Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cracker Tavern, Duxbury, Massachusetts

John Winsor and the Cracker Tavern
My ancestor, John Winsor (my 4th great-grandfather) ran The Cracker Tavern at the corner of Winsor and Washington Streets in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The beautiful building was torn down in 1962.

Daniel Webster and Henry Thoreau were both patrons. Thoreau wrote about my great-grandfather in his 1865 book, "Cape Cod" (pages 77 and 78), as follows (paragraph breaks are my own to make it easier for you to read, and references to my great-grandfather in bold):
I once sailed three miles on a mackerel cruise myself. It was a Sunday evening after a very warm day in which there had been frequent thunder-showers, and I had walked along the shore from Cohasset to Duxbury. I wished to get over from the last place to Clark's Island, but no boat could stir, they said, at that stage of the tide, they being left high on the mud.

At length I learned that the tavern-keeper, Winsor, was going out mackerelling with seven men that evening, and would take me. When there had been due delay, we one after another straggled down to the shore in a leisurely manner, as if waiting for the tide still, and in India-rubber boots, or carrying our shoes in our hands, waded to the boats, each of the crew bearing an armful of wood, and one a bucket of new potatoes besides. Then they resolved that each should bring one more armful of wood, and that would be enough. They had already got a barrel of water, and had some more in the schooner.
Thoreau continues to discuss the sailing trip and then we learn that John Winsor ended up overboard.
The boom swung round once or twice, and Winsor cast overboard the foul juice of mackerel mixed with rain-water which remained in his trough, and then we gathered about the helmsman and told stories.
It sounds like they ultimately had a good time that Sunday evening and it was fun to see my ancestor through Henry Thoreau's eyes. Too often we are very "removed" from our ancestors, the further back they are. So this kind of story can be a wonderful treasure.

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