GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part I (Buckle Up)
One of my favorite features of GMG is the Q&As I just got back from vacation, opened my work email and had a questionnaire filled out by Melissa Smith Abbott that is a novel. I’ll be breaking it up into parts because the blog formatting goes to shit when I try to format the entire thing.
Thank you so much Melissa for taking the time to write and share all you did, it’s awesome!
My name is Melissa Smith Abbott and I read your local blog fairly often. I work for the Gloucester Times as the Downtown Advertising Consultant. I have read your GMG Question and Answer column with interest but to tell you the truth the one word or even one sentence answers you mostly get from your interviews leave me wanting more. I startd thinking about what I would say if I was given a chance and today I wrote down some of my musings and really it is only a fraction of what I have thought up. I think your questions are provocative in a way that it makes me think about the history of things in Gloucester. I like delving into things a little more than the average person. I thought I would pass it on to you and if you feel guided maybe publish it but if it is too long, I understand. I have attached a recent photo of me with my husband Charlie Abbott’s 1st grandchild “Madison”.
How Long Have You Lived in Gloucester?
In June it will be 56 years. I was born at the Addison Gilbert Hospital and delivered by my mother’s father or grandfather, Dr. George Melvin Doyle, who was a Doctor in Gloucester. The story goes that I tried to grab the scissors out of his hand when he went to cut the cord. The Doyles had come down from Prince Edward Island in Canada around 1895 and settled in Gloucester. Thier family had a big potato farm up in PEI and they also had timber so they built seine boats. The family had gotten a land grant in PEI in 1805 and had come there from Wexford, Ireland. There are a couple of family legends about the Doyles from Wexford. One is that they were decedents of Charlmagne and the other was that it was either the prison ship or PEI and that’s how the family got there. My mother actually visited the family in PEI a few years ago and was shown the original china they brought with them in 1805. The family still owns the Potato farm there! The younger kids
who weren’t going to inherit the farm came down to Gloucester and worked in Giffords boat yard on Parker Street where The Rockport National Bank is presently. They built working seine boats and pleasure sailing boats for the well to do customers too. My Great grandfather, Austin Doyle, ended up buying and running the boat yard from the Giffords sometime before WW1. He ran the place with his two sisters, Annie and Elizabeth. He died sometime in the early 1930’s and he had wanted my grandfather George Melvin Doyle to become an engineer but since his mother, Catherine Rice, had died at the hands of a quack doctor on Short Street in Gloucester somewhere around 1911, he had vowed to become a Doctor. He attended John Hopkins and was one of the only Doctors in Gloucester during the depression and WW2. He didn’t work for money, he just opened the back door of his house at 33 Middle Street and there would be things on the steps like fish, potatoes, molasses,
liquor…anything really. His 1st wife was Margaret “Peggy” Greenleaf from the West Gloucester Greenleafs. The Greenleafs were early settlers. My 10 greats grandfather on Peggy’s fathers side was Edmund Greenleaf who was a Hugonaut escaping religious persecution from Europe. Originally he was from England but had lived in Holland and worked as a silk dyer before buying a boat and captaining his flock to the new world. He was both the captain of the little ship that arrived in Newbury, MA on the Parker River around 1636 as well as the minister. His decedents were famous during the American Revolution and fought with General George Washington at Valley Forge. later they were given land grants in Westford, Maine for their service during the American Revolution. One of those decedents was named William Greenleaf and he and his brother Nathanial built themselves a schooner and came down to Gloucester around 1880’s or perhaps a little earlier. They were two
of the Highliner Halibut Schooner captains of thier day. This was at a time when the schooner fishing captains were like the Rock Stars and were extremely well respected. William was married to a pretty girl with long red hair he met in Nova Scotia named Mary Connors. There is some family story about a kidnapping or elopement but I am unclear of the details. This is the same family as the Connors Drugstore family. Anyway, they lived in Gloucester and misfortune did strike them when they lost a schooner on her maiden voyage. Her name was the “Henrietta Greenleaf” and on their shakedown cruise a huge storm and wind came up and capsized the boat killing several on board including Mary Connors Brother. William lived and was rescued but from that day forward he supported 5 of the family’s of the men he lost, until he died in the 1930’s. No small feat in the earlier part of the last century.He was a real larger than life take charge kind of guy who was
fearless. He was the captain of the Grace L. Fears when Blackburn got lost on it and rowed to shore in the snowstorm. There are many legends and stories about him but he was known as “the best cusser in Gloucester” but he made of point of never swearing. So it seems he must have had some colorful language without taking the lords name in vain.
My father’s family the “Smith’s” didn’t come to Cape Ann until 1929 during the depression when they drove up here in a Model T from Connecticut (Originally they were from Scotland and Northern Ireland with a side trip to Wales for a while) to look at a Blacksmith Shop which was for sale in Rockport very cheap. The driver of the Model T was my great grandmother and she was named Melissa Collins (whose husband Allan Smith was a ships carpenter who traveled the world) and she came with her daughter (my grandmother) Melissa Collins Smith. They were shown a Forge Building on High Street in Rockport where the very popular Blacksmith had unfortunately committed suicide because everyone stopped using horses and started using automobiles. The building was practically unsalable to any locals because of the guilt the neighbors felt over his death. To make a very long story short, they bought the building and started The Blacksmith Shop Restaurant in 1929. The
Smith’s had several businesses on Cape Ann including The Andama Bread Company, The Easterly Inn, The Faraday Inn, and The Cable House Inn. I grew up working in the Smith family businesses and I was named after my Great grandmother and grandmother, Melissa. My grandmother Melissa Smith was a great mentor to me and at a time before women’s liberation, ran her businesses with a combination of cut throat fairness, kindness, and compassion. She absolutely loved and lived to cook. I have all of her recipes on the website www.anadamabread.com . Many of them seem old fashioned in this day and age but I can assure you in their day, they were state of the art delicious. I have many recipes for old time Gloucester Specialties on this website so check it out.