Read an Excerpt
Meg Mackintosh Solves Seven American History Mysteries
A Solve-It-Yourself Mystery
By Landon Lucinda
Secret Passage PressCopyright © 1999 Lucinda Landon
All rights reserved.
"Listen to this, Meg and Peter," their grandfather read from the newspaper. "On this day in history, June 16th, the following historic events occurred."
1673 Governor's Island, off Manhattan, bought for 2 axes, some beads and nails.
1755 George Washington became the General of the American Army.
1845 Texas Congress agreed to annexation by the USA.
1858 Abraham Lincoln accepted the presidential nomination.
1897 Alaskan gold rush began.
"What?" Peter looked up and lifted his headphones from his ears.
"Sorry, Gramps, I was listening to something else."
Gramps sighed, "I was reading about history."
"Oh, you mean ancient times, before television," Peter replied.
"Even before that," Meg rolled her eyes.
"I know what history is," Peter defended himself. "It's memorizing dates and explorers and stuff."
"It's more than that," Gramps explained. "It's learning about real people and how they lived — their beliefs, government, and economy. By studying history we can see how our ancestors handled different situations. Understanding history also helps us to think about how we should handle modern day situations."
"Think about our old house — all the families who lived here before us," said Meg. "It's pretty amazing."
"Pretty spooky actually. Didn't a Civil War soldier live here?" Peter asked, putting down his magazine. "I think his ghost still lives in the attic."
"He was a Revolutionary War soldier. Remember, we found his grave in the cemetery? I don't know about his ghost," Meg replied.
"Revolutionary War. Civil War. What difference does it make?" said Peter.
"There's a big difference," Gramps said, a bit exasperated. "Each event in history teaches us when good decisions were made and the prices humankind has paid for past mistakes," Gramps explained. "And it so happens that something arrived recently from an old friend of mine. I'm hoping that it will inspire you to learn more about history. It's rather curious."
"I love curious things," exclaimed Meg. "What is it?"
"It's in the hall closet," Gramps pointed. "The two of you will have to drag it in here."
Meg and Peter jumped up, raced into the hall and returned, pushing a large old chest.
"It's from the Department of History at the University," Meg read the tag.
"And it's locked," said Peter.
"And I have the key," grinned Gramps. "And a letter that came with it."
"Well, let's have it, please!" they chimed eagerly.
Gramps handed over the key, and while Meg and Peter struggled with the old lock, he read the letter aloud:
"Wow! I'd really love to solve these cases and return all the artifacts," said Meg.
"It sounds pretty tricky," said Peter. "Let's see what's in the chest."
"What is all this stuff?" Peter asked as he carefully lifted the old artifacts from the chest.
Can you identify any of these objects?
"Here's a stack of paper cards with names on them. They must be the children in history." Meg blew off the dust and read:
"Hmmm, interesting names," murmured Meg.
"But how do we know which artifact goes with which child?"
"And where in the United States does each one belong?" said Peter.
What else might you need to begin solving the cases?
"Is there a map or a list of places to go?" asked Peter.
"Hold on, Peter, there are more papers in the trunk." Meg pulled out seven envelopes. "Each one is labeled with a mystery title and place. These must be Professor Brown's clues to get us started."
"And look," said Meg, pulling out a piece of paper, "a map!"
"The mystery places are all across the United States, from Massachusetts to California!" Meg pointed out. She wrote her thoughts and questions in her notebook.
"Where do we start?" Peter sighed. "What are we supposed to do, mail all the artifacts back?"
"Not exactly," said Gramps.
"I have a little surprise for you that I've already discussed with your mom and dad," Gramps told them. "We're going on a history mystery tour and we're leaving tomorrow in my minivan."
"We're going to visit all these places!" exclaimed Peter.
"With a mystery to solve at each one!" Meg grinned.
"That's right," said Gramps.
"But we don't know which child or object goes with which place," Peter said, looking baffled.
Meg and Peter stared at the list of names, the map, the objects and the sealed envelopes. "How are we going to figure this out?" Peter asked.
"We'll have to study each clue carefully, research the historical facts, ask questions, and use our imaginations," declared Meg.
"And see the sights!" exclaimed Peter.
"And you thought this was going to be a boring summer." Meg nudged her brother.
"Why don't I hang on to the envelopes so they don't get lost. I'll give them out to you as we get to each place," Gramps suggested as they repacked the old trunk. "And please try not to bring too much stuff. Maybe one suitcase each?"
"And our detective knapsacks," said Meg.
"And cameras," added Peter.
Make a list of what you would bring on a cross-country mystery solving tour.
Professor Brown also left a poem and some history fact cards.CHAPTER 2
History Mystery #1
Peril at Plimoth
"Plimoth, Massachusetts, should be our first stop, because it's where the Pilgrims landed and it's one of the oldest American historical landmarks," Peter announced. Peter Mackintosh, his grandfather, and his sister Meg were on their way to solve a history mystery.
Gramps checked their list of traveling supplies while Meg and Peter loaded the minivan.
Lastly, they carefully placed the old chest between their seats in the back of the minivan so they could study the artifacts and clues as they traveled.
Meg flipped to a new page in her history-mystery detective notebook and started writing.
"We have to answer these questions for each mystery," she showed them to Peter.
"Not necessarily in that order," added Peter. "Do we know the when about Plimoth? And why do they spell it with an 'I' not 'Y'?"
When was Plimoth founded by the Pilgrims?
"It's an old fashioned way to spell Plymouth," said Meg. "We know the Pilgrims landed there in 1620, so the mystery must have happened during or after that year." Meg filled in the date.
"Here are the clues from Professor Brown," Gramps said, opening the envelope when they stopped at a traffic light. He gave them the first clue.
"Quick, let's read it," said Peter as he anxiously unfolded the old paper.
"What about the symbol at the beginning of the clue? What do you suppose that means?"
Meg copied it in her notebook. "It looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics."
"They might be Native American pictographs," Gramps called from his front seat.
"Is that symbol a star?" asked Peter.
"... star saved 'R'?" Meg wondered aloud. "What do you think happened?"
"Maybe there was a bad storm, and they were on the Mayflower, lost at sea," suggested Peter. "A star could have helped them navigate to a safe place?"
"Hmmm," said Meg. "I have an idea which artifact the first mystery is about."
Which artifact do you think it is? Look at the illustrations to refresh your memory.
"I was thinking about this leather pouch. It looks like it could be Native American," Meg said, examining it carefully.
"I'm not sure, but maybe the first history mystery is about the first Americans, a Native American child."
"Maybe," said Peter, "but the artifact could be the compass. A compass might be helpful if you're lost in a storm."
Meg was carefully holding the leather pouch. "Look, there's something inside," she said excitedly. She took out a folded-up piece of deerskin, which was fragile with age. Something was wrapped inside.
"What is it?" Peter said eagerly.
His sister unwrapped the deerskin to discover two small stones.
Do you notice anything about the stones?
Meg took out her magnifying glass. "Hey, it looks like there's a picture carved on the stone!"
"It looks like the symbol in the clue. The pouch must be the artifact for the Plimoth mystery," Peter concluded.
"It sounds like you're on to something," said Gramps. "Here's another clue from Professor Brown," he said.
"It's a map showing where different Indians lived," said Peter, opening up the map.
Which Native Americas lived near Plimoth?
"Now we know it has to do with the Wampanoag," said Meg, "since they lived near Plimoth."
"But a stone with a star drawn on it inside a leather pouch? I'm still stumped," said Peter. "How could a stone save someone from a storm?"
"What's so important about two stones?" Meg said, scratching her head.
How might stones have been important in early America?
Meg began writing in her notebook. "Here are some possible uses for stones," she said, showing Peter her list. "Since the stone belonged to a child, they might have been used for playing some simple game like marbles."
"Mmm, maybe. They're certainly not shaped like an arrowhead."
"Maybe it's a piece of Plimoth Rock," Meg joked.
"Speaking of Plimoth Rock, here it is," Gramps called from the front seat.
They got out of the minivan and walked over to view the fenced-in piece of history.
"Well, the two pieces don't look like Plimoth Rock at all," said Peter. "It's not as big as I imagined," Peter commented as he pulled his camera out of his knap sack.
"Apparently Plimoth Rock has been moved and broken a few times," Meg read from guidebook.
"History isn't always what you think," said Gramps. "Come on, Plimoth Plantation is right down the road. They have lots of historic information there."
"But how will we be able to figure out a mystery that happened over three hundred years ago?" wondered Peter as he snapped a photo.
How would you search for clues?
A few minutes later they arrived at Plimoth Plantation, a re-creation of the original Pilgrim settlement.
"This is a living museum of Plimoth in the 1600s," Gramps explained to them. "The people you see dressed in Pilgrim clothes re-enact life in the village. There is a re-creation of a Wampanoag village nearby. Every detail of daily life is portrayed accurately."
"I really feel like I've stepped back in time," Meg said as they walked through the rustic village and its buildings.
Look at the picture above. If you were a child living in Plimoth in the 1620s, how might your life be different from the way it is today?
"The winter months were particularly hard on the Pilgrims," Gramps told them as they stepped into one of the small wooden houses. The ceilings were low and the small rooms dark, lit by only one window. "Many of the Pilgrims didn't survive the first year. They probably weren't prepared for the harsh winters."
"Were the winters very bad?" Peter asked a Pilgrim woman who was building a fire on the massive hearth.
"Ah yes, fierce storms. It was all we could do to keep the fires burning," she said, speaking in old-fashioned English. Gramps' eyes twinkled. He went back outside.
"Can you imagine spending your whole day looking for dry kindling?" Peter whispered to Meg.
"Peter, that's it!" said Meg. "That's what the two stones are for!"
What do you think the stones were for?
"Look how she lights the fire!" Meg exclaimed. "She struck two stones together."
"You're right! The stones must be pieces of flint!" Peter exclaimed, and they ducked out the door.
They found Gramps waiting on a bench nearby and told him what they had discovered about the stones.
"Good work! And here's some more information for you." He showed them a page in a guidebook. "It's a list of some of the children who participated in the 1621 Thanksgiving feast."
"These names are a little strange," commented Peter. "They'd probably think the same of some of our names today, right Nutmeg?"
Does any name match one on the mystery-child list?
"None of the names match the list Professor Brown gave us," said Meg. "But one of the names he gave us is unusual — Anockus — maybe it's a Native American name."
"It's possible," said Peter. "But to find out for sure we should go to the Wampanoag village. Maybe they can decipher this."
At the Wampanoag village, Meg showed the leather pouch to one of the Wampanoag boys. He handled it with great respect.
"This pouch is what we sometimes call a friendship bag, and it is definitely a very old one. We keep important belongings in the pouch." He unfolded the deerskin and gazed at the two stones.
"Are those flint?" asked Peter.
"Yes, they're firestarters. They're important because fire is vital for survival." Then he pointed to the symbol on the rock, smiled, and said, "The star symbol means Anockus."
"Anockus! That's the mystery child!" exclaimed Meg.
"And the star is the symbol on the rock and symbol in the clue, too. So the 'R' stands for someone else," Peter reasoned.
"A pilgrim child?" Meg wondered as she stared at the list of names Gramps had given her. "Who do you think it was?"
Can you imagine what the story behind the mystery might be?
Meg and Peter thought hard about the pieces of the mystery and began to realize how the clues, the symbols, and the names might fit together. They speculated about what may have happened on a winter night in the 1620s, and then ran to tell Gramps their historical hunch, or hypothesis.
"Anockus must have been a Wampanoag boy who lived near the Pilgrims in Plimoth," Peter concluded.
"He put the symbol of his name on one of his firestarters," added Meg. "I bet there was a really bad winter storm and many of the Pilgrims were suffering. Maybe Anockus noticed that a fire was out in one of the chimneys, or maybe an English boy or girl came to him for help because they couldn't get the fire started."
"They could have lost their flint or perhaps it was damaged. Or maybe their parents were too ill to help them," Peter conjectured.
"So Anockus must have given them his stones to start a fire and his leather friendship bag to keep them in. He probably saved their lives. But who do you think the 'R' stood for?" Peter wondered.
"Maybe the 'R' stood for Remember Allerton. We'll never know for sure," said Meg.
"But the leather pouch was never returned to Anockus," said Peter.
"Somehow, Professor Brown acquired it and figured out what the symbols stood for. He wanted it returned to its original owners — Anockus's people — the Wampanoag."
Meg and Peter took the leather pouch to the curator of Native American artifacts at the museum. She was thrilled to have it for their collection.
Meg and Peter congratulated themselves on solving the case, but they couldn't help imagining what it must have been like to live in Plimoth in the 1620s as a Wampanoag or as an immigrant to the new land.
"I'll never forget the name Anockus," said Meg wistfully.
"Nutmeg, I'll never remember the name 'Remember'," Peter replied.CHAPTER 3
History Mystery #2
The Minuteman's Secret
"Menotomy, Massachusetts, is the next stop on our history mystery tour," said Peter as he held up the slip of paper. He unfolded a map of the United States. "Here's Menotomy, near Boston."
"I've seen the name Menotomy on a few sites near Boston," Gramps told them. "Let's go to a local library and find out where it is, or was. Many old villages are swallowed by bigger towns and lost in history."
Meanwhile, Meg was carefully lifting all the artifacts from the old chest and studying them for clues. Suddenly she noticed something connected the location with an artifact.
What did Meg notice? Which artifact belongs with this mystery?
"What about this old sampler?" Meg suggested.
"What exactly is a sampler?" Peter asked, as he watched for road signs out the window.
"Young girls made them to practice their sewing skills." Meg studied the old cloth. "It's signed Abigail Hopkins. That's one of the names Professor Brown gave us. She was ten years old and she lived in Menotomy!"
"And check out the date!" Meg exclaimed. "Abigail made it in 1775." Meg couldn't take her eyes off the intricately embroidered alphabet. She ran her fingers along the letters. The colors of the silk thread were faded; the linen brittle with age.
"Meg, look at the last line she sewed: 'To W.D. The secret to the silver is hidden under the sta.' It definitely sounds like the clue to the history mystery. Isn't it weird that she didn't finish? What do you think happened to her?"
"We should read the clues before we start jumping to conclusions," suggested Meg.
"Good idea," said Gramps as he handed the envelope to them. Meg opened the envelope. "This is an odd looking clue," she said.
How could you read this message?
"I've got an idea," said Meg, climbing into the front seat.
She pulled the passenger visor down and held the message in front of the mirror. "Reflect the message in the mirror!"
"Hey! I know Arlington! That's where Willy's cousin lives!" Peter said. "It's by Cambridge, just outside of Boston."
"Then we should go to the Arlington Public Library," said Meg as she carefully packed the sampler into her detective knapsack.
When they arrived in Arlington, Gramps went to get lunch, and Meg and Peter headed to the library. "The town of Arlington used to be called Menotomy, the Native American name," explained the librarian as she pored over the old record books. "And yes, there was a girl named Abigail Hopkins who lived here. She was the daughter of Ezekial and Anna Hopkins. She's buried in the old town cemetery up the hill. Her gravestone is probably very worn, but you might be able to find it."
Excerpted from Meg Mackintosh Solves Seven American History Mysteries by Landon Lucinda. Copyright © 1999 Lucinda Landon. Excerpted by permission of Secret Passage Press.
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