In March 2022 Sarah was elected president of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History, named for her 8x great grandfather, by its’ Director and Board of Trustees. Sarah had been a trustee since 2019 and Chair of Steering.
She follows in the footsteps of Dr. Firth Haring Fabend, who was president since the institute was first organized in 2014.
I have been a resident of Stowe on West Hill Road a short six months. In summer and fall across the street, we watched the black-and-white Holsteins graze. The tractors working the land quickly gave a cyclical pattern to the changing seasons in this picturesque place we now call home.
My favorite experience in Stowe, however, was walking nearby on Percy Hill Road, by the vista landscape of the old Percy farm at the corner of Percy Hill and Weeks Hill roads. My husband, Peter, and I took an almost daily loop by, where I slowed and stopped to talk to the cows, among them Ivy, Annie, Moose and Faith.
As Pete waited patiently, I often took out my camera, for I felt as though I was walking through scenes in a James Herriot novel. The landscape and smell of the farm reminded me of Yorkshire, England, where Herriot worked as a vet and I often visited while studying nearby, and of my childhood, my friend’s grandparents’ dairy farm in upstate New York.
During a late afternoon walk on Wednesday, Feb. 2, which felt spring-like compared to the bitter cold days of January, I said, “I look forward to seeing the cows again. I miss them.”
When I woke Thursday morning to the devastating news that the barn had burned in the night and all were lost, I was heartbroken. It is said that some calves were saved, though I don’t know yet if the newborn I witnessed with its mother on Aug. 24 was or not. My heart aches at the loss of the beautiful, sweet animals who supplied milk for Cabot products, the extended Percy family and all those who cared for the cows.
To the Percy “girls,” I will never forget you. You were most definitely creatures great and small and all things bright and beautiful.
Sixty years ago, during the Cold War, my 25 year old maternal uncle, Lt. John Tracy Jr., co-piloted a Secret Air Command Mission to the Soviet Union. Upon his return February 2, 1962, he and six other men were lost when their plane exploded and here we are today facing a second Cold War at the helm of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a letter to his parents, “Johnny” wrote about protecting world peace and what might happen if they failed. “If it should fail (the U.S. Air Force) and the Russians feel they can get the better of us, it’s going to be one heck of a war.”
Author of Goodbye, Friend and The Souls of Animals, Gary Kowalski, suggests one might look to words to help heal from the death of a beloved person or pet. A minister, he writes, “I counsel those who are grieving to employ the power of words by writing a eulogy for the one they loved. The term itself means “good words,” for a eulogy attempts to sum up all the good qualities that made another person or pet memorable and worthy of our care, that reflects on traits that made the creature most endearing or stamped with a special personality.” As I often turn to my pen (usually my keyboard) to express my feelings, here goes:
Scout was our beloved five-year old Golden Retriever. There was something special about Scout. It wasn’t just his handsome looks, but his temperament and personality. Scout was gentle, mellow, kind, and goofy. He loved to love, and be loved.
Scout enjoyed curling up next to me on the couch as I read or wrote, and would often lay his head on my computer.
Other times he would sit or lay along the wall of the front porch near the door or under the shade of the Pear tree watching for the school bus or whoever was rounding the bend on the sidewalk across the street.
He also loved lying on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, with back legs flat out or up against the wall.
The staircase landing was a place Scout rested and watched from, too.
From there he could turn to a jump down the stairs and jangle of his collar to follow any or all three boys outside to play. Scout loved going in and out and probably enjoyed being outside most. He’d come in the back deck then soon ask to go out the front, often when he spotted a dog friend able to play on our front lawn.
Other times in the family room he’d jump up in the air with the boys to cheer on the Patriots. In general, Scout was our fourth ‘boy.’ He most certainly was part of the family.
Scout arrived to us by some part fate. On August 28, 2015 we un-expectantly lost our 9 year-old Golden Retriever, Biscuit, to cancer of the blood vessels. He became sick and had to be put down the day before our oldest son, Ryan, was due at college freshman year. It felt so young to lose a dog yet ironically now I would give anything to have had four more years with Scout.
We thought we would wait one year to get another dog but when our youngest son, Andrew, cried himself to sleep each night I googled Golden Retriever breeders north of Boston. Several popped up. I was drawn to Pathfinder Golden Retrievers. Breeder Laura Bellochi’s website noted the business was named for her father, a military veteran. His job in wartime was to jump out of airplanes as a group of men followed. I liked that, a lot, and her dogs were beautiful, so I sent Laura an email. I stated our family grievance, explained why we love dogs, and how we came to choose Golden Retrievers (footnote at end). I also told her I appreciated her father’s service and that I was writing a military story based on my ancestors’ service.
Within days of sending the email, Laura and I spoke. We connected. She happened to be driving back from Pennsylvania where she had taken her female, Story, to be bred to a stud named Detour. Both names spoke to me, in regards to the letter I’d sent her and our family’s situation. She explained Story had a sweet, mellow temperament, had won “Best of Winners” at Westminster Dog Show that February 2015, and after her next litter would become a therapy dog.
In a few days Laura learned Story was pregnant. We visited Story and her pups, when about six weeks old.
Andrew and Scout, week 6
Scout came home to us December 11, less than four months after Biscuit died.
To be honest, it took me awhile to bond with Scout. When he was a puppy, for instance, I recall him pulling at the hem of my jeans until they tore. Wanting Biscuit back I cried. But soon I enjoyed watching Scout’s ‘firsts’ such as the sight of the ocean on a windy, cloudy day. I took him to Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea and the sight of the waves crashing in made Scout freeze. The wind and his fear flapped back his ears. But then, slowly, with my encouragement he inched his way to the shoreline. Scout and I grew to love our walks on the beach together where he was free to run and play with other dogs.
One of Scout’s favorite things was blankets’. Laura sent him home with a green and white one scented with Story and his litter mates. He slept with it and often wanted to take it outside. Knowing it might get lost I would ask for it at the door. “Leave it, Scout.” When he wouldn’t (@90% of the time) I would unclench his teeth and pry open his mouth for him to drop it. He not only loved that blanket (which we still have) but other ones. If any were folded or draped on the couch or a family member had one in their lap, he would sneak over and before we knew it the blanket was being dragged over the family room Berber carpet to his bed or a cozy spot. Scout would then lie down and with ease curl it up and create a perfect pillow to lay his head upon. It was so funny, and quite an art, really!
Blanket pillows created by Scout
Like many retrievers Scout loved picking up and carrying shoes, usually from the front hall to the family room but bedrooms weren’t off limits. More mornings than not I would search for my L.L. Bean ‘Wicked Good’ slippers, walking down stairs with one on, one off, looking sleepily for the missing one before making coffee.
Scout fortunately didn’t chew shoes but the family room was strewn with them and various blankets. We often joked it looked like a yard sale.
Scout loved to sit on the ottoman in the family room where he could watch anything going on there but also in the kitchen.
He also liked to ‘nudge’ us with his nose for attention (especially when we held electronic devises) but he rarely misbehaved, accept when something like this happened while we were away (laugh out loud):
Scout wanted to please, and he did. He didn’t beg for food but rather lay under the kitchen table or stools at our feet during mealtimes. As soon as we stood to clear plates, however, he would pop out, wondering if he might get something. He’d go to his bowl looking longingly at it then dart his eyes back to us. He loved a treat of chicken (his favorite) or steak that had been grilled. Being near the grill with Pete was a special time for the two and I know more often than not Pete sneaked Scout a piece of meat or cheese.
The other frequent past time for Scout and Pete occurred at the nearby trails and fields at Gordon College where we often walked. The two had a game in which Pete would hold up a lacrosse ball that he’d found near the stadium. Scout would freeze in position to run. When Pete’s arm released Scout would chase the ball with all his speed. Upon return, it was difficult for Scout to let go of it.
Near a steep embankment next to the stadium Scout discovered his keen scent. He could find a ball buried down that hill under leaves or snow and was so pleased with himself when he returned with one. In the woods beside the trail winding along the pond Scout loved racing and bounding about like a deer, back and forth, dodging trees, stumps, and other obstacles. We were amazed at his agility. It was beautiful to watch.
Scout enjoyed going on college tours with all three boys. We cherished those times with him.
Campus Tour, Colgate University
At Hamilton College Scout sat on the steps of the library surrounded by two students who petted him. He couldn’t have been any happier except when he gently stole a flip flop off one of the girls feet and they laughed. He wore the biggest grin!
He visited Ryan and Alex at the colleges they attended.
UVM, December 11, 2015 and January 2016
Middlebury College, Fall 2019
Making new friends, and in the spotlight. Middlebury College Golf Course
And Scout was beside Andrew when he learned he was accepted to his first choice college.
December 2020, upon acceptance to Hobart
Scout spent each of his four summers in the Adirondack Mountains on Big Moose Lake where he enjoyed the freedom of an unfenced yard, time with his human brothers, their cousins, and friends relaxing, hiking, swimming, and boating.
He also went to Martha’s Vineyard each summer
and various other places we traveled through the year such as Stowe, Vermont where we moved five weeks after Scout died.
(Stowe, Thanksgiving 2020)
Scout comforted us as a family in times of need. He was by my side as I grieved the passing of my mother and all of us at different times when we needed love. He showed support in so many ways. He loved to snuggle!
When Scout was a puppy Andrew (then age 13) lay on the kitchen floor on his back and urged Scout to sit on him. Scout would smile and Andrew would laugh.
It made us all laugh and Scout knew it. It was silly and special and they did this almost every day, including the day Scout was euthanized. We were outside the front doors of Massachusetts Veterinary Hospital (due to Covid). Scout was almost too weak to hold up his head. IV and dialysis wires had been removed, but not the tight dialysis neck brace. Andrew lay down on the pavement and tried to help Scout onto him. Though Scout was too weak, he knew what Andrew tried to do. It was a deep act of love, and beautiful.
Upon learning of Scout’s sudden death someone who cared deeply for him looked at me in disbelief and with tears in her eyes, shook her head. “Scout was so smart,” she whispered. I believe she was right. Scout was intelligent. We believed he understood English and comprehended most things we talked about. He was respectful and understanding, too, when he interacted with dogs, puppies, or humans. He was a gentleman, so to speak.
I ‘pen’ these words four months after Scout’s passing and I still find it unfathomable he died at age five. Will I ever not? What is most difficult, for us, about Scout’s demise is that it was unnecessary. He was given a Lyme vaccination at the same time he had an active Lyme infection, which caused an overload of Lyme antibodies to attack his kidneys (Lyme Nephritis). In addition, when symptoms first began (two weeks before his death) there was failure to correctly diagnose Lyme which likely would have saved his life. Once a proper diagnoses was made (one week later) Scout was on life support and not even dialysis (a grueling six hour daily procedure) or a plasma exchange could save him.
I wrestle with what I could have done differently, too, or what I missed.
There was much left for Scout to do and enjoy and for us to experience with him. He was our “bridge” to our new home in another state, as we became “empty nesters.” He never saw the house where he would have roamed on the countryside and experienced new things, like the sight and smell of cows, different bird species, and the view of the Worcester Mountain range in four seasons. He would have enjoyed the “Quiet Path” (where dogs and their walkers frequent), hikes, and greeting his brothers when they came home. We were all supposed to get older together.
It is heart breaking to know Scout is not coming back. His sudden passing is another indicator how fragile, uncertain, and sometimes unfair life is. None of us know what lies ahead, so we must enjoy today and the love we receive and give. I find some comfort in knowing Scout enjoyed his life and lived in love. I also find sharing his story with others helps, not only to keep his memory alive but to hear others’ stories. In doing so we have learned of similar situations and devastating losses, both pet and human, or both at the same time. But whatever the stories are (and they are never the same), they connect us and by connecting we support each other.
As my family turns a page to the next story Scout is still by our side. There has not been a day since May 23, 2021 that we have not thought of, talked about, or missed him. Each day I speak to him and ask for signs he is with us. Scout was such a good boy and is missed beyond any words or story can explain.
Four months after Scout’s passing our next “story” is an 8 week old female Golden Retriever born July 29 (same timeframe between bringing Scout home after Biscuit died). She is another “Pathfinder,” whose litter name is “Road Trip.” We have named her Ranger Scout Winch. Named Ranger because of a letter I received from a 91 year old friend who wrote me about Scout being sick. By the time I received it, Scout was gone. It read: “I am praying for Ranger.” The name spoke to me, for it means “Keeper of the countryside, a protector of a body of men,” which seemed to fit perfectly for our new home, the boys, and with Scout.
We brought Ranger home Sunday, September 26 and in the blur of the first week, between the “in and outs” every 20 minutes, night wakings, training accidents, teething, etc., there were periodic tears over Scout’s loss. The two of us asked, that week, “How has this happened? Why isn’t Scout here? Can we handle a puppy? We were just doing this five years ago…” But in two week’s time we have connected with Ranger, just like we did Scout after Biscuit. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss Scout any less or feel the sharp pain of his too early loss but Ranger redirects us.
The fact, too, that we see similarities in her to Scout gives us all comfort. The kind veterinarian who euthanized Scout said, “see you on the other side, Scout…” but perhaps we did not have had to wait that long. Either way, Scout was wonderful, is missed, and with us – always.
Laura Bellochi of Pathfinder Golden Retrievers and I with Scout, Story, and another Pathfinder. 2018
Big Moose Lake sunset, August 2020
Note: In the summer of 1970 at age three I fell in love with two Golden Retrievers (Sandy and Corn) that I spent each day with. For three years I asked my parents for a Golden Retriever puppy, finally writing my father a letter about it. He said my “P.S. Please say yes!” sealed the deal. In late 2015 I wrote a short story about that experience, losing Biscuit, and Scout coming into our lives. Titled Asking for a Puppy, it was published in 2016.
The raid this past week on the House of Representatives reminded me of one which occurred generations ago in the city in which I was raised. Unlike the raid on the House, “The Jerry Rescue” was a necessary and meaningful attack as it protected the right to freedom for all humankind.
Last spring, when Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd (and other officers stood by watching) and a white father and son shot a young African American man while he was jogging, I was writing vignettes for my manuscript pertaining to The Compromise of 1850, The Fugitive Slave Act and the case of Jerry.
While the anti-slavery Liberty Party was holding its New York State convention on October 1, 1851, a black man named William “Jerry” Henry, who had escaped slavery in Missouri via the Underground Railroad and made his way to Syracuse, New York where he lived and worked freely for eight years as a Cooper, was captured by Federal Marshalls at his place of work. Months before in May Secretary of State Daniel Webster (under President Fillmore’s administration), delivered a speech to the citizens of Syracuse – the city Webster referred to as “that laboratory of abolitionism, libel and treason.” Webster threatened federal agents would come down hard on any citizens if they tried to stop the return of runaway people as “property” to their “owners.” This threat did not sit well with most Syracuse citizens. In fact, it outraged them.
During those summer months between Ward’s speech and Jerry’s arrest, the Vigilance Committee made plans against possible raids. Charles Baldwin Sedgwick (my 3x great grandfather) and Reverend Samuel Joseph May (who assisted William Lloyd Garrison in founding the New England Abolition Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society), were members of the Committee, along with other ‘freedom fighters’ such as George Barnes and Jermain Loguen, a black man born into slavery and like Jerry, an escapee.
On October 1 Jerry was captured at his workplace, put in leg irons, and injured and bloodied after struggling with his captors (both federal authorities and local police) dragged by cart to the police station. Witnessing this event abhorred the citizens of Syracuse. Thousands rallied in front of the station where Samuel Ward – another runaway living freely – addressed the crowd:
“We are witnessing a sight as, I pray, we may never look upon again. A man in chains, in Syracuse! Not a felon, yet in chains! On trial is this man, not for life, but for liberty! Hear, though, what I say. Jerry will not be abandoned and is likely to be freed as a result of the hearing. Judge Charles Sedgwick and Mr. Charles Wheaton are meeting at this very moment to prepare a kidnapping complaint against Federal Agent Allen who came here to catch Jerry and take him away. Commissioner Sabine has ordered the case to be heard at 5:30 p.m. here at the station. But please heed this warning; County Sheriff Gardner has threatened to call out the National Guard if he has to.”
As this was occurring a group of twenty-five men made a plan of action during which Gerrit Smith ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrit_Smith) stated: “It is not unlikely the Commissioner [Joseph Sabine, an abolitionist himself] will release Jerry but the moral effect of such an acquittal will be as nothing to a bold and forcible rescue. A forcible rescue will demonstrate the strength of public opinion against the possible legality of slavery and this Fugitive Slave Law in particular. It will honor Syracuse and be a powerful example everywhere.”
Reverend May agreed but on one condition. “We must act without hatred and violence. If anyone is to be injured in this fray, I hope it may be one of our own parties.” Jermain Loguen, however, responded: “If white men won’t fight, let fugitives and black men smite down marshals and commissioners – anybody who holds Jerry – and rescue him or perish.”
By 5:30 p.m. nearly three thousand bystanders stood outside the police station. Rocks were suddenly hurled at the building and a cry of “NOW!” sounded. Using clubs, iron bars and axes which had been stacked outside Wheaton’s Hardware Store, a group of men, some who had smeared burnt cork on their faces, rushed at the police station. Doors and windows were smashed. Gas jet lamps in the front office were hit out. Using a ten-foot beam the group smashed the front door crying, “Onondaga County is coming!” Inside, they discovered a deputy stood in the hallway. A rock was thrown at him and he fell to his knees. Within minutes the rescuers had forced their way in.
In a back room Marshal Fitch stood guard behind the door of the room in which Jerry was being held. The marshal stepped out and fired two shots at the mob. Someone raced at him and smashed his arms with a club, which sent him running to jump out a second story window, breaking his arm. A gang of white and black, armed men raced at several marshals. The group then grabbed Jerry and carried him out the front door. At the sight of Jerry a loud cheer went up from the crowd and Jerry was paraded through the streets to hurrahs everywhere.
Two weeks later, when Jerry was sent safely in Canada through the Underground Railroad and the white men who had broken into the jail and were subsequently arrested had been bailed out by Sedgwick and Smith, the Vigilance Committee mailed a package to President Fillmore in Washington, D.C. What did the box contain? The irons that federal marshals had placed on Jerry.
“When the people of Syracuse saw a man dragged through the streets, chained and held down in a cart by four or six others who were upon him; treated as if he were the worst of felons; and learned that it was only because he had assumed to be what God made him to be, a man, and not a slave—when this came to be known throughout the streets, there was a mighty throbbing of the public heart; an all but unanimous uprising against the outrage. There was no concert of action except that to which a common humanity impelled the people. Abhorrence of The Fugitive Slave Bill poured in burning words from every tongue. The very stones cried out,” Reverend Joseph May later told the Convention of Citizens of Onondaga County.
Sedgwick and Smith went on to represent Jerry’s rescuers, in trials lasting over a two-year period. Later that decade, Sedgwick was elected as a New York State representative, where he served two elected terms and was the first person to give a speech (titled The Act of Southern Aggression) on the House floor (1860) denouncing slavery. Sedgwick was known for his “no compromises, no concessions” stand on the slavery issue and because the Southern states refused to concede he believed the only way to end the institution of slavery was war. Refusing to leave Washington “until every slave is free,” my 3x great grandfather was in the House the day slavery was abolished on January 31, 1865.
I am proud that I was raised in a city where generations before citizens showed support and human decency for a man they regarded as their fellow human being. I imagine that the men who served on Syracuse’s Vigilance Committee would agree with the peaceful protests that took place in 2020 (not the destruction of property). In reading and transcribing the letters Charles Sedgwick wrote during the turbulent years leading up to the Civil War and in those he served in his two terms in Congress, I believe his advice to today would be to “keep hammering;” for us to write to city, state, and national representatives to express our thoughts and most importantly take action in our own lives and places of work to make things better for all people.
JUNE 10, 1864
The course of Congress on the Negro pay bill is wholly inexplicable – There is not a decently fair man in Congress who does not admit that they should be paid the same as white soldiers – It is just honest & politic – it is absolutely essential to the further vigorous prosecution of the war and yet collectively – in these corporate capacity Congress acts like the devil about this- But the time is coming! I don’t know but all this neglect and delay and quarreling is wholesome – In the end I am sure it will bring about this great negro equality – equal rights for Jonathan – vote with him – go to schoolwith him – preach to him and go to Congress. He can get votes enough – Half a dozen such men as Fred Douglass in Congress (if you could find half a dozen such more white or black; would greatly improve the body and show that we believe what we have been preaching so long – I go now for the largest liberty.
Charles Baldwin Sedgwick
I have your letter to father Abraham. Gov. Andrews letter – resolutions – letter to Twitchell – Keep hammering – it is the only way – in the end it will be efficient – a half loyal Marylander told me yesterday that he didn’t consider any body a Yankee but a Massachusetts man! You have you… the port of honor and it becomes you to work. I am doing what I can to make myself as thoroughly hated as a genuine Yankee- Love to all the babies from Nell down. Your affectionate husband, Charles
We had another glorious day yesterday – On Mr. Sumner’s motion Ino v Rock a colored Citizen of Boston was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the U.S. Reverdy Johnson in arguing the Dred Scott case said if the Court decided he was a Citizen they would yet see colored men admitted to practice in the Court and perhaps sitting upon the Bench. Well who can say nay? The first part of his fear is realized sooner than anybody had any reason to believe it could be- the other part may be sooner than we can now believe – I think we are very near the time when we can afford to make peace – I suppose Mr. Seward and the Rebel Commissioner Shepherd & Hunter and how diarguing the terms of peace on a vessel in Hampton Roads. So at least a little bird hear whispered me. I shall hail it with the greatest joy with the greatest joy of slavery is nally and truly killed as I believe it is. I feel quite sure that three quarters of the states will approve the amendment to the Constitution and end the Iniquity and then peace will be most welcome.
I can say for myself that nothing but emancipation is worth carrying on war for and that secured and assured they may arrange all other terms as they please. I fear that may be put in possible jeopardy by too speedy a peace: slite the fear is so weak as scarcely to cloud my conviction that slavery cannot survive this war – a conviction which I have had from the outset.
Washington 30 (31) Jany, 1865
Tuesday eve 9
My Dear Dora [Sedgwick’s wife Deborah Gannett Sedgwick] –
This has been a most glorious day. The Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery passed the House at 4 o’clock this afternoon by a vote of 119 to 56. A majority of 7. All this you have doubtless learned long before this (8 p.m.) by the telegraph, and we expect to hear by tomorrow evening that several states have already ratified it. I hope New York or Missouri may be first and Massachusetts next but fear she may get the start of the others.
It was a most exciting scene in the House. The galleries were crammed early in the day. Nell got a place early in the Diplomatic Gallery and sat out the session with distinguished gentleman many of whom were filled with anxiety as to the result. I noticed among others Mr. Jno Jay and Chief Justice Chase. It was very doubtful from the preliminary votes how the main question was to be decided although I have felt great confidence for several days that it was to carry. Finally as the vote was taken it was impossible to suppress applause upon the floor and in the galleries as one after another doubtful voice pronounced in favor of the measure and it began to be apparent that Justice and Liberty were to be established as the fundamental laws of this great nation.
When the result was declared from the Chair it was — (can not transcribe word) impossible to restrain the enthusiasm – It burst forth in shouts or cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, tossing of hats in the air – everybody rose to their feet and hardier cheers never were given – There was no use in trying to suppress it and in the midst the House adjourned. I saw Wm. H. Channing rushing around like a madman – some one proposed to sing John Brown & if one had begun it all would have joined in the swelling chorus. It has been what the Romans would call the whitest of white days. I tried to write while the House was in progress but although I exhibited no excitement I could not write – it was just impossible. No man or woman who has had the least influence in producing this most auspicious result has lived in vain. I never hoped to see this day, during the many long and unpromising years of the past, until the madness of this Rebellion proved that the hour of destruction of the infernal system was appointed of God and since then I have never doubted – I cannot write more – the children (Nell and Mrs. Eliot) are going to the P.M. Generals reception, and in the morning Nell goes North. Your loving husband, C.B. Sedgwick
Sarah’s photograph “Looking Out” taken on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts on January 1, 2019 – was chosen for the 2020 Essex National Heritage Area website cover page. essexheritage.org
In addition, Sarah’s photograph “Heading to Play” was chosen as a 3rd Prize Winner in the 2019 National Essex Heritage Area photography contest in the category “People of Essex County.” Her photograph of the Essex River was one of 9 photographs that won in the NEHA 2019 Instagram contest.
“Some say living on Cape Ann feels like a little slice of heaven.
In Sarah Tracy Burrows’ photo, it almost looks like that, too.
Burrows captured this photo of her 3-year-old golden retriever, Scout, while on a visit to Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester. The soft, pillowy clouds reflected on the shoreline as Scout enjoys a leisurely, off-season walk, when dogs are allowed on the beach, led to the aptly named shot.
“I love Cape Ann, especially Gloucester,” says the Wenham resident.
Her photo goes a long way illustrating why.
Burrows entered “walking on Clouds” in the 2018 Essex National Heritage Commission’s annual photo contest that showcases the living landscapes, unique places and interesting people of Essex County. The shot was an instant favorite, earning her first place in the “Off the Beaten Path” category.
A native of Central New York, Burrows worked for many years at a Boston publishing company before turning her attention fully to writing. The author of “FIGHTING FOR NELLIE,” she writes historical and current fiction based on true events, as well as nonfiction and poetry.
In addition to family and friends, her other passions include photography, music, running, swimming, skiing, walking nearby beaches and watching every sunrise and sunset possible.
Burrows’ award-winning photo is on display for the year with the contest’s other top shots at the National Park Service Visitor Center at Salem Maritime, 2 New Liberty St., Salem, as well as the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission office, 160 Main St., Haverhill.
On National Women’s Day, I reflected on the courage of women, in general,and in my ancestry, how each was, in their own way and circumstances, courageous and impactful.
As an example, in this note written by my great grandmother, Florida “Flo” Bayard Seay Tracy,to my mother, Ann,for her wedding,“GrannieTracy” passed along “something old” – a handkerchief belonging to my 4thgreat grandmother, making the fabrictoday@160+ years old –and askedmy mother to one day give it to the next bride. The second note, also writtento my mother, was fromGrannie’s daughter, Ellen,(“Aunt Ellie”) both women who I knew and loved.
Their notesare reminders of the bonds women share and thecourage, support, andlove they can hold and spread, to themselves, families, communities, and generations following.
“Grannie Tracy,”born in 1880 in Rome, Georgia, was brave in many ways, one being to live outspokenly in a world she couldn’t hear. Though deaf since her early twenties, she communicated as well as anyone I knew. She read lips and spoke eloquently. She stated,jokingly, that she often learned more from a church sermon than people who could hear it. Her choice word, “darling,” and her gentile, graceful manner yet strong sense of feminism I can still hear and feel today.
Grannie Tracy was also brave when, after graduating from Shorter College in Rome, majoring and excelling in music, she called off her engagement to a local man to marry her true love, my great grandfather, James Grant Tracy, who she met at Cornell University while visiting a girl friend,a Cornell student. Eventually moving from her native Southern state, she settled with James in Syracuse, New York.
An outstanding writer, historian, and genealogist, who consistently and exhaustively triedgetting her work published, her short stories speak vividly of her childhood as the daughter of Rome’s mayor (John Seay),owner of the Coosa River Boats Company, veteran of the Civil War (as were her two older brothers), and the strong woman who raised her. One of Flo’s stories explains the loss of the family’s largest boat, by flood, recallingher father’s discouragement upon returning home after learning the news but her mother’s resiliency springing into action to get him and the family right back on their feet.
Ironically, years earlier, while Grannie’s father and brothers fought for the Confederacy, her future husband James’sfather and uncle (Colonel Osgood Tracy and Confederate Medal of Honor recipient, Major William Tracy respectively, 122nd NYSV)fought for the Union, leaving at home their widowed mother, my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Vose Osgood Tracy.
Grannie herself would one day see her youngest, son, Ted, serve in WWII, landing on Iwo Jima day two. No doubt Grannie kept these handkerchiefs close at hand during those years.
(Grannie Tracy, Aunt Ellie, Uncle Ted (left), Grandpa John Tracy and Uncle Osgood ‘Ots’)
After the death of her husband, Sarah raised four sons’ as a single parent, losing the youngest at age 6 to Diptheria, the same year James died. Sarah required James Jr., Osgood and Will to study and work hard, and they grew to be responsible, young men. Sarah was, as recalled in letters and her obituary, a conversationalist with a sharp memory and well liked byyounger generations. Both an “outdoorswoman” and “excellent horsewoman,”at age 97, six weeks before her death, Sarah rode her two favorite horses some distance herself.Throughout her life, she was passionate about flowers, especially exotic European ones.
Sarah’sdaughter-in-law, (my second great grandmother)Ellen “Nellie” Sedgwick Tracy – whose stepmother was Women’s Suffragist, author, and abolitionist, Deborah Gannett Sedgwick, of Boston – made an impact, too, in the lives of women.
Nellie, age 21
As her obituary states, she was “an original trustee of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, later known as Syracuse Memorial. She was former president of the institution and became an Emeritus Trustee. In addition, she was head of the employment bureau at the Home for Aged Women.”
In her early twenties, she spent a great deal of time in Washington, engaging her interests in the abolition movement. Her father, two term N.Y. State Representative Charles Baldwin Sedgwick, was a staunch abolitionist, who refused to leave Congress until every slave in every state was free. (He was first to give a speech on the House floor in 1860 denouncing slavery, and years earlierrepresented white men whom freed from jail an enslaved runaway man who had been imprisoned). Though Nellie herself did not serve in Congress, as women were not allowed, she was alongside her father in the city, House and at the Naval Academy, for which he codified laws. She assisted the war effort in helping to raise funds for a new Navy vessel, the USS Onondaga. And on January 31, 1865, Nelliesat beside her fatherin the House when the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed in the House abolishing slavery and involuntary slavery.
Circling back closer generations, my mother, Ann Livingston Tracy Burrows, the most important woman in my life who I will miss and honor each day I live, hopefully instilling the valuable lessons she taught me in my life and three sons’, was a teacher. She supported my father before he could practice law, and though not financially after that, in all ways until the day she died.
My father’s mother, Gertrude, my “Nan,” oversaw a maternity ward, delivering and taking care of babies at both the hospital and at home. She taught me at an early age to enjoy baking, and being a breast cancer survivor, that women sometimes must lose their breast(s) in order to save their lives.
Nan and me. 2. Nan w my father
My maternal grandmother, Loretta, (below) I never had the chance to know, but I don’t doubt she was brave. She married Granny Tracy’s youngest and fourth child, John Bayard Tracy, and raised their three children during the Depression while my grandfather, who graduated fromCornell University, worked night shifts shoveling coal into furnaces at Crucible Steel and in time off and other periods, coffee into bags for the O.V. Tracy Coffee & Co. family business founded one generation before. My grandmother, mother, her brothers, cousins and friends helped, too, with the company.
In 1962, during the Cold War, Loretta suffered a parent’s worst nightmare; her youngest child, “Johnny,”age 25, was killed while co-piloting a Secret Air Command mission back from Russia. After the Air Force messenger delivered a telegram to my grandparents’ front doorstep, I imagine these handkerchiefs were put to use all too well.
The lossmust have been difficult, to say the least, on my mother, especially being 8 months pregnant (with my brother, John). And four and a half years after(17 months before I was born) at the age of 61,my grandmotherdied,after a battle with alcohol, which perhaps she thought might ease her pain. Though she lost that fight, in my eyes,she was a courageous and beautiful woman.
The abovestories are a small windowintofour generations’of women in my family,colored like stain glass before me. I am grateful for the love, courage, and example these women passed on. I think often on thehardships and strength many of them must have had watching sons serve in wartime and the military.
I think, too,about the love I feel for women relatives today, such as my Aunt Barb, and Betty, my cousins, Dawn, Sharon, Whitney, and second cousins, Tracy and Julie, my four sister-in-laws, mother-in-law, four nieces, and my cousin’s wife, Toma, my mother and father’scousins’ etc. still with us today.And those second aunts to me, sisters of my grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’ who were so wonderful in each of their own ways. I loved the gatherings we had.
I am grateful, as well, for women friends and neighbors, many of who are like family, anda woman who is like a second mother to me, Sue Beeching.
In closing, cheers to women everywhere who are “fighting the fight,” whatever battle and/or dream it is,trying to make a difference in themselves and others, and helping educate those following their lead.
Though my mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers and great aunts are no longer here on Earth they are and will always be women who are very much with me.
I dedicate this story to my beloved GrannieTracy, Aunt Ellie, and my mother. I am grateful for the amazing women they were and the lessons theytaught. Granny Tracy is especially with me when I write. One day, I plan to publish her stories, for her, and of course,look forward to passing on the handkerchief!
My mother with her best friend, The Waldheim Dock, Big Moose Lake