About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Monday, December 2, 2013



Some of you must like prowling around back roads looking for ancestral houses or any interesting houses, sometimes with an ancient family cemetery nearby.  That is what I like to do; especially to head to Maine in the fall when the leaves are falling and there is the smell of wood smoke in the air.

I had never visited the towns in Maine where my ancestors, including my grandmother, Myra, had settled until I was an adult and my children were not so little anymore.

One nice autumn day in the 1970s I determined that it was time to get acquainted with this place I had heard about all of my life. I loaded three resistant kids into the car and headed to Maine from my home in Newburyport, MA.  I had already obtained a copy of a map, circa 1870, that included family names.  It seemed to me that it would be easy to locate the homesteads of the Richmonds and the Bryants.  If you read the posts about my grandmother, Myra, you know a little of what I am referring to.

After making some inquiries in the small town of Hebron, someone told us to talk to a local historian.  An accommodating resident in the local store even called ahead and the homeowner/historian was awaiting us. Much to my immense surprise she knew my grandmother and even my father. She, Lucy Eurydice Henderson, (called Aunt Dicey by another relative)  was related to us!  I had no idea we had any relatives up there.  Myra had left almost about eighty years before.  How could anyone here possibly know us. How could I have known how many people my grandmother had kept in touch with after she left in the 1890s?  Everyone was aware of  Myra through her correspondence and reputation as an authority on genealogy of the region.

Lucy showed us her house including the niche in the kitchen wall made for a clock when the house was built circa 1860 by her grandfather, Abiel Bowman..  The original clock was still ticking in its niche!  After giving us apples this  83 year old jumped into her Scout and led us to the little family cemetery where the Bryants are buried.
House built by Abiel Bowman in 1860
From there we took off on our own and readily found the location of the Richmond homestead although the old house had burned long ago.  Here I was, driving around unfamiliar roads with a map from 1870.  It seemed normal enough to me!  The kids thought it was insanity as I referred to the map and looked for curves and cross roads.  Actually, it worked out quite well and I loved the countryside and views, feeling a real attachment to this unfamiliar place that held my roots.

Perhaps fifteen years later when my sister came from Ohio to visit we headed out again for Maine.  She had been there once as a young woman and had even spent the night in the old house. Hospitable people lived there at the time. With my old map I retraced my steps driving uphill for several miles out of South Paris on East Oxford Rd.  We revisited the Richmond homestead site and the old cemetery next door.  Then we headed four miles to where I had searched for the Bryant homestead without success.

According to the map it should be right here.  But right here was a 50s ranch house.  It seemed pointless to keep looking but there were people in the yard of the red ranch so we stopped and approached them.  We asked if this had been the Bryant place years ago.  They responded that, no, this was not the Bryant place but named another family name that was unfamiliar.  We said that we were looking for an old house to which they responded, “This is an old house.”  We stared in disbelief.  Next they added, “You should see all our big beams.”
The red ranch house on Back Street in Hebron , Maine.  Would you
believe that it is hiding a two hundred year old cape and that the front used to
be on the gable end or that the ridge pole used to go in the opposite direction?
After that came the inevitable old wives tale.  It seems, reported the owner, that in early days they added on another room every time a new child was born.  This house, they said, had a really strange room.  It was right in the middle of the house.  It had no outside walls.  There were only windows into other rooms. It must have been from adding on in a strange way after another child joined the family.

Bingo!  I got it.  Old house… huge chimney in the middle… removed…a windowless room where the big square chimney once rose through the center of the house. These people didn’t offer a house tour which we would have liked but they did bring out an ancient photo of an old center chimney cape facing south, not facing the road like the red ranch.  This was the Bryant homestead!  The south facing front of the house was now the gable end of the house.  The roof had been removed and the ridge pole was now going the opposite way so that the house would face the street. I felt sure I had found it at last.

Before leaving we asked if there was any historian or old timer around we could talk to.  They told us about Roger who had always been there in the summer but they weren’t sure we would get anywhere. Roger, they reported,  had spent his working career in the CIA and kept to himself; and was only there in the summer months.

We were tired, it was late, we were a long way from home.  We were convinced we had found the house we were looking for, let’s forget about Roger.  We headed south toward Massachusetts

After a few minutes I abruptly changed my mind.   I was thinking we might never get back there again.  I thought we should turn around and look for Roger and we did.

The story of the red ranch and the visit to Roger will continue in the next post so please check back in a few days to find out what happened.   We did find Roger and the outcome was one of those events so unbelievable that, as the saying goes, "I could not have made it up!"

To be continued.



  1. What a wonderful story! I also love looking for ancestral homes - I guess it is just the connection to ancestors long gone. I first gather all the old deeds I can from he state archives. Then with the internet I find the location on google maps. It surely saves hours being lost - ask me how I know about driving for hours - lost on country roads! I am looking forward to part 2 of the story!