Allen’s Neck Meeting Clambake: A Fellowship of Friends

Joseph Ingoldsby
On the third Thursday of August, Friends and families celebrated the
125th anniversary of the Allen’s Neck Meeting Clambake. Over 500 Friends
converged on the clambake grounds under the dappled shade of a grove of
trees on a sunny summers day. Close to 100 Friends prepared and served the
bake, from the ladies of the bake, to the pie makers, to the clam and quahog
gatherers, to the market goers, to the wood gatherers and stone selectors, to
the rockweed cutters- all under the direction of this year’s Bake Master,
Troy Vincent. Troy followed in the footsteps of Raymond Davoll who
served as the dedicated Master of the Bake for many years before his
retirement.

Troy Vincent follows a family line of Bake Masters dating back to his
great grandfather, J.T. Smith, his uncle Karl H. Erickson and his cousin,
Peter Gonet. Troy’s mother, Joyce Vincent also followed the tradition of
service in her mother’s, Joanna Smith’s, footsteps as Coordinator of the pies.
Her granddaughter Amber Vincent, daughter of Troy Vincent, is now in
charge of the pie preparation within the cookhouse for distribution to the
tables. Troy’s wife Frances and son Austin oversee the preparation of
brownbread.

Dawn Stopka orchestrates the ladies who supply the pies in every
flavor from strawberry rhubarb, apple, peach, lemon meringue, chocolate
cream, custard, pumpkin, and succulent blueberry pie. Dawn Stopka
oversees the cutting of the pies, done with precise marking by “Bake Lady”
Ruth Doran and “Onion Tender” Paul Doran’s daughter, Michaela, with
sharp knife cutting by Bradie Metheny.

Each tray holds a colorful selection of pie slices marked for the
numbered picnic tables representing the founding Quaker families of
Dartmouth and Westport, including the Almy, Davoll, Gifford, Howland,
Parsons, Russell, Smith, Tripp and other Friends and families. On this day
according to Allen’s Neck Meeting House Pastor Charles Morse “The
congregation represents the largest number of Quakers meeting that day
from coast to coast.” The Allen’s Neck Meeting Clambake exemplifies
Dartmouth’s Town Seal Quaker themed motto of “Utile Dulci” –Service
through kindness and peaceful means.

Bake Master Troy Vincent orchestrated the bake with stopwatch
precision. “At 7:00 A.M. the seasoned 4’ logs were stacked with layers of
cantaloupe-sized stones to a height of 6 feet upon the swept concrete pad.
At 8:50 A.M. the fire was lit. At 11:30 A.M. the men get suited up in flameresistant gear. They grab pitchforks and remove the large stringers from the
spent fire. At 11:35 A.M. all wood and ashes must be removed from the fire
and the stones must be raked to the perimeter of the cement pad. Burney
Gifford marshals the troops with urgent shouts. The ritual must be
completed before the red-hot stones and cement pad cool. No wood must
remain which could ignite the canvas coverings of the bake. By 11:45 A.M.
the stones must be layered upon the ash free, hot cement pad leaving a 1’
margin framing the pad to allow the canvas to be secured. The hot stones are
level stacked 18” high and completely covered in 18” of rockweed.

At 11:50 A.M. wooden boxes filled with steamer clams in mesh bags
are stacked upon the thick layer of rockweed. Next husked Paul Tavares
Slades Corner Road corn are layered to the tops of the wooden boxes and set

upon the clam boxes. Then come wooden boxes filled with the mild
sausages placed in hundreds of penny candy bags to absorb the grease. Next
come pieces of codfish each in its own foil wrapper within the next level of
wooden boxes. The next layer of boxes holds sweet potato halves in
individual wrappers. The final layer of boxes holds trays of the “Ladies of
the Bake” quahog dressing made by Marcia Medeiros, her daughter-in-law
Heather, Lindelle O’Keefe, Pat Smith, and Ruth Doran.
At noon, a long white cotton “sacred sheet” soaked in fresh water is
drawn across the stacked boxes followed by two layers of moistened painters
canvas tarps formed by overlapping two canvas tarps. Then a third layer of
painters tarps is overlaid followed by 5 layers of heavy sailcloth canvas tarps
pulled by six men dressed in firemen’s flame resistant coats across the
steaming clambake stacks of stones, rockweed and stacked boxes of food,
covered in canvas. The canvas is sealed at the perimeter with a thick mat of
rockweed to contain the steam. Within 30 to 45 minutes the canvas begins to
swell with rising steam. The canvas balloons out when the bake is done.

At 1:00 P.M. the canvas is lifted and the Bake Master, Troy Vincent
tastes a clam cooled in a glass of water and proclaims that the bake is done.
Loud cheers are heard across the bake ground. At this point, the Allen’s
Neck Meeting Pastor Charles Morse steps up on a picnic table to offer a
prayer of thanks. We all shout “Thank you!” to the heavens for giving us a
perfect day and a perfect bake. We then break bread as Friends of all family
generations, ages, addresses, walks of life, and ethnicities.

© Joseph E. Ingoldsby, 2013. All rights reserved.

Ingoldsby’s writing has been published in MIT Press, Orion, Museum Press- UK, and in
newspapers, magazines and online. Ingoldsby has exhibited science advocacy work at
the Museum of Science-Boston, The NY Hall of Science, UWI-Madison, University of
Toronto, Concordia-Montreal, in the UK, and in national galleries. Work can be viewed
at Landscape Mosaics.
Web: http://josephemmanuelingoldsby.com
Email: ingoldsby-asla@comcast.net