Friday, October 8, 2004
Two stories of Carlisle's early residents
"To the right!"
"To the left!"
"Close up the center!"
These were the yells early Carlisle resident Mary Chandler Heald may have heard one morning from the hunters outside. The year was 1693, and the scene took place near the area of what is today South Street. A bear was on the loose, one so quick and sly it had easily escaped the hunters' dogs and traps and was taking its fill of the local crops. Mary's husband, Lieutenant John Heald, and a few other settlers had gathered their guns and hounds to hunt the bear. As the barks of the hounds and the calls of the men grew louder, Mary realized the hunt was fast approaching their home.
Fearing for the life of her infant, John, the story is that Mary quickly closed all the doors and windows, snatched up her rifle, left her sleeping son in his cradle and raced outside. She ran to the swampy area of the forest nearby, and waited for the bear to approach. Heavy footfalls and rustling branches warned her of the bear's arrival. Mary stood her ground, as the bear rose to its full height upon seeing her and charged at her, growling and waving its furry claws. Mary did not flinch as she held the rifle to her eye and pulled the trigger. The gunshot and resounding roar of the fallen bear echoed through the surrounding forest, alerting the hunters nearby that someone had shot the offending bear. The men's expressions were ones of astonishment when they rushed upon the scene, seeing Mary standing over the bear as it attempted to rise. The bear soon died. The men raised a cheer for Mary and her accomplishment, and she received between thirty and forty dollars for the bear coat.
While this story may or may not have happened, the persons in the story were real people. Mary Chandler Heald was the daughter of Isabel and Roger Chandler who came to America on the Mayflower. She lived in Chelmsford and married Lieutenant John Heald, moving to a house near the border of Carlisle and North Acton. Near them stood the house of James Adams, Carlisle's earliest resident who had originally arrived in America from Carlisle, England. In future years the Valleyhead Hospital would be constructed near this place, which places the story location on Carlisle's own South Street. Carlisle itself was first made into a district in April 1754, having only 60 families. It was made into a second district in 1780 and finally achieved official recognition as a town in 1805.
Some of the interesting facts about Carlisle at the time include: the native people in this area were the Musketaquids, a tribal village that was one of many villages known to comprise a larger regional tribe, the Massachusetts.
Also in America during this time period, the famous witch trials had occurred the year before in Salem. While it is unknown where Lieutenant John Heald and Mary are buried, they are not in either of Carlisle's cemeteries, leaving a likely resting place to be in Acton or in a private cemetery.
The Blood family
Another folktale of Carlisle's early days concerns some members of one of the oldest families in Carlisle, the Blood family. Unfortunately there is no date to pinpoint the tale's era, but the story is as follows. In a season when honey was plentiful, it was a tradition in the Blood family to hold a honey party. They would celebrate the season and sweeten their drinks with the wild honey. On one occasion, a group of the Blood boys decided to go and hold their party, but one of the boys was too young to go, and was told to stay behind. The spot planned for the party was the old Andrews-Bailey house on Maple Street. It was empty and thought haunted, making it the perfect place for a honey party. The boy not allowed to join the party was fed by a desire to enjoy the wild honey, and so came up with a plan. That day, he snuck into the old house early, and hid himself beneath the stairs, waiting for his brothers to come.
As evening approached, the boy's older brothers rode in on their horses, shouting and calling to each other. The group soon sat down to a party of honey and rum, having a great time. Suddenly in the midst of music playing and the boys chattering, an eerie groan was heard. Silence filled the room. Then the groan came again, this time underneath the floorboards. The boys did not wait any longer; they bolted from the house as fast as their horses could race. Waiting until the sound of the horses' hooves faded in the distance, the youngest Blood boy crept out of his hiding place, helped himself to a bit of the honey and rum, and gathered it all up and went home, announcing his great trick.
While no more facts are available concerning this folktale, it is known that the Blood family first arrived in Carlisle around 1653, beginning with brothers Robert and John. Robert ran a sawmill for a few years, and in the early days the Blood family owned more farms than any other family in Carlisle. During this time period the Native American currency wampum, which was comprised of small sea shells on string, was still in use and would be for seven more years. While many members of the Blood family rest in Green Cemetery, it is unknown exactly where Robert and John are buried. Also some of the information presented by Martha Fifield Wilkins, author of The Wilkins Volumes, was partially learned by hearsay and personal accounts. That is part of what makes a legend so mysterious, the story may itself be fiction, or coming from actual fact.
The details of both of these tales, which can be found in Volumes 5 and 6 of The Wilkins Volumes, are in the Gleason Library. Other information was found in the book, Carlisle: Its History and Heritage, written by Ruth Chamberlin Wilkins and is sold by the Carlisle Historical Society.
Ed. Note: Erin Johnson currently attends Creighton University as a senior pursuing a degree in history. Her parents live on South Street in Carlisle. Last summer she completed an internship with the Carlisle Historical Society, and this past summer she volunteered her time to conduct research.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito