Ocean Born Mary, a Londonderry Halloween Tale

The Pirate that saved Ocean Born Mary, a illistration Londonderry, NHThe Ocean Born Mary Story

The Myth

A Ship of Ulster protestant passengers was on its way to Boston, Massachusetts when, on 28 July 1720, Elizabeth Wilson gave birth to a daughter. About this time a pirate ship attacked, and the captain intended to rob and murder the passengers. Just in the nick of time, the captain heard the newborn child’s cries. He said he would spare all the passengers if the child was named Mary in honor of his mother, and he gave a bolt of silk to the baby girl for her wedding dress. The child and her parents later settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Later he returned to Londonderry to look up the grown woman named Mary, and since she was recently widowed, he married her and built her a home in Henniker, NH.

The true story

Yes, the ship was full of Scots Irish fleeing the violence of Northern Ireland. And, Yes, there was a pirate, and a bolt of silk, and the newborn child was named Mary. The silk was used for her wedding dress, and bits of it are on display in Londonderry, Henniker and at the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum. Mary married in Londonderry, was widowed late in life, and she removed to Henniker to live with her son, William for the last 18 years of her life. If she did marry the pirate after becoming a widow, she would have been 78 years old and the pirate over 100 years old. Chances are that the pirate marriage is myth.

Even better than this fanciful myth is the reality later caused by the myth. A fellow from Wisconsin, named Louis Roy, bought a house in Henniker in 1917, and thought that he had bought the house belonging to Ocean Born Mary’s son, Robert Wallace. In reality, she lived in a different house in Henniker, with her son William. Mr. Roy told of seeing her ghost in the home, started some imaginative house tours and even rented shovels to tourists and invited them to dig for buried pirate treasure in his garden. The Roy family continued with the ghost tours until the 1960’s.

William’s house actually had became the Henniker town poor farm. It was destroyed by fire in 1923. There was a story about the “Ocean Born Mary House” in the September 1996 Issue of “Yankee” magazine, when it was up for sale for $875,000. This house for sale was the former Roy house. I guess the myth was so strong, that though it was proven wrong, it was OK to market the house as the “Ocean Born Mary” house even in a nationally known magazine!

If you Google Ocean Born Mary’s story, you will see that many people claim to see a tall, red haired, green eyed ghost in the Henniker house, where she never lived! Now that it is almost Halloween, ghost stories about Ocean Born Mary top the list of famous hauntings in New Hampshire. Her ghost even featured on page 538 of Volume 74 of the National Geographic Magazine (OK, it was in an old issue from1939, but you get the idea!)

The Wilson Home in Londonderry, New Hampshire the actual Ocean Born Mary House. From Willeys Book of Nutfield.

The Wilson Home in Londonderry, New Hampshire the actual Ocean Born Mary House. From Willey's Book of Nutfield.

The house shown here was in the Wilson’s Crossing area of Londonderry.  It was located on Auburn Road on the north east corner of Wilson road.  The name of the house comes from Mary Wilson the daughter of James and Elizabeth Wilson.  They lived in the home sometime after arriving in the United States in 1720. Mary is the “Ocean Born Mary” and this is the real Ocean Born Mary house.  Built of hand hewn timbers sometime before 1730 it was later moved in 1930.  Sadly it was relocated to Little Compton, Rhode Island where it is now known as the “Sea Born Mary’s House.”


The Ocean Born Mary Family Tree:

Gen. 1. James Wilson, married Elizabeth Fulton in Northern Ireland and they removed to Londonderry, New Hampshire with a wave of Scots Irish immigration in 1720. James died about Jan 1721, and Elizabeth married second in 1722 to James Clark in Londonderry.

Gen. 2. Mary Wilson, born 28 July 1720 on the Atlantic Ocean, d. on 13 Feb. 1814 in Henniker, New Hampshire; married 18 Dec. 1742 to James Wallace in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He died on 30 Oct. 1781 in Londonderry and is buried in the Hill Burying Ground. Mary is buried in the Center Burying Ground in Henniker. James was the son of Thomas Wallace and Barbara Cochran of Antrim, Northern Ireland, also among the first settlers in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Gen. 3. Five children, named Wallace, born in Londonderry.

1. Elizabeth, married Major Thomas Patterson
2. Thomas, b. 5 Nov. 1745, served in the Battle of Bennington
3. Robert, b. 5 Sept. 1749, married Jeannette Moore, daughter of Robert and Mary Moore of Londonderry
4. William, b. 17 Jan. 1760, married Hannah, sister of Jeanette (above)
5.James, b. 8 May 1762, married Anna, another sister of Jeannette and Hannah (above). It is very interesting to note that the three Wallace brothers married three Moore sisters.


“History of Londonderry” by Rev. E. L. Parker (See my story  on “The Rev. Edward Parker Family of Londonderry.”)

“As I Please” by J. Dennis Robinson, Vol. 5, No. 7, April 21, 2001 seacoastnh.com “The Truth About Ocean Born Mary”

“The Geography of a Hurricane” , “The National Geographic Magazine”, by the National Geographic Society, page 538, Volume 74, 1939