Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ghost of Mary Wallace

This story has all the elements of a great romantic adventure novel. It involves a pirate, fate, and a ghost. What is most amazing about this story is that most of it is true. A couple named James and Elizabeth Wilson set sail from Ireland in 1720. Captain Wilson and his wife were immigrating to America where he held land in New England.

The Wolf, the ship the Wilson’s sailed on was boarded by pirates as it neared Boston Harbor. The pirates’ leader was a ruthless, young, and handsome captain by the name of Don Pedro. Pedro ordered that all the passengers should be killed. Elizabeth Wilson that very day, July 17, 1720 had given birth to a baby daughter. 

When Pedro heard this, he insisted upon seeing the mother and baby. Taken with the baby girl he told the Wilsons that if they named her “Mary” after his own beloved mother that he would let all the passengers go unharmed.

Wilson Londonderry Home
The Wilsons agreed, and Don Pedro kept his promise. Before he sailed away he gave the Wilson’s a length of green Chinese silk, he told the Wilsons that the fabric should be used for Mary’s wedding gown. 

Unfortunately, Mary’s father Captain Wilson died shorty after his family reached Boston. Elizabeth took their baby and settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire on James’ land as originally planned.

Elizabeth Wilson then married James Clark who was the great-great grandfather of Horace Greeley who became known for his famous declaration: “Go west, young man.” She died in 1732. This same year another family by the name of Wallace arrived in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Mary Wilson grew up to be very beautiful—she was six feet tall—with long red hair. She married Thomas Wallace on December 1742. She wore a gown made from the silk brocade given her parents by Don Pedro. She and her husband had four sons and a daughter: Thomas Jr., Robert, William, James, and Elizabeth. At this point in the story, the legend takes over—the following is the part of the story that is not true.

Legend states that soon after the birth of Mary’s last child her husband Thomas died. Word of this tragedy reached Don Pedro. Having made his fortune he was eager to leave his life at sea. The story goes on to state that Don Pedro was actually an English nobleman, the “black sheep” of his family. He arrived in Henniker, New Hampshire, where the King of England had granted him land. He then built a mansion on a hilltop.

He then convinced Mary, who was still in mourning for her husband, to move in as his housekeeper. There Don Pedro supports Mary and her children in a grand style for many happy years. Unfortunately, Pedro’s shady past catches up to him; a former enemy tracks him down. Mary hearing a grunt and a curse outside her bedroom window rushes to the garden and finds Don Pedro, dying, a pirate cutlass embedded in his chest. 

He tells Mary where his hidden gold is located and requests she bury him underneath the hearth of the home. Mary honored his wishes, and lived a comfortable life, without having to use his gold—the legend states she lived the rest of her life at the Henniker mansion.

Robert's Mansion
Years later, an owner of this mansion in Henniker—a man by the name of Louis Roy-- renovated it in 1917 and then started giving paid tours of the home—he told the public of how Mary’s spirit remained in the house. He stated that Mary had been seen tending the hearth carefully because it was the final resting place of Don Pedro. 

Visitors were led to a rocking chair that had belonged to Mary which rocked by itself. Roy said it did this to welcome them—he actually placed this chair on a loose floorboard which he would hit with his foot to make it appear as if the chair was moving on its own, Roy also told visitors about Don Pedro’s buried treasure and then he rented shovels to his visitors so they could dig holes in the backyard looking for it. Louis Roy—a gifted charlatan-- passed away in 1965 and the subsequent owners have discouraged public interest in the mansion.

The true story is that Mary’s husband Thomas Wallace actually lived into his eighties and he and Mary lived happily together all those years. Wallace died in 1791. Mary never lived in the mansion Mr. Roy renovated. Robert one of her sons built it and lived there. Mary's third son, William, also lived in Henniker, after her husbands’ death Mary did move to Henniker in 1798 to live with William-- this is where Mary lived until her death on February 13, 1814. She was buried in the Wallace family plot in Centre Cemetery.

As for Don Pedro, much is not known about him after he spared the lives of the Wilsons and the rest of the Wolf’s passengers. He never moved to New England as the legend states.

Mary did wear the silk brocade on her wedding day and several future generations of women in her family also wore the gown on their wedding days. Pieces of the gown remain in the DAR--Daughters of the American Revolution-- Museum in Washington D.C. The fabric is faded, with small, teal green flowers and white stripes running through it. Mary’s oldest son Thomas Wallace, Jr. was a distinguished Revolutionary war hero. Her daughter Elizabeth married a major in the New Hampshire Militia.

The irony here is Robert’s mansion, which was later owned by Roy is considered haunted—just not by Mary. Williams’ house were Mary actually lived was reported to be haunted after it was empty. The town purchased it in 1844 for a poorhouse, and it was known as the “Wallace Poor Farm.” Vandals destroyed the house in later years.

The locals call Mary Wallace “Ocean-Born Mary.” Her spirit has been seen in the Centre Cemetery where she is buried. She is described as tall with red hair, and as beautiful as she was in life.

No comments: