From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

In a recent article in the Boston Globe newspaper, there was a story about an archeological dig at a 1725 house in Canton, MA. Among the items discovered, there were three pairs of shoes found in a crawl space under a floor as well as others in the walls. Over the years, our historical society has received several calls from residents who have found a shoe or shoes while renovating an older Rochester home. The shoes are usually in a hall, under the floor or behind a fireplace. The Curator at the Canton house said, “Some early European settlers believed hiding shoes by doorways, windows and chimneys could ward off evil spirits”.

            Whenever someone calls us with a report of finding a hidden shoe, we offer to take it off their hands, but most have opted to put it back where they found it, perhaps they do not want to upset the so far appeased “evil spirits.” However, we do have some colonial era shoes. They are very fragile and as you can see in the picture, some are in pieces.

            Protected in a glass-fronted case is the sole and parts of a woman’s shoe, a child’s shoe and a wooden shoe form. All of these, as well as the larger pair of shoes were found in the walls of the Samuel Arnold III house, which was built around 1750 and is located at 205 Snipatuit Road. The house was completely renovated by Percy Parent in the 1960’s, and the shoes were donated to the museum by Anne Parent of Rochester.

            The larger pair of shoes, like the others, date from the 1700’s and are in unusually good condition. These would have been men’s shoes and are made of a heavy leather. The upper is nailed around the edges to a wooden sole. The strap has a hole that slips over a u-shaped piece of metal. The bottom edges of the sole are reinforced around the forefoot and one-inch heel by a narrow strip of metal.

            The small white shoes at the edge of the picture date from the 1940’s and are kid glove leather baby shoes donated by the Benner family.

By Connie Eshbach

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