Monday Morning, 26th
“MY DADDY ALWAYS said that if’n it was a man’s intent to lead a full life he ought to
get out and about. He didn’t mean just past the chicken coup, over old man
Johnson’s brook out into the woods or even out beyond the south forty. He meant
outta Arkansas all together.
So when Mary Jane Kapeckni down to the Tic Toc
Diner told me her sister-in-law’s brother’s cousin’s sister said there was work
up north and they was looking for experienced school janitorial staff, I sent
my particulars out straight away and a week later I was on a Greyhound north.
Time sure flies and I can’t
hardly believe how fast the last eleven years has flew, but they done flown and
that there in a nut shell is how I, Eugene Amos Corn, came to be in
Provincetown, Massachusetts. P-town to the natives.
P-town is as peaceful a place I
guess you’re gonna find in these parts. Small, quiet, and real friendly. Takes
some getting’ used to though, especially the way everybody here talks with a
real funny accent like. Not with proper grammatizin’
like back down in Hogwalla County. But real friendly
folks just the same.
the visitors can get a little too friendly if ya know what I mean. ‘Specially
in the summertime when we get invaded by all the city slickers from Boston and some’a their men folk keep dressin’
up like women an all.
Being only 115 miles outta’ the
state capital west on State Route number six, it’s real rural like but, there’s
some interesting things to be found.
Take that tall, stone tower
over there, the highest point in Barnstable County! Fact! Folks call that the Pil-grim Mon-u-ment.
Most folks, me included thanks
to Mrs. Schmedly back in fourth grade history, grew
up under the impression that when them there English
people first come over to this country they landed at Plymouth Rock. Turns out
they actually landed right here in P-town first! Fact!
Why anyone would name a rock
after a big, expensive car is a mystery to me, but, these Yankees never was
known for the logical way they do stuff. But it’s a certifiable fact. They was here first.
Was also right here they drew up this thing called the Mayflower Compact, a bunch’a rules and stuff they swore to live by. Kind’a like
a contract I guess.
Anyway, I digress. I’m supposed
to be talking to ya’ll about the big fuss kicked up
about that old building over at 127 Alden Road. That’s that building right over
there, the little black timber frame covered in clapboards. Small but pretty.
That’s Reverend Bingham’s Ninth Day Adventist Church. Since the Eighth Day
Adventist Church closed up and moved out to Cambridge
folks here just call it 127 Alden or the church.
Alaster Kindred, an old black fella from back home come up here one time to
visit his daughter, seen Bingham’s church and scratched his head. I asked him
what was the matter.
‘Most little wooden churches
down in our neck of the woods,’ he said, ‘. . . is painted white and has black
folks inside! First time I ever seen a black church with white folks on the
inside!’ We had a good laugh but old Alester never
did have time to learn about 127.
I remember all the hub bub like it was just last
year . . .”
was in July of 2017 and Abigail Helmsworth, town librarian, archivist and
charter member of the Ladies of New England
Social Organization for Massachusetts History, was doing some spring
cleaning in her office in back of the Herman Melville Memorial Library over on
The fact that the social organization membership was exclusively
composed of widowed or divorced women over sixty accounted for the fact that
they were generally referred to by the town’s folk as the LONESOME’s. They
didn’t take too kindly to that name.
The walls of Abigail’s office were profusely adorned with a plethora of
certificates, awards and photographs of important looking people shaking hands
with other not as important looking people as they handed over awards of
various shapes and descriptions.
It was just after nine in the morning and Abagail was stuck into a her cleaning frenzy when she went looking for Bob the
Handyman who was nowhere to be found now that Jimmy Kelly’s Pub over on
Cornwell Street was open and you could get a beer and a whiskey with your bowl
of chowder if you ate in the back room so’s the Sheriff couldn’t see ya.
That being the case Abagail, no stranger to a fish supper herself if you
catch my drift, decided on wrestling back the old steel filing cabinet on her
own to get in and clean behind it.
A half dozen grunts, several expletives directed at Bob the Handyman and a few drops of
sweat later the big steel cabinet was cocked just enough away from the wall
that she could get behind it.
She glanced down and sittin’ in the dust and
debris Abagail spied a funny looking folder leaning against the Canadian maple
base board and the white oak judge’s paneling which surrounded the room.
Funny looking because she hadn’t seen that particular
style of envelope since she was a little girl way back in . . . back
when . . . a long time ago. After dusting off the sturdy, chocolate brown,
accordion folder and unwinding the brown cord from the grommets holding it
closed she was amazed to find only two sheets of paper inside. A letter with
some notes scribbled on the back of it and a deed of some sort. A very old deed
on what Abagail guessed was two or three hundred year old
She knew it to be a deed mainly because the word ‘DEED’ was stamped
across the top of the document.
With the due diligence of a town archivist Abigail took the papers over
to her desk, switched on the green glass shaded desk lamp and read.
She decided to attack the letter first.
Abagail didn’t get much out of it other than it was dated December
sixth, 1941, because it contained a short two or three sentence message to a lawyer from another lawyer all written in
She set it aside and reached for her one inch
thick magnifying glass mounted on its flexible swing arm, donned her Spec-Saver
glasses and perused the document.
Abagail read, took a breath, sat back and it was nearly a full minute
before she breathed again. Leaning forward she reread the bottom of the
document for the third time.
Waddling at the top speed of one and a half miles
per hour, Abagail Helmsworth burst from her office, through the front door and
out onto Commercial Street with all the grace of a wounded baby hippo just been
darted by a well-meaning zoologist on the Serengeti.
Perfectly penned across the bottom of the deed,
dated this ‘Thrtyith Day of June, In This The Year of Lord 1775’, was the signature of George Washington,
General of the Continental Army and first president of the United States.
The next day this revelation of The Revolution was revealed at a special
ad hoc meeting of the ladies club wherein the big news
That morning at ten sharp in the little lecture room of
the library a dozen women shuffled in and took their seats. An overhead
projector stood next to the podium and the emergency meeting of the LONESOME’s
Mrs. Hannah Higgins, five time
President and charter member of the LONESOME’s, took to the podium and called
what was, by some accounts, the fourteenth emergency meeting that year to
An upright, forthright and what some still referred to as
a ‘proper lady’, Higgins was not only the richest individual of all the 2,723
residents of P-town, she was the one of the most well informed in regards to everyone else’s business. But at least she
came by her money honestly. She married into it.
Her former, now deceased, husband was a prominent doctor,
a well-known and successful speech therapist who it is rumored suffered a
massive coronary one day when he accidently heard Sylvester Stallone speak in a
film while Snoop Dogg music was playing in the background.
With a gentle, lady-like tap of the gavel Hannah called
the meeting to order and with little introduction but with great reluctance
invited Abagail to speak.
As was most things in P-town it
was common knowledge that Higgins carried a grudge against Abagail ever since
the librarian had the audacity, however politely, to suggest at the AGM a few
years back, that perhaps the membership, all twelve of them, should consider
rotating the society’s presidency.
It was with no small amount of trepidation that Mrs.
Higgins attended the meeting, harboring strong feelings that the society was
yet again taking away valuable meeting time when they could be planting fresh
azalea bushes along the footpath to the town hall before the deadline for the
county Tidy Towns Award judges panel came through in August.
For her part Abigail paid no mind to Higgins’s begrudgery
putting it down to age, her solitary lifestyle and perhaps lowered lithium levels
in her blood serum.
The newly discovered document now safely sealed in glass
and tucked under her arm, it was with barely contained excitement that Abagail
took the stage.
“Ladies, yesterday while doing my Spring cleaning-”
“IT’S JULY ALREADY! WHO DOES SPRING CLEANING IN JULY?!”
The fanged voice of Higgins cried out from the back of the room.
“Those of us who have a job and not livin’
off the profits of our husbands!” Abagail fired back. Amidst the uncomfortable
silence there were a few giggles and Abagail soldiered on.
“Yesterday while doing my spring cleaning . . .” Abagail
paused and glanced to the back. Higgins crossed her arms and legs and let out a
“Yesterday while doing my spring cleaning I found
something I think will not only help to re-write U.S. history but put P-town
back on the map and most importantly boost the prestige of the Ladies of New
England Society as well as revitalize the respect this organization had enjoyed
in the years past!”
“Can someone in the back of the room please turn off the
lights?” All eyes swung around to look at the back of the room where, tucked in
the corner Higgins sat by herself, huddled on her wooden folding chair, quietly
scowling. Reluctantly she complied and the compact
lecture hall went dark.
The screen behind the podium flashed on and, taking up
the remote plunger, Abagail clicked to the first slide.
“This appears to be some kind of letter
I found with the document, the only two things in the folder.” At the word
‘document’ mumbling began to simmer to the surface.
In the back Higgins turned away from the screen but snuck
one eyeball slightly to the left to sneak a peek.
“I sent a photo of it over to Cohen, Cohen & Cohen
law offices to help us with the translation.”
Murmurs of agreement dusted over the group.
“But this!” She changed slides. “This is ‘the document’!
The most important document, I believe to be found in these parts since the Mayflower Compact!”
At the utterance of ‘The
Mayflower Compact’, all bowed their heads in silence. Even Higgins.
“It’s a deed. A deed signed and
approved by none other than . . .” Again she changed
slides and a close up of the signatory line of the deed came up. “. . . our
very first president, George Washington!”
Shutting down the projector she held aloft the carefully, glass encased
parchment deed for all to view. Of her own accord Higgins flicked back on the
lights and, as did all the others, scurried to the front of the room to get a
“This deed, dated June thirtieth, 1775 appears to be the original deed
to Reverend Bingham’s church at 127 Alden Road!” Abagail gleefully informed.
It was amidst a fever pitch of excitement not seen
since May of 1938 when FDR’s motorcade stopped at Frank Comming’s
Feed & Grain so the President could take a pee,
that the women gathered as if Elvis Presley himself were handing out autographs.
They scurried to circle around and get a glimpse of the glass ensconced
parchment, the signature and the particulars contained
For her part, and much to her credit, Higgins made her way up to the
crowd where the gaggle of giggly ladies parted and took hold of the document.
After an acceptable silence she spoke.
“Abagail you have done very well. Congratulations.” Good karma once
Suddenly there was a disturbance in The Force.
“We must decide exactly what to do with this possibly valuable,
potentially authentic artifact!”
“Potentially authentic?! What do you mean? Exactly?” Abagail demanded.
“There are laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One cannot just go
around finding pieces of paper stamped ‘two hundred year old
document’ and hang them on the wall as if they were a certificate of
participation in a spelling bee!” Higgins authoritatively informed.
“What kind of laws?!” Someone demanded.
“This has to be authenticated! For all we know some prankster might have
printed this out on his laptop! He might have made it up at home using Picture
Shop or something!”
“It’s Photoshop!” Someone else corrected.
“Whatever the kids are calling it-” Hannah continued but Mrs. O’Keefe,
operator of the local greens grocer, interrupted.
“Mrs. Higgins, I move, and I think most of the girls here will agree,
that we should have a town gala and show off this fantastic discovery of
Abagail’s.” Polite applause and head shaking was taken as a mandate. “Maybe
even get some local press so people can know about this.”
“Why not set it for next Tuesday?!” One of the women suggested.
“On the Fourth! That’s a great idea!” O’Keefe seconded.
“LADIES, ladies, ladies! Let’s not lose the run of
ourselves!” Higgins intended to go down swinging.
“What now Mrs. Higgins?!”
“Abagail Helmsworth you of all people should know that in
the 18th Century it was illegal to hold, demand or negotiate a deed
for church property!”
“EXACTLY!” Abagail shouted. Higgins was taken aback,
shocked by Abagail’s agreement. “You’re absolutely correct Hannah! It was against
commonwealth laws to profit by or charge clergy or church officials for
property used for worship or prayer meetings!” Higgins was left speechless by
Helmsworth’s concession. “That’s exactly why the church had to be something
else! It had to be used for another purpose! If we can find out what it was, we
can add another chapter to the fascinating story that is Provincetown!” More
golf claps erupted.
“Perhaps it was mixed up with someone else’s property?”
“Or it could have been an inn of some sort.”
“Right then! I move we plan the gala for the Fourth which
gives us a week to get authentication from Boston and prepare a story for the
“Hold on!” It was Higgins again. “We cannot proceed with
what I am relatively certain will ultimately turn out to be nothing more than a
wild goose chase!”
“What are you talking about Hannah?”
“Simply that state confirmation may not be enough. We may
have to submit this piece of paper, clearly of unknown origin, to a federally
“Oh Hannah, give over will you for cryin’
out loud!” It was Mel Mead newly arrived from San Antonio, Texas back in the
1970’s. “Why can’t you give it a rest! We got something here to be proud of and
all you wanna do is piss all over it you bitter old
Wide spread giggling seemed to have extinguished Higgins’
fire, at least for the moment.
Following a further one hour discussion it was
decided that the LONESOMES would host a grand town gala which would be to
celebrate the 240th anniversary of the founding of what could have
been a farm house, a road side inn, another church or some other building of
unknown function on what was now 127 Alden Road, on the main pyke to Boston.
In the end the women voted on taking a vote, to make it
official, which they did and the vote was passed
There was one abstention.