Monday, March 17, 2014

Cape Ann, of course

First example of the American way of life?


While researching Cape Ann for an upcoming Gardner's Beacon, I find that my mind keeps wandering back to my first days of research about five years ago. Firstly, there was not much written about Thomas that was definitive, almost as if he had been written out of history. Oh yes, there were the Dr. Frank books. There were many family sites that quoted from different sources.

A little later, I would run into Anderson's work. He gives about Thomas six pages. Then, someone had a site based upon the Great Migration project. In essence, disparate views on the guy abound.

We only know a little about him. But, we can infer a whole lot more: no shadow, effective (raised nine kids), peaceful (married a Quaker), etc.


But, let's outline a look at Thomas and Margaret that will be sketched further (to answer, for one, where was Thomas?).
  • They got to Cape Ann. Thomas was lead for the plantation. They built (the "Great House" is one piece of evidence), planted (Winthrop had their strawberries six years later after dining in the house that had been moved by Endicott to Salem), and lots more.
  • They thrived. There was no failure. Those who look back may need to place the Dorchester Company's (from Rev John on down) unrealistic expectations in a vein like the Spaniards look for the city of gold (I am not far from where the conquistadors had the northernmost thrust - heads rolled later due to the wastes of looking after this myth). We expect to get into that backbone thing more (as the lessons still apply - offshoring, for example). 
  • Thomas yielded peacefully to Conant's tramping in with his entourage. 
  • When Conant figured out the problems at Cape Ann, he decided to leave. Thomas assisted in that move but also kept a footprint at Cape Ann. 
  • ...
  • The list can be extended but not now. 
What we want to do now is describe how Thomas and Margaret lived when the other planters (Roger, etc.) left the glories of Cape Ann (note: we're talking the period from the exodus of Conant's crew and the order by Endicott to bring the house to Salem). Also, the "they" here refers to Thomas and Margaret
  • They lived in and kept up the house. Endicott knew Thomas from the house, for one thing. 
  • They tended the plantings. No doubt, cuttings and seedlings were moved to Naumkeag. But, the mature plants continued to thrive and to produce. So, produce would have been consumed at Cape Ann and brought to Naumkeag/Salem. 
  • They had game, fish, and a very pleasant environment. The Indians were friendly. 
  • They raised their children. Thomas, Jr. was educated enough to lawyer. Richard and John were both noted for their knowledge. George and Samuel excelled in several areas. Joseph was of sufficient capability to do legal work and to be a military officer. The girls all married well and had admirable offspring. From when this? This? Yes, where did the kids get their knowledge, good character, and civilized mien? From their parents, of course. We know that Thomas was referred to respectfully by Endicott. As well, Margaret must have had good learning (like her daughter-in-law, Ann Downing). 
In short, that just above describes an idyllic life. Think of it. The church people went off with Conant. Thomas was not puritannical (we'll go on about that). Those who were still in the Cape Ann area respected Thomas. There would have been communications with the Salem people. Back and forth they would have gone.

Remember, the troubles (famine - we're not talking Plymouth or Virginia - the New England early folks under Thomas thrived - what they did not do was return an abundance back to the old country - false expectations, remember?) did not start until after Endicott brought in more people than the resources could handle. But, Thomas and Margaret got their kids through that, too.

And, the Cape Cod folks would have come around now and then. Too, John Tylly would have visited now and then.


The real question is why the lingering puritannical mindset could not see Thomas for what he was?

Good question. Thomas went to the General Court once, 1637. This was after he took the oath (notice the gap - as said, he didn't need it - he did it for his kids' sake). Methinks that he would rather not interface with such. We see this same sort of dynamic now. In fact, Thomas stands out in several discussions about what happened to the American dream. 

Remarks:  Modified: 09/28/2014

03/18/2014 - Lucy Larcom wrote about the wild roses and strawberries of Cape Ann. Strawberries were plentiful in some areas, however they were cultivated, too, prior to the arrival of the Europeans (Russell's Indian New England before the Mayflower). John Smith included strawberries in the list of plants that were managed by the Indians. That is, wild plants would have been organized into a fashion more easily cared for and harvested. Hybridization that resulted in what we now call strawberries was not accomplished for another century. Anne Bradstreet (see D.B. Kellogg) wrote of the strawberries that they feasted on after the long voyage. She also wrote of the illness brought with the folks as well as the lack of resources (such as food) to support the influx. ... The fact is that not only did Thomas' crew come prepared to "plant" and thrive, they had the wherewithal to accomplish the feat. ... What they were not properly prepared to do: become an exporter of excess product from the get-go (notwithstanding our advantage at looking back from a more enlightened - supposedly - framework, going off unprepared remains the experience of a whole lot of humans). What did Thomas think of all of those new entrants who created more demand than could anyone hope to supply, with what they were capable of then? Higginson, at least, stressed people coming prepared to support themselves for a year.

03/20/2014 -- Perhaps not idyllic, yet successful in most reasonable senses.

03/23/2014 - Cape Ann featured in Beacon Vol. IV, No. 1.

09/28/2014 -- A week ago, the record for the marriage of Thomas Gardner and Margaret Friar was discovered in Sherborne by John Cook of Minneapolis, Dorset files. This sets a type of focus. Looks as if some transcription work might be in order.  

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