My Ancestors (11) – Abigaill Hussey – 1679 – 1763

 (1) Abigaill Hussey, (2) Major Elihu Marshall, (3) Elizabeth (Marshall) Guion, (4) Elijah Guion, (5) Elijah Guion II, (6) Alfred Beck Guion, (7) Alfred Duryee Guion, (8) Alfred Peabody Guion, (9) Judith Anne Guion

Abigaill Hussey was the second child and oldest daughter of Stephen Hussey and Martha Bunker. One of Nantucket’s grimmest traditions is told about Abigail, and it explains why, after having first been married to another man named Thomas Howes, Abigaill was free at 21 to become Joseph Marshall’s wife.

Background of the tale is the ocean around Nantucket, which is extremely treacherous. To reach the island even today is a four-hour adventure in calm weather — in rough weather, or fog, the boats don’t run. You take the steamer at New Bedford, which is at the root of Cape Cod. The steamer threads the rocky islands of Buzzards Bay, gropes through some ghastly reefs that would rip the bottom off the boat if the passage were missed by fifty feet on either side, puts in at a cruel crevice called Wood’s Hole, then turns due south, away from land, into Nantucket Sound. This is really the seaward entrance to Long Island Sound, but ships avoid that entrance even though the channel is buoyed — it wasn’t buoyed in the days of which we write. The ocean driving westward into Long Island Sound makes this outer body of water a mass of tide-rips.

You steam southward over these currents until virtually out of sight of land, then pick up a jutting island, maybe 20 miles long, Cliff-edged, and steep, the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Edgartown is on its seaward corner, and you stop there, then turn due eastward into nothing, as if you were headed out to sea. The steamer is running parallel to Cape Cod, and if the day is clear you can see the low-lying line of the Cape along the horizon on your left, but otherwise you are in the Atlantic. A couple of hours of this and a rock looms ahead; here is Nantucket, smaller than Martha’s Vineyard, a 10-mile Crescent of barren-looking dunes with the horns of the crescent pointing north.

In between these horns you go; the steamer skids and backs and snorts around the edges of rocks, finally making one last awful turn around a buoy and edging into the Nantucket wharf. Behind the wharf is the quietest town imaginable; the place is still back in the whaling days of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Abigaill Hussey and Thomas Howes were married on Nantucket on April 5, 1700. She was just 20 at the time. They had been married only a month or two when this occurred – let me tell it in the concise language of the old Barnard Manuscript, doubly effective because it is so brief:

“They were crossing Long Island Sound in a boat, he being at the steering oar, unhappily missed a stroke and fell overboard. The wind was blowing fresh and the boat being under sail was immediately out of reach. His wife urged an Indian who was with them to steer the boat back; but the Indian was so overcome with excitement that she could not prevail upon him to do it; when she took the oar and steered the boat to land, leaving her husband to parish, a scene not easily described.”

How the broken-hearted Abigaill later met Joseph Marshall, whose wife, Mercy Short, had died in Boston at just about the same time, I do not know. At all events, the two got married and were living on Nantucket in about 1702.

Her story with Joseph Marshall was recounted last Sunday.

Source: COLONIAL ORIGINS of the CALIFORNIA GUIONS, An Informal Genealogical Study by Ernest Jerome Hopkins, finished in 1952.

Starting tomorrow, I will post a week of letters written in 1946. Lad and Marian are the proud parents of twins, a boy and a girl, Dan, Paulette and baby Arla are overseas awaiting the time when both mother and child can travel to Trumbull, Dick and his wife Jean are also living in the Trumbull House, Dave has returned from Manila, Philippines, and Ced remains in Alaska.

Judy Guion


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