Return to Camelot – #24

Last January, several months before I left on my trip, I saw an item in Yankee Magazine about St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. 

On September 12, 1953, a grand 19th-century church in Newport hosted the closest thing to a royal wedding New England had ever seen, as a floppy-haired freshman senator from Massachusetts married a debutante photojournalist. Today that historic event—the wedding of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier—is re-created each Tuesday, July through late October, inside the church where it happened.

I added it to my list of things to see.

JFK wedding

In the first week of October, I happened to be camping in Massachusetts and decided to drive to Newport on a Tuesday afternoon.  Google got me to St. Mary’s Church in good time, and I parked in the lot across the street.

St M exterior 2

There was a group of about 30 people there for the afternoon’s presentation known as Return to Camelot.  The presenter was Father Kris, pastor of St. Mary’s, along with a young man named Cody who is the Organist and Music Director.

Father Kris

Our tickets had a copy of the wedding invitation printed on the back.  


There was a video montage of vintage film clips and wedding photos.  Jackie’s step brother recorded his memories of the day a few years ago, and those were included.  We learned that Jackie’s wedding dress was made of fifty yards of silk taffeta.


John and Jackie stood in a receiving line for 3 hours greeting 1,300 reception guests. 

Cody, the organist at St. Mary’s, played and sang selections used at the wedding. 


After the video presentation, anyone who wished could have their photo taken at the very same kneeling bench used by the Kennedys. 

St Mary’s church was established in 1828, and this present building was constructed in 1848.  It was designated as a National Historic Place in 2008.

Old post card


On my way home, I passed the exit for Fall River, Massachusetts.  Fall River…  Why did that sound familiar?  Oh yeah, Fall River was the home of Lizzie Borden.  I thought about trying to find her house but decided to end my day on a positive note and keep driving. 



My Witch Grandmother – #23

Almost 326 years to the day of her execution, I visited Salem Massachusetts to see where my 8th great grandmother, Margaret Stephenson Scott, was hung as a witch on September 22, 1692. 

Salem sign

She was accused, tried and had the misfortune of being in the very last group of eight victims executed in Salem. 

TrialThe governor shut down the trials shortly thereafter and those in prison were pardoned.

The historic residential streets of this pretty town are far removed from the horrors and injustice of the witch trials.

There are stone benches around the Witch Trials Memorial Green.  Names of the twenty victims are carved into the benches.  I saw notes and flowers, some from descendants like me.  A note on Margaret Scott’s bench read: “We visited today… Your 10th great granddaughter… We keep your name alive in our lives.  We remember you in our prayers….” 

Walking by each bench, I was troubled as I read the names of those unjustly executed and their last words, now etched into stone.  

I can deny it to my dying breath

I am not guilty

Oh, Lord, help me! I am wholly innocent of such wickedness

I am wronged

God knows I am innocent 

My ancestor Margaret Scott, had been a widow for 21 years.  She lost 4 of her 7 children in childhood.  She was impoverished.  All these factors converged to make her different, and she was accused by one of her neighbors as a witch.

Accuser color

As a widow myself, I was left with a lot of questions.  Where were her friends and family?  Were they also afraid of being accused in the hysteria that gripped Salem?  Margaret had a son, Benjamin Scott, with a family of his own.  With the fears of the time, perhaps he was reluctant to come to the defense of his mother. 

The church is commanded to care for widows and orphans.  Where was the church?  The minister, Samuel Parris, was a controversial figure and his own teen aged daughter may have been one of the accusers. 

In 2017, a new memorial wall was dedicated at Proctor’s Ledge, site of the hangings.  One prominent speaker remarked, “We would like to think that we’ve learned from the evil and traumatic choices made 325 years ago. We would like to think we’ve become better people. The truth is the lessons of Salem are not just learned once, but must be learned and relearned by each generation.”

Walking the streets up to Proctor’s Ledge, I felt a profound sense of injustice. I can imagine the last 8 victims being taken there by cart, knowing the tree and rope were for them.  There was no appeal or recourse.  They had been accused, there was a verdict, and now there would be hangings.

Proctor's Ledge 3

In an interesting footnote to the trials, an ancestor from the other side of my family, Aaron Way, was present at some of the trials.  He is on record as being opposed to the belief in witches.  Aaron was put in stocks for speaking out.



Randolph and Quincy – #22

Randolph, Massachusetts is the town where my dad was born and grew up.  I looked forward to spending time there and seeing some of the same houses, buildings and streets he knew as a boy.  Things have changed a lot in the 100 years since he lived in Randolph, but I saw many structures and landmarks that would have been familiar to him. 

Randolph sign

Driving on Russ Street and Wilson Street, I looked for the house where Dad’s family lived until 1920.  An old plot plan of the area indicated where the house should have been.  I saw only a newer home… surely not the house I was looking for.  I drove on down the lane and suddenly, there was an outcropping of rocks right in the middle of the street.  I remembered an old photo of my dad with his mother and baby sister and felt pretty certain that these rocks were the same ones. 

Quincy is not far from Randolph.  My grandparents lived in Quincy before moving to Randolph, and other relatives lived there, as well. There are two houses on Ridgeway Street built by my Leake kin.  The green house was constructed by great-uncle John Leake.  The tan-colored home was built by great grandfather Thomas Leake.  Thomas later moved to Alberta, Canada,  and built a similar-looking house in Spirit River. (See Blog Entry # 9)

As a 9-year old, my dad lived in his Uncle John’s house for a short time.  After Dad’s father died, his mother parceled out the younger children to other relatives for a few months.  Behind these homes is the Sailor’s Home Pond.  Dad remembered his parents ice skating on this pond when he was a little boy.  Summer & Winter views.

One other stop in Quincy I wanted to make was to see the grave of Ronald Blake, a brother my dad never knew.  Ronald died when he was just 6 years old.  The cause of death was meningitis with complicating factors of middle ear and mastoid disease.  In the days before antibiotics, Ronald was unable to fight this infection. Rest in peace, Uncle Ron.

Ronald J Blake

On Sunday, I visited First Congregational Church of Rochester which was near my campground.  It was established in 1703.  This building dates from 1837. 

On the way there, I had to stop for these guys to cross the road.

Also near my campground was the global headquarters of Ocean Spray Cranberry.  Mmmm…. Turkey and cranberries.  Must be getting close to Thanksgiving!


Lexington, Concord and Waltham – #21

One rainy afternoon, I drove to the Lexington Visitors Center in Lexington, Massachusetts to take the Liberty Ride, “a 90-minute tour along the Battle Road Scenic Byway”, according to the brochure.  I was not disappointed.  Our costumed guide was also a Revolutionary War re-enactor and he shared his interest and knowledge of the Battle of Lexington with our group.


The tour stopped at Lexington Green, site of the opening battle of the Revolutionary War.  British soldiers marched through Lexington on the way to Concord to seize and destroy arms the Americans had hidden there.  A statue commemorates Captain John Parker who commanded the militia.   


Paul Revere rode through the countryside waking up every able-bodied man and alerting others to ride to neighboring farms.  We drove past Revere’s capture site.  I must have missed that page in my history book because his capture was new information to me. 

Revere2We also went to Minute Man National Historic Park.  Our guide took us to the North Bridge which spans the Concord River.  There was an important standoff between American patriots and British forces here. 

Bridge3One hundred years after the battle, a statue was placed at the west end of the bridge.  The artist, Daniel Chester French,  also sculpted the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.  On the base of this bronze sculpture are inscribed words by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.”  The statue captures the spirit of ordinary farmers who took up arms against the British.


Our route took us through Concord which was home to several notable American authors including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  Louisa May Alcott also lived here and wrote her famous Little Women in this house. Alcott2In a nearby house and yard, Concord grapes were developed by Ephraim Bull in 1849.  They say the original vine is still growing.


 I loved this tour and am glad I happened to see the brochure for it. 

Leaving Lexington, I drove a few miles to Waltham.  I found the home of my dad’s grandmother (Nana).  Dad spent a lot of time there as he was growing up.  Sometime around 1920 when Dad was 7, his father became seriously ill and could no longer work.  The whole family—parents and 5 children—moved in with Nana.  My dad’s father lived only 2 more years before dying here in this house in 1922.  

Waltham house

I would have loved to peek inside, but it’s a multi-family dwelling now.

The Waltham Watch Factory is a prominent structure along the Charles River.  Precision watches were produced here for over 100 years.  Some of my dad’s family held jobs in the factory.  I drove by to see what it looks like today.  The building is being leased for office space and luxury loft apartments. 


On the way back to my campground, I was treated to a few glimpses of fall color.


Meandering in Massachusetts – #20

My dad’s family was from Massachusetts.  He was born in Randolph and lived in The Bay State until he was 17.  I knew I wanted to spend a significant amount of time there.

Welcome2 My first campground was near Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum that recreates a village from 1830.  Many historic structures have been moved to Sturbridge, and costumed staff inform visitors of what American life was like nearly 200 years ago.



The Quaker Meeting House was across the street from a sheep pen.

I chatted with a woman who was spinning wool and then climbed aboard a stagecoach for a ride. 

Lunch was at Bullard Tavern where I enjoyed cranberry stuffing and mashed potatoes with roast chicken.

Cranberry stuffing

Each of the costumed staff was well informed.  They were knowledgeable about their roles and village life and were happy to engage in conversation. 

Hearing the Boston dialect reminded me of my dad and extended family: 

  • Howa you
  • Ah, you shouldda seen it this mawnin’. 
  • That’s up toward Worcester [pronounced Woostah… go figure]

Driving away at the end of the day, I spotted these geese grazing in the meadow.

Sturbridge geese

A few days later, I connected with folks I knew in California.  They have lived in the east for a few years.  Damon & Cynthia were parents at the school where I served as librarian near Temecula.  Their super-reader son earned an unsurpassed number of points in our school’s Accelerated Reader program.  It was fun catching up at Kimball Farm, which, by the way, has the best homemade ice cream ever!

Massachusetts friends



New York City #19

I spent a day in New York City.  My young friend Caroline, from my part of southern California, married a New Yorker and lives in the city.  We arranged a day to meet.  Driving in the city did not appeal to me, so I looked up train stations within driving distance of my campground and found one in Dover, New Jersey.  The schedule showed which trains went directly to Penn Station without having to transfer. 

Google maps got me to Dover in good time and there was all-day parking for $2.50 in a lot near the station.  Ticket machines for the train were on the platform.  I was glad I had taken MetroLink rides in Southern California and was somewhat familiar with the ticket process.  A round-trip ticket was $14.20 (senior rate).  After getting on the train, I settled in for the hour ride into NYC.  

My friends met me at Penn Station, a bustling, multi-story transportation center.  We bought tickets for the subway and then headed for a cute restaurant called Jack’s Wife Freda that served Mediterranean food. 

I was impressed with Caroline’s mastery of the subway system.  She knew which trains were express, Streets vs. Avenues, and whether buses or trains are faster in certain areas.  Her husband, a native New Yorker, explained Soho and Tribeca to me.  I had heard these terms, but never knew they referred to specific areas known by their street names.  Soho is South of Houston (pronounced How-ston).  Tribeca is Triangle Below Canal. 


After lunch, we took the subway again and then walked a few blocks to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.  I’m trying to solve a family mystery and wanted to go there to request a decades-old document.  (That’s another blog entry.)  I was able to do what I needed and then we walked to Woops, a nearby sweet shop.  


The previous day had been very rainy, so we were glad for sunshine and blue skies. 


I had been to NYC a few years ago and visited many of the tourist attractions.  This trip was to catch up with friends over lunch.

Lorraine Caroline Brian close up

One more trip on the subway and we were again at Penn Station.  I was able to get on my train — an express with fewer stops!  Getting off at Dover, I sent up a prayer of thanks for getting me everywhere I needed to be at the right time this day, and for the safe return.  


The Catskills – #18

Leaving the shores of Lake Ontario, my route took me along I-90, close to the historic Erie Canal.  A friend told me to watch for the Jell-o Museum near Batavia where she grew up.  I saw the sign, but didn’t stop. 

After fishing in my wallet for change every few miles, I decided to invest in an EZ-Pass at one of the roadside service plazas.  This device attaches to your windshield and you can roll right through the toll plazas without stopping.  It was $25 to activate, but that counted toward my tolls from then on. EZ-Pass is good in 16 eastern states, many of which I would be driving through.

Passing through Syracuse, I headed south toward Accord, NY.  There were signs for tourist attractions in the Catskill mountains.  Oh!  I guess I’m in the Catskills.  I saw “kill” in many area names:  Sawkill, Saunderskill, Fantinekill and discovered it is a Dutch word for creek or river.   

The next day I unhitched and drove a few miles to Kingston, NY to do some errands and get groceries.  There were historical interest signs along the road and on many old homes. The narrow street where I parked was near the post office and the Old Dutch Reformed church, established 1659.  There was still time on the parking meter and the church had an interesting looking cemetery, so I decided to wander over there.


 For years, I had heard about an odd tombstone engraving, but I always thought it was a made up story… until I saw it on one of these 200-year old graves!

Reader behold as you pass by

As you are now so once was I

As I am now so you must be

Prepare for death and follow me

This was on the headstone of 24-year old Susan Heermans.  Who would even put that in stone? Why not something like Beloved Wife or Rest in Peace?  I guess it was a different time.  

I much preferred this engraving for a 26 year old man:

My flesh shall slumber in the ground

Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound

Then burst the chains with sweet surprise

And in my Savior’s image rise

The streets of Kingston were narrow, so it was good I wasn’t towing the trailer.  This was an interesting area I wouldn’t mind exploring further.

Northern New York – #17

Driving through the northeast corner of Ohio, Lake Erie began to come into view.  Soon I was in Pennsylvania, enjoying the green fields, clusters of trees and open vistas.   It took about an hour to cross this part of Pennsylvania.  My phone spoke the words, “WELCOME TO NEW YORK!” (it always startles me when I cross state lines), and I became acquainted with the New York State Thruway Authority

Traffic slowed to go through the toll station.  An employee handed me a ticket.  I thought to myself:   Toll booth people do this all day, day after day, in all sorts of weather?  This could easily be mechanized.  

As I drove through New York, I passed turnoffs for cities with names like Ripley, Silver Creek, Lake Erie Beach, and Lackawanna.  After about 80 miles, I left the thruway and paid $11.80 for my car and trailer to a toll collector in a booth.  (Again, this could easily be mechanized.) I wondered how much I would be spending to cross the rest of the state!

Toll collector

I put that thought on the back burner and paid attention to getting through Buffalo, NY safely with my trailer.  There were narrow streets because of construction barriers, narrow lanes on very high bridges, and just plain terrible (rough pavement) roads.  But I made it to my campground:  Four Mile Creek State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario.

The next day, I unhitched from the trailer and drove my car into Canada.  It makes me a bit edgy going into another country.  The border agent took my passport, noticed my tinted windows and said, “Roll down your back window please.  Why are you coming to Canada?”  “I’m visiting my cousin in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”  “How long will you be staying?” he asked.  “Just today,” I replied.  He handed back my passport.  “Welcome to Canada.”  Whew.

I was coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake to meet my double third cousin, Suzanne.  We are double cousins because our great grandparents were two Leake brothers who married two Scott sisters, so we share DNA from both sides.  Suzanne and I met at Corks, a charming restaurant on Queen Street across from the old 1847 courthouse.  We saw a horse and carriage from our window seat.

Even though Suzanne and I had never met or even knew about each other until a few weeks ago, we both have the same family stories and some of the same old family photographs.  People say we look alike.  We are just 2 weeks apart in age.  I loved meeting and getting to know another cousin!


I had some Canadian money left from my Alberta province visit earlier in the summer, so I used it to buy gas.  Crossing back into the US, the border agent looked at my passport and asked, “Why were you in Canada?”  I told him I had been there to visit my cousin.  Then he asked, “Did you buy anything?”  I told him I bought lunch and gas.  He handed the passport to me and waved me through.  (These border crossings have been way more stressful for me than learning to tow or hitch up the trailer!)

On the way back to my campground, Google told me to turn left, but I actually needed to turn right.  I had taken the same wrong turn the day before, so I knew I would need to go about 3 miles before I could turn around.  I was grumbling at Google as I approached the place where I turned around before.  Then I noticed signs for Niagara Falls.  Oh, OK.  The actual Falls.  I’m this close, so I may as well see it.  I’m so glad I did!

The next day was cold and rainy.  I decided to try out the trailer oven and bake pumpkin bread. Cousin Millie and Rob had sent a home-grown pumpkin with me when I was at their house on the California desert in July.  It traveled well in perfect condition until I used it in September!  I’m glad you have a green (orange) thumb, Rob!


Chased by the Calendar – #16

After leaving Missouri, I sensed that my window to get to the northeast for fall foliage was shrinking.  I would need to hurry across the next few states to be in New England by mid-September.  I’ve been told that the peak time for fall colors is mid-September to early October, depending on the weather.

Crossing into Illinois, I stayed in a nice family-owned campground out in the cornfields of Mulberry Grove. 

The next day, I drove to Indianapolis and spoke with an RV dealer about some warranty work.  They could get me in the next morning.  I stayed the night at a campground in the city.  It was hard to back into my site (I thought I might end up in the fish pond!) but it was a quiet spot for one night.  Indy Lakes

I returned to the dealer in the morning, and the technician finished the repair work by mid-day.  On the Interstate again, I encountered thunderstorms and pulled off for awhile at a roadside rest.  Driving across the Ohio state line late in the afternoon, I decided to camp in Buck Creek State Park in Springfield.  Usually I have my campgrounds lined up a week or two ahead, but because of the repair work, I wasn’t sure where I would be.  Buck Creek was spacious and beautiful. 


The next day I covered a lot of Ohio, passing turnoffs for Columbus and Cleveland.   My destination was a campground in eastern Ohio and dinner with friends and former Californians Brian and Ruthie.  Brian pastors a church in Mentor, Ohio.  We met at a Mexican restaurant in the quaint town of Jefferson and enjoyed conversation over a delicious meal.Brian & Ruthie

In the morning, the camper across from me came over after noticing my California license plate.  She and her husband are also from California and travel all over the US following Jet Car racing.  She handed me a business card for her son, jet car driver David Douthit who races the Black Pearl.  (I meet the most interesting folks while camping!) 

Black Pearl

She warned me about gas prices in Pennsylvania, and toll roads in New York.  Oh no… toll roads!  I checked my wallet to make sure I had cash for what was ahead of me as I crossed into those states.  (I may do an entire entry on toll roads.  Don’t get me started.)

Meandering in Missouri – #15

Leaving Iowa, I headed south toward Kansas to spend time with a friend from Hemet.  I’ve known Christina since she was a little girl.  It was so fun to be with her family for the afternoon, meet her children and say hi to Drew.  They are a military family, proudly serving our country!  Christina sent me off with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Then I drove across Kansas City to Independence, Missouri.  I had arranged to meet Twila at the Genealogy Library where she works.  Twila and I are 3rd cousins and Facebook friends, but we had never met.  She gave me a tour of the amazing Midwest Genealogy Library.  This is genealogy Disneyland for anyone interested in family history.  The library has city directories, passenger ship lists, microfilm, microfiche, periodicals, state of the art equipment and more.  Patrons can digitize an entire carousel of slides at one time, or put microfiche documents onto a flash drive.  Much of the library’s collection is Midwest focused, but not all.  An example:  I found my great grandfather’s name in an 1880 Boston city directory. 

Twila and I walked to Square Pizza for dinner.  The city was getting ready for “Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival”.  Never heard of it?  Me either.  It commemorates the origin of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails during the great westward expansion of early pioneers.  Twila and I drove around Independence, and she showed me more of this interesting city.  I definitely need to make a return visit! 

The next day was a drive through Missouri farmland, lakes and rivers to my nephew’s house.  I passed Missouri’s capitol, Jefferson City, and saw Lake of the Ozarks.  My nephew expertly parked the trailer next to his house and welcomed me into their family’s life for the weekend.  Great nephew Randy showed me a few chords on his ukulele.  A friend in Oregon gave me a ukulele and I’m learning how to play! Uke

The next day, we visited the old courthouse (now a museum) in Waynesville and then stopped at Meramec Springs state park, site of a beautiful spring and trout hatchery.  My nephew took us on parts of historic US Route 66, we browsed a specialty gift shop with a giant rocking chair, and chatted with the proprietor of the Wagon Wheel Motel, a vintage Route 66 business, built in 1934. 

Cuba, MO (on historic Route 66) features unique murals painted on the sides of city buildings.

Later that weekend, we all got involved making apple pies with apples picked from a friend’s tree.  The pies were delicious!Pies

Before sending me off, my nephew helped me with a couple of issues on the trailer.  I loved being with my family for Labor Day weekend.   Heart