Sunday, October 24, 2010
My dad and I visited the Jonathan Wheeler Cemetery yesterday to begin part of our "fall cleanup". I am truly amazed at how far it has come! I can remember when I was really young driving down Wheeler road with my father and Grandfather looking for the cemetery. We stopped just below where the Pequot Golf Course is now and pulled off the side of the road. There, we made our way through brush, briars, poison ivy, and other New England varieties. I remember how neglected and buried this place was in the middle of nowhere. I only really began my fascination with family history and genealogy after my grandfather passed away. My dad and uncle were going through the many family stories and treasures and I became hooked. The intrigue and mystery of how ancestors persevered, lived, and died has become a treasured hobby. I only wish that I could spend more time researching, discovering, and writing about their lives. For now, I cherish the time my dad and I spend caring for the little plot of land that holds the remains of my ancestors and their many stories
Our trip to England this summer was fantastic. We stayed in the Peak District for the first week in a small little village called Monyash. Our host was very generous and thoughtful. Bakewell was about 4 miles away and was a definite highlight of our trip. We missed the open market on Monday of that week, but had fun exploring the side streets and many shops. Then, we were off to Stewkley, about 40 miles north of London. We stayed at Dormer Cottage with Jill Scott. This was the very same place were my dad and I stayed just one year before. Angela enjoyed both places but preferred the north. However, she throughly loved the town of Woburn and Woburn Abbey. This is home of the Duke of Bedford. His surname is Russell, the same as Angela's Great Grandmother. Angela was able to trace her family genealogy back to this illustrious family at Woburn Abbey. It was a special visit. We had a hard time leaving. It felt good to be home, but the beauty and simplicity of England is calling us back!
Monday, February 15, 2010
My wife, son, and myself will be visiting England this summer for 2 weeks. We will stay in Derbyshire, Monyash for the first week, then back to Buckinghamshire, Stewkley for the last week! My son Jack is very excited to visit the place where my father and I stayed. He can't wait to meet Jill Scott, our most wonderful host at Dormer Cottage. I can't wait to show Angela Woburn Abbey, home to the Russell Family. She is connected to a Sir John Russell from the 1500's that was from Bedford, England. And of course, I can't wait to share Cranfield with them both. It will be neat for Jack to see where the Wheeler family came from and to visit the church. We have British friends that have lived in the states for over 25 years. They have family that live in Sheffield. We plan to meet up with them when we are in Monyash. Angela and I both love Jane Austen, especially the movies that have been about her books. It will be neat to see some of the places that she mentions in her novels.
Horace Niles Wheeler was my great, great grandfather. He is by far one of the most adventurous family members, with the exception of our great ancestor, Thomas Wheeler. Horace was born on February 1, 1831 in Stonington, Connecticut. His mother, Esther Ann Potter died on October 10, 1837, Horace was only 6 years old. His father Gilbert, remarried quickly to Angelina Byron Wood on March 15, 1840. Family stories dictate that he struggled with his new family situation. Horace's relationship with his father, Gilbert became strained and distant. When he was only 16 years old, he went out to sea to earn money and to explore the world. He returned to Stonington village in 1852 and fell in love with Margaret Havens. They were married on June 21, 1853. The events that took place next altered their life forever. They boarded a ship in Stonington Harbor that was headed for San Francisco. The ship went around Cape Horn and the journey lasted almost six months. They spent nearly 20 years in a small mining town called Timbuctoo. Horace did not strike it rich, but found enough gold to return to the east coast. They left California in 1878 by stage coach to Indiana. From there they took a train back to Connecticut. Horace owned and operated a jewelry store at 123 Water Street in Stonington Village. He made a fine ring out of one of his last pieces of gold. This ring is still in our family today. His story has inspired me to write a book about his life.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Swan Pub was one of the very first places that my dad and I found. We arrived in Stewkley from London in record time. We decided to explore the nearby market town of Leighton Buzzard. There were several grocery stores, home stores, and a train station. The narrow roads and driving on the opposite side was a bit unsettling for me. My dad didn't seem to be bothered by it, as he had been to Scotland for Electric Boat several times in his career. As it was getting close to lunch, we decided to head back to Stewkley to grab a bite to eat before meeting Jill at Dormer Cottage. The Swan Pub caught our eye. It later became a familiar place to us during our stay in England. The locals were so welcoming and helpful. One gentleman, Frank was curious about our trip to England. We had a great conversation as we explained our family's roots in the local area. He later walked back to his house to retrieve a map that would become more helpful as we navigated through the local roads and roundabouts. The bartender and waitress were bantering back and forth, creating very humorous entertainment. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. We made plans to head back to the pub for Easter roast the following day. The locals made The Swan a regular stop. My dad and I both commented on how we wished that we had this kind of community experience back in the states. The Swan was a definite highlight on this remarkable trip. I can't wait to make my way back there on a return trip.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Jonathan Wheeler was my grandfather, back 8 generations. He was born Feb. 7, 1708 in Stonington, Ct. His parents were Richard Wheeler and Prudence Payson. Richard Wheeler died when Jonathan was only 4 years old. Jonathan then went to live with his uncle Issac Wheeler and his wife Mary Shepard Wheeler. Issac's home that he built on the Wheeler Rd. in Stonington was later known as the "Jonathan Wheeler Homestead". The house had been in our family since 1687. The east half of the house was built for Jonathan by his uncle Issac in 1720. Sadly, the Jonathan Wheeler Homestead burned to the ground during the 1970's. (My father told me that in the 1960's, My grandfather, John Wheeler, was contacted at his home in Old Saybrook about the farm. The current owner, a Wheeler family member, was moving out of state and offered to sell the house and farm, which included 100 acres to my grandfather. He was asking $30,000. My grandfather simply refused and hung up. My father learned about the conversation much later in life. He shared his frustration in that the house and farm could have still been in the Wheeler family if my grandfather had shared the information with other family members.) Mary Wheeler kept the store near the Frink Tavern. Jonathan was taught this business and the cooper's trade. He later built a store and shop southeast of the Jonathan Wheeler Homestead. In the shop he made casks, butter firkins, keelers(to put milk in), barrels, and hogsheads. He sold his goods to his Aunt Mary for use in her store and to Mr. John Denison. In 1730, Jonathan built a barn to the east of the house. It was used for a wheat barn and stood upon a stone foundation. During the summer in those times, when the barn was empty, a school was kept there. Jonathan married Esther Denison on March 1, 1732. He died October 8, 1790. He was the first one to be buried in the Jonathan Wheeler Cemetery. The Jonathan Wheeler Cemetery was designated as a final resting place for Wheeler family members by Jonathan Wheeler prior to his death. This small 100 square yards of space is all that is left of the historic Jonathan Wheeler farm and house.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Since we had an evening flight into London, we decided to stay over night in a hotel before driving into the country side in search of Dormer Cottage. The next morning, we picked up our rental car and were headed to Aylesbury, then Stewkley. We were expecting to get lost, but with my father's extremely accurate directions, we made it to Stewkley in less than an hour. After exploring the area, we made our way to a pub for lunch(Story to follow later) then off to meet Jill at Dormer Cottage. She gave us precise directions to Cranfield. We decided to find our way there first. Our intention was to attend Easter services there the following day and did not want to get lost or encounter any unexpected detours. Thanks to Jill's directions, we successfully navigated through numerous roundabouts and narrow roadways to Cranfield. The home of our ancestor, Thomas Wheeler and his family. We met Hugh Thompson, the minister at the St. Peter and Paul Church. He was more than happy to give us a tour and information about the Wheeler history in Cranfield. His hospitality was generous and welcoming. We greatly appreciated his help and were pleased to have met him. The church was stunning. We were standing in the actual building that our ancestors had been baptized and married in!! The feelings were emotional and hard to explain. We made arrangements to return on the following day for Easter service. I can't wait to return to the church with my son and share the experience with him as I shared with my own father on that April day.