Monday, May 18, 2009


Oh, I have boxes of papers, back to 1694.

Hannah Browne's husband, Captain William Pickering, was known for his successful expedition to Newfoundland to protect the fishermen from the depredations of the French and Indians.

This 1706 letter from Hannah to William records the death of their young son.

William back to Hannah, 1720. "I Recvd yours By Captn Watson with the Sheep & Buter & Turnips. We have turnips anuff hear but I thank you for your kindness."

Soon William will have more to worry about than a superfluity of turnips.

William never arrives back in Salem, Newengland. Where is he?

1726. "about eight years past my Loving Husband William Pickering Departing From Canada in the (?) of the year in Order To Come home to Salem, But Never yet arrived To New England The First News ever I had Concerning him was brought To me by one William from Captain (?) a French man Was this that he Redeemed Capt Pickering From the Indians and that he was Coming home..."

"Mr. Robert williams Informed on July 9th: 1726 that he Mett with a French Gentleman of Canada at Lewisburg who told him that Bought Captn william Pickering of Salem out of the hands of the Indians this Last Spring and discribed him by his Statture bulk and Countanance and by what he lost and that he lost about 5 years ago and the Gentilman also said he wold give the Bill Captn Pickering gave him to pay him his Redemtion monny to Mr Robert Williames to bring it to Newengland but through accedent omitted it --

It is theirfore thought that if the Eastern Indians be inquired of whethar thay have Ever heard of Said Pickering his being among any of the Indians possobly some account of him may be had Especially if the Indians be told that Captn Pickering is comeing home by way of Albany which the french gentelman told Mr Robert williams"

Let's get this straight. William Pickering never comes home. Robert Williams shows up years later and says, "He was captured by Indians, and a French gentleman paid a ransom to free him, but lost the receipt. Oops." Presumably the French gentleman would like to be repaid, even though William never quite made it home. Is Robert Williams running a con on Hannah? Does the French gentleman even exist? Was William even captured by Indians in the first place?

I wish I knew how this story ended. I have no more letters.

The Salem Union Street Corporation was chartered by William Balch Parker (grandfather of the Brothers) in 1808, and seems to have kept the family busy for much of the 19th century. Here's the business records! The blue sheets on the right are blank stock certificates, so let me know if you want to invest.

The corporation put up the Union Building, also known as the Brown Building, in 1808, on land previously owned by Hannah Pickering, of missing husband fame (I have deeds. Everything's connected in the webwork world of old Salem.). In 1810 they rented an apartment to the Peabody family, including one year old Sophia Peabody, who would go on to marry Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Hawthorne lived one street over, and Sophia remembered watching him play in the back yard. I need to go through these documents carefully for Peabody references.

Sophia and her sisters were quite active in the arts, education, Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, Women's suffrage, &c.

Got your Edward Parkers straight? Good, because I have a third one up my sleeve. Edward Hegeman Parker was presumably named for his short lived uncle, Edward Parker, who died in 1838 at the age of 21. Here's his 1829 penmanship book!

Good luck getting your twelve year old to write like this.

The book includes poems by Oliver Goldsmith, Mrs. Elizabeth Carder, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and William Cowper.

Edward must have been a good math student, as well. At age fourteen, he starts keeping an account book for his father's bark, the Brazil. Here they are picking up supplies in Port au Prince in 1835. He has three years to live.

It's hitting me right now: I'm the fourth in a line of Edwards, going directly back to this poor kid.

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