ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Maine Cannibal...

...Who happens to be one of my ancestors:  Alonzo B. Henderson

There are times when that which we find out about our ancestors is less than desirable. In this case, with the popularity of Edward, Bella and the "Twilight Series" and our current obsession with adorable vampires, I like to think of this particular discovery as "trendy" as opposed to:  appalling.

Click on the image to make it larger, and read the story:

A Maine Cannibal - 4 Feb 1882

In all seriousness, these things happened (and at times still do happen under dire circumstances) in the 1880's.  Life aboard ships was incredibly treacherous.  My family is a long line of master mariners, captains,  and sailors.  My salt-watery, ancestral trail is littered with shipwrecks.  Some men were survivors, most were not.  At times a father and son were lost on the same wreck. The entire nature of the surviving family could shift and change course altogether due to the loss of their men: changes of residence, widows re-married, children turning to the occupation of farming - and away from the sea.

This small article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, dated 4 Feb 1882, which I located at, carries a host of interesting tidbits besides the cannibalistic act of survival by poor Alonzo who by the way, went on to live life in Friendship, Maine, and later the last 20 years of his life in Sailor's Snug Harbor, Richmond NY - the home for retired (and usually 'without means') seamen.

Initially, I read this notice as indicating an application of "relief" from being convicted of the crime of cannibalism, thus pleaded due to the necessity for survival overriding the heinous act itself. The men were dead, the survivors must fight for their lives. Drinking the blood was the only solution. (Though I do wonder - 3 days and nights is not all THAT long to go without food...but it was winter, I suppose...)

However, on second reading, this seemed more an application to alleviate a tax burden upon Alonzo while he recovers from his ordeal. Being from the "Custom's Collector," perhaps a tax levied on the comings and goings of ships from port to port.

Finally, with the mention of "treatment"  at his home which commenced on January 14, and the Marin (sp?) Hospital Bureau, perhaps this application is in regard to the funding of Alonzo's recovery - all his medical debts being covered? More plumbing the depths, so to speak, needs to be done.

The history of Almon Bird will be a fascinating trail to follow, also. And always of interest too: the role of the weather - the relentless and epic winter storms - that took down so many ships as they carried their loads of lime or granite or timber, from Maine to the beyond.

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