The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight

"I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me."
-- Sir Walter Scott


That we 'Headers are by sentiment, nature, and turn of mind a community of shameless chauvinists is a judgment few will question. That we are inordinately proud of our heritage and our beguiling forefathers should come as no surprise. The truth is that from the day we were born, we have had instilled in our very beings an unquenchable admiration for the men and women who decades earlier had settled on our inhospitable peninsula, and from its stoney acres and storm-ridden waters had eked out a precarious living. And throughout our young and formative years, the crooked streets and lanes we youngsters trod, the close-packed houses we passed, the cluttered wharves and weatherbeaten fishermen's shanties crowding the shore, coupled with the lobster boats lurching at their moorings in cove and harbor...all recalled to mind a treasure trove of stirring events and memorable achievements.

Moreover, when I was a boy, my schoolmates and I time and again would remain glued to our seats as our teachers held us spellbound with vividly worded tales of the town's glorious past. Needless to say, the stories they related lost nothing in the telling, for most of them were members of the town's oldest families.

What a joy it was to learn that it was Elbridge Gerry, Azor Orne and Jeremiah Lee who had fathered the war for independence; that it was Captains Tucker, Manley, Broughton, Selman and Mugford who had successfully challenged Great Britain's vast naval fleet! That when Washington launched the American navy, five of the six vessels he commissioned as warships were schooners owned and operated by a bevy of Marbleheaders; that those ex-Grand Bankers armed with a few small-bore cannon and one or two swivel guns, then proceeded to snare a goodly number of British merchantmen laden with supplies which Washington desperately needed to arm and equip his hard-pressed forces.

Invariably those tales of derring-do were capped with a spine-tingling recapitulation of the remarkable achievements carried out by the "webfooted troops" commanded by Colonel John Glover, a regiment composed of brawny Marblehead oarsmen. We were told how Glover's men, on more than one occasion, had been asked to tackle a well-nigh impossible mission, and how they had successfully completed each one -- feats that virtually assured the outcome of the American colonies' fight for freedom! 'Twas heady stuff, warranted to send the blood coursing through our veins; for who among us would ever question the words of well-informed and highly educated schoolteachers! Is it any wonder that once we learned that the war for independence had its roots in Marblehead and our classes were dismissed we would head for home proud as peacocks! And having been told how a few hundred brave 'Headers had managed to drive thousands of redcoats from our land we literally walked on air, our heads in the clouds!

In a very real sense my schoolmates and I were both kith and kin, related to one another either by blood or marriage. By the same token that relationship extended backward -- to the mettlesome 'Headers whose names and accomplishments we continue to revere. Thus it can be said that we 'Headers are chips cleft from a centuries-old block, a people whose love and attachment to good old Marblehead is actually a legacy, a gift from the past. An intangible and priceless asset handed down to us by our forefathers, one to be cherished, and preserved for all time.

And should any reader wonder why 'tis often said, "Ain't that just like a Marbleheader!"...

Read on...


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