Orange, Connecticut is a small town, west of New Haven. It’s where my husband grew up and where we visit yearly. When I found a Grace Coolidge letter written from Orange, my curiosity was piqued. Did Grace Coolidge really spend time in Orange, a town I know so well? As it turns out, yes she did!
The Coolidge’s son John and his young family, Grace Coolidge’s “precious four” as she referred to them, did indeed live in Orange. John Coolidge, in 1925, as an Amherst College Phi Gamma Delta, met Florence Trumbull, a Mount Holyoke student and daughter of the Governor of Connecticut, as they traveled on a train to the inauguration festivities in Washington.
On September 23, 1929, Florence and John married in Plainville, Connecticut. “As the couple gave their vows in a simple, seven minute ceremony, Professor William C. Hammond, of Mount Holyoke College, the bride’s alma mater, softly played ‘White’s Air,’ the college vesper song, as an obligato on the organ.” More than a thousand mums were transported by refrigerated rail car from California to be used in the wedding. Thousands lined the streets to “view the wedding which began as a charming boy and girl romance and soon became an event of nation-wide interest second only in social importance this year to the Lindbergh-Morrow wedding last May.”
Grace wrote her son a letter just before he married, “John, you are a son for a mother to be proud of and I want you to always feel that I am standing by, ready to do anything for you and Florence. You two together should make something beautiful of your lives. Just don’t let little things be-cloud your vision and, when the rough places need to be gotten over, hold your chin up, throw your shoulders back and go forward–for it’s the rough places which steady the feet and strengthen the muscles. Life is so beautiful–never do anything which will mar the sweetness of it. My, how I love you and how I want you to find in life all that is just and true and right and live it gloriously!”
After they first married, the couple lived for a time in Westville, Connecticut. John had taken a job with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. In 1933, their first child, Cynthia, was born. Her initials, “C.C,” mirrored the President’s initials. Daughter Lydia was born in 1939. At some point during John’s 13-year-long employment with the railroad, the Coolidges moved to Orange.
When I located the Round Robin letter written from Orange, where the former First Lady was babysitting her granddaughters, I called my mother-in-law and asked her to do some sleuthing. I wanted to know which house it was. She could find no leads. That summer, the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation hosted a Grace Coolidge Day in Northampton, Massachusetts. My mother-in-law, daughter, and I attended. The Coolidge’s granddaughter, Lydia Coolidge Sayles, was on the program. We spoke with her and she told us exactly where the house was located. When we arrived back in Orange, we found the house and we chatted with a neighbor who had been friends with the Coolidge girls. She remembered the First Lady arriving at the home and playing jacks on the floor with the girls.