Grace Denison Wheeler was truly a woman ahead of her time. Looking back at her life, one would think of a modern day career woman and not one who was born in 1858. Grace accomplished so much in her 98 years. Grace never married and had a professional career as an author, lecturer and newspaper reporter in Norwich, Mystic and Westerly, Rhode Island. Although she was single, she did raise four children from different backgrounds – one white child, one Pequot Indian girl, and two black girls. Grace taught Sunday School at the Road Church. At the age of 72, she visited fifty small graveyards and transcribed the engravings on every stone. For many genealogists today, her transcriptions of these gravestones are the only way of reading the majority due to damage by acid rain, weathering, age and vandalism. Grace created book clubs before they were even popular. She researched local historic homes in the days before computers and the internet. She published four books: The Homes of Our Ancestors in Stonington, Old Homes in Stonington, Grace Wheeler’s Memories, and An Old Fashioned Stonington, Conn Love Story.
The following are chapters from Grace Wheeler’s Memories. Please check back for new chapters to be posted!
CHAPTER 1 – A WORD TO MY FRIENDS
Having just read Winifred Welles’ lovely story, The Lost Landscape, I am inspired to put down some recollections of my home and some events connected with my life. I have passed the eighty-ninth milestone here in the house where I was born, July 8, 1858, and where my father, his father, and my great grandfather were all born, lived, and died.
Since 1735 when this house was built, it has been twice remodeled from a story and a half into the present two stories and attic, with a big front door twice the width of an ordinary one. My father said he wanted the doorway wide enough so that his coffin could be carried through without taking out a window as he had seen done at some other houses. This old homestead has withstood the hurricane of 1938, though it received marks of that frightful afternoon and evening. Even with the two long, heavy ironing boards braced against it from the inside, the storm did snap off a portion of the bottom of our big front door.