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Child’s hand print reveals hidden history in Groton


GROTON — Gail Chalmers didn’t expect to find a hand when she ripped away lathing and cardboard from a wall in an upstairs room. Nor did she expect that hand — a tracing made by a child in the 1920s — to link her home to a well-known Groton family.

“Ella Blood Sept. 24, 1925,” written in cursive, abuts a hand tracing marked “Ella’s Hand” in a penciled inscription on an exterior wall. On the lower board, something that looks like a flip-flop is drawn.

Gail and her husband, Dickie, have not figured out what the flip-flop shape might be, but identifying Ella Blood was not even a challenge.

The Bloods, the same family that has run a slaughterhouse in town for seven generations, built several homes along Pepperell Road in the 1920s. In 1926, they sold one to the Lindall family. Mrs. Lindall was born a Blood. In 1952, John and Martha Chalmers bought the house. Today, Dickie and Gail live in the home his grandparents bought.

Between the stories of Dickie’s family and friends and the work renovating the house, Gail, a Rochester, N.H. native, has become well-versed in West Groton lore. But she didn’t have to look too far to find someone with close ties to Ella Blood — it turned out her daughter lives right in the neighborhood.

Ella Blood was born April 17, 1918. She married and became a Gale in 1937. She died January 17, 2015 at the age of 91.

Ellen Risdon, born Ellen Gale, came equipped with a picture of Ella as a babe-in-arms held by her father Elliot Blood. Risdon is not sure, but the other men in the photo may be Ella’s grandfather and great-grandfather.

The old house came alive as the townies recalled days of yore while gathered around the dining room table. To be a townie, you must be born in town, Risdon said. Since there is no longer a hospital in Groton, there are no young townies.

The conversation ranged from Risdon talking about when a horse-drawn plow cleared the sidewalks to Dickie describing how the front yard of the house changed when the street was widened.

He also thinks the Lindall family was not tall. His theory is based on the furniture they left behind after they sold the house.

“A normal-sized person couldn’t sit under the table, because the table sits so low,” he said.

Gail was no stranger to their stories. “I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “His grandparents and Aunt Jane left me so much to appreciate for this town.”

“I came into this town three years ago,” she said.

“You fit,” Risdon replied.

As Gail uncovers old and interesting objects, she brings them to people who might be interested. “They’re just so grateful,”

Gail has already taken on a Chalmers family tradition. Aunt Jane was a volunteer at the Christian Union Church suppers and now Gail works at the meals. “There I am helping,” she said.

“The third Saturday of the month,” Dickie said.

The roast beef dinner is better than that served in restaurants, Risdon said.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.