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Francis Danforth Marston John Greenleaf Whittier’s True Barefoot Boy


John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Barefoot Boy” is a celebrated poem.


Blessings on thee, little man, Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan! With thy turned-up pantaloons, And thy merry whistled tunes; With thy red lip, redder still Kissed by strawberries on the hill; With the sunshine on thy face, Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace; From my heart I give thee joy,— I was once a barefoot boy! Read more of The Barefoot Boy

Was there really a barefoot boy? Yes! His name was Francis Danforth Marston, aka “Little Frankie” a gardener at the Whittier family residence Oak Knoll in Danvers, Massachusetts. He was the son of James and Lucinda (Danforth) Marston and his family can be traced back to pioneer Yankee settlers of Massachusetts.

Whittier resided at Oak Knoll with his cousins Caroline, Abbie, and Mary---daughters of Colonel Edmund Johnson and Phebe (Austin) Whittier. The above photo of Whittier with his cousins at Oak Knoll is from Richard Trask's book "Images of America: Danvers from 1850-1899."


Photo: Oak Knoll, Summer Street, Danvers, Essex County, MA Library of Congress

Whittier was given a pleasant bedroom looking out to Wenham Lake, the historic home of Ann Putnam and Naumkeag’s ancient oaks. A locale which inspired his verses that wove the tale of the witch of Wenham who Mistress Putnam testified against in the Salem Witch Trials 1692.


His relationship with Frankie the tanned and playful barefoot gardener is quite special and heartfelt. Read Full Article PDF

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From The Dothan Eagle Newspaper Frank Marston "Barefoot Boy" in Danvers State Hospital.


More Reading:


Then & Now: Oak Knoll Estate: Famous poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, resided in this Danvers estate in his later years.

Specters of Salem Oak Knoll


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