Excitement coursed through me as I buttoned my thick sweater and wrapped my crocheted scarf around my neck. I practically raced for our rental car sitting in the dirt parking lot at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. My husband was amused at my school-girl anticipation, but he understood.
It was the day to visit the site where my great, great, great, great-grandfather had built a family cabin—a long-awaited treasure in a series of precious discoveries as I learned more about my ancestor, Daniel Prince, who had come to America in 1776. His intent upon joining the 21st regiment of the British Army was to conquer the Colonials; instead his heart was conquered by a young American farmwoman. He stayed in this country after escaping from a line of prisoners of war and the rest, as they say, is history.
But it was my family history—and I was chomping at the bit to meet up with the historian at the Williamsburg, Massachusetts historical building.
Ralmon Black is a sturdy, bearded fellow who had provided me with several interesting tidbits about Daniel (my Redcoat ancestor). The most amazing photo Ralmon had sent me in my research showed the Prince Monument. A three-foot-tall piece of granite, this perfectly shaped rock was painstakingly chiseled by a now-deceased Prince ancestor. The small edifice proclaims the following: “Site of log cabin built by Daniel Prince, a Burgoyne vet, 1782.” At the very top, an image of the British Union Jack is carved into the stone.
No one in my immediate family had ever heard of this monument! I was determined to visit it, so my husband and I made arrangements that Fall of 2009 to climb the wooded hill to the site of my grandfather and grandmother’s cabin. They raised eight children there, including my 3rd great grandfather, Daniel Prince Jr. Another rock nearby was chiseled with the words: “Birthplace of Prince twins 1784.” Daniel, Jr was a twin of James Prince and the two became famous as the oldest living twins in the 1800’s. Both reached their 90’s.
Our small party of seven began our journey up the hill. Now the site of a maple business, foliage covered the land that had once been cleared for homesteading. Our group included four Prince descendants—my nephew who lived in the area, two descendants of the twin James, and myself—the historian, Ralmon Black, his elderly aunt who put us all to shame with her stamina, and my husband, Steve. We began our pilgrimage on a chilly, sunny morning.
The closer we got to the site of the old homestead, the more excited I grew.
This was where my ancestors worked, played, lived and loved. I could feel my blood stirring.
We nearly walked by it. Trees camouflaged the remnants of the past. But there it was, standing tall amidst the ferns, looking like both monument and tombstone.
I tenderly touched the chiseled words that declared its place of remembrance for lives now long gone. Lives that shared the same blood with me. Lives that have lived through myself and all the many hundreds of descendants that have birthed since 1780 when Daniel and Mary’s first child was born.
It was a reverent moment.
My nephew and I, following the historian’s instructions, filled in the words on the stone with chalk. It made the etching more legible in the photo shown here. We caressed the stone with our fingers as photos were taken, grins wide enough to span the generations.
After what seemed too short a visit, we began the descent back down the hill. Unexpectedly, tears brimmed. I sniffed them back and then felt a gentle, persuasive urge to turn back—to fill my being with the mysterious connection of family that overwhelmed me. It was almost a physical presence of belonging. It wooed my senses to revel in my ancestors. They were so much a part of me, I could almost feel their love.
As I turned back again to descend the hill—turning back to the present—I carried their love with me.