Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Bit of Gloucester History at the Blue Shutters

The four of us took over the Blue Shutters in early 2007, but it feels like we've been here forever. Our roots may have been down 128 a few exits -- in Burlington, Woburn and Stoneham -- but Gloucester has always part of lives. It's where we came on a summer Saturday for a few hours of Good Harbor Beach fun, on a Friday night for some dancing at Little Earls and on a Sunday afternoon for dinner out with Mom and Dad.

But our Gloucester history seems insignificant when compared with the group staying here at the Blue Shutters this week. It's a gathering of the direct descendants of Capt. Elias Davis and James Mansfield, described by one of the organizers --Rev. Graham M. Patterson --as "late 18th and 19th century contemporaries who figure prominently in Gloucester's seafaring history."

Graham is here to host a memorial gathering for his mother, Marion Mansfield, who he describes as "the last of her generation of Mansfields." According to Graham, their "forbearer James Mansfield (1765-1842) established a ship's chandlery on Front Street in 1792. From there he built one of the largest fleets of fishing schooners in mid-19th century Gloucester. On the 1852 Walling Map, the Mansfield Wharf is the largest on the western end of the harbor. He built a four-story, double Federal house at No. 26 and No. 28 Front Street in 1832, the year my great-great grandmother Abigail Somes Davis married Alfred Mansfield, Sr."

He goes on to talk about his great-great grandmother Abigail Somes Davis Mansfield (1811-1900), who "befriended Fitz Lane (1804-1865) from the days of her childhood, purchased his paintings, and left them to my cousin Alfred Mansfield Brooks." Graham tells us that one of his ancestors owned the California, which is featured in one of Fitz Henry Lane's most celebrated paintings at the Cape Ann Museum. A great uncle left the museum a cache of Fitz Henry Lane drawings in the 1940s, and since the very opening of the Cape Ann Museum, some of the many Mansfield family fine arts objects donated to the Cape Ann Museum have been housed there.

Nearly a dozen Mansfield cousins -- from Paris, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire and here in Massachusetts -- are attending this reunion, touring both the Cape Ann Museum and Cape Ann itself with Linn Parisi, serving as tour guide, following the journal entries of Graham's grandmother, Adelaide Mansfield, which she made during her trips to Gloucester between 1915 and 1948.

We feel very fortunate to have this group with us this week -- while we hope we're contributing to Gloucester's future with our work here at the Blue Shutters, we also think it's important to celebrate the unique history of this city and surrounding towns. And you can't get much historical than this Mansfield clan. We hope you agree -- if you do, give this group a wave if you see them on the streets of Cape Ann these next few days.

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