Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ducking the Witch...Grace Sherwood's trial by water

Statue of Grace Sherwood by Robert Cunningham
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Having spent my formative years in the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, the words “witch duck” were ubiquitous and, pretty much, taken for granted: Witchduck Road, Witchduck Point, Witchduck Post Office, etc. You might wonder if Virginia Beach is the home of some kind of spell-casting duck or if it is a city where witches frequently duck in or are in danger of bumping their hats against low hanging branches. In fact, Virginia Beach was the scene of the eighteenth century witch trial of one Grace White Sherwood and a ducking into the river was part of the proceedings .

Grace White Sherwood was born in 1660, in what was then called Princess Anne County and is now called the Pungo area of Virginia Beach, to John and Susan White. When Grace married respectable, small-time farmer James Sherwood in 1680, Grace’s father gave them fifty acres of land and when he died a year later, the remainder of his one hundred forty-five acres. Grace became a widow in 1701 and never remarried. Contemporary accounts described Grace as tall, attractive, and with a good sense of humor. It was also noted she often wore men’s trousers when working on her farm. She was a mid-wife and a grower of medicinal herbs that she used in the healing of both people and animals.

Such a combination of qualities, which sound quite benign and positive to our twenty-first
Magic Scene, 1741, by Andrea Locatelli
century eyes, may have been the core of jealousy and ill-will which assailed Mrs. Sherwood and sent her to court a dozen times between 1697 and 1706. Some of these court cases were for accusations of Grace’s witchcraft and others were her own suits for slander against her accusers. The cries of witchcraft blamed her for actions such as bewitching farm animals and crops to die and for bewitching a woman to miscarry her baby. One woman, Elizabeth Barnes, accused Grace of entering her bedroom one night in the form of a black cat, scratching and attacking her then departing through a keyhole. 

Although these varied accusations were dismissed or declared inconclusive, the courts of Virginia apparently grew tired of it all and considered Grace Sherwood a nuisance. In 1706 they allowed her to be tried for witchcraft by means of being examined by a jury of “ancient and wise women” to determine if she had marks on her body indicative of the Devil’s brand. These women, led by Elizabeth Barnes herself, did indeed decide Grace had two markings unlike any found on themselves or any other woman they knew. This opened the door for the final trial by water.

The Three Witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth, 1775, by Daniel Gardner
Illustration from A Popular History of the United States by William Cullen Bryant
On July 10, 1706, Grace Sherwood was taken to 
Lynnhaven Parish Church, set upon a stool, and ordered to ask forgiveness for her witchcraft. Her reply was, “I be not a witch, I be a healer.” The unrepentant “witch” was taken down a road (now called Witchduck Road) to the shores of the Lynnhaven River where five women searched her naked body for any devices she may have had to free herself, then covered her with a sack. Her right thumb was bound to her left big toe and her left thumb was bound to her right big toe. Thus bound, six justices rowed the bound woman out two-hundred yards into the river and threw her overboard. The idea was not to drown her but just to test her. The thought was, if she floated she was considered a witch and if she sank, she was innocent. Grace was apparently quite buoyant and floated on the surface. Then to give her the benefit of the doubt, the Sheriff of Princess Anne County tested her a second time by tying a thirteen-pound Bible around her neck and casting her overboard once more. This time she did sink but was able to free herself and swim to the surface. Aha! Proof-positive: Guilty!

Intersection of Witchduck RD and Sherwood LA
(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)
Grace was sentenced to about seven years in prison and served out her time in a jail adjacent to Lynnhaven Parish Church. In 1714, she paid back-taxes on her land which Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood then helped her secure back from the County of Princess Anne. Grace Sherwood lived out the rest of her days in relative peace and quiet before dying at the age of eighty. 

Tales cropped up after her death including a story that the Devil came down the chimney and claimed Grace’s body before her sons could bury her. There were also claims of unnatural storms and lingering black cats. Soon, men were killing any cat they ran across in the county. This may have led to the
"Black cat (2901924188)" by mwanasimba from La Réunion (WikiMedia commons) 
infestation of rats and mice recorded in Princess Anne County in 1743. Grace’s body (assuming the Devil didn’t actually carry it away) is buried in an unmarked grave beneath a group of trees in a field near the intersection of present-day Pungo Ferry Road and Princess Anne Road. Local residents of present-day Virginia Beach say a strange moving light can be seen each July over the water where Grace was tried.

July 10, 2006, on the three-hundredth anniversary of Grace’s infamous trial by ducking,
Official Congressional Portrait of Tim Kaine
 (Governor, Senator, and Witch Pardoner)
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine granted her an official pardon. A statue of her holding a basket of rosemary and a raccoon by her side is visible from Independence Boulevard near the current Sentara Bayside Hospital and not too distant from her place of trial. This commemorative statue by sculptor Robert Cunningham was unveiled on April 21, 2007.

So…next time you happen to be in Virginia Beach, riding down Witchduck Road or visiting a friend living on Witchduck Point, give a nod to the lady who endured so much during one of Virginia’s less gracious moments.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Preserving the Past...saving summer's harvest in the 18th century

From the tomato harvest of the author's garden (photo by the author)
Ah, summer, and the tomatoes and cucumbers are running rampant in our home garden. After we've sated ourselves with fresh tomato sandwiches, tomato pies, cucumber salads and sandwiches, there are still more seasonal treasures ripening and in danger of going to waste. What to do! Time to pull out the canner and the freezer bags and get busy, but what did our 18th century counterparts do with such an embarrassment of riches?  To find out, I searched and ran across an amazing resource: the first cookbook ever published in America that wasn't just a copy of European recipes (or, receipts, as they were known at the time.) 
Title Page of American Cookery

Amelia Simmons, who added the title "An American Orphan" to her author name, wrote her book with the express purpose of using ingredients which could be procured on American soil, either through direct propagation or easy importation. Printed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1793, her cookbook bore the usual eighteenth century penchant for exceedingly long subtitles. In her case, the subtitle handily served the purpose of a table of contents as well: 

C A K E S,


Reading Miss Simmons's recipes and anecdotal notes is a delight. Her proposal of putting naughty, and otherwise orchard-marauding, boys  in charge of planting and caring for fruit trees is priceless (but that's for another blog post.)

The first cucumber of the summer in the author's garden (photo by the author)
I've printed, below, some of her directions for preserving summer's bounty, maintaining most of its original spellings. As you will see, her directions for preserving gooseberries is very similar to our present day canning methods.The last recipe is for something called Diet Bread, not related to food preservation but I just had to include it today. Obviously, the eighteenth century's use of the word diet was far different than its popular use today but, when you note how long you're supposed to beat the sugar and eggs, it might not be a bad way to lose weight after all!

To Pickle Cucumbers:
Let your cucumbers be small, fresh gathered, and free from spots; then make a pickle of salt and water, strong enough to bear an egg; boil the pickle and skim it well, and then pour it upon your cucumbers, and stive them down for twenty four hours; then strain them out into a cullender, and dry them well with a cloth, and take the best white wine vinegar, with cloves, sliced mace, nutmeg, white pepper corns, long pepper, and races of ginger, (as much as you please) boil them up together, and then clap the cucumbers in, with a few vine leaves, and a little salt, and as soon as they begin to turn their colour, put them into jars, stive them down close, and when cold, tie on a bladder and leather.
Naked peaches (photo by the author)

To Preserve Peaches:
Put your peaches in boiling water, just give them a scald, but don't let them boil, take them out, and put them in cold water, then dry them in a sieve, and put them in long wide mouthed bottles: to half a dozen peaches take a quarter pound of sugar, clarify it, pour it over your peaches, and fill the bottles with brandy, stop them close, and keep them in a close place.

To Dry Peaches:
Take the fairest and ripest peaches, pare them into fair water; take their weight in double refined sugar; of one half make a very thin sirup; then put in your peaches, boiling them till they look clear, then split and stone them, boil them till they are very tender, lay them a draining, take the other half of the sugar, and boil it almost to a candy; then put in your peaches, and let them lie all night, then lay them on a glass, and set them in a stove, till they are dry, if they are sugared too much, wipe them with a wet cloth a little; let the first sirup be very thin, a quart of water to a pound of sugar.

To Preserve Gooseberries, Damsons, or Plums:
Page 41 of Amelia Simmons's American Cookery
Gather them when dry, full grown, and not ripe; pick them one by one, put them into glass bottles that are very clean and dry, and cork them close with new corks; then put a kettle of water on the fire, and put in the bottles with care; wet not the corks, but let the water come up to the necks; make a gentle fire till they are a little coddled and turn white; do not take them up till cold, then pitch the corks all over, or wax them close and thick; then set them in a cool dry cellar.

The American Citron:
Take the rind of a large watermelon not too ripe, cut it into small pieces, take two pound of loaf sugar, one pint of water, put it all into a kettle, let it boil gently for four hours, then put it into pots for use.

Diet Bread:
One pound sugar, 9 eggs, beat for an hour, add to 14 ounces flour, spoonful rose water, one do. cinnamon or coriander, bake quick.

To see more of this gem, go to:

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

18th Century Buying Power...wages and prices of the 1700s

The Shop, 1772 by Luis Paret y Alcázar 
So you wake up and you’ve been transported to the early 1700s where someone hands you a shopping list. How much money will you need? We know, of course, costs are relative to one another and to the amount of earnings of the average person at any given time. Who earned more: a teacher or a farm laborer? Which cost more: a wig or shop rental for a year? (Hint-- they didn't call them Big Wigs for nothing.)The answers may surprise you! They certainly did me. Below is a chart of costs and wages I have adapted from Colin Woodard’s book, The Republic of Pirates. Mr. Woodard lists the amounts in British pounds of the early eighteenth century but I have transferred them into US dollars (based on the current exchange rate of 1 pound sterling equaling 1.72 dollars, rounding up or down to next dollar) and where he lists a range of prices or wages, I have given the average. Sadly, there is also listed the price for human life.
The Housemaid, 1782, by Thomas Gainsborough

Housemaid, London:                   $9.00
Sailor, Navy:                               $22.00
Teacher, England:                      $28.00
Farm Laborer, England:             $31.00
Able Sailor, Merchant Marine:  $57.00
Shopkeeper, England:               $77.00
Surgeon, England:                     $89.00
Captain, Merchant Marine:      $112.00
Attorney, England:                    $194.00
Governor, North Carolina:       $516.00
Country Squire, England:        $516.00
Governor, New York:             $2,064.00
Gentleman, England:             $5,160.00
Duke of Newcastle:              $43,000.00

Daniel Defoe’s Book Advance for
Robinson Crusoe:                        $86.00
Annual Profit, 100-acre
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:       $929.00
Annual Profit, 500-acre
Sugar Plantation, Barbados:$12,900.00 

12-pound Whole Cod Fish, Boston:$.02  
Duke of Newcastle, 1735 by Charles Jervis
1 pound, Fresh Beef, Boston:           $.07
1 barrel, Cider:                                    $.26
1 gallon, Rum:                                    $.34

Sailor’s Canvas Trousers:               $.10
Sailor’s Waist Coat:                          $.78
Gentleman’s Wig:                         $40.00

One Pot, Alleged Cure for
Venereal Disease, London:             $.26
Doctor, Annual Retainer for
a Family, Boston:                             $9.00

Letter Postage (England to Boston:)$.09
Book: General History of Pyrates:    $.34
Coach Ride, from edge to center of
London:                                                $.09
Budget Transportation, England to
America:                                            $10.00
Rent of Attic Room, Oxford:              $5.00/year
Rent of Shop, Boston:                      $34.00/year
Rent of Gentleman’s  
Townhouse, Charleston:                 $79.00/year
Fishmonger's Stall, 1737, by Balthazar Nebot

Indentured Servant (adult European,)
Virginia:                                                $21.00
Slave (adult African,) Americas:       $55.00
Total Value, 100 acre 
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:          $9,675.00              
Sloop, 10-ton trader:                            $52.00
Frigate, 350 ton, 36 gun,
fully-fitted:                                      $14,104.00   

1oz Spanish Silver:                                  $.77
1oz Gold, London:                                  $7.40

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

18th Century Sea Bathing Machines... Machines? Really?

Mermaids at Brighton, 1829, by William Heath
‘Tis summer and many a hot and bothered person longs to take a plunge into the invigorating chill of ocean waves. How about our 18th century relations? Did they do likewise? It seems our ancestors were more inclined to take to the sea for medicinal purposes rather than recreational ones. A
Dr. Russell's book
Advertisement for Bathing Machines at Margate, England, 1791
book published in 1752, A Dissertation on the Use of Seawater in the Diseases of the Glands
by Dr. Richard Russell, trumpeted the benefits of dipping into the salt water and greatly increased the popularity of the practice. So for their health’s sake, men and women, alike, braved the seas (albeit separately.)

Enter the Bathing Machine, an invention which showed up on beaches in the first half of the 1700s; a contrivance with which people could take a dip into the sea without risking their modest virtue. The machine was basically a dressing room on wheels that was pulled into the ocean by a horse. Although there were variations, most followed this basic routine: individuals entered the beached machines, fully dressed, by climbing a set of steps and disappearing into the privacy of the wooden box. There was usually a window set high in the machine to let in light but not allow prying eyes to view the bather. Once inside, bathers would remove
Famous "Dipper," Martha Gunn, 1785, Artist Unknown 
their street clothes and don their bathing togs (although bathing in the nude was often the norm, at least for men, until 1862,) then signal their guide to take them out to sea. 

Once in place, the horse was unhitched and led ashore to pull out another machine or retrieve a bather ready to come back to dry land. An attendant, of the same sex as the bather,
Bathing Machine with Benjamin Beal's Modesty Hood, artist unknown
was at the ready to assist the bather as necessary to descend the steps leading down from the end of the machine facing out to sea. Since many bathers could not swim the attendant, also known as a “Dipper,” would either help keep them afloat or actually push them under the water and lift them back up again, three plunges being the norm for health benefits. Dippers were usually very sturdy folk. A portrait of Brighton Beach's most famous Dipper, Martha Gunn, speaks to that asset. In 1750, an English Quaker glove and breeches maker by the name of Benjamin Beale invented a canvas hood, covering the seaward steps, that could be lowered and completely conceal the bathers until they were under the protection of the water’s surface. Some even remained beneath the hood during the entire bathing experience thus avoiding any chance of being seen.

When the bathing session was over, bathers would climb back into their machines and signal (sometimes by raising flags) their desire to return to the beach. Once back inside the privacy of their bathing machines, they would dry off and dress back into their street wear. Returned to the beach, bathers would descend the steps in the clothes in which they arrived. Mission accomplished, reputations intact, thank you very much.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! (Don't forget the water wings and sunscreen!)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here Comes the Bride...18th century style

The Marriage of Stephen Beckingham and Mary Cox, 1729, by William Hogarth
Ahhh, June, the month so often associated with weddings. Having just attended a lovely wedding in the green hills of Vermont, I began pondering the brides and their wedding dresses of yesteryear, 18th century brides to be exact. As always, I find the best place to get a feel for the life and fashion of an earlier era is to peruse the paintings of the time and, when possible, photos of actual dresses preserved within the care of museums. So, dear Readers and wedding dress aficionados, I happily present you with a bevy of 18th century bridal beauties for your enjoyment and edification. Perhaps you will find inspiration for your own wedding! (Oh, and pay close attention to the gowns at the end of the post which could double as wedding reception tables!) 
Late 18th Century care of Historic New England
Mid 18th Century, care of Historic New England

Wedding scene from Ramsay’s The gentle shepherd, Act V,
Printed for G. Reid and Co., 1798 
The Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University
1780, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1759 care of the Rijkmuseum, Netherlands
1766, care of Royal Armoury Collection, Sweden
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

18th Century Vacation Destination...taking to the waters of Bath, England

Bath, England (per: Wikimeida Commons, public domain)
Now that the summer season has arrived, it’s vacation time here in America and in other places around the globe. I believe it’s called “on holiday” across the Pond in Great Britain. With a variety of activities and guests I, myself, am expecting over the next couple weeks, I will be taking a short (one week) vacation from my blogging once this week's post has published. 

So where did our 18th century ancestors spend their free time for rest and recreation? Of course many never had the luxury of taking time off from their daily toil but for those who did, especially those living in or near England, one of the first such destination spots was that of Bath (England, this time, not little Bath, North Carolina of which I wrote on May 7, 2014.)
Roman Bath in Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons public domain)

The town of Bath, England was blessed with natural hot springs and utilized as a place of healing all the way back to the times of the Roman occupation. Although known even earlier for its restorative qualities, the Romans built the first bath houses, as well as a temple, around AD60 and named the spa town, Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis.”) Sulis was a Celtic goddess, referred to by the Romans as Sulis Minerva. This goddess was often asked to punish individuals who had stolen from others while at the baths. Stone tablets have been found with inscriptions imploring her help in such matters. One reads, "Docimedis has lost
Goddess Sulis Minerva at Bath ( per: Wikimedia Commons)
two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the goddess' temple."

Over the years, many additional bath houses were constructed for the sick, lame, or just plain tired to “take the waters” for healing of mind and body. Once Anne, Queen of England, visited Bath in 1702, it became THE place to go on holiday. As might be expected, other recreational activities flourished along with the waters, especially those involving gambling, music, wining, dining, and dancing. 

A fairly epic poem, “A Description of Bath” was written in 1733 by Mary Chandler, a resident
             Princess Amelia of Great Britain, 1738, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo
of the town, expounding the attributes of Bath and dedicating the writing to Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II, after her time spent there. She was sickly as a child but was quite healthy as an adult, living to the age of seventy-five. (Not to be confused with Princess Amelia, daughter of King George III who, after years of various illnesses died at the age of twenty-seven.) In order that you may get a taste of how Bath was viewed by the people of the time, I have printed, below, several verses from Miss Chandler’s poem. At the end of this excerpt, the poet refers to a “wonderful machine” which was a new-fangled method of pulling rocks down from the mountains in order to use them in the making of more buildings for the town.

From “A Description of Bath” by Mary Chandler, 1733

…To sing the Town, where balmy Waters flow, 
To which AMELIA'S Health the Nations owe…
 Prior Park (Bath), 1750, Engraving by Anthony Walker

…Safe from the Ruin of a thousand Years
These salutary Streams alone can boast 
Their Virtues not in thrice five Ages lost. 
The floating Waters, from their hidden Source, 
Thro’ the same Strata keep unerring Course; 
The flowing Sulphur meets dissolving Steel,
And heat in Combat, till the Waters boil: 
United then, enrich the healing Stream, 
HEALTH to the Sick they give, and to the Waters, FAME…

…THE Min’ral Streams which from the BATHS arise, 
From noxious Vapours clear the neighb’ring Skies: 
When FEVERS bore an epidemic Sway,                                             
Bath inside Queen's Bath, 1806 Aquatint by J.C. Nattes
Unpeopled Towns, swept Villages away; 
While Death abroad dealt Terror, and Despair, 
The Plague but gently touch’d within their Sphere…

…BLEST Source of Health, seated on rising Ground, 
With friendly Hills by Nature guarded round;    

From Eastern Blasts, and sultry South secure; 
The Air’s balsamic, and the Soil is pure

…THE BATHS adjoining form two ample Squares, 
Around the Walls the Roman Art appears; 
Niches and Arches there the Bathers find,                                                  

Roman Bath, Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons)
A Shelter from the Rain, and blust’ring Wind. 
BLADUD himself sits Guardian of the Streams, 
Whose noble Virtues give them Royal Names…

…NOT far from hence, a Bath of gentler Heat, 
The tender Virgin finds a safe Retreat  
From Sights indecent, and from Speeches  lewd, 
Which dare not there, with Satyr-Face, intrude. 
Just in the midst a Marble Cross there stands, 
Which Popish Minds with pious Awe commands, 
Devoid itself of Powe’r to heal our Woes,

Yet, deck’d with monumental Crutches, shows 
What mighty Cures this wond’rous Pool has done, 
And these the Trophies from Diseases won… 

…The lovely Landscape, and the silent Stream, 
Inspire the Poet, and present the Theme.                                                  
Round the green Walk the River glides away,         
Where ‘midst Espaliers balmy  Zephyrs play,             
And fan the Leaves, and cool the scorching Ray:        
View the brown Shadows of yon pathless Wood; 
And craggy Hills, irregular and rude
 NATURE sports romantick:  Hence is seen
The new-made Road, and wonderful Machine,
Self-moving downward from the Mountain's Height,
A Rock its Burden of a Mountain's Weight...

Have a good (2) week(s), dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

18th Century Women Gone Wild...female pirates you need to know

Anne Bonny and Mary Read from an illustration by Benjamin Cole
for Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates
Much is written and known of those "manly men" of the high seas, the pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy (1715 to 1725,) but what of the ladies who set sail, throwing caution and convention to the four winds? Hollywood has given us a few movies featuring these women such as Against All Flags and Cutthroat Island but, most often, women have been portrayed as hapless victims of those leering, lecherous, and otherwise no good sea-going bandits. Enter upon the historical stage or ship's deck, as the case may be, two female pirates who really lived the brigand's life: Mary Read and Anne Bonny.
Calico Jack Rackham, woodcut illustration
from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates

In late spring of 1719, the infamous, flamboyantly dressed pirate, "Calico Jack" Rackham brought his men to Nassau, Bahamas to receive the pardons Governor Woodes Rogers was handing out to pirates who agreed to go and sin no more. Of course, a goodly number of those reformed pirates simply took the pardons as a temporary means of enjoying their plunder unmolested by the authorities and Rackham was no exception. While living the life in port, Rackham fell in love with Anne Bonny, the wife of another pardoned pirate, James Bonny. The feelings were mutual so the enamored couple asked Mr. Bonny for an annulment of his marriage to Anne so she would be free to join her new-found love, Calico Jack. Having grown accustomed to his wife's many extra-marital dalliances and with no love lost, Bonny consented as long as he was financially compensated. Rackham agreed and sought a reliable witness to the bargain. Unfortunately, that witness went straight to Governor Rogers and tattled on the trio. With much righteous indignation, Rogers proclaimed to Anne Bonny, if she went through with the annulment, she would be sent to prison and her lover forced to whip her. Oh my, my my. According to historical researcher and author of The Republic of Pirates, Colin Woodard, Anne's response was she "promised to be very good, to live with her husband and keep loose company no more." 
Anne Bonny from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates
Right. To avoid such interference, Rackham and Anne Bonny simply took their relationship out to sea and the pirate resumed his former occupation with the help of his lady love by his side.

One of Anne Bonny's Nassau buddies was a woman by the name of Mary Read who, had for years, dressed like a man and sailed the seas with impunity. The two ladies were well known by Nassau inhabitants to curse with all the raw vehemence of any of their male counterparts. For several months, Rackham and his crew, along with his two lady pirates, plundered ships and laid waste those who would get in their way. One of their captives later testified at trial, the women would wear the usual female finery aboard ship until a potential victim was spied, then they would dress like men and fight along side the pirates. Another former captive, fisherwoman Dorothy Thomas, later told the courts she was terrorized by the women who cursed and swore they would kill her if she testified against them. Thomas said she could only tell them from the other crewmen by the manner in which they filled out their shirts!
                           Mary Read from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates

In October, 1720, Captain Jonathan Barnet (a privateer given orders to bring Rackham and his crew down) fired upon the pirate ship. Most of the crew was too drunk to fight back and fled down into the hold leaving the two women to fend for themselves. According to Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates, Anne Bonny yelled down to the cowering pirates to come back up and fight like men. When no one met her challenge, she fired into the hold, killing one man and wounding several others. The ship and its crew were taken and sent to Spanish Town jail in the Virgin Islands. On November 18, 1720, the day Calico Jack was to be hanged from the gallows, it is reported Anne Bonny was allowed to see him one last time. Her words? "I'm sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man you need not have hanged like a dog."

As far as the trial of the two women pirates went, on November 28, 1720, they were both found guilty and sentenced to death but both "plead their bellies" (meaning they were both pregnant at the time and by British law could not be hanged until their innocent babies delivered.) After medical examination they were, indeed, proclaimed pregnant and their sentences set aside. Neither woman was ever hanged by the neck until death, however. Mary Read and her unborn child died in prison in April, 1721 when she became ill and died amidst a violent fever. Her grave is at St Catherine's Church in Jamaica. There is no record of Anne Bonny's execution or death by other means nor of what happened to her and her child.  Colin Woodard speculates her wealthy South Carolina plantation owning father may have come to her aid and bought her freedom. Who knows? There may, to this day, be little Calico Jacks and Pirate Queen Annes running around the streets of Charleston causing all manner of mischief!      

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Living in an 18th century town...a historical novelist's dream

The Barker House, 1775
Two years ago, we moved from the relative noise and bustle of Virginia Beach, Virginia to the peaceful quiet of Edenton, North Carolina. How amazing it is to walk these streets and see homes built in the 1700s still occupied today, not as roped off museum pieces or reproductions but as living breathing examples of 18th century life. As a matter of fact, it was recently discovered that the oldest known house in the state of North Carolina (circa 1712) was hiding beneath a veneer of asbestos shingles on one of the town streets. Our
The Cupola House, 1757
own little cottage doesn't go back that far but even at its "youthful" age of 114, it carries a spirit of history, charm, and continuity not found in contemporary housing. As a writer of historical fiction, it's like waking each day inside a dream, inspiration singing from every corner of the town. I tell our out-of-town friends we are the only town I know with its own soundtrack. Several times each day, the carillon of First Baptist Church rings out lovely melodies of hymns and classical music wafting on the light breezes of Edenton Bay.

The West Customs House, 1772
Commemorative Teapot and a Satirical Drawing of the
1774 Edenton Tea Party from a London newspaper, 1775
Edenton was officially incorporated as a town in 1712. Its name changed four times over its first ten years: The Towne on Queen Anne's Creek, Ye Towne on Mattercommack Creek, The Port of Roanoke, and finally ending as Edenton when named for Governor Charles Eden upon his death in 1722. In the 1770s,  

Edenton was at the forefront of protests against unfair taxing by England. On October 25, 1774, the first ever organized political action by American women, the Edenton Tea Party, occurred when fifty-one ladies of the town met at the home of Elizabeth King and signed a resolution to no longer drink tea or purchase English made cloth
until the tax acts were repealed. In March, 1775, a very unflattering
political cartoon appeared in a London newspaper meant to embarrass and degrade the ladies' efforts.
The Joseph Hewes House, 1765

Edenton is filled to the brim with historical homes and buildings built from the 18th to the 20th centuries but I will focus today on those of the 1700s. I am including photographs I shot this week of just a few of those wonderful structures, all of which are private residences with the exception of the Chowan County Courthouse and the Barker and Cupola Houses.

For more information see:
Chowan County Courthouse, 1767

The Bennett House, 1780
The Skinner-Paxton House, 1798
The Charlton House, 1765
The Author's Home, Buttercup Cottage, 1900

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


(All photographs in today's post taken by Kathryn Louise Wood.)