2017 DFA REUNION
St. Thomas of Villanova Church
Our 147th reunion brought us to Connecticut for the second year in a row, this time to the beautiful Litchfield hills in the northwest part of the state. Our vice president, Ken Dickinson, has roots in this area and for over a year he spent many hours of travel and research to put together a wonderful program for the two-day gathering.
FRIDAY JUNE 23
One of the main themes of the program was Litchfield native Anson Dickinson (1779-1852), a painter of miniature portraits. On Friday the Litchfield Historical Society had a display of some of his works. It was amazing to see the detail he captured in these small paintings. This was, of course, before the days of photography, and his portraits looked just as realistic as high resolution photographs.
The Society is located in a building in downtown Litchfield which contains as the Litchfield Historical Museum with many interesting displays of Litchfield’s past. They had organized a morning tour of the town green for the DFA, giving much of Litchfield’s history and telling about some of the prominent buildings there.
In the early afternoon Ken had planned a walking tour of Historic Milton Village, the northwest section of Litchfield. Anson Dickinson was born and died there and his father, Oliver (1757-1847), was a prominent figure in the village who built many of the houses. Following a printed tour sheet that Ken prepared we observed the village green and some of the buildings around it. We stepped into Milton Hall, which once housed a store and post office, but has been used for various gatherings and performances through the years. In addition to Ken, we were joined by Cleve Fuessenich, a local resident and also a Dickinson descendant who provided many interesting points about what we were seeing.
Next we visited Trinity Episcopal Church. This church was founded in 1799. The current building was built by Oliver Dickinson and modeled after Trinity Church, Wall St., New York City. It was dedicated in 1837. From the outside it is a beautiful but rather plain old New England church, and the inside was mostly quite simple. However we were surprised to find beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows, and a very old but nicely restored tracker organ built by Thomas Hall in 1823. It is the oldest organ in Connecticut in regular use. [Your webmaster, a retired organist, was dying to play it, but restrained himself.] This church, as well as a Congregational church just up the street still has an active congregation today.
We then drove a short distance to the west, parked and continued our walking tour. Ken pointed out some old houses and told us their history. Several were connected with Anson Dickinson’s family. He showed us a memorial boulder to Anson Dickinson at the location of his birth. We were a small group, but we thoroughly enjoyed this special tour.
Back in Litchfield center, several DFA members joined us for a tour of one of the many impressive old houses on South Street. This was the home of Tapping Reeve, who was the founder of the first Law School in America. The first classes were held in his house but eventually a “one-room schoolhouse” was built next door where the law students received their instruction. The library was always in the main house. Of the more than 1,100 students educated there, many went on to serve in elected office on both the state and national level. Aaron Burr, one of two vice presidents educated there, was Tapping Reeve’s brother in law and his first student. The Litchfield Historical Society maintains the Tapping Reeve house as a museum and one of their staff members gave us a very informative tour.
We had hoped that more people would have joined us for these events. We have not usually had so many things scheduled on Friday so this was a bit of an experiment. If you have never been to Litchfield, a visit would definitely be worth your while. There is much more to do than was on our program. Litchfield was the location of one of America’s earliest schools for women, the Litchfield Female Academy (1792-1833), founded by Sarah Pierce. It was also the birthplace of Ethan Allen and the home of Lyman Beecher, a very prominent clergyman and father to orator Henry Ward Beecher and author Harriet Beecher Stow.
Our annual Friday dinner was held at the Black Rock Tavern, in Thomaston, CT, a few miles south of Litchfield. It was an unpretentious place, but we had a nice private room and the service and food were excellent. We started with our usual “informal board meeting” giving DFA members from near and far an opportunity to join with board members and discuss whatever subjects come up. This year we focused mainly on planning for the next two reunions. A social hour preceded the dinner with time to chat with new friends and old. In all, about 30 people were in attendance, a very good turnout.
SATURDAY, JUNE 24
We had a beautiful, sunny day for our 147th reunion. St. Thomas of Villanova church in Goshen, CT had a good sized, air-conditioned hall, and our caterer provided coffee, juice and baked goods for those who showed up early. Ken had brought some photos and other items for the display tables and his wife, Maria helped Dale and Suzanne at the book and T-shirt table. After about two hours Ken assembled the cousins to view a power point presentation he had prepared on early Litchfield and some of the Dickinson families that lived there.
Lunch was served at about 11:45, and consisted of chicken francese accompanied by salads, rolls, succotash and, of course, fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert. The annual counting of the cousins gave us a surprise as the largest group was descendants of Nathaniel. Nehemiah, usually the winner, was tied with Joseph for second place this year! The prize for the farthest travelled cousin went to Deborah Sanford, from Ashland Oregon. The youngest attendee was 8-year old Mary Watkins who is a resident of Goshen, CT. And the oldest was our treasurer, Virginia Allis. At 83, she is relatively young compared to some of our previous winners. Everyone moved to the front lawn of the church for the annual group photo, which you can view on the Scrapbook page of this website.
Ken Dickinson conducted the annual meeting, minutes from which will be forthcoming at a later date. The scholarship committee announced two winners this year; one was Callie Riggio from Deep River, CT. Callie was present with her grandparents, Louise and Tom Riggio, and she came forward to tell us a little about herself. She plans to attend Central Connecticut State University in the fall to study criminal justice. The other recipient was Christopher Reed, from Sutton MA. Christopher will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study physics and math.
Dale Williams announced the slate of officers for the coming year. Virginia is retiring as treasurer after 15 years and Dale is replacing her. Dale will be turning over the publications treasurer duties to Maria Dickinson. The rest of the slate is the same as last year, although it should be noted that we are looking for a replacement for Jean Whitten as chair of the scholarship committee as Jean is interested in stepping down from that position.
Virginia Allis was honored for her many years of outstanding service as treasurer with a plaque and a bouquet of flowers.
After the meeting adjourned we welcomed our main speaker, Alex Dubois, from the Litchfield Historical Society who gave an excellent presentation, focusing mainly on the artist, Anson Dickinson and his work. He extended an invitation to anyone interested to visit the LHS museum the next day to view the exhibit which features some of Anson Dickinson’s work.
As an extra treat, Litchfield native Cleve Fuessenich, came up and gave us a short but delightful talk including some reflections and anecdotes related to Litchfield and the Dickinsons who lived there.
The reunion concluded with the singing of “God Bless America” and an invitation to all to join us next year in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
2017 REUNION ATTENDEES
|ALLIS, Virginia||Whately, MA||1|
|BALICKI, Frederyk & Chrystal||Manchester, CT||2|
|BARNHARDT, Hollis & David||Poughkeepsie, NY||2|
|BELLAMY, Joya and Brooke Barbero||Rocky Hill, CTBerlin, CT||2|
|BROWN, Karen & Peter||Berkeley Springs, WV||2|
|BYRON, Norman & MaryAnn||West Wardsboro, VT||2|
|COSTELLO, Nancy D, Claire Costello Gelissen||Norwalk, CT||2|
|DICKINSON, Alan & Betsy||Wilbraham, MA||2|
|DICKINSON, Alex & Susan||Windham, CT||2|
|DICKINSON, Daniel||Southington, CT||1|
|DICKINSON, Joseph & Judith||Concord, NH||2|
|DICKINSON, Karen A., Jennifer Watkins & Mary Watkins||Torrington, CT||3|
|DICKINSON, Kenneth & Maria||Hudson, NH||2|
|DICKINSON, Marie||Windham, CT||1|
|DICKINSON, Robert & Sharon||Stoneham, MA||2|
|FUESSENICH, Cleve||Litchfield, CT||1|
|HARLOW, Ernest||Westfield, MA||1|
|KRIBBLE, Margaret (Meg)||Brighton, MA||1|
|LANDOLINA, Beth||Tolland, CT||1|
|MERCHANT, Paul & Madeline||Scituate, MA||2|
|PATTERSON, Barbara||Stamford, CT||1|
|PAYNE, Nancy & Robert||Wellesley, MA||2|
|RICKER, Lois||Huntington, CT||1|
|RIGGIO, Louise, Thomas & Callie||Old Saybrook, CT||3|
|SANFORD, Mark & Deborah||Ashland, OR||2|
|WILDER, Alice||Amherst, MA||1|
|WILLIAMS, Dale & Suzanne||Northborough, MA||2|