In Which My Family Founds New England #3: The Dissenters

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, ME with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2015 by travsd


This part three of a series. For Part One (Pilgrims) go here; and Part Two (Puritans) go here. 

History is very complicated. It’s even more complicated to five year olds. When we hear that the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America seeking “Religious Freedom” that always sounds terrific, and by definition (since they are the Founders) much in line with contemporary ideals. However, the truth is that though they themselves were seeking Freedom from the tyranny of the Church of England, it was NOT part of their plan to practice what we think of as religious tolerance themselves. If you had different ideas from the Pilgrim and Puritan leaders, you would be punished, and by methods that today would be considered cruel and unusual. Which is ironic, because there were many people of conscience who were part of their own movement, but just happened to go farther in many of their beliefs. Many of these people were banished from Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth. They became the founders of the settlements that were to become known as Rhode Island. And in Rhode Island, we get the first colony that practiced what we think of as true religious tolerance. It may have been the first place so instituted in the world.



Providence was founded by Roger Williams, a Cambridge educated jurist and theologian whose conversion to Puritanism ruined his chances for a career with the Church of England. He arrived in Boston in 1631, was briefly a prominent citizen both there and at Plymouth but ran into trouble with the leaders at both colonies. He founded his own at Providence in 1636, bringing dissenters with him, simultaneously founding Rhode Islamd and what was to become the Baptist Church. Some of my ancestors were among his earliest followers:

Daniel Abbott — an early pioneer of Providence. He arrived in Massachusetts with Winthrop’s fleet in 1630 and settled in Providence prior to 1639. His grandson and namesake would be Deputy Governor of Rhode Island, Clerk of the Assembly, and Speaker of the House of Deputies.

Benjamin Harrington — There are different stories about this colorful early American character. The Harringtons are my mother’s patrilineal line. There are many spellings of the name; our variation ended up being “Herindeen”. Benjamin’s grandfather was Sir John Harington, the “Saucy Godson” of the Court of Queen Elizabeth — I’ll write much more about him on a later occasion. John’s son James seems to have run away as a teenager and become a farmer and run off to the colonies with his family. Benjamin Harrington came to Massachusetts with his father James and the rest of family on a cattle boat with the Winthrop fleet (see previous post) in 1630. Now: Rhode Island had two reputations during the colonial period: one was for being a religious haven, the other was being a hive of every sort of crook and scoundrel known to man (the second reputation never went away). Harrington seems to have been a bit of both. Posterity remembers him as “The Rogue of Rhode Island”. He was a follower and friend of Roger Williams. He was also arrested in 1647  for beating his bride Elizabeth White (who herself had been in the dock for stealing clothes). And later he was also under suspicion for encouraging a Narragansett Indian to murder one of Williams’ servants with an ax. Fortunately, to balance out the scales, we are also descended from this man:


Pardon Tillinghast — immigrated to America circa 1645 and became one of Rhode Island’s most substantial citizens. He became pastor of the Baptist Church of Providence (the first Baptist church in America, started by Roger Williams) in 1681, a position he held until his death in 1718.


Portsmouth/ Newport

The other major religious settlement in Rhode Island, Portsmouth, was founded on Aquidneck Island in 1638 by Dr. John Clarke, William Coddington and Anne Hutchinson. (Several of my ancestors were among the signers of the Portsmouth Compact, which established the town). The following year Clarke and some others broke off and founded nearby Newport after a falling out with Hutchinson. Because that’s how dissenters are.

As I say, my ancestors were among the founders and earliest settlers. they included:

Philip Sherman (sometimes spelled Shearman) — He arrived in Massachusetts in 1633, but became an early follower of Hutchinson and became one of the founders of Portsmouth. Follow the link to learn about some of his famous descendants. He married Sarah Odding the stepdaughter of John Porter (see below). And Philip and Sarah’s daughter Sarah married another of my ancestors Thomas Mumford (see also below).

Thomas Lawton, younger brother of George Lawton, one of the earliest settlers of Portsmouth (1638) who served as Deputy to the General Assembly, and Assistant to the governor.

Thomas Fish — arrived in Portsmouth in 1643, and became a substantial citizen of that town. More importantly, he was to be great grandfather to one of New York’s most important bankers and one of the first brokers on the New York Stock Exchange, who just happens to have one of the funniest names in American history. Learn what it is here.  I have gazed at portraits of this man in museums many times without ever realizing I was related to him.


Reverend Obadiah Holmes — moved to Salem in 1638, then to Rehoboth in the Plymouth colony in 1645. There he came in increasing conflict with leaders over his religious beliefs and so he moved to Newport in 1650. While visiting a friend in Lynn, Massachusetts the following year he was apprehended by the authorities and publicly whipped. In 1652 he was made the pastor of Newport’s Baptist church, a post he held for 30 years. Good article about him here. 

Christopher Holder — Perhaps the greatest hero in these annals, an early Quaker missionary. He preached in England, Massachusetts and the Caribbean, but it was only in Rhode Island that he was able to enjoy religious freedom without persecution. Indeed while he lived there he was one of Portsmouth’s and Newport’s most honored citizens. (Whereas in Massachusetts he suffered public floggings, imprisonment, and had his ear cut off.) I am proud to say he was my (11th) great grandfather.

Giles Slocum –– one of the first settlers of Portsmouth (1638) – – a Baptist for many years, he and his family became Quakers in 1673, with Holder’s teachings an undoubted factor. Giles’ son Peleg Slocum was to become a reverend in the Quaker faith and married Holder’s daughter Mary (my ancestor is Mary’s sister Elizabeth) . I find it inconceivable that the area of Slocum, Rhode Island isn’t named after this family, but haven’t turned up any reference to it yet.

And now I save the best for last!

My home town!

I wish I’d known this when I was a kid, but in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t because I would have been INSUFFERABLE. I mean, I was already insufferable but this would have made me ten times more obnoxious. I am descended from the earliest settlers of the very town I grew up in. The Pettaquamscutt Purchase encompassed the lands that today comprise the towns of South Kingstown and Narragansett, Rhode Island, where I grew up. I know about the historic purchase from my boyhood — I was a junior member of the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society between the ages of 11 and 13, when my brother served as its President. I actually spent a lot of time in their headquarters, an old jailhouse, working on volunteer projects. This is it:


It would have been mighty cool at the time to have known I was descended from these guys:

John Porter — Arrived in Massachusetts in 1633. Like Philip Sherman, was a founder of Portsmouth and signer of the Portsmouth Compact , but more importantly he was one of the partners in the Pettaquamscutt Purchase, and thus was one of the pioneers and founders of my hometown. His daughter Hannah married my (8th) great grandfather who was….

William Wilbore — And my 8th great grandfather William was a cousin of Samuel Wilbore, yet another founder of Portsmouth. His son, Samuel Wilbore, Jr was also a partner in the Pettaquamscutt Purchase, and thus also a founder of my hometown. One of Samuel’s descendants was Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, which brings us back to this blogpost. Is yer head explodin’ yet, man?

Thomas Mumford — I am also directly descended from this third partner in the Pettaquamscutt Purchase. He was married to Philip Sherman’s daughter Sarah. He was High Sheriff of the region for a time and High Constable for the entire colony for many years. Most significantly, the climactic battle of King Phillip’s War, the Great Swamp Fight took place on his land.

I’ll have a post dedicated to that sad event, and my ancestors who participated, on Memorial Day.

Tonight: Howling Vic as Liza Minelli!

Posted in Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , , on May 22, 2015 by travsd


In Which Gorky Visits Coney Island!

Posted in BROOKLYN, Coney Island, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , , , on May 22, 2015 by travsd


Force Majeur Returns This Sunday

Posted in BROOKLYN, Contemporary Variety, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , , on May 22, 2015 by travsd


Tonight on TCM: Tales of Leaky Boats

Posted in CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Hollywood (History), Movies, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2015 by travsd

Tonight on TCM: a program of films from one of my favorite cinematic subgenres: the sinking ship flick.


8:oopm (EST) The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The first movie I ever saw in a cinema and my second favorite movie of all time. I’ve already written my thoughts about it here. I’ve probably seen it 20 times, most recently about a month ago, so I’ll likely skip the honor tonight. However, I most certainly will watch —


10:15pm (EST) Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)

Believe it or not, I’ve NEVER seen this one (apart from a few minutes on television)! It tanked (pun intended) upon release and seldom gets shown. A brilliant producer, Irwin  Allen was a terrible director, and this was during his period of hubris when he was doing both. (Have you seen The Swarm? It’s almost totally incoherent). At any rate the plot of this one has the crew of a tugboat jumping aboard the doomed ship to claim salvage rights, and a bunch of Greek medics (secretly looters) jumping aboard to “save lives”.  Along the way they meet surviving crew and passengers of The Poseidon we never met in the first film: The cast includes Michael Caine, Telly Savalas, Sally Field, Karl Malden, Shirley Jones, Peter Boyle, Mark Harmon and Slim Pickens as a Texas millionaire!  Wild seahorses couldn’t drag me away.


12:15am (EST) Juggernaut (1974)

This one doesn’t fit in the program at all — it’s not so much a ship disaster movie as a bomb disposal and defusing suspense thriller, and like most ticking time bomb movies, it’s a whopping bore. Richard Harris is the bomb expert, Anthony Hopkins a detective whose family just happens to be on board the ship, Omar Sharif the ship’s captain, and Ian Holm is the guy who runs the shipping company. All they do is sweat a lot and look real nervous for two hours. And I suppose this amounts to a spoiler, right? Because if the bombs sink the ship the movie wouldn’t be…a whopping bore, right?


2:15am (EST) A Night to Remember (1958)

This British film is the least best known of all the Titanic films nowadays, yet happens to be one of the best in quality, for it is quite true to Walter Lord’s incredible book of the same name. Naturally everyone knows James Cameron’s 1997 love story. Before that, the one Americans knew best (I think) was the 1953 film of the same name with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb. At least that was one I knew best until then.

I never got to see A Night to Remember until about two years ago, when they screened it at Loew’s Jersey City on a double bill with The Poseidon Adventure. And it is indeed incredible. It’s told pretty much from the point of view of Second Officer Lightoller (Kenneth More), the most senior officer to survive the disaster. One bit I recall loving in the film, is a recurring shot of an old man sitting in a chair reading a book all through the ship’s last moments. His identity and the identity of the book are enigmatic. It’s just how he is choosing to spend his last minutes. Not with craziness, but with calm. You can be sure I’ll watch this one again. As I will this one:


4:30am (EST) The Last Voyage (1960)

This is an amazing movie! I had never heard of it til I saw it on TCM in 2010. It seems seminal to me, solving a lot of the technical and special effects problems that would later come into play in The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Furthermore it was shot on a real ocean liner so it actually looks more realistic than the The Poseidon Adventure.  (Yes, I know parts of TPA were shot on the Queen Mary, but the rest was done on Hollywood sound stages. ALL of this one was shot on a real ship)

The predicament: a fire breaks out on an ocean liner. The stubborn and foolish captain (George Sanders) scoffs at certain safety measures (like stopping so the crew can see to some things). Meanwhile some safety valves have fused shut, causing a boiler explosion that rips through several floors and puts a fatal hole in the hull. A woman (Dorothy Malone) is trapped under wreckage. Much of the film concerns the efforts of her husband Robert Stack to free her, aided by stoker Woody Strode, and later an engineer played by Edmund O’Brien (who spends most of the film trying to save the ship itself.) Malone and Stack’s daughter is a creepy-devil child…very strange casting.

Student film-makers! This movie teaches an interesting cinematic lesson. Sometimes realism is NOT the best solution. A case in point: Whereas, yes, in real life an explosion only takes a second, in a film, it has to be stretched out into several shots and take a little bit of time, otherwise it lacks drama. In this film the explosion only takes a second and thus seems underwhelming though the plot informs us that it’s really catastrophic. But otherwise there are so many amazing scenes in the film done right on the ship. It bears repeated viewing.

In Which My Family Founds New England #2: The Puritans

Posted in AMERICANA, CULTURE & POLITICS, ME with tags , , on May 21, 2015 by travsd


This is the second post in our series on our distinguished New England ancestors. (The first, on the Pilgrims of Plymouth, is here. )

Plymouth struggled along for years, with just a few hundred inhabitants by 1630. But to the north, starting in 1628, the Massachusetts Bay colony was founded, and it was to have a different fate. It was to be colonized mainly by Puritans, whom unlike the Pilgrims of Plymouth, advocated for the reform of the Church of England rather than total Separation. And they came en masse. In 1630 Governor John Winthrop came over with a fleet of ships bearing nearly a thousand colonists, many of my ancestors among them. Throughout the 1630s, an onslaught — some 20,000 people arrived during that decade. Hundreds of these were my ancestors. (Indeed, the great majority of my mom’s ancestors arrived during the 1630s. I’ve only come across a tiny few who came before or after.

It was thus very difficult for me to figure out who to include in this post and where the cut-off should be. There are hundreds I didn’t write about here, almost all of them, by definition, among the founders and leaders of their towns. Originally I planned to include several more dozen in this post, but I had to cut them out; it grew too unwieldy, just a list of names. But they were among the founders of Massachusetts towns like Lynn, Salem, Ipswich, Dedham, Braintree and Roxbury.

Here are some of my more notable Massachusetts direct ancestors (not including the Plymouth folks from the last post or those who would go on to Rhode Island and Connecticut, which we’ll talk about in future posts). Click on the links below to learn more.


Henry Adams the ancestor of President John Adams and all his illustrious progeny. He settled in Braintree in 1633. He is my (9th) great grandfather. (We are also descended from Boylstons, whom John Adams also counted among his ancestors)


William Pynchon — Arrived in 1630 or before and founded the town of Roxbury. He didn’t like the rocky soil there (for which the town is named) and so headed an expedition west and founded the town of Springfield in 1635. Pynchon’s son John founded the towns of Northampton, Westfield, and Hadley. His daughter Mary married Elizur Holyoke, for whom Mount Holyoke and the town of Holyoke are named. I am descended from his daughter Ann. And you’ve already guessed the name of another Pynchon descendant, novelist Thomas Pynchon.  (The naming of the protagonists in Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables is a coincidence). 

Rev. John Eliot

Rev. John Eliot

James Penniman — One of the first settlers of Braintree in 1631. He came with his wife Linda Eliot and her brother John Eliot, the “Apostle to the Indians”


Cotton Mather: Relation

Henry Woodward and Elizabeth Mather arrived in 1635 on the same ship with Elizabeth’s brother, Reverend Richard Mather, father of Increase Mather and grandfather of Cotton Mather (if you don’t these names you really ought to).  They originally settled at Dorchester; at Mather’s prompting, the Woodwards were to be among the first settlers  of the western Mass. town of Northampton.

Captain Joseph Weld — moved to Massachusetts with his two brothers by the mid 1630s.  Joseph served in the Pequot War of 1637 and amassed a great deal of land that now makes up the area called Jamaica Plain. His son John served as an officer in King Philip’s War; I am descended from Joseph’s daughter Elizabeth. Among the descendants of this illustrious family are Massachusetts Governor William Weld, and the actress Tuesday Weld. 

Robert Williams — arrived in Boston in 1637 and was a prominent citizen in Roxbury for over 50 years. He is more notable perhaps for his descendants: great-grandson Col. Ephraim Williams, founder of Williams College and hero of the French and Indian War;  great-grandson Rev. Elisha Williams, Rector of Yale; and great-great-grandson William Williams a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Major-General Humphrey Atherton — undoubtedly the most heinous individual on this page. Holder of the highest military rank in New England his job description according to Wikipedia is quite hilarious “taking part in the acquisition of Native American lands, the persecution of Quakers, and the apprehension and convictions of heretics.” He arrived in America in 1637 and became one of the first citizens of Dorchester. In addition to his military rank he also held a number of political positions. More detail here. 

Francis Johnson — Johnson was a Presbyterian separatist leader, a minister, theologian and author who led a community of exiles in the Netherlands.  Like John Robinson (see our Plymouth post) he never made the journey to America. But his daughter Perseverance Johnson and her husband Deacon John Greene (my 9th great grandparents) came to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1632.

Michael Metcalf was a prosperous manufacturer in England who was persecuted for his religious beliefs and had to flee for his life. He escaped with his wife, nine children and one servant to Boston in 1637. He subsequently became one of the founders and town leaders of Dedham. You can read his story here. 

Robert Abell — arrived 1630. Read all about him and his illustrious family here. 

Deacon Samuel Edson — arrived in Salem in the 1630s and after 1650 became one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater in the Plymouth colony, where he was a church deacon and community leader for over 30 years.

Capt. Richard Brackett, — Arrived in 1630 and became one the leading citizens of Braintree, one of the founding members of the First Church of Boston, a deacon of the church, the town jailer, town clerk, and an officer in the local militia.

Benjamin Crispe, arrived in 1629 as a servant to Major General Edward Gibbons (a leader in the Pequod War, and voyages of exploration up the Connecticut River) and and was one of the founders of Watertown, Mass.

Reverend William Thompson — Oxford educated churchman who arrived in 1637 and became the first pastor in Braintree, serving there for nearly 30 years, with the exception of one year he spent as a missionary in Virginia.

* * * * * *

As you can see — these were very religious people, and it’s instructive to learn that so many of my ancestors had preaching as their calling. But we will treat of some of the more interesting and noble of them in our next post, as they were so contrary and principled that were unable to stay in Massachusetts or Plymouth. They had to leave and start Rhode Island.

Get in on the Summer Commedia dell’Arte Workshop

Posted in Clown, Comedy, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , on May 20, 2015 by travsd


It’s been my career-long ambition to study this ancient art form. It’s kind of the foundation of everything I’m interested in and it’s kind of a glaring gap in my dossier. But it looks like I may finally take the plunge this go round. You should too!

Upcoming Roving Sessions

  Bookmark and Share

Roving Classical Commedia University* Events
Commedia dell’Arte Intensives

co-produced with
Mask Arts Company

Commedia dell’Arte
Summer Workshop

6 Days
June 21 – 26, 2015 New York, NY

actors, artists, dancers, directors, teachers, students & variety artists
at all levels

in the Grand Salon at CENTRO ESPAÑOL 239 West 14 St, NYC

$535 over 40 hours
$35 reserves your place

“Anyone can open the drawer marked Commedia dell’Arte,
but, having opened it, how does one know what to choose from it
Carlo Mazzone-Clementi 1974

Roving Classical Commedia University* (RCCU*)
RCCU teaching Classical Commedia dell’Arte since 2001 as close to its original form as we believe it was performed in the 1500’s to 1600’s.
Participants discover and develop their personal historical Commedia dell’Arte traditional characters, style with their individual qualities.

Covering the basics of the northern Commedia dell’Arte

Areas of concentration:
Commedia dell’Arte characters
History of the characters; their movement and gestures, improvisation, lazzi, mask work, mime, physical skills, prop manipulation, rhythm, scatology, scenario work, and more; all integrated.

Women of the Commedia dell’Arte

Scenario & Improvisation
Much of the scenario and improvisation work will be from our own translation of four Flaminio Scala scenarii* we believe were performed by the legendary Gelosi Company 1572 to 1604, plus an anonymous scenario from 1611 we recently discovered.

Taught by master teacher:
Stanley Allan Sherman Bio, Reviews & Client Quotes

workshop registration, information, bookings

………………… .

Download pdf summer workshop printable flyer

Schedule subject to change
SundayWednesday 8 – 4: Thursday – Friday 8 – 3:
optional personal warm-up 8 – 8:20
warm-up, movement, mime, technique, skills class starts at 8:20
Commedia dell’Arte character, mask work, scenario improvisation 10 – 12

Lunch 12:00 to 12:45

Lazzi, scenario, prop manipulation, character, mask work, improvisation 12:45 to 3 or 4

Academic credit:
For students or teachers seeking academic credit please discuss the possibility with your academic advisor about receiving credit as independent study.
Teachers seeking CEU’s, please speak with your administration about receiving credit for this non-accredited workshop. We are happy to help you with any documentation you will need. A public school teacher has receive credit for our workshop.

NYC workshop housing options:
Bed & Breakfasts, Sublets, Roommates, Hostels, YMCA’s & More

(*Totally Unaccredited)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,935 other followers

%d bloggers like this: