June 6, 1989
For the last family reunion, Janet Best wrote about her mother and father, Vale Oressa Babcock Van Boskirk and Robert Hayden (Robin) Van Boskirk. That inspired me to put on paper what I had learned about Vale's parents and grandparents, and to do a little additional research into our early ancestors for the 1989 Van Boskirk Family Reunion.
What follows is an account of the lives of Grandma Van's parents - Lora Vale Bristol and Everett Cicero Babcock - and their respective parents (this is made somewhat easier because Lora and Everett were first cousins, so there are only three families involved). Following this is a cursory history of the Bristols, Babcocks, and Weeks, going back to our first ancestors to come to America, and some charts to help you keep everyone straight.
It turns out that both the Bristols and the Babcocks came from England to America around 1640, each family settling in a different part of New England. The branch of each family from which we are descended produced generation after generation of pioneers who followed a similar pattern of westward migration, first to the western parts of their colonies, then to central New York, then farther west in New York, and then to south central Wisconsin. The two families made these moves at close to the same time, and each of their moves west corresponds with the dates of earliest settlement of these regions. It was in Wisconsin that the Bristols and Babcocks cemented their parallel fates by intermarrying and moving their families once again westward to settle an area of north central Nebraska in the North Loup River Valley.
You will notice that there is less information about our female ancestors than the males. Because it is the father/husband's family name which is adopted by the wife and children, genealogical research by nature focuses on the men who confer these names and tends to work less hard at documenting their women. To make matters worse, the task of documenting the lives of early settlers using family Bibles, records of town meetings, wills, lists of inhabitants, etc., is made more difficult in the case of the women because these early women could not hold citizenship, public office or vote. So only their births, deaths, and marriage are recorded and their names rarely appeared in other town records.
My sources, family oral history, letters and diaries, published genealogies, biographical sketches written by family members about their dear departed, American history texts, and some interpretation of my own, vary in factual reliability. Corrections and additions are welcome.
LORA VALE BRISTOL AND HER FAMILY
Lora Vale Bristol was born in 1868 in Omaha to Cicero Lathrop Bristol and his wife Mary Josephine Weeks. In 1879, when she was about 11, her father moved the family, which by then included a son, Leland Emerson, four, to the wilds of western Montana, on the Idaho border, supposedly because of Mary's frail health. Within the year, Mary, 35, died. After about a year, Cicero decided to send the children to Ord, Nebraska, to live with Cicero Babcock, Lora would eventually marry. The children returned to their father in Montana for two years and then were sent to North Loup, Nebraska, to live with another aunt, Dora Bristol Horr.
Cicero himself stayed on in Montana until 1910, earning a living by various means including driving a stagecoach, prospecting, and herding horses. He also ran a trading camp where he acted as a agent to the Indians on behalf of the federal government. Cicero was a great reader, and his letters are well-written. He was particularly interested in tracing and preserving his family's history, and he often wrote to Bristol relatives around the country in that regard. One night when Cicero was reading by the firelight in his hut on a ranch in Montana, two fugitive cattle rustlers burst in upon him, seeking refuge. Their pursuers, close on their heels, captured them in Cicero's cabin. Despite Cicero's urgings to give the men a fair trial, the vigilantes found them guilty and sentenced them on the spot. Dawn the next morning found them hanging, dead, from Cicero's corral gate post. That same day Cicero took his hatchet and dismantled his gate post.
When he was about thirteen, Lora's brother, Leland, was sent from North Loup to live with his mother's brother, Raymond Weeks, who was completing his degree at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Leland's Uncle Raymond saw to it that Leland got the best possible education, first sending him to the Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts a prestigious prep school even today, and then to Harvard where he received his undergraduate and law degrees. Leland taught law at the University of Missouri and then Haverill, Massachusetts. In 1910, when he was almost 35, Leland fell ill with appendicitis, and traveled to Portland, Oregon, of an operation. His death, probably of pneumonia following the operation, occurred thirty years to the day after his mother died, also thirty five years old at her death. Leland's wife moved with their very young son, Donald Bristol, back to Massachusetts. Donald Bristol's widow, Frances, is still living in White River Junction, Vermont. I have spoken with her, and she has put me in touch with the Bristol Family Association (which is having a reunion in August in Bristol, Connecticut if anyone is interested).
Lora Vale Bristol married Everett Cicero Babcock, her first cousin, in 1888. They settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they lived their entire married life. Their first child, Rettie May was born in September, 1889. In January, 1892, not quite 2-and-a-half years old, Rettie May died of "la grippe" (influenza). Her death cast a shadow over the birth of their second child, Vale Oressa, born September 3, only 8 months after Rettie May's death. I don't think Lora was ever able to stop grieving for Rettie May. Her diary entry for January 7, 1912, the twentieth anniversary of Rettie May's death, reads "Sunday: Arose with misgivings. The day looked long and hard to me. Kept busy until 11:30 - Went then to church to wash communion cups. Ev helped wipe and carry water and put up. Was a dear. Vale had [prepared] a poor dinner & not ready & nothing I liked. Felt ill and cried a little. Ate toast & coffee alone in kitchen."
Lora took a vote among her family to settle on a name for her second daughter. "Vale Oressa", a combination of Lora's and her aunt/mother-in-law's middle names, won, garnering a total of two votes. A third child Harry Leland, was born in 1895.
Lora was an attractive, small woman, under five feet tall with tiny size 4 feet, who liked to dress well. Her diaries give a picture of woman who was intelligent and ambitious, who had a wonderful dry wit, a passion for learning and culture, enormous energy, and a lively, gregarious nature. She was active in her church and in the presbytery, but seemed no more than conventually religious. She was an early feminist of a sort, which I'm sure is responsible for her daughter's receiving a university degree at a time when women were thought to need only a basic education. She did not easily embrace people of other ethnic groups or social classes and could be intractable when she felt strongly about something. Lora objected to her daughter, Vale's, marriage to Robin Van Bosirk because, although Robin was working towards a degree, his family was not well educated. She and Vale sometimes had to resort to communicating via notes pinned to one another's pillows. (This may be why Vale ad Robin decided to elope). Lora boycotted my mother's wedding to Charley Salem, the son of a Swedish immigrant mother and a Syrian immigrant father. I found a letter she had written in which she worries that Syrians and possibly Swedes (she allows she doesn't know much about the Swedes) don't hold their women in particularly high esteem -- "on a pedestal" was how she put it.
Lora was deeply affected by her brother, Leland's, death in 1910. My impression from reading her diaries is that she tried to lead as active and energetic a life as the time and her income would allow, and I think sometimes she felt frustrated at her limitations. To compensate, she expected those close to her to meet her rather high expectations. Lora adored her handsome, intelligent brother an took enormous pride in his accomplishments. His death was for her a defeat to her belief system as well as a deeply felt personal loss.
In her earlier 1910 diary, Lora seems happy and energetic, constantly active with her clubs and organizations a work for the First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, where she and Everett lived their entire married life. Lora was fairly well educated (the Browne School in Omaha) -- she corresponded with her uncle Raymond Weeks in French -- and she seemed always to be studying up for a talk she was to give to the history club or the art department of the Women's Club, or attending Women's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) meetings and going to art exhibits. A day didn't go by that she didn't walk downtown (they lived first at 14th and b and then on 22nd between C and D) to shop or meet a friend for lunch. From the sound of it she was one of Miller & Paine's better customers.
By 1912, Lora's mood has changed. Lora experiences extreme mood swings, suffering bouts of depression, especially during the winter months, She may have suffered form an intolerance of low levels of sunlight, but perhaps she was just plain intolerant of the severe Nebraska climate. She resents the terms on which she must live her life. There is never enough money. Her father, 74, has come to live with them. His presence annoys her and she is afraid to leave him alone; she still mourns the three tragic deaths in her life, her mother's, her baby daughter's, and her brother's. Everett, her husband of 24 years, is a public accountant whose practice extends from Des Moines to Chadron and so on the road much of the time. Her seventeen -year-old son Harry gives her fits -- she often describes staying up waiting for him to come home, not knowing his whereabouts for days at a time, and having to help him out of scrapes. Vale, who is 20 years old, is starting to have gentlemen callers. Lora must be beginning to realize that her children will soon be gown, leaving her very much alone.
Everett Cicero Babcock was born to Heman Allen Babcock and Retta (Theressa Oressa) Bristol in Dakota, Wisconsin, in 1863 and moved with his parents to Brookfield, Missouri in 1866 and then to Valley County, Nebraska, in 1872. He lived the life of a typical pioneer as a boy. He went to school in a dug-out and then a log cabin. When his father was elected County Clerk of Valley County, in 1876, they moved to Ord., where he attended school. He finished high school at Hastings, took one term of college at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and two years at Alfred University, the school founded by the Seventh Day Baptists, in Alfred, New York. He then took a business course at Burlington, Iowa. After their marriage in 1888, he and Lora moved to Lincoln, where he worked in the State Auditor's office, and as Deputy Treasurer, succeeding his father who died in office. Everett was a public accountant for many years, and became certified in 1914, the third in the state. He was the first Nebraskan to pass the examination for membership in the American Institute of Accountants and he was chosen to help the federal government in setting up and applying the new federal income tax in 1918. He was appointed State Accountant in 1931, the year he died. He also served as one of the examiners in the investigation of failed state banks. E.C. held leadership positions in his professional organizations and in the First Presbyterian Church.
In the photographs I've included there is one of Lora, Everett, Vale, Harry, Retta Bristol (her aunt and mother-in-law) and E.C.'s brother Royal and his wife Mamie, and lawyer. I especially like that picture of Lora because she looks so dreamy, as though she wishes she were somewhere else, perhaps choosing some new dress fabric, or anywhere but under the stern gaze of her mother-in-law. The others in the picture look pretty severe too.
Retta Bristol Babcock always looks a little stern in her pictures. I suppose she had to be. She had lived a hard life. She was born in 1842 in Dakota, Wisconsin, where her family had recently moved (between 1836-1839) from western New York, one of seven children born to Rev. Ira Sherman Bristol (a circuit-riding preacher) and Nancy Henrietta Warner Brown. Retta's husbands family, the Babcocks, moved to Berlin, Wisconsin in 18?? and then to Dakota, Wisconsin, in 1849, also from western New York. I speculate that the two families may have known each other back East and that may explain why they ended up in the same part of Wisconsin. In any case, Retta and her sister Metta Bristol married Babcock brothers Heman Allen and Oscar, respectively. Another sister, Dora, married their cousin, Henry Babcock, who died in 1862 of a head wound received on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh in the Civil War. (Retta also lost brother, Lawrence, in the Civil War.) Heman and Oscar's father, the Rev. George Clark Babcock, was a minister also, ordained in Berlin, Wisconsin, by the Seventh Day Baptist Church. Oscar became a Seventh Day Baptist minister as well, and was ordained in the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Dakota.
Things got too settled in Wisconsin to suit these pioneering spirits, and after his release from the army after the Civil War, Heman led a group to settle in Albert Lea, Minnesota. One winter there was enough and the group, including his sister Delia and father started out by team for Brookfield, Missouri where they tried unsuccessfully for six years to build up farms. When they learned that Oscar, still in Wisconsin, was forming a group of Seventh Day Baptists to settle in Nebraska, Heman and his fellow settlers decided to join them. So Heman drove out with his wife and child in a covered wagon to meet Oscar so that they could pick a place for the new settlement. They chose a spot in the valley of the North Loup River. Then they traveled back to their homes in Wisconsin and Missouri to make ready for the move. Before they could leave, Oscar's wife, Metta, died, leaving him with four children (Oscar outlived two more wives before his death in 1914). The group traveled by wagon to Nebraska in 1872 and founded North Loup, Nebraska, and helped to organize Valley County. The Seventh Day Baptist Church they established there was at one time the largest in the country. In Heman's biography Retta writes of the prairie fires, grasshopper plagues, tornadoes, and other hardships these early settlers had to endure:
In 1876 after the harvest, a terrible prairie fire swept through that region for many miles, that nothing could stay until it reached the North Loup river, beyond [Heman's] place. It burned sixty acres of his wheat, stacked for the threshing, all of his fat hogs, and his chickens... His son Everett, was making a trip to Grand Island for supplies with the work horses and big wagon and was safe. His wife and baby boy, an sister and baby girl, had gone with the single horse and carriage to visit some old Dakota friends, a long distance from home, and were right in range of this fire; and although they saw that it looked dangerous, they did not realize that it was so near until some men fleeing for their lives, saw them an frantically called out 'run your horse for life.' She ran like the wind and the flames swept over the ground, just as they had cleared the spot... Edwin, the eldest son of Rev. Oscar Babcock, sixteen years old, was near Mira Creek...when the fire came sweeping upon him in all its fury before he knew it; but he had presence of mind to slide down the steep banks covered with long dry grass and lie down in the narrow stream. rolling over and over in the shallow water, while the fire rushed over him. Even so he was singed a little and carries the scars to this day.
Heman and Oscar were leaders through all the ordeals the homesteaders encountered. Oscar was a moral and religious leader to the group, as well as serving as postmaster and putting in one term in the state legislature. Heman was the first sheriff of Valley County. Retta writes, "...in 1873 [he] was elected the first sheriff, and made the first arrest, that was made in Valley County, that of a man by the name of McKellar, who killed a citizen in Arcadia. There was no jail in the county at that time, and he brought the murderer to his own house, and employed Mr. George Larkin to guard him upstairs where he slept, while he guarded the lower part of the house. The prisoner was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the penitentiary for life." Heman was also elected County Clerk, and Clerk of the District Court. He was involved in organizing the firs National Bank of Ord, was in the insurance business, and practiced law. He moved to Lincoln an served State government at State Auditor of Public Accounts, Insurance Commissioner, and Deputy State Treasurer.
ABOUT THE EARLY BABCOCKS
James Badcock (1612-1679) (the spelling was later changed to Babcock) came with his family to Portsmouth in the colony of Rhode Island sometime between 1638, when it was founded and 1642. He was voted an "inhabitant" of the town of Portsmouth in 1642 and was made a freeman (citizen) in 1648. He was appointed to various tasks in service to the town: he mended arms (guns), he was sent with a party to deal with the Indian leaders, and to deal with the representatives of other towns. He doled out parcels of land to those who wanted it and settled boundary disputes. A year before his death James was baptized and joined the Seventh Day Baptist church of Newport and Westerly. The Seventh Day Baptist church had been founded in this county only 6 years earlier in Newport, Rhode Island. The Seventh Day Baptist Church was related to the Sabbaterian Church in England.
In 1660 a tract of land in what is now Westerly, Rhode Island, on the Connecticut border, was purchased from the Indians by the Misquamicut Company, of Newport. James and his second son, John (16544-1685) (by his first wife, Sarah), were members of his company and were among the first permanent setters there. Possession of this area was disputed by Massachusetts and by Connecticut as well as Rhode Island so that in addition to dealing with the Indians, these early settlers had to contend with the aggressions of other colonies. In 1675, King Philip's War, the most vicious of the Indian Wars, broke out. While most of the other inhabitants of Westerly fled to the island of Rhode Island for protection, John and his family stayed put. As late as 1945, John's descendants were living on the original parcel of land on which John and his wife, Mary Lawton, built their first house. John served as Conservator of the Peace and Deputy to the Colonial Legislature. John Badcock died intestate, and when the Town Council of Westerly made up his will they spelled his name Babcock and it has been spelled that way ever since. Among his considerable holdings they listed "one negger boy, two Injin men and Indian garls."
Captain John Babcock (1669-1746), second son of John Babcock and Mary Lawton, married his first cousin, Mary Champlin. He held many public offices, surveyor, fence viewer, tax assessor, town councilman, town clerk, probate clerk, rate maker, captain of the militia deputy to the general assembly and justice of the peace.
Ichabod Babcock (1703-?), second son of Captain John and Mary Champlin, married his first cousin, Jemima Babcock. They were members of the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Westerly. Although Rhode Island had been founded by Roger Williams on the principle of religious tolerance, by 1724 the General Assembly warned the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Westerly to cease their "continual practice of doing servile labor on the first day off the week...lest they incur the further displeasure of this Assembly and put them on a more rigorous method of suppressing the aforementioned enormities."
Joseph Babcock (1735?-1804?), second son of Ichabod and Jemima (Babcock) Babcock, had one child with his first wife Hannah Champlin and had 10 children with his second wife, Hannah Ross. His second son, John (1773-1851) moved with his wife Damarius Crandall from Westerly to Brookfield, south of Syracuse, New York, two years after their marriage in 1794. Then in 1831 they moved west again with their children to Persia, Cattaraugus County, New York, near Lake Erie. John was a school teacher as a young man, then in later years was a contractor and a farmer. Their son George Clark (1810-?) was a Seven Day Baptist minister who, with his wife, Almira Ruth Brown, had three children: Oscar, who, although poorly educated, also became a Seventh Day Baptist minister, and married Metta Bristol Delia, who married Henry Chase, who was wounded alongside the fatally wounded Lawrence Bristol in the Civil War; and Heman, who received a good liberal arts education married Metta's sister Retta. George Clark Babcock moved his family from Persia, New York to Rock Prairie, Wisconsin in 1845 and then to Dakota, Wisconsin in 1849. Just after the Civil War his children left Wisconsin to move west, into Minnesota, Missouri and finally settling in Nebraska in 1872. George Babcock was pastor of Seventh Day Baptist churches in Berlin and Dakota, Wisconsin and Brookfield, Missouri, so he apparently moved with o?? followed his children Heman and Delia when they moved there. It is unclear whether he stayed on or went with them later to Nebraska.
ABOUT THE EARLY BRISTOLS
Our earliest immigrant Bristol ancestor, Henry Bristowe (1625-1695) came to New Haven, Connecticut, from England, possibly as a stowaway, a few years after New Haven was founded in 1638. His older brother, Richard, emigrated at about the same time although they traveled separately and Richard settled in Guilford, Connecticut. Henry was indentured to a cooper and took his freeman's oath in 1646 when he was about 21. In addition to his trade of cooper, he was a meat packer and farmer. He was appointed fence viewer and later to "gage casks for this yar." Court records show he was fined for walking around with his sword point extending dangerously out of its broken scabbard. Another time he was acquitted of he charge of sleeping while on watch.
John Bristol (1659-1735), Henry's son by his second wife, Lydia Brown, was licensed in 1701 to "retail strong drink." He served the town as inspector, surveyor of highways a tithing man. John and his grown sons moved from New Haven west to Newtown, Connecticut sometime after 1726. Joseph Bristol (1689-1769), son of John and his first wife, Mehitable, married Sarah Smith.
The sixth (of 12) child of John and Mehitable, Enos (1712-1768), married Mary Sherman. They also had 12 children many of who relocated to Sandgate, Vermont, and then to Aurelius (now Auburn) New York, near the Finger Lakes, along with their Bristol aunts, uncles and cousins. Enos and Mary's first son, our ancestor Job (1744-1809), served in the American Revolution for 8 days with the "Alarm Northward" from Sandgate, Vermont. Job owned land in Aurelius but his death is recorded in Genessee County, New York, which is farther west, almost on Lake Erie. Job married Adah Sherman, by whom he had 5 children and the Hannah Bristol (I can't tell in this her maiden or married name) with whom he had four more children, among them our ancestor, James (1780-1827), who was probably born in Sandgate and died in Jamestown in western New York. His widow, Sarah Munger moved to Wisconsin to be near her children who had moved there, and there she died.
James and Sarah's son Ira Sherman Bristol (1809-1885) was born in Auburn, New York, the year his grandfather Job Bristol died. Ira moved with his family from Auburn to Jamestown, New York. In 1831 he married Nancy Henrietta Warner Brown (1812-1884) and moved her family to Bristol, Wisconsin, between 1836 and 1839. Ira was a circuit-riding preacher who moved with his wife to North Loup, Nebraska, sometime after 1872 to join their daughters who had moved there earlier. Ira and Nancy had seven children. Of them four were daughters and three of the four married Babcocks:
1. Catherine Mara (Kate) (1832-?) married John Laurentine Pope and had two daughters, Dora and Carrie Pope.
2. Marietta Amanda (Metta) (1835-?) married Rev. Oscar Babcock, and had four children, Myra, George, Edwin and Arthur. Metta died of typhoid fever just before the big move from Dakota, Wisconsin to North Loup.
3. Cicero Lathrop (18376-1917) married Mary Josephine Weeks (1848-1880). Both their children, Lora Vale and Leland Emerson, were born in Omaha prior to their moving to western Montana in about 1879. Mary died the following year, aged 35 years.
4. Lawrence Millard Theodore (1839-1864) never married, died in New York City of wounds received in Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War. His sister Kate rushed from Wisconsin to Ne York at the news of his injury but he died before she could get there. She made arrangements to transport his body by train back to Wisconsin for burial and accompanied the body on the long journey.
5. Medora Eliza (Dora) (1841-?) who married (1) Henry Babcock who was killed in the Civil War (2) S. P. Horr, and (3) O. M. Parkinson. Dora moved with her second husband and two sons, Oscar (?) and Lawrence(?) with the others to North Loup.
6. Theressa Oressa (Retta) (1842-1917) who married Heman Babcock and with whom she had two sons, Everett Cicero, who was born in Wisconsin, and Royal O. who was born in North Loup.
7. Henry Orland (1844-?)
ABOUT THE WEEKS (Lora Bistol Babcock's mother's people)
(Based on a conversation of May 11, 1989 with Joseph Weeks, grandson of Raymond Weeks who was Lora's uncle.)
The Weeks are descended from Francis Weeks who came to Salem, Massachusetts in the 1620's. His name is not on any ship's rolls so he may have been a stowaway; he was certainly an illiterate, unable even to sign his name. He had religious differences with the Pilgrims so he moved with Roger Williams to found Providence in the 1640's. He apparently had a falling out with Williams, so he moved to Harlem in what is now New York City. Again, he did not get along with the Dutch who had settled there and moved to Oyster Bay on Long Island. There is a Weeks House in Oyster Bay, and Weeks Point. The Weeks stayed in Oyster Bay for a generation then moved to the Wyoming Valley near Scranton, Pennsylvania. Because some of the family had intermarried with the Indians, some of the Weeks survived the Wyoming Valley Massacre in which the Iroquois, who were allied with the British during the American Revolution slaughtered all but 60 of the settlers in this part of the American frontier. Jonathan Weeks was among those who survived. His son did not and so Jonathan raised his son's children. The Weeks family still have the Kentucky rifle Jonathan Weeks used in the American Revolution.
The family migrated to western New York, Sheridan, in Chautauqua County, where Lora Bristol Babcock's mother, Mary Josephine Weeks, was born in 1845, and then to Missouri where Mary's younger brother, Raymond, the youngest in the family, was born. (I wondered if Mary could have met and fallen in love with Cicero L. Bristol, when he was visiting his sister, Retta, who, with her husband, Heman, was homesteading in Brookfield, Missouri. Mary and Cicero married in Tabor, Iowa in 1865 and Lora was born three years later in Omaha.) Mary's brother, Raymond Weeks, rode the mails and told stories about being shot at by Indians in Missouri. He married a daughter of the well-to-do Arnoldia family and came back East and went to Harvard, specializing in Medieval French. He taught for some time at the University of Missouri and at the University of Missouri and at the University of Minnesota. Then at Columbia University in New York City he was the head of the French and Romance Languages Department. In 1910 Raymond became editor of romance language publications for Oxford University Press.
During World War I, Raymond tried to enlist with the French army but they wouldn't have him, so he joined the American Field Service and drove an ambulance in France (shades of Hemingway). He was invited to teach at the Sorbonne but declined, saying it was not right for an American to be teaching Medieval French to Frenchmen. Raymond was also the author of several published short stories. The pinnacle of his literary career was when one of his stories was published in a collection of the best short stories of 1922 along with one of Ernest Hemingway's. It was Raymond Weeks who persuaded Edison (RCA) to use recordings to teach the phonetics of foreign languages. He served as president of the American Institute of Phonetics.
Once, on a trip down south in the 1920's, Raymond's wife was in Richmond in the spring and mentioned to a companion how lovely it was and how she'd like to live there. Someone told her the old Dietrich place ten miles away in Manakin was for sale. She saw it, liked it, and bought it, the house and 500 acres for $5,000. She moved right in, and Raymond summered there until he retired, when he moved there for good. The house, build before and during the Civil War is called Rochambeau (I didn't find out if they named it that or if it was already called that). Raymond had three children, Hugh, Joseph and Elie. Joseph inherited the house and now his son, also named Joseph (Raymond's grandson), and his wife have inherited it and are in the process of moving in. Joseph's younger sisters Ann Weeks Hancock and Lydia Lee Weeks, who writes romance novels published by Harlequin, inherited part of the now 300 acres that accompany the house.