Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Swimming at Misery Island, 1949

My Dad, "Jack" John Warren Wilkinson (1934 - 2002) swimming at Misery Island with his dog Jeff. Misery Island is off the coast of Beverly and Manchester, Massachusetts- it can be seen off West Beach. Photo dated July 1949.

My uncle (towel on his head) and Dad (eating the banana) and neighbor friends.

The back of the photo, with names of all the kids described.
"The crowd at Misery Island
Left to right (front) Richard Wilkinson, Beverly Emory, Jack Wilkinson & Barbara Cann (in back) Priscilla Brett
July 1949"

Those were the days! Let your kids go off to an island all alone (no lifeguard) to swim! Great Misery Island and Little Misery Island are only accessible by boats. There were summer homes on the island until 1926 when they were destroyed by a great fire. Today it is a wonderful bird sanctuary and owned by the Trustees of Reservations. It is named after Robert Moulton, who was shipwrecked there in the winter for three miserable days in the 1620s.

Here is the story of an ancestor who met his fate on Misery Island in 1768. Daniel Poland was my 6x great grandfather. Its a good thing this story comes from my Mum's side of the family, or my Dad's Mum would never have let him go swimming at Misery Island!

Essex Antiquarian
Volume 1, page 66
"Drowning Accident
Salem August 23, Last Friday a very uncommon accident happened off Manchester, and the following account is related by a person who saw it....
Nicholas Whipple, Abraham Wyatt, and Daniel Poland, all of Beverly, were fishing in a canoe, near Little Misery Island, which lays within 2 or 3 leagues of this Harbour, and had out a Kellogg, or small anchor; while they were employed at their Business, to their inexpressible surprise, the canoe suddenly shot forward, with very great rapidity, without any apparent cause, and, before they could cut the painter, run the distance of about 70 or 80 feet, when she was pulled so low as to fill and overset, and then stopped. One of the Men swam ashore, another saved his Life by getting upon the bottom of the Canoe, then in sight, getting in Ballast; and the third, Daniel Poland, was unfortunately drowned, who, we hear, has left a Wife and 7 or 8 children. It is supposed that some large Fish run foul of the Painter, dragged the Canoe the above mentioned distance, and was then disengaged." - Essex Gazette, August 23, 1768
Trustees of Reservations Website page for Misery Islands
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Oh, such wonderful photos!!! Sad about the "uncommon" accident, interesting description in the article.

  2. Kids, and water, and fun! Timeless! Thanks for the history lesson, too!

  3. Wonderful photos but how sad for Daniel Poland, his wife and children. I think it's amazing that you found that article! What is a painter?

  4. Nancy, a painter is the line attached to boat to tie it up. It might be just a local term? I've always heard it used, but then again, look how long we've been living in the same place!

  5. I love these pictures but especially the one with your father eating the banana and his uncle with the towel on his head. What a story about your great grandfather! Isn't it wonderful that we can find newspaper articles from that time period? Thanks for sharing.

  6. The pictures are wonderful and show how summer fun with kids are unchanging. Great early history tie in.
    Thanks for sharing.