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Historian Unveils Greenwich's Founding Lady

Look at any historical plaque in Greenwich and it will say the town was founded as a colony of New Haven. But local historian Missy Wolfe wants to set the facts straight. "I looked at the treaty of Hartford and other primary source documents ... and it's absolutely false┬Śwe were Dutch for the first 16 years," she said. "We don't see any vestige of our Dutch heritage in Greenwich anymore."

Wolfe, a longtime resident of Greenwich, said she is interested in dispelling myths about the town's history by reassessing primary documents, rather than relying on history books. "I wanted to know the real stories of Greenwich, and they were so great, but most of them have never been published," said Wolfe.

She holds an MBA from Columbia University and is completing a master's degree in fine arts. She is finishing a book, "Greenwich Mean Times: The Earliest History of Southwestern Connecticut," that discusses how Greenwich's geographical, political, theological and native location caused a power struggle between the colonies.

"It really is like a soap opera," said Wolfe. "My work has been putting a lot of things together, including other research, that I can pull into the picture and present the facts, not just wishful thinking about history."

Wolfe will present a lecture, "The Forbidden Wedding," that explores the Puritan politics of the 1640s that threatened the life of Elizabeth Winthrop Feake Hallett, Greenwich's English female founder. "Elizabeth got this rap as an adulteress and nothing more, and it's so unfair to her," said Wolfe. "The story is so much more complex."

The lecture will address how Hallett was used as a pawn between the New Haven and Connecticut colonies, and the real-life drama that unfolded as a result of her family ties to the controversial theological Puritan John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The illustrated lecture will be held in conjunction with the Greenwich Historical Society's current exhibit, "From This Day Forward: Looking Back at Greenwich Weddings." Her last lecture, "Dutch Directed Massacres Launched from Greenwich" in early 2010, was a sellout, so sign up early. Admission is $10 for historical society members, $15 for nonmembers. The lecture will be held at the Greenwich Historical Society's Vanderbilt Education Center, located at 39 Strickland Road in Cos Cob at 7 p.m. Jan. 25. To reserve a seat, go online or call 203-869-6899.

Are you interested in Greenwich history? Have you visited the Greenwich Historical Society lately? What were you surprised to learn? Leave a comment below.

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