New Oxford Item
Nov 3, 1899
STORY OF "OCEAN MARY."
Baby Mascot of the Sea Won the Heart of a Pirate
Touch of Nature that Saved a Ship and Crew- Child Grew to Womanhood and Her
Wedding Gown was Made from the Pirate's Silk Brocade.
In the village burying-ground at
Henniker, N.H., may be seen standing among a dozen slabs of like design, a small
slate stone, whose inscription, in common with the others, in no manner suggests
that the story of the one in whose memory it was set was different from the
ordinary affairs of the hillside pioneer.
It is the grave of Ocean Mary. It was years and years
ago that the baby mascot of the sea won a pirate's heart.
Previous to 1720, the year in which the principal
events of this narrative occurred, many families of Scotch peasantry crossed the
north channel and found homes in the larger towns on or near the coast of
Ireland. Thus Londonderry became the residence of a large number of Scotch
In those times of slow ships and many perils of the
sea, it was a far cry from Londonderry in Ireland to Londonderry in the granite
state; still Scotland and the Emerald Isle had already sent sturdy pioneers to
the new world on the Merrimac.
Tradition, often the truer part of history, has failed
to save from oblivion the name of the ship which sailed from Londonderry for
Boston in July 1720, but she is said to have been in many respects vastly
superior to others of her class in those times. At any rate, long before she
dropped anchor off the picturesque coast, many well-to-do families had prepared
for the long voyage. Of those who from the deck of the departing ship watched
the green shores of Ireland fade from view a large proportion were not only
strong of limb, but thrifty and provident.
Out through Lough Foyle, past Innishowen head and far
beyond Giant's Causeway, with favoring winds, sailed the fated ship.
Among the passengers were James Wilson and his young
wife. A year before Wilson married Elizabeth Fulton and they were now on their
way to Londonderry, N.H. where land had been laid out to James Wilson as one of
the grantees of that town.
In the small valley settlement to which Wilson and his
wife were traveling were friends under whose hands profitable harvests were
sure, and a generation were springing up whose influence was to be felt long
Concerning the earlier part of the voyage of the
emigrant ship tradition is nearly silent although certain fragmentary accounts
hint of a protracted calm and following storm of such violence that the vessel
was driven from her course. However, that may be, it is reasonably certain that
the passage was about one-third accomplished when events transpired that made
the voyage memorable in the lives of all on board.
On sultry evening the lookout saw on the horizon a sail
standing like a gray silhouette against the early-rising moon. All through the
hot summer night the strange craft wore nearer and nearer, and when morning came
her low hull could be seen like a black shadow under her full set of canvas.
The pirate ship was within gunshot of the emigrant
ship. To fight or run away was not to be thought of. The slow ship had not a
dozen muskets. They simply waited. They had not long to wait, for boats were
soon alongside, and swarming upon the deck, the robbers fell to work as men who
knew how to plunder and kill. Crew and passengers were bound and some were left
lying where they were captured, and some rolled into corners, just as suited a
momentary freak of the invaders.
None were killed. Valuables were gathered into parcels
convenient to be transferred to the pirate ship.The robber captain going below
to search the officers' quarters, threw open the after cabin door with a rough
hand, but seeing a woman lying in the berth, stopped.
"Why are you there?" demanded the ruffian.
"See." The terrified woman uncovered a baby's
"You have named her."
The pirate went to the cabin door and commanded that no man
stir until further orders. Then, returning, he went close to the berth where the
woman lay, and said gently, "If I may name that baby, that little girl, I
will unbind your men and leave your ship unharmed. May I name the girl?"
Then the rough old robber came nearer still and took up
the tiny unresisting hand of the baby. "Mary" was the name the woman
heard him speak. There were other words, but spoken so low she could not hear.
Only his Maker and his own heart knew, but when the child drew its hand away the
mother saw a tear on the pink fingers.
There have been other knights than Bavard. Here was
As good as his word, the pirate captain ordered all
captives unbound and goods and valuables restored to the places from which they
had been taken; then with his crew he left the ship and pulled to his own
vessel. But the emigrant ship had scarcely got under way when a new alarm came
to them. The pirate was returning.
If they were dismayed at his reappearance they were
surprised to see him come on board alone and go directly below to the cabin.
There he took from a parcel a piece of brocaded silk of marvelous fineness of
texture and beauty of design. Seen at a little distance the effect of the
pattern is as of a plaid combining in wonderfully harmonized tones, nameless
hues of red and green, softened with lines of what evidently was once white.
Time has, perhaps, somewhat mellowed its color tone, but the
richness of its quality is as the richness of pearls.
"Let Mary wear this on her wedding day," the
pirate said, as he laid the silk on the berth.
The pirate left the ship and was seen no more. In the
fulness of time the emigrant ship reached Boston without further incident. There
James Wilson died soon after landing. Elizabeth Wilson, with Mary, soon after
went to live in Londonderry, where friends were waiting for them. Here the widow
married James Clark, great-great-grandparent of Horace Greeley.
For years the people of the little hamlet religiously
kept July 28 in thanksgiving for the deliverance of their friends from the hands
Some time early in the year 1732 Thomas Wallace
emigrated to America and settled in Londonderry, where, on Dec. 18 of the same
year, he was married to Ocean Mary by the Rev. Mr. Davidson of that town. Her
wedding gown was the pirate silk.
A granddaughter and a great-granddaughter have also
worn the same dress on like occasions.
Four sons were born to Mary Wallace, three of whom
removed to Henniker. There, on a sightly hill, Robert built the house which in
his day was far and away the grandest mansion in all the country around. He was
a man of large hospitality and intelligent strength of character.
Here Ocean Mary lived many years, and died in 1814 at
the age of 94. Her grave is in the Centre burying ground, about half way down
the middle walk, a bowshot distant from the railroad station. The curious
visitor may if he choose read the inscription on the slate:
"In memory of Widow Mary Wallace, who died Feb.
13, A.D., 1814, in the ninety-fourth year of her age."
The likeness tradition has left of Ocean Mary is that
of a woman symetrically tall, with light hair, blue eyes and florid complexion,
together with a touch of the aristocracy of nature and a fine repose of manner
in her energetic, determined and kindly ways.
The house is four miles from Henniker village and about
the same distance from Hillsboro. The visitor, if he has an eye for the
picturesque, though he regret the decay that has overtaken the old manse, can
but be charmed by the beauty of the landscape in the midst of which it is set.