Midwinter 1881, Ellen Merrill received a letter. It came from the West Indies, written by a man Ellen didn’t know, and the news was bad. That was clear from the second sentence, in which the stranger spoke of “the late Mr. and Mrs. Connolly.” When Ellen reached the end of the letter, she read it again, and then again, before she took out a sheet of paper. “My Dear Brother,” she wrote to Henry Richardson, “I have at last succeeded in learning the fate of Mrs. Connolly and family.” She asked Henry to impart the news to their mother and to their sister Ann McCoy. As Ellen signed off, she thought about dangerous weather. “We had a Storm here last week which blowd the tide in and nearly washed us away for three days.” She posted the letter from Mississippi to Massachusetts.
The hurricane that swirled off the Miskito Cays of Central America in September 1877 took the life of an American woman named Eunice Connolly. Eunice was an ordinary woman who led an extraordinary life by making momentous decisions within a world that offered her few choices. Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly was born white and working class in New England in 1831. She married a fellow New Englander who took her to the South and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, while Eunice’s two brothers fought for the Union. After the war, Eunice married a well-to-do man of color and went to live in a settlement of former slaves on the British Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. This book tells her story.
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