Chris Pagliuco: Telling an Exciting Tale

A high school and college runner who completed the Boston Marathon several years ago in 3 hours and 2 minutes, high school teacher Chris Pagliuco had to put long runs and more aside to complete his book The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe.
A high school and college runner who completed the Boston Marathon several years ago in 3 hours and 2 minutes, high school teacher Chris Pagliuco had to put long runs and more aside to complete his book The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe. Photo by Rita Christopher/The Source Buy Photo

Long before Whalley and Goffe were well-known New Haven street names, Edward Whalley and William Goffe were condemned men on a perilous journey to save their lives. Now Chris Pagliuco has told their story in his just-published book The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe. Chris, an Ivoryton resident who teaches history at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, will sign copies of his new book at Grove Street Park in Essex on Sunday, May 20 from 12:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon.

Whalley and Goffe were regicides, among the 59 men who had signed the death warrant of King Charles I of England. Charles was beheaded in 1649 and England became a commonwealth for little more than a decade under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. When the monarchy was restored in 1660 and Charles's son James II became king, the regicides became hunted men.

Chris points out that those who were captured faced imprisonment or a far more gruesome fate: they were hanged, drawn, and quartered. To escape such an end, Whalley and Goffe left their families, whom they would never see again, and fled England for the country's North American colonies. A third regicide, John Dixwell, for whom there is also a named street in New Haven, also fled-but with a difference. He settled in New Haven under an alias, James David, and no one knew of his real identity until his death.

According to Chris, Whalley and Goffe, living under their real names, were constantly in danger of arrest and return to England and the deadly fate that awaited them. When there seemed real danger of capture, they hid on three different occasions in what has come to be known as Judges Cave on the top of West Rock in New Haven.

Whalley and Goffe were fortunate, Chris says, in that the sympathies of the New Colony, then a separate entity, lay with them. Governor William Leete, he says, was most reluctant to undertake crown-ordered searches for the two men.

"The governor's knack for slowing down searches was almost funny," Chris says.

On one occasion, Leete refused to act on a warrant for their arrest because it was the Sabbath, on another, because there were no fresh horses.

Chris says he became interested in the relationship between England and its North American colonies in the 17th century as an independent study project in graduate school. He says Whalley and Goffe were regularly depicted in both art and literature of the 19th century. Americans were eager to create a cultural identity, he explains, and the story of Whalley and Goffe fit well into that theme.

For Chris, writing the book meant carving out time in an already busy schedule. He wrote at night from 8 to 11 after his young daughters were in bed. His wife Meghan, also a teacher, gave him a calendar marked with dates he would take care of the children so he could plan his writing timetable.

Chris gave up lots of the kinds of activities he enjoys, among them biking, hiking, and running.

"I put house projects aside, I didn't exercise; there are just times when you have to hyper-focus," he says.

He was surprised by how his own ideas and his own writing style developed as he worked.

"Where you start out is not where you end up," he observes.

By the time he got to the third section of the book, his editor pointed out to him that it really didn't track well with the first part.

"I hated it-how part one didn't go with part three, but I worked through it. You just can't keep 120 pages in your head at the same time," he says.

Finishing the book will give Chris more time to focus on another aspect of Connecticut history: He is also the town historian of Essex, a position that he says is particularly important to him because he counts the late Don Malcarne, long the Essex town historian, as one of his mentors.

"Now that I've finished my personal project, I'd like to find topics to write about in these three very special villages," he says.

Chris has already written articles on regional history for Connecticut Explored, a journal of local history.

Chris, who grew up in Coventry, is a graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire with a master's degree in history from Trinity College in Hartford. In his earliest days of teaching at Daniel Hand High School in 1999, he wasn't much older than some of his students.

"I was 21 for 10 days when I began to teach," he says.

He says that today students often think he is older than he is, but just to make sure, he says it's his habit to wear a tie every day. He teaches courses that include Advanced Placement United States history, contemporary issues, and civics.

On Internet sites where students can rate their teachers anonymously, the comments about him are enthusiastic: "awesome," "a great teacher," "he changed my life." Chris, however, says he doesn't like to check such sites because he feels that can present a skewed picture of a teacher's work.

When he considers his just-completed book, he says that one of the things that pleases him the most is one of the very things that gives students writing history papers the most trouble: the footnotes.

"I'm very proud of the citations; it gives the book legitimacy and shows the scholarship involved. I know they are tedious, but they serve an invaluable function," he says.

He's not sure what kind of writing will come next, only that he will continue to write history.

"I'm not decided on future plans. I try to let life come to me as best I can," he says. "I seem to have a knack for working things out."

Chris Pagliuco speaks and signs books at Grove Street Park, Essex, on Sunday,
May 20, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Refreshments are provided by Valley Boosters.

The Great Escape of Edmund Whalley and William Goffe is available online through The History Press, Amazon.com, and locally at Essex Books, which will be selling copies for the book signing.

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