Welcome to our news and history blog!

Welcome to our news and history blog!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rachel Mead's Gravestone: Returned At Last

On this unusually warm and mild autumn morning the long lost gravestone for Rachel Mead, died 1799, was finally returned to its rightful place.

With the assistance of Christopher Shields, archivist of the Greenwich Historical Society, we were able to pinpoint the cemetery where the stone belonged. Her grave is in the New Burial Grounds Association Cemetery next to the Second Congregational Church of Greenwich.

We used the Hale Collection of gravestones from the archives. These are not available online at this time. 

The gravestone arrived in a trailer towed by Norm Davis, a direct Mead descendant of Joshua and Rachel Mead. The stone is a brownstone that measures 6" by 20" and about 30" tall. 

We appreciate the cooperation and support of Allen Wilson, one of the cemetery association's directors. 

This was posted by Norm Davis on Facebook:

This story begins many years ago. Many, many years. All good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. But it’s hard to say when this story really begins. So I’ll pick a date, and work in both directions. Bear with me. My parents bought their house in Port Chester, NY in 1956. The house had been built in 1927. Sometime around 1962 my dad dug up a series of stones that had been serving as a sort of rough, and dangerous, set of steps up a slight hill in the backyard. One of the slabs was quite large. He rolled it over, and discovered that it was a broken headstone. The writing was very clear: Rachel Mead, wife of Joshua Mead, departed this life Dec. 7, 1799 in the 50th Year of her age. My dad had been working on our family history since his teens, knew all the main colonial families in the Westchester and Fairfield county areas, and recognized the surname Mead right away. The Mead family is one of the earliest settlers of Greenwich, and has dozens, if not hundreds, of descendant branches by now. Their records are well established in churches and land documents.
He did a little digging, so to speak. Anyone who does genealogical research knows the routine. Dead ends, misinformation, family lore, a deliberate secrecy around events that families preferred to keep out of the public records. After just a bit of sleuthing, he proudly announced to us one day that he had found the records of Rachel Mead - and we were direct descendants. I’ll layout the details below. The mystery of course is, how did the stone end up in Port Chester, at the house he bought. When, where, who. Those details would take a bit more work.
Rachel Mead does have a headstone at the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich. So it’s not missing. Jeffrey Bingham Mead, who is heavily involved in the Mead Family records as well as Greenwich history in general, helped fill in some gaps. In 1918, there was a storm that toppled some scaffolding that has been erected for steeple repairs. Many headstones were damaged, and subsequently replaced. Rachel’s headstone was apparently one of them. How did it end up in Port Chester, at a house that didn’t exist until 1927? That’s the part of the story that I haven’t been able to fill in. Maybe the contractor who replaced the headstones took the broken ones to use on projects. Maybe it went to a dump and was saved by someone who thought it was useful. I don’t know. But it was AWOL for about 10 years at least.
Through luck and stubbornness, I found Jeffrey online and contacted him. You can read about that on his Mead Burying Grounds website: http://meadburyinggrounds.blogspot.com/... Jeffrey generously stepped in an arranged to have the stone repatriated. It was more than I had hoped for. My best friend and brother-from-another-mother Don Barbro came to help, with his son-in-law Peter Hudson, and my wife Lu-Anne. We loaded Rachel onto the trailer, and soon her headstone was back where it belonged, just a couple of feet away from where it was originally placed in 1799.
I have to say that it proved to be a lot more emotional than I had anticipated. Rachel is a total stranger to me of course, in spite of the bloodline. And it’s not like this act corrected a years-long miscarriage of justice. I had decided a long time ago that the stone belonged with a Mead family caretaker, and frankly I didn’t really care who that might be. I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the stone in the cellar, or on the curb. Jeffrey had the right idea and I am so grateful that he was able to get permission to do it, and then actually dig the hole for it. But standing there, on a sunny Saturday morning, it occurred to me that here we were - gathered, like so many family and friends often have to do, in a cemetery. We were standing exactly where Rachel’s family must have stood, on what was surely a miserable day in December. Perhaps her husband Joshua laid his hand on the headstone before turning away. I like to think so. And I like to think that in some way, this little act has brought Rachel’s story full circle - again.
So, if you’ve stayed with the story so far, thank you. I’m almost done with telling the public part of it, although personally the story will probably consume a few more hours of my free time. I’ve told the story from the middle, going forward. For anyone interested, I will now go backward. Here’s how the ancestral link works. The * means I have actual family photos of the person. b.=birth, d.=death.
Norman Davis III b.1954 (that’s me):
  • My father - Norman Davis Jr, Port Chester, b. 15 Apr. 1927 d.7 Aug.1993 *
  • His mother - Marion Bitz Davis Wilson, Port Chester, b. 19 Sept. 1902 d. 18 Feb.1996 *
  • Her mother - Mary I. Guthrie Bitz, Port Chester *
  • Her mother -Mary B. Guthrie, Greenwich, b.22 Mar.1871 * She was frequently photographed with her sister Kate (Chapman *), apparently they were quite photogenic. You can be the judge.
  • Her mother - Mary Frances Mead, Greenwich, b. 14 Sept.1846 d.1926 * (She married William Guthrie (b. 23 Dec. 1846 d. 6 Jul 1907 *). The Guthrie family also has deep roots in Greenwich, and even deeper roots in Scotland. Our family is direct descendants.
  • Her father - Leonard Mead, Greenwich, b. 2 Mar.1807 d.6 Jan.1857 * Leonard married Frances Studwell b. 9 Mar. 1822 d. 27 Jul.1905 *. The Studwell family traces it’s roots to the very first settler in Rye, under grants from the King. Our family is direct descendants.
  • His father - David Mead, Greenwich, b. Jun 1778 d.27 Aug.1828. David was married to Chloe Barnum, b.Apr.1781 d.26 Mar.1841, also a prominent Greenwich family.
  • His mother - Rachel Knapp Mead, b.1750 d.1799. Rachel was married to Joshua Mead b.1751 d.1812; Joshua was a Colonial militia sergeant who fought in the Revolutionary War.
So that’s the unbroken chain. Thanks for the ride, Rachel, now please Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Abigail Reynolds Mead Gravestone Vandalized

On September 25, 2017 a visit to the cemetery on the east bank of the Cos Cob Mill Pond revealed the scene above. 

This was a very disturbing scene earlier today. I arrived at one of our other ancestral burying grounds to find that someone has broken one of the gravestones. 

If you have any knowledge as to who did this please contact me confidentially. I will be back to clean up the site. 

We ask at this time that no one except family descendants enter the site unless you are given written permission and escorted.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gravestone of Rachel Mead, died 1799, to be Returned

One never knows what surprises arrive in the email box. Today was no exception.

We received one today from Mead-descendant Norm Davis in Port Chester, New York. He wrote:

I am a descendant of Rachel Mead, wife of Joshua Mead. Rachel died Dec 7, 1799. By a long, strange, twisted chain of events, I am in possession of her original headstone. It is damaged, but quite readable. I believe her headstone was replaced at some point. 

I am going to be selling the house in Port Chester where the headstone is kept. It would be a shame to have it tossed on the curb, and I thought someone in your group might have a better place for it. 

Please let me know if you're interested - I am happy to hand it to someone who can appreciate it for what it is. It's too heavy for me to move on my own, probably need a hand truck and a few strong arms to get it into a van. 

In an earlier time this would pose a huge challenge. Why? At this time I am on business travel in the Asia-Pacific -though soon to return to the greener pastures of Greenwich, Connecticut. 

Technology is a welcomed, wonderful ally to any of us involved in genealogical research for which we are both individually and collectively grateful. 

A search of the early 20th century cemetery records by Spencer P. Mead revealed that this Rachel Mead is interred in the New Burial Grounds Association Cemetery. It's next door to the Second Congregational Church on East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich. 

Now, the question beckons: how did Rachel's 1799 stone end up in the cellar of a family descendant's home in Port Chester, New York? 

My hunch is that this was among the gravestones carted away after a violent wind storm in 1918 blew down the scaffolding surrounding the steeple of the church next door. 

I wrote about a rare trip up the inside of the steeple in 2014. Read about it here. I also wrote about the cemetery next door. Read about that here and here.

We expect to be coordinating with Norm Davis to return the stone to its rightful place. Thanks, Norm! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

(1919) Ninety Years Old: Stillson Benevolent Society Observes Anniversary in Interesting Way

Source: Greenwich Graphic: May 30, 1919

To celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the Stillson Benevolent Society, a unique and most interesting reception was held in the Col. Thomas A. Mead homestead, now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Norman T. Reynolds, on West Putnam avenue, last Saturday afternoon. It was in this house, built in 1797, that the society was organized, Mrs. Elizabeth Webb Mead was its first president.

Forty-seven quilts, made by the members of the society, some dating back to 1831, were on exhibition.

Those who served tea in the tea room were Mrs. T. Merritt Mead, Mrs. Frank V. R. Reynolds, Miss Julia B. Mead, Miss Louise Brush, and Miss Emily Close, direct descendants of the first president.

All wore quaint costumes, some of which dated back to the Revolutionary period. The direct descendants of Col. Thomas. Mead, who acted as conductors and hostesses, were Miss Clara Wright, Mrs. Nathaniel Webb, Miss Amelia W. Mead, and Miss Margaret Mead, who also wore costumes of the early period.

Attired in old-fashioned gowns, Mrs. Robert M. Wilcox, took the admission fee at the door. The officers of the society, Mrs. N. M. Hitchcock, Mrs. James R. Mead, Miss Catherine M. Mead, Mrs. Oliver Huckel, and Miss Susan H. Mead acted as a reception committee and they too wore old costumes.

A large number of people were present at the reception, from Greenwich and nearby towns and cities.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

1895: The Hyde Family Re-Union at the Old Mead Homestead on Quaker Ridge

Source: Greenwich Graphic. Saturday, October 26, 1895. Page 1.

Solomon Stoddard Mead


On October 8, the old Mead Homestead, on Quaker Ridge, now the property of Mr. Solomon S. Mead, was the scene of a very interesting family reunion. In a family as large as this one, it would be well-nigh impossible to have all the members present at the same time, so on this occasion only the Hyde branch was there.

After full justice has been done to a most satisfactory luncheon, Dr. Frederick E. Hyde read an interesting paper, suitable to the occasion, from which the following facts are collected:

The founder of the family in this country, John Mead, emigrated from Greenwich, England, about 1630. He settled in Massachusetts, and some years later, with his two sons, John and Joseph, moved into the western part of Connecticut. Joseph died unmarried, leaving John to become the progenitor of all of the name of Mead in this is vicinity, from whence they have spread to all parts of the United States.

The Benjamin Mead House, circa 1728. Photo taken in 2017.

In 1728, one Benjamin Mead, a direct descendent of the original John Mead, came into possession by purchase of a farm of 150 acres in Quaker Ridge, six miles north of the village of Greenwich, and it is an interesting fact that the farm today, after the lapse of 167 years, is exactly the same in size as when purchased. It extends north, south, east and west along the roads which cross in front of the house; north about half a mile, west to the little brook that crosses the road about halfway between the house and old Pickhardt's Mill on Byram River at the foot of "Hard Scrabble" Hill, south to Mr. Rudd's farm, and east down "Dyspepsia Lane" to the blackberry lot and a small stream that flows through the valley. The original dwelling on the property stood between the well, now in front of the house, and the road.

In the first dwelling there was born to Benjamin the purchaser, a second Benjamin, whose children were one son and four daughters, viz., Obadiah, Mary, Theodosia, Anna and Phoebe, all probably born in the old house.

During the Revolutionary War, when the Cowboys and the Tories, who were neighbors for and against the war, had their encounters, and when the British were continually making raids upon the farms and their ships in the Sound, a raid was made a calm this place a raid was made upon this place. The son, Obadiah, hid himself on a neighbor's barn, standing just south of the southeast orchard. Some one of the Tory neighbors, knowing the fact, informed the red-coats who surrounded the barn, threatening to set fire to it and to smoke him out. To escape their clutches, he ran from the barn across the orchard to jump down the rocks to "Dyspepsia Lane." He was followed, however, by the soldiers. Seeing the impossibility of escaping, surrendered. He was then at once shot, the ball passing through his left arm and entering his side, killing him instantly. The coat he wore, showing the bullet holes, which has been so carefully preserved all these years, was inspected by all the company present.

After killing the only son, the miscreants entered the house, demanding of the mother to know where her husband was hidden, as they wanted to do the same to him. They then cut the hopples from the horse that was grazing near by, killing all the geese, and went off, taking horse and geese with them.

The daughter, Theodosia, was married to Edmund Mead of Stanwich, their children were Solomon, Benjamin, Sarah, Obadiah, Ralph, Staats, Polly and Brockholst.

The Obadiah Mead who was shot by the British was a young man and engaged to be married to Charity Mead. His father Benjamin, having now no son, adopted his grandson Obadiah, the son of Edmund and Theodosia of Stanwich, then under 8 years of age, and who was brought to live with the grandparents in the old house down at the corner.

Theodosia's husband, Edmund, desiring to seek his fortune, left home to go west, and was never afterward heard from. Thereupon her father, Benjamin, brought her and all the rest of her children from Stanwich to the old house at the corner.

Of the children of Edmond and Theodosia, Obadiah, the third son, inherited the old farm and his son, Solomon S. Mead, is the present owner. The fourth son, Ralph, had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Edwin Hyde, and their children, grandchildren and great grandchild were present at this gathering.

When the father of Mr. Solomon S Mead, familiarly known as "Deacon Obadiah" was eight years of age the present house was built; this was in 1793. He enjoyed riding the horse that was his.

The eldest, Mr. Edwin Hyde, in his 84th year, and the youngest, his great grandchild, Ralph Underhill Hyde, in his second year, the son and grandson of a Ralph Mead Hyde.

The party left the old farm about four o'clock and drove down to Port Chester, where they dispersed to their several homes, after spending a most enjoyable day in visiting the many places associated with the happy hours of their childhood, and talking over the many experiences of past years.


Friday, June 30, 2017

100 Years Ago: The Glorious Fourth, Greenwich Graphic (Editorial), Tuesday, July 3, 1917

The Glorious Fourth
Greenwich Graphic (Editorial) 
Tuesday, July 3, 1917

Tomorrow is the Glorious Fourth; a holiday strictly and purely American, set apart to commemorate the birth of National freedom and the right of a free people to govern themselves. Tomorrow the American nation will observe the day with a more solemn and profound conception of its real meaning, and a deeper realization of the value of the blessing of freedom, than it has felt since the old Liberty Bell on Independence Hall pealed forth its message one hundred and forty-one years ago. 

For today the national birthright is in danger; our heritage of freedom is threatened; the structure reared by the struggles and sacrifices and sufferings of our forefathers is menaced by foreign vandals bent on world conquest and world enslavement, and the country is in arms to save the priceless heritage for all that Independence Day stands for.

With thousands of our bravest are already on the field of battle, and thousands more are ready and awaiting the call, and other countless thousands in reserves and sure to be called, it is inevitable that the nation must enter upon the observance of the holiday in a more reflective attitude of mind and a deeper sense of appreciation of the real meaning of the day than ever before.

It should indeed bring a new baptism of patriotism, a new consecration to the duties of citizenship, a new pride in the privilege of boasting that we are Americans, and a new resolve to not only deserve its blessings but defend to the uttermost "the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Zophar Mead House (1792)

The image above -dated December, 2015- is a screenshot of the Zophar Mead House located in Belle Haven. It was built in 1792. 

A search on the Library of Congress web site revealed the black-and-white images posted below. All date from 1962 when Samuel H. Pryor (1875-1971) owned the house. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cemetery Care Update: North Greenwich and Cos Cob Mill Pond

We can report that the cemeteries in North Greenwich and off Cos Cob's Mill Pond have been cared for. 

Not only has the grass been cut in the cemeteries but also the access ways leading to and from them. 

Online: Roger Selchow Map of North Greenwich

The hand drawn maps of Greenwich by Roger Selchow are nearly legendary. Print copies have graced the homes of Greenwich residents and expats since they were made available in the 20th century. 

If you do not have one this news may bring a smile. An online version of Selchow's map of North Greenwich is freely available for you online. Go to this link. Visitors have the ability to enlarge portions of the image. Enjoy! 

Picture: Jared Mead House/Silleck House on Steamboat Road

We came across this 20th century photo image of what was known as the Jared Mead House, or Silleck House -or most recently, the Sundial Apartments. 

The building is located on the west side of Steamboat Road next door to the Indian Harbor Yacht Club. 

It was sold this past December. The site is expected to be redeveloped into apartments or condominiums. We have not heard of a scheduled date for demolition. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Travel & Leisure Magazine Highlights Homestead Inn/ Augustus Mead House (1799)

On this Friday afternoon we've heard that Travel & Leisure Magazine has highlighted the Homestead Inn as a wonderful vacation destination in Greenwich. 

Read the article here. 

We, of course, also know this place at the Augustus Mead House, circa 1799. Enjoy both the article and your weekend. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017