rty-two Bidwell cousins from 15 states and Canada gathered in Hartford, CT for the 2022 Bidwell Family Association Reunion. We welcomed 14 first time reunion attendees to the reunion. The reunion was hosted by BFA President, Tina Bidwell and BFA Treasurer, John Bidwell, Jr. of New York.
Bidwell cousins began arriving on Thursday during the day and evening. Registration began at 4 pm in the hospitality room at Holiday Inn. Attendees picked up their souvenirs and reunion information and many shared stories of their adventures getting to Hartford both by air and by car. At the end of the day, we were all happy to be together once again!
The BFA Officers and Directors in attendance at the reunion met for the annual Board Meeting on Friday morning. BFA Directors, Don Bidwell of Ohio and Kevin White of Oklahoma were honored for their 25th year as serving as a director on the BFA Board! Their 25th year was actually in 2020, but the recognition was delayed due to the pandemic.
After the business of the association was taken care of, we boarded the bus for our Friday tour. We arrived at the Noah Webster house which is the 18th-century birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster, the creator of the first American dictionary and “Blue-Backed Speller”, a teacher and lawyer. During the house tour we learned that the Webster’s had neighbors by the name of Amos & Jacob Bidwell!
We were greeted by friendly staff who had prepared a glorious lunch for our group. The meal started with apple slices & cheese appetizers followed by delicious homemade chicken pot pie and ended with wonderful apple pie topped by real whipped cream! After the lunch, we broke into smaller groups to begin the tours of the house. For those not on tour, colonial times came to life as they tried their hand at tavern games such as Nine Men’s Morrice, Skittles, Shove ‘Ha Penny, and Captain’s Mistress.
Friday evening was free for the attendees to grab dinner or simply rest back at the hotel.
Saturday morning took our group to the oldest historic site in Hartford, the Ancient Burying Ground. The burying ground is adjacent to Center Church, founded by Rev. Thomas Hooker and built in 1636. As the city’s first cemetery, all who died at the time were interred here. The earliest surviving gravestone dates from 1648. The Founder’s Monument is located inside the Ancient Burying Grounds and includes the name of “John Bidwell”.
Saturday evening’s activities began with the BFA General Business meeting. The 2022-23 BFA Officers were sworn in during the installation ceremony lead by BFA Director, Sandra Maslen.
Reunion attendee, Eileen Bidwell, was first to submit her reunion payment and given a small gift from the Reunion Committee. Eileen was also recognized as the oldest reunion attendee and Grace Stith was recognized as the youngest reunion attendee. Donna Rector was honored as the longest married at the reunion. Our dinner prayer was offered by BFA Director, Julia Bidwell, before we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner.
The BFA Memorial Service was held after dinner with the reading of those who passed away from November 2019 to present. BFA 2nd VP, Kevin White and Nan Eagan shared the reading of 60 names on the Memorial List.
The Connecticut Historical Society presented a talk entitled, “Something Old, Something New, Connecticut Weddings through the Ages” in honor of the 382nd wedding anniversary of John Bidwell to Sarah Wilcox on June 26, 1640.
BFA Director, George Bidwell of Canada and Jacob Parmenter of Ohio, shared the auctioneer duties for our annual auction. They were assisted by BFA Treasurer, John Bidwell, Jr. Lynda Bidwell and BFA Secretary, Barb Lewison served as recording secretaries at the auction desk. Our auction was very successful due to the generosity of the attendees and the occasional bidding wars for a much-desired item!
Sunday morning the group boarded the bus for a busy day of tours. Our first stop was Elizabeth Park in West Hartford, CT. Free time was given to explore the gardens or simply to relax on a bench in the shade enjoying the breeze. The Helen S. Kaman Rose Garden, the first municipal rose garden in the United States was in full bloom. Located on one acre, the rose garden opened in 1904. There are over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties.
After the visit to Elizabeth Park, we ventured to the Mark Twain House. We enjoyed a delicious bag lunch in the Carriage House before we broke into smaller groups to tour the house of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. The author lived in the Connecticut
home from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
After the Twain home, we enjoyed two photo stops along the way. The first was a stop at the Bidwell house from the 1600’s or 1700’s (record conflict) and the second stop was at the Nathan Hale Cemetery. Hale was an American hero credited with the last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
The perfect ending for our 2022 reunion was dinner at the Bidwell Tavern in Coventry, CT! The tavern was established in 1822! Reunion attendees enjoyed wonderful meals, drinks, and conversation.
It was a wonderful reunion in Hartford. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and meet new Bidwell cousins for the first time in two years. We look forward to gathering again next year in Omaha Nebraska & Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Attendees of the 2022 BFA Reunion – Hartford, CT
(*denotes first reunion)
Ed & Kathy Wilhelm
Russell Bidwell & Carol Youell*
Joyce & Steve Oaks*
Carol Ann Bidwell
Calvin & Sally Schultz*
Barbara & Melvin Shaver*
John & Tina Bidwell – Reunion Hosts
Neil Bidwell & Mary Boak
Don & Julia Bidwell
John & Sherry Parmenter
Debbi & Jim Wilhelm
Shirley Aravich & Jim Rinker
George & Lynda Bidwell