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Excerpt from The Paradise of All These Parts

Excerpt from The Paradise of All These Parts
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Katherine Nanny Naylor was born in England in 1630 and died in Boston in 1715. Around 1650 she married a rich merchant named Robert Nanny, and when he died after a few years of marriage, she married Edward Naylor. Brother Naylor, although rich from trade in the West Indies, was what we might term today an abusive husband — an admittedly relative term for a man who lived in an era when women were viewed as chattel and there was a strong movement among Boston Puritans for women to be veiled in public. But old man Naylor was violent enough to have brought down the heavy weapons of Puritan law upon his property. We know all this, not from the archeological dig but from court records. Katherine Nanny Naylor petitioned the General Court for a divorce from Edward. The documents outline the abuses she and her children endured. Among other things, he kicked one child down a set of stairs. He also engaged in dalliances with his female servants. The court sided with Katherine, and she lived for the next thirty years on Cross Street, where the privy was uncovered.

Artifacts found in the privy suggest that she had a good life, her aggressive husband notwithstanding. Archeologists turned up silk and lace, as well as ceramics and glass from Italy and Spain. Also spices from the East Indies and olive pits, and even an old bowling ball. But more to the point for this little history, along with the seeds of cherries and the remains of insects, the archeologists discovered pollen grains, and from these, a specialized group of botanists known as palynologists — who are able to identify plants from their pollen alone — were able to ascertain that between 1650 and 1700, at least, aspen, birch, oak, and maple, as well as hickory and elm, were growing in the vicinity of the early city. All of these plants can still be found on the peninsula, although no doubt not in the abundance in which they were found in 1650.

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Updated Saturday, December 20th, 2008

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