, Newburyport, MA


August 6, 2013

A string of coincidences

To the editor:

After retirement in 1995, I was prompted to work part-time for a company in California. As one of their small number of representatives and living in Newburyport, I picked up samples of new products from Shaw’s, Market Basket, conducted audits among other minor duties. I never met Kim, the owner, personally; all our business was conducted by phone or email.

In 2011, while on vacation in San Clemente, Calif., I finally met her for lunch. With a vivacious personality, she was well-suited for running a business catering to clients such as Kraft Foods and Proctor and Gamble and many smaller companies. Last year, when we met again, discussion included her new-found interest in genealogy. Kim said that she found that one of her early ancestors, a Rev. Thomas Parker, came over on the Mayflower. I told her that the Parker River, named for him, was close to my home in Newburyport.

That started me sending her historical input from “The History of Newbury,” selections from “Roger Williams” and other artifacts from the Cushing Museum. This year, she brought to lunch her young daughter, Allison, who has the same name as my daughter. We talked about New England and her interest in visiting here; she has never been further east than Michigan.

This summer, a chance visit by me to a simple graveyard on Route 1A in Newbury proved most enlightening! I had passed by the sign several times a week, but had never taken the time to investigate: “The burying ground of the first settlers 1635.” When friends from New Jersey visited us for Yankee Homecoming, we walked into the area, neatly spruced up by local church members. At the entrance, a small box contained a three-page pamphlet telling the background of the graveyard.

Imagine my surprise reading the first paragraph: “In May of 1635 when the first settlers came ashore on the north bank of the river, their first act was to listen to a sermon by Rev. Thomas Parker.” Headstones mentioned prominent names such as Woodman and a single stone, dedicated to the Hale children, who probably died of disease, stated: Thomas Hale, John Hale, Samuel Hale, Apphia Hale Rolfe.” One stone said simply,”Wife, convicted as a witch by her community. May she lie in peace beyond these walls.”

One other note of interest: I sent pictures of the graveyard and pamphlet to her home address in Newbury, Calif., where she has lived for over 20 years..

Robert D. Campbell


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