This is a one acre tract located between 547 and 577 Guerdat Road, falling towards the west. It was donated by the Hartford Habitat for Humanity, who found it too expensive to build on. It is a steep and wooded lot. Behind that is a 6.4 acre piece that is community property, of which the trust owns a 1/16 undivided share. This gives us access to another small parcel we own, the McLean piece, which lies a couple of hundred feet to the northwest.
I don't think there are more than a dozen people left in town who know how to correctly pronounce the word "Guerdat." The "t" is silent. People that knew the family called them "Gurday," or as my father pronounced it, "Gurdee."
In any case, things did not always go well for the Guerdats. n the 1860's, Xavier Guerdat left Switzerland for the New World, first settling in Great Barrington and later Torrington. Their first house was near Abeling's Cider Mill, later a 100 acre farm was purchased on the road that now bears their name.
Xavier's name was not on the deed. In fact, his wife Mary bought the property with a man name Henry Lovey, who, like the Guerdats, was of French-Swiss descent. The $2000 mortgage was split between the two of them.
Lovey and the Guerdats began to quarrel. Although he was “pleasant and fair” according to neighbors, Lovey became belligerent when he drank. Things reached a point where the two parties agreed to dissolve their relationship and sell the farm at an auction, to be held on November 15, 1887. Before the auction, Guerdat bought out Lovey for $256 in cash, with the remainder due later. Lovey was given six weeks before being obligated to leave. He never left.
Instead, he began to drink heavily, making him even more belligerent than usual. Xavier eventually had Lovey cited for Breach of the Peace. This did not have any desirable effect. One Thursday night Lovey began drinking heavily. On Friday, according to the New York Times, while Xavier went to the police station to complain about him, Lovey was on his way back to the farm with a Smith and Wesson revolver. Lovey approached Mrs. Guerdat in her sewing room and shot her in the back of the neck. She didn't die. Mary ran through the house, Lovey chasing after her. Making it to her bedroom, she slammed the door behind her. Lovey broke down the door and continued firing at her. Mary managed to get out of the house but was struck again in the head, a bullet entering just over the left eye and exiting just over the right. She fell down trying to make it to the barn. She was shot twice more, once in a finger and once in an arm. Her only option now was to play dead, and Lovey, perhaps out of bullets anyway, fell for it.
His work done, Lovey went back to the house, where he put on his best suit, hung up his watch, and wrote in his account book, in French: “I cannot pardon they who have so injured me but I hope God will pardon me.” Then he disappeared into the woods.
A posse was formed to find Lovey, the sheriff even went up to Canaan to make sure he wasn't up in his old haunts. Not finding any clue about his whereabouts, a reward was being prepared for his capture when a Joseph Mahir, a “French wood-chopper, came down and reported finding a body hanging to a tree in the woods.” Lovey's body was found about a mile north of the house in “an obscure ravine in the deep woods.”
Although Medical Examiner Hanchett was unsure if Mary would survive, she proved to be pretty tough. She even was able to walk back to the house on her own power, with a neighbior's assistance. Mary made it to November of 1920, passing at the age of 83, 33 years after her falling out with Lovey. She was said by the Torrington Register to have been an invalid for some 16 years before her death. Xavier outlived her, dying in February 1926 at the age of 99.
There is a much lighter story about their grandson, Jules Guerdat. Jules was drunk only once in his life, but that one time lasted for decades. There is a tale about the time the homestead was in need of paint. One hot summer day Jules and a friend were applying a coat under a gable. Instead of using a ladder, they placed a plank through an open attic window, his friend painting and Jules acting as a counter-weight inside. After a while they grew thirsty and one said to the other ”Wouldn’t a cold beer go down good about now?” With this Jules got up and went downstairs to the refrigerator. Of course, his helper also went downstairs, in a much faster way. Seeing him outside, Jules actually asked “How did you get down here so fast? Which way did you go?”