Grace Denison Wheeler, A Woman Ahead of her Time!
Author and historian Grace Denison Wheeler is known by many area residents, especially if one owns an old historic home. I grew up in her beloved 1735 Wheeler Homestead and heard much about my “Cousin Grace!”Even though Grace Denison Wheeler was born in 1858, she did many things a woman of today would do. In her 98 years Grace:
- Remained single and had a professional career as an author, lecturer and newspaper reporter in Mystic, Norwich and Westerly.
- Raised 4 needy children of different backgrounds: one Pequot Indian girl, 2 black girls and one white child.
- Roamed the countryside visiting all 50 small graveyards in Stonington at age 72, transcribing engravings on every stone. Today, her inscriptions are the only way of reading the majority of graves stones due to damage by acid rain, weathering, age and vandalism.
- Actively volunteered, taught Sunday School at the Road Church and created book clubs, before they were popular
- Published 4 books: “The Homes of Our Ancestors in Stonington”, “Old Homes in Stonington”, “Grace Wheeler’s Memories”, “An Old Fashioned Stonington, Conn Love Story”
- Researched history of numerous historic houses, before the age of Google, and hand-typed pages of information on an old fashioned, broken typewriter.
- When she died in 1956, at age 98, she had lived alone for years with no running water, using an outhouse and old hand pump!
Memories of Grace Wheeler
Gladys Sebastian (adopted child):”Ma Grace took me from the Stonington Town Farm when I was 3 and raised me. Everyone thought I was black, but as a young adult I learned, upon meeting my mother who had left me at the Farm since she could not support me, that I was an Eastern Pequot Indian. Even though I was not always treated as an equal in the household, the happiest days of my life were spent with Ma Grace”.
Chester J. Perkins (friend of everyone): Grace sent me letters all through World War II just to be friendly and supportive. Her letters were always typed with her 2 finger method on an old typewriter. She never set the right margin and every sentence had words missing.
Rudy J. Favretti (UCONN professor emeritus, author): Rudy visited ”Aunt Grace”, as she asked him to call her, when she was elderly and he was a teen. She would give him ”a history lesson” and then he would play her piano, since her fingers were stiff with rheumatism, and she would sing and twirl around the room!
Grace Denison Wheeler was certainly a woman ahead of her time!
My Friend Grace Denison Wheeler, Stonington Historical Society Footnotes, Rudy J. Favretti, February,1992
A JOLLY HOUR ON THE TROLLEY, By Grace Denison Wheeler (You can read this on line. Click on title)
Grace Wheeler’s Memories,Stonington: Pequot Press, 1948. Recollections of country life by a beloved chronicler of Stonington history. (Denison Homestead Library)
An Old Fashion Stonington, Conn, Love Storyby Grace Denison Wheeler The last book written by Grace Denison Wheeler. The history of Stonington and that of her family were the primary interests in her life. 77 pages. (Denison Homestead Gift Shop)
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Denison connection: Grace Denison Wheeler (#1604) Grace’s grandmother, Grace Billings Denison, my great-great grandmother,was born in the Denison Homestead.