretty vexed by the religious leaders visiting the jail, and Elizabeth no doubt was less than thrilled to come to the attention of the pre-emanate Cotton Mather.

Perhaps it was purely convenience for Mather, as Elizabeth was incarcerated in Boston, with the unfortunate victims of the witchcraft hysteria.

He did, however, get her to do something which nobody else could, to "confess."

During his sermon on Job 36:14 he read to the congregation what he claimed was a confession given him by Elizabeth.

He writes that she confessed that "when they were born, I was not unsensible, that at least, One of them was alive; but such a Wretch was I, as to use a Murderous Carriage towards them, in the place where I lay, on purpose to dispatch them out of the World."

What did she mean by "murderous carriage?" Did she lay upon them or did she merely neglected them? Or were they, as per her initial assertion, truly stillborn?

According to Mather, she claimed that she should have listened to her parents, that she was "always of an Haughty and Stubborn Spirit." and that "Bad Company" was what led to her downfall.

Although her confession is very moving and seemingly sincere, Cotton Mather was not moved.

He claimed that she "has more to confess, I fear..." and held little hope for her salvation. According to Mather "there never was Prisoner more Hard-Hearted, and more Unfruitful than you have been..."

It is a little puzzling that Mather was so disappointed with his prisoner. She did, after all, confess her crime and exhort the rising generation not to follow in her footsteps.

Perhaps she did not confess readily enough to suit him. She was in prison for a little over two years and under those circumstances would surely have been broken into a confession at the hands of a less expert confessor than Mather.

She may have continued to protest her innocence until very near the end, disappointing Mather who would have wanted to use her for his own ends.

Elizabeth was executed in Boston on that June day in 1693 and there her story ends. Her confessions were still viewed as "Not good enough."

Dorothy, her daughter, also diseappeared from the record, and one can't help but wonder at her fate. Michael, in his last will dated 1709, left distributions of a few shillings to at least some of his grandchildren, but Dorothy was noticeably absent.

Some say she went to live with her aunt Hannah. We can only hope that whatever happened that she was treated well, and that perhaps her little life was treasured by someone.

Tomorrow: Back to Thomas and Hannah.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chapter 5: Lust and Consequences

It's a rainy thundery day here in Kingwood. The trees are leafing out against the grey sky, and flowers are abounding everywhere.

Except for the flowers and leafing part, it's a perfect backdrop for today's installment in the Dustin Family saga.

There's even a gloomy scripture to go with this segment:

"They died in their youth, And their life ends among the perverted persons."
Job 35:14

Doesn't get much gloomier than that now does it?

But hey, I didn't come up with this. Cotton Mather came up with this verse to use as his sermon text for his Sabbath message sometime in the late spring of 1693, in which he delivered to his congregations what he later unabashedly referred to as his greatest sermon ever.

The subject of his sermon?
The confessions of Elizabeth Emerson.

Elizabeth Emerson, Hannah Emerson Dustin sister.

You may (or more likely may not ) recall that Hannah had sister Elizabeth who was eight years younger than herself, who also had birthed twins, and who lay dead with her twins beside her as Hannah gave birth to baby Martha.

And what did Elizabeth Emerson do that was so dreadful that her confessions warranted a sermon preached by the most significant preacher of the day?

(Pictured above: Cotton Mather b: 1663-d:1728)

Let's back up a moment for those who are not familiar with Cotton Mather.

"Mather was a man of vast learning, prodigious talent, and expansive interests. He owned the largest personal library in the New World--consisting of some 4000 volumes ranging across the whole spectrum of classical learning. He was also the most prolific writer of his day, producing some 450 books on religion, science, history, medicine, philosophy, biography, and poetry.

His greatest work Magnalia Christi Americana, dripping with allusions to classical and modern sources, was published in 1702.He was the pastor of the most prominent church in New England. He was active in politics and civic affairs, serving as an advisor to governors, princes, and kings.

He taught at Harvard and was instrumental in the establishment of Yale. He was the first native-born American to become a member of the scientific elite in the Royal Society.

And he was a pioneer in the universal distribution and inoculation of the small pox vaccine.

His father, Increase Mather, was the president of Harvard. His maternal grandfather was John Cotton who wrote the important Puritan catechism for children, Milk for Babes, as well as drawing up the Charter Template with John Winthrop as a practical guide for the governance of the new Massachusetts Colony. The city of Boston was so named in order to honor him--his former parish work in England was at St. Botolph's Boston.

According to historian George Harper, together these men laid the foundations for a lasting "spiritual dynasty" in America. Even so, according to his life-long admirer, Benjamin Franklin, "Cotton Mater clearly out-shone them all. Though he was spun from a bright constellation, his light was brighter still."

And according to George Washington, “He was undoubtedly the Spiritual Father of America’s Founding Fathers.”"

Clearly, Cotton Mather was formidable, and when he spoke, people listened.

At the time of the sermon delivery, Mather was but 30, and Elizabeth, allegedly seated in the church at the time, was 29 years old.

Contemporaries. Not an elderly man speaking of a wayward young lass, but a peer in terms of age.

Elizabeth was the sixth child of Michael and Hannah Emerson. Her life would have passed without notice except for three events:

Firstly was the beating she received at the hands of her father at age 12, which was sever enough to warrant charges to be brought up in court against her father.

Her father was fined and bound to good behavior, and the fine dropped later when "good behavior" was reported. Corporal punishment of children was recommended at the time, and sever chastisement was not uncommon. What Elizabeth did to spur her father to what was reported as "cruel and excessive beating" was not included in the court documents.

Her older sister Hannah may or may not have been in her father's home at time, as date variation split at that point in time. She may have already married, or would marry Thomas Dustin within a few months.

It is a curious fact that Hannah and Thomas named their second son (my fore bearer) "Nathaniel" rather than "Michael" after her father, as was customary naming pattern of the time.

We'll never know the true feelings of the family towards Michael Emerson. But apparently the beating of young Elizabeth was to later be seen as an unsuccessful endeavour towards the correction of a wayward soul.

Ten years later, about the time that Hannah gave birth to her sixth child John, Elizabeth Emerson gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Dorothy.

An illegitimate child. Historical records point to the child's father as being Samuel Ladd, a wealthy, older, influential, and married man in the community.

Following a brief unsuccessful attempt by Michael Emerson to pin the blame on a younger, less notable, and single member of the community, the fervor died down, and life went on. Elizabeth and Dorothy resided in her parents home.

Apparently it was not a one time indiscretion however.

Five years later Elizabeth was pregnant again. She hid her condition well, telling only Samuel. Her mother suspected Elizabeth was pregnant again, and asked her daughter if she was expecting. Elizabeth denied the possibility.

On May 17, 1691, Elizabeth went into labor during the night, in a trundle bed at the foot of her parent's bed. They never awoke as she silently delivered twin girls, which were either still borne or died shortly afterwards.

For three days Elizabeth concealed her dead babies in a trunk, sewn up in a bag until she could secretly bury them outside in a shallow grave behind the Emerson home.

But it would not be long until Elizabeth's "sins" were discovered.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment entitled: "And then it only got worse."

Note: All this background information is being provided first to ensure the final scenes of the Dustin story is fully understood, and second to fill up the five day space in time between the birth of baby Martha on March 9th, and the continuation of Thomas and Hannah's story which will occurred on March 15th, when the dramatic events of that day in 1697 will be revealed.

Bonus section: As a reward for plowing through all this history, enjoya millinery treat, a visit to a Canadian millinery shop via this link!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Chapter 4: Back to Millinery

"But Jill," I hear you complain, "I don't care about boring old wars that took place hundreds of years ago. I'm only interested in hats!"

Well, of course you are!

And so were they. Back three hundred years ago a huge fashion fad was sweeping both Europe and the New World: Beaver Hats.

Hats like this one:

And ones like this one:

(The above style was favored by the Cavaliers, or Royalists, who were pro King Charles and anti Oliver Cromwell. My husband's ancestor was a Cavalier, and his portrait included a similar hat.)

Now these hats were required for appearing in court before the King. And the men looked mighty fine as they swept the huge hats with waving feathers off their heads, and "made a leg" of a bow.

Mmm..mmm...mmm. Mighty fine indeed.

But the Puritans (like my Dustin family) eschewed all that. Plain would do for them. How unseemly to deck yourself out for show instead of garbing yourself modestly and in fear of God.
So they wore hats like this one:
Both men and women Puritans wore that style of hat.

There now. Isn't that more modest?

Of course it is. Which I guess is the reason I was inspired to make this hat awhile ago:

Same style. Modest pink. What can I roots go deep.
I made this hat from straw, even though as an Oregon State University Alumni, I myself am a Beaver. (Don't you just love how all this is coming together???)

Regardless of the style, way back then the hats were all made from beaver pelts. The cavalier's hats took a lot of beaver. And the beaver hats cost in today's dollars around $650 USD. (or 816 Canadian, for the folks up north. Hi ya'll!)

All of the above information was abstracted from this site, which I found absolutely fascinating.

There is a link there that walks you step by step through the process of making a beaver hat, and another that explains the fur trade.

Russia (Hi Lovella!) played a role in all of this, as it was the Russians that developed a secret felting process needed for beaver fur, and created a monopoly on the beaver felting market until the early 1600's.

Anyway, long story short:

1. Everyone in the 1600's were wild about beaver hats.

2. Europe ran out of beavers, and the European Beaver was identical. to the North American beaver.

3. Trapping and trading beaver with the best fur (which happened to be found in the Northern New England and Eastern Canada area) was very profitable.

4. Everyone also liked making money.

5. And people were greedy, and so fighting broke out over trapping rights.

So in addition to the Catholic-Protestant issues, the French-English monarchy issues, there was also the Colonist versus Canada versus Native American each wanting the rights to the beaver fur trade.

And all because (sigh. swoon...) there is just nothing like a good looking hat to make you feel great!

Which will bring us to tomorrow's episode in the saga of the Dustin family:

Lust and Consequences

Stay tuned!