Sunday Spotlight: Bristol's connection to Sir Winston Churchill

Published on Saturday, 13 May 2017 21:20
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

Jerome Avenue in Bristol is named after the Jerome family that lived there, one that has had a number of its family members connected to notoriety and success. There’s a lot off research on this family and it has been done by different individuals through the years, although it is not an easy task. However, the results are an interesting part of Bristol’s rich history and bragging rights.

Abigail Jerome Deming

Among them is Abigail Jerome, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Winston Churchill, and she is buried here at Downs Cemetery. Her headstone reads: Deming, Abigail, wife of Timothy Jerome, deceased, Died November 18, 1711 in 85th year.”

Timothy and Abigail (Rich) Jerome had 10 children with their son, Samuel, being a direct ancestor of Churchill. Three of Samuel’s brothers, William, Timothy and Zerubbabel, would settle in Bristol somewhere around 1740, a dozen years after Bristol’s first settler, Ebenezer Barnes. Timothy died in 1750 and his widow would go on to marry Jacob Deming of Kensington. Deming died shortly afterwards and with this, Abigail moved to Bristol to live with her son, William. William Jerome’s house, still an occupied residence, is located at 367 Jerome Ave.

Jeannete Jerome

This lady was Churchill’s mother and there have been books written about her. She was known as Jennie and at the age of 20 married Lord Randolph Churchill, who was 25 years old. Jennie was a beautiful young lady. The couple were married in April 1874 and Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in November of that year, seven months later.

It was said that Jennie’s father, Leonard Jerome, was a New York City newspaper owner who enjoyed money and good times. Jennie, who had a bit of Iroquois blood, it was said, may have inherited her father’s “good time” ways. Many of the Churchill biographies make mention of Churchill’s “so called” premature birth.

Harriet Jerome

Harriet Louise Jerome, known as “Hattie,” was Churchill’s first cousin. She was born in Bristol in 1859 at the family residence at 243 Jerome Ave. and died at age 97. Her parents were Mary (Parker) Jerome and Daniel Jerome, and interesting to note, both of her parents and aunt and uncle, William and Louise Jerome Blud, had also died there.

Bristol resident Rose Dubowsky’s grandmother, Alice Downs, lived with Harriet for six years at her residence on Jerome Avenue, where she took care of her. Rose added that Florence Reimer was in charge of Harriet’s care with Alice working under her. Rose visited The Bristol Press in sharing this information last week.

Following Harriet’s death, the general opinion was that it was the end of the Jerome family line in Bristol. However, there are probably a good number of descendants here and some have or may not have traced their family origins in claiming the fact. Because of the number of Jerome women who had children, at one time a half-century ago it was believed there could be 100 or so in town with a family connection.

Chauncey Jerome - Tory

A Millicent Hull once did an extensive study of the Jerome family and four descendants were traced to the Churchill lineage: Jeannette Jerome and Harriet Jerome, who have been already outlined here, and Chauncey Jerome, the Tory, a supporter of the British during the Revolutionary War, and Chauncey Jerome, the clockmaker.

Chauncey, the Tory and son of Zerubbabel, was known as “Jerome the Tory.” He was well-known as a Tory and at one time had to hide from his patriotic neighbors in escaping after being hung by his thumbs from an apple tree. Eventually, he and other Tories were captured and imprisoned in Hartford and were only released after agreeing to “join their country and do their utmost for its defense.” This took place in May of 1777, two months after Moses Dunbar, the area’s most notable Tory, was executed for his loyalties, the lone Connecticut man to have been.

Chauncey would later marry Dunbar’s widow. They would move elsewhere, but return to the area when peace returned to the state. It was said that despite his original penchant for being a Tory, he was respected in town upon his return. He became a devoted member of the Bristol Baptist Church and in his later years could be found at the North Side corner, walking there with a cane while his crop of white hair blew in the breeze.

Chauncey Jerome - Clockmaker

Much has been written here about this member of the Jerome family, a collateral descendant of Chauncey, the Tory. He developed himself into a successful clockmaker and at one time had the largest such business in the country before his factory was burned to the ground in 1845.

This hit him hard, because expensive equipment and 50,000 clock parts were burned. He moved to New Haven and set up shop there and eventually served as mayor of the city. He had previous political experience having had served in the General Assembly for Bristol.

One of his ventures was inventing an inexpensive brass clock that took the place of previously produced wooden clocks. These new clocks would be sent over the ocean without being damaged and millions of them successfully completed the trip unscathed.

He didn’t squander his money in making contributions that allowed both Bristol and New Haven to erect churches, the Congregational Church and Wooster Place Church, respectively.

Chauncey’s name remains familiar today, because his home on South Street has been occupied by the Bristol Elks organization for many years.

Bob Montgomery can be reached at 860-584-0501, ext. 1808, or by email at bmontgomery@bristolpress.com.



Posted in Newington Town Crier, Bristol, General News on Saturday, 13 May 2017 21:20. Updated: Saturday, 13 May 2017 21:22.