NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 19, 2013

This is how Newburyport affects the world

To the editor:

Hidden deep in the basement of the Newburyport Library is the Newburyport Archival Center. What a gem we have in our town!

The Archival Center is a source of information about Newburyport’s past, but do you know it could also be a great place to find out about Newburyport’s impact on the rest of the world?

Take, for instance, the Wheelwright Family (my research interest). They are the family that owned three High street homes: the Brigham Manor Nursing Home (built by Abraham Wheelwright), and (to the left) the Wheelwright house (owned by his nephew, William) and to the left of that, the Ebenezer Wheelwright house (Ebenezer was Abraham’s brother and William’s father). Three of the grandest homes on the street!

What many people don’t know is that Abraham’s niece was Tamezin Eustis (born in Newburyport). She moved to the Midwest and married George Donner, the leader of the Donner party. That group was accused of cannibalism when they got stuck in the Sierra Nevadas. Tamezin saved her children by sacrificing herself — she was the last settler eaten by the survivors.

Did you know that Thomas March Clark (born in the Clark-Currier Inn on Green Street, and Abraham’s grandson) became the Episcopal bishop of Rhode Island?

Or that Abraham’s great-grandson was Edmund March Wheelwright — the Boston city architect in the late 1800s. He designed the Longfellow (“salt shaker”) bridge (plus many other Boston buildings) and co-founded the Harvard Lampoon along with his brother, John Tyler Wheelwright.

Edwin Land was the Steve Jobs of his day when he started Polaroid — but few know that Polaroid was actually started by Land with George Wheelwright — Land’s Harvard professor and mentor — and Abraham’s great-great-great-grandson. George passed away in 2001 in California.

Newburyport’s tie to cannibals, bishops, the salt shaker bridge, the Harvard Lampoon and Polaroid. All that, and more, is in the Newburyport Library’s Archival Center ... it’s worth a visit, and our support!

JACK SANTOS

Newburyport

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