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Author, Mj Pettengill, Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series
Carroll County Farm Memorial, Mj Pettengill, Etched in Granite
Mj Pettengill, Etched in Granite, Paupers, Carroll County Farm 1870+
Photo: Jacob Riis Collection

    Jacob Riis Collection

The Angels' Lament, Mj Pettengill, Public Domain

                                My Work

                    Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series

Throughout my studies and years of research, I have developed a passion for the rich history of New England. With an emphasis on social history, I am drawn to stories long-forgotten, edited, or omitted from our history books. It is my goal to give voice to those who were silenced.


Exploring our roots through old diaries, letters, and dusty archives will often shed light on the lives of the common, yet extraordinary humans that came before us.


History informs the present. I believe that we must have the courage to "go there," to be willing to sift through the dust, visit uncomfortable places, and authentically acknowledge our past before we can experience or expect positive transformation.


Etched in Granite was initially a work of non-fiction. However, I decided to craft a historical novel in narrative format to capture the essence of the era and to reach a broader audience. The story is told by three individuals who represent life on the poor farm.  

I was inspired by my discovery of the "County Farm-Pauper Cemetery" in Ossipee, New Hampshire, where there are 298 numbered graves.


My research, writing, and teaching about this era began several years ago, and it continues. When I began this journey, there were no records. I am grateful to have stayed with it and not only found the names of those buried at the cemetery, but I expanded their stories, bringing these people back into the light. Upon discovering names and related information, I shared with many agencies to restore the missing records. 

I recently released the fourth book, The Crows' Path, expanding the narrative to include Ireland, Boston, and the South. Many of my projects are influenced by my experience as a Civil War musicologist, performer, and my genealogy.

ETCHED IN GRANITE: Historical Fiction Series, Book One takes place in New Hampshire at the Carroll County Farm. 

The year is 1872. The Civil War has ended, leaving behind a nation torn and economically depressed. Etched in Granite is a harrowing account of life and death on a rural New England Poor Farm —​ a tragic, yet triumphant novel that tells a story of courage, survival, and secrets surrounding lost love.
The story is narrated by the three principal characters: 
Abigail, a young woman who faces unimaginable hardship when agonizing circumstances and betrayal lead to life on the Poor Farm.
Nellie —Abenaki elder and healer— endures significant loss while exhibiting resilience during a time of social, racial, and religious intolerance.
Silas, a spirited farm boss, deals with the conflicts of balancing a position of authority with his personal life while navigating small town politics.

Their unforgettable stories are carefully woven together to reveal a hidden part of America's somber past.



THE ANGELS' LAMENT: Etched in Granite Series, Book Two is based on the adventures of Abigail's sister Sarah.

1872. Alone and determined, 17-year-old Sarah Hodgdon boards a train, trading farm life in New Hampshire for the textile mills of Fall River. Woefully disillusioned, she finds herself trapped in a brutal factory and living in a filthy tenement. She is tormented when she learns the fate of her family.


About to drown in a sea of spindles, she meets lamplighter, August Wood, who illuminates the gap between the affluent and the undesirables that dwell in the murky shadows.


Stripped down to her bare instincts, she retreats into a secret world, that if revealed, would shatter all that remains.

Everything collides when Bess, the captivating woman across town, emerges, navigating the dense world of the local elite, offering a glimpse into an era when women were beginning to take the stage.


Survival, a resilient thread of music, interweaves their compelling stories, binding them together, unveiling grievous misdeeds from the past.


DOWN FROM THE TREE: Etched in Granite Series, Book Three 
What becomes of Abigail's son, Samuel? 

It is time to share his youthful journey. We learn of the unfortunate circumstances leading to his birth, and we meet him briefly at the end of both Etched in Granite (1) and The Angels’ Lament (2)

He shows up at the train station, where, for the first time, he meets his Aunt Sarah—Abigail’s sister—who had been away working in a textile mill. We encounter him as a child at the stone garden, and together we endure the loss of his beloved mother.
This is a time when Samuel’s father, Silas, has an opportunity to claim his son, to right the grievous wrongs that have plagued them all for so long. Will he succeed?

For many, this will be a reunion as we revisit Abigail, Silas, Nellie, Moses, Miss Noyes, and the others that we came to know so well in the first book.

The year is 1878. Following the death of his mother, Samuel is threatened to be taken away from the only home he knows.


Unworldly and innocent, he navigates merciless conditions and risks getting lost entirely, until finding comfort in a tree—a knowing tree. Legend has it that if one climbs high enough, it is possible to disappear and view the entire world. What Samuel witnesses from the heart of the tree forever changes him.


Maintaining a determined spirit, he fends for himself, piecing together clues leading to the identity of his father. Is there really such a thing as a second chance?


Destiny awaits. Dark family secrets are revealed. What lies beyond the fence? Will Samuel come down from the tree?

The Crows' Path:  Etched in Granite Series, Book Four

A Train. A Fiddle. A Crow.

It’s 1878, and young Agnes MacKay is lost. In search of her imagined father, she leaves the County Farm only to become trapped on a southbound train. Her unplanned journey brings her into the heart of Boston, where, like herself, she is amongst countless other lil’ wanderers—moral stains on society—living in the streets, avoiding the asylums and orphan trains.


Her days are numbered as a series of mishaps land her in The Mission, where she is forced to forfeit her name for a number. She lines up with the other girls, heads bowed in silence, scrubbing laundry and avoiding the man cloaked in darkness.


Samuel stays at the Farm, forming a bond with Caesar—a seasoned elder who made his way North—deeply entrenched in the Hodgdon family secrets. Caesar is the caretaker of a fiddle passed down throughout the generations, crossing the Atlantic and safely tucked away. He guards the family legacy, finally delivering it into the hands of its rightful owner.


Sarah and the others leave Fall River, ready to fetch Samuel. Will he go? Can she leave her childhood home after facing ghosts from the past? Trains—they come, and they go. Where will the crows’ path lead? 

Available on this website and wherever books are sold. 





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      Etched in Granite
Historical Fiction Series

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Mj Pettengill
PO Box 118
North Sandwich, NH    03259

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