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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking for Unclaimed Bodies

I'm trying to find unclaimed bodies from the Metis shipwreck off Watch Hill, R.I. I have recently received a very interesting lead that I'm following up on. Anyone else know where there are unidentified bodies buried? Or ones that were identified as a shipwreck victim?

Here is my excerpt from  my travel memoir, Mystic Seafarer's Trail, on the Metis
Although Perry was able to save his entire crew when the Revenge struck Watch Hill Reef, some captains traversing this heavily trafficked area have suffered enormous passenger losses. In August 1872, when the steamer Metis left New York toward Providence with 104 passengers, including children, plus 45 crew members, it experienced decreased visibility in a strengthening gale. At approximately 3:45 a.m. on August 30, when it was five miles south of Watch Hill Light, it collided with a schooner. The damage to the hull of the Metis appeared to be minor so it was decided to continue toward Providence.  Within a mile, however, heavy seas further opened the hull and she began to sink fast. When the upper deck broke loose, 30 people managed to ride it toward shore and the rescue boats heading their way. Those below the steamer’s deck went down with the ship. Bodies washed ashore for several weeks on Block Island and the Rhode Island coast.  A framed, spoon-like object made of wood from the Metis, which now lies 130 feet below the surface, can be seen hanging on the wall of the Watch Hill Lighthouse museum.  

Captain Bill Palmer of Wallingford, Conn., owner operator of the charter vessel, Thunderfish, not only takes passengers sport fishing and shark cage diving, but also to explore shipwrecks such as the Metis.  He said, “There’s not much left of the Metis except for the machinery because worms in the water eat the wood. But beneath the sand, lies her cargo. I’ve found china, and friends of mine have found luggage tags made with brass numbers on leather. One friend found a safe with steamship tickets inside.”

I am also looking for information on Mystic-built ships (or under the command of a Mystic captain) that wrecked anywhere in the world. For example, I was thrilled when the Mystic River Historical Society found this article for me on the City of Waco. I revised my Mystic Seafarer's Trail book to include an interview with the diver who explored the wreck.

Excerpt from Mystic Seafarer's Trail regarding the City of Waco:

More than 13,000 souls, many on Mystic’s “Who’s Who” list of 19th century ship builders and sea captains, have been laid to rest at Elm Grove Cemetery. I became particularly interested in the tall obelisk depicting the steamship, City of Waco, which tells how Captain Thomas E. Wolfe died piloting her when it caught fire off the port of Galveston in 1875. He was 44 when his ship erupted into flames and sank. His body was found two miles away. He literally died with his boots on—a dramatic end to a man who led a dramatic life.

Born January 20, 1831, Wolfe’s life of adventure began at age 14 when he went out to sea as a ship’s boy. A year later, he embarked on a whaling voyage to the Indian Ocean for nearly two years. During the California Gold Rush, Wolfe caught gold fever with two Mystic buddies and sailed around Cape Horn to California in 1850. Probably realizing more died of scurvy than found gold, they headed back to Mystic.  

During the Civil War, Captain Wolfe transported supplies from New York to New Orleans. When his ship Texana was captured by Confederates near the mouth of the Mississippi River, it was burned and Wolfe and his crew were taken prisoners. Initially, Wolfe’s letters to his wife Frances from Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond were upbeat because he assumed he would be included in a prisoner exchange. He encouraged her not to worry and to keep their three children comfortable. But as time slipped by, Wolfe revealed his growing despair in this letter dated Dec. 23, 1863:

 Dear Wife,

...The children must have grown very much since I left home it is most nine months. It makes me homesick to look out of my prison window and see little children the age of ourn a playing in the street.

… the hours hang heavy. My former occupation of a sailor may have fitted me somewhat to bare the disappointments and hardships of prison life. it is worse than working to the westward off Cape Horn for one will occasionally gain a little on their course their but here it is the same thing every day…

In the following month he wrote: “If I was home I think I should enjoy the skating…but I see no prospect of getting there very soon…I expect little Emma has forgot her da da.”

 Later transferred to North Carolina’s Salisbury Prison, Wolfe and his fellow prisoners were cold and starving. On the rainy night of December 18, 1864, he made a daring escape with four companions and headed north. During their grueling, 340-mile trek through enemy territory that included the Blue Ridge Mountains, Wolfe faced sleepless nights on the frozen ground, hours hidden under damp fodder, barking dogs, and a companion’s snoring that put them at constant risk of discovery. Although Wolfe could barely limp along as a result of his sprained ankle, he provided some comic relief with stories of his past adventures.

One of the escapees, New York Tribune reporter Albert Richardson, wrote about a 12-mile section of road that crossed a frigid stream 29 times with only foot logs for pedestrians. “Cold and stiff, we discovered that crossing the smooth, icy logs in the darkness was a hazardous feat. Wolfe was particularly lame, and slipped several times into the icy torrent, but managed to flounder out without much delay.”

It was the food, warmth and guidance offered by slaves and Union sympathizers with secret handshakes, plus Wolfe’s knowledge of celestial navigation, that brought them to safety.  Richardson recalled, “We walked about a mile through the dense woods, when Captain Wolfe, who had been all the time declaring that the North Star was on the wrong side of us, convinced our pilot [their temporary guide] that he had mistaken the road, and we retraced our steps to the right thoroughfare.”[i]

Captain Wolfe finally made it back to Mystic on his 34th birthday--January 20, 1865. He recuperated and went back to sea. He lost another vessel, the steamer Loyalist, while on the way to New Orleans, but all hands were saved. However, when the City of Waco caught fire on a stormy night in November 1875, all 56 passengers and crew perished. The New York Times reported the events that began to unfold just after midnight on Nov. 9, 12:30 a.m. A mate from a nearby steamer said the City of Waco “appeared to be one mass of flames...he heard cries of distress from five or six persons in the water. One was the voice of a woman or child clinging to what appeared to be a spar or piece of one of the vessel's masts… but every soul had been washed off of it... "

Only three bodies were recovered—one of them Wolfe’s. It appeared to have burn marks and looked as though he had been trying to cut off his boots. His body was shipped back to Mystic for burial.

[i]  (Richardson, 1865)

If you have any info on unclaimed bodies or Mystic related wrecks, that you are willing to share, please contact me at: 
If you would like to read my travel memoir, which includes more Mystic-related wrecks and sea captains, it's available in Mystic area shops or online: Mystic Seafarer's TrailSecrets behind the 7 Wonders, Titanic's Shoes, Captain Sisson's Gold, and Amelia Earhart's Wedding

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wanted: Epic Adventure

First chapter of my travel memoir, Mystic Seafarer's Trail:

1        Wanted: Epic Adventure
Shortly after stepping out of my new home with my hound for our first stroll through the historic seacoast village of Mystic, Connecticut, a woman pulled over in her van and yelled, "Excuse me."
Assuming she was a tourist wanting directions to Mystic Pizza or some other attraction, I wasn't prepared for what she really wanted to know: "Do you realize the back of your skirt is tucked into your underwear?"
What a debut in my new hometown—I don’t think this is what National Geographic meant when they named Mystic one of the top 100 adventure towns in the United States.
Once recovered from my wardrobe “malfunction,” I continued toward downtown Mystic with Bailey, a beagle/basset hound mix, to embark on a new life and shake off my old, sedentary landlubbing ways.
No longer did I want to be known as the lady who always talks about losing weight but never does it. No longer would I sit around daydreaming about becoming thin and famous so I could hire someone else to clean my house. I had a real shot at it now that I lived in a place where I couldn’t help but fall into a swash-buckling adventure—the kind that might inspire me to write a bestseller.
Straddling both sides of the Mystic River in the towns of Groton and Stonington, the village of Mystic takes its name from an Indian word, “river running to the sea.” Others call the Mystic River an arm of the sea for it’s not technically a river, but a long, narrow bay. With its scenic views of tall ships, islands, lighthouses and secluded coves, it has attracted such legendary honeymooners as Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It is a place where those who cross the oceans gather to swap stories and repair their boats. It is where famous explorers are born, visit, get married, or embark from on their way to becoming lost at sea.
To launch my new career as an adventuress, I decided to walk Bailey to the haunts and homes of such celebrated voyagers as Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and Dr. Robert Ballard, the discoverer of Titanic’s watery grave.

Now was the time for me to join their ranks, to start living life on the edge. Maybe I could even become thin and famous like Amelia Earhart. Like her, I am fairly tall, my middle initial is M, I have a gap between my two front teeth, and until I looked it up, I couldn’t spell medieval either (more on that and her nearby secret wedding later). Unlike Amelia, I wasn’t thin, but that was about to change. I would stop lying around reading about adventurers and do what it took to become one. 
My husband, Jim, and I were transferred to the Mystic area from New York by his company, which meant I had to quit my job as a full-time writer for a college in campus communications. Searching for a new job in a community revolving around life at sea was not easy for a confirmed desk sitter like me. Finding the area already teeming with underemployed writers and publicists, I was glad when my former employer hired me back as a consulting writer. Although freelancing allowed me to work from home in my pajamas, it offered no retirement benefits. Being famous would help pay the bills.
Perhaps I could follow the path of prominent authors such as Herman Melville who went to sea on a whaler (a ship designed to catch whales and process their oil) when he couldn't find a job. Although he deserted and had to live among cannibals for a time, he found the inspiration to write his first novel. Further sea adventures, which included mutiny and learning about a whale that rammed and sank the Essex, led to the creation of his magnum opus: Moby Dick. I, myself, could barely get through this “Great American Novel,” but someone must like it. Now that I lived within walking distance of the last wooden whaleship in the world, the Charles W. Morgan, I wondered if that was a sign. Perhaps I could enlist as a deck swabber on its next epic voyage. The house we purchased was adorned with a brass, whale-shaped door knocker. Now that had to be a sign.
If following in the footsteps of a whaling writer didn’t work, there was always the chance I could get famous by finding a dead body—just like Bailey and our older daughter had. Although it didn’t make her into an international celebrity, I use it as a party stopper whenever I want to be the center of attention. Of course, I should really find my own body, preferably of a well-known person. Celebrities were always coming to Mystic to vacation or film movies.
Since I couldn’t count on finding a dead body, famous or otherwise, and wasn’t sure yet how to embark on an epic voyage, I decided to start small by becoming known in my new community. To begin, I would write a story and title it, “The 7 Wonders of Mystic.” I finally became known as a freelance writer in my former community when I wrote the feature article, “The 7 Wonders of Rockland County,” for Rockland Magazine. It didn’t make me popular with the residents, however. Many were outraged when I didn’t write about their favorite site, so the magazine held a vote for the 8th Wonder—which, of course, created more excited readers. As they say (whoever “they” are), “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
Another benefit to writing “The 7 Wonders of Mystic” would be the handy list of suggested sites to shout to visitors who held up traffic asking what they should see (besides my underwear).
I also decided to design a “Mystic Seafarer’s Trail.” When Jim and I visited Boston, we loved walking its “Freedom Trail” because it gave us a clear self-guided path to follow with tidbits of information along the way. Mystic, full of maritime wonders with fun facts, certainly deserved to have its own trail.
National Geographic suggests that Mystic visitors bike what it calls the 25-mile Vineyard Loop, which includes “some hairy climbs that stops at two of the best wineries.” Hairy climbs? Although I hoped to get thin, I didn’t want to have to hike or bike uphill to do it. No, I would design the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail to avoid hills where possible. It would include “The 7 Wonders” (once I figured out what they were), plus the stomping grounds of legendary explorers, heroes, traitors and shipwreck survivors—as well as those who went down with the ship.
With so many potential wonders to consider and adventures to try, I had a lot of ground—and water—to cover. So, every afternoon, I checked my skirt and off Bailey and I went to follow a scent of our own...
Click on the "LOOK INSIDE" feature of the Mystic Seafarer's Trail to read chapter two.
Enjoy the adventure!
Lisa Saunders

Monday, June 9, 2014

Traitor Benedict Arnold, Battle of Groton Heights, and Fort Griswold, Groton, Conn.

Excerpt from Mystic Seafarer's Trail 
by Lisa Saunders

The massacre at Fort Griswold, led by traitor Benedict Arnold in 1781, is no secret. But what continues to puzzle historians is the whereabouts of British Major William Montgomery’s headless body.

Thrust through with long pikes when leading a charge over the fort wall, Montgomery was quickly avenged by his regiment who swarmed over the wall after him. When Col. William Ledyard surrendered the fort to the British, the fight went from a battle to a massacre.

After the massacre, the living and dead were plundered of their possessions, including their clothes.  In the meantime, Benedict Arnold ordered New London burned.

Benedict Arnold, a native of nearby Norwich and former general in the Continental Army, used his knowledge of the American gun firing code to trick the colonists at Fort Griswold and New London into thinking the approaching vessels were American. More than half of the 160 vastly outnumbered colonists against the 800 British soldiers at Fort Griswold were killed, or some would say murdered, in the massacre. Of those taken prisoner, many were never heard from again. Those unable to walk were loaded into an artillery cart for transport to the Thames River. The cart was let loose and careened out of control toward the Thames River until it ran into an apple tree. One of the wounded, Stephen Hempstead, recounted his ride 45 years later in a letter to a newspaper: “The pain and anguish we all endured in this rapid descent, as the wagon jumped and jostled over rocks and holes, is inconceivable; and the jar in its arrest was like bursting the cords of life asunder, and caused us to shriek with almost supernatural force. Our cries were distinctly heard and noticed on the opposite side of the river, (which is a mile wide) amidst all the confusion which raged in burning and sacking the town.”

British soldiers took the badly wounded defenders to the Ebenezer Avery House and left them unattended and bleeding on the wooden floor boards. Hempstead recalled that first terrible night: “None of our own people came to us till near daylight the next morning, not knowing previous to that time, that the enemy had departed…Thirty-five of us were lying on the bare floor—stiff, mangled, and wounded in every manner, exhausted with pain, fatigue and loss of blood, without clothes or any thing to cover us, trembling with cold and spasms of extreme anguish, without fire or light, parched with excruciating thirst, not a wound dressed nor a soul to administer to one of our wants, nor an assisting hand to turn us during these long tedious hours of the night; nothing but groans and unavailing sighs were heard, and two of our number did not live to see the light of the morning, which brought with it some ministering angels to our relief.”

When Anna Warner, who wanted to enlist to fight the hated British herself, learned her uncle Edward Mills lay at the Avery House mortally wounded, she ran home for his infant son and placed him in his dying arms. Now she hated the British even more.

One Mystic girl recorded an account she read of the massacre in her diary: “There were more than forty women of the Congregational Church in Groton who that day were made widows, and no man was left at the next communion to pass the bread and wine.”[i]

Legend has it that Major Montgomery was buried sitting up inside the ravelin (a V-shaped mound of dirt), which protected the gate of Fort Griswold. Other British soldiers were buried in the ditch outside the ravelin. According to Jonathan Lincoln, Park Supervisor of Fort Trumbull State Park Management Unit, the British later exhumed their dead for proper burial. Yet when Major Montgomery’s niece came from England to claim her uncle’s body, all she retrieved from his grave was his skull.

In 1985, when ground penetrating radar was used to do an archeological survey, no bodies were found. Since digging is not allowed, I thought I’d try my handy dandy EMF detector despite my promise to myself not to use it again. Maybe his bones would emit some sort of electromagnet frequency. No luck—not even when I slipped through the tunnel-like passageway located under the mound where he was slain.

Although one can visit Fort Griswold to see the ravelin, the sword used to murder Col. Ledyard and the plaques marking where Montgomery and Ledyard met their ends, this once blood-soaked ground refuses to give up the rest of Major Montgomery’s body. Could the spirit of Anna continue to hate the British so much she is preventing the discovery of Montgomery’s headless bones?

Later marrying a veteran of that battle, Elijah Bailey, Anna Warner Bailey became famous in the War of 1812 for removing her red flannel petticoat in the middle of the street when soldiers needed wadding to load their muskets in anticipation of a British attack. Anna and her husband had no children and became inn keepers. She died in her 90s when a spark from the fireplace landed on her clothes while she slept.

Although the blood stains have long since faded on the floor boards of the Avery House, the home still speaks to visitors at Fort Griswold State Park. Inside is featured the very table where Lt. Ebenezer Avery had his last breakfast before getting killed that day on September 6, 1781. Although traitor Benedict Arnold is still burned in effigy in New London, the British and Americans have long since mended their wounds and moved forward as friends and allies. Perhaps the spirit of Major Montgomery has been invited to dine by the spirit of Lt. Avery at his table until Montgomery’s body is recovered and reunited with his head back in England. If the spirit of Anna Warner Bailey has been invited to dine there as well, who knows when that will be. (Acidic soil could have dissolved the bones, but that’s not as interesting to contemplate.)

Another possibility is that colonist Captain Shapley is hiding Major Montgomery’s bones until his name is featured on the plaque marking the site where Montgomery met his end. History states that Jordan Freeman killed Montgomery, yet in Stephen Hempstead’s account of the battle, he wrote that Major Montgomery was killed “having been thrust through the body whilst in the act of scaling the walls at the S.W. bastion, by Capt. Shapley." Did I just discover something that could change a few words in a history book? I asked Jonathan Lincoln, Park Supervisor, about the discrepancy.

Lincoln replied, “We did a little investigating. One of the other contemporary accounts of the Battle of Groton Heights by George Middleton states that Capt. Adam Shapley and Jordan Freeman killed Major Montgomery with long pikes. Rufus Avery’s account does not mention the manner of Major Montgomery’s death at all. Stephen Hempstead’s narrative is the only one that only mentions Capt. Shapley in the killing of Major Montgomery. I think it is safe to say that both participated in the death of Major Montgomery.”

I don’t blame Captain Shapely if he is annoyed his name didn’t make it on a plaque after doing something historically significant. If I ever do something for the history books, I’d want a plaque too!

The Daughters of the American Revolution named their Groton-based chapter after Anna Warner Bailey. As a member, I attend their meetings held at the Fort Griswold Museum. When I enter and leave the main meeting room, I often take a moment to gaze at Anna’s portrait in search of clues in her expression. Does she hold the secrets to this sacred ground?

[i]  (Clarke, 1997, p. 168)

6/21, 2:30pm: Famous Gungywamp Site Hike!

The “Tomb Chamber” revealed after a hurricane in the mid-1950s in Gungywamp.
Don't miss this rare chance to visit this famous, yet very hidden site! I saw its mysteries featured on national TV before moving here and was thrilled when I finally had a chance to see it.
I included some of my discoveries there in this excerpt of my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail:

Now that I lived closer to the Atlantic Ocean than ever before, would I have more hurricanes to fear? 


Hurricanes produce an endless supply of stories and uncover secrets as they rearrange the  landscape. In the mid-1950s, a hidden underground chamber was revealed in Groton when a tree toppled over in a hurricane. The raised root system revealed the opening of what some believe was a tomb—a great addition to the collection of mysterious ruins hidden in the woods in an area called Gungywamp . 

Another intriguing ruin at that site is the calendar chamber. In pure Indiana Jones fashion, during the spring and fall equinox, a small vent in the calendar chamber allows the mid-afternoon sun to shine into it. The sunlight creeps along the wall until it reaches a smaller connected chamber, which it then illuminates.  

Theories about the original builders of these ruins, which were once homes and animal shelters among Stonehenge-like rock configurations, alternate from aliens and Celtic monks, to Native Americans and colonists. With artifacts ranging from arrowheads and stone tools, to a copper 1742 "ha'penny" and a century-old whisky bottle, it is obvious that several cultures throughout the ages called this site home.[ii]

Another hurricane could reveal more in Gungywamp, or better yet,  a shipwreck might become exposed—something I could discover while walking along the shore.


Summer Solstice at Gungywamp
June 21 @ 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
457 North Gungywamp Rd, Groton, CT United States
+ Google Map

At Gungywamp the woodland warblers are singing. The pileated woodpeckers are calling and mysterious stone structures of Gungywamp are saying nothing. Let’s take an afternoon walk through the woods and see if we can “hear” what they can tell us. $5/member; $8/nonmember Call 860-536-1216 or click here to register online.
Find out more »

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Presentation: The 7 Wonders and the Mystic Seafarer's Trail

Need a presenter for  your group? I am available to speak on the "7 Wonders and the Mystic Seafarer's Trail."

Finding adventure in Mystic, Connecticut, named top "100 Adventure Town" by National Geographic.
Key talking points:
My search for adventure and "The 7 Wonders of Mystic" (a project I proposed to the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce." Will discuss the little-known facts behind the "7 Wonders":


Wonder #1: Whaleship, Charles W. Morgan & How to Boat “Mystic Style”

Wonder #2: Mystic Aquarium’s “Crowns” (Home of Titanic exhibit) & Shipwrecks and Shoes

Wonder #3: The Hanging Gardens of Enders Island & How to Make Friends in Mystic

Wonder #4: Mystic River Drawbridge & Under the Drawbridge People

Wonder #5: Elm Grove Cemetery Arch & Captain Sisson’s Gold

Wonder #6:  Mystic Pizza Restaurant Sign & How to Get in a Movie

Wonder #7: Mystic Train Depot & Hurricane of 1938
Will also discuss:
Secrets behind Amelia Earhart's Wedding
"Lost at Sea" and Mystic cemeteries
Shipwrecks off Watch Hill
Creeping sights and sounds--ghosts?
I finally had a chance at an epic adventure when a blind sailor invited me on a long winter voyage.  
Stories will include:
Excerpt from Chapter 1: Wanted: Epic Adventure
Shortly after stepping out of my new home with my hound for our first stroll through the historic seacoast village of Mystic, Connecticut, a woman pulled over in her van and yelled, "Excuse me."

Assuming she was a tourist wanting directions to Mystic Pizza or some other attraction, I wasn't prepared for what she really wanted to know: "Do you realize the back of your skirt is tucked into your underwear?"

What a debut in my new hometown—I don’t think this is what National Geographic meant when they named Mystic one of the top 100 adventure towns in the United States.

Once recovered from my wardrobe “malfunction,” I continued toward downtown Mystic with Bailey, a beagle/basset hound mix, to embark on a new life and shake off my old, sedentary landlubbing ways.

About Lisa Saunders:
Lisa Saunders is an award-winning writer and TV host living in Mystic, Connecticut, with her husband and hound. She works as a part-time history interpreter at Mystic Seaport, is an instructor at New London Adult & Continuing Education, and writes publicity material as an independent consultant. A graduate of Cornell University, she is the author of several books and winner of the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations Gold Medallion. As the parent representative of the Congenital CMV Foundation and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she has spoken on a variety of topics at venues including Cornell University, West Point Museum, The Washington Independent Writers Association, USA 9 News, Fox CT, and to international audiences at conferences co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lisa holds writing/publishing workshops for children and adults.
Visit Lisa at www.authorlisasaunders.com or write to her at: saundersbooks@aol.com
Next event:
Lisa Saunders will coordinate and present at:

Mystic Writer's Colony Open Mic
Thursday, June 19, 6-8pm
Bank Square Books, second floor
53 W Main St, Mystic, Conn.
Fee:  $5 for presenters, $2 for audience (includes light refreshments)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Whaleship's 38th Voyage Kick-off


After a five-year restoration, the Charles W. Morgan will depart Mystic Seaport to begin her 38th Voyage on Saturday, May 17 at 9:15 a.m.  The ship will travel to New London, the first stop on what will be a nearly three-month journey to historic ports in New England.  Please find below the scheduled timeline for the departure of the Charles W. Morgan on May 17:

 ·         8:15 a.m. Gates open to visitors

·         8:45 a.m. Farewell Ceremony in the Shipyard  

·         9:15 a.m. The Morgan casts off the dock (timed with the 9:40 a.m. Highway Bridge, 10:04 a.m. Train bridge, and high tide)

·         The Morgan will be escorted by tug for the complete trip

·         The Morgan will also be accompanied by multiple support and other vessels (some down river only, others all the way to New London):

o   The Stonington Fireboat

o   The Charles W. Morgan and tug

o   Whaleboats rowing

o   Steamboat Sabino

o   Launch Necessity

o   Fishing vessel Roann

o   Other privately owned vessels

·         The Morgan is expected to arrive at the New London City Pier between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Please note: Timing of the ship’s departure is subject to change due to inclement weather or other unexpected situations. If the Charles W. Morgan cannot depart at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, the departure will be postponed to Sunday, May 18 with the farewell ceremony beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the Morgan casting off at 10 a.m. Please check the Museum’s website for updates on departure plans and other news about the 38th Voyage.
In the news:

·         For the first time in 93 years, a 19th-century whaling ship sets sail” – Smithsonianmagazine.com
·         The last, luckiest ship”  - Martha’s Vineyard Magazine
·         Mystic Seaport’s shipyard director on a whaler’s restoration” – Boston Globe Magazine
·         The 38th Voyage: Morgan Readies to Sail Again” - The Day
·         Whaling ship Charles W. Morgan sailing from Mystic on historic voyage” – Connecticut Magazine
·         Charles W. Morgan to set sail this weekend – WFSB Channel 3
·         Historic whaling ship to set sail this weekend – WTNH Channel 8
·         The 38th Voyage in Yankee Magazine’s 2014 Maritime Festivals and Events

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Recipe: Jennie Lind Bread--Details Hidden in the Grave

The following recipe was called "Jennie Lind Bread" by Julia Gates* (buried in Lower Mystic Cemetery). She was the sea captain's wife I featured in my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail. In my last newsletter, I highlighted her incomplete Plum Pudding Recipe. Readers wrote in how to complete it (see previous post).

Anyone care to complete the following using standard measurements (rather than "lump of butter  size of an egg")?  This is what is recorded in Julia's hand-written recipe (Jenny Lind was a famous Swedish opera singer, known as the "Swedish Nightingale," in Julia's time. From Sept. 1850-May 852, Jenny Lind traveled throughout America giving concerts arranged by P.T. Barnum):

Jennie Lind Bread

(Recipe from  1990.005.0084  Haley Collection, Mystic River Historical Society, transcription by Beverley A. Gregg, Mystic Seaport Museum.) I corrected most spellings and punctuation:

1 quart flour (what is this in cups?)
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 lump butter the size of an egg (how much is that cups or tablespoons?)
4 teaspoons cream tartar
2 soda (2 teaspoons of baking soda perhaps?)
Mix flour, butter, sugar & cream tartar together, & soda and milk.
Then what do you do?

Cindy Modzelewski just sent in this link that hints at the answers: https://www.google.com/search?q=jennie+lind+bread&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari
She believes an egg-size measure is approximately 1/3 cup. If anyone tries to make this, please let me know how it turned out and what your exact measurements were.

* According to the Mystic River Historical Society: "Julia Fish Gates was born in Mystic River, Connecticut, May 16, 1831, and lived there most of her life. She married George Washington Gates in November of 1853, after he had taken command of a Mallory vessel. Following her marriage, Julia accompanied her husband aboard vessels in the Galveston area and on at least one voyage to Liverpool, England, between January and April of 1857. The fist of their five children was born in April of 1858, and at this time they owned a home on High Street in Mystic River where the family lived while George continued his career at sea with the Mallory firm until 1877. The recipe book was begun by Julia during this period. Julia died in September of 1884."


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Secret to Plum Pudding Recipe in Grave

I became interested in Julia Gates (buried in Lower Mystic Cemetery) when the Mystic River Historical Society showed me her mournful Christmas letter to her husband. Fearing he was lost at sea, she didn't feel like preparing for Christmas, but knew she had to for the sake of her children. Here is an excerpt of her sad letter from my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail, followed by Julia's incomplete recipe for plum pudding.

In December of 1871, while the residents of Mystic were preparing for Christmas, Julia Gates was sick with worry about the fate of her husband, Captain George Gates. He had left New York for San Francisco on August 18th on the Mystic built ship, Twilight. It had been five months since Julia heard from him.  She had every right to worry in those perilous days when sailors still rounded Cape Horn to reach San Francisco.

Julia’s brother-in-law, Captain Charles H. Gates, and his son were last seen a year and a half earlier on June 1, 1870, embarking from San Francisco for England. As I wrote in an earlier chapter, they, along with 22 other crew members, were never heard from again.   

In Julia’s time, the voyage from New York to San Francisco took a bare minimum of three months. One week before Christmas, Julia wrote to her husband: 

Mystic River, Dec 18th, [18]71

My dear George,

When I sent my last letter, I thought I should certainly hear from you before I wrote again. but as yet there is no tiding from the Twilight and I am feeling great anxiety. It is five months today since you left New York and the time to me seems very long.  There is not a single moment that I am not thinking about you. I am daily and hourly hoping to receive some intelligence from you…

To live day after day in suspense is very unpleasant. I can hardly settle my mind to anything…I expect you will think I have got a fit of the blues. I do feel blue sometimes and I can not help it. But I shall feel better when I hear from you.

The children are very well. They are enjoying the sliding down the hill.  It rained yesterday and froze last night so today everywhere is ice. The Lot south of the house [218 High Street]. They slide the whole length with the Sled…The weather looks very much like a snow storm…

This is a busy week with those that are preparing for Christmas…but [I] do not feel much interested in it. The children are talking about Christmas gifts. And of course will expect something.  And the thought occurs, where and how will you spend Christmas Day. I do hope I may hear from you before next Monday [Christmas].  if not it will be a sad day to me…”

With love hoping to soon hear from you.       yours, Julia [i]  

Julia's Plum Pudding Recipe:
1/2 loaf bread soaked in milk, 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 pound suet, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, fruit  and spice. [2] 

 Questions for you, Dear Reader:
How much salt? Which fruit? What spice? What is suet and where do you get it? What do you do with these ingredients?

Answers to my questions as of 5/3/14:
I received the following e-mail from a nutritionist:
"Suet is the solid white fat from a beef animal, mainly from around the kidneys and internal organs. The one time I made a traditional plum pudding and needed suet I got it from a butcher.  Not a supermarket meat section where everything is already pre-packaged and wrapped in plastic, but a store with a real, live butcher.  He didn’t charge a cent for it, since in his point of view it was going into the waste bin. Suet is also used along with seed for winter bird feeders."
Dr. Elisabeth Schafer, author of Vegetable Desserts: Beyond Carrot Cake and Pumpkin Pie

When I asked Dr. Schafer if she would share the recipe she made it from, she said,"I no longer have the recipe but the family judged it 'okay,' not 'great.' We have so many better ingredients available to us today than did Julia, that I doubt most people would want to make and eat something with a chunk of solid fat.  I still make a steamed pudding for Christmas dinner but I use butter or margarine.  Better flavor, better health value.  Guests, who don’t even know what went into the pudding, generally ask for seconds."
Cindy Modzelewski sent this online recipe that gives us an idea of how it was made: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Superb-English-Plum-Pudding-20010

If any of you actually tries making it using Julia's known ingredients, please let me know how it comes out and I'll post your results--good or bad!

[i] Letter from the Haley Collection of the Mystic River Historical Society.  Used by permission.
[2]. Recipe from  1990.005.0084  Haley Collection, Mystic River Historical Society, transcription by Beverley A. Gregg, Mystic Seaport Museum

To find out what happened to Julia's husband, please refer to Mystic Seafarer's Trail.