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History Corner: Let’s Piece it Together…

History Corner: Let’s Piece it Together…

History has a way of blending facts and over time, the truth becomes fiction and fiction becomes facts.  The Bryan-Andrew story is somewhat straightforward as documents have been preserved and with word of mouth and scientific analysis the story is an interesting one.

It starts with Alexander Bryan arriving in 1639 with his wife and son Richard to the colony of Wepawaug, later named Milford.  He was a prominent man living on 4 acres at the corner of River and Broad Streets, once the home of the Taylor Library and now Chamber of Commerce.  As early as 1640 he sent a vessel to Boston laden with beaver fur bringing back goods needed by the fledgling colony.  He was so well respected that his notes were passed as currency.

His son was also a merchant trading in the West Indies as well as Boston.  Alexander’s will, dated 1678, mentions Richard, his wife having died in 1673.  It would then seem that Richard lived in the home of his father.  He died in 1679.  We will call this Richard, the first (I) 1631-1689.

Before I leave Alexander, an anecdote.  Historian Mr. Edward Lambert states that he had a liberal education and sometimes appeared as an attorney before the general court.  One case, in particular was against Roger Ludlow in the slander case where Thomas Staples received a judgement against Ludlow for reporting that Goodwife Staples was a witch!

Richard’s (I) inventory is extensive, difficult to read but nevertheless an example of wealth and prosperity, his own and that of his father, Alexander.  Using terms as “great chamber” and “garret” implies a two-story home but judging from the amount of inventory, a large home.  Some of the inventory listed are brass candlesticks, a Turkish carpet, often used on a table rather than the floor, 3 Bibles, numerous chairs with cushions, many beds for 14 children, pewter plates, 2 salt cellars (tiny bowls), brass kettles, 2 peels, and “a thing to set a pot on”, exact words.  The contents, which goes on for many 11”x14” pages, indicates a wealthy home.

The Bryan clan was not satisfied only to live in Milford, but ventured out or down to Long Island to a place called Eaton’s Neck, where the descendants of Richard Bryan’s children are numerous there today.  Would you believe that Richard bought Charles Island?  Yup, but that’s another story.  Now Richard (I) had a son he named Richard (II) 1666-1734 which is where confusion reigns.  According to our Orange history book by Mary Woodruff, 300 acres had passed from Alexander to Richard (I) who in turn gave his son Richard (II) 208 acres at High Plains in 1720 with dwellings.  OK now here it gets a bit clearer.  Richard’s (II) house at High Plains existed when builder Harry Grillo lived in Orange and he remembers a large colonial on the top of the hill at High Plains which was torn down, much to his dismay and mine as well.  He said it was a Bryan house with an inventory to match.

The 208 acres is the exact location between Lambert Road, Old Tavern, Orange Center and Porter Lane.  The Bryan-Andrew House is located in the bottom portion of that 208 acres.  I have been fascinated by a small wall at the Bryan-Andrew house which showed some unusual looking mortar as well as some flat stones placed in the back portion of the house and a pile of cut rocks taken out of that area when dug for proper drainage in 2005.  All clues to another house behind the one that is there now.  Hmm.  State Archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni confirmed with me that the mortar in the wall was indeed early 18th century.  While doing research at the Academy for our 200th anniversary, Frances and I unearthed some interesting information which is now tying it all together.  Richard (II) had two sons, another Richard (III) 1699-1767 and Nathan 1714-1766.  Some of the dates in the found information do not match up with certified dates using various established works, but using the note from Edward Lambert’s History of the Colony of New Haven, 1838, it confirms that in 1717 a Jesse Lambert settled in a place called East Farms having been the 2nd inhabitant, a Bryan the first.

With my intuition, facts and the “wall”, I now feel certain that there was a house, in the back of the Bryan-Andrew house, a smaller house built probably in 1720 or there abouts.  I could not verify the East Farms notation right now but we are talking about a house on the property at 131 Old Tavern Road.  I won’t argue with a note that says a deed dated 1726 indicates that by that date Richard (?) was living in a house at that location.  Yes, in the back of the present-day house.  He could very well have lived there and in leaving that house, Nathan built the one we now call “home”.  Various historical restoration experts have stated that today’s house was built in the 1740s which by tradition a house was built for an upcoming marriage and Nathan and Elizabeth were married in 1739.

The notes go on to say that “there is a faint possibility the present house may have been a replacement built about 1748 after some children died in 1746.  Using Susan Abbott’s Families of Early Milford, I do find that Richard (III) had a son (Richard (IV) 1721-1776 and he had two children who died, 1744 and 1746.  Her book also confirms that a Jesse Lambert married in 1717.  This and other comments from the notes make my conclusions plausible.  However, the last comment makes the connection quite valid.  “Supposedly there were the remains of a foundation nearby, but this is a supposition I had not heard before.”  Well?  Now you have.

Come visit as soon as you read about our opening the Bryan-Andrew House on Old Tavern Road or if you want to visit with a small family group, call us a 203 795-3106 and we will meet the protocol for covid-19 while you visit.  More on the Andrew connection next time.

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