Was reading "Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard" by Nora Ellen Groce today -- I read it for one class at Gallaudet some years ago -- I was bit bored and decided to reread it today.
It mentioned 10 Downing Street that I thought I should share with the readers -- Deaf people were employed by Sir George Downing, an English politician who is well known for running many series of spy networks across London and beyond. Nearly all of Deaf people that were hired by Sir George Downing reported directly to him. Most English politicians feared and respected Sir George Downing because of his political skills and his ability to find information as much as can be.
How did Sir George Downing knew these deaf people? He was from a small town named Maidstone in the county of Kent which is located southeast of London. It was no secret that because of poverty levels, lack of transportation, many Deaf people were born in the county of Kent to a point where many people in Maidstone can sign, hearing and deaf alike. That was where Sir George Downing learned and relied on Deaf people's loyalty to him.
Here is an evidence that can be found in Samuel Pepys's diary, during November 9, 1666 (307 years before I was born), a fire was beginning to consume the city of London, it reads:
There comes in that dumb boy ... who is mightly acquainted here and with Downing; and he made strange signs of the fire, and how the King was abroad, and many things they understood but I could not, which I wondering at, and discoursing with Downing about it, 'Why,' says he, 'it is only a little use, and you will understand him and make him understand you, with as much ease as may be.'"
These group of deaf families from the county of Kent eventually (depending on how you looked at it) emigrated to Massachusetts and settled down on Martha's Vineyard in 1700s. Later, Laurent Clerc was brought to Hartford to set up the first deaf school permanently (Cobbs Hall near my parents' hometown, Hopewell, Virginia is the first) in the country ... large numbers of deaf children from Martha's Vineyard was sent to Hartford to be educated and most of them did not return to Martha's Vineyard.
Suffice to say, the damned Kennedys took over the island eventually. Few friends of mine told me that you can find the gravestones in fingerspelling at Martha's Vineyard near Chilmark and Gay Head. Cool?