My family has done stuff


There are numerous things, especially things of significance, that I can’t take credit for. But my family can.

The Vincents, and all the branches that make up the family tree, have done some pretty amazing things throughout the history of the planet. Some of them are good enough to boast about, while some are pretty bad but still worthy of mention.

For instance, I had a great-uncle who was mayor of a wonderful little Connecticut town for many years. Not only did my grandparents both graduate from the high school there, but so did I.

One of the biggest things to happen in this town during my great-uncle’s terms as mayor involved a manure spreader and my father, who, along with his brother, spent summers there working on the family’s dairy farm.

One summer, when my dad and his buddies ran out of things to do, they decided to go down to the high school, disassemble a manure spreader and reassemble it on the roof. Let’s see kids today get THAT creative.

The ripple effects were just as interesting. My great-uncle made examples of my dad and his friends — he made them do the whole thing in reverse and then made them follow the horse procession in the Fourth of July Parade … cleaning up as they went.

Another uncle — this one with a whole lot of greats in front — was hung in England for piracy. Apparently the man was a terrific sailor but, not being interested in winning the America’s Cup, he decided on a career in looting on the high seas. Somehow, after he was hung, a cribbage board set, as well as a plate and utensils, all made out of some kind of brass, was left behind in the family and is now in the possession of my brother.

A little closer to the present, my grandfather’s brother had a school named after him in the same Connecticut town my great-uncle was mayor of. Of course, my grandfather’s brother had to die before before the honor was bestowed, but after many years on the school board, Vincent Elementary School was born — a school where I later took square-dancing lessons.

And then there’s trench mouth.

No, it’s not a nickname given to some Vincent long ago, but it does have something to do with the Vincents — and I’m fairly certain it was a branch from my tree.

Trench mouth is a disease that centers in the mouth and throat, possibly a bacterial infection, and was given its name during World War I because numerous soldiers got it while fighting in the trenches.

However, before the disease was named trench mouth, it was more commonly referred to as Vincent’s Infection. You can look it up.

Here’s how I see it: Ol’ Jeb Vincent was in Connecticut digging trenches for the settlers’ uprising against the British when, all of a sudden, he began having a terrible time with bad breath and bleeding gums — which, back then, he called “gooms.” He shrugged off the problem until he was finished digging the trenches, which was about two years. By then, Jeb was suffering from an inflammation of the tonsils and was having a tough time swallowing his mutton.

When he told the town doctor about it, the young man was stumped. So was the local Indian healer. Since there was no name for the new affliction, it was named Vincent’s Infection.

Makes for a good story, huh?

Some time ago, a co-worker gave me something they’d found at a flea market. It was a small glass bottle that contained a powdery white substance and the label claimed that it was arrowroot — St. Vincent arrowroot.

I’ve since tried to find out what St. Vincent arrowroot is, but the only thing I have tracked down is that it “takes the place of flour, thickens with a translucent quality, imparts sparkling clarity to sauces and imparts a smooth texture.”

While trying to track information on St. Vincent arrowroot, though, I came across St. Vincent … the place.

Located among the Grenadines, St. Vincent is an island in the Caribbean Sea about 200 miles north of Venezuela — and it’s only been a real place for about 36 years, having won its independence in 1979 after almost 200 years under British rule.

So, guess what St. Vincent’s major export is. Right … arrowroot. So that closes THAT chapter.

OK, but the rrrrrrest of the story is this: When my great-great-great-great-great uncle was hung for piracy in England, his twin brother and partner in crime escaped and fled to the Grenadines. There he set up on an island and soon made mounds of money by manufacturing starch out of the root of a plentiful plant there.

Soon the world discovered what he was doing and his mounds of money began to get bigger. The island folks, seeing that my ancestor’s efforts were making their little homeland a tourist attraction, soon sought approval to make him a saint — which was granted.

Try looking THAT up.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163.

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