Aboard cousin Brad Haskell's 28 foot Pearson Triton Summer of 2019
It’s been a busy summer Down East and I really don’t miss my boats as I have friends who invite me on theirs. I’ve sailed and motored a few time with my friend, Toby, and cousins Brad and Sarah.
I continue writing on my book about Bats Wheeler, Mercy’s late husband. What a fascinating guy Bats was. I’m getting lots of help from a number of people and credit the following information to my Good friend, George Rockwood, who I refer to as “Rock” in my book—what Bat called him.
The Cheever sisters figured importantly in Bats’ and Rock’s early lives and were the reason for the Wheeler-Rockwood-Cheever connection. with Elizabeth Cheever Bats’ grandmother on his father’s side and Ellen Tyler Cheever being Rock’s father’s first wife.
The Cheever sister’s family, Reverend Henry Tyler Cheever and his brother George Barrell Cheever both graduated from Bowdoin with advanced degrees in theology. George was in the Bowdoin class of 1825 which included Henry W. Longfellow and Nathanial Hawthorne— all three members of Phi Beta Kappa. Another student, class of 1826, was John Brown Russwurm, Bowdoin's first African American college graduate., who became governor of Liberia.
Rev. Henry married Jane Tyler, who came from Jewett City, Connecticut—just down the road from Moosup [where Mercy and I gre up]. Henry and Jane lived in Hallowell, Maine where he was a prominent preacher during the 1850’s and 1860’s against slavery. Jane died when their four daughters were young. Henry’s brother, George, according to Rock, “Spent his entire life in a state of perpetual rage against slavery, and spent a bit of time now and then in jail when his table-pounding rages got a bit out of hand.”
Elizabeth Cheever Wheeler [1862-1947], Bat's paternal grandmother and a [younger] sister of my father's first wife married Dr. Leonard Wheeler, who at the time in the latter 19th. Century and early 20th, was the most prominent medical doctor in Worcester and Bats’ grandfather.
The second-eldest of the Cheever sisters was Ellen Tyler Cheever Rockwood, who, when she was younger, was brought up in the same household where Rock’s father lived while he was a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Although she was eight years older than Rock’s father George Ichabod Rockwood Sr., the two were married two years after he had graduated from WPI.
Rock’s father (who I’ll refer to as Mr. Rockwood) became close friends with Bats’ father albeit their difference in ages, i.e. 31 years. The Rockwoods were largely responsible for the Wheelers buying their house in Harwich Port, which I will write more about later. Rock explains:
My father, [George Ichabod Rockwood Sr.] regarded the whole Cheever/Wheeler group as his own family, as well as his wife, Ellen's, family. Consequently, when Ellen, who was unable to have children herself, died, and my father married her (Canadian) nurse about a month later, my mother was welcomed immediately into the Wheeler/Cheever family.
Mr. Rockwood was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1868 and moved to Worcester as a young boy. He graduated from WPI in 1888 with a degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in 1898, and an honorary degree in 1929. He founded Rockwood Sprinkler Company in 1906. This Worcester company was very successful and he sold the company to the Gamewell Company in 1930, now owned by Honeywell.
In 1936, undoubtedly inspired by the Cheever brothers, particularly George (Bats great uncle), Mr. Rockwood wrote and published (privately) a book entitled “CHEEVER, LINCOLN and The Causes of the Civil War”. In his fascinating book, digitalized in 2012, Mr. Rockwood says:
Although causes other than religious feeling co-operated, nevertheless the war which was against all the material interests of the North was the direct result of the election of Lincoln, which itself resulted from the preaching of the abolitionists, of whom Garrison, Cheever, Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Whittier and, in his heart, Lincoln himself, were outstanding; and, at the crisis, Cheever [George] carried the load.
Bat's father, Dr. Bancroft Cheever Wheeler, was one of three sons and one daughter of Dr. Leonard and Elizabeth Cheever Wheeler. Their other children were Leonard Wheeler, Jr., the prominent Boston lawyer, among whose accomplishments were his service as one of the lawyers at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi’s, Eunice Wheeler, a graduate of Smith College and accomplished violinist, and Nathaniel Wheeler, the youngest of the four who was a graduate of Middlesex School, Harvard, and Harvard Business School and became a banker in Worcester.
As a side comment and perhaps not particularly relevant to Bats’ story, at age 13, I dated a Jane Cheever from Norwell, MA at Cardigan Mountain School. Jane and her sister, Susan Cheever, were daughters of the writer, John Cheever, with Susan becoming a well-known author herself. Susan wrote Home Before Darkin 1984 in which she wrote about her father and sister, Jane. I’m not sure what relationship Jane and Susan have with Bats’ Cheever family connections but undoubtedly there was one.
I knew Bats’ Father and Mother and remember meeting them for dinner at the Public House Restaurant in Sturbridge, MA, plus having Thanksgivings with them at Mercy and Bats’ Needham house. They were most cordial to Pat and me and Mary Wheeler was proud of her sons and obviously adored Mercy. Our parents got along well with Bats’ parents. Dr. Wheeler was an outstanding surgeon and urologist who performed a prostate operation on our father in the 1960s.
The Sayward-Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine was in the Sayward and Wheeler family from 1720 on. Bats’ grandmother, Elizabeth, bought this house in 1900.She was a direct descendent of Jonathan Sayward, who remained loyal to the English during the Revolutionary War. Although a loyalist he and his home survived the war intact. Eunie and Nat donated their house to Historic New England in 1977 with Bats’ help, and it is now open to the public.
York Harbor is a beautiful town in the southern section of the Maine coast. When I cruised the Maine coast with my father in the 1950s. We visited York Harbor a number of times and always ate d inner at The York Harbor Inn. This was about the same time we’d met Bats’ family but didn’t know their connection with York Harbor.
Bats and his family spent summers before World War II in York Harbor, Salter’s Point, and visited the Rockwoods in Harwich Port—where they eventually bought their own house.