Near the south end of the West Granby National Register Historic District stands a house and barn that have witnessed more than over two centuries of Granby history. Built around 1800 by Sadoce Wilcox, an aspiring blacksmith, the Wilcox House has a story to tell about his family and five more generations of Wilcoxes who inhabited the place until 2019.
That was when the Granby Land Trust acquired the property from Steven Wilcox Hastings and turned over the house lot to the Salmon Brook Historical Society. But the story here is more than just one of a family and its generations. The Historical Society aims to use this historic site to help us understand how all the people of the historic district lived their lives, and how those life ways shaped their thoughts about religion, politics and communal relationships.
With attention to careful restoration, period furnishings and interpretive signs, the society has enabled visitors to step back across the centuries to understand the work of men and women of Granby’s past. They lived very different lives from ours, and a walk around the property, and through the house when it is opened for the public, stirs the imagination and helps us see those lives at work and play.
Sadoce and Roxey Wilcox and their children engaged in a wide variety of activities in order to make a living and prosper. Not only did Sadoce ply his blacksmith trade, but also everyone in the family worked at producing woolen thread and cloth, surplus dairy products, cider of varying alcoholic levels, and all the necessary husbandry of a farming life. There were crop and mowing fields, orchards and woodlots to tend, sheep, pigs, cattle and horses to care for, buildings to maintain, and food, clothing and firewood to stay ahead of.
Because they succeeded in all this, Sadoce became quite prominent in his community. He was a militia leader, who probably entertained his company with the outpourings of his cider mill. He also served in important positions in town government, and, most significantly, donated land for a meetinghouse to a dissenting religious body (the Methodists) and became a leader in the statewide movement to disestablish the Congregational Church. Having begun life with little to nothing to his name after his father died during the Revolutionary War, he and his family are the embodiment of the democratic foundation of America.
You can visit the property at 145 Simsbury Road in West Granby anytime to read about its history. Or take a stroll down across the Salmon Brook bridge to view the Granby Land Trust’s Wilcox Family Preserve (still a working farm). The historical society plans to have the entirely restored first floor of the Wilcox House and Barn open on Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to noon. Check the society’s web site for other times it will be open this summer. Come imagine life in West Granby two centuries ago.