January 25, 2013

A Snubbed Young Mother Repaid Emily's Pride with Kindness

My sister told me this story recently and it really caught my imagination.  I was thrilled to see it printed up and published in a magazine!  Here's the article by William G. Hartley as published in 1981.  I wish the illustration was there with it.

Here is the link:  Emily's Pride by William G. Hartley

I wish I knew the name of the young mother who showed such grace and kindness to my relative Emily Abbott Bunker.  Perhaps a reader knows who she was.  This unnamed heroine could have given Emily a good tongue-lashing for her snotty comments.  Instead she showed grace and compassion.  She set a good example for all of us!

Emily Abbott Bunker, recipient of undeserved kindness

January 22, 2013

George Felt Jr.'s Attempt at Heroism Cost Him His Life

George Felt Jr.’s Attempt at Heroism Cost Him His Life       

By Melanie Jensen Johnson
This story might be titled, “Don’t Be a Hero!”  I wonder if our hero’s wife said that very thing.  For George Felt Jr. died while trying to retrieve food for his family and perhaps save his property from the invading American Indians.  

George and Phillippa Felt lived under constant threat of attack in Casco Bay, Maine.  Although George traded with the natives, there was a very fragile truce between the two peoples.  George and the other settlers of Casco Bay built their homes in such a way that they were within sight of each other, so as to keep an eye out for one another.   And they built  fortified homes on each island in the area, as places of refuge and trade.

Trading with the Native Americans and owning land were the keys to wealth in the early settlements of the 1600’s in America.  George learned both trades from his immigrant father George Felch.  Like him, George Jr. prospered using this formula—farm a homestead and trade gun powder, liquor, blankets and other commodities for valuable furs and fish.  (Corey)
By 1875, George and Phillippa owned several parcels of land and even some islands in Casco Bay, an amazing feat.  Some of the land had been given to them by Phillippa’s wealthy widowed mother; other parcels they had bought with the proceeds of trading.  Among the properties the Felts owned were Lower Clapboard Island, Three Brothers Island, and Little Chebeaque Island.  They made their home on the mainland in Mussel Cove, within view of these lovely islands.

Thanks to Google maps for images used to make this map
It must have been a happy life, living with their children on a cliff overlooking these beautiful islands.  THEIR islands.  But it didn’t last.

In 1675, King Phillips war broke out.  Native Americans attacked George’s neighbor’s homes.  Smoke rose from the burning houses.  George gathered his family into a canoe and paddled around to their homes for a better view.  When he saw neighbor’s belongings in the water and scattered along the shore, he knew they needed to find refuge.

Paddling across to Cushing Island, George knew that there was a fortified stone house on that island.  Other families were huddled in the cellar of the home.  In their haste, they hadn’t brought much provision with them.  One night, some of the men sailed to their homes to retrieve some gun powder, to defend themselves if necessary.

A military group stumbled onto the refugees, probably looking for shelter themselves.  The leader, Captain William Hathorne, enlisted the men in the group and commandeered their boats.   But the civilians were all getting hungry.  And they were worrying about their possessions.  Some of the men had left their wives and children at home, which also worried them.

George was among the group of seven men that asked Hathorne for permission to go to nearby Peaks Island to round up some sheep for food.  Hathorne refused, asking them to wait a bit longer.  He hoped things would settle down and allow the families to return to normal life soon.  The men insisted, taking a small boat and rowing to Peaks Island on  Saturday, 23 September, 1676.

The seven men quietly landed and went ashore.  Native Americans saw them and attacked!  The men scrambled to the fortified home on that island.  Or at least what was left of it.  The Palmer family had fled when the Natives had burned the home to the ground sometime earlier.  The ruins offered some shelter from the attackers for a time, but eventually the gunshots and stones hurled at the huddled men killed them all.   An eyewitness said that the natives set fire to what remained of the home to finish the job.

Had Phillippa begged her husband to ‘not be a hero?’  Or had the howls of her hungry children persuaded her to urge him on?  We may never know.  But we know that the family keenly felt the loss of their husband and father.  With him gone, holding onto the property became impossible.  They all ended up living in Salem where they rebuilt their lives.  

Disclaimer:  This was written using currently available resources in good faith.  Author is solely responsible for content. 

Works Cited

Corey, Deloraine Pendre. The History of Malden, Massachusetts, 1633-1785. Malden, Massachusetts: Self, 1899.
Johnson, Melanie Jensen. "George Felt Jr. and Phillippa Andrews Felt."  Saints, Witches and Murderers. 22 Jan 2013. 22 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013

George Felch/Felt Gave Heirs a Strong Start in a Free Land

George Felch/Felt Gave Heirs a Strong Start in a Free Land

By Melanie Jensen Johnson
George Felch probably would not feel comfortable being labeled a hero.  He probably felt like a complete failure.  After all, at the end of his life, he and his wife relied on the kindness of strangers for their support.  They were effectively beggars.  But I believe he was a hero, at least to me and all of his other descendants.  Let me explain.

George Felch felt stifled in England.  He had ambition—he wanted to make more of his life than what he could in England.  He refused to do what generations of working-class Felch’s had done before him in Bedfordshire, England—rent.  He wanted his own land to farm and improve, so he could pass it down to his descendants and change the future.  His hunger drove him to do something crazy.  He sailed for America.

It was risky and George knew it.  As a trained Mason, he probably wasn’t sure he could fight American Indians, hunt wild animals, live in a cabin, or clear forests for farmland.  He had heard stories of the difficulties.  But he knew he could build homes and farm the land.
George joined Captain John Endicott’s company and landed in 1628 in the New World.  After a while in Salem, George settled in Charlestown where other Bedfordshire natives had come to live.

Newly chartered Charlestown officials gave out 5 acre plots of land to eager settlers.  George happily accepted his first acreage, right next to Widow Wilkinson’s acreage, on the ‘Mystick Side’ of Charlestown (now Everett.)  Soon he was keeping company with the widow’s daughter Elizabeth and the couple was married around 1633.  

All places are approximate.  Thanks to Google Maps for template to draw map.
George built a home, probably more like a cabin,[1] on his property in Charlestown, cleared the land and planted crops.  He learned to trade with the Native Americans, and he bought more land.  By 1638, he and Elizabeth were the proud owners of his original 5 acres in Charlestown, 20 acres of forested land in modern Malden and 38 acres of wetlands in modern Woburn.  The family even had a milk cow.  George had the land he wanted and a family with whom to share it.  His family grew quickly—6 or 7 children were born to the couple between 1634 and 1651.  

George learned to trade with the Native Americans—alcohol, blankets, gun powder and beads for valuable furs and fish. (Corey)  Trading with the Native Americans made George wealthy.  George built a larger home on another 5 acres in modern Everett.[2]  And he put his wealth into land.  He bought 300 acres in Casco Bay, Maine, looking to relocate there eventually.   He built a small stone house on that land, making a trading post for his interactions with the Native Americans during trading season.

When George Jr. married in 1662, George made a gift of 40 pounds to his son.  And he followed that up with a signed deed confirming his intent to leave George Jr. 60 more pounds in his will.  George must have felt the full extent of his hard work and enterprise.  He truly had broken free of the constraints placed on peasants in England.  And he promised to share this wealth with his kids.

Now that he was trading so far from home, George and Elizabeth planned to move to Casco Bay.  In 1664, they sold all the lands they had so carefully gathered in Charlestown.  They moved to Casco Bay that year, bringing the younger children along.  Their son George Jr. also settled there with his family.

With the American Indians a constant threat, the homes were built so as to allow the settlers to keep an eye out for each other.  George built his newest home near what were called ‘Felt’s Falls’ right on the coast in Broad Cove.   It must have been a beautiful place for a home, the falls having been described as where ‘the creek at Cumberland Foreside come tumbling into the sea.’  The creek was large enough to power a mill in subsequent years.  It must have been a fantastic property upon which to retire.

George bought another 2000 acres in Casco Bay he wanted.  He said he lived on it for 3 years before paying 60 pounds for it in 1670.  Life went on pleasantly for George until 1675, when American Indians attacked the settlers in the area.  George and Elizabeth fled to safety, as did George Jr. and his family, having seen the smoke from neighboring homes as evidence of the invasion.  For three years, the ‘savages’ destroyed all the hard work of these early settlers was gone.  And George Jr. died at their hands.  

George and Elizabeth had lost their home, their farm, and their oldest son.  A developer claimed their 2000 acres, and sold it to new settlers.  With 200 acres of raw land, but too old now to redevelop it, they gave it to their son Moses and grandson George 3rd.   They moved to Malden where daughter Mary lived with her husband James Nichols.  But Nichols didn’t want to care for ‘ould ffelt;’ instead Nichols petitioned the town to pay for their support as they lived with other families.  

In another plea of support, George wrote to the town of Malden,
…Some time after the late Indian war it was withheld from me by some of the inhabitants of said Town of Caskoe Bay and being by said war much impoverished I could not recover it out of their hands.  I also am now forced to suffer for want of convenient care taken of me in my present distresse being about eighty seaven year’s old and very crasy and weak.

Although the couple was new to town, and destitute, the town of Malden supported the old couple off and on for 11 years until their deaths in 1693-1694.  They were among the earliest citizens that became town charges of Malden town.  

George came to America to build a future for himself and his posterity.  Land in America was the key.  Although he was amazingly successful at creating this wealth in his lifetime, King Phillips War and a developer’s claim stripped him of this wealth.  Although things didn’t work out the way he had planned, he still passed on to his posterity a toe-hold in a free country, where his heirs could build a wealth of their own.  That makes him a hero in my book.  

Disclaimer:  This was written using the information available at the time it was written.  The author did her best in good faith to represent George and Elizabeth Felch accurately and kindly.  Author is solely responsible for the content.

Works Cited

Corey, Deloraine Pendre. The History of Malden, Massachusetts, 1633-1785. Malden, Massachusetts: Self Published, 1899.
Johnson, Melanie Jensen. Saints, Witches and Murderers. 22 Jan 2013. 22 Jan 2013 .

[1] The home was described as located on the south west of the mill hill, butting southward upon the Charles river. 
[2] This home would have been at the corner of Ferry and Chelsea street in Everett.  This home stood over 200 years, having been owned by Revolutionary War Patriot Daniel Waters.  It had been enlarged by subsequent owners, but George handcrafted the core.  It was demolished in 1850.  

Updated 22 Jan 2013

January 1, 2013

Kerry Albright, The Miracle Baby of the Buffalo Creek Flood, Gave Hope to his Father and Community

Robert and Kerry Albright, photo courtesy of Readers' Digest
Over Christmas, we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus, who had been born to save the world.  Without Him, we would all be separated from God and our families forever because of our sins.  I'm so grateful for His birth, His gospel teachings, and His sacrifice.

Today I read a story of another little baby boy who was just as precious to his family.  Kerry was adopted by Sylvia and Robert Albright when he was born because his young mother couldn’t care for him herself.  The family considered it a new start, since they had just lost a grown son named Terry in the war in Vietnam.  They had another son Steven who was preparing to leave for college soon.  They must have hoped that Kerry would fill the void they felt in their lives.

When Kerry was just a nine months old, a dam broke above the family home, flooding the town.  Steven was in the backyard when the water rushed in.  He ran in for his mother, who grabbed Kerry.  Sylvia and Steven waded through thick mud in their backyard, trying to reach a nearby hill where the neighbors had gathered on higher ground.  As they neared the hill, with floodwaters now up to their chests, Sylvia could tell they wouldn’t make it.  She flung baby Kerry toward friends on the hill.  Kerry landed in the water and swept past the onlookers, just as Sylvia and Steven lost their footing.

Hours later, the town preacher and his son were looking for survivors in the muck about a half mile downstream from the Albright home.  They had heard faint crying and dug into the muck, pulling up a naked baby.  Using a hankerchief, they wiped out his mouth and Kerry gasped for air.  Wrapping him in one of their coats, they brought him to a nearby surviving house.  Robert’s sister-in-law, a nurse, lived there.  After cleaning him up and washing the mud out of his mouth, Robert's sister-in-law recognized him as Kerry Albright.  

Robert Albright had just finished his coal mining shift, was stunned to see the devastation that had been his home.  Neighbors gave him the sad news of his family.  Stunned, he went to his sister-in-laws home where his sadness turned to joy when he saw his son Kerry.  Kerry had a deep gash on his upper thigh and was bruised and bloodied, but he was alive.  Robert said, “He was coal-black all over, he looked just like a tar baby.  He had a whole patch of skin tore out of his head, and his leg was cut to pieces.  They had been working on him – trying to get all that gob out of his throat.”  

It took Robert 4 hours in a borrowed 4 wheel drive car to get through the rubble to get Kerry to the hospital.  Doctors didn’t give Kerry much chance to survive his wounds, but they sewed up his leg and bandaged him up.  And Robert held him close.  People called him the miracle baby. It truly was miraculous that he survived, when so many able-bodied adults lost their lives.   

Robert was distraught at losing almost his whole family.  He asked, “Why in the world would God take my wife and my boy and leave this baby like this?  Why couldn’t he have taken me?”  But he saw how much little Kerry needed him.  He devoted the rest of his life to caring for his remaining son.  Suffering from ‘Black Lung’ from his many years working in the coal mines, he qualified easily for disability benefits.  Robert retired to take care of Kerry.  He learned how to bathe him and feed him and mend his clothes.  He learned how to cook simple meals and take care of their home.  And he learned how to rock Kerry to sleep.  Robert said, “It was just like a whole lifetime went with a snap of a finger.  I tell you, if it wasn’t for that child, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Kerry recently said, “There’s really no logical explanation for why I survived.  But my father had been through the deaths of his wife and two sons.  All he had left was this baby he’d adopted.  I think I gave him something to live for.”  He credits his mother for saving his life and his father for giving him a good life.

Today, 40 year old Kerry Albright lives in New York City.  But people in Lorado, West Virginia always think of him, the Miracle Baby, when they remember the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972. One survivor, Gertie Moore, says that Kerry gave the whole town hope.  She said, “He became a representative for all of us in the flood.  He’s a very fortunate young man to still be with us.  He was always a fine young man.  You can’t think of the flood without thinking of the miracle baby.”

Every child is precious.  Kerry was just the blessing Robert needed to give him a reason to go on with his life after so many losses.  God gave Robert and the whole town hope through Kerry's miracle.  We should never doubt that Heavenly Father is watching over us all and knows what is best.  I'm grateful that God sent His son to give us the chance to be together forever as families with God. 

Nugent, Tom.  Death at Buffalo Creek.  New York. 1973.  p. 92-.  Found on 1 Jan 2013 at http://buffalocreekrevisited.wordpress.com/book-excerpt/
Warnick, Melody.  “I Was the Miracle Baby.”  Readers Digest Jan 2013, pgs. 88-97.
WVOW Radio Homepage, “Readers Digest to Feature Miracle Baby.”  http://wvowradio.com.  n. page. Web. 31 Dec 2012.