Sunday, September 29, 2019

Historical Book Review: Wanders Far by David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far by David Ritz-Gerald
Released: May 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, folklore
pages: 198 (paperback)
Available on: Amazon in paperback and ebook

Reviewers note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

You really can't judge a book by its cover. The gorgeous cover of this novel totally sold me. What a face. But, I have to admit the story, the tale of Wanders Far was a disappointment for me. 

The book opens just before his birth. His family lives along the Mohawk River in New York, centuries before Europeans settled the North American continent. The year is 1125. The writer has done his homework and we learn a lot about the daily life of the Native Americans who populated the area, which I found of interest. Although, I think the author went overboard on the blow by blow process of making a canoe. I was also surprised that in the minutia of the daily life of the Native Americans, there was no in-depth exploration of their religious life and/or ceremonies. That is until Wanders Far's story is pretty far along. 

After Wanders Far is born, we trail after him on his walk-abouts, of which there are many. As a young child, 5-6 years old he travels miles and miles alone through the wilderness, never coming to any harm. (Okay, it is folklore, I'll give it a pass) At first his family looks for him and then give up. Wanders Far will go when and where he wants.

The author tells us that Wanders Far is an 'Old Soul' and indeed we learn he is a special child. Wise beyond his years, he has visions of the past and the future. We learn what his vision are and sure as shootin a few chapters later the very same thing happens. We are told he plays an important part in creating the Iroquois Confederation.  All very interesting in concept, but not in the telling.

So, why didn't I like this book. The writing. It drove me crazy. After the first chapter, I put the book down and went to Amazon to see if it was a Middle Grade book for 4th graders. The writing is childish and highly repetitive.  If you can say something once, why not say it three or four times? 

The dialogue was also strangely modern. At one point the father says, 'Good job' son. Another person says, 'wow', and Wanders Fars admits he 'goofed off'. The language seems incongruent with the time period. The author acknowledges this fact and asks us to overlook it. Why not just rewrite it? 

There is no tension, no suspense, no nail biting will he do it moments. Everyone just trundles along. Even the one bad guy is a cartoon character. I was never afraid for Wanders Far, never said, I can't believe that just happened or I didn't see that coming or what on earth did that mean. Nope, the book reads like: he did this, then he did that, then he did this again, and yep, he did that. The author tells us everything, but shows us nothing. 

Did I hate the book? No. Did I like it? Not really. Did I learn something from it? Yes. So was it worth reading? I find value in learning new things, so I can answer yes to this. But, I was glad to reach the last page.

Now, I go to Amazon and Goodreads to post my review. There are multiple other reviews already there. Most are five stars. Wait, what? Did I miss something? I go back and re-read about half the book. I look for deeper meanings or some reason for the plodding redundancy of his storytelling. I can't find it. Maybe I am deficient, this is over my paygrade, or something else is missing. Whatever, I could not connect to this book. Clearly, other people have thoroughly enjoyed it. Just not me. So, take my review with a grain of salt and don't let it put you off the book, if it sounds like it's up your alley. 

Recommendations: This is tough. If you want to learn about the daily lives of Native Americans give it a read. But a pass if you are looking for a great story.

I give this book 2 1/2 stars

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Gundalows of New Coastal New Hampshire and Maine

The Gundalow Company, photo from Trip Advisor

There was a time, in New Hampshire and Maine, when the quickest way to transport goods and people was by water. The main impediment, though, to this mode of travel was the tidal nature of the many rivers that flowed into and out of the Great Bay. The waters of the Lamprey, Scamscott, Winnicut, Salmon Falls, Cocheco, Bellamy and Oyster Rivers, eventually flow into the Piscataqua and into the Atlantic Ocean. The Great Bay is a tidal estuary; at low tide more than 50% is exposed

One of the most successful vessels to navigate these waters was a boat known as a Gundalow. More a barge than a boat, the gundalow was introduced in the mid-1600s, reached its heyday in the 1700s-1800s and was gradually replaced by more modern transportation systems, most notably the railroad. More than 2000 of these workhorses were built and the growth of the region depended on these sturdy boats. 

It's been suggested that the name Gundalow comes from the Venetian Gondola. The boats operated only on smooth inter-coastal waters in good weather. The flat bottoms were perfect for the tidal rivers and the boatmen could move the boats with their long poles through narrow channels. The boat was designed to harness the power of the tides. Moving inland with the incoming water and floating downstream with the outgoing tide.  When conditions were right, in deeper water, the sailor could employ the triangular sail attached to its stubby mast.

Goods flowed into the Portsmouth harbor from Europe and other American cities. Loaded onto gundalows, the cargo was moved upstream to smaller towns of Dover, Exeter and Durham. Bricks, lumber, produce and other local products moved around the region via these boats. 

The Gundalow, also called the salt-marsh gundalow was used to move hay from its watery marsh straddle to the farmer's barn. Benedict Arnold had nine gundalow in his fleet in his 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, a significant inland naval fight against a superior British fleet. 

Today, the Gundalow Company operates a new vessel, built in 2011, out of Portsmouth, NH. It was designed to take passengers and students sailing. It's on my bucket list of things I'd like to do. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Three Hugh Parsons of New England

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

In researching my book on Hugh and Mary Parsons of Springfield, Massachusetts, I realized there were two other contemporary men by the same name. Hugh Parsons of Watertown and Hugh Parsons of Portsmouth. They appear to be distinct men who are sometimes confused by family genealogist. Here is what I know about each of them.

Hugh Parsons of Springfield
Hugh was born, presumably in England and immigrated to Springfield by 1645 when he signed a contract to make bricks for William Pynchon and married Mary ____Lewis on 27 October. The records show the couple had three children, a daughter Hannah and sons Samuel and Joshua. There is no further record for Hannah, Samuel died as a young child and Mary is recorded as killing her son Joshua. Mary died in prison before she could be tried for witchcraft. Hugh was tried and found guilty but his conviction was overturned and he was released from the Boston prison. His land in Springfield was sold and the monies forwarded to him. No further record of Hugh Parsons has been found. [1] See my book, Weave a Web of Witchcraft on the life and times of Hugh and Mary Parson. 

Hugh Parsons of Rhode Island
Hugh Parsons of Rhode Island is first found in the records in 1658 when he was a called to jury duty.  This would imply that he was well established in the community. In 1662 he served as constable. He had two daughters; Grace, born about 1635 and Hannah b. about 1645. At his death his wife's name was Elizabeth. According to Find A Grave he was born on 11 March 1613 at Beaminster, Dorset, England. There were two men Joseph and Benjamin Parsons of Springfield, (no proven relationship to Hugh) who are said to be for that town. [2] According to this website, he was born in 1613 in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England. 

Hugh's second wife, Elizabeth is frequently said to be Elizabeth England, but this is not correct. See this website for a great explanation. 

Hugh's daughter Grace was born about 1635 and married William Bayley of Salem Massachusetts by 1652 their son was born the following year. The left Salem for Rhode Island in 1655. Hugh Parsons of Springfield was in prison in Boston in 1651-1652. 

Would William Bayley married a woman whose father was charged with witchcraft and in prison, fighting for his life? Would a man charged with such a serious crime, found guilty but then released, have such high standing in his community that a few years later he is serving as constable? This seems improbable to me. [3] There is no reason to believe they are the same man. 

There is also a Register article which lays out the parentage of Elizabeth Parson's daughters and proves her surname was not England as is frequently found in family genealogies. [4]

Hugh Parsons of Watertown
This Hugh Parsons seems to have be rather poor. In 1649 he was given a grant by the town to procure a house. The town frequently gave him a helping hand with food and provisions. He is not mentioned much in the records of Watertown. He is known to have one daughter named Ruth was is in the records. She was raped by a neighbor at age 8.  When she was about 35 years old she married a man twice her age. See this fantastic book on the formation and early years of Watertown, MA.



[2] The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)

[3]The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)

[4]Mayflower Descendant: A Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1899- . (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Garrison Houses of New England

McIntire Garrison, Maine

Many people, who are unfamiliar with early colonial history, might be surprised to learn that New Hampshire and Maine were the frontier. A thin line of settlements that stood between the Native warriors and their French allies from sweeping the English from the North American Continent. These areas were under constant threat of attack. To defend themselves the people built Garrison Houses for protection.

Both settler and native used the rivers of New Hampshire as their chief means of transportation. Dover, New Hampshire, now includes multiple towns including Durham and the Oyster River settlement area, were not only the location of multiple garrison homes, at one time at least 12 known houses, but it was also the site of frequent attacks. Two major attacks occurred in 1675 and again in 1694. In the 1694 attack, five house were destroyed. 

The New England garrison house was typically a two story building constructed of logs or thick planks. Most often, the upper story jutted out over the first on two or more sides. The house would have been surrounded by a wooden stockade for added protection. The Garrison was often someones personal home, but other buildings such as the meetinghouse might also be fortified. Each neighborhood had at least one garrison to which the residents could flee to in times of unrest. 

In the 1689 attack on Cochecho Falls, north of Dover, Native women asked to sleep inside the stockades of many of the garrison houses. In the night the women opened the gates to the attacking warriors, resulting in many deaths and even more captives taken to Canada. 

During troubled times, militia troops might be staged at garrison houses to either ward off attacks or respond quickly and prevent further death and destruction. 

Very few of these houses exist. They were either razed during conflict, torn down in more modern times or incorporated into a larger house. The oldest house in Maine is a garrison house, the McIntire Garrison House, which was designated a National Historic Landmark. Other examples are the Damm Garrison House which is part of the Woodman Museum in Dover, NH. The Damm house was a single story house, unusual for it's construction.

Interestingly, the Garrison style of architecture caught on and many more modern New England houses are built in what is called Garrison Style. 

Modern house in the Garrison Style

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Historical Book Review: In A Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard

In A Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard
Self-Published 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
pages: 320
Available in paperback and ebook

Reviewers note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. If you are interested in seeing more about this book, click on the cover above and it will take you to its Amazon page.

PLOT: In A Gilded Cage is the story of Elizabeth, known affectionately as Sisi, born in 1837 into the royal Bavaria house of Wittelsbach. Raised in a family with a forward thinking father and a reluctantly indulgent mother, Sisi has a delightfully unconventional childhood. At the age of 16 she travels with her older sister who their mother hopes will catch the eye of their cousin, Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria. To her surprise, it is Sisi who wins the heart and hand of the most powerful monarch in Europe. But, Sisi, is unprepared for the strict environment of the Hapsburg court, where every move and word is analyzed and one misstep can bring unhappy consequences. 

CHARACTERS: Elizabeth is a complicated character and Appleyard does a good job of bringing her to life. From petulant child-bride to a woman fighting for her place in the world we follow the evolution of Elizabeth as she comes into her own as Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her battles with her controlling mother-in-law and her dedicated but emotionally detached husband pull the reader into her world. Despite being one of the most admired and talked about women of her age, her life is miserable and those of us along for the ride feel pity for the woman she becomes.  

HISTORY: Meticulously researched, the waning days of the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian empire spring from the pages of this book. From the stiff court manners. the exhausting schedule of balls and social events to the daily routine of dressing, we become intimately acquainted with her world. I enjoyed the political/military history of the region as well, especially the description of the Hungarian fight for autonomy. 

WRITING: The writing is good, the pace is steady. I was never bored and found myself surprised that I had reached the end of the novel. Some of the themes are a bit repetitive but did not distract me from enjoying the book. 

CONCLUSION: Although a work of fiction, this is a serious look at the life of Elizabeth, Empress of Austria. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, biographies, and royalty.

I rate this book 4 Stars!


My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Monday, September 9, 2019

Roger and Sarah Eastman: English Immigrants to Salisbury, Massachusetts

Photo by Johannes Plenio

english origins
Roger Eastman of Salisbury was the ancestor of wealthy Eastman-Kodak founder George Eastman. George hired a genealogist to trace his English ancestry. Since then various publications have made claims to his ancestry. In 1901 Guy Scooby Rix printed his version of the Eastman lineage. He claimed that Roger Eastman was born in 1611 in Wales and that he was the son of  John Eastman of Romney, Southampton, England whose will was written September 24, 1602 and proved on October 22, 1602. [1] Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why this cannot be true. He is also the first reseacher who pinned the surname 'Smith' on Sarah Eastman, stating only that it was a tradition.

In 1915 an article was published in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record [2] by author Charles Eastman. His assertion was that Roger was a descendant of the Eastman family of  Charleton, Downton, Hampshire who could be traced to a John Eastman who died in 1565. John was followed by son Roger who died in 1604, then his son Nicholas and his wife Barbara, parents of the immigrant Roger. [2] 

Nicholas and Barbara has a son named Roger baptized on 4 April 1610. [3] But a book published in 1938 disputes the solidity of the proof that links Roger to the Downton Eastmans. And he points out flaws in the original analysis of the family relationships.The author admits that the baptism put this Roger in the right time frame but points out that Roger Eastman of Salisbury did not name a child either Nicholas or Barbara, which would have followed a very common naming pattern for Puritan immigrants. [4]

Some note that several other families from this area immigrated to Massachusetts and settled in Salisbury including John Rolfe and John Saunders of Landford, Wiltshire who brought his servant, Roger Eastman.

This evidence does not appear to be sufficient for Robert Charles Anderson of the Great Migration Project who states that the ancestry and origins of Roger Eastman are unknown. [5]

All that being said, if you want to believe that Roger was the son of Nicholas Eastman and his wife Barbara, I won't hold it against you.

I am happy to confirm that Roger sailed to Massachusetts in 1638 aboard the Confidence from Southampton along with many Wiltshire families. [6] Based on depositions he was born between 1611 and 1613, but it was not uncommon to round up your age for depositions. Roger and many of his shipmates settled in Salisbury.

In 1639 Roger married a woman named Sarah. Most early genealogist state her surname is unknown. But in a 1952 book, a descendant claims her name is traditionally given as Smith. He gives no other sources. [7] This is not good enough for me so I going with Sarah Unknown. 

In 1640 the town of Salisbury began to divide up its land, Roger was given a house lot at that time. He received a second division in 1643. His name is found on tax lists and according to Hoyt, he was a house carpenter by trade. This must have proved very useful in a land with no houses! [8]

In 1646 Roger took the Oath of Fidelity, before Lt. Pike, the ranking military officer. This oath was required of all men. In 1664 he was recorded as serving as a juror and again in 1667, 1676, 1677. In 1669 the court discharged him from the duties of serving as constable of Salisbury, no explanation offered. In 1671 Roger and Sarah were both deposed in court about a case that involved the Martin/North families. Roger gave his age as 'about 60' and Sarah was 'about 50'. 

In 1672 the Eastman family was deposed again in court. Their son, Nathaniel had married a woman named Elizabeth Hudson on 30 March 1672. She had previously given birth to a child out of wedlock. In court she claimed that Joseph Hall of Lynn was the father. Joseph was found to be the childs father by the court and ordered to pay Nathaniel maintenance for the child and to pay her father for 'enticing her and frequenting her company despite her father's warnings'. Elizabeth, herself was ordered fined or whipped for having sex before marriage.

In a 1682 court case, Roger made his mark, he could not write his name, apparently.

Roger and Sarah had eleven children:

*John, Captain and Planter of Salisbury, b.9 March 1640, m. 27 Oct. 1665 Hannah Healey, 5 Nov 1670 Mary Boyton. All children (7) by second wife. Will written in 1715 & 1720.

*Nathaniel Planter and Cooper of  Salisbury, b. 18 May 1643, m. 30 April 1672 Elizabeth Hudson. (10) children, d. 10 June 1716.

*Phillip, Haverhill and Woodstock. b. 30 Dec 1644, m. (1) unknown, (2) 22 Aug 1678 widow Mary (Barnard) Morse, (3) Margaret Unknown, (5) children, captured by Indians in King Philip's War in 1676, d. 1714.

*Thomas, Haverhill, b. 1646, m. 20 Jan 1679/80 Deborah Corliss, soldier in King Philip's War, d. 29 April 1688, (4) children, (1) k. by Indians in 1696.

*Timothy, Salisbury and Hadley, b. 1648, m. 16 May 1682 Lydia Markham, d. 1 April 1733, (4) children, outlived only by an unmarried daughter.

*Joseph, Weaver of Suffield and Hadley, b. 1651, m. Mary Tilton, soldier in King Philip's War, d. 1692.

*Benjamin, Tanner of Salisbury, b. 12 Feb 1652/3, m. (1) 5 April 1678  Ann Pitts, w/o Sam Joy, (2) Naomi Flanders, (3) twice widowed Sarah.  will proved 4 March 1727/8.

*Sarah b. 25 Sept 1655, m. (1) 13 June 1678 Joseph French, (2) 4 Aug 1684 Solomon Sheppard, d. 1 Dec 1748.

*Samuel, Salisbury, b. 20 Nov 1657, m. 4 Nov. 1686 Elizabeth Scriven, d. 27 Feb 1725.(12) Children.

*Ruth b. 21 March 1660/61, m. 23 May 1690 Benjamin Heard

My ancestor is Ruth Eastman who married Benjamin Heard,  widower from Dover, New Hampshire. 


[1] Rix, G. S. (Guy Scoby). (1901). History and genealogy of the Eastman family of America: containing biographical sketches and genealogies of both males and females. Concord, N.H.: [Press of I.C. Evans].Great Migration Newsletter, V.1-20.(Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2018.)

[2] The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. New York, NY: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1870-. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.)

[3]"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018, Roger Eastman, ); citing item 1, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,279,375.

[4] Pillsbury Ancestry

[5] Anderson, Robert Charles. Great Migration Directory (The). Immigrants to New England, 1620-1640. A Concise Compendium. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015: "Eastman, Roger: Origins Unknown; immigration 1638 on Confidence; Settled in Salisbury. sources: Drake's Founders 58; SyTR 7; NYGBR 46:58-62; Pillsbury Anc 111-15; Guy S Rix History and Genealogy of the Eastman Family of America 2 volume publ 1901.

[6] (Roger came in 1638 on The Confidence.

[7] Charles Eastman, That Man Eastman, (Self-Published, 1952) 4. see book here.

[8] The old families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts ... v.1. Hoyt, David Webster, 1833-1921.

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...