Sturbridge and the Willys

Having been in New England now for almost five years, we decided on a staycation in Sturbridge Village over Thanksgiving weekend.

Actually, we had a Groupon for a hotel in Sturbridge, which I remembered at Stockbridge (I do get these easily confused). After explaining to Jay that we’d be staying at the Red Lion Hotel, then go to Norman Rockwell (which frankly we have done enough, I mapped the route from our home, and realized it wasn’t Stockbridge at all.

It was Sturbridge, in the Sturbridge Village area, which we have never been to. The hotel was the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center. A good deal all around with discounted tickets to the historic village.


But, it wasn’t until we were walking around the rustic, historic Massachusetts site that we realized why we felt so at home there: we both have ancestors from Massachusetts.

Jay’s more famous relative is Willy Dawes, the one who got through the lines to warn that “the British are coming.” Family lore has it that Longfellow knew it was Dawes, not Revere who made it through, but that Paul Revere sounded better in a poem. Hmm. Also the family says Willy pretended to be drunk, so got through–but that he probably didn’t really need to pretend. Jay’s Granny Mac, recently died at 101, and was the oldest living Dawes, of the William Dawes Who Rode legacy.


Quite a family history, Dawes is, including the VP under Coolidge, Charles Dawes. Anyway, that is Jay’s Willy.     Image

Mine, who may or may not have as illustrious a claim to fame, was Willy Russell, a Massachusetts farmer from Cambridge, born in the 17th century, who lived in Concord, and decided to go to medical school and become a doctor. He was a handsome chap, the family says, and the women in the town would feign illnesses so they could get in to see the tall, dark doc. He ended up saying this was a lot of hooey, and went back to farming.

So we have Willy’s from Massachusetts, and felt that explained our at home feeling when we are in a historic Mass. locale.

We enjoyed many facts of our visit, including standing to watch the Shooting Match with those flint muskets, costumed and shooting at targets for prizes of sheep and such. I was standing next to Mike, from Torrington, and we had a lively conversation about his being a practicing Puritan. Fun.    Image

We had our pork loin with apples and pomegranate at the OxHead Tavern, on the hotel premises, a homey establishment with an illustrious history of its own. We loved the crackling fireplace, good service, good values and friendly people there, including a table visit by the manager, the aproned-Giuseppe Fasulo, who couldn’t have been more cordial.

The Sturbridge Coffee House (The Fireside Inn) in Fiskdale, up the road on Main Street, was also a real treat. Though perhaps not historic in its current form, we loved the coffee and treats, and had two breakfast there, wishing they were closer to us. We have a Panera and a Starbucks, but nothing like this homey place.

All in all, we felt like we had returned to our history, and at Thanksgiving, the perfect time to visit Mass. as descendants of the Mass. SOR (Sons of the Revolution) Willys.