William Clapp Grout


William Grout was a farmer, surveyor, and teacher who served in many offices of the town. He lived in the Grout house, near the town mill where he continued the family trade as town’s miller. His sister Jerusha married Newell Heard, and lived in half of the house with her family, thus the house became known as the Grout-Heard house. Uncle Billy, as he was known, lived in the other half with his mother and unmarried sister Susan.  This house is the present headquarters of the Wayland Historical Society. Uncle Billy Grout was much loved in town, as this remembrance attests:


From Old Time Wayland by Alfred Wayland Cutting:


 “...I want to tell you about Mr. Grout, who, after Benjamin Franklin, was one of the most wonderful men that ever lived.  I remember...his gentle, homely face, with its big nose and its kind eyes...He lived with his sister in the white house...(with) a little barn for his two cows, for Uncle Billy sold milk to his neighbors.  I can remember him in his pasture...He never hurried.  With one hand under his coat tails, in the other hand he held his stick, or maybe a rake with which he had been rolling up a little hay on his piece, and would gently touch one cow or the other as she loitered to bite the grass by the roadside; not hurrying them, for he loved to see them enjoy these last nips.  So he would walk along, always with a quiet smile on his face.


...Driving his cows to pasture one day, he found a ground-bird’s nest directly in the path, and from that day, until the birds were grown and the nest deserted, the kind old man never drove the cows over that path.


Uncle Billy Grout was an old bachelor.  I have heard that in his youth he loved Miss Caroline, who was very beautiful and the belle of the town.  But his suit was not favored by her, nor, indeed, were any of the many she received, and Uncle Bill and Miss Caroline (Caroline Reeves, sister of James Sumner Draper’s wife; they grew up on corner of Library Lane and Old Sudbury Road) remained bachelor and maid all their days.


He was town Clerk, and the Miller of the village, grinding his neighbors’ corn in the little old gray mill under the willows over by the mill pond.  Connected with his mill, he had a turning lathe, on which he made many curious things, including a telescope, with which he assured us he could see the rings of Saturn.


 “Uncle Billy was also a musician, and played the organ at the Unitarian Church, whose minister was the sainted Dr. Sears, the author of the hymn beginning “It came upon the midnight clear’...Perhaps Uncle Billy Grout was the first of the millions of organists who have played the music to which it has been sung.  He had a small organ in his house, and would play upon it evenings, after his day’s work was done.”


Sears wanted to practice putting his words of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” to music prepared by another musician.  It was getting close to Christmas Eve when he asked a special favor from Abel Gleason who lived on Training Field Road.  Imagine the neighbors’ surprise to see a sleigh with an organ lashed to it being pulled up to Rev. Sears house one cold icy night.”


Lydia Maria Child wrote about Grout in a letter to a friend soon after the war began (May 7, 1861 that he shared her views that the “war means emancipation.”