by John Stratton
The Stonington Historical Society has just published a new book by genealogist Henrietta Mello Mayer.
The book, “South of the Cannons, the Portuguese Families of Stonington, Connecticut,” was a long-time project of Henrietta, who was born on Omega Street in the southern portion of Stonington Borough, when it was a primarily Portuguese neighborhood.
The new book expands on a book she published privately in 1978, and is is richly illustrated with photographs, some never before seen in historical context.
The Historical Society marked the publication with a party on March 10 at the Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer House in Stonington, where refreshments included Portuguese sweet bread from Lou’s Bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts, a Portuguese enclave still.
Stonington was not a sleepy town. The chronology covers the traditions of waterfront life and the day-to-day achievements and escapades of a vibrant population: the launching of fishing smacks, factory accidents, activities of local bands, a gift for the train conductor, births and deaths, parades for the Festa do Espirito Santo – the Holy Ghost Festival – challenges to checker games, and fistfights, graduations, concerts and arrests, big scallop harvests and, – yes – a blue lobster in the pot.
Mayer painstakingly perused decades of genealogies, assembling them page-by-page from original issues of The Stonington Mirror, a now-vanished local paper, from 1870 to 1948. She selected hundreds of news items about the lives of the Portuguese families who lived mostly in the compact neighborhood south of Cannon Square, hence her book’s name. The $25 book is indexed for easy reference-finding.
For further information, or for a professional review copy, call 860.535.8445.