Ocean Born Mary
In 1720, Irish immigrants James and Elizabeth Wilson headed from Londonderry, Ireland, to Londonderry, New Hampshire. Their voyage turned out to be a tumultuous one, as Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter and their ship was captured by pirates led by young Captain Don Pedro. Deciding his captives were to be murdered, Pedro gave his orders, only to be interrupted by the sound of an infant crying. In an odd turn of events, Pedro insisted on seeing the little girl and was immediately taken with her. Addressing Elizabeth he informed her that all lives aboard the ship would be spared if she named her daughter Mary, in honor of his mother. When she agreed, Pedro ordered one of his crew to go to their ship. Upon his return, green silk brocade fabric was given to Elizabeth to be used as a wedding dress when her daughter came of age. After the exchange, Pedro and his crew sailed away, leaving Elizabeth and the rest of the passengers to continue on their journey.
Home Is Where the Hearthstone Is
Unfortunately for Elizabeth and Mary, James Wilson died shortly after reaching Boston, but they managed to settle in Londonderry, New Hampshire, as planned. In 1742, at the age of twenty-two, the red-haired Mary, in a dress fashioned from the green silk brocade fabric, was wed to James Wallace, with whom she had five children before becoming a widow. As fate would have it, pirate Don Pedro gave up his plunderous ways and opted for a luxurious retirement in Henniker, New Hampshire. It is said that he sought the whereabouts of Mary and eventually the two were wed and living in his mansion in Henniker.
Sometime during the wedded years, Mary witnessed her husband and one of his former crew as they buried a large trunk behind their home. The incident was never discussed, but Pedro did insist that if he should die, he wished to be interred with his treasure inside the mansion. Under the heading of “Be careful what you wish for,” Pedro was allegedly found by Mary a year later, stabbed to death. Abiding by his final wishes, Mary did indeed bury her piratical husband and his treasure beneath a hearthstone. Of course the story doesn't end there. Legend has it that after Mary's demise in 1814, her ghost took up residence in their home, where she can be seen to this day.
Heart of the Matter
The story of Mary Wallace is one that is steeped in piracy, romance, and fate enveloped in a cloud of paranormal activity. Various versions of the legend are plentiful, with individuals, names, circumstances, and outcomes changing depending on who is telling the tale. So the questions remain: Was there really an Ocean Born Mary, did she actually marry a pirate, and is her ghost still swirling about Henniker, New Hampshire?
New Hampshire historians confirm that there was indeed a Mary Wallace who was born while her parents were asea on the same day their ship was captured in 1720. The invading captain did hear her wail and further investigated by approaching the Wilsons and ultimately making his offer to spare everyone's lives if they would honor his mother or possibly wife by calling her Mary. The gifts he awarded the infant, including the green silk fabric, are also confirmed. On her wedding day in 1742 Mary did wed James Wallace and she did indeed wear a dress made of the silk fabric. What she didn't do was marry Don Pedro or any other pirate at any time during her long life. Records show that she was, in fact, married to James Wallace until his death at age eighty-one.
At that time, Mary was seventy-one, which would have made for an interesting romance with Pedro given that he would have been in his nineties residing in the Sunshine Happy Home for Pirates. Mary herself passed away in 1814 at age ninety-four, having lived with one of her sons for almost her last twenty years.
As to the infamous Henniker mansion where Mary and her notorious rogue allegedly lived, it was purchased by Wisconsonite Louis Maurice Auguste Roy in 1917 despite its state of disrepair after many years of vacancy. Roy, who was searching for a historical home, embraced Mary's legendary tale and went to great lengths to make the home a tourist attraction. The house has become known as the Ocean Born Mary House despite the fact that her son's house is the true residence of ocean-born Mary Wallace. And since science has yet to catch up, the opinion of whether or not the mansion is haunted by Mary depends entirely on which version of her legend you believe and whether or not you believe in ghosts.