The term adventure originally was a ‘port’ word. If a band of merchants wanted to send off a ship to a far flung market, they would post ‘announcements’ of their intentions in the hope of securing partnerships, share holders and anyone with merchandize who would be interested in selling overseas. Thus the ‘venture’ was ‘advertised’.
A lot of people read my blog and think I have the attitude of a “know it all”. In actuality, I look at knowledge as a great ‘adventure’. As I dig deeper into the mysteries of our City’s history, I get excited when I find things that I know have not been revealed by others. As spine tingling as uncovering ancient Mayan discoveries long buried, I feel a thrill as I expose to the light of day lost pieces of knowledge. And I marvel how Newburyport went from being the great rudder of our Nation to a tiny backwater that history and time had forgotten.
When you read my posts, I am doing the advertising for others to join in this most worthy of ventures. If others can delve into the same activities that I am experiencing, we can make short work of all those hidden mysteries.
My wife and I went to Belize in the late nineties – their tourist infrastructure was rather simple at that time – and the resort we attended was very nice but their tours were rather sketchy. We were picked up in the back of a dump truck with a group of people, driven out into the jungle and told to get off. We jumped off only to find we were the only ones getting off – they said curtly, go down the trail, if you don’t come out the other side, we’ll come and find you. And they left. We ended up going down a fantastically rich canyon filled with wildlife, hummingbirds flying around our heads and howler monkeys booming in the trees. They also told us there were no crocodiles in the river. (They lied) As we came round a canyon turn, we found a collection of huts which turned out to be a simple resort. The managers were composed of a lady archeologist and an expatriate American. He was very nervous. He had just stumbled on a cave full of precious gems, ancient pottery and other treasures. He was nervously waiting for the authorities to come to secure this obvious national treasure before looters heard of the discovery. And he had but one local guard stationed at the entrance. He was flushed with excitement – happy to have discovered it but worried over the responsibility of such a great find.
I get the same feeling as I dig into the Library archives or hear the stories behind the houses on our streets. So little of our town’s archives have been fully mined – nor have we been blessed by enough concerned ‘amateurs’ and professionals who have connected the dots and revealed incredible but hidden truths. And with those discoveries comes the responsibility of disseminating the new knowledge.
Just last night, Kevin MacDonald, the curator at the Custom House Maritime Museum revealed a ‘lost’ piece of information that he had discovered recently. It turns out one of our more daring privateers* had tipped off the U.S. S. Constitution that a British warship was nearby and gave directions. That warship was the HMS Gurrierre which lost in the ensuing battle. The same battle where the cannon balls bounced off the sides of the American ship prompting the famous title ‘Old Ironsides’. He relayed this information to the Commodore of the Constitution recently who knew of the tip off but was never told who had given it!
And there is so much more about Newburyport that is still coming to light right here in the 21st century – our role in the War of 1812, the full understanding of our privateering efforts during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and who were the players. The Underground Railroad, the Tunnels (a separate issue), the Powder Mill, Smugglers, Tea Parties, our wharves, etc.
And we may have more missing information hidden in someone’s house or out in plain site in the archives of our Library and museums waiting for just someone to uncover them.
I estimate it will take at least three years for me to get a handle on all the missing information at least in a rough outline form.
What an ‘adventure’!?!
* You’ll have to go to the museum to know who it was. (hint: the information is on the first floor)