Today's History Highlights Archive

Comma Wars and Freeport Sea Captains in Today’s History Highlights – 8.23.2013

Did the Beat Generation authors Jack Kerouac and William Boroughs really get arrested in Lowell, Mass., for fighting over the use of a comma? Given the history of the two volatile writers, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of the possible. But in reality, the idea just stems from a couple of history buffs in Lowell having a little fun with Jack Kerouac’s legacy. The idea was cooked up by the owners of one of Lowell’s historic mills, Mill No. 5. Cocktails were involved, you’ll be shocked to learn. The two decided to embark upon a “fauxlore” project and install plaques around their property for events of dubious authenticity, such as the “Quaker pushcart riot, of which the less said the better,” the plaque reads. Kerouac, highly regarded by literature professors but not universally revered in his hometown, where he was a famous drunk, seemed a perfect choice. The plaque embroiders the tale further by pointing out that Kerouac included the episode in his novel ‘Doctor Sax,’ chosen, the creators say, because everyone claims to have read the book, but no one has. The fabricated details in the plaque were an immediate tip off to Kerouac fans that the item was a joke. But it still gathered a large social media following. The original can be seen here.

The New Hampshire Historical Society is showing off some of its new toys, items newly acquired for their collection of Civil War nurse Sarah Low (1830-1913).  Born in South Berwick, Maine, to Dr. Nathaniel Low and Mary Ann Hale, Low moved to Dover with her family in 1833. When the Civil War broke out, she moved to Washington, DC, for 2-1/2 years, and worked taking care of Union casualties at the city’s Union Hotel and Armory Square Hospital. “These items belonging to Sarah Low while she was a nurse during the Civil War will enhance the collection of letters she wrote to her family at the same time, which were donated to the Society in 1965. These images of nurses, hospitals, and African Americans are unusual, especially since they are still in their original album and are in excellent condition,” the New Hampshire Historical Society announced. More about Low can also be read at the Dover Public Library’s page devoted to her diaries. Included in the diaries are several recollections about her friend in the city, Cambridge’s Anna Lowell Woodbury, who went on to establish a cooking school for newly freed African American girls in Washington following the war.

Before Freeport became ground zero for bargain hunters thronging to the town for discounts on everything under the sun, it was better known for its sea captains – merchants who traveled the world and returned home with great stories and sizable fortunes. They could also be fairly strong-willed, as the story of Greenfield Pote demonstrates. A sea captain who made Falmouth his home, Pote was fined by British authorities in 1765. His crime? Setting sail on a Sunday when he should have been keeping the Sabbath.  The captain was not one to take these things lightly and determined to leave Falmouth for the hinterlands of Freeport, and he did. But he also decided to take his house with him, and he ordered it moved from Falmouth Foreside to a spot on Wolfe's Neck in Freeport, where it stands today as the oldest house in Freeport. One of Pote’s descendants is working on a documentary about the house and its history.

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While we're on the topic of movers, today's Flashback Photo is a defense worker moving into a prefabricated house, part of the emergency defense housing project run by the Farm Security Administration in Hartford, Conn., during World War II.

Today's Flashback Photo...

Hartfort Conn Mover

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