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.

Solstice 2020: taking the show on the road!

Host an online holiday gathering with a local-mystery author

Happy Holidays to all!

In this dark and quiet time near the Winter Solstice, who wouldn’t enjoy the bright company of friends for an hour – even if online? I offer to you the opportunity to Zoom-host a local-mystery author in your circle of friends or book group.

That’s right: you, me, your friends, (and a glass of wine or tea) all gathered online for a women’s circle or book group. Cozy!! Fun!!

No problem if you have not read the books, I have a mini power-point that will familiarize everyone with the main themes. After the presentation you can all ask me questions about research, writing, publishing, the books, or my mission & other projects.

Here is the official blurb I sent to the papers. You can cut and paste it into an email invite to your friends. I would very much enjoy visiting with you, via Zoom, in the next few months 🙂

——————————————

Local author and art-activist, RM Allen, is now available to speak to your Zoom book group or social club about her trilogy of historical-fiction mysteries. Her quick and fun mysteries are set in familiar locations throughout downtown Exeter, NH. They bring to life some Black citizens of our past, when Exeter was home to the highest percentage of Blacks in the State.

>>“Incident at Exeter Tavern” features Black Revolutionary War soldier, Jude Hall and his family.

>>“Incident at Ioka” features Black Abolitionist poet James M. Whitfield.

>>“Incident at Exeter Depot” set in Suffragette-era, features Black entrepreneur, John Garrison Cutler, and Rebecca Walker and her family. (spring 2021)

The author has spent many hours at the Exeter Historical Society researching these unsung people. She has also dug up some strong women from our past to lead the stories such as: Tabitha Tenney, Betsy Clifford, and Dr. Alice Chesley.

The fictional sleuth is Maryvonne, a modern-day artist with French flair and an ability to peer into the past.  We follow Maryvonne around Exeter as she sets up her easel, attends art shows, book talks, festivals, and speaks with people who may seem quite familiar to you. All the things we used to do in person before the pandemic!

The Exeter Newsletter has written two pieces on RM Allen’s work, and how it relates to her activism to help shine a light on our true history. The author would be happy to be invited to your online group to give a small presentation, and answer your questions.

Both Water Street Bookstore and Amazon/Kindle carry the books, but it is not a requirement to have read the books. She has pledged 100% of the book profits, which totals $1000 so far, to benefit a tangible Black Heritage project in downtown Exeter, NH.

To extend an invitation to the author, email her at: RmAllenNH@gmail.com

Rightfully Hers: Happy 100th to the Suffs!

This August marks the 100th anniversary of the “Women’s Vote” win that was an epic 72-year struggle, spanning two generations of women. Elizabeth Cady-Stanton kicked it off by writing the “Declaration of Sentiments” in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, before her daughter Harriot Stanton-Blatch was even born. In 1902 the mom died (at 86 years old) and the daughter took the torch and traveled around the country speaking for Women’s Suffrage. Harriot spoke in Exeter, NH in 1902, as a matter of fact, when the women’s voting issue was going to be on the 1903 NH State ballot (it failed).  The fight went on for almost another 20 years. Harriot was 64 when the 19th Amendment/right for women to vote was ratified by the 36th state, and was finally adopted.

Did you know that there are 29 statues and monuments in NYC’s Central Park? Guess how many are in honor of real women? (Alice in Wonderland does not count.) The answer is ZERO. Until later this month, that is. A giant bronze Suffragette memorial will be installed featuring Cady-Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth. Yep, three ladies sitting around a tea-table, getting stuff done. Many of you recognize the classic women’s circle motif.

This bronze gladdens my heart almost in the same way that a surprise re-naming of a building on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy (a prep school in my town) did. There I was in the audience, listening to the usual opening day assembly, when the principal sprung that announcement upon us at the end. He said that the founder, John Phillips, had married a widow, Elizabeth, with some money. (And of course, in those times all the woman’s money became lost to her and was the property of her new husband , boo-hiss). The principal then said it was only fair that her name be written back into the founding history, so it was to be writ large across the top of a central building. There had been nary a mention of her since the 1700’s. I found tears running down my face at the surprise announcement. I looked around me and saw the same reaction in many other women in the audience.

I am trying to write some women back into history too. My third book in the Exeter trilogy will be set in the Suffragette era, when Harriot comes to town to speak. I have looked in all the usual places to try to find names of the Exeter Suffs. I can only find one, Kate Davis, and very small mention at that. Mon Dieu!!

So…. the game is afoot, the hunt is on! What a thrill!  I hope to dig up an entire gaggle of Suffs, and make them into a “Golden Girls”-style group for book #3. A women’s circle, sitting in Exeter at a tea-table, getting stuff done. Wish me luck in the dusty archives!

Happy 100th to the visionaries from yesteryear, and THANK YOU!!

RM Allen, neo-Suff, August 2020

PS In the meantime, book #2 “Incident at Ioka” featuring Abolitionist-era Exeter is now out and in the stores, or online at https://www.amazon.com/Incident-Ioka-Maryvonne-Mini-Mystery/dp/0988374439  I hope you will buy it and support my projects. Thanks 😊

FYI: Here is a family wedding from 1929 in upstate NY, to put you in the mood. I wonder if any of these relations were Suffs? I love the fashions… men in their Princeton outfits, women like flowers wafting on the garden breeze. I like looking at the shoes too…   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsNTr5xZn88

Summer 2020: Justice and Liberty …for all

It is summer solstice, the lazy days should be stretching before us, but instead all the world seems in retrograde.

For a long time there have been people working on issues of equality. (That is a vast understatement.) But finally a great many people have joined them and are putting their own shoulders to the locked door as well. This past month, the door has finally been ripped off its hinges, and all that was hidden is now bursting forth in a spurt of chaos. It is both terrifying and beautiful.

July 4th, Independence Day, is almost upon us, and it looks like the day of freedom may finally become more true. Take for example the story of Exeter, NH Revolutionary War soldier Jude Hall, whom I profile in my local mystery “Incident at Exeter Tavern.”

undefinedJude fought for eight years, from Bunker Hill to Ticonderoga and more. Yay for the black patriot! He “earned” his freedom from slavery. Isn’t “earned” an interesting choice of words in the land of the free?  

Jude was repaid by having three of his grown sons kidnapped into Southern slavery. One was kidnapped by an Exeter resident while his mother, Rhoda, fought him off in their home on Drinkwater Road. The teen victim sailed on Capt. Isaac Stone’s ship Wallace out of Newburyport and was sold in Virginia. There was no accountability. Neither is there account of this in the local papers, but the story is recorded twenty years later in Garrison’s Liberator. After Jude died, Rhoda left town. Wouldn’t you?

This story so angered me that it served as the catalyst for action. What action? Write a report about the historic community and sit down with 100 people in this town and ask them to act upon any one of the bulleted suggestions at the end. I found that the majority of the people were unaware of the history.  

So, I then wrote a book about it, hoping to reach a different audience than history buffs. But that one slim book was not enough to tell even a fraction of the story of the historic black community in Exeter, so it has become a trilogy. Volume #2 will be launched in July. (Vol. 3/Suffragettes date is TBD).

“Incident at Ioka” looks at abolitionist-era Exeter and its black community as the Civil War approaches. I write these stories “light” on purpose, so you can just taste a sliver of the bitter flavor, but you know it is there. Scholars can fill you in on the more nefarious aspects.

But even that trilogy only tells a fraction of the “Black Exeter” story, and still has a relatively small reach. So, as a form of redress, the profits from these three slim books will be donated towards a physical commemoration of the historic black community that once thrived near Swasey Parkway.

A proposal has been drafted (which will be presented to the town officials in July) to form a simple pocket-park in the names of Jude & Rhoda Hall down by the river. I am hoping to get NH State designation to further the reach. You can see the proposal at this link.

Hall pocket park proposal

It seems the time is ripe for local citizens to put our shoulders into it in Exeter, and let the cleansing light splay across our hidden history.

PS. This blog post is written to inspire you. I know many of my followers live elsewhere… what can you do in your town? (August update: Hello to people from China! I see many of you are downloading my report. I wonder why?? Can someone write and tell me how you heard of it? GreenXNH@yahoo.com)

PSS: Here is the small report with the bulleted list of suggestions at the end:

PSSS: See me say all this in a graveside video for the 2020 American Independence Festival !!

Book Launch (in social isolation)

At the very beginning of social isolation, the local paper called me to write a story about what one does when your book launch gets swallowed up by the virus. Here is a link to the article: https://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20200409/incident-at-exeter-tavern-author-launches-new-book-in-self-isolation

Two months have passed, and I have spent the cold, rainy, and isolated spring of 2020 writing the second book in the trilogy. (I had the research done, and planned to begin writing in the fall.) The second book is now out to my editors, then will come back to me for the tedious process of tweaking, and figuring out the art. I am not sure when I will launch it. Are you sure of anything right now??

As a preview, I will tell you some things about it. This book is historical-fiction set in Abolitionist era Exeter, late summer 1841 to be exact, and today as well. A hurricane is approaching, and the chairperson of the select board is missing. We go to various barbershops, and learn about an Exeter-born barber who was also an Abolitionist poet: James Monroe Whitfield.

Maryvonne is still driving about town in the Zeus-mobile. She visits the old Clifford House, (know today as the Gilman-Garrison House) the Masonic Temple, and the Ioka. There is a crazy art show, songs by Nina Simone, and of course… a drink recipe.

This cozy-caper is entitled “Incident at Ioka.” (The Ioka is an abandoned movie theater in Exeter, built in 1915.)

I will update you if/when things progress. In the meantime, enjoy this 2020 “Summer of Safe-Six”!

~RM Allen

PS. Update for September 2020. Book # 2 is launched and in the news!