Monthly Archives: November 2013

Get into the ho-ho-holiday spirit

Be prepared to be shocked: We’re daring to break the taboo and discuss the holiday season before Thanksgiving.  Actually, we did that a week ago when we put up holiday decorations, but that’s another story for another time.

Please don’t be upset with us – we just love the holiday season  in the North of Boston region.  And at least we’re not starting our holiday shopping on Thanksgiving (we have the decency to wait until after midnight, when it’s officially Friday).  So, get into the spirit with us and check out these great holiday events!  (For more holiday events, visit http://www.northofboston.org/holiday

SleighBell2013ImagecopyWenham Museum’s Sleigh Bell Artisan Fair
November 22 – 23, 10am-4pm
Shop local and support your community this holiday season at the Sleigh Bell Artisan Craft Fair this Friday and Saturday. Silhouette artist Carol Lebeaux will be at the museum all weekend creating keepsake hand-cut portraits. Reservations are recommended and walk-ins are welcome. Pulitzer Prize author Paul Harding will be signing copies of his newest novel, Enon on Saturday at 1:00pm. Donate an unwrapped toy to Northshore 104.9’s 18th Annual Holiday Toy Drive. Artisans will be generously donating 20% of their sales to Wenham Museum.   http://wenhammuseum.org/adultprogramsandbenefits.html

samanthatreeSalem Holiday Happenings
November 29 – January 1, 2014
Celebrate, shop, and dine in Salem during the holiday season. Festival highlights include the annual Christmas in Salem Historic Home Tour, Christmas at the Gables, and Santa’s arrival atop the Hawthorne Hotel!  http://salem.org/calendar_main/festival/salem-holiday-happenings/

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Sea Festival of Trees
November 30 – December 1
From trees filled with up to $1,000 in retail gift cards and concert tickets, to those decorated with original oil paintings, polar bears, angels, trains, music, beach and recycle themes, 85 sparkling trees will delight the senses at the 1st Annual Sea Festival of Trees at Blue Ocean Music Hall on Saturday, November 30 and Sunday, December 1.  Presented by The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, the holiday wonderland fundraiser features Santa’s arrival by fire truck, a winter wonderland electric train display, music and dance performances, strolling characters, a candy shoppe, café and giant 10 foot high x 8 foot X 8 foot whimsical gingerbread house.  Proceeds from the event will benefit Anna Jaques Hospital and the Salisbury Beach Partnership.  All of the 6 foot to 10 foot high lighted trees are being donated by local businesses, organizations, elected officials, student groups and families.  Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets and enter to win the themed trees of their choosing.   Tree winners will be drawn on Sunday, December 1 at 5:00pm.  http://www.blueoceanhall.com/seafestival-of-trees/about-the-festival.html

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Christmas Tree Market SquareSanta Parade and Tree Lighting
December 1, 3:30-5pm
As the holiday season approaches, Santa & Mrs. Claus arrive in the most fitting way for this seaport town… by US Coast Guard boat! Welcome Santa on the Sunday after Thanksgiving as he and Mrs. Claus dock at the boardwalk and begin to parade through downtown Newburyport, then gather in Market Square for the annual Christmas tree lighting and carols. http://business.newburyportchamber.org/Events/details/santa-parade-and-tree-lighting-5835

North of Boston Historical Figures – A Pickle for Your Thoughts

As we have mentioned before, the North of Boston region has a rich history of maritime adventures, witch trials, textile production, and so much more.  But there is a sort of “dustbin” of history full of forgotten legends, stories, and some of the strangest folks you’ll ever come across.  Last week, we shared the story of Hannah Duston – this week, we switch from the recklessly brave to the…well, different.

220px-Timothy_DexterWhen he wasn’t bestowing phony titles upon himself, “Lord” Timothy Dexter kept himself busy with other endeavors.  Born in Madlen, MA, Dexter made his initial small fortune as a tanner – a fortune plumped when he moved to Newburyport and married a rich widow, Elizabeth Frothingham, in 1769 (who, looking back, probably regretted the marriage. We can’t say we blame her…but more about that later).

Lord Timothy Dexter Mansion Newburyport

A vintage postcard showing the Dexter House as it looked way back when.

The house was, to say the least, ornate.  It was decorated with with minarets, a golden eagle on the top of the cupola, and, to make the place cozy, a mausoleum for himself.  On the lawn stood 40 wooden statues of famous men, including George Washington, William Pitt, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, and himself.  Inscribed on Dexter’s statue was “I am the first in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher in the Western World.”  According to some sources, Dexter would change the names of the statues as he felt necessary – Washington would become Pitt, Napoleon became Jefferson, etc.  One of our co-workers at the CVB, a descendant of Dexter, says that he would also name the statues after his enemies.  Today, the statues are long gone, but the house is still there.

To say that Timothy Dexter was not popular among his peers is a vast, vast understatement.  He harassed the local government with volumes of petitions to be appointed to public office.  It wasn’t simply  the amount of petitions that irritated town officials, but rather that Dexter, an uneducated man, wasn’t terribly literate and the petitions were largely unintelligible. Finally, they gave in and Lord Timothy Dexter was named “Informer of the Deer.”  Because, as we all know, deer need to be informed, too.  Luckily, Timothy Dexter was there for the deer if and when they ever decided to show up in Newburyport.

Dexter’s peers, clearly unsatisfied with giving him a ridiculous title, attempted to further their ridicule by giving him horrible business advice.  They advised him to hoard whalebone, bring wool mittens and warming pans to the West Indies, and ship coal to Newcastle, England.  Dexter took this advice and…became a millionaire.  While the people of Newburyport may not have been on Timothy Dexter’s side, luck was.  Whalebone was in high demand as an essential part of ladies’ corsets.  The wool mittens in the West Indies were purchased by merchants who brought them to Russia and the warming pans were sold as ladles for the local molasses industry.  But what about the coal?  Newcastle was world renown for it’s coal industry.  Alas, unfortunately for the people of Newburyport and Newcastle, there was a big miners strike.  Relieved, Newcastle purchased all of Dexter’s coal.  All in all, thanks to the seeingly bad business advice, Timothy Dexter became a millionaire.

Now, back to Mrs. Dexter.  At some point, ole’ Timothy decided that he didn’t really like his wife.  He would tell people that she was dead.  When they saw her walking around the house or through town (very much alive and doing quite well, thank you), he would claim that it was a ghost.  At one point, Dexter faked his own death and staged a funeral to see who would come and what they would say about him, as we all do at one point or another.  The mourning was interrupted when Dexter burst into the room at yelled at Mrs. Dexter during the service because she wasn’t sad enough.  We’d like to think that Mrs. Dexter told him that ghosts can’t cry.

And so, Timothy Dexter came back from the grave and wrote a book –  “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones or Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress.”  In the book, he complained about politics, the church, and his wife (who clearly never caught a break).  Did we mention the book had no punctuation whatsoever and random capitalized letters?  Despite being nearly impossible to read, the book became popular and ran for many editions.

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In the second edition, after complaints about the lack of punctuation, Dexter added a page full of punctuation marks and told readers to “peper and solt it as they plese.”

After reading about and researching Lord Timothy Dexter we can’t help but wonder – why hasn’t there been a movie made about him?

…that and what is the Informer of the Deer? Seriously.  We did a Google search – nothing.

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Newburyport has honored Dexter by naming the city’s industrial park after him.

(A special thank you to – http://voices.yahoo.com/lord-timothy-dexter-newburyport-massachusetts-wealthy-111411.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Dexter for information on Lord Timothy Dexter).

North of Boston Historical Figures – Hell Hath No Fury…

If you’ve ever passed by Haverhill’s Grand Army Park, you’ve probably seen a large bronze statue of a woman.  Oh no, you would have remembered her – she’s visibly angry/irritated, and wielding a tomahawk.  Yes, that statue

haverhill-dustinThis landmark (erected in 1879) commemorates one Hannah Duston, a Haverhill woman who was kidnapped by Native Americans in the late 17th century.  Hannah’s husband and children managed to evade the tribe, but she and her newborn baby were captured.  Hannah and her baby, along with 13 other prisoners, were forced up the Merrimack River, well up into New Hampshire.  According to folklore, the tribe killed Hannah’s baby, prompting a daring, yet gruesome, act of bravery.  One night, Hannah, aided by 2 other captives, seized her opportunity to escape by taking a tomahawk and scalping her captors.  She returned to Haverhill where she was declared a heroine.  Cotton Mather sang her praises and Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry David Thoreau later retold her story, solidifying Duston’s place in history.

According to some sources, Hannah Duston was the first woman in the United States to receive a statue.  While there is some controversy and doubt related to her story, Hannah Duston is certainly one of the North of Boston’s most interesting and unforgettable historical figures.

On a side note, we can’t help but wonder – what is it with historical Massachusetts women and axes?