2018: The 10th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

A great colonial fireplace with hearth stone. Photograph by J.W. Brown

As the New England leaves turn crimson and the wind blows cold, Genealogy Blogger thoughts turn to poetry. At least Bill West of “West in New England” suggests that they should. In his explanatory blog post he states the what, why and how of his poetry challenge. Please join in if you take a fancy to it. The entire list will be published on Bill’s blog on Thanksgiving Day, Nov 22, 2018.  As a teaser, here is my post for 2016: The 8th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge.

I’ll add the West In New England Complete List of Poetry contributors link here when it is published. [Link to ‘West in New England‘ on Thanksgiving Day, USA].

☼▲☼▲☼ How My Poem Fits the Rules ☼▲☼▲☼
Thankfully Bill West’s challenge rules are fairly broad as my poem could be about “some place,” which is the theme that I selected. My colonial ancestors would have had a great fireplace with a hearth stone beneath, and the women especially would spend much of their lives there. I think that this poem will touch a deep chord in others, as it does in me, for those having fond memories of family gatherings. I’ve included some of my personal photographs taken of New England colonial fireplaces with hearth stones.

Photograph of a kitchen fireplace from book, Colonial Life in New Hampshire.

☼▲☼▲☼ The Poem’s Author: Matthew Harvey ☼▲☼▲☼

Matthew Harvey [from “The poets of New Hampshire, being specimen poems of three hundred poets of the Granite State, with biographical notes, by Bela Chapin, 1883]

Mr. Harvey, born in Sutton [NH], January 14, 1815, and is descended from one of the early and well known families of that town. His grandfather–whose Christian name he bears–came from Nottingham to Sutton (then Perrystown) about the year 1774, where, in a long house of his own construction, his two eldest sons, Jonathan and Matthew were born. Deacon Harvey was a public spirited and enterprising citizen, well known as a civil magistrate, legislator and churchman; and at the time of his death in 1799, he was an extensive landholder and a man of wealth. Both of the sons mentioned above subsequently became members of congress, and the latter was elected Governor of N.H. in 1830. Mr. Harvey is the only brother of Mrs. Augusta H. Worthen, of Lynn, Mass. a well known writer of both prose and verse–selections from whose sparkling poems appear in this collection. In 1831 he entered the printing office of the Argus and Spectator, at Newport, as an apprentice; and in 1840, with his cousin, H.G. Carleton, purchased the establishment, and the paper was edited and published by Messrs. Carleton & Harvey, through an unbroken period of forty years. Political journalism is not a good fieldl for the cultivation of poetic sentiments; but still, Mr. Harvey’s occasional poems evince rare talent in that directions, as the following selections will show.  Watch the Video: Matthew Harvey Homestead, North Sutton NH, Part 1. Matthew Harvey is buried in Old North Cemetery, Concord NH.

A New England fireplace and hearthstone from the late 1600s. Gilford CT. Photograph by J.W. Brown.

☼▲☼▲☼ The Poem: THE OLD HEARTH-STONE ☼▲☼▲☼

I sing of the old hearth-stone that quietly lay
‘Neath my own native roof near the side of the way,
Where the bright glowing embers, all cheerful and warm,
Looked out on the darkness and laughed at the storm.
The music, the mirth, and the songs that resound
O’er this smooth marble hearth, ring not with the sound
Of joy and true gladness that was kindled alone
With the fire that once blazed on the old hearth-stone.

It speaks of a mother who used to sit there,
Plying her needles in the old arm-chair,
Ere time dimmed her eye, and fringed her fair brow
With wrinkles of age and silver as now.
It speaks of a father who sat by her side,
Watching his children as gaily they glide
Round the lap of affection, in the light that was thrown
From the oaken back-log on the old hearth-stone.

‘Twas there that five sisters, at close of the day,
Were joined by a brother in health giving play,
Till the music of angels was echoed from earth
By juvenile tongues round the old stone hearth.
That house is now silent! Joy reigns there no more!
Decay’d is the threshold and closed is the door!
The latch-string is broken, the warblers all flown
Save the cricket that signs ‘neath the old hearth-stone.

This ancient fire place with hearth stone can be found in the Medad Stone Tavern, CT. Photograph by J.W. Brown

I’ve since wander’d long mid fashion and pleasure,
Searching in vain for the priceless treasure
That once was my own–but I knew not its worth,
Till driven by fate from the old stone hearth.
Tis thus that a thought of this relic of yore
Carries me back to my childhood once more;
Then lay me away, when life’s work is done,
And over my grave with the old hearth-stone!

Sink my epitaph deep in its foot-worn face,
And there let the names of lov’d sisters have place–
That when the old homestead is lost in decay,
And the circle, now broken, has vanished away,
Some student of art may pause and restore
To the moss-covered names their freshness once more;
And read from the tablet, forsaken and lone,
Our Family Record on the old hearth-stone.



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10 Responses to 2018: The 10th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

  1. I love the last stanzas! It would be such a comfort to think that could be done.

  2. Virginia Penrod says:

    Oh, Jan, I’m thinking you and I should wipe a few cobwebs of my big, ancient 1783 fireplace, kindle a warming fire and while our toes get toasting we can get nostalgically roasting the hearth with a whimsical verse or two??? Y’think?

  3. billwest says:

    Wonderful entry! I love the poem and those photos. Thanks, Janice, for once more taking part in the Challege!

  4. Jan….I enjoyed the poem you selected about your ancestors. I found one too that I am going to share. Thanks for posting!

  5. emptybranches says:

    What a fabulous poem and so perfect for genealogists!

  6. Janice, this heartwarming poem reminds me of my ancestor’s home in Lancaster County, PA. The Hans Herr House (open to the public) has a huge hearth that was open from both sides and was almost big enough to walk through. As I was reading your poem, I could almost feel the family gathered around the fire!

  7. Lynda L True says:

    This is 2019. This contest was for 2918

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