Chapter 10




A more uninviting spot for a town site than Marblehead presents was never discovered. The granite crags and backbones that make up the surface of Cape Ann are here at their sharpest and boldest. A bare summit of rock, a sunny green hollow between, was the scene looked on by the little body of fishermen who laid the foundation of Marblehead. The harbor, a deep, sheltered cove extending two miles into the rocky heart of the cape, was the great attraction to these men, whose houses were built along the water front. The steam cars land you in the modern quarter; to get over to old Marblehead it is necessary to walk or ride a fraction of a mile to the water-side. Here are deserted, barnacled old wharves, to which only an occasional collier or lumber schooner "ties up," dim, empty storehouses, retaining a faint, ghostly smell of cod and mackerel, and no end of narrow, winding streets and alleys, lined some with quaint little boxlike houses, others with large, once stately dwellings.

Follow State Street east till it terminates in a waste of boulders and ledges, and you have on the right, at


In Olde Massachusetts

the extreme point of land guarding the entrance to the harbor, an old fort, but never a sentry to challenge your coming, nor gun to dispute your passage. This is Fort Sewall, named after the Hon. Judge Sewall, built in colonial times for defense against the French and Spanish privateers, that were often seen hovering off the coast. I have never looked on a wilder scene, one more suggestive of wreck and death, than these rocks at the entrance of Marblehead harbor sharp, jagged, serrated masses, they resemble the teeth of some huge monster widespread to crunch the bones of anything which should enter. Terrible indeed must be the scene when an easterly gale sends the surges of the Atlantic booming in here unrestrained. What a roar, what gnashing, what floods of milk-white foam and uplifted spray when the two forces meet!

One should defer first impressions of the town until, passing down Pond Street, he has stood in the old burying-ground, the first in Marblehead. It lies scattered amid the crags on high ground near the sea, abreast of the old fort, but overlooking it. The town, the harbor, Marblehead Neck with its summer cottages, the blue sea with its islands, lie outstretched before one. The dead in this old churchyard lie about in the hollows wherever sufficient depth of soil for interment could be found. Some of the tombstones are very old and bear quaint inscriptions. One on the south side reads, "Here lyes ye body of Mary wife to Christopher Lati




Marblehead Scenes 

mer aged 49 years deceased ye 8th of May 1681." Her husband has a stone near by dated 1690. Over the hill is another stone with a notable inscription: "Here lies ye body of Mrs. Miriam Grose who deceased in the eighty first year of her age and left 180 children grand-children, and great grand-children." What more honorable epitaph could a matron desire? Near by lies Elizabeth Holyoke, "wife to the Rev. Mr. Edward Holyoke born Feb. ye 4th 1691, was married August ye 18th 1717, and died August ye 15th 1719 leaving an infant daughter of eleven weeks’ old." Mr. Holyoke was one of the early presidents of Harvard. A cluster of five brown tombstones in a hollow near the crest of the hill calls attention to the place of sepulture of four early pastors of "the First Church" in Marblehead, and the wife of one. The first pastor was the Rev. Samuel Cheever, who died May p29, 1724. Next him sleeps his colleague and successor, the Rev. John Barnard; his wife, Anna, rests beside her husband; next her stone is that of the Rev. William Whitwell, who died in 1781; and the fifth commemorates the Rev. Salem Hubbard, whose death occurred in 1808. Two of the graves have Latin inscriptions on the headstones. A group of brown-stone tables near by marks the graves of the Story family, the Rev. Isaac Story, an uncle of the famous jurist, being one of those commemorated.

Seats are placed at intervals on this outlook ground,



 In Olde Massachusetts

and should the reader be so fortunate as to visit the churchyard on a Sunday, he may find the bench on the crest of the hill occupied by sundry rugged skippers of the famous old Marblehead fishing fleet. They love to gather there of a Sunday morning or evening, look out on the sea and down on the roofs of the town, mingle reminiscences, and mildly criticize the ruling powers.

Coming upon them on a bright afternoon, we found these worthy citizens most communicative, and a few questions served to elicit some very delightful reminiscences. They heartily agreed in our commendation of the outlook. "You see the farthest island yonder with the two lighthouses on it," said one; "that’s Baker’s Island, a skipper’s landmark for the port when returning from the Banks. That little islet this side is Half-Way Rock, half-way between Boston Light and Cape Ann. Right in the path of shipping, and never a vessel struck on it yet. Lowell’s Island comes next, with the big summer hotel on it, built by a Salem man; it didn’t pay, though; people wanted to be where they could step ashore now and then; ‘twould ‘a’ burned down long ago if there’d been insurance on it. The old fort on the Point there Fort Sewall is a relic, built in colony times and named after Judge Sewall. There is a nice little story too connected with it. A few years before the Revolution one Sir Charles Franklin was sent here to repair it, and stopped at the Fountain Inn, whose roof you can see down yonder under



Marblehead Scenes 

the trees. There was a maid servant there Agnes Surrage very pretty. Sir Charles was heard to say she was the prettiest woman he had ever seen. He found her one day barefooted scrubbing the stairs, and asked her why she didn’t wear shoes. ‘If you please, sir,’ said Agnes, droppin’ a courtesy, ‘I’m savin’ ‘em for meetin’.’ Whereupon Sir Charles declared she should wear shoes every day, sent her to school, educated her, and many years later in Lisbon, after his wife had died, married her. The gossips said the great earthquake frightened him into it.

"All through the war of the Revolution the fort defended the town. In February, 1814, there was great commotion within its walls. The drums beat to arms, and all the people flocked to the hill to learn the cause of the disturbance. Several British cruisers were off the coast in those days, and they now saw two of them chasing one of our vessels, the gallant old Constitution, as it turned out. She ran far enough to get a good position, and then turned and thrashed the Britishers handsomely took ‘em both into Boston, the frigate Cyane of thirty-four guns and the sloop of war Levant of twenty-one guns. It is really too bad for Government to let the old fort go to ruin. There ain’t a bit of a garrison, you see, only a custodian, who lives ‘way over there, and takes a walk through the old fort may be once a week to see that ‘taint carried off piecemeal by visitors."



In Olde Massachusetts

We asked about the Story tombs and the family of the Chief Justice.

"Oh, yes; he was a Marblehead boy," they replied. "His father, Dr. Elisha Story, practised here all his life, married a Marblehead girl, and is buried in the Green Street yard. The Chief Justice was born here, schooled here under Master John Bond, and went from here to Cambridge. His uncle, Isaac Story, who lies yonder, was pastor of the Congregational Church in Marblehead for many years."