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I'll continue searching the Cecil Whig microfilm for more stories on "Father Wells"

Subject: Gypsies in Cecil County, Maryland

Hi Dr. Clark:

I do a lot of genealogy and local history research in Southeastern PA, Northern Maryland, and vicinity, and I ran across a very interesting article at the library today:

Cecil Whig, Elkton, Cecil Co., MD

Saturday, July 5, 1902

Front Page

GYPSY PRINCESS DEAD: Mary Wells, Daughter of "Father" Robert Wells, Passed Away in Camp - Queer Burial Rites of the Nomads

"Mary Wells, a gypsy princess, daughter of "Father" Robert Wells, the gypsy patriach who died near Warwick, this county, has departed this life. Her remains will be taken to Wilmington, Del., and Brandywine Cemetery for interment alongside of those of her father.

Just before Princess Wells died, she made a request that the funeral sermon be preached by a Presbyterian minister. Tribal rites were held over the remains on Sunday and Monday. After the princess had been declared dead the remains were laid in the open air and fires lighted at the head and feet. One after another the members of the tribe approached the body and said their last farewell. On Monday morning at dawn the remains were bathed in pure, clear spring water and robed in white, according to the custom of gypsies, and a gold chain was clasped about the neck.

At noon on Monday, all of Princess Wells's clothing and personal effects were burned in the watch fires, after which the members of the tribe gathered about the corpse and sang. This continued for more than an hour, and then each member took a stick from a bundle called the "fagots of life." They broke the sticks and placed them on the breast of the corpse. The watch fires were kept burning for two days, to keep "bad spirits" from the body until the departed soul had reached its resting place."

Copyright ©2005 Fred Kelso, all rights reserved.  


I found two more articles of interest today. The first indicates that the "Gypsy Princess" Mary Wells did not die in Cecil County, but rather in New Jersey, and that her father, Robert Wells, who had died in Warwick, Cecil County, died the previous year. The second article gives the names of members of two different "bands".

Fred Kelso

The Morning News

Wilmington, Delaware

Tues., July 1, 1902

Front Page

Funeral of a Gypsy Princess: She Died at Morristown, N.J., and is to be Laid by the Side of her Father in the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery - Queer Burial Rites of the Nomads

"Mary Wells, a gypsy princess, who died a few days ago in the camp near Morristown, N.J., will be brought to Wilmington for burial in the same plot with her father, who was buried in the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery about a year ago [so far I have not yet found an obituary for Robert Wells]. When the funeral will take place is not known, as the officials of the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery have received no notice.

Just before Princess Wells died, she made a request that the funeral sermon be preached by a Presbyterian minister. Tribal rites were held over the remains on Sunday and Monday. After the princess had been declared dead the remains were laid in the open air and fires lighted at the head and feet. One after another the members of the tribe approached the body and said their last farewell. On Monday morning at dawn the remains were bathed in pure, clear spring water and robed in white, according to the custom of gypsies, and a gold chain was clasped about the neck.

At noon on Monday, all of Princess Wells's clothing and personal effects were burned in the watch fires, after which the members of the tribe gathered about the corpse and sang. This continued for more than an hour, and then each member took a stick from a bundle called the "fagots of life." They broke the sticks and placed them on the breast of the corpse. The watch fires were kept burning for two days, to keep "bad spirits" from the body until the departed soul had reached its resting place."

Cecil Whig

Elkton, MD

Sat., Nov. 2, 1900

Front Page

Young Gypsies Run Away

"During the past few weeks there have been camped in the Fourth district [Fair Hill area], two bands of gypsies. Last Saturday night, Priscilla Stanley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a chief of one of the families, disappeared. It was later learned that she had come to Elkton with Hugh Alcks, a member of the rival band to the Stanley family. The irate father started in pursuit, but upon reaching Elkton learned that they had taken a train for Baltimore."


From: PEGGIE SHAW Sent: Tue, 10 May 2005 07:00:48 -0700 - Subject: [PaOldC] Gypsies in Chester Co.

When I was growing up, I became familiar with the gypsies because my friends parents owned a store on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ and the Gypsies leased or owned a store, where they read palms there every summer as they had for years. There were a number of gypsy families who stayed in Atlantic City every summer. If I remember right, they came from the Philadelphia area. The one name I remember was MARK (MARC). There was a lot of folklore about the gypsies...and generally we were told not to go near them!! But being children...My grandmother told me they had been coming to Atlantic City, since the building of the boardwalk there, which would have been early 1900's, late 1800's. I remember 4 or 5 shops leased by Gypsies and I also remember the city having legal battles with them. I am sure if you check Atlantic City (Atlantic County NJ) there are probably court records and perhaps other records (rental etc). I know they made the local paper (Atlantic City Press) numerous times. It is my understanding they were a fairly small population group, that kept a pretty good handle on their families and marriage (even dating) with people who were not gypsies was generally not tolerated. So there is probably a family connection with most gypsies wandering the Atlantic states. It is an interesting topic and culture. You could probably still go to Atlantic City and have your palm read..along the boardwalk by the gypsies!

Copyright ©2005 Peggie Shaw, all rights reserved.


PA-OLD-CHESTER-L@rootsweb.com    Sent: Tue, 10 May 2005 05:03:59 -0400    Subject: Re: [PaOldC] Local Gypsies

Fred, I have heard about the gypsies all my life from my grandmother who was born in 1890 in East Bradford Township. My great grandfather leased a farm along the Brandywine. The gypsies would camp out in the lower meadows across the road from the house. They did not ask anyone if they could stay, they just brought their wagons and parked.  They would visit my great grandmother and would request things from her such as her jams, jellies, potatoes and such and in return would read her fortune. One tale that we had always heard was my great grandmother had no boys and the gypsies predicted that she would have one more girl and one more boy. And this was the way it came true. This was like in a period of  about four years later.

My grandmother told us that her parents would warn the children, do not go near them. It was told that they would steal the children away from an area and that you would never hear from them again. How true that was, I do not know. This would have been the years from 1890-1900.

I would have to get my research out to let you know anymore. I can't remember who owned the farm at this time. Will look that up.

The farm that I was referring to belonged to Taylor Scarlett out along the Brandywine. It sat next to the James property. Apparently Talyor Scarlett was from Kennett Square and had owned this property .

My great grandparents were David Andrew Iford (Ifard), son of William and Mary (Miller) Iford (Ifard) Mary Miller's dad was William and Elizabeth Miller from Londongrove, Pa. David was born 1851. David's wife was Ruthanna Arabella Nichols. Her mother and dad was Milton Nichols and Mareb Powell. Milton from Unionville and Mareb from Little Britain.

Copyright ©2005 Laura Johnson, all rights reserved.


Sent: Thu, 12 May 2005 20:07:42 -0400  Subject: 1901 Obit - "Gypsy" Chief Robert WELLS

I found the obituary for Robert WELLS, the father of "Gypsy Princess" Mary WELLS, whose 1902 obituary I posted a few days ago:

Cecil Whig

Elkton, MD

Sat., March 2, 1901

Front Page

Gypsy Chief Dead.

"Robert Weld [should be Wells], the chief of several bands of gypsies, which for years have traveled this peninsula, died near Warwick [Cecil County, MD], last Saturday, aged 95 years. The body was taken to Wilmington on Monday, and placed in a vault in the [Wilmington and] Brandywine Cemetery, to await formal interment in the family lot in May."

Copyright ©2005 Fred Kelso, all rights reserved.  


I just found this link to a 1919 short story about a princess among the gypsies who travelled between New Jersey & Maryland. Looks like it has a lot of factual details. You may already have this link on your site, but in case you don't...

the name of the story is "The Lubenny Kiss." There are a lot of stories on the link, so you kind of need to know the name. It says the author, Louise Rice, had Romany blood and spent part of every year with the group.

http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/2/0/9/12094/12094-8.txt


Fred Kelso

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