Whittier Cameo        
Mercy Hussey        
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Mercy Hussey

I came to live with my sister Abigail, her husband John, and their children Mary, Elizabeth, Matthew Franklin, and John, who was called "Greenleaf" by the family. With an uncle and various farmhands, we proved to be quite an extended family on the homestead. It was started in 1688 by Greenleaf's great-great grandfather, Thomas, in East Haverhill, MA. We didn't have a lot of money and we were barely able to make ends meet. I made a living working as a practical nurse.

Greenleaf's frail health from boyhood followed him through his adult life and proved that he was not cut out to be a farmer. When he finished his chores we would find him wandering through the cornfields dreaming of adventure, or he would be up in an apple tree reading a book. He loved to learn. John's father died in 1830 and the family ran the farm for another six years before John and his mother decided to sell the homestead and move to Amesbury. During this time John was the editor of local publications.

ann_0634-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg After the marriages of Mary and Matthew Franklin, his mother, Abigail, and I continued to live with Greenleaf and his sister, Elizabeth, at their Amesbury home. They added a room for me on the back of the cottage which later was to become Whittier's study and today is known as the "Garden Room." This is where Greenleaf did most of his writing and entertained favored visitors while tending his beloved wood-burning stove.

We were a Quaker family and attended the Meeting House in Amesbury, MA. Greenleaf studied his father's six books on Quakerism until he formed his own belief system - stressing humanitarianism, compassion, and social responsibility.

In his famous epic poem Snowbound Whittier wrote this verse about me:

"The dear Aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear,
The sweetest woman ever fate
Perverse denied a household mate
Who, lonely, homeless not the less
Found peace in love's unselfishness,
And welcome whereso'er she went
A calm and gracious element
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of the home"
The "fate" Greenleaf refers to in the poem is that one day I had a premonition. I saw my lover riding by our homestead farm. Weeks later I would hear that he had passed away in New York at the exact moment that I saw him ride past our door. Because of this tragedy I was never able to bring myself to marry.

Note. Like many other children living in the country, Whittier attended a one-room school house where a single teacher taught ten or more students. Whittier's first teacher was Joshua Coffin who boarded with the family. He lent John a copy of Robert Burn's poetry and this poetry strongly influenced Whittier's early writings. Here he met childhood friend Lydia Ayer.