Inquiries from our Readers…
Shoes Hidden in Old Houses to Ward off Evil Spirits…
Chris M. from Indiana writes today (Aug 22,2011):
I am a graduate student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. As part of my Master’s thesis, I am researching objects deliberately concealed in buildings for good luck. I am particularly interested in the practice of concealing old shoes or boots in buildings, which seems to have been brought to the U.S. from Great Britain.
It is my understanding that a shoe was found in a house in Rocky Hill, CT. I am trying to find out more about the shoe, where exactly it was found in the building, when it might have been concealed and by whom. If you know anything about this object or any other unusual objects found in the walls, ceilings, floors, or chimneys of other historic buildings in the area (horseshoes, old garments, bottles with unusual contents, strange animal remains, iron tools, coins, etc.), I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me or forward my email to someone who may be able to help.
I look forward to your reply.
“You are in luck as I was one of the persons finding the old shoe hidden as a “concealment piece” (as such things were then known) in the Rocky Hill home where I lived until ten years ago. The shoe was found some 15 years or so ago and after examining, photographing, and exhibiting it to society members we replaced the shoe behind the panelling next the hall fireplace where we found it. (see attached photo 18C Parlor…) The room in the photograph is actually what is known as the hall and the shoe was found behind the panelling near the upper left side of the hearth. The date of the house is c 1750; here is a view from 2006.The shoe may be viewed in this composite view made in 2009. Other, more detailed views (you can enlarge the images for greater detail) are here,here,and here. If you learned about this shoe from these photos on the web then you may already have seen them. The shoe is made of leather and is fastened together with wooden pegs.”
…would it be possible to use the photos of the shoe and house in my thesis? If so, how would you like me to credit them?
“I also wanted to let you know that I sent the photos of the shoe to the cobbler at Colonial Williamsburg and he identified the shoe as a “man’s or boy’s, 1820s-40ish, round toed w/pegged repairs. Waxed-calf with “dog-leg” side seam.” Which is interesting because it post-dates the house, suggesting the shoe was concealed at a later date, perhaps during an episode of repair or remodeling.”
Apparently other objects, even cats, have been concealed in houses being built to bring good luck or to ward off evil spirits. According to one source in the U.K. this was known from early times as “house magic”. Here is a photo of one such mummified cat from a Flickr member:
Wendi G. from Michigan writes:
I was wondering if someone out there might be able to help me. I am currently researching my genealogy and have come across an ancestor named Moses Willcox who resided in Colebrook, CT in 1787 with his wife, Hannah. I have found a marriage record for a Moses Wilcox and Lyndia Lancy from Rocky Hill Congregational Church from about that same time period. I’m wondering if this may be Moses’ second marriage but the online record does not mention whether he’s a widower or not. I’m not sure where to go for an answer on that. I’m not even sure if records of that time made mention of previous marriages. Can anyone help me out or direct me where to look? I appreciate any assistance you can provide.
Old House & Old Rocky Hill Family…
Pat and Dick L. write:
I have been doing my family genealogy for a number of years and have discovered that my great grandparents and possibly my grandparents lived for a short time in Rocky Hill. I have two photos ca 1915 showing the home they lived in. Is there someone I can send these photos to in the long shot that the house still exists and can be identified?
Also, the names of my grandfather and great grandfather are: Edward J. Hart, who was a printer, and Ozias Dauphinais, his father-in-law.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
They have provided two photographs of the house and family members: Note: Click on Photographs for much greater detail)