Wonder of Wonders!
~ Lord Timothy Dexter "may come back toue see houe you all goue on" ~
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of The Ship to see whose
Spirit takes "the helm in love"
What figure appears on the Ship, prepared to take the helm in love? Who better to guide us through the past, present and into the future than Newburyport's most renowned merchant adventurer, Lord Timothy Dexter? For if Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation that there is no such thing as history, only biography is true --- then truly, the history of Newburyport is broadly reflected in Dexter's life story.
As a newly freed apprentice, Dexter was drawn here to the Waterside in the late 1760's, a handful of years after the town of Newburyport's organization in 1764. This would be an ambitious time for his new community, during the first 5-year term of that generation's Plan in Motion --- a timeless agenda set forth in the Waterside people's petition to the General Court. Memorialized by their own transcript, the Waterside people were "chiefly merchants, traders, mariners and artificers." This fifth generation of colonial settlers, a full generation before the Industrial Age, had begun to craft a "community in the work" for generations to follow.
Upon joining the Waterside community, Dexter toiled as an artificer of fine leather goods. He soon married a well situated widow, Elizabeth Frothingham and set up shop in the basement of their dwellinghouse on the easterly corner of Green and Merrimac Streets. For twelve straight years, at each Annual March Town Meeting, the Dexter would be voted "Informer of Deer," a municipal solon of sorts similar to Great Britain's game warden.
Prophets had foreseen that Dexter would one day claim fame and fortune, which soon came to pass. Profiting from speculation in depreciated continental issue, Dexter would become one of the wealthiest merchant traders in the Waterside community, and the next generation of the Waterside people would find Timothy Dexter seated at the Tracy House Mansion. When trading mittens, bedwarmers and bibles to the West Indies and cornering the market on whalebone, Dexter's canny yet unconventional exploits brought him as much fame as fortune. No venture, no matter how foolish, went afoul in the end.
Temporarily removing his family to Chester, New Hampshire, Dexter was drawn home again to the Waterside, with the titular title "Lord" affixed to his name and a Napoleonic "bonney party" hat crowning his mane. Acquiring the Jackson estate, hence well known as the Lord Timothy Dexter House, Dexter erected his "mouseum of grate caricters" and proclaimed himself the "gratest felosofer in the Western World" --- later publishing his anthology, "Pickle for the Knowing Ones." After completion of an elaborate tomb and exquisite coffin, Dexter arranged two or more mock funerals, grand affairs which the dearly departed observed before serving his guests a fine reception.
Dexter passed during the sixtieth year of his life, on October 23, 1806. While he had hoped to be buried on his estate in a tomb constructed under "The Tempel of Reason" --- Dexter was interred at the crest of the Old Hill Burying Ground in a family plot overlooking Bartlet Mall. He was buried under the "houl Lite" of a full moon, but his Lordship's words and deeds continue to delight and enlighten generations. "Lite comes from the East."
Recording more recent history ~ Since the Blue Moons of 1999 (commencing the last 5-year term of the Waterside's Plan in Motion before marking a new generation in 2004) his Lordship has been ever in Spirit ("the sole is the thinking part") ~ returning in both virtual and physical forms. During the City's Sesquicentennial Anniversary, Lord Tim was Official Whiffler (one who makes way for a procession) for Inaugural Sunday's Banner Day! procession into the New Millennium. The indefatigable Lord Timothy Dexter has made appearances at his former abode the Tracy House, the (then) newly renovated annex to the Newburyport Public Library.2 His Spirit is said to haunt the technology room.
May of 2002 --- to mark the 200th anniversary of the first publication
of Dexter's famous anthology, "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones"---
Dexter was assigned his own virtual
seat with the domain LordTimothyDexter.com, replete with an online
transcription of that inimitable anthology. Quoting from "Pickle,"
his Lordship recommends to one and all: "Now
turn the systom of knollege & Lite into good morrels of onnesty
and good Axions." Dexter incarnated in yet another "boddey"
for an Awakening of the Spirit that October.
As Fate would have it ~ Lord Timothy Dexter would come home again for a Once in a Blue Moon opportunity during Newburyport's Yankee Homecoming 2004 ~ and mark a new generation for that milestone year. While auditions had publicized that "Dexter is a zany character, very eccentric and clown like at times" the Knowing Ones knew that the ubiquitous Dexter (de)served more than the role of Jester: He is Prospero, Lord of Land and Sea. A local Man of Letters, our town's narrator (and certainly one of the Knowing Ones) ubiquitously advised that success is "all in the casting." In an article about the auditions, the current editor of the Newburyport Daily News asked the good question, Who has the chops to play Newburyport's most colorful resident? The footnote below describes the first tack taken as the peradventure began anew ~ and ascribes Dexter's role on stage and page when he came home once again during Yankee Homecoming 2006 ~ A Festival for the Senses.3
As for those seeking the ever sustaining Spirit of Community ~ Lord Timothy Dexter remains e-ternally available at LordTimothyDexter.com ~ serving as the e-xponent and e-vangelist for the Waterside movement at his virtual seat and when he drops by the virtual Wolfe Tavern. And just as Dexter once became the figurehead for NAID's development of Newburyport's industrial property more than a generation ago --- his Lordship motivates today's generations to develop (or rather, envelop) the Waterside community's intellectual, institutional and inspirational property --- and to make good use of the instruments ~ "the systom of knollege & Lite" ~ that will enable us as a community to keep the Plan in Motion with Absolute Balance.
 Lord Timothy Dexter had been privately "invoked" in an earlier wave of the movement, with the blue moon in May of 1988, in anticipation of the Waterside's 225th year milestone the following year. In anticipation of the Waterside's 230th anniversary, Dexter's Spirit was invoked again in 1993, during which Dexter and the Knowing Ones had an inspiration for a "Once in a Blue Moon opportunity" during "September Days" --- offering to play a role in fundraising for the library and the Firehouse.
And since that year also marked the 200th anniversary of Dexter's famous Deer Island speech, a skit was prepared for Dexter's interpretation of "entourism." Projected in the same "Lite" as Dexter's 18th Century dissertation, the soliloquy was to be delivered in "French" by gesture alone. For this visitation, Dexter was to serve as the beguiling guide about town and bring some of his "figgers" to life, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Alas, as was oft the case in life, his Lordship's inspirations were declined by the establishment. Nevertheless, the Spirit soars, and with his own brand of dexterity, occasionally his Lordship scores a gig -- and continues to perform his role quite handily in varying forms.
 During this 5-year term of the Plan in Motion, Dexter's "sole" has oft transmigrated through a dragonfly to return in different "boddeys." The Chair of the city's sesquicentennial celebration was a sport to don the "Bonne partey hat" so Dexter could serve as Official Whiffler for the Inaugural Banner Day! procession and make a few advance appearances. The same form was recently asked to don the hat again for the reopening of the Chain Bridge on June 28, 2003 and when Awakening the Spirit in 2002, Reverend Tom Bentley served with relish, brandishing "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" as his "littel bibel."
 In the year 2004, auditions were held for the role of Dexter from 11AM until 4PM on March 7th at the Masonic Temple on Green Street. (Given Dexter lamented he "never had the honor to be Long to that onerable mesonek Order," this irony smooths out a wrinkle in his Lordship's "Plain Truths in a Homespun Dress.") Invited to attend the casting call, the Knowing Ones wondered what form in motion might appear as the embodiment of Newburyport's most canny yet uncanny personage. Being the Knowing Ones, they asked the good question: Would he be true to form?
[When Awakening the Spirit for Samhain in October of 2002, Madam Hooper put his Lordship's transmigrations into proper perspective. In response to an inquiry by the young lad assisting in the invocation, she replied that when and if Lord Timothy Dexter returns to bring the Spirit of Community, it will be much as Santa brings the Spirit of Christmas. For while at Yuletide there might well be many different "helpers" dressed as Santa --- the Spirit is one in the same.]
of Wonders! During Newburyport's 240th milestone year ~ the form
in motion made his entree Come wot May! Later joining in a meet and greet ~ at the
community gam on July 3rd held in anticipation
of the Once in a Blue Moon opportunity --- held in a Motion of Comity with Yankee Homecoming
2004. The part was cast for the role of a Lifetime ~ and as Fate would have it, Amesbury high school teacher and local history enthusiast Paul Jancewicz (AKA "Jance")
would embody the "sole" of Dexter ~ fulfilling Lord
Tim's prophesy that from time to time he "may come back
to see houe you all goue on."