Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Swan Pub, Stewkley

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

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.