On a gray Monday a few weeks ago, the Ridgefield Historical Society received an unexpected call. Descendants of two of Ridgefield’s ‘founding families,’ sister and brother, were in town exploring their roots. They were leaving soon for their respective homes, in Western New York and Vermont. Might we have time to meet them, and perhaps provide some additional information and direction? They had done very well but were still searching for some family gravestones and anything else they could find.
The founding families in question were the Northrops and the Dauchys. And the researchers in question were Cecilia and Christopher Beach, visiting Ridgefield for the first time. The siblings had arrived aware of the Northrop connection — Cyrus* was their great-grandfather, and their father was Northrop Beach. A published memoir on Cyrus, as well as his own publications, served as a considerable introduction.
But they first learned of the Dauchy lineage while scouring tombstones in Ridgefield. “I figured out that we are related to Vivus Dauchy** through both the Warrens and the Northrops because our grandparents were first cousins,” explained Cecilia. They were eager to learn more. Among their next stops was the David Scott House, the headquarters of the Ridgefield Historical Society and, coincidentally, a former residence of Vivus Dauchy and his wife, Rachel Wallace Scott, the daughter of David Scott. Vivus, Rachel, and family were the second inhabitants of the Scott House.
The timing of the phone call was fortuitous. Historical Society Board Member Sara Champion, studied in genealogical research (among significant other talents), stopped by the Scott House a few minutes later and a time was scheduled to meet. Board member Sally Sanders arranged for a tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse, where many a Northrop attended school.
In the ensuing hours, Cecilia Beach learned more. She and Sara Champion found her family’s box at the Congregational Church (pre-pews); she spent time at the Peter Parley Schoolhouse, Cyrus Northrop’s childhood school (which apparently he didn’t love); and she learned that the family gravestones she was searching for were definitely there, in the Ridgefield Cemetery — waiting to be found. That assurance can make all the difference.
Cecilia left town after a profitable Tuesday morning, and we hope she and Chris will return. Their family members were prolific during the formative years of Ridgefield, and they are part of the fabric and heritage of the town.
Next time they’re here, we’ll be ready. In the meantime, Ridgefield Historical Society board members and experts are here to help you with your curiosities, genealogy, and everyday questions.
To learn more about the Ridgefield Historical Society and our programs and services, write to [email protected], or call 203-438-5821.
The following biographical snippets on Cyrus Northrop and Vivus Dauchy are taken from The Ridgefield Encyclopedia, Jack F. Sanders (available on our website).
*[From The Ridgefield Encyclopedia, Jack F. Sanders] Northrop, Cyrus, (1834-1922), grew up on a farm in West Lane District near NY line, attended the West Lane School, and at 15 taught at the Center School in the village; graduated from Yale, 1857; was editor of New Haven Palladium in late 1850s, then taught English literature and rhetoric at Yale (one of his students was Wilbur L. Cross, later governor); wooed in 1884 to head University of Minnesota, retiring 1911; huge Northrop Auditorium, designed by Cass Gilbert, honors him at Twin Cities campus; so does Mount Northrop in Sawtooth Mountains near Lake Superior in northern Minnesota and the town of Northrop in the south.
** [From The Ridgefield Encyclopedia, Jack F. Sanders] Dauchy, Vivus, (1707-1795), a native of France, came to the colonies in 1735 among the many French Huguenots (q.v.) fleeing persecution. He came to Ridgefield soon after and became a leader in the community. His descendants were prominent local businessmen for nearly two centuries.