Canterbury Center Bed & Breakfast is rich in local history, it’s culture and politics.
The three rooms are named for significant individuals in the town’s early history. So who were they and why should they be memorialized in this way?
Frederick Parker Room
Frederick Parker (1762-1802), originally from Shrewsbury MA, was called to Canterbury during the period in which Abiel was immersed in politics, and his task was surely to reestablish and reinvigorate the struggling congregation.
There is some mystery about his untimely death, which was just one of many tragedies to befall that family. Did he die in the pulpit or in his bedchamber?
His widow, Susannah Foster, amazingly outlived all her family, moving to Lowell to run a boarding house for girls with her only surviving daughter. She became blind in her late sixties and returned to Canterbury to live out her last four years with her brother, Abiel’s nephew, Captain Asa Foster and his wife.
Abiel Foster Room
Abiel Foster (1735-1806) came from Andover Mass, after training at Harvard to be a Congregational minister.
His modest graveyard in the Center Cemetery belies the length of his service to church, town, state and country. He initially served as minister, and then turned to politics during the Revolutionary and Federal periods.
The original town history dances delicately round the mystery of Abiel’s ‘dismission’ in 1773, including which faction in town was behind it and why there been such a relative lack of recognition for his contributions overall. Lois has been researching his life and career to answer some of these questions.
Eldress Mary Whitcher Room
Eldress Mary Whitcher, (1815-1890) was the granddaughter of Benjamin Whitcher, who was one of several men and women in Canterbury who were drawn to the Baptist faith in the 1780s, challenging the church that Abiel Foster had tried to maintain.
Benjamin became a Free Will Baptist and subsequently a ‘Shaking Quaker’ or Shaker. In 1792 he bequeathed his 100-acre farm in Canterbury to the newly constituted Shaker Community.
Mary spent most of her life as a member, becoming a writer, poet, Trustee and Eldress of the community. The Shakers practiced celibacy and she had no offspring but her influence lives on in her remarkable Shaker House-keeper booklet from 1882.
Susannah Foster Parker Room
Susannah Foster Parker (1775-1848) was the wife of Frederick Parker, first owner of the house. She was a local girl, daughter of Deacon Asa Foster, and the niece of the Rev. Abiel Foster. Her mother died when she was an infant and her father remarried the following year.
She was still a teen when she married Frederick, and she gave birth to their four surviving children. Her life was one of endurance, surviving losses and working. She lost a baby to a house fire, was widowed at 27, and never remarried.
Susannah and Harriet, her eldest daughter, moved to Lowell MA in 1828 when the house passed to a nephew, Adams Foster. Harriet and Susannah ran a successful boarding house for mill girls until Harriet died in 1842. After losing her sight, Susannah moved back to Canterbury to be with her older brother, Colonel Asa Foster, another long-lived member of the Foster family, until her death in 1848.