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Memoir of a Clever New England Girl

Charlotte Have courtesy (c) Ruth Given

Summer diversions

The great event of the year, she writes, was an annual trip to her grandmother’s farm near Rye Beach. All 10 remaining members of the family crammed into a carriage that Charlotte called the "omnium gatherum". Her father and the boys went swimming, while the females took off their shoes and socks to wade and collect shells. Then the children all went back to the farm to search for eggs, climb trees, and feast on yellow corn.

In 1830, when Charlotte Haven was 10, her sisters, girlfriends and mother spent a few weeks on the Isles of Shoals. They "stopped" at Smuttynose also known as Haley’s Island. Charlotte offers this revealing anecdote:

"There were only five houses on the island, and a hotel kept by the Haelys…Hester or ‘Ester’ Haley was a character. She ruled the whole island, man, woman, and child. Once a drunkard fisherman came home and shot at his wife. Hester heard the shot, rushed right up to the man, made him get into his boat and told him to push out and never dare put foot on the island again; and I guess he never did, at least so long as Ester lived on the island."

Charlotte’s memoir offers rare feminine insights into Portsmouth society and religious life as well. She describes her first visits to nearby towns, attends a marriage ceremony and travels to Boston. But it is her precocious ways that shine through and bring her character to life. As a child, for example, she preferred to run rather than walk. She climbed ladders to steal cake through the kitchen window, and liked to leap back and forth over her baby sister’s cradle. One final anecdote speaks volumes about this newly discovered character who later left Yankee Portsmouth for the California frontier. Charlotte said:

"My favorite seat was in an apple tree, where I used to carry my books and study. I was fond of green apples too, but father had forbidden us to pick them. So I used to bend down the branches and gnaw them, leaving the cores dangling on the tree."

Copyright © 2009 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved. Selections from Charlotte Haven’s memoir courtesy Ruth Given.

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