The legend of Mad Mag Howard lives on thanks to the hot, sweaty team of performers who braved the summer heat and shared the story from the back of a pick up truck in yesterday's Fourth of July parade.
Mad Mag Howard was kidnapped from her family in Maine by John Simon Howard (we all have those characters in our past!) and brought to Ocracoke Island in the late 1800's. By the 1920's she was known as an eccentric all around the island...the stories say that once she cut off her toe, branded her forehead with her iron, and cooked the family cat for her husband one night for supper! After her death the legend continues as folks here say they see her meandering around the Howard Street cemeteries!
Our float depicted the kitchen scene with Mad Mag dressed in purple and red clothing...foot bandaged and proped up on the stove with her long black hair adorned with shells and mini skulls! (That was my part!) Philip played the chagrined John Simon picking the cooked cat up out of the chamber pot. Jim Fineman, our houseguest and extraordinary potter, worked the crowd passing out Mad Mag dollars with the story printed on the back. Dave Frum drove the truck keeping all of us stable on the back...and Fiddler Dave Tweedie played the song, Paddy's Hollar, which features a verse of Mad Mag on his fiddle from the tailgate of the truck.
It was a great way to spend the afternoon...waving to friends and tourists and sharing the long-time story of Mad Mag. Oh, and just for your information, we won second place in the float division receiving a check for $150.00. We used the money to buy fresh shrimp for all the families who participated.
As darkness fell we all made our way to the Windfall for fireworks and a cake of red, white, and blue. The evening closed as we all joined in to sing the Star Spangled Banner..then rode our bikes home down sandy dark lanes...all the while looking for the ghost of Mad Mag Howard.
[Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Kunigunde Guth Howard, published June 30, 2005. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news061505.htm.]
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Your story about Mad Mag intrigued me, especially since she was the wife of my great granduncle. You helped bring her alive, instead of being just a name in my genealogy file. How much is known about her life in Maine and her parents? If she was kidnapped, why was she never recoved by her family? How willingly did she come to Ocracoke? Was she "mad" prior to coming to Ocracoke or did her island experience push her over the edge? What kind of relationship did she have with John Simon Howard? I seem to remember hearing that someone in the family was invalid. Is that true?ReplyDelete
I did some internet research on her yesterday. I noticed from the 1900 US Census that John was 14 years older than she was. Also, the 1910 Census indicates that John's mother and brother lived with them--surely a recipe for interesting dynamics.
Do you know Maggie's middle name? If her middle initial was "T", I might have located information about her family in Maine. The 1880 Census of the Isle Au Haut, Hancock, ME area lists a Maggie T. Eaton. This Maggie was an 8 year-old white female living in a family headed by her mother Lizzie. (The age for this Maggie would be the same as Mad Maggie.) This same family showed up in the 1870 census. Her father was alive at that time--his name was Isaac Eaton, a fisherman who was 23 years older than his wife Lizzie.
It is interesting how patterns seem to repeat themselves in successive generations (assuming of course that this is the correct family). The extreme age gap between Maggie's father and mother is repeated with John Simon.
Once again, thanks for your insights on island life and for bring personal history alive. For such a small island, there seems to be a lot of living going on there.