Connect-the-Dots

Pilgrim-Schmilgrim! So much has been written on these pages concerning my ancestors from Massachusetts – the Bay State, Cradle of Liberty, yadda-yadda… yet I have not given remotely equal time to my beloved Down-Easters, the indomitable, stalwart, nutmeggy people of Connecticut. And for that I humbly apologize.

While once on an extended stay in New York City, I heard the term “Connect-the Dots”, referring to Connecticut.  In my circle of acqaintance, the term had to do with train lines and stations and mostly theaters readily accessible from New York. I still love the term – yet it has taken on SO much more meaning since I’ve dived into genealogy. So many lines, SO many dots!

As it happens, my 11th Great-grandfather Thomas Lee didn’t even make it to Connecticut – he died of smallpox during the crossing in 1645. But his wife and children made it and helped to establish any number of family dynasties in and about New London County.

Most importantly, his great-granddaughter Lydia Lee is my 8th Great-Grandmother, and a station on my direct maternal line down through the oft-mentioned Mary Gifford Richmond, Lula Earl Ralston, and Mom.

Kay-francis-trailer

Thomas’ daughter Jane Lee married a man named Samuel Hyde, and their son Jabez Hyde is ancestor to both 1930s film star Kay Francis AND the recently departed actress Dina Merrill. (And for those of you playing along at home, they are my 7th Cousin-5x removed, and 8th Cousin-4x removed, respectively.)

 

Dina MerrillIf you’re up on your Dina Merrill history, you know that she was not merely an heiress, but a double-heiress. Her mother was Marjorie Merriweather Post Close Hutton Davies May, the only daughter of breakfast-cereal magnate C. W. Post. And just to hammer it home, Post Cereal Company became General Foods. Chuhh-chinnnng!

Oh, the other inheritance – Dina’s father was Edward Francis (E. F.) Hutton. Yes, that E. F. Hutton. Barbara Hutton, the however-briefly Mrs. Cary Grant, was Dina’s first cousin – daughter of E. F.’s little brother Franklyn Hutton and his wife Edna Woolworth. Yes, that Woolworth.

[Fun Fact: Marjorie’s first husband Mr. Close, via his second wife, was the grandfather of actress Glenn Close. Folks, Hollywood marriages had nothing on NYC-Connecticut marriages!]

I actually met Cousin Dina once – at the Seattle airport. She was coming in to appear in a play, and the friend I was meeting happened to be on the same flight. So pleasantries were exchanged, and photos ensued – NONE of which I can find now. This was long before I knew she and I were related or I’d most certainly have bought her a drink and pumped her for all the “Autumn Leaves” Cliff Robertson-Joan Crawford dirt.

But back to the matter-at-hand. In that same first wave of English settlers in Connecticut were two more scions-to-be: Henry Wolcott (12th Great-grandfather, arrived 1630) and Matthew Griswold, arrived 1639). Henry’s daughter Anna married this very same Matthew Griswold, so he became an uncle-by-marriage, and the father of all my Griswold cousins.

This Wolcott-Griswold alliance yielded two Colonial Connecticut Governors – Roger Wolcott (1st Cousin-12x removed) and Matthew Griswold (1st Cousin-10x removed) – and a state Governor, Roger Griswold (2nd Cousin-9x removed). Roger also served as a U.S. Congressman most remembered for a 1798 altercation on the floor of Congress Hall in Philadelphia – honestly, it’s known as the “Griswold-Lyon Brawl”. And before you say “Photos – or it didn’t happen!”, consider this:

Lyon-griswold-brawl.jpg

According to the official description of this illustration,

The row was originally prompted by an insulting reference to Lyon on Griswold’s part. The interior of Congress Hall is shown, with the Speaker Jonathan Dayton and Clerk Jonathan W. Condy (both seated), Chaplain Ashbel Green (in profile on the left), and several others looking on, as Griswold, armed with a cane, kicks Lyon, who grasps the former’s arm and raises a pair of fireplace tongs to strike him. Below are the verses: “He in a trice struck Lyon thrice / Upon his head, enrag’d sir, / Who seiz’d the tongs to ease his wrongs, / And Griswold thus engag’d, sir.”

During Roger’s term as Governor, Pres. James Madison declared war on England… again – and Gov. Griswold was furious. It was 1812 and Connecticut’s vast shipping industry had just begun to rebound from the impact of the last war, and they were not at all enthused about shutting things down again so soon. Griswold went so far as to proclaim that if there were to be war, it would be fought without Connecticut soldiers. I’m not sure that edict held much sway since Gov. Griswold died in office in October of the same year.

Additional Fun Fact: In 1801, Roger Griswold declined President John Adams’ request to be his Secretary of War.

So – in summary:

Thomas Lee died before getting here. His children were Thomas, Jane, and Sarah (no, not that Sarah Lee). Jane’s marriage to Samuel Hyde made all that stuff at the beginning of this piece happen. Sarah, I don’t know much about yet. And Thomas’ line, my line, sorta made it possible for me to be here at all. So that’s cool.

As for the Griswold legacy, please forgive me for stealing so utterly blindly from Wikipedia – and yet leaving their links intact… but needs must. The roll call of descendants of Matthew Griswold and his brother Edward includes:

Of course, the Wolcotts had their own lines beyond those they shared with the Griswolds. As did the Hydes and Rowlands and Beckwiths and Marvins and Champions and DeWolfs and Pecks and Macks and Joneses and Hayeses… and ALL those affiliated families who buzzed about in New London County, Connecticut in the first couple centuries of this country’s existence. But their stories will have to wait.

I think I’ve put off a Connecticut exploration like this one because it’s complicated – but it will always be complicated. Rhode Island is probably worse – if only because they hopped the state line, back-and-forth, to Connecticut AND to Massachusetts, on a daily basis. Heck, parts of Rhode Island WERE Massachusetts back in the day!

And everything got worse when ALL my ancestors, from all three states, sailed up the Connecticut River to settle Vermont. To coin a quaint old New England saying, “Oy!”

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