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"The History of a Wilbraham Family" and "A Love Story"
Submitted by Jane Gebeau

Click on the thumbnail images to see full size pictures.

carrietheodoregebo1880touchup.jpg (79449 bytes)

Left: Theodore and Carrie Gebo circa 1880

 

Right:  Audrey and Ellery Gebeau dressed in costume in 1963

audreyellerygebeau1963.jpg (78263 bytes)

geboblacksmith.jpg (144054 bytes)

Left:  Gebo's Blacksmith Shop

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Left:  Gebeau's Garage

THE HISTORY OF A WILBRAHAM FAMILY

This story is of a family, all of whom have played an active part in the history of Wilbraham. Pierre and Sophie Gebo brought their family to the area from Plattsburg, N.Y. around 1900. It was their son Theodore who came to Wilbraham with his wife Carrie. They bought a home on the Northwest corner of Tinkham and Stony Hill Roads and opened a blacksmith and ferrier business across the street. The family grew to seven children, and the business grew until larger quarters were needed. When Chauncy Peck, (famed author of Peck’s 1913 History of Wilbraham), put his blacksmith and carriage business at 380 Main Street up for sale, Theodore decided this spot , being near to the center would be a good move. He bought a home for the family at 393 Main Street and moved the business to 380 Main Street.

The shop was a two-story building with the blacksmith shop on the first floor, and the carriage painting and refinishing on the second. The carriages were hoisted up stairs by a series pullies. Theodore’s brother Napoleon, ran the carriage business. Unfortunately the paint shop upstairs caught on fire, and the top story was destroyed. Napoleon then changed his occupation and opened a shop on Bridge Street in Springfield, becoming a very fashionable hair dresser and the “in” place to have your hair done!

The Gebo family thrived, and Theodore’s children all became very active in the Town and church activities. All of the brothers and sisters attended Wilbraham Academy.

The family name was originally spelled Gebeault, and according to legend, shortened to Gebo to make it fit the side of a furniture wagon by one of Theodore’s brothers. In 1926 the family members felt the name should be more reminiscent of its French ancestry, and legally changed it to Gebeau.

Through the years the horseless carriage became more popular, and blacksmith shops throughout the country evolved into auto repair shops. This of course was true in Wilbraham. Two of Theodore’s sons, Wilbur and Ellery had worked for their father through the years, and stayed on after their dad retired.. They carried on a thriving Chevrolet-Oldsmobile agency called Gebeau’s Garage.

Many of the Gebeau children continued to live in Town. Eva married Raymond Gurney who was Postmaster here for many years, and whose father owned Gurney’s General Store. Eva took lessons from her uncle Napoleon to become a hairdresser. She had a wonderful little shop at the back of the family home next to the Village Store. This large house was made over as a two family, and their son Frank and his wife Viola lived there too. Eva and Ray’s granddaughter (Mrs. John Tousignant) lives there still with her family. Ann is on the staff at Minnechaug and John, her husband, is a friend to us all at the post office.

Era married Raymond Beach who served for many years as our State Representative to Boston. Their children were Alegra and Raymond, Jr. Alegra married Arthur Putnam whose family lived here for many years. One of their sons, David, and his wife Judy are still residents. Raymond, Jr. and his wife Carol Ryder are both very active here. Raymond having been a Fire Commissioner for many years, and also a post office member. Carol is a retired kindergarten teacher who ran her own school here for many years.

Wilbur married Ruth Dickinson. Ruth worked with Wilbur in the auto business and carried on after his death for many years, becoming the first woman automobile dealer in New England.

Ellery married Audrey Genge, daughter of Reverend Genge of the Methodist Church, and the lady in “The Love Story”. They had two sons, Theodore Wilbur and William Quenton. Theodore also spent much of his life in the dealership and carries on his grandfather’s name. He married Jane Ward.

Much of the family is scattered now, but we who still live here are hopeful they will all always remember this beautiful New England town and their beginnings.

A LOVE STORY

“Today I need to have you go up to North Wilbraham, to the depot to pick up the new minister and his family when they get off the train from Maine. You had better take the big rig as there will be Rev. Quinton Genge, his wife Alma, and their three young daughters, plus all their baggage.” (The railroad station was located where Wilbraham Mobil is today).

This request was made by Theodore Gebo who ran the blacksmith shop and automobile repair shop at 380 Main Street to his l8 year old son Ellery.

Ellery was born in Wilbraham. He had worked in the family business all his life, and along with his brother Wilbur carried on after their father retired. They ran a thriving Chevrolet-Oldsmobile agency called Gebeau’s Garage for many years.

Ellery was used to that run to the railroad station, but on that day in 1921 he could not possibly know the impact this day’s trip would have on his life!

The train was on time, and out stepped Reverend Quinton Genge, his wife Alma, baby Enid, 13 year old Lorna, and then ---and then 16 year old Audrey.

Audrey was adorable. She was so pretty, curly hair, lovely eyes, and the cutest little nose you ever saw. Ellery was tall, dark and handsome—his hair slicked back and parted in the middle in he rave style of the day.

Bells rang, whistles blew, and it wasn’t just the train pulling out. Audray and Ellery took one look at each other, and it was love a first sight! Their eyes met and a fate was sealed.

Audrey was born in Bermuda to Alma and Quinton. They had come to Ireland Island, Bermuda where Quinton was stationed at the Royal Navy Dockyard as Chaplain to the British Navy.

It was preferred that Methodist ministers go to the Conference every 4 years to be installed in a new church; so the Genge family moved very often. From Bermuda they went to Maine where they lived in several parishes, before coming to Wilbraham.

The Wilbraham Methodist Church was the stone church at the corner of Main Street and Mountain Road. The parsonage was across the street at 35l Main.

The Methodist Society of Wilbraham shared its church with Wilbraham Academy, and it was twice to welcome the Congregational Society after two separate devastating fires at their churches. They worshipped together for many years. In winter at the warmer Congregational church, in summer at the cooler Stone church. The Stone church was deeded to Wilbraham, Academy in 1941, and the two societies joined as the Wilbraham United Church.

Audrey and Ellery were married in 1924. They produced two sons, Theodore Wilbur and William Quenton. Many children and grandchildren have followed, and hopefully will continue on and on.

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