Ancestral Portraits

by Mike Estabrook

Each of the people in these Ancestral Portraits are actual ancestors of mine, discovered through extensive genealogical research, both here and in England. My endeavor is to tell the stories of these ancestors, because their stories have not been told and everyone has a story to tell. These people began coming to the New World almost four hundred years ago amidst great uncertainties, to face even greater hardships. My interest is to capture their lives in thumbnail sketches, endeavoring to get at their very marrow, to focus in, capture, and pinion their very essences. I am interested too in depicting the interpersonal relationships of these people, how husband and wife, brother and sister, father and son, mother and daughter, related to one another. Of course at the time (as in any time) there are many other concerns facing people including relationships of individuals to their communities, to nature, to God; fears to flesh out, fears of Native Americans, strange animals, illnesses, nature, fear of God. These aspects of living (and dying) come to play in these portraits.

thank you for your time and consideration,

and I hope all is well,


Mary Dover Phelps

(1610 - November 27, 1675)

Lady Mary

Of course I was nary an official Lady, that title being bestowed upon me by friends and peers. Life was too hard for Elizabeth she passed well before her days should have been spent. Poor Elizabeth. I of course knew of William's love for me, he scarcely could contain himself. A blessed love was William's, noble in its propriety so that neither of us let on to any other soul about the depths of our love for one another during Elizabeth's life.

I cannot pretend, however, to intimate that my love for William could match his for me. His love was like a burning coal searing through earth and air, as if his fire for me, his longing, smote poor Elizabeth down so that we could thusly be together as one. He longed for me day and night all those years, his eyes, I cannot equate the passion of his gray eyes with any other thing I have as yet encountered. And he talks of my red hair as being made of Devil's breath. Dear, silly man.

Mary Drake Bissell

(1600 - May 21, 1642)

Died in Childbirth

I chose the name of Joyce before I gave birth to her. And even though I died shortly thereafter from birthing complications they adhered to my desires and named my daughter Joyce. I am glad of that. Even though she killed me I am glad she is called Joyce like I wanted her to be called. I bled to death but it required several days of bleeding. The doctors of course tried to save me but in reality had no idea of what to do doctors being of such uncreative mentalities. So I bled and bled and I bled myself empty of blood. I was white and shriveled in the end.

But the Lord must have wanted it such that way for afterall I bore John six children four boys and two girls all of them growing up to adulthood all living long healthy lives having children of their own to carry on John's fine name the fine fine Bissell name. I did my part for the family for mankind too one could say. I am not complaining mind you I was a mere link in the chain. And to die in the act of giving birth is symbolic of what it means to be human - one older life exchanged for a new one. However I do wish that John had not taken to marry another so swift after my untimely death after I bled to death birthing his child. But then he did have the six children to care for Joyce and the others so I cannot truly fault him. I am not complaining. No I am not.


(August 7, 1583 - May 27, 1633)

Inflicted with the Pox Murdered at Sea

I never landed onto the shores of the New World rife with opportunities and freedoms having as they say died of the pox out at sea held prisoner down in the dark dank back corner hold of the ship alone except for the rats I was so cold shivering and they had me tied yes of course they had to tie me for fear I'd run about amuck upon the decks infesting the children the young buds with the accursed pox.

But I would not have done such as they afeard for I was in possession of my soul even as the Devil himself wrestled me making me fevered and bespeaking foul epithets even though I was weakened from absence of sustenance for I am above all else a God fearing man and all I needed for was the outside air the sun fresh water and vittles I could have survived the damnable pox beaten back the Devil at his own insidious game could have come ashore would not have had to succumb to such terrible pains and barbarous horrors alone except for the squeaking rats the biting rats in the hold down in the hold of that damned ship.

And what they will not tell you what none of them wants to admit to is that I was not dead damn them all down into the reeking hole of hell! when the bastard Captain in league with my whore of a wife before pitching me overboard to sink as a stone into the frigid depths spake his pale words over my enshrouded body my bleeding mouth gagged my hands and feet tethered tight like a hog's at the slaughter hour. The salty waters of hate filled my body and my lungs and the blackness prevailed upon me.

Fear is the Devil's instrument.

Vengeance is Man's instrument.

And my wretched spirit continues to wander off the coast of Connecticut searching searching . . .

Mary Odell Turney Middlebrook

(November 10, 1605 - 1658)

2nd Wife of Joseph Middlebrook,

Marrier of Widows

After Benjamin died so sudden, so unexpected like, I was bereft, for he was only 43 years, and a good man, a busy man working so hard, having only time for work. But Joseph, dear sweet Joseph, was there for me in my grief. Thank God. Seems, now as I think on it, that he had always been there for me, special attentive to me, even on our hard trek down from Concord, the place I loved, to dirty Fairfield by the Great River. He was there when the men-folk were off hunting or exploring, when the wagon needed mending, when the sickness came, and the drought. He was there on those cold cold dark nights when I was alone, and Indians were about. Joseph married me after Ben died, making my remaining 8 years on this Earth my best years. Where other men-folk were forever busy with their fishing, hunting, chopping, building, Joseph always had time for me, for me, always had time for me: time to brush my long brown hair, time to gaze at the moon and kiss me soft on the mouth, time to listen to my words and ideas, time to hold my hand and walk with me in the meadows, time to bring me wildflowers - daisies and red roses, time to rub my sore feet and tired back, time to attend me in my bath as Antony had done Cleopatra.

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