Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Québec family tree branches out in Deerfield, Massachusetts

Eleven years ago this month, my wife Liz and I visited Deerfield, Mass., on an unseasonably warm day for the 300th anniversary of what used to be called the Deerfield Massacre, but is now more commonly referred to as the Deerfield Raid. 

The raid, which occurred on Feb. 29, 1704, is one of those slivers of history that remind us how old New England is, at least by American standards. Back then, the Puritans still held sway in Massachusetts and English settlements remained so tightly clustered along the eastern seaboard that Deerfield, a mere 80 miles west of Boston, was on the frontier. The world was far different in 1704; it was a very a long time ago. But we have long memories in New England. For me, that is especially true in the case of the Deerfield Raid, because of the role -- dual roles, really -- that my family played in it. 

Here’s what happened. A party of some 300 Frenchmen and Indians from the French colony of Canada staged a predawn raid on tiny, isolated Deerfield, which lay huddled in the snow on the northwestern fringe of Massachusetts. The attackers took the settlers by surprise. They burned the town, killing some 50 inhabitants and kidnapping more than 100 people, including women and children. 

The Frenchman who led that raid, Jean Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, was my cousin (several generations back in time, of course). But that's not all. The Deerfield residents whom Hertel and his party captured that day included John and Dorothy Stebbins and their six children, who figure even more prominently in my genealogy.

The Deerfield captives were forcibly marched 300 miles to Canada in the dead of winter. Not all of them made it, although the entire Stebbins family did. Some of the raid's survivors remained with the Indians. Others, including Thankful Stebbins, 12, the daughter of John and Dorothy, were taken to French settlements in Canada. Eventually, John, Dorothy and one of their children were "redeemed," as the Puritans called it, and returned to Deerfield. But Thankful and four of her siblings remained in New France, as Canada was then known. 

After starting her life as a Puritan in 1691 Massachusetts, Thankful reinvented herself. She was baptized as a Catholic in New France, changed her name to Louise Thérèse and, in 1710, became a French citizen. The following year, she married the Canadian-born Charles Adrien Legrain dit Lavallée, a resident of New France. It is possible, perhaps probable, that she eventually lost her ability to speak English, as some captives did.

Thankful (aka Louise Thérèse) and her husband, Charles Adrien, were the products of two cultures that seemingly had nothing in common. They also are my grandparents, if you go back eight generations. A bloody Canadian raid on colonial New England more than three centuries ago ultimately united families from warring empires, and a new branch sprouted on my family tree.
Burial ground in Deerfield, Massachusetts

And now, a few words from . . . Clare Boothe Luce

The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that the pessimist is usually better informed!

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Mike Luckovich

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Language Cop: That's no editorial, madam!

MEMO to misguided scribblers who submit random thoughts to newspapers:

Please do not, under any circumstances, refer to your latest political diatribe or philosophical musing as an editorial. It isn't, even though it turned up "in the paper." It's one of the following, depending on its content, its tone and how the newspaper chose to use it: a column, an op-ed piece, or a letter to the editor.

An editorial is a specific type of creature that you are incapable of writing unless you are employed by a media outlet to do so. It is, in fact, "an essay in a newspaper or magazine that gives the opinions of its editors or publishers," according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Newspapers write editorials. You write other stuff. Possibly well, or not. In either case, your occasional submissions to The Daily Rag of East Puddleduck, Oregon, about the satanic proclivities of the Obama Administration, the journalistic excellence of Fox News, or your frequent encounters with Bigfoot in the woods behind your house do not meet the criteria.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. Editorial writers across America salute you. They may even write editorials heralding your greatness. You, on the other hand, cannot.