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


Part one of this story ended when on the spur of the moment I decided to turn around and return to Hebron to look for the man named Roger who knew about the history and genealogy of the area.

Retracing our steps we returned to the little road called Back Street as we looked for the house where Roger lived. Once again we passed the red ranch house, the old cemetery and drove on until we found Roger’s house. It was a charming country place with a sunken garden in the space that had once been the cellar hole for an old house long gone.  In the yard was a hand  pump on top of an old well.
This is the country house Roger built on the site
 of an old farm.  He stayed  here in the summer only.
On his  mailbox it said Shepardsfield.  I wondered why it would say that on Roger's mailbox.  I already knew where Shepardsfield was.  Shepardsfield was the name of the rural neighborhood where my grandmother, Myra, and my father had lived in the Richmond house built in 1798 by our ancestors,  I knew Shepardsfield was about four miles distant. Why would it say Shepardsfield on Roger's mailbox?  This neighborhood was not Shepardsfield.  Maybe he simply called his house Shepardsfield.  I thought that a bit odd.  I was mulling that over as I approached his door.

A handsome elderly man opened the door.  My exhausted sister remained in the car. It had been a very long day and I guess she thought this was a “wild goose chase" if ever there was one.  This attractive elderly man quickly confirmed that the red ranch was indeed the Bryant homestead.

I couldn’t resist asking him why it said Shepardsfield on his mailbox.  It took a moment for me to absorb his answer.  “I always liked the name." said Roger.  "That was where Cousin Myra lived.”

 " Cousin Myra!  Myra who?”, I asked?  "Cousin Myra Paine”, said this gentleman..

“I’m Myra’s granddaughter.”  I managed to stammer.  Now it was his turn to be momentarily stunned!.
Cousin Roger at the age of ninety, a distinguished gentleman
He told us this story.  He grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  His father worked for the Bureau of Standards in Washington.  Each summer they returned to Maine by car, stopping both going and coming for a brief stay with my grandmother, Myra, in Massacusetts before proceeding on to Maine and on the return trip to Maryland.  Roger’s grandmother, Amanda, who always lived and traveled with them, and my grandmother, Myra, were very close first cousins.  Roger knew my parents!  He had been in my house!  His mother and my father were second cousins.  He and I were third cousins.  My brain was having a hard time processing this sudden turn of events.

Cousins Amanda Pratt Merrill (L) and Almira Bryant Paine (R) in front
of Myra's pillared house on a visit with Myra on their way to Maine .
The surprises didn’t end there even though our visit was very brief.  He was off to have dinner with yet other unknown cousins of ours in Lewiston. My head was bursting. But the best was yet to come.

“I have something you’ve never seen,”  said Roger as he scooted back into the house returning with two oval  gold frames; portraits of my great great grandparents, Desire Richmond and Zebulon Bryant, the couple whose house we had been searching.  These ancestors were born in Massachusetts shortly after the Revolutionary War but, incredibly,  they had lived long enough to have had their pictures taken.  How lucky could we be?
Desire Richmond Bryant
In the ensuing weeks Roger sent me photocopies of these portraits along with the picture of his grandmother with my grandmother.  They are not great copies but they are beautiful in my eyes. Prim little Desire Bryant and kindly looking Zebulon stare out at me every day from their antique oval walnut frames hanging on my wall. How could I ever have imagined that there were actual extant pictures of these ancestors, born so terribly long ago, or that I would ever find them in the hands of a complete stranger on a back road in Maine at dusk?

Such are the rare coincidences or lucky breaks that seem to happen in the pursuit of ancestors and old houses.

There is one more surprising story yet to be told  in the next post.  Stay tuned for the last chapter to follow with more revelations from Roger!.

Zebulon Bryant

Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

  1. What a great great story! Please hurry and write the next part as I am really enjoying your posts. When I read the name Paine I became excited because I have Paine ancestors... but alas, yours are from Mass. and probably are the Mayflower line and mine were Quaker coming to the colonies later in the 1600's settling in Jersey. How very lucky you are to have such early photos.