I encourage you to “go local” this month; by learning the history of Blacks in your own town. If you live in Exeter, why not introduce yourself to the poems of James Monroe Whitfield, who was born on Whitfield’s Lane, now renamed Elliot Street?

Happy 200th James!

Did you know that this April is the 200th birthday of this Exeter-born Black man who published a book of poems in 1853? And did you know that his book America; and other poems” is held by the Library of Congress as an important part of American history and culture?

What local Black history might your town have “de-emphasized”? No better time than now to give it a homecoming.

In 2020, Whitfield was included in the anthology “African-American Poetry; 250 years of struggle and song.” This spring, his 200th bday will be honored at the Saturday, April 2, 2022 Exeter LitFest. Another local poet, Willie Perdomo, who was also included in the anthology, will bridge past and present by reading both a poem of Whitfield’s and a poem of his own. It will be like a bit of time-travel.

Why not look up Whitfield on Wikipedia, read him online, or at the Exeter Public Library? If you don’t read poetry – how about some light reading on him instead? I wrote a series of historical-fiction cozy caper mysteries set in Exeter that feature a few of our past residents.

Whitfield is profiled in my book “Incident at Ioka” which is for sale at Water Street Bookstore (or here https://www.amazon.com/Incident-Ioka-Maryvonne-Mini-Mystery/dp/0988374439 ).

Other books profile Jude Hall, a Revolutionary War soldier, and John G. Cutler. Both men are now on Wikipedia. Yes, they have “come home” too!

Heartwarming Holiday

It is wonderful to be able to gather in person with family again. (I am very grateful that the vaccines enabled this.) Our Thanksgiving meal was very heartwarming indeed, and I look forward to the look on my little grandson’s face in the crowd when he sees the town square light up tomorrow at 5pm. These family moments are so precious.

Today I write a quick update about another family: The Jude and Rhoda Hall family of Exeter, NH. Jude was a Black Revolutionary War patriot who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and for the next 8 years.

He returned to Exeter, married Rhoda and together they had a large family. But – and a very significant but – tragically, three of their sons were stolen into Southern slavery back in the early 1800’s. This hushed up sundering of their family was a foul state of affairs that has festered.

But sundered no more! Today I am pleased to announce that a professional genealogist, Gail Garda, has completes her research on the Jude Hall family tree. Use this link to download or view a sample of her report. The report is now also presented publicly through the new “Jude and Rhoda Hall Society” page on Facebook. Who can say where this will lead? Especially if DNA is involved 🙂 The point of this small act of redress is to gather Jude and Rhoda’s family back together.

It is my wish this season that this genealogical report brings heartwarming family joy to the descendants of this Exeter couple, whose story has been neglected for so long.

~RM Allen

PS. We will be continuing this spring to work on the proposed “Black Heritage Pocket-Park” project at the head of Swasey Parkway. Wouldn’t it be terrific if some of Jude and Rhoda’s people were in attendance? Kind of heartwarming, wouldn’t you say?

Giving Thanks

The Wheel of the Year is turning into darkness. Time to begin the hunkering down. But first, we give thanks for the harvest. Can you smell the turkey and fixings? Have you given thought to what you are thankful for yet? I am thankful for so, so, many things – including this guy above, whom I adore!

To begin, I want to say a special thank you to all of those who are working on a more inclusive history of America. There are so many people now! Here is something interesting and new (for me): you can add a few words of Abenaki into your Turkey gathering. See a tribal land acknowledgment for Exeter here that I read before a meeting last month. I had to practice the words for a while, they felt strange in my mouth.

Earlier I had promised an update on the pocket-park idea – so here it is.

Now as you know,  I am on a small ad-hoc committee working on a quiet pocket-park in honor of the historic African-American community that once thrived in Exeter. The project will lay dormant this winter, but we will pick it up again in the spring. But I am doing some background leg-work in the meantime.

Today I and 50 others attended a Black Heritage Trail of NH (BHTNH) marker unveiling in a small pocket-park in Portsmouth at 325 State Street. Speeches, songs, and champagne: very nicely done! The quiet park has two benches, a tree, and a stone marker. (Go check it out, it is similar to what our ad hoc committee has in mind.) Last month I met with JerriAnne, the BHTNH director, about the Exeter pocket-park project. They want to collaborate, so today’s event could be similar to what we end up doing.

Pomp and Candace Spring marker, 325 State St, Portsmouth, NH 11.2021

Other leg-work I have done is to visit two other parks while on a road trip. The Alex Haley Memorial at Annapolis Harbor, which strikes a nice balance between fact and whimsy. This balance makes it very accessible to all. (Alex Haley wrote “Roots” and the market in which his ancestor was sold is directly across the street from this wharf.)

Alex Haley of Roots

We also drove on the Harriet Tubman Byway, and visited her pocket-park in Cambridge, MD. This one was not as accessible – the location was odd. But I was glad I went to gather ideas. There are about 40 stops on this driving tour.

Thanks to you all for reading this blog. Enjoy the feasting, friends and family. I am grateful for you all. I have the best friends!!

Thanks for hanging with me😊  What fun!!

 PS: Tomorrow night is a full moon eclipse, and I have a niece who is due to give birth. Maybe it will be the day little Violett arrives? Another reason to give thanks.

Happy Halloween

I recently hosted a guided walk and book reading at dusk at Exeter Cemetery, where I set some spines a’tingling alongside the crypt. I had rolled out some “fake” blood and everything. It was super fun! I do so love Halloween.

You can sample the Exeter flavors of Halloween on your own when you read my newest cozy-caper, “Incident at Exeter Depot”. It spins three new, creepy stories set in places I tend to haunt. Like cemeteries: I admit I am a fan.

Here is the link to the book (or just go to Water St Bookstore). ​https://www.amazon.com/Incident-Exeter-Depot-Mini-Mystery-Mini-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08XM32YVG As you know, all profits to support Black Heritage projects in Exeter, NH.

Now, what else have I been up to? I had a professional genealogist working on Black Revolutionary War soldier Jude Hall’s family tree this summer. And I have also created a Facebook page “Jude and Rhoda Hall Society” on her suggestion. Once the tree is complete, we will place it up there as a downloadable file. Jude and Rhoda have hundreds of descendants. Right up to today.

And I finally met with the fun people at the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire in regards to Exeter’s Black Heritage Pocket-Park. They love the idea and would like to put a BHTNH marker there too. Yay!

And upcoming, there is a birthday road trip in the works! Seems I will be passing quite near to the Harriet Tubman Memorial Garden in Maryland. I plan to stop in and see what this pocket-park looks like. It may be helpful in some way to the pocket park project we will be working on this spring.

I’ll be back, post-trip, with an update on the trip. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my creepy book…

Summer Gifts

It’s July in Exeter, NH, and that means the annual American Independence Festival is about to begin. Due to Covid, this year it is on three weekends instead of the usual packed crowds jammed into one weekend. This year they are adding in more about the soldiers of African descent. Nice!

This spring, I had been working on this painting I call “Jude Hall at the Powder House.” When it was still unfinished it became a focal point in my pop-up art-installation on Juneteenth 2021 in the park.

Now it is finally finished, so I presented it as a gift to the American Independence Museum Their fancy yellow building on the hill is where Jude would go to collect his military pension. I wonder if he ever imagined there would be a painting of him on the wall in the room where they kept (and still keep) the strongbox??

I have no idea what Jude really looked like, but accounts of that time say he had dark skin, and was very large and strong. I imagine him as a Shaquille O’Neal type, so that’s how I painted him.

The 1771 Powder House is a pride and joy of Exeter, NH. It once housed the powder that was used at the Battle of Bunker Hill. So both Jude and the powder were at the same place on that fateful day. I thought about that a lot as I sat at my easel in front of this historic brick building on the river.

Another thing I though about was the tragedy of three of his free-born sons. Do you see those three light bricks near Jude’s eyes? They represent his three grown sons that were stolen into slavery. Jude seems to be looking at you, but he is really keeping his eyes on those three bricks. So am I.

To end this blog post, here is a summer gift for fans of my mystery book about Jude Hall, “Incident at Exeter Tavern”. You keep asking for a map, so I sketched one out this past rainy weekend. Enjoy your Revolutionary walkabout 🙂

Roses for Rebecca

Today, Mother’s Day, after nearly 100 years, Rebecca Walker got a headstone on her gravesite in the Exeter cemetery.

She was a what we call the “working poor” and a single mom. Perhaps you can relate? But – and this is a big but – she divorced her husband in 1897! Wow; was that even a thing then?? What gumption! So she became a single mother of six children, one of whom was blind. But, Rebecca was resilient and kept her family going, like many women who just have to do whatever it takes. Rebecca was an alum of Robinson’s Female Seminary, as were her daughters, except for Isabel who attended Perkins School for the Blind.

This Black family lived in Exeter their whole lives until one by one, the kids grew up and went to other places to get jobs. Only one son, Philip stayed in town. He was employed at the Ioka.

Most of the children never married. The whole family, but one, returned to Exeter to be buried together. Rebecca was the first to be laid to rest in plot #1301 in 1922. However, there was never any money for gravestones, so the grass lay bare and smooth over the many bones for years. Decades later in 1956, one military-issue stone finally proclaimed the Walker name, that of son Philip who had served in WW1. Isabel, the blind daughter, was the final soul to join her family in 1967, under that one military stone.

I tell a bit of Rebecca’s story in my third book “Incident at Exeter Depot” and I would love if you would read the book and meet her and a bunch of Exeter Suffragettes and their children. It helps support me what I am doing…

As you know, I am donating my book profits to create physical remembrances of Exeter’s historic Black community.  So, Happy Mother’s Day to Rebecca (Barbadoes) Walker. 100 years after her death, we can all say her name.

~~~ 🙂 ~~~

My three books are available at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter

or online at Amazon and Kindle.

Incident at Exeter Tavern, Incident at Ioka, Incident at Exeter Depot.

Thanks for your support!

Women’s History Month Arrival

Book #3 “Incident at Exeter Depot” in stores March 20th! Finally!!

Exeter residents (and beyond) have been learning some hidden history of their town by reading the first two books in this historical-fiction mystery series, and now the series is complete.

In the newest cozy-caper, you will be introduced to Black entrepreneur, John Garrison Cutler, in whose honor a plaque was recently installed on his building at 127 Water Street. Cutler was what we now call an “influencer.” Alongside his story is a group of Exeter Suffragettes who are working hard to get Women’s Suffrage passed on the 1903 Exeter town ballot. Yes, Women’s Suffrage was on the ballot in 1903! It is no spoiler to say that it did not pass then, but they persisted. Author RM Allen’s “Incident at Exeter Depot” helps you learn about this exciting era in Exeter.

Speaking of historical eras in Exeter, it is clear that we are in one right at this moment. Not only is the world dealing with a pandemic, but in addition America is waking up to an updated version of history. Exeter is no exception. The fact is that of all of the places in New Hampshire, Exeter had the highest percentage of Blacks directly after the Revolutionary War, when almost ten Black soldiers settled here and raised their children and grandchildren.

This well-researched trilogy introduces you to a few of Exeter residents in three important eras: Revolutionary War, Abolitionist, and Women’s Suffrage. You will also meet some memorable women of both yesterday and today, including Maryvonne the sleuth. She zips around town following clues and talking to folks who may seem oddly familiar to you; barbers, police officers, selectmen, historians.

Much of this revealed history of Exeter has been hidden in plain sight for a long time. All trilogy profits donated to a project to put Exeter’s Black history on the map. Literally. More information at https://rm-allen.com/park-project-2021/

This final book will join the first two (“Incident at Exeter Tavern” and “Incident at Ioka”) at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter on March 20th, just in time for the annual Exeter LitFest weekend celebration on April 1-3. It is also available on Amazon/Kindle here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08XM32YVG

Thanks for your interest in changing the narrative, my Sisters.

the long wait is over!

Black Herstory Month

What do Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman have in common? As far as we know, none of them have ever set foot in Exeter, NH.  Yet, every February during Black History month, we study them in our schools, sing their favorite hymns in our churches, and recognize them on the televisions in our living rooms.

But what about some historic Black people that were born and raised in Exeter? History happened here too, though many current residents may not know it unless they are fans of the Exeter Historical Society. I ask you: Why don’t we study our own Black History this month?

There is information, sometimes scant, on some very interesting citizens. Folks Jude Hall and Charles Tash, both well-respected soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Or how about a literary star like the abolitionist poet James Monroe Whitfield, whose book is still in print? Or perhaps business is more your speed. How about two men who were in the top-tier of income earners in town: John Garrison Cutler and George Harris.

What about the women? A couple notables were Catherine Merrill, who left a fund for the poor in her will, and Rebecca (Barbadoes) Walker, a Robinson Female Seminary alum who was married at fourteen, had six children, and divorced her husband (drunkenness/abandonment) at thirty-seven. All the Walkers (except the husband – go figure) are buried together in one plot in our Exeter Cemetery, but they were so poor there is only one stone – and that one was issued by the military for the youngest son, Phillip.

Rebecca Walker, single mother of six. One of whom was blind. Let’s bring herstory back: let’s say her name.

Rebecca Walker’s daughter, Ethel, at RFS school.

Do we speak their names in our schools and churches? Do their names adorn downtown buildings? Do you live in a house once owned by a person of color and is there a historical marker saying such? Why not?  Why don’t we ask why the large Black community that existed in Exeter for 100 years in the 1800s is all but vanished?

Let’s change the narrative and step into a better future together.

It is time to acknowledge these people who played a part in the growth of our town. How? It’s easy! Check out the Exeter Historical Society’s “History Minute” videos. Search Jude Hall, James Monroe Whitfield and John Garrison Cutler, who are recently up on Wikipedia. The Cutler shop at 127 Water Street will be sporting a new historical marker soon. Jubal Martin has a road named after him. Rebecca Walker is finally getting her name on a stone at the cemetery.

As you know, these people and more are mentioned in my trilogy of quirky historical-fiction mysteries at Water Street bookstore and Amazon/Kindle.

You are invited to an exciting event with me. Join me for a Zoom presentation on Feb 19th at 7pm via Exeter TV (YouTube/Facebook) discussing a proposal to create a small pocket-park quite near to what was once a Black enclave by the river, near the former location of the Baptist Church. (send email to GreenXNH@yahoo.com for Zoom link.)

This Black History Month let’s go local: say their names.