By now, most of the Town of Orange has either been inside the Bryan-Andrew House or seen it, numerous times, while passing it on Old Tavern Road. What most of you don’t know is its personal history, which is FYI at the State of CT Library. As is tradition, an engaged couple embarks on building their first home and the marriage date coincides with the date of the erection of their new home. Elizabeth and Nathan Bryan were no different, thus the house has an approximate date of 1740 with their marriage of 1739.
Nathan’s distribution of his estate, late of Milford, is a looking glass into his life and that of his family. The probate date is 1767, duly accepted and approved for the record in court. To the widow, one third part of the House and Barn, the west Room in the House with the Cellar under the Same with liberty to pass thru the other part of the House into the Cellar and also the use of the Ovens with liberty to pass to and from as needed also the Bed Room in the Linto* and also half the milk room with Chamber over the same also the west End of the old Barn to the floor way with use of the floor way for carting in Hay and thrashing as She needs also one third part of the Stable taken off from the west End with a privilege of passing to & from the same all at….also L10.00 Right in the Saw Mill.
The saw mill can be seen on a map of 1868 at the corner of Lambert Road and Porter Lane. The holdings of Nathan Bryan were significant as his will gives his wife 63½ acres “taken from the west of the farm that is to say to begin at the Corner of the Garden”. The description is detailed as to what direction to go and along which fence near the lands of his father, Mr. Richard Bryan. The area from Porter Lane, along Orange Center, Lambert and Old Tavern consisted of 208 which Richard purchased from Ansantawae, the sachem of the Paugusset Native American tribe.
Richard and other Milford citizens were in charge of many purchases from Ansantawae, the first few for protection from the marauding Mohawks and the additional lands as friendly sales which eventually became a problem for Ansantawae, as he sold off more land than he should have and petitioned the citizens of North Milford for land, which was granted with 100 acres on the ridge above the Housatonic River.
What is so typical of land deeds and wills is the reference to “ a heap of stones” which in Nathan’s will continues with “by that Fence then turns south running by the land that is set out to the oldest son of the Deceased all at….In this paragraph, Elizabeth is also allowed ¾ of an acre of meadow. Now to the movables. To Nathan Bryan, oldest Son, two thirds of the dwelling House, the East room and entry way, below and above the East Chamber with the Garrit** above also the north part of the cellar under the west room, the East Half of the Linto reserving only liberty for the Widow to pass and repass as she has need also the East End of the Barn to being at the west End of the flower way reserving on Liberty for the Widow to bring in Hay and thrash (thresh) on the floor as she wants: also two thirds of the stable taken off the East End and twenty two acres and quarter of Land from the South East part of said Farm to being at the South Corner of the Garden and so to run East to the corner of said Farm as the fence runs by the Lane or Highway to the Corner of said Farm by Capt. Woodruff. The reference to Woodruff is a farmhouse that was built on the corner of Lambert and Old Tavern. Again a reference to a heap of stones and Nathan’s land ran up Lambert Road. Nathan also received a portion of the meadow. Since Nathan had 8 children he gave his oldest son “one third part of a quarter of a Saw Mill. To go on he received “one hand saw, and Sheep Shears which is just a portion of what can be read on his inventory but remember, he had 8 children with which to share his estate. You will note that the will does not show any more grants for the saw mill.
Son John received land to the south of Nathan’s farm, which is referred to as thirteen acres bounded south on Nathan Nettleton. The Nettleton Farm was bought by Wilson H. Lee making Fairlea Farm one of the largest producers of milk products. This places John’s property along Orange Center Road to the house once owned by Mr. Lee. Gideon, the 4th heir received part of lot of land called Miles Lott, eight acres and one Road near Capt. Woodruff. So it would seem that Gideon’s land was near Lambert Road bounded on the east of the Nettleton farm. He also received a shirt.
Zachariah, 5th heir, was given a Lott of Land called Whitman*** Lott containing 4 acres but with a reference to John Downs which is a house in the Historic District of Milford with an additional reference to land in Oxford. He also received an iron square and a sickle. Benajah, 6th heir, gained “fifty one acres of Land in Oxford “over and above what was set to Zachariah. Isaac, 7th heir, has a land grant in an area called The Race which in research done refers to the Grassy Hill Road area where the farmers would race their horses. This land borders on land of Isaac Clark which with twenty-two acres should take him south of the Nathan’s farm and west on highway. This portion refers to a meadow. Isaac was given 2 Gimblets, a hammer and what looks like a saw. The Gimblet was used to bore holes and an addition to the will, a great coat and vest to Isaac. This part seems a bit vague.
Thaddeus, who married Esther Andrew, is given fourteen acres in the “house lot taken out of about the middle of said Lott on the farm.” To his daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Benedict Burwell, we assume a sum of money, as there are numbers near this note but this is also a bit vague. We now jump to 1775 with a deed from son Nathan to William and Samuel Andrew. At this point, Nathan sells his two thirds, given him by his father to the two Andrew brothers for the sum of two hundred twelve pounds. Here is listed the 2/3 of the dwelling house, two pieces of land, two thirds of a barn, two thirds of a stable all standing on one piece containing twenty one acres & one quarter. Note is made of the position of Elizabeth’s one third as part of the original will but not sold to William and Samuel. The sale ends with the note “The above premises being situated in the Township of Milford lying at a place called Bryan’s Farm.”
It is assumed that Elizabeth is living in her one-third until we read William Andrew’s last will and testament, dated 1796 where he gives his daughter Esther “that piece of land which I bought of Nathan Bryan that was his mother’s thirds with the buildings and enough mone (money) with what I have given her to make one hundred forty pounds to be paid within three years after my decease to be paid one third yearly.” Remember, Esther was married to Thaddeus Bryan which makes this gift fairly obvious. It appears that his wife, Margaret, brought property with her to the marriage which he leaves to her and their son, Merwin. Since he already owned 2/3 of Nathan’s house, it is well to note that in 1789, William purchased Nathan’s mother’s 1/3. Sam had already died and in 1790, the census shows William owning the entire property with two slaves and Nathan living in New Milford.
It is here where the history thread begins to get thin. The 1790 census shows Nathan in New Milford with 5 females listed and another son is listed in Milford where his mother is listed as being buried. Perhaps she lived with one of them. This story is accurate using printed records with the spelling and capitalization as written. The story doesn’t end here by any means but was researched to follow the path of the house at 131 Old Tavern Road to its earliest inhabitants from records that are available.
*Linto (lean-to) is a section on the back of the house with a slanted roof usually used as food storage and it would appear, a milk room.
**Garrit or Garret is the 2nd floor of a colonial home usually with a sloping roof.
***Whitman is Elizabeth’s maiden name.