Ray found Freegrace and Jerusha Leavitt a few weeks ago. It's his habit to do a weekly Google search for Mr. Leavitt, the gentleman who built the eponymously named Freegrace Tavern in 1794. Every few weeks, more and more historical archives find their way onto the gloriously cluttered World Wide Web.
He's uncovered gems before, like transcribed pages from Thaddeus Leavitt's diary, the elder brother of Freegrace. The entry from May 1st, 1788 describes what we believe could have been Freegrace Leavitt's first step in securing the land that would later hold Freegrace Leavitt Tavern.
Each of these discoveries is a treasure found. But nothing compares to what Ray unearthed in late October. He'd actually located Freegrace and his wife Jerusha, their portraits at least, in a small antique shop in southern Vermont. We visited them. We stared at them both for what seemed like hours, as discretely as one does when trying not to look too interested. We left without them. We told the lovely shop keepers that we needed to discuss the possibility of purchase amongst ourselves. We hopped into the car and waited to pull out of the driveway before we felt it safe to look at each other and yell, "HOLY SHIT!" in unison.
After a week of finagling on all kinds of fronts and having conversations that always ended in, "We'll have to consider this Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to both of us for the next few years," we returned to fetch our predecessors and brought them home. We don't know where the paintings originally hung. We do know that they were painted between 1802 and 1803 by an itinerant painter and the likely painter is a man named William Jennys. I imagine they sat in the front parlor for the artist while tavern customers and the Leavitt children milled about, admiring the progress. And now they're home again, after all these years.
I think it will come as no surprise to any of you that the house has been much cleaner since the Leavitts have returned. I need only say my good mornings to Jerusha and I notice she's judging me and the dust that I've allowed to settle around her.