Wolcott Historical Society News - November 2016
By Florence Goodman
"In the circle of life, it's the wheel of fortune, it's the leap of faith, it's the band of hope, till we find our place, on the path unwinding, in the circle." These are words taken from an Elton John song. This month's article is about the circle of life and its connections from past to present. It's about a bible's journey that began in the Woodtick section of Wolcott in 1823 and has now circled back almost two hundred years later.
Several years ago, I received a phone call from a gentleman named Victor DiRuggiero who lived in Rhode Island. He explained that he owned an old bible originally belonging to Nancy Hall from Wolcott, Connecticut and wondered if I could give him some information about her. He sent me pictures of the bible pages containing hand written family history on them, to help in my research. I shared with him a little about Nancy Hall and where she was buried. He thanked me and said he could not give up the bible at that time, but some day he would send it back home.
This September 2016, Victor called again to tell me he was ready to return the bible to Wolcott where it belonged; I graciously accepted on behalf of the Wolcott Historical Society. When it arrived and I held this beautiful old bible, it was obvious that it had served its purpose well. I read each hand written page, which told some family history and some weather history, but I couldn't help wondering what other stories the bible would never tell. This month, I will share with you as much of the Nancy Hall's history that I have found as well as Victor's recollections of how he acquired and used the bible.
The bible titled, "The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments: Translated Out of The Original Tongues and With The Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised," was printed in 1811 by Hudson & Goodwin in Hartford, Connecticut. It is much smaller than any other old bible that I have seen. The smooth leather cover and size of the book reminded me of an old missal that I used each Sunday in church in my younger years. I thought it was interesting that Nancy and others have written down names and dates of family members that had died as well as odd weather conditions for certain years. There is an entry on one page stating that there was a blizzard on March 12, 1888; this we know because it has been well documented. There is another entry from January 15, 1932 that states the temperature on that day was 58 degrees above zero. An oak and black walnut tree were planted on the lawn of the Gustave Cornelis home in Woodtick Center on that day. They state that on January 18, 1932 the temperature was 88 degrees above zero and the farmers were doing their spring plowing. Another entry states that there was a sand storm on May 10, 1934 and on January 4, 1937 someone planted bulbs in the garden. It's interesting to see that crazy weather conditions have been occurring in New England for hundreds of years.
"Nancy Hall's Book" is inscribed on the inside cover of the bible, "Bought, May 28th, 1823"; she was 24 when she obtained the book. Also written on this page, "Died in Wolcott Aug 14th 1840 Mary Miner Wife of Joseph Miner Aged 82". Mary was Nancy's mother and Joseph was her father. Nancy grew up on the family homestead, which today is 512 Bound Line Road and referred to as the "Beach-Minor House." Nancy had seven siblings. Her brother, Archibald and his son Henry served as Town Clerks in our town. Their family home on Bound Line Road served as the town clerk's office for a total of 79 years while father and son held the position.
Nancy married Deacon Orrin Hall, who was born on October 11, 1797. Some time after their marriage, they moved into the Hall family homestead with Orrin's father, Heman Hall. Orrin's brother, Ephriam Hall, owned the house and thirty acres of land. The house was built in 1825 for Ephriam and located on Munson Road in the Woodtick section of town. In later years the house was referred to as the Munson house because William A. Munson acquired it in 1861. This beautiful historic house was demolished in the late 1990s.
Nancy and Orrin had two children: Heman W. who was born June 11, 1824 and Harriet Julina who was born November 6, 1834. Nancy Minor Hall died on February 9, 1873 at the age of 74 and Deacon Orrin Hall died on October 10, 1881 at the age of 81. Their son, Heman W. Hall died on November 5, 1867 at age 36 and their daughter, Harriet Julina died May 18, 1911 at age 76. The Hall family members are buried in the Woodtick Cemetery.
Nancy's bible was worn from use so she probably prayed daily, but where she and Orrin attended church is a mystery. Another mystery is how the bible ended up in Rhode Island. Victor explained that about 40 years ago he found the bible at a yard sale held at an old Baptist Church and bought it. He and his wife were practicing Catholics, but they also sang in the choir at the Baptist Church. Their first child died six days after birth and they didn't know where they were going to bury him. The Baptist Church offered them a cemetery plot for the baby and they accepted. Victor even helped the gravedigger dig the grave for the tiny casket. At the cemetery, a Catholic priest and Baptist minister prayed together at the gravesite and read scripture passages from Nancy Hall's bible. This bible became very special to Victor and for that reason he held it close and read scriptures from it for many years. That is why it took him so long to relinquish the bible. I'm sure this bible holds other wonderful stories, but Victor's story is very special. So now the circle is closed and Nancy Minor Hall's bible has returned to the town from where its story began. Thank you Victor DiRuggiero for contacting me and sending the bible back home.
(Information for this article was taken from," The 1986 Historic Resources Inventory," by Paul Loether, "History of Wolcott, Connecticut From 1731 to1874 by Samuel Orcutt" and a phone conversation with Victor Di Ruggiero, Rhode Island)
The house where Nancy Minor Hall grew up located at 512 Bound Line Road.
Showing the size of the well worn bible that Nancy Hall bought in 1823.
The Ephriam Hall House was built in 1825 and located on Munson Road. Munson family members are in this photo.
One of the handwritten pages in Nancy Hall's bible
The tombstone of Deacon Orrin Hall located in Woodtick Cemetery.
The tombstone of Nancy Hall located in Woodtick Cemetery.
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