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Historic Desk Comes Home


   Volunteer Nancy Mitchell admiring our desk           

     Thanks to the generosity of ICRC member, Elizabeth Gaynor, the ICRC is now the proud owner of a desk that was used by the ancestors of her late husband, Edwin Schoonover Gaynor, when our building was the Mystic National Bank!
     Mr. Gaynor’s mother, Helena Schoonover, grew up in Old Mystic in the Schoonover house which stood right next to the bank until the 1970s when it was torn down. Helena’s father, Alpheus and her grandfather, John, were both bankers.
   John Schoonover came to Mystic from Stroudsburg, Pa. and married Desire Matilda Hewitt in 1851.  Desire was the daughter of Elias Hewitt (b. 1792, married to Polly Miner in 1817); Elias may have been a banker, too. Banking seems to have run in the family!
John was president of the Mystic National Bank in 1879 and served until the bank closed eight years later. John owned and was president of the two banks that served Old Mystic: the stone bank that was moved to the Seaport and is now the Counting House there; and the other bank that now houses the ICRC collection. John and Desire’s son, Alpheus, was also a banker at one or possibly both of the banks.

     Mrs. Gaynor felt that it was very fitting for the desk to be preserved and appreciated in the setting where it served a vital community function all those years ago.

The ICRC is very grateful for Elizabeth’s generous gift and for her commitment to conserving heirlooms whose stories might be forgotten  –  but shouldn’t be.

Sources: Elizabeth Gaynor’s family memories and “A History of Old Mystic 1600-1990” by Kathleen Greenhalgh, Impact image, 1999.

Introducing ICRC’s Newest Board Members

 The ICRC is delighted that Christopher Rose and George Crouse have agreed to join the Board of Directors. Chris and George jumped right in, contributing their talents and energies to important projects such as refining the organizational bylaws and digitizing fragile, priceless documents. Here are short bios of our newest leaders.

George Crouse

            George grew up in Mystic and attended Stonington public schools. He graduated from Stonington High School and went on to Central Connecticut State University where he majored in Social Sciences and Education. On completing his Masters concentrating in geography, George taught as a lecturer in the Geography Department at CCSU.
After college George and his wife, Ann, returned to live in Old Mystic. Both taught in the Stonington school system. Ann taught at West Vine Elementary School, while George taught at Stonington High where he developed and implemented a course on local history. His career at SHS spanned 37 years.
George continues to coach the high school tennis team. His mentoring over the span of 42 years has enabled his girls’ teams to win numerous ECC championships, making them frequent contenders for state titles. In 2010 George was named the United States Tennis Association New England High School Coach of the Year.
George’s civic contributions include serving as Stonington Police Commissioner and as Stonington’s Second and First Selectman.
George says that he’s very excited to be a director at ICRC because it dovetails perfectly with his enthusiasm for local history. 

Chris Rose

            Chris grew up in Waterford and graduated from Waterford High in 1964. In 1966 he joined the Army and served as an Army photographer in Thailand and West Germany. After the Army he attended Mitchell College and finished his BFA in sculpture at UConn. Chris attended Columbia Teachers College and received a Master of Arts in Art education in 1974.
Chris was recruited to teach at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf at the Gallaudet campus in Washington D.C. During his ten years at Gallaudet he earned his Masters of Fine Arts in ceramics from George Washington University. He and his wife, Rosemarie, and their two children returned to Stonington in 1984 and Chris was hired to teach art at the three Stonington Elementary schools. He also taught elementary art in Colchester, New London, Waterford, East Lyme and Montville. During this time he attended UConn again to earn his Education Supervision credentials.
Chris also served as the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts for four years. After retiring from public education, Chris managed The Gallery at the Light House, Groton for six years. Now completely retired, he has come to the ICRC where he is working to digitize documents and photos in our collection. 

And speaking of the ICRC Board, we’re delighted that Paul Grant-Costa has rejoined the Board’s leadership team after a hiatus during which he was deeply missed!

A warm welcome to our newest members

Thomas Brown, Deborah Donovan,

Michael Gillen, and Joanne Snyder!

Welcome aboard!

       New Fee Schedule Approved

The Board of Directors approved a new schedule of fees involved with research assistance at their March 21 meeting. This new schedule takes into consideration the developments in technology and establishes appropriate fees for accessing and copying of documents, photos and artifacts. We will publish this new schedule of fees on our web page and make patrons aware of these changes as they visit our Research Center.

ICRC to Participate in Connecticut Open House Day

The Indian and Colonial Research Center will be a proud participant in the 12th annual Connecticut Open House Day on Saturday June 11, 2016. The one-day statewide event showcases the diversity of history, art, and tourism that our corner of New England offers.  The ICRC will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with volunteers and ICRC Board members greeting visitors. Mark your calendars! Stop by and help welcome guests or re-familiarize yourself will all the special resources our center has to offer!

All the News That’s Fit to Print – and Preserve

By Carol Sommer, ICRC volunteer

          After three years of volunteering at the ICRC, I haven’t even begun to comprehend all the priceless resources the center holds. Recently I wandered to the back of the library and took a look at the racks of scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings from The Day, the Mystic River Press, and other local papers. It was impressive.
I counted over 120 scrapbooks, but only had time to briefly scan four of them. Still it was wonderful to see the wide range of articles this tiny sample contained!
For example, I found a column by Carol Kimball about the circus coming to Mystic in 1897, complete with a picture of the circus parade crossing the Mystic Bridge as it looked before today’s bascule bridge had been installed. An article by Bill Peterson dated a picture of repair work to the bridge by a sign that read “Charlie Wang First Class Laundry.”  Mystic once had several Chinese laundries and Peterson’s knowledge of when they’d been in operation enabled him to date the photograph and the event.
Another column by Kimball told the story of school children who bought stock at 10 cents per share to underwrite the construction of a missionary ship to bring Christianity to Hawaii.
Other articles that caught my attention included:

  • A first-hand account of the hell of World War I by a 100 year-old local veteran.

  • The opening of the Mashantucket Museum in 1998.

  • The quest for federal recognition by the Nehantics, a people declared extinct in the 1800’s.

  • Danish researchers finding a bracelet, decorated with Thor’s hammer, in Smiths Cove, raising speculation about Viking presence in the Niantic River area.

  • A Norwich book dealer finding a rare first edition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

  • The theft of valuable antique drinking vessels, circa 1777, stolen from the Shaw Mansion in New London but recovered when an alert citizen found them discarded in a garbage can.

  • Two landmarks, the New London Custom House and North Stonington’s Randall’s Ordinary, officially recognized by the Freedom Trail Foundation.

  • The 1997 Green Corn festival in Montville, complete with many photographs.

  • Robert Ballard, of oceanic exploration fame, partnering with the Pequots to search for artifacts off Long Island and New Jersey in 1996.

            This wasn’t even scratching the surface. I could have sat there reading and being entertained for weeks! In fact, I hope to do just that!
One person we have to thank for this treasure trove is Joan Roberts. Over the course of the last twelve years Joan has documented 39 existing scrapbooks that had not been indexed (many contain 100 pages with multiple newspaper clippings per page). Additionally she has kept an eye out for current newspaper articles of historical interest and clipped, pasted, and indexed those as well. Come and browse the scrapbooks and take a look at all the 3X5 index cards in the cabinet drawers. You’ll see what a labor of love this represents.

Joan Roberts preserving memories

[Editor’s Note: Readers are cautioned that, by today’s standards, the use of some herbs as pharmaceuticals may be unsafe and possibly toxic. Use of any plants for medicinal purposes should be pre-approved by your doctor.]

The Indian and Colonial Research Center Library has scores of notebooks with information to suit almost any interest or occasion. At this time of year when winter-weary New Englanders begin garden plans for the coming season, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the many herbs and flowers used in colonial times for food as well as for medicinal purposes. If you are buying seeds for spring and want your choices to reflect this heritage, listed below are a few varieties from which you might choose.

The list, with benefits expected by the colonists, includes:

  • Chamomile – used in baths, as it eases pain and as a tea for settling the stomach.

  • Lavender – can be used to “bathe the temples and forehead with its juices.” Also the smell of the herb helps “swoonings” (sic). Popular as a massage lotion or chopped up in sachets.

  • Liverwort – excellent for inflammation of the liver and yellow jaundice.

  • Mint – provokes hunger and is wholesome for the stomach.

  • Nettle juice – stops bleeding. “Boyle” (sic) in white wine to help a troublesome cough that the women call “chin-cough.”

  • Rosemary – helps stuffiness in the head, while it improves memory.

  • St. John’s Wort –  a good wound herb, given inwardly or applied topically.

  • Thyme – helps relieve coughs and shortness of breath.  

  • Dandelion – “one of our best greens for salads.” The leaves make an excellent pot herb.

  • Chickweed – “leaves or whole plant may be eaten raw, as a salad and cooked like spinach with spinach taste clearly duplicated. A handful of chickweed mixed with some mild mustard makes an acceptable emergency salad in almost any field trip.”

  Following are some “edible seeds” and berries:

  • Garden sunflower – a native plant which is of great importance as a stock and poultry food while it is also eaten by people. Plant is cultivated in Peru and internationally for the production of sun flower oil used as food, in soaps, and on leather.

  • Wild field strawberries – from wild plants. They are smaller than cultivated plants but much sweeter and more delicious.

  • Wintergreen, checkerberry leaves – delicious in spring with fruits. Mixture of blueberries and wintergreen is marvelous. The wintergreen and berries are dry and palatable.

 These are only a few of the many herbs, seeds, and berries used in the colonies. Some may be found in natural food stores as ointments, lotions, oils, sachet choices and other assortments. A treat for the senses!

Reference: ICRC Notebook Plants for Ailments C NB#41(pp.98-113)


    Consider Volunteering at ICRC!


Have you considered volunteering a little of your time between 10:00 to 4:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays? It would be an opportunity to become more familiar with our collections and to greet visitors to the center. Take it from members who already volunteer: it’s a great way to do something for the community, make new friends and contacts, and learn fascinating new things! If you’re interested or would like more information contact us at:

Holiday Greeting


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ICRC Mounts Historical Photograph Exhibit
Celebrating “Commonalities”
     During the month of October, beautiful images from the ICRC collection will be on view in the Ames Room at the Mystic & Noank Library (40 Library Street, Mystic). Charming pictures representing people, places, and events of the past tell the story of our community and the people who lived here, contributing to what it –  and we -are today.
Please join us for a reception in the Ames Room from 7:00 to 8:30PM on Monday, October 5th, but if you can’t make the reception, stop by and check out the exhibit which will be in place until the end of the month!
On the Web
     Thanks to member and volunteer, Marcus Maronn, the ICRC has an informative narrative and map on the website, ‘This is Mystic!’  The site features events, restaurants, and places to visit, sort of a one-stop shopping for fun things to do locally.  It’s great to have more community visibility!
Check it out at!

6th Annual History Fair
Hosted by the Groton Public Library

at 2 Newtown Road, Groton,
Saturday September 26th from 1-4 PM.
 The ICRC will have a table at the Fair along with other organizations representing local history including the Hempstead House, the New London County Historical Society, the DAR, the SAR, the Groton Historical Society, the Mystic River Historical Society, the Stonington Historical Society, the Denison Homestead, the Avery Association, the Friends of Fort Griswold and many others. History books and other memorabilia will be available for purchase. There will be door prizes and a colonial magician!! This free event is open to the public.

A Call for Volunteers!

We thank all members for their financial support.  Consider volunteering a little of your time during our open hours from 10:00 to 4:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It would be an opportunity to get to know our collections better and to greet visitors to the center. If we could obtain interested volunteers we would consider opening on an occasional Saturday to attract those visitors that can not come during a weekday. If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information contact us at:


The Journey of the Jonny Cake
By Jane Schoonover, ICRC Volunteer

             The original spelling of the word “jonny-cake” was “journey-cake,” and was so named because it could be prepared quickly and could be carried very easily by the Indians when they were making a long journey.
According to Thomas Hazard in his book, “The Jonny-cake papers of ‘Shepherd Tom,’” these delicious portable goodies were the “favorite food of the gods.”  Hazard notes that after the War of Independence the name journey-cakes morphed into the more familiar jonny-cakes.
Old fashioned journey-cakes were first made by the Narragansetts of Rhode Island.   The cakes had to be made on a red-oak journey-cake board, an essential implement of frontier cooking. According to an 1863 entry in “An American Glossary,”  journey-cakes consisted of corn meal, pounded in a wooden mortar   …The dough, when prepared, was spread upon a piece of shaved clapboard 3-4” wide-15-20” long, baked upon the hearth. When both sides were perfectly done it was called journey-cake or jonny-cake.”
“An American Glossary” continues, “This article of food was used by the Indians of the interior on their long marches to and from their summer resorts on the Southern shores of the Atlantic being Narragansett and Newport.” Sometimes on treks between Rhode Island and Cape Cod, the Indians would stop to rest in New Bedford where they refreshed themselves with the journey cakes they were carrying. The area behind that city’s historical society is aptly named Johnny Cake Hill. (Here in Connecticut we have our own Johnny Cake Hill Road in Old Lyme!)
Faith Damon Davison, ICRC member and former archivist for the Mohegan Tribe, has graciously shared the following recipe. Give it a try!

Recipe for Journey Cakes


2 cups of water
2 cups of corn meal
2 tsps. Salt
2 tbls. of butter (probably used animal grease)
½ cup dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, cherries) or chopped nuts.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in corn meal, salt, butter & berries or nuts. Place in the bottom of a greased 8” square pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cut into squares and serve. (Serves 6-8)

 Mark Your Calendars
for the Annual Membership Meeting
and Buffet Luncheon
November 14th from 11:30 – 2:30
at Go Fish
in Olde Mistick Village
Exit 90 off I-95

We are extremely fortunate to have as guest speaker, Dr. Brian D. Jones,
whose topic will be  “Five Things Everyone Should Know about the Native American Archaeology of Connecticut.” 


Dr. Jones began as Connecticut State Archaeologist in 2014. He has worked in the archaeology field for over 25 years. He received his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Oberlin College in 1986. After living and traveling in Southeast Asia, he studied European prehistory at the University of Cologne, Germany; he returned to the U.S. in 1992 to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Dr. Jones was engaged in various archaeological positions including a position as Tribal Archaeologist for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Senior Archaeologist for AHS, Inc. in Storrs, Associate Director of UMass Archaeological Services in Amherst, and has taught as an adjunct in the Anthropology Department at UConn since 2004. His primary research focus is the archaeology of northeastern Native American cultures. His dissertation explored human adaptation to the changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age.

Hope to See You There!

Go Fish Mystic County's Sea Food Restaurant

   Welcome New Members!


A warm welcome to our newest members:
Bruce Carpenter, Craig Cipolla, Alice Foley, Neil Goodenough,
Chad Jones, Keli Levine, and John Russell  

Happy to have you on board!

Copyright © 2015 The Indian & Colonial Research Center, Inc., All rights reserved.
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The Indian & Colonial Research Center, Inc.

39 Main Street
P.O. Box 525

Old Mystic, CT 06372

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39 Main Street
P.O. Box 525

Old Mystic, CT 06372

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