Family History and The Ghosts of Aquinnah
I'm a big history buff and, since I know LG is a history fan too, I thought I'd post about some of my own family history for my post here at Bards and Prophets. Thank you for having me here today, LG!
History plays a big role in The Ghosts of Aquinnah, as the main storyline of the novel takes place on Martha's Vineyard in 1884. My own family on my father's side has been on the Vineyard for generations, and my great-great-grandparents Franklin and Nancy Hammett owned a farm on the island in the late 1800s.
My family has this photo of the Hammetts, along with their horse Grover and an unknown woman, on that farm in the 1890s.
Franklin must have been an interesting guy, as he worked on a whaling ship before settling down on the farm. He set sail on the John A. Robb in 1845, when he was only 15 years old, and traveled around the world before returning home in 1849.
Franklin wrote a letter about his whaling experiences to the Republican Standard and we are fortunate to still have the text of the letter. The ship left from New Bedford, Massachusetts and sailed around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. From there the whalers continued to Guam, Australia and Japan before heading home to New England.
It's impossible to imagine what that voyage must have been like, especially for a teenager on his own, but Franklin's account provides a glimpse into how frightening it must have been. This is my favorite passage of the letter:
"The next he [a whale] came up about five hundred feet, head out of water about 8 or 10 feet or it looked so to me, and some of the crew sterned and some pulled but I see he was acoming into the Boat so I started for the stern sheets of the Boat and the Mate says to me, "Where the Hell are you bound?"Franklin jumped out of the boat and this proved to be a good decision, as the whale ended up slamming that boat to pieces. I suppose if he hadn't made that call, I wouldn't be here today. :D
It was the first time for me to be so near a Whale and my hat I guess lifted and there was not much time to talk or even to think but get a move on, so I told the Mate there was not room enough in this Boat for me and that fellow."
The passage made me laugh because I could hear my grandfather telling the story in the same way, especially the use of the phrase "that fellow."
Hammett is the maiden name of Stella, the main character in the 1884 section of The Ghosts of Aquinnah. Her family owned a farm in the same area of the island where Franklin and Nancy lived. In addition, Stella has a horse named Grover.
A brilliant flash of light transcends through time.
Another freezes a cloaked figure within a frame of salty mist as waves crash against a rocky shore. Her harrowing expression shadows the beacon to a pinprick.
By the next blaze, she is gone. Only the lighthouse remains.
Hannah’s eyes blink in step with each heartbeat. Images of her deceased parents and Martha’s Vineyard explode like firecrackers inside her mind.
She shakes her head.
For weeks this eerie woman dressed in nineteenth century garb has been haunting my webcam, but tonight she stared into my soul.
Who is she? ...
Casting aside months of research on historic lighthouses, Hannah drives to the coast and boards a ferry.
What is the strange connection she has to this mysterious woman suspended in time?
Hannah finds out.
But, it’s not at all what she expects...
Hannah unravels a century old murder.
Julie Flanders is a novelist and freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a life-long love affair with the ocean and has spent more summer vacations than she can count on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. When not writing, Julie can be found playing with her pets, reading, cheering on her favorite sports teams, and watching too much television. The Ghosts of Aquinnah is Julie’s second novel. Her debut novel Polar Night was released in February, 2013 by Ink Smith Publishing.
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Thanks, Julie! Nice nod to your family history. Can't wait to read this latest novel of yours.
*19th century illustration of whale smashing a fishing boat