May I welcome you to this ongoing discussion of the history behind This is the House?History is the North Star, guiding my novels in the direction they must go. Everything else fits in around it, and I’ve found that by faithfully following what is known, fictional situations simply sprout like spring seeds in the garden.
Take this serene painting, for example. It is dated June, 1776, and presumably takes place in Philadelphia where Betsy Ross had a shop. Everyone is dressed neatly, hair combed, everyone is is clean, and there is no suggestion of the disaster that would happen the following winter, when the Continental Army camped and starved and froze to death at nearby Valley Forge.The men are admiring Betsy Ross’s new flag, except for General Washington, who seems more interested in the child on his knee than in Betsy, who is showing the guys how to make a five-pointed star. All very nice, even though Betsy’s involvement with the first flag is questionable, according to Wikipedia, and a lot of people were going to get very dirty and very messy and very hungry very quickly. And they’d face financial ruin, too, because Continental currency became quickly worthless and it was all Congress had to pay its debt to its citizens, soldiers, and their widows.
This is the situation at war’s end, when This is the House opens: …the flood of thanksgiving that had risen ebbed as men turned for the first time to the nation guided only by themselves. From the leaf-bare forests of the South to the snow-covered freeholds of the North came the slow understanding that the devastating poverty of wartime was not done.
Somehow, someway, starvation must be held at bay….
I used Brewster (which was the North parish of Harwich at that time) as a template for “Rockford”. The notes I made (from a source I no longer remember) describe the scene very well: “Town hard put to supply men, money and beef. Cut off from wale and codfish business, driven to tilling the exhausted soil, with little harvest because of draught”. My notes go on to say that “a quarter of families had no meat of any kind during the war, and minors were used to fill the quota because so many men were at sea.” (Privateering, I think.)
It is in this impoverished environment that Hannah Deems struggled to provide for her daughter and herself, and once the war was over, was forced to take whatever opportunity presented itself for survival. That opportunity was Seth Adams, making his way home from Yorktown (red ball, lower left) to Cape Cod (beneath Boston and above the K in New York).
And Seth needed a woman.