Sleepy Hollow: To be, or not to be


Regular readers of my posts quite likely already have noticed that these writings are about the histories of people, places, and things that I have recalled, researched, or fact-checked to the best of my ability and chronicled here because I hold something about their existence near and dear to my heart.  Infrequently though, I add humor and on rare occasions I hint at what could be or might have been, if only . . .  In today’s post, I add to this list another of my interests:  partially fiction and partially factual stories (my timing is rather apropos, don’t you think?) that I value because they spark my imagination or provoke treasured thoughts and emotions within me–regardless of their venue, they resonate within my lover of history, adventure, and nostalgic longings.  For these reasons, I write today about:

Sleepy Hollow – The TV Series (2013-)

Charismatic and well-polished English actor, Tom Mison, breathes eloquent depth and fullness of character as he portrays fictional Ichabod Crane.  In 1781, while a George Washington protagonist and working as a double agent for him during the American Revolutionary War, Crane beheads “The Headless Horseman” (the character from the fictional short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by American author Washington Irving).  In 2013, after having been frozen in time for 250 years, Ichabod Crane awakens in present day Sleepy Hollow, New York. This is where producers’ Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s story line about the seven years of tribulation and the meeting of the two chosen witnesses from the Bible’s Book of Revelations (Ichabod one of them) begins. The main storyline centers on the personification of the two biblical witnesses (prophets) who are tasked to thwart off the apocalypse. Thus, Crane finds himself in the foreboding situation of having to find and kill the fiendish Headless Horseman once again.  To help him through these challenging times, he draws upon his personal knowledge of and relationship with George Washington, George Washington’s letters and bible and his new associate, Deputy Sheriff Abbie Mills who has just learned that she is witness number two because of her sightings of phenomena in her childhood.  Most of Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills research and planning for their daunting task takes place in  “The Archives,” a property of the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department, where deceased Sheriff Corbin kept all notes about Abbie and her sister’s sightings and other supernatural findings that he assembled throughout his years in the department.

With each new episode and every new season, the stories and characters arise to every occasion to always cleverly save humanity and the world.  2016’s Season 3 finale left me literally weeping. Then with changes to the setting and some of the cast in 2017, I found myself somewhat disenchanted with the Season 4.  But, I remain a staunch fan of the storyline and Tom Mison.  Producers have not yet made a decision about creating a Season 5.  And, as I watched the season four finale this week, I sense it is very likely that I watched the finale of the series.  I feel a sense of loss that leaves a new emptiness inside me. I know nothing can last forever and that’s it’s only a TV show; but, if there is another chance for renewal, I hope the producers return to the successes that we loved in seasons one through three.  As we have seen repeatedly during the past four seasons and 52 episodes of Sleepy Hollow (and other popular fictional series), those who we thought were killed or died, have surprisingly and cleverly rejoined the living.  Just say’n, here, folks.

And finally, thanks to all those great adventures and pauses from reality that I so enjoyed in Sleepy Hollow.  And to my readers, thanks for joining me during my pause from “just the facts.”  Hats off, too, to Kurtzman and Orci for all of their top notch movie and tv productions, and a special thanks to Tom Mison, for all his dedicated and intricate acting talents and skills in bringing to life, Ichabod Crane.

Mary Custis Lee Challenges Streetcar Segregation


Mary Custis Lee, eldest daughter of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Custis, born in Alexandria, Virginia (1835-1918), was my  2nd cousin’s [six generations removed], (Mary Tabb Bolling Lee) sister-in-law.  She never married and spent most of her life traveling the world. Mary was recorded as being the most aloof and outspoken of the Lee children and regarded as “stern” and “bossy.” It is also said that Mary enjoyed politics and often discussed them with her father, General Lee.  Mary, too, loved to travel.  So much so, that in her later years she roamed the globe almost continuously, collecting visiting cards from nobility and, in fact, was overseas when WWI began.

The article that follows by Ariel Veroske, of WETA’s local history blog, “Boundary Stones,” begs the question:  “Was Mary Custis Lee making a political statement in opposition to segregation?”

Let me also put into historical perspective that for just under 100 years, (1862 – 1962), streetcars in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, transported people across the city and region.


Mary Custis Lee in 1914, taken 12 years after her arrest. It appears she chose to travel by motor car this time. (Photo source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Mary Custis Lee in 1914, taken 12 years after her arrest. It appears she chose to travel by motor car this time. (Photo source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress) On the evening of June 13, 1902, Mary Custis Lee was arrested on an Alexandria streetcar for sitting in the section reserved for black patrons. As the daughter of Robert E. Lee, the General of the Confederate Army, the incident caused quite a stir within the community.

On her way to visit a friend, and being burdened with many large bags, Miss Lee chose to sit near the rear of the car in order to easily exit upon arriving at her destination. Shortly after she sat down the conductor Thomas Chauncey “explained the Virginia law on the subject, but being ignorant of the existence of the law herself, and also being loth [sic] to move her baggage, she protested.” At that time, Chauncey let her stay seated.[1]

At the next stop, a black man boarded the car. The conductor stated that Miss Lee “was occupying a seat to which he was entitled under the law” and asked her once again to move to the front section, which was reserved for whites. But, even after being threatened with arrest, Miss Lee refused to give up her seat.[2]

Upon exiting the streetcar a few stops later, she was met by two police officers who informed her she was under arrest. Officers Bettis and Sherwood escorted Miss Lee to the station. “In front of the police station, Miss Lee appeared calm, but was evidently concealing her embarrassment with great effort.” As other streetcar passengers and onlookers realized who she was, crowds began to form.[3]

Several “gray-haired men, many of whom had doubtless served under her father” protested against Miss Lee’s holding.[4] Confronted with the dilemma of arresting a woman of Miss Lee’s status, she was released under the condition that she appears for a court hearing the next day.

To The Evening Star, Miss Lee claimed “she knew nothing about the law requiring the separation of white and colored passengers”[5] While it sounds like a classic excuse, this is at least somewhat plausible. The local government had only recently adopted streetcar segregation laws and it is likely that many were still adjusting to the new regulations, which were not common at the time. In fact, as of 1902, Alexandria and Fairfax were the only localities within Virginia which mandated that blacks and whites sit in separate areas of streetcars. Statewide segregation on rail lines wouldn’t happen until 1906.[6]

But, is it possible that Mary Custis Lee’s actions were driven by more than just ignorance of the law? Might she have been making a political statement in opposition to segregation?

Perhaps but that might be giving her too much credit. It seems that personal convenience may have been the bigger motivation for her actions. Mary Coulling’s biography The Lee Girls, hinted that Lee was argumentative with the conductor because the segregation law disrupted her usual travel routine with her black maid.[7]

In any case, the word of Miss Lee’s arrest spread quickly and some latched onto the idea that she was taking a stand for racial integration. As one man from Alberta, Canada wrote to her, “Please accept my thanks for your human action in breaking the color line.”[8]

Others, particularly in the North, used the incident to take aim at the growing Jim Crow culture taking root in the southern states. As the Cleveland Gazette commented, Miss Lee’s arrest was “another fool exhibition of the assinine [sic] prejudice of ‘chivalrous’ southerners.”[9]

 


[1] “Sat in Negroes’ Seat: Daughter of Robert E. Lee Arrested on Electric Car.” The Washington Post, pg. 2, June 14, 1902.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Alexandria Affairs, Miss Lee’s Misunderstanding of State Law, Her Arrest Follows.” The Evening Star, June 14, 1902.

[6] “Sequel to an Episode: Soldiers of South Want Jim Crow Measure Repealed.” The Washington Post, pg. 4, June 16, 1902.

[7] Coulling, Mary P. The Lee Girls. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair Publishers, 1987.

[8] Carlson, Peter. “A Portrait in Letters.” The Washington Post,  sec. Arts & Living, July 12, 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/11/AR200707…(accessed June 13, 2013).

[9] “Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Daughter Arrested.” Cleveland Gazette, Vol. 19, Issue 46, June 21, 1902.

Witches and Witchcraft Revisited–Another Brick Wall Downed!


Mary Bliss Parsons - 9th great auntJust a short 3-1/2 years ago (November 15, 2012) I wrote my first post Hello World! to this blog site.  In it, I alleged my family may have an ancestor who was accused of being a witch in Massachusetts.  (Note that most women, and men, who were accused of witchcraft in the 15th-19th Centuries were feared for their nonconformist ways more than anything else.)  If you go to this post’s link, you will also find at the bottom of it, links to three more posts that include mentions of witches and witchcraft in them over the next eight-month period.  Despite all my research and readings I didn’t find specific evidence of any alleged witches among my ancestors until today–exactly 341 years after a Boston jury reached its verdict on charges that Mary Bliss Parsons, my 9th maternal great aunt, was accused of being a witch.  Here’s the brief article I discovered:

Jury Finds Mary Bliss Parsons Not Guilty of Witchcraft: May 13, 1675
Published by massmoments.org May 13, 2016

Mary Bliss Parsons and childOn this day in 1675, a Boston jury reached a verdict in the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton: they found her not guilty of witchcraft. In seventeenth-century New England, virtually everyone believed in witches. Hundreds of individuals faced charges of practicing witchcraft. They were women, or sometimes men, who had “signed the Devil’s Book” and were working on his behalf. Their wickedness was blamed for calamities ranging from ailing animals to the death of infant children. While most of the accused never went to trial or were, like Mary Parsons, acquitted, not everyone was so lucky. Six Massachusetts women were hanged as witches in the years before the infamous Salem witch trials, which claimed 24 innocent lives.

I referred to the following free e-book on Google Play to learn further facts about the allegations of witchcraft against Mary Bliss Parsons. Page 15 is the digital page number where her story begins:

Parsons family: descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons, Springfield, 1636–Northampton, 1655, Volume 1 

Frank Allaben Genealogical Company, 1912
The Strong Witch SocietyD. H. Parsons (9th great grandson of Mary Bliss Parsons), on January 19, 2011, authored a much different perspective of Mrs. Parsons’ involvement in Witchcraft and Witch Societies in his 4-star rated book:  The Strong Witch Society: The Diary of Mary Bliss Parsons.  The following is Amazon’s summary about it:
In 1675, Mary Bliss Parsons, the author’s great grandmother nine times removed, was tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. She was acquitted only because her husband, Joseph, was able to purchase her freedom. Such is the known history of Mary Bliss Parsons. What is not so well known is that Mary was a member of a small but powerful group of witches, The Strong Witch Society. After her death in 1712, it became Mary’s purpose to somehow “awaken” in the mind and spirit of one of her future descendants in order to reinstitute The Strong Witch Society. The author is that grandchild. What unfolds on the pages of this book is a rollercoaster of supernatural events and ‘lessons’ designed with the express purpose of calling together the remaining Strong Witches in order to divert an impending world disaster. This book is about far more than just Witches. It introduces and covers many other subjects including Alien Contact, Inter-Dimensional Travel, the Natural Disasters our world is facing today, political crises, and etc. It offers Simple solutions on how to deal with all of those problems before it is too late. It gives information on how you the reader can actually help to solve the problems without much effort at all. But time is running short. And always remember that this book is true, not fiction, not conjecture, not theory.
This jury remains out for me, and many references have surfaced since my initial research. So, I guess I have a lot more reading to do before I draw my conclusions about my 9th great aunt, Mrs. Mary Bliss Parsons.