The Ardent Writer Press
Nancy Shattuck – The Watertown Chronicles
A Saga of a Puritan Family of 1600s Massachusetts
The Ardent Writer Press welcomes accomplished author Nancy Shattuck with her historical fiction series
The Watertown Chronicles
Read about the Story of the Sherborn Family of Puritan Massachusetts
“I have a double reason for reading this book with such enjoyment—interest in the period and the narrative and the account of the life of my ancestor. The short chapters each dealing with one aspect of William’s life made one really feel the arduous nature of the life of these early Americans and represents the best sort of historical fiction. Many congratulations on this first volume.”
—Professor Michael Shattock, Higher Education Studies, University College London
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Shattuck was inspired to write a historical fiction series when she discovered her direct ancestors had lived through King Philip’s Indian War in 1676-1676. Exploring their history, she was so impressed by the complexity of the Massachusetts colonial experience that each of the family members began to tell a different story. No longer a novel, The Watertown Chronicles were born. Nancy earned a master’s degree in Comparative and Japanese Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and completed the classwork for two separate doctorates: Comparative Literature at Washington University and American Literature at Wayne State University. Previous publications include The Fishers, a children’s picture book and Travel Wings: An Adventure, a travel memoir, in addition to short stories and poetry. She is the recipient of an American Academy of Poets award 1978; Tompkins awards for poetry and fiction in 2004, 2005, and 2007; a John Clare award for poetry in 2005; a Judith Siegel Pearson’s award for poetry in 2005; and a Heck-Rabbi award for drama in 2006.
FROM THE AUTHOR
The fictional Sherborn family of “The Watertown Chronicles,” a historical fiction series, is modeled from my ancestors who actually lived in Watertown, Massachusetts, the Shattucks. William Shattuck emigrated from England in 1640 and lived out the rest of his life in the British colony, marrying there and siring ten children. Each of the novels in the series is a story told through the view of each member. This project, to breathe life into the New England colonial past, was an exercise in “reading between the lines” and working where inductive and deductive logic cross paths. I’ve taken my direction from historian Ronald Takaki, who wrote A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (2008). He uses microhistory to illuminate the larger issues of the American story. What makes his history so readable—the minutia—will hopefully serve the same purpose in this fiction. The irony of writing fiction about a white European family and paying homage to an historian of Japanese-Hawaiian ancestry who imparted American history from the immigrants’ point of view is not lost on me. Too often the ‘founders’ of New England are not seen as immigrants now. However, I seek to add them back to the lists at the same time I tip my hat to including gender-driven views that have been excluded in past histories.
I began the project with Book one, William, The Patriarch (Second Edition, The Ardent Writer Press, December 2020). William Sherborn is a Puritan immigrant and weaver who arrives at the end of the massive migration of 20,000 English citizens to the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1630 and 1640, just before the English Civil War of 1642. He’s the kingpin for eleven following narratives. To construct his persona, I extrapolated what facts I could from Lemuel Shattuck’s book, Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck: The Progenitor of the Families in America That Have Borne His Name (Boston, 1855). Sherborn’s prototype William Shattuck was a voting member of the Watertown council. As such, he had to be a professing, covenanted Puritan, a member of the church, and own land. In the Massachusetts Bay Colonies, to be a full member of the church, he would have professed an epiphanal conversion to his faith. Someone professing such a conversion usually lived in devotion to Puritan principles, however imperfectly.
I was able to establish his status in the community from the Watertown Council records; the meeting minutes date back to its beginning in 1630 and have been released in digital format. Thus, I could see from mentions what services he had performed for Watertown as well as get a feel for the changes in the society as the council leadership evolved.
Likewise, I used the will published in 1672 to build Sherborn’s character and the relationships with his wife and children. We know from Lemuel Shattuck’s book that William Shattuck wrote and signed the will in sound mind on his sickbed, eleven days before he died. He had waited to the last to write this will. It was signed by adjoining neighbors (according to the Watertown map of original allotments), who were by his own words, ‘loving friends.’ The will was executed by his wife and witnessed by the Council Clerk.
I took poetic license with the will, deriving from it the relationship that he had with his wife Susanna, and even her character. She was a unique woman of her time as she signed the first prenuptial agreement when she remarried after William’s death. One could assume she had some say in William’s original bequest. In his will, he grants her the use of his house on the hill until his two youngest sons turn twenty-one. That statement is followed by a badly worded clause he will give her four pounds a year “if she marry” or “if she marry not.” I play with the language to create a conversation between the two on his sickbed, when Susanna bargains with him to keep the house if she marries again.
The will also informed me that he had favored his son William, as might be expected of a father whose son follows in his footsteps. He split his Waltham farm and meadowland between the older boys, Philip and William, but sweetened the bequest to the latter with his “loome and its appertinences” and a young horse. William was employed in Captain Prentice’s cavalry at the time, and the horse could have been specially trained for military use.
I derived a troubled relationship with his oldest son John from the will as well. William gives John a cash equivalent of the land he bequeaths to William and Philip, but only after his mother’s death, and then, annually in four equal parts. John never appears in Council meeting minutes or on the church member rosters, which is notable for the oldest son. John only names his third boy after his father. I took these as signs that John had a poor connection to William. A letter from Reverend Sherman to Magistrate Danforth in Boston and Daniel Gookin’s account of a meeting in Charlestown, also belittle John’s character, which could change his Puritan father’s affections.
Oddly, William bequeaths three pounds to his married children, to be distributed a month after his death, but six additional pounds to his “son” Samuel Church (in fact his son-in-law). His sixteen-year-old daughter Rebecca had married Samuel Church, a man twice her age, with only one child issuing before the couple disappear from records. The facts were rich with implications any novelist would leap to convey.
For the rest, I’ve sought to uphold some historical accuracy without replicating it. The inventory for the will helped establish how the house might be furnished and the tools they might use, as well as expect for their class. I haven’t attempted to reproduce the differences in language, though I may slip in an occasional ‘aye’ for an England-born character, or 17th century syntax. I use the names of people who occupied the town during the period, changing names only if needed to clarify the text. It’s difficult to write conversations when all the characters share the same name—both of William’s close friends are named John for example—or when a family may have three generations of ‘John’ or ‘Mary’ in the same room at once. In instances when I don’t have biographical information, I have invented the townspeople’s characters and descriptions.
Drawing on my childhood experiences, when I briefly lived with a family who practiced a Christian fundamentalist faith, I have tried to construct the religious life that the family might have led. I weave this into my research on Puritan mores and published sermons from the period. Also drawing on childhood experiences (living on a farm with no indoor plumbing and attending a one-room rural schoolhouse), I aim to reproduce from memory this colonial family’s life conditions.
Book Two, Mary, The Clairvoyant, will be published as a second edition by The Ardent Writer Press in 2021, along with the first edition of the third book in The Watertown Chronicles, Suzanne, The Midwife.
Though William’s daughter Mary (Shattuck/Sherborn) was not the eldest child, she is the one who first captured my imagination. She appeared, of all the children, the one who’d lived an ideal life for her time. She’d married well, bore ten children (all surviving to adulthood), never remarried when her husband of ninety-one left her a widow, and survived him six years to die at eighty-eight. Her life seemed nearly featureless to me, except that between the ages of eighteen and forty, she’d born a child, on average, every two years. In this family, which had such a variety of challenges to be surmounted in war years, Mary mystified me.
I sought, therefore, some distinguishing talent that would play two roles. First, it would have to give her extraordinary advantages over her countrywomen. Second, it would generate a conflict that would affect the span of her life. In the seventeenth century world, where she is subject to Puritan laws and beliefs that confirmed a Devil and condemned blasphemers and deviants, that could likely be a paranormal gift. Thus, Mary, The Clairvoyant came to be.
When I read that Susanna (Shattuck/Sherborn) had moved to Groton, a small trading post at the northwestern edge of the Middlesex county in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I found her character intriguing. What would lead the daughter of a successfully established and prosperous man to move from the comforts she’d grown to expect, to pioneer in Indian lands? Her marriage, of course. While Joseph Morse, the man she married, was the landless son of a Watertown Puritan family, his uncle John Morse was a prominent land holder in Groton. The young couple might have moved to Groton to advance their standing. Joseph Morse could only achieve “freeman” status and emancipation if he owned land, which was becoming scarce (and therefore expensive) in Watertown.
From such a match, my fiction began to grow. Two factors might advance it. First, my fictional Sherborn daughter would need to be financially independent to marry a landless farmer with genteel leanings. This gave birth to Suzanne Sherborn-Morse, the midwife. One occupation open to women in a Puritan community would have been midwifery, and in communities where births averaged ten per woman, midwifery could support her in comfort. That independence would allow her a luxury denied other women in her community, the second factor. She could marry for love. She may have been passionately in love with the landless Joseph, at least, enough to follow him to the Massachusetts northwestern frontier.
For lovers of the blend of well-researched historical fiction, The Watertown Chronicles should be a stop for adventure and the spark of human emotion. Based on author’s research into her own family roots that started in Massachusetts in the late 1600s, the first book in the Chronicles, William, The Patriarch, is Nancy Shattuck’s reimagining of her own family’s trials and life through the fictional Sherborn family. It was a time when the wilderness and danger was a stone throws away from the little New England village of Watertown where the series begins. It is a testament to the vigor of family and the need for pulling together, instead of pushing apart.
The Watertown Chronicles
Published by The Ardent Writer Press
Amazon Sales/Barnes and Noble Pages for The Watertown Chronicles for William, The Patriarch
by Nancy Shattuck
- The link to Amazon for the paperback version of William, The Patriarch is HERE.
- The link to Amazon for the eBook Kindle version of William the Patriarch is HERE.
- The link to Barnes and Noble for the paperback version William the Patriarch is HERE.
Nancy’s website is HERE.
Nancy’s Amazon Author Page is HERE.
Nancy’s Goodreads’ Author Page is HERE.
Nancy’s Facebook page for The Watertown Chronicles is HERE.