Personal notes about family history


Introduction

I became interested in January 2000 in writing about interesting family connections and a place where I grew up, especially a place called "Locust Lawn". I wished to create a website linking maps, photos, reminiscences, and history. In December 2000, a newspaper article about the New England Lost Ski Areas Project prompted me to start write about skiing at Locust Lawn. I submitted some information to NELSAP, but didn't really resume work on my website 'til January 2002. See Skiing at Locust Lawn. No more progress made 'til March 2004 when I moved these pages to a new site and re-edited some in the process.

I'm adding pieces slowly, as I encounter them, so these webpages may be under construction for years, possibly waiting 'til I retire and have time to tell the Locust Lawn story more fully. In the meantime, here are some parts of my history and connections.

-- Sandy Nichols Ward


Danvers

I grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, attending public schools there through 10th grade -- including first grade in the one-room Hathorne school, in its last year of service as a school. Construction of the Route 1 overpass over Route 62 included a coverleaf that surrounded our school and reduced the size of the playground during that last year.  Danvers Community Profile (government statistics)  My grandfather, William Stanley Nichols, wrote an essay about growing up along Route 1 and watching the changes in his lifetime from horse and buggy days to the modern automobile. He died in 1958. Since then, even more changes have occurred.  His childhood home, a house on "Pine Knoll" right beside Route 1, burned to the ground in 1975. The knoll has been reshaped and covered with condominiums. The house where I lived for my first 14 years (a small Cape) has been replaced by a parking lot for an office complex. The pond where we skated still exists in reduced form and two segments of Nichols Street still remain. Our next house at 121 Nichols St (built1957) remains, but the big hill, barn, ski slopes, and pastures behind it disappeared in the early 1970's construction of a segment of I-95.


Great Aunt May (Mary Eliot Nichols) and her gifts to us

A beautiful, fragile, wedding veil from 1833 escaped the Pine Knoll fire because my great Aunt May had already taken it out of her bureau drawer and given it to me in 1965 for my wedding. I recently donated it to the Danvers Historical Society. I still have an old table she gave my parents. I wish I still had her old car (a 1932 Ford, Model AB) which I used to drive around the cow pasture at Locust Lawn when I was learning to drive. She had given it to my parents as a wedding gift in 1940 after she learned that it would only be worth $18 as a trade-in. She was sure it was worth more than that! My family continued to drive that car (named "Oswald") until 1955, then stored it in a barn at Locust Lawn until the late 1960's, when the I-95 construction project destroyed the barn, removed the hill, and cut Locust Lawn in two. Oswald was the "get-away car" after my wedding, and later was sold to me for $1. My parents towed it to New York where I then lived; but I was unable to register Oswald in New York because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts no longer had records from 1955 and we couldn't prove ownership. Good grief. That car was owned and operated in my family from 1932-1955 continuously. I sold Oswald to an antique car collector (for parts) in 1971.


Salem Village

In May 1992 my sister Jean and I flew east to visit our hometown for a ceremony commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Salem Village witchcraft tragedy. In preparation for that trip, I decided to investigate the rumor that we were descended from one of the accused witches. I didn't know the name or any details. I pulled out the genealogical papers that my mother had worked on years ago and I looked for ancestors in the Salem area in 1692. I saw a "Sarah Warren, d. in jail 1692" -- a likely prospect. Her married name was Sarah Prince. I searched in many history books about the Salem witchcraft crisis, but didn't find her name. Finally one book had an index entry for Sarah Warren, leading to a single mention that this was the maiden name of Sarah Osborne. Aha! Most of the books had long sections about Sarah Osborne (Osbourne; Osborn). She was one of the first accused and the first to die. My sister and I watched the unveiling of the Danvers Witch Trials Memorial, and saw Sarah's name at the head of the list. For more about this history, see Witchcraft in Salem Village, now Danvers, Massachusetts, an excellent website. A remarkable discovery (for me and my sister) is that Sarah Osborne's house still stands in Danvers. It was moved once (~1914) from Spring Street to 272 Maple Street. We had passed it on Maple Street hundreds of times, and played with the son of the family that owned it. Never did we know of the interesting history or connection to our family. Our Great Aunt May knew. Her handwriting on the back of a photo of Sarah's house tells the story. But I didn't see that photo until after I had discovered the connection for myself using books in a California library.

Sarah Osborne's land -- "the Prince land" she acquired through marriage and then the death of her first husband -- figures prominently in her story. Her sons later, after Sarah's death, fought in court against Alexander Osborne (their stepfather) to regain title to the Prince family land. I remember my mother walking with me in a small cemetery and pointing out a stone marked John Prince. She said I would have been named John Prince Nichols if I had been a boy! I don't remember hearing that we were related to the Princes. I thought she just liked the sound of that name. NOW I realize that I was walking on the Prince land and that I AM a descendant! That cemetery was near Spring Street (where Sarah's house used to stand). I grew up on another street, Nichols Street, and played often in the woods and fields between Nichols and Spring streets. I have come to realize that the wonderful 35-acre property called "Locust Lawn" was once part of the Prince land. Amazing. I grew up playing on Sarah Osborne's land and knew nothing about her. I hated history in school, and didn't pay much attention to the frequent family stories about ancestors. I doubt, however, that much was said about the unsavory parts of family history. Stories tended to be about the Holyokes, of whom my great aunts were proud.


Holyokes

I now live in the City of Holyoke, which was named in 1850 for Mount Holyoke, a nearby mountain named in the 1640's (?) by Elizur Holyoke. Mount Holyoke College, which I attended in the 1960's, also takes its name from the mountain. My uncle has the name Edward Holyoke Nichols; I gave my daughter the name Tonya Holyoke Ward. I knew we were descendants of Edward Holyoke, President of Harvard College 1737-1769, and his son Edward Augustus Holyoke (1728-1829), an influential doctor. But I didn't learn until 1995, when I moved into Holyoke and asked at the public library, that Elizur was in the SAME family. He was just a few generations earlier. What a coincidence! Holyoke history - some photos and mention of Elizur Holyoke.