When I first became the Deputy Historian, I read any books available that dealt with the history of Fish House. I wrote down what I learned and accepted the information as factual. But many of these "facts" had been passed down from one person to the next, and as anyone knows, who has played the Gossip game, the information gets mangled.
So when I first started researching the old house up on Shew Hill, that I refer to as the Grinnell house, the information I read said that Alexander St. John built it for his daughter Parnell. What I didn't catch, at first, was that his daughter, Parnell, died at the age of four. Alexander St. John did have a granddaughter, Parnell, so I made an erroneous assumption that he built the house for THAT Parnell. But the more I studied the dates and the family trees and the research,,,the more I realized that this was probably also wrong. It would be wonderful if the tax records went back that far. It would be great if the state census of the 1800's included actual addresses, but they don't.
So I will never know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but this is what I believe probably happened in the early history of this beautiful old house. First, what I know...the right section of the house was built in the early 1800's...that is the most exact "year" I could find. The left, larger section of the house was built in 1841. Second, Alexander St. John did build part of the house, but he couldn't have built the larger section, as he died in 1825. Now for some assumptions mixed with facts:
* Fo whom did Alexander St. John built the first section of the house? Well, his daughter, Elizabeth, married Nathanial Wescot in 1810, so it makes sense that it was for her. It couldn't have been for his granddaughter, Parnell, as she was born in 1811 and didn't marry until after Alexander St. John died.
* So I assume that Elizabeth St. John Wescot and her husband, Nathanial Wescot, lived in the original part of the house (the right side). They had 7 children! The original part of the house is not that big...so they were probably the ones responsible for building the bigger addition in 1841.
* Parnell Wescot( Alexander St. John's granddaughter) married Clark Grinnell around 1828. Perhaps they continued to live in this house or perhaps they moved away, only to return once Parnell's father, Nathanial Wescot died in 1844. It is a fact that they lived in this house, I am just not sure when they started to live there as a married couple. By 1841, Parnell would have been married for about 13 years. I can't imagine this married couple living at this house before the big addition was built in 1841. The year they were married, 1828, there were 5 other children living in the house under the age of 15.
* Side note: In 1840, Parnell's brother, David died at the age of 24. Then in 1841, Parnell's daughter, Elizabeth, died at the age of 12 and Parnell's sister, Josepha died at the age of 28. I can't imagine how awful this had to have been. These deaths might have been the reason that Parnell and her husband, Clark Grinnell moved back to this house. In 1844, Parnell's father, Nathanial Wescot died, at the age of 54.
* So another assumption, Parnell and her husband Clark Grinnell lived in the house to help out Parnell's mother, Elizabeth, after all these tragedies. This is where the facts that I read in the deeds and the census records don't help. I can only assume.
With the internet, comes great responsibility. In the past, I have put information out there that later I recalled,,as erroneous. But once a "fact" is in the internet, it is very difficult to reign it in. So please note,,,that much of this blog entry is based on assumptions.
In researching this house and who lived in it and when, the many deaths around the 1840's peaked my interests. I tried to find out the reason for their deaths, but was unable to find death certificates. In the 1840's, there were outbreaks of influenza, typhoid, and cholera. Did one of those diseases cause so much heartbreak in this family?
If anyone can enlighten me about this family, and where they lived and their deaths, please contact me.