My historical novels Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter, colonial New England, travels, and whatever else seizes my fancy...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fulton's Erie Street School: The View From a Baby Boomette

This summer I briefly stepped away from writing my conclusion to Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife to write the following story. This is my offering for the 2014 Fulton Memoir Project, sponsored by the Fulton Public Library. The full memoir is available at Fulton's public library and the CNY Arts store.

Fulton's Erie Street School
Fulton’s Erie Street School looks like a great rectangular cake of yellow brick, but it doesn’t bear much frosting. The building’s decorations consist of modest brick panels reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie period, and a concrete egg-and-dart band bordering the flat roof. The school’s broad side parallels Erie Street, and is pierced in the center by the teachers’ entrance. 

I don’t believe that I ever walked through the Teachers Door to climb the steep wooden steps to the main floor. There are three sets of stairs in the building – one on either side by the Girls and Boys Doors, and the teachers’ stairs. The treads on all three flights are narrow, but wide, and stained a deep walnut hue, along with the rest of the school’s wood floors and trim.

Down we go to Kindergarten
Erie Street School’s lowest story is nearly subterranean. During the first years I attended the school (1959-1966), kindergarten was the only class down there. As baby boomers swelled the school’s population, another class room was created down in the basement, but I can’t remember whether the room was formerly a cafeteria, or had another use. Shortly after I left for Jr. High, most fifth and sixth graders were transferred to the larger Fairgrieve School to make even more rooms for younger kids.

The sunken kindergarten room has several windows facing the street, placed so high on the wall that I had to stand on a chair to see the street. A lone window is sited level with the sidewalk on the girls’ side of the building. I remember concrete plates over each side door labeled Girls and Boys, but that seems to be a false memory. Maybe they were replaced, but in 2014, there are windows over the side doors.

We didn’t need no stinking plaques to tell us which was the girls, and which was the boys’ side of the school. Teachers enforced that separation rigorously. However, distaff kindergarteners might have been allowed to enter the Girls Door, where a quick right down a short flight of steps took the student to Mrs. Close’s room. Either that, or boys took a passageway by the dimly lit janitor’s domain, tucked in between the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. The huffing boiler and its sprawling ductwork looked like a giant octopus stood on its head. Despite the ominous atmosphere, the janitor was a friendly guy.

Also down in the basement were the restrooms. However, as instructed by the teachers, we all asked to go to the basement. After all, it sounds more polite than a trip to the toilet, or admitting to the world that one had to go Number Two. However, in Jr. High I marked myself as an ‘Erie Streeter’ by asking about the basement instead of the bathroom. 

It was in the girls’ bathroom that I learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I thought the girl who told me was wrong – it was Lincoln who was shot. Yellow tile walls, and a white sink set a little too low to the floor for a fifth-grader (but reachable by a five-year old). I looked in the mirror, but at an angle, so it reflected more yellow tile instead of my face. The disjointed tile walls and the roar of rushing water are what I recall as I assimilated the shocking news.

A favorite toy
I very much enjoyed my kindergarten year, though I must have seemed reluctant to go. I was late for school more often than not because I’d get absorbed in a book at home, or dawdled on the one-block walk to Erie St. As I walked past the kindergarten room windows – the last kid through the door by several minutes – I could see that the best toys were already taken by my classmates. Never mind; I’d pick up a book and play later.

Kay Close had dark, curly hair, just like one of my aunts. To me she was the most cheerful, motherly teacher imaginable. The first thing we learned was that when Mrs. Close played a distinctive little two-step on her piano, it was time to pay attention. Four notes rose and fell, over and over, until everyone had gathered at her feet. My sister learned to play it, and confused her classmates no end.

Kindergarten was pretty easy. The biggest turmoil (apart than failing nap time) came when Mrs. Close stood me in front of an easel. I enjoyed painting, but I’ve always preferred work on a small scale. Today, most of my photos are close-ups. In kindergarten I drew small figures, but Mrs. Close wouldn’t let me quit until that huge swath of paper was filled. I got frustrated and covered the paper with brown paint.

“What is that?”

“A sand storm.” I got away with a quickly-produced sand storm a couple of times before it was forbidden. So, I painted a grass storm, and then a blood storm. That raised some eyebrows until someone realized that I’d rather read or play than paint. I promised to be more creative, and Mrs. Close was more liberal about declaring me done.

In first grade, I graduated to the main floor. Four classrooms sit on either side of what seemed like a vast open space. The floor plan is the same on the second floor, with the addition of the principal’s office perched over the main door.

Air raid drill
Adjoining each class was a cloak room; a narrow slot extending the width of the class room. It had a row of coat hooks, and opened into the class room on either end. During much of the Cold War, especially during the Cuban Missile crisis, we had air-raid drills. The teacher shouted ‘air raid,’ we ran into the cloak rooms, and hid our heads under our coats. Our little bottoms protruded unprotected, so I guess we could kiss them goodbye.

I didn’t understand why the Russians wanted to incinerate us, but we all had to be prepared, so Fulton tested their air-raid sirens weekly. They made me nervous, for I figured that if the Russians wanted to catch us unaware, they would drop their bombs during the tests, when nobody would pay attention to the sirens. Preferring to face death to being blindsided, I walked around our house and yard while the sirens blared, and the world seemed brighter when the sound died away, but I was still alive.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Helen Wilson. She was young and blond, and a nice lady. My biggest friction with her came over that same big piece of paper. Write: 1 + 4 = 5   4 + 1 = 5   5 – 1 = 4   5 – 4 = 1. Repeat them in columns until the sheet is full. My handwriting is small. The other kids filled their sheet fast and went out to recess while I was still writing. I could have made big, sprawling numbers, but that felt dishonest. One day I got frustrated, stuffed it in my desk, and told Mrs. Wilson I couldn’t find it. She did, and told me to go home and tell my mother. So, I did.

My sister’s first grade teacher, Mrs. McCaffrey, was the starchy old lady schoolmarm of stereotype. She was  competent, but also told my sister’s class that each time they watched a program like Bonanza , a little poison slid through their veins, and a little more, and …. That was strong stuff for first graders.

In second grade Mrs. Helen Murphy got library privileges for me two years early. At Fulton’s lovely Carnegie library I had already learned the joy of picking out books to take home. Erie Street had a whole different collection. Dodie Smith’s book, The 101 Dalmations, which inspired Disney. Children’s versions of the Iliad and Odyssey. D’aulaires Greek Mythology. Throughout grade school, I kept an open book in my desk and slid it into my lap during slow moments. I can’t tell you how many times I was busted for that over the years, or for penciling horses and dinosaurs on my desk. My mom got me an extra-big eraser.

Ruth Kitney
Third grade: Ah, that was the year of Mrs. Kitney. Ruth Kitney is a superstar of my thirteen years in Fulton’s school system. A year earlier, I butted heads with Mrs. Murphy over multiplying and dividing with zero. As far as I was concerned, nothing was happening to that number, so it should remain the same. Mrs. Murphy said, “No, it’s zero,” and that was that. It took my first 0 on a test to convince me to knuckle under, and make my result that same big round 0.

Mrs. Kitney never presented us with that blank wall of Because I Say So. She had good explanations for everything, she was patient, and she was fun. Plus, she presented us with great class room projects. Nobody else baked bread and whipped up homemade butter in class – and taught us fractions in the process.

For third grade and above, I climbed to the second floor. The principal’s office was also up here, in a tiny room wedged between the fifth and sixth grade classrooms. Miss Ada Aylesworth was Erie Street’s principal, and she had another iron maiden’s reputation.

The principal has a spanking machine in her office! That was one of the first rumors I heard in kindergarten. As it turns out, it’s not uncommon. My partner says that his Kansas City, Missouri grade school principal also had one. Nobody had actually seen it, but we all knew that it was there. My mother, Carrie Butler, also went to Erie Street, but her principal was rumored to have a rubber hose. Literal child that she was, Mom couldn’t understand why the other kids worried about getting squirted.

If there really was a spanking machine, I was confident that it would never be used on me. I knew Miss Aylesworth from church, and she was a sweet old lady. I relished my secret knowledge, and never let on that our principal was a pussy cat behind her fierce reputation.

The school nurse shared an office with Miss Aylesworth, and once or twice a year, the school doctor made a house visit. Dr. McGovern sat at a table in the nurse’s office, and checked us over for what problems could be uncovered in a two-minute appraisal. We were separated by sex, then we girls stripped to our undies in one of the cloakrooms and paraded across the great hall to the nurse’s office. Boys were confined to class, but at least one could be relied on to slip out and catcall at us red-faced girls. Given a chance, most girls would return the favor when it was the boys’ turn to visit Dr. “Coldfinger,” as he was known after 1964 (Think James Bond).

Miss Mangeot was my next teacher – or was it Mrs. Mangeot? I had one of them for fourth grade, and one for fifth. I confused them then, and fifty years later, my confusion is far worse.
A pivotal life moment arrived in fourth grade, though it took me a while to recognize it. Fulton had an amazing music department. Jose Azcue came once a week to lead us in song and teach us a little Spanish. Those classes were even better than reading a book sneaked into my lap. Another traveling teacher, Miss Mary Towse, also led songs. She equipped her students with wood blocks, jingle bells, and the like. We all loved her, and were delighted to find her teaching music in Jr. High.

Richard Swierczek
Richard Swierczek, former head of Fulton’s music department, says that he began bringing musical instruments into elementary schools in the 50s (I don’t remember seeing them, but they would have impressed me). Mr. Swierczek and Mr. Azcue built an amazing musical education machine in Fulton. Fine teachers at the Elementary, Jr. High, and Sr. High level turned out scads of skilled instrumental and vocal musicians, and reached an apex when the G. Ray Bodley band competed in a 1972 music festival in Vienna, Austria.

I don’t remember who asked me if I wanted to get tested for band in fourth grade. From my sister’s description, it was Mr. Bales, the Beginner Band teacher, who did the test. He put earphones on me, played two notes, asked which was higher or lower, then another two, and another. It was ridiculously easy. Then I was informed that I could join the Beginner Band and asked, What do you want to play?

My parents loved classical music and so did I, but without knowing a thing about band instruments, I had no answer. I was assigned to the clarinet section. A friend of mine refers to the instrument as “the Devil’s toenails,” and Lord, is that true for the instrument in the hands of a beginner. However, learning to finger the notes – and to control them – intrigued me. As the year passed and Mr. Bales taught us our craft, the band sounded better and better. Plus, we musicians got out of school for a couple of hours. Once a week we were bused over to Lanigan School to practice with Mr. Bales. We played year-round, but I didn’t mind because I loved band.

I don’t remember anyone excused from Erie Street for team sports, but during the winter our classes were bused to Fairgrieve to play in the gym. Fall, winter, and spring we had recess outside, unless our oft-challenging winter weather cranked up. An asphalt pad was laid around three sides of the building. On the girls’ side, only girls were allowed; the same went for the boys’ side, and the segregation was enforced by teachers.

Mad Rush's field of dreams
The back of the school was for everyone; both the level asphalt next to the building, and the ‘playground.’ That was a field about sixty feet long and thirty wide, surfaced with crushed cinders. It sat in a depression behind the school, fenced off from the outside world by chain link, and with steep hills on two sides. The lot looked more like an industrial disaster site than a playground. In 2014, it’s a paved parking lot, but this is where we played Mad Rush.

One of the older kids is picked to be It. Everyone else piles up at the high end, squished against the chain link atop a steep grassy slope (8’ high, 10’ tops). It yells, “Mad Rush!” and we all race downhill and across the cinders to the chain link at the far end. Whoever It touches en route also becomes It. We pile up at the hill, and do it again. Whoever is left untouched at the end is the winner. I was little, but quick, and though I was absolutely forbidden by my mother to play Mad Rush, I won a few times (and nursed many cinder burns).

The other Mangeot was my fifth grade teacher. I’m not sure whether it was in fifth or sixth grade, but a few of us were assigned projects for the Science Fair. We divided into groups of three, and made anatomical studies of painted clay. One group did the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Cool. Another made a brain and nervous system. Really cool!

My group was told to make kidneys and a bladder. No, we couldn’t do something else. My urinary tract team cringed in embarrassment, but did as we were told, and stood miserably by our pathetic product at the science fair.

The best thing about fifth grade was still band. I moved up to Elementary Band this year, also played at Lanigan with Mr. Bales. We fifth graders had been playing our instruments for a year, and the sixth graders in the group were old hands. New instruments were in our midst as well. There were trombones and French horns, saxophones and oboes, and best of all, bass clarinets.

I was an uninspired clarinetist, mired in the third section and playing perpetual harmony to the melody-rich first clarinets and flutes. But, at the end of the row, there was the luscious deep-throated bass clarinet, played by a sixth grader. I spent all year with my head turned sideways, grooving on that lovely bass clarinet. I had my fingers crossed for sixth grade.

Jo Ann and Blayne Webb
I looked forward to my final year at Erie Street for another reason. The sixth grade teacher was Blayne Webb. He was funny and well-liked by the students, but he was a no-nonsense man. He’d lost fingers and part of one thumb in an industrial accident, but that hand was still nimble, and oh, was it strong! I wouldn’t want to be the misbehaving kid with an ear grabbed by Mr. Webb. However, I was sure that wouldn’t happen to me. My family had known the Webbs for years. They lived a couple of houses away from us, we played with their sons, and all shared picnics and went on short trips together.

Sixth grade arrived, and I excitedly took a chair in Mr. Webb’s class. He and I made an understanding, just as he did with her. No favorites, and no nonsense. No favorites indeed! Remember SRAs? I think their title was Serialized Reading Assignments. The stories were color coded from red and yellow, up to silver and gold. You had to read the first booklet, answer far too many questions, and finish all the stories on one level before you could go to the next. Those red and yellow stories were boring compared to the stuff I brought to school with me, and they weren’t required reading.

I really wanted to see the fabulous stories those gold and silver envelopes surely held, but couldn’t force myself through the first levels, and the teachers wouldn’t let me skip ahead. Mr. Webb was my best, and final hope, but he wouldn’t let me skip either. Were those golden stories the Harry Potter of my day? I’ll never know.

Jo Ann and Morticia
I didn’t need a gold SRA to make this my best year so far. During the first week of school band, the director Mr. Bales told me, “You’ll get your bass clarinet on Monday.” So, he had noticed his 3rd seat, 3rd clarinetist playing with one eye on the bass. The instrument was almost as tall as me, and it was a year before I didn’t need to perch on a telephone book to reach the mouthpiece. I told my brother that “you have to blow your guts out” to play the bass clarinet, but it was a labor of love, and still is today.

Halfway through my sixth grade year, Miss Aylesworth retired and Erie Street School got a new principal. I still wasn’t scared of him, for he was Blayne Webb.

In retrospect, this isn’t so much a story about Erie Street School, as about a single student’s passage through it. I began by hurrying through the Girls Door as a tardy kindergartner. Seven years later I carried my beloved bass clarinet through the same door for the last time, and bid goodbye to familiar teachers. Junior High lay ahead, with all-new types of book-learning, its social pitfalls, and the moments of joy.

Did I ever sneak in through the Boys Door?

Of course.

Photos by author 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Resurrecting Pettaquamscutt

Rebel Puritan

As I work on The Golden Shore, the final volume in my Rebel Puritan trilogy, my focus is shifting from Herodias (Long) Gardner’s home in Newport, Rhode Island to the western shore of Narragansett Bay. That was New England’s frontier in the 1650’s. The Narragansetts, Niantics, and Nipmucs still controlled western Rhode Island. Beyond them lay Mohegan and Abenaki territory. Still further off were the Mohawks, both respected and feared for their warlike nature.

The view from Pettaquamscutt Rock
Pettaquamscutt Rock was a notable landmark on the western side of Narragansett Bay for Native Americans. The name is loosely translated as ‘the round rock,’ and is well deserved. A bald knob of gray granite, studded with quartz and feldspar crystals, crowns a ridge which towers nearly 200’ above the Narrow River.

Narragansett country
That waterway was known as the Pettaquamscutt River in 1638, when William Coddington and Roger Williams met below the Rock with Canonicus and Miantonomi. The chief Narragansett sachems signed a deed giving Aquidneck Island to the Englishmen, in trade for forty-five fathoms of white wampum, twenty hoes, and ten coats. Considering that Aquidneck Island is now known as Rhode Island, and the finest mansions in Newport are found there, the English settlers got a bargain.

At that time, there were few Englishmen south of Richard Smith’s trading post in Cocumcussoc (now Wickford). Nearly all the land on the west side of Narragansett Bay, including Pettaquamscutt Rock, remained in Narragansett hands until January 20, 1657-8. On that date, the Pettaquamscutt Partners – John Porter, Samuel Wilson, Thomas Mumford, Samuel Wilbore (from Portsmouth, RI) and John Hull (of Boston, and the mint master of Massachusetts) – received a deed from Quassuchquansh, Kachanaquant, and Quequaquenuet, chief sachems of Narragansetts.

In exchange for £16 and “other considerations,” the partnership now owned all the land and the whole hill called Pettaquamscutt bounded on the south and southwest side of the rock with Ninigret’s land, on the east with a river northerly bounded two miles beyond the great rock in Pettaquamscutt westerly bounded by a running brook or river beyond the meadow, together with all manner of mines, etc., they to have free ingress and egress on the sachems’ lands.
Pettaquamscutt Purchase map
This was the initial Pettaquamscutt Purchase. Eventually, they owned 12 square miles, but on subsequent deeds they paid larger sums of money – £135, and on another deed, £13 15s. For 13 coats a pair of briches. At least they paid the Narragansett sachems for their land, unlike their neighbors in the Atherton Purchase.

 The Atherton Purchase – all of Boston Neck – was described as a ‘deed of gift.’ There were claims that Humphrey Atherton and John Winthrop Jr., governor of Connecticut, had taken Kachanaquant, one of the sachems in the 1658 deed, to Boston, and that they kept Kachanaquant drunk for three days until he agreed to grant Boston Neck to them. 

Back to the 1658 sale of the Pettaquamscutt Rock: what were the other considerations in that deed? It might be a promise, or work performed. It might be a present that the donor didn’t want recorded in a legal document. It was against the law to sell guns or liquor to the Narragansett Indians, but both were highly desired.

The sachem Kachanaquant signed all but one of the Purchaser’s deeds, and several deeds bore only his name. We can’t know exactly what Kachanaquant and the other sachems accepted in trade for their lands, but Roger Williams described Kachanaquant a poor beast (always drunk). The chief was called before Rhode Island authorities on numerous occasions to confirm that he hadn’t been plied with alcohol: Coganaquant came before me and owned his hand and seale to the deed of gift herein specified, and declares that he was not in drink, but sober at the affecting of it (John Sanford May 18, 1668). 

Whether that was true or not, land buyers flocked to Kachanaquant between 1658 and 1662, including the past and present governors, William Coddington and Benedict Arnold. In 1663 the Pettaquamscutt Purchasers began writing the first deeds for house lots and acreage to the first known landowners: Jireh Bull, William Bundy, William Haviland, and George Gardner Jr., who was only 14-15 years old.

A house was fortified to withstand attack was called a garrison house. A four-room, two story building, 84’ long and 20’ wide, and with its first story made of stone, was built by William Bundy on a ridge above the lower Pettaquamscutt River. It had a good view of traffic entering the river from the bay, and was also conveniently sited by the Pequot Trail. Travelers between Connecticut and Boston now had a place to trade or to rest for the night. Bundy moved to North Carolina in 1664 and sold his garrison house to Jireh Bull.

Lower Pettaquamscutt River
A settlement called – naturally – Pettaquamscutt sprang up on Tower Hill, and along the river flats below Jireh Bull’s trading post. They built ocean-going ships, and raised livestock traded throughout New England and to the Indies. On May 14th 1664 Richard Smith, a Connecticut sympathizer, complained that they had constituted officers at Petacomscott, and the Purchasers Thomas Mumford and Samuel Wilson, who now dwelt at Pettaquamscutt, served as constables.

By 1671 Pettaquamscutt was thriving. Rhode Island’s general court met there, and Mr. Jireh Bull, Mr. Samuell Wilson, Mr. John Porter, Thomas Mumford, John Tift, William Hefernan, Rouse Holmes, James Eldridge, Samuell Albro, Benoni, Henry, George & Nicholas Gardner, George Palmer, Stephen Northup, William Aires, George Crofts, Enoch Plaice, and Christopher Holmes did give their engagements for their allegiance to his majestie and fidelity to this colony. William Gardner owned land adjacent to his brothers, but was not at the meeting.

John Porter, also one of the Purchasers, dwelt on the shore of Pettaquamscutt Pond, a couple miles north of Bull’s garrison house. So did the woman who became his second known wife: Herodias Long. On March 20, 1664-5 the king’s commissioners held a court at Pettaquamscutt, and Herodias petitioned them for a final separation from George Gardner. Rhode Island knew George as Herodias’ second husband, but she now revealed that they had never married. After a stiff fine and a firm scolding, the colony granted Herodias her separation on June 5th.

Gardner home sites on Pettaquamscutt Pond
When Herodias Long brought her seven children fathered by George Gardner to live along Pettaquamscutt Pond, they became a village unto themselves. The family of Hannah (Hicks) Haviland, Herodias’s eldest child and the daughter of John Hicks, also lived nearby. William Haviland, was given a grant in Pettaquamscutt by the Purchasers in 1663, but the Havilands didn’t stay long. William sold their house on July 5, 1667 and the rest of his land on April 1, 1675, and they returned to Flushing, NY.

The five Gardner boys lived side by side with John Watson, their brother-in-law, who arrived by 1672. He married Dorcas Gardner, and his second wife, Rebecca, was probably the sister of Dorcas. John Porter granted the men home lots adjacent to his, made over deeds of Pettaquamscutt land to them, presumably in return for labor, and made them his heirs in the Pettaquamscutt Purchase.

Herodias Long’s extended clan prospered for a while, but the Narragansetts who once owned their land did not. Perhaps Kachanaquant didn’t understand the English concept of ownership when he sold that land to the Pettaquamscutt Purchasers. However, his ignorance – and the greed of English land buyers taking advantage of Kachanaquant’s naiveté – harmed the Narragansetts deeply. They were forced off broad swaths of prime hunting and farmland. Rhode Island put a stop to Indian land sales without the colony’s approval, but settlers had who bought that land from the now-protesting Narragansetts and Niantics were backed by Rhode Island’s government, and by King Charles II. The Narragansetts retreated to dry land around the Great Swamp. Discontent abounded, but Rhode Island kept the peace with the Narragansetts.

King Philip/Metacomet
However, in June, 1675 war broke out just to the east. In 1620 the Wampanoags had aided the Pilgrims of Plymouth. Now, they were even more severely squeezed than the Narragansetts. Raids and skirmishes escalated into Wampanoag raids on outlying villages, and King Philip’s War ensued, so-named for the Wampanoag chief. His name was Metacomet, but the Englishmen knew him as King Philip.

When fighting broke out only forty miles away, most of Pettaquamscutt was evacuated. On June 27, Roger Williams was at Richard Smith’s trading post in Wickford, RI. He wrote to Governor John Winthrop of CT, Mrs. Smith and most of the women and children left on the 26th, and just now Sam Dyer came from Newport to fetch Jireh Bull’s wife & children, and others of Pettaquamscutt.

Though the Narragansetts pledged their neutrality, Puritan leaders doubted their sincerity. To prevent the Narragansetts from bringing their 2000 warriors into the fight, the United Colonies dispatched an army to the Narragansetts’ winter home in Rhode Island’s Great Swamp. With luck, they would catch the Indians unaware.

Massachusetts and Plymouth sent troops under the command of General Josiah Winslow. They would rendezvous with Connecticut’s forces at Jireh Bull’s garrison house on December 18. From there the combined army would attack the Narragansetts’ winter quarters in the Great Swamp. Rhode Island protested, but couldn’t prevent the Puritan army’s invasion.

Garrison house attack
The Connecticut army found Bull’s Garrison burned and its defenders slain. James and Daniel Eldred are said to have survived the Indians’ attack on Bull’s Garrison, but fifteen unknown Englishmen, women and children were dead. A Narragansett envoy from the sachem Pessicus said that the garrison was destroyed in retaliation for an English raid near Providence four days before Jeri Bull’s house was burnt and those people killed there.  

The army didn’t need Bull’s Garrison to fulfill their mission. They marched inland and destroyed the Narragansett fort and village. 150-300 Indians were killed and 450 captured at a cost of more than 200 Englishmen killed or wounded. The rest of the tribe dispersed, and many joined King Philip in his war.

On December 25, 1675, six days after the Great Swamp Fight, it was affirmed that every house in Narragansett was destroyed, and the all inhabitants entirely driven out. Richard Smith’s trading house at Wickford survived until the army left in January, 1676, then it, too went up in smoke. Providence suffered raids; men and homes were lost, but the town survived. Roger Williams was one of those who staid and went not away during the war, and was given part of money paid for Indian captives sold as servants.

The population of Narragansett rebounded, but Pettaquamscutt was no longer the center of activity. A few residents lived as before, with their homes along the river and farms on inland fields. In the 18th century the Narragansett Proprietors arose, making fortunes on land which had belonged to the Indians, and raising livestock with slave labor. Stone walls still mark the old properties and family cemeteries still survive, but nobody remembers who lies in the oldest graves, and their field stone markers are sinking below the sod and leaf litter.

1705 plat of Gardner home sites
The Gardners and Watsons returned to build new homes along the western shore of Pettaquamscutt Pond. They inherited John Porter’s Pettaquamscutt lands, and their descendants grew wealthy along with the rest of the Narragansett Proprietors. My favorite piece of Gardner evidence is this fire-scarred plat drawn on October 5, 1705. From north to south the lots line up: Nicholas, William, Henry, John Watson (wed to Dorcas and Rebecca Gardner), George Jr., and a sixth lot divided into six strips. It’s possible that the sixth lot was retained as common grazing for the Gardner, Porter, and Watson livestock, since the house lots by the Pond are steep and rocky, but perhaps it was set aside for another person close to Herodias Long or John Porter – one who never came to Pettaquamscutt.
George Jr. was the first to receive a grant of Purchasers’ land on May 22, 1663, when John Porter wrote a deed indicating that George gardeners howse lott is Thirty rod wide and Eight scoore Rods long and at the lower end next mine. In November 1664 George and Benoni were granted land, but the location of Benoni’s house lot was not given. Their brothers Henry, William, and Nicholas also were granted land in 1670, 1671, and 1675 respectively, but there may have been grants which weren’t recorded.

In 1667 and ‘68 Herodias and Porter received a series of summons to court for that they are suspected to Cohabitt and Soe to live in way of incontinency. He was cleared on May 11, 1668, and she was finally found not guilty on October 21, 1668. They did marry, or at least Herodias was surnamed Porter instead of Long on subsequent deeds.

I believe that the house lot John Porter shared with Herodias Long lay between George and Benoni Gardner’s. John Watson owns it on the 1705 plat. Perhaps Herodias shared that lot with the Watsons after King Philip’s War, and it devolved to them after Herodias’ death. Herodias Long’s children began returning to Pettaquamscutt Pond by July 22, 1676, when Dorcas (Gardner) Watson’s son John was the first English child born in Narragansett after the war.
Interestingly, it seems that John Porter intended to give Herodias land back in November 1664, six months before she was separated from George Gardner. No deed was recorded for Horod Long – the name she apparently preferred – but her son’s deed was: Bounded as followeth: Sowth on Benony Gardners land, and Westerly on Sacgatoket River, and northwest going over the River bounded with a [slash] and the north East bounded with Mr. Arnold’s Land and that Line running East bounded with a great [Rocke] and the East side of the said Land Lying next Horrod Long’s Land. And wee whose names are above written for ourselves and the rest of our partners (viz) William Brenton, John Hull and Samuell Willson give up and surrender all our Rights to the foresaid land, having [Received] valuable Consideration …

John Porter disappears from the record after writing a deed on May 27, 1675, the eve of King Philip’s War. It is not known when or where he died. Robert Anderson estimates that Porter was born before 1608, but his English background before Porter married Margaret Odding ca. 1630 in Braintree, County Essex, is unknown. It’s not known when Porter died either. Was he evacuated to Portsmouth, and died there? 

It appears that Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter died in 1705. On November 11th, 1705 Bennony & Mary Gardner, Henry & Joan Gardner, George & Tabitha Gardner, William & Elizabeth Gardner, Nicholas & Hannah Gardner, and John & Rebecca Watson sold 410 acres bounded by Pt. Judith Pond to John Potter for £140. The money was sent to Thomas Hicks of Flushing, Herod’s son fathered by John Hicks. I’m not the first researcher to conclude that this represents a bequest by Herodias Long, to a child taken from her over sixty years before her death.

Rhode Island colonial records
Land records of North Kingstown and South Kingstown
The History of Washington and Kent Counties   J.R. Cole  1889
The Great Migration Begins  Robert C. Anderson 1995
Flintlock and Tomahawk  Douglas Leach  1958
The Lands of Rhode Island  Sidney Rider  1904

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Hundred Words for Slut

Jezebel movie poster

Are there really fifty words for snow in the Eskimo/Inuit language? It’s said that Inuit have a huge number of terms for different types of snow – falling, flakes, needles, the type you’d use to make an igloo, etc. Wikipedia has a page disputing "50 words for snow" as a myth, but it also states that the Sami language used in Finland, Norway and Sweden has 180 words for snow. 

In upstate New York we have many ways to describe frozen stuff which falls out of the sky, lies on the ground, and makes our lives miserable for six months: sleet, graupel, powder, corn snow …. Let's just say that the Inuit, who live with snow and ice for most of the year, have many more. Moreover, I don’t really care how many words for snow there are.

However, I just had an eye-opening moment while composing the novel which, along with Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, will conclude my series based on the scandalous life of Herodias Long of 17th century Rhode Island. In a quest to keep my language accurate for the time, I consult The Historical Thesaurus online.

Slut. I wasn’t looking it up for Herodias, though some people think that I was right on the money applying that word to her. Herodias was spurned by many 19th century genealogists for her marital and extra-marital hijinx. A fair amount of ink has been spilled psychoanalyzing her, and I’ve spent a lot of years getting into Herod’s head as I write about her.

However, I’m looking up slut as I bring to life the young woman who, in 1664, supplants Herod in George Gardner’s life: Lydia Ballou. I figure that slut was in use before 1664, but checked to be sure. The Historical Thesaurus contains words gleaned from the Oxford English Dictionary and the Thesaurus of Old English, and puts slut in use to describe an unchaste woman by 1450.

I can think of a whooooole bunch of similar words; many are modern, and several are even older than slut. Strumpet. Wench. Whore. However, I was dumbfounded to see the abundance of ways I could describe a loose woman.

There are 84 terms I could use in 1664 and preserve historical accuracy; from the Old English lufestre and scylcen to tub-tail and laced mutton. Surprisingly, tomboy and housewife were applied to loose women in the 1500s. Another 45 words have been added to the English language since 1664, making 129 in all. 

By comparison, there were only about 20 terms in play for a male lecher before 1664. Is that because the vast majority of plays and books about persons of loose morals were written by men? Were they less critical of their own sex, and inclined to be more inventive in describing women?

The Inuit are said to have 50 words for snow because that substance (in its many forms) is so vital to them. With 129 words in the English thesaurus for women of easy virtue, does that mean they are even more important in our lives? Or is it just that we love our sluttish wenches so?

Here’s the entire list for unchaste women from the Historical Thesaurus:|03.03.01 n
Unchastity :: sexual indulgence :: unchaste behaviour of woman :: unchaste/loose woman
There are 129 words at this level:

bepæcestre OE
firenhicgend OE
horcwene OE
lufestre OE
scand OE
scrætte OE
scylcen OE
synnecge OE
quean/cwene OE– now arch.
Whore/hore OE
wenchel c1300 
strumpet a1327 
wench 1362–1781 
parnel 1362–a1800 
filth 1402– obs. exc. dial. 
tickle-tail c1430 + 1869 dial. 
harlot 1432/50
slut c1450
kittock c1470–1706 Scots 
mignote 1489 
ribald a1500–1530 
sinner a1500–1688 
Kitty 1500/20–1572 
callet c1500–1785 
flag 1500/20–1535 + 1866 
trull 1519–1871 
miswoman 1528–a1600 
dant a1529 
stewed strumpet 1532–1575 
whore 1532–1575 
unchaghe 1534 
Katy 1535 
yaud 1545 Scots & northern dial. 
housewife/huswife 1546–1705 
jelot c1550(2) 
trinklet c1550 
whippet 1550–1597 
gillot 1557–1579/80 
Jezebel 1558
loon c1560–1828 Scots 
limmer 1566 + 1728 Scots 
marian 1567 
mort 1567–1812 cant 
mot/mott 1567– cant 
rannell 1573–1592 
blowze 1573–1719 
rig 1575–1694 + 1829– dial. 
kit a1577–1600 
poplet 1577 
laced mutton 1578–1694 
tomboy 1579–a1700 
Tib 1582–1681 
pucelle 1583–a1700 
harlotry 1584–c1836 
malkin/mawkin 1586 obs. exc. dial. 
light of love/light o' love/light a love 1589
flirt-gill 1592–1618 
wagtail 1592–1710 
hilding 1592–1713 
driggle-draggle 1593–1611 
tub-tail 1595 
franion 1596 
baggage 1596–1851 
hiren 1597–1615 
bona roba 1597–1680 + 1822 
lightskirts 1597/8
jay 1598–1611 
minx 1598–1728 + 1939
short-heels 1599 
cockatrice 1599–1747 
flirt 1600–1703 
light-heels 1602 
roba 1602 
fricatrice 1605–1708 + 1871 
rumbelow 1611–a1700 
open-tail a1618 
succubus 1622–1803 
snaphance a1625 
flap 1631 + 1892 dial. & slang 
nymph 1632
amorosa 1634 
puffkin 1638 
wrig 1638 
vizard 1652–1719 
In case you missed one of your favorite words to describe a soiled dove, here are more which came into use after 1664:
tomrig 1668–1728 
jilt 1672–1815 
crack 1676–1719 + 1785
buttered bun(s) 1679 
filthy 1681 
grass-girl 1691 
cousin a1700 cant Dict. + 1708 cant 
mobbed-head 1707 
trully 1711 
brim 1730/6–1808 
trollop 1742
trub 1746 dial. 
Cousin Betty 1749(2) 
demi-rep 1749–1887 
tittup 1762 + 1901 
buer 1807– slang & northern dial. 
lady of easy virtue 1809
blowen/blowing 1812–1851 slang 
sportswoman 1816 
fie-fie 1820 
trail 1825–1901 
streel/sthreal/sthreel 1842– chiefly Irish 
shickster 1846– slang 
trolly(-mog) 1851– dial. 
scarlet woman 1853
amazon 1860 fig. 
anonyma 1864–1889 
pick-up 1871
wish-wife 1886 
chippy 1886– slang, orig. US 
tart 1887– slang 
tartlet a1890 + 1961 
fly girl/fly-girl 1893– US slang 
demi-mondaine 1894–1969 
scrub 1900– slang 
demi-vierge 1908–1951 
floosie/floozie 1911
muff 1914– slang, orig. US 
tarty 1918 colloq. 
sporting girl/woman 1925– N. Amer. 
hooer 1937 Austral. & NZ 
half-virgin 1946–1965 
messer 1951 slang 
bim 1953 US slang 
demi-virgin 1953 
puta 1967– slang 

As for lustful men, they have far fewer descriptive words in the Historical Thesaurus, and I had to do numerous searches to find these terms:

galsere OE
lecher c1175
lecherer c1380–1605
priapist 1532
venerien 1567
franion 1571–1600 + 1810
colt 1586
luster 1591–1705
simpler 1592–1602
libertine 1593
twigger 1594
venerist 1596–1623
Corinthian 1596–1697 + 1785
tit 1599
venerian 1601
luxur 1604–1607 rare
libertine 1605
night-neaker 1611
niggler 1613–1659
libidinist 1628–1634
high-boy 1668–a1680
goat 1675
swinge-bow 1675
man of the town a1700–1785
town-bull 1709
capriped 1730/6 Dict. + 1916 + 1925
lothario 1756
satyr 1781– fig.
gay-deceiver 1803
playboy/play-boy 1829– colloq.
gay-dog 1900
lech 1934
ram 1935– colloq.
lizard 1935
tom(-)cat 1942– colloq., orig. US fig. transf.
skirt chaser 1943
stoat a1960–1978 fig.


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