“Memory Hold the Door”

The following is a short excerpt from a recollection of life in the Tyler Homestead written by Arthur Pinkham, who lived there for many years and wrote the paper “Memory Hold the Door” for a presentation he gave to the Whiting Club. The humorous account gives a wonderful feeling for stories relating to this important historic residence.

“The stories were always about our ancestors, and one which I insisted upon here repeating was the legend that at the base of the main chimney they kept hidden a pot of gold…old English sovereigns of which Captain John Tyler always had a bountiful supply.

“Which was the main chimney…there were three…was always the stumbling block and she was the sort of little old lady who wouldn’t think of allowing a small boy to explore.

“Well, I grew up and in 1918 Aunt Rebecca died, leaving the property to my mother, sisters and myself. They occupied it summers, but the old house was left many months in the year to itself.

“One spring I was visiting in Chicago and my friend took me to see a famous clairvoyant who was all the rage at the time in that city. When she began on me, the affair became a revelation instead of just an amusing way to spend an evening, for she said at once, ‘Young man, you come from the East. You’ve come into some family property lately. I see a large white house, set well back from the road. There are huge chimneys with many fireplaces, blocked up. Near the base of the main chimney there is a hiding place. Back through the generations, it has been used for money and once for jewels. You had a sea-faring ancestor who used to make voyages to New Orleans and, well, there were many beautiful creole girls there and I think the jewels, which were topazes, were for one of them. That’s all I can tell you! Am I right?’

“It didn’t take long for my friend and me to decide that we were starting for Boxford, and that very night we set out, arriving at the old farm a few nights later. I had no key, but I knew of a second floor window latch which never worked and with the aid of a ladder we were soon in the house. The ladder we hauled up and then standing there in that upper bedroom, we tried to figure out which was the main chimney. This we decided was the center one, and since matting in the clothes closet next to it was far easier to rip up than carpets, we started in on that. We had to work by candlelight, and when a trap door was disclosed, my hands and knees began to tremble and we both almost had the jitters. We lowered the ladder into the darkness and followed with our candles. It didn’t seem to surprise us very much to find a neat hiding place on the chimney’s side, but to our great disappointment we found no golden sovereigns, nor the beautiful topaz necklace…we found nothing but a very old pewter candle-stick.

“It didn’t take us long, after Franklin Wood and his mother and sisters departed on the 19th of April fifteen years ago, to make up our minds that we were going to take up the search where Franklin and his friend had left off many years before. Since we, also, were undecided which of the three was the main chimney, we started on the dining room one first. Back of the chimney in the attic we found two loose wide boards which we lifted up. We couldn’t drop down lower than the second floor level, but there we found a small room large enough for two or three people to sit down in comfort. On the floor were bits of homespun, some buttons and other evidence that the space was once a hiding place, but there were no signs of treasure. Then we tackled the chimney at the west end of the house. There we were a little more successful in that we could crawl down to the first floor level. Behind the paneling we found a powder horn, bullet mould and various other things which Captain John must have brought back from his voyages about the time that part of the house was built.

“Finally we tackled the middle chimney and went down through the trap door on the second floor to the cellar level. There was the ladder, and resting on the chimney ledge was the pewter candle-stick just as the boys had left them…but still no pot of gold.

“There is no cellar under the parlor floor and we hated to rip up the hearth, so we have started to tunnel from the further cellar. Some day, I have no doubt, we shall find the pot of golden sovereigns and when we do, you shall hear about it in a paper before the Whiting Club.

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For information, contact Norman Tyler at ntyler@emich.edu.

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