Wakelee Homestead

The Wakelee Homestead
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Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

The Wakelees of Wolcott
 

   The following are excerpts from various sources concerning the Wakelee family of Wolcott.
 

   Another patriot not to go unmentioned was David Wakelee, the son of Ebenezer and as a resident of the Big Plains in southwest Wolcott. Born in 1754 he died in 1821. He was the father of eight children. His name appears as one of the original founders of the town.

   With such brevity it would be remiss to fail to include some mention of David's participation as a soldier in the War of the Revolution.

   David Wakelee enlisted in the Continental Army in the fall of the year of 1781. He served in Captain Roswell Ransom's Continental Team Service as a wagoner not as a soldier of the front line. His company nonetheless was an essential unit that sustained the infantry that preceded it, with provisions and arms. Rumbling over the Virginia cart paths that eventually led to the front lines, the wagon train was constantly harassed by mounted troops of British raiders. It was during one of these forays that a sabre-swinging red coat chose David as a victim for destruction. He succeeded in drawing first blood with a glancing blow off the chin of the teamster. The enraged David responded with a well-directed bayonet thrust dispatching his assailant. The horse, saddle and sabreóthe prizes of battleófell to the victor and when the war terminated shortly after, David Wakelee returned to Farmingbury with them.

   This incident is officially recorded within the walls of the National Archives and Record Section of the General Service Administration, Washington, D. C. and on the application of Mary Parker Wakelee, widow of David, for a pension. Included on Pension No.5581 is a sworn affidavit as to David Wakelee's military record, supplied by John J. Kenea of Wolcott, who had enlisted at age 15 in David's unit.

   David built the house in 1835 where his direct descendant Robert A. Wakelee former first Selectman of Wolcott resided until May of 1971 when the Wakelee homestead was gutted by fire. We are all thankful that "Bob," as he is affectionately known to all, was not seriously hurt.

   Wolcott was served well by "Selectman Bob" who held that position for 33 years.

   (from Wolcott, Connecticut, 175th Anniversary, 1796-1971, by John H. Washburne)
 
 

   One of the greatest changes to take place has been the retirement from town offices of many members of the older generation, who have been faithful servants of the people for many years. Among these are Robert A. Wakelee, who was elected second selectman for the first time on October 7, 1912. Again in 1919 and 1920 Mr. Wakelee was returned to the same office, but in 1921 to 1933 was elected first selectman, with the exception of the year 1923. The next seven years found J. Arthur Bergen and Elmer W. Coe in the offices of selectmen, but in 1941 and 1942 Mr. Wakelee held office as third selectman. In 1943 he again took the office of first selectman, which he held until October 5, 1959, a period of 16 years, making a total of 33 years spent on the highest board of town officials. Mr. Wakelee retired this year with high honors. He also served two terms in the General Assembly.

   (from Old Wolcott by Rose Wakelee Badger)
 

   Adopting a policy of naming new schools after living persons, the Building Committee selected the name of Robert A. Wakelee who had served as Selectman for twenty-five years, and at different times represented the town in the General Assembly. As a member of several school building committees he has taken an active part in constructing Wolcott's new schools.

   (from A Salute to Two Centuries of Education in Wolcott Connecticut)
 

   ROBERT E. (sic) WAKELEE NAMED FOR 1960 AWARD

   WOLCOTT - Robert A. Wakelee, first selectman of Wolcott for more than 30 years, until his retirement two years ago, has been chosen to receive thc Billy Peterson Post, American Legion, Americanism Award for 1960, according to an announcement by Post Comdr. Thomas F. Brennan Jr.

   Selections of Mr. Wakelee for the award in recognition of hLs exemplications of the qualities of good citizenship and of his service to the community, state and nation, was made at a meeting of the veterans' organizations Wednesday evening in the Courtroom at the Town Hall.

   Mr. Wakelee is the third person named to receive the Billy Peterson Post Americanism Award. Previous recipients were Charles Rietdyke, now Wolcott's first selectman and Mrs. Charles H. Tyrell, local correspondent for thc Republican and American for nearly 45 years. Henry P. Kaliss, junior post commander, and chairman of the post's Americanism committee, indicated that plans for the presentation of the award will not be definitely scheduled as yet, since Mr. Wakelee is now a patient in Waterbury Hospital.

   After attending the opening ceremonies in connection with the opening of the Robert A. Wakelee grammar school Monday, he was injured while supervising snow removal operations during the recent snow storm.

   Mr. Wakelee's long, unselfish service to tbe community over the past three decades was cited in support of his nomination for the award. During this period, Wolcott has proved to be one of the fastest growing communities in the state.

   Native of Wolcott

   Mr. Wakelee was born in Wolcott Jan. 17, 1885, and has lived his entire life here. He attended the old Stone school on Nichols Rd. He was married to the late Eva Ketchen, daughter of Rev. Charles P. Ketchen, pastor of the Wolcott Congregational Church, and Mrs. Ketchen.

   He has three children, Robert C. Wakelee, Wolcott's florist. Mrs. Helen Wakelee Welton, Maryland and Mrs, Martha Wakelee Garrigus, Wolcott. Mrs. Wakelee died in 1920. He also has one grandchild, Miss Marcia Garrigus.

   In Apri1 1934, he married Mrs. Sybil Nordlund of Waterbury and has one stepson, John Nordlund of Michigan. Besides being selectman for so many years, he served three terms in the General Assembly and has been a member of the Republican Town Committee for many years, the Wolcott Lions Club, Wolcott Historical Society, Wolcott Grange and Chamber of Commerce, and also a member of all school building committees, except for the one school building named for him. He is civic-minded and always interested in anything, large or small, that helps his town. 

   (from the Waterbury Republican-American, December 20, 1960)
 

   FORMER LEADER IN WOLCOTT DIES

   WOLCOTT ó Robert A. Wakelee, 88, who oversaw the growth of Wolcott from a sleepy little town to a bustling suburb during his 32 years as selectman, died Sunday at Waterbury Hospital after a short illness.

   Mr. Wakelee was born Jan. 1, 1885, son of the late James and Ella (Rose) Wakelee. He lived in Wolcott all of his life attending public schools. At the time of his death, he lived at 16 Wakelee Road.

   Wolcott had only 700 residents when Mr. Wakelee was first elected selectman in 1919. By the time he resigned, after 32 years of being a selectman and  first selectman in 1958, the town had grown to more than 8,000.

   Mr. Wakelee also represented Wolcott in the General Assembly from 1928 to 1932, was a former member of the Republican and Town Committee and the Wolcott Grange, and served on many town boards and commissions. 

   In 1960 the Robert A Wakelee School was named in his honor. Wakelee performed the groundbreaking ceremony in February of that year and when the classrooms were opened that December, he stood in front of the school, a cigar clamped in his mouth, and passing out lollipops to the school's first students.

   He leaves a son, Robert of Wolcott: a stepson, John Nordlund of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., two daughters, Mrs. Willis Wolton of Baltimore, Md., and Mrs. John Garrigus of Wolcott: and two grandchildren.

   Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Della Vecchia Funeral Home, 690 Woodtick Road, with thc Rev. Benjamin Hammond of Mill Plain Union Church officiating. Burial will be in Woodtick Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral home Tuesday from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

  (from the Waterbury Republican-American, April 2, 1973)

 
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