Marie Gauthier: Connections to the Past

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Suffield was established by a select few. On October 12, 1670, clearance was granted to John Pynchon of Springfield by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony to settle Suffield, then called Stoney Brooke Plantation, on land purchased by Pynchon from the Indians. Between 1670 and 1682, 30 families were original proprietors, men who were granted 40 or 60 acres of land in Suffield. The amount of land was dependent upon their family size and status. In return, the men were required to move to Suffield and improve the land. Amazingly, after 450 years, descendants of some of those original proprietors still live in town. The Halladays, Kents, Sikes, Remingtons and Fullers, among others, are still here.

Imagine the case of Marie Gauthier. She moved to Suffield in 1979 because Dave, her husband, was stationed in Windsor Locks with the Connecticut Air National Guard. They liked the look of Suffield and thought it would be a good town in which to raise a family. They knew nothing about the history of the town.

Photo by Carroll E. Pellissier
Fifty years ago young Marie Pellessier, wearing her great-grandmother’s late 19th Century gown, was photographed by her grandfather.

Marie’s great-grandmother Grace Weston Allen Hollis, who lived in Charlton, Mass., was interested in her family’s genealogy. Ancestors sailed here on the Mayflower. She exhaustively researched the family tree, gathered the family memorabilia, and passed along her passion for the past to her daughter Eleanor, who then inspired her granddaughter, Marie. In 1972, Marie modeled her great grandmother’s lustrous almond and olive-colored silk dress. Her grandfather snapped her picture. The circa 1890 lace-trimmed dress was handsome and made for a tiny waisted woman. It had a detachable fitted bodice with whale bone stays, leg of mutton sleeves and was expertly hand-sewn with tiny, tiny stitches. Today, all that is left of the dress is the fitted bodice. Marie treasures this lovely piece of the past.

When Marie’s grandmother died 30 years ago, there were boxes and boxes of scrapbooks, photos, letters and mementos, some moldering in a damp basement. Nobody in the family wanted them so Marie packed all of it up and brought it to Suffield. Some boxes are yet to be opened. However, one opened box revealed a surprise. The box contained a family genealogy ledger in very poor condition, written by Marie’s great-grandmother. Still legible was the word Suffield. After much scrutiny and research, Marie found out that she is a direct descendent of one of Suffield’s original proprietors – Launcelot Granger. His line, as delineated in the ledger, connected unbroken to her aforementioned great-grandmother Grace Weston Allen Hollis. She is the same woman who owned the dress that Marie modeled. Unknowingly, Marie had moved to the very town that her ancestor, many generations ago, helped to establish.

Launcelot Granger was born in England in 1637. It is uncertain when he came to America. One family lore tells the story of Launcelot being kidnapped as a child, brought to Plymouth, Massachusetts and forced to serve in the Royal Navy for two years. In 1653, he married Joanna Adams in Newbury, Massachusetts and there he fathered eleven children before he migrated to Suffield. Newbury had become unpalatable to him because of its restrictive religious beliefs. Suffield town records show that Launcelot was granted 60 acres and two of his sons 40 acres apiece on High Street in 1674. That was one year before King Phillip burned the town. In 1676, while fighting the Native Americans, Launcelot received a musket ball in his leg which remained throughout his life, making him lame. In 1677, he returned to Suffield and built a house, located across from the current Gay Mansion. He had voting rights and was appointed land measurer. He died in 1689. At his death, his estate included a house, a land grant valued at 50 pounds, cows, swine, Indian corn, English corn, cart and plow and other items, all valued at around 83 pounds. His debts amounted to 60 pounds. The estate was not settled until 1701 when the remainder of it was released to Samuel, his son, to care for Joanna, Launcelot’s wife.

Intertwined in Launcelot’s family were marriages to Sikes, Austins and Burbanks. Marie not only moved to Suffield; she’s living here with cousins. And today, Marie’s three grandsons, who are Lancelot’s tenth great grandsons, also reside in beautiful Suffield.

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