Friday, July 29, 2016

In the steps of William and Mary Dyer

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Flying into Boston over the harbor.
Logan International Airport is built on an island and landfill.
In July 2016, I traveled from my home in Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts, to participate in a historical event conducted by the Anne Marbury Hutchinson Foundation. The five-day event celebrated Anne Hutchinson on her 425th birthday with a ceremony at her statue on the Massachusetts Statehouse grounds, lectures and a reception at the Congregational (Puritan) Library and Archives, a panel at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, a tour of the Boston First Church (organized in 1630 by Gov. John Winthrop, but now an ultra-modern building in a different location), a walking tour of Hutchinson sites, a quick trip to Harvard University (founded to train ministers to refute upstart women like Anne Hutchinson), and then a road trip to Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Eastchester, New York.

Dyer monument!
I've returned with all kinds of resources to share with you, and I was able to meet with some important people who are excited about creating a monument to Mary and William Dyer in Newport. There's nothing firm yet, as it's just begun and will be a multi-year project, but there is an opportunity for a Dyer monument placement in Newport. When it's time to combine financial resources of corporate sponsors, city government, crowdsourcing, and private donors, you'll be a much-needed component, and when it's time for the grand opening or unveiling, you'll have plenty of notice to plan your travel and vacation time to be there for those events and much more. 

Wonking out on 17th-century history 
Apart from group activities, I also was able to revisit the Mary Dyer statue at the Statehouse, but missed visiting a couple of other points I wanted to see. I "hiked" in the 95/90 heat and humidity to the King's Chapel Burying Ground to find the grave of Gov. John Winthrop and Rev. John Cotton, and accidentally found an ancestor's headstone there (that's my kind of Pokemon Go). I also visited Plimoth Plantation (1624 English and Wampanoag villages) as the guest of culinary historian Kathleen Wall, who treated me to 17th century Pilgrim and Native American foods for lunch.  

I'm grateful to friends (and even strangers!) who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign to pay my trip expenses. My event at Harvard University was changed to a professional video shoot there, and that means more people will have access to the Dyer story.

During my time in Rhode Island, I walked in the steps of the Dyers, 375 years ago, visiting Dyer Point/Battery Park, the area on the west coast where their farm was and where they were buried, the Portsmouth Founders Brook Park where they lived in 1638, the cemetery where Charles Dyer (their youngest son) is buried, the White Horse Tavern where William almost surely drank a pint in the 1670s, and taking an 80-foot sailboat ride out on Narragansett Bay. I visited the Newport Historical Society and viewed two documents in William Dyer's handwriting, and ordered a copy of a deed on which Mary Dyer's signature appears.

My hosts, who were friends of friends, and now are my friends, live in a beautiful home in the "boot" of Newport (see maps below). I went to sleep with a lightning show in the guest room windows and awoke refreshed with a view of a pond, a marsh with birdsong and tiny frogs, and the Atlantic Ocean breaking on the rocks nearby. They treated me like a celebrity, and helped with networking for the monument project.

I gave an author talk at the Middletown Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and met Suegray Fitzpatrick, a jewelry designer, from whom I purchased a necklace pendant of an anchor with the word "hope" that is similar to the Rhode Island state seal that William Dyer presented to the colonial assembly in 1648--and is still in use on the Rhode Island flag and seal today. I even flew into and out of Boston Harbor, as the Dyers did in ocean-going ships (see photo above).

1777 Revolutionary War map, plus Google satellite map of the southern end of Aquidneck Island, where Newport is located. Note "Dyers Point" is the same location as the modern "Ft. Greene" which is a lovely point called Battery Park. The island shape has not significantly changed in 240 years (which we can project backward all the way to the Ice Age). 

Newport (on Aquidneck Island) from the air, with part of Conanicut Island under the clouds, on my Boston-to-New York flight on July 26, 2016. I awoke on the southern coast of the island, drove my rental car up to Boston, took an Uber cab to the airport (in Boston Harbor), and then flew over Narragansett Bay and Shelter Island, NY. A fitting end of a week-long history fest for a Dyer follower!  

And then there's DYER ISLAND, which the 28-year-old William Dyer asked for and received in early 1638 when the Hutchinson party were purchasing Rhode Island from the Native Americans. Behind (to the west of) Dyer Island is part of Prudence Island, where Governor Winthrop owned land. At the bottom, to the east of Dyer Island, is Aquidneck Island and the town of Portsmouth. Dyer Island is a bird sanctuary. Photo by Christy K Robinson, July 26, 2016.
A short YouTube video of the tide coming in on Narragansett Bay, at Dyer Island: 

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books:


  1. I've just discovered your blog, and also recently discovered my descent from the Dyers & Hutchinson. I'm looking forward to reading your books, now!

    1. I hope you enjoy them, Susan. The research I did on the books continues in the blog, Facebook, and other projects. Stay in touch!


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