Archive for the ‘taverns’ Category

The Peleg Arnold Tavern

I recently discovered that the Peleg Arnold Tavern in Union Village, Smithfield, Rhode Island, was inherited by Peleg Arnold from his father, my 8th great grandfather, Thomas Arnold.

The Will of Thomas Arnold, Sr of Smithfield

After my recent trip to Central Falls City Hall, I read the will, administration papers and inventory of Thomas Arnold’s father, Thomas Arnold Sr (1705-1765) on page 481-498 of volume 2 (1749-1768).  Thomas Arnold Sr (sometimes called Thomas Arnold, Esq or Lieut. Thomas Arnold) was my 8th great grandfather.

I was really surprised by what I found in the will. Thomas Sr. had three sets of children –

  1. four with his first wife, Susannah Comstock (died 1736), of whom Thomas Jr. was the only boy
  2. two with second wife Mary Mann (died 1747), both boys (John, plus Asa who died very young)
  3. seven with third wife Patience Cook, of whom only one was a boy, Peleg.

The will was written in April, 1765, and Thomas Sr. died in December of 1765.  The sons were mentioned in the will as follows:

  • Thomas, Jr (age 32) a “piece of land called the Newfield in said Smithfield contains about 12 acres”.  “All the rest and remainder of my land and real estate which I have not herein already disposed of.”
  • John (age 24) “my dwelling house in Cumberland at Wansoket falls, all my part of the land on the south side of the Highway, and 3/8 of all my forge and land and cole houses.”
  • Peleg (age 14)  one half of his house and farm, the other half to his widow Patience, “as long as she remained a widow”, and after her death, to go to Peleg.  Also 60 acres in “Wansoket Hole.”  I wonder if what was really meant was “Wansoket Hill” since he further added “on the southeasterly  end of Black Plain.”

Also 2 acres of cedar swamp in Smithfield to his grandson “Assa Arnold” second son of his son Thomas (I have to believe this is because he was the namesake of the son who died very young) and various legacies to the daughters.  Also, to wife Patience, “the best feather bed and furniture and all the rest of my personal estate” not otherwise disposed of.

The first page of the $1399 inventory of Thomas Arnold Sr's estate.  Everyone in town owed him money, seemingly.

The first page of the $1399 personal effects inventory of Thomas Arnold Sr’s estate. Everyone in town owed him money, seemingly.  The next few pages document a wide assortment of fancy household goods, farm animals and implements.

I can’t help but feel this plan favored the third family of children, and widow Patience, although it’s possible the two older sons had been given significant property earlier (although I don’t see that in deeds) or that the remainder was more than I think.

I do like, however, how this will gave far more independence to the widow Patience than what I have typically seen in my ancestors’ wills from this period. Thomas Arnold, Sr was leaving her with seven children under age 16. He must have admired and trusted her to leave her with so much autonomy, and I like that he was capable of that. Sometimes, widows were moved to one room in their own house, many possessions were auctioned off, a guardian was appointed for the children (I only see a provision here that a guardian be appointed if Patience died) and a son and his family took over the rest.  Not so in this case.

Peleg Arnold portrait from 1815 by Arnold Steere, currently in the John Hay Library at Brown University

Peleg Arnold portrait from 1815 by Arnold Steere, currently in the John Hay Library at Brown University

The Peleg Arnold Tavern

Reading this will, I finally put together something I should have figured out long ago.  I knew about the Peleg Arnold Tavern, where the third son Peleg maintained a headquarters for Revolutionary War activities, kept a tavern business and practised law.  I know that Peleg eventually lived in a more elegant house nearby, served in the Continental Congress, founded a bank and an anti-slavery society, and was later Chief Justice of the R.I. Supreme Court.  Given his many accomplishments, and being one of the younger children, it just didn’t occur to me that he had inherited the tavern from his father.

Now, looking it up, I see in The History of Woonsocket (E. Richardson, 1876) that Thomas Arnold Sr had a tavern license as early as 1739.  He had inherited the house from his father, Richard Arnold.  On page 42 Richardson mentions that the house was built by 1690, and passed from Richard to Thomas, Sr in 1731, comprising 60 acres.  Thomas Sr had been the third of six sons, but he had inherited the family homestead, possibly because two of Richard Arnold’s sons had left their families by 1737.

This also helps me focus on the Union Village area (now part of North Smithfield) as the likely location of most of Thomas Arnold Jr’s real estate.  And I also learned that Thomas Arnold Sr. had a wider range of costly belongings than I would have expected.

Peleg Arnold Tavern from State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century by Edward Field, vol. 3, 1902, p. 646.

Peleg Arnold Tavern from State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century by Edward Field, vol. 3, 1902, p. 646.  The “Old Bank” neighborhood, also called Union Village, was named for a bank Peleg, with others, founded.

Our ties to the Peleg Arnold Tavern

Richard Arnold (1666-1745) (m. Mary Woodward) my 9x-great grandfather owned the land and had inherited it from his own father, Richard. According to Richardson, Woonsocket, p. 41, the land Richard inherited began “at the Union Village and extending westward.”  Richard started some businesses and increased his holdings during his lifetime. Apparently around 1690 he built the house, a square, compact home; in his father’s will of 1710 he gained complete ownership of the property.

Thomas Arnold Sr (1705-1765) (m. 3times , see above) my 8x-great grandfather inherited the property from his father Richard.  Thomas Arnold was a military leader, tavern keeper, and he practised law in some manner or other.  In his Providence Gazette death notice he is called “Judge Thomas Arnold” (Arnold’s Vital Records, vol. 13, p. 133).  He had a tavern license by 1739, however I am not certain the tavern business was in continuous operation after that.  Thomas is buried in Union Cemetery, Smithfield, not too far from his home.  I have written about his grave here.  I am related to Thomas through his son, Thomas Arnold – Lucy (Arnold) Ballou – Marcy (Ballou) Aldrich – Nancy (Aldrich) Darling – Ellis Darling – Addison P. Darling – Russell Darling – my grandmother Edna Darling.

Peleg Arnold (1751-1820) (M. Alpha Arnold, no children)  my 7th great grand uncle  inherited the house, according to his father Thomas’ 1765 will, when he became 21, which would have been around 1772. He married Alpha Arnold in 1768.  According to Richardson (Woonsocket, p. 71) Peleg enlarged the tavern around 1780 (“when it again became a tavern”).  He studied law at Brown University, was active in military and government roles, and served in the Continental Congress during the time that Rhode Island was slow in ratifying the new U.S. Constitution.  He was interested in educational, anti-slavery, and political matters and, according to some of the older books, was fond of rum. 

When Peleg Arnold died childless, in 1820, I don’t yet know what became of the tavern, but apparently it stayed in the family and prospered.   A National Register of Historic Places application form from the 1970’s by Walter Nebiker, R.I. Historic Preservation Commission, mentions the building as “the first one constructed in Union Village, and one of the earliest in the township of North Smithfield.”  After being enlarged by Peleg Arnold, it served travelers “along the route from Providence to Worcester, Massachusetts, when the original rough trail was enlarged into a roadway and began to carry more traffic.”  Mr Nebiker quotes a Woonsocket Call article of September 9, 1948 claiming that in the late nineteenth century, under James Arnold and his wife, “the establishment was transformed from an ordinary inn into one of the most luxurious taverns in New England. And so it served until the early 20th century.”

Today, it still exists in Union Village, near Great Road on Woonsocket Hill Road, and has been divided into apartments since the 1940’s.

The house today.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The house today. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A note from Peleg’s time in the Continental Congress, 1788

During his service in the Continental Congress, Peleg wrote back to his “father” Stephen Arnold (actually his father in law, Alpha’s father) about some home matters.  The letter gives an indication that they were close and that he looked to Stephen to help his widowed mother with some decisions about the farm.  I have to smile that he mentioned to his wife’s father that he expected a letter from her once a week during his absence.  Perhaps she needed some reminding.

Peleg Arnold to Stephen Arnold
Honoured Sir, New York 25th May 1788.
I imbrace this oppertunity to acknowledge my Regard for your Self and Famaly. The many favors I have received from you Impresses my mind with a grateful Sense of acknowledgement.
I have no cause to doubt but your care will further Extend to my Famaly. I Desire you to assist them in my absence with your advice in Farming & Disposing of Such part of the Stock of Sheep & C—;—; as may be Necessary.
There is no matters of Importince here and whenever there is I Shall communicate them. This Letter will Remind you that I have not forgotten so Worthy a Friend; I wish you to take the troble to write if not emediately on the Recept of this in the cource of the Summer when you find it mo[s]t conveneint. I have wrote Several Letters to Mrs. Arnold and some to other persons, and wish to have regular answers from home once a week. I presume there will be but little business for coasting Vessels in the Summer and should that be the case, The most regular way of conveyance will be by the Post, The Letters may put into Mr. Carters Office in Providence, you may mention this to Mrs. Arnold and to all others that wish to write. If they are left there they Should have “Free” writen on them Directed “The Hon. Peleg Arnold Delegate in Congress, New-York.”
Present my Dutiful Respects to your good Lady, and Love to your Famaly, and be assur’d I am with perfect Esteem your Dutiful Son,
Peleg Arnold

(Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 25 March 1, 1788-December 31, 1789 –Peleg Arnold to Stephen Arnold, on the website A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875).

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One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin.
          — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

Buckley Parmenter

My gggg-grandfather, Buckley Parmenter, was born on March 31, 1798, in Framingham, Massachusetts (1).  His parents, Elias Parmenter and Eunice Brown, were descended from the founding families of Sudbury and Framingham.  He was the oldest of seven children.  Buckley is related to me in the following way:  his daughter Susan Maria Parmenter -> Addison Parmenter Darling -> Russell Earl Darling -> Edna May Darling Baldwin -> my mother.

Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts

Early Life

Since there has never been any hint of this in my family, I was surprised to learn recently that Buckley Parmenter began employment at “Howe’s Tavern” or “The Red Horse Inn” (later known as The Wayside Inn) as a boy and continued in that role until late in life.  This surprising story was first uncovered by using the Million Short Search Engine which allows you to omit, say, the 1000 most popular web sites, or 10,000, or up to 1,000,000.  It’s useful in genealogy for accessing content from historical societies, blogs, towns, and other small sites.  The search brought up this sentence from from a book (2) excerpted on the Sudbury Archives site:

Squire Howe [Lyman Howe, the last Howe innkeeper] was there and had a housekeeper and Buckley Parmenter was the man of all work. The old bar room could tell of wonderful times if it could speak.(2)

I immediately realized it was the right Buckley Parmenter, since census records referred to him as a “laborer” and in 1860 the location “Hotel” was specified, with owner Lyman Howe.  Further books and web resources confirmed it.  Buckley was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, and is sometimes listed in the Sudbury census, sometimes Framingham – the inn is on the southern edge of Sudbury, near Framingham – I suspect his family lived on the inn’s farmland.  The inn, established by the Howe/How family in the 1600’s, has been in its current building since 1716.  Somehow, I never put it together before.

Photograph of Howe's Tavern, around 1860, from 1914 House Beautiful article

Photograph of Howe’s Tavern, around 1860, from 1914 House Beautiful article

The Parmenters had been in Sudbury since the beginning of the English settlement.  As land grew scarce for later generations of Parmenters, did they begin working on the farm associated with the inn?  Did Buckley’s father work at that farm?  Being the oldest, it’s possible Buckley helped on the farm and was gradually entrusted with more and more work at the inn. I feel like I know the end of this story, but it will take future research to discover the beginning.

Buckley Marries and Has a Family

Buckley was 22 when his marriage banns with Persis Hunt were read on 26 August, 1820 in Framingham.  Buckley and Persis eventually had five children (4):

  • Mary Elizabeth Parmenter 1822 – 1905 (married Luther Fuller)
  • Susan Maria Parmenter 1826 – 1910 (my ggg-grandmother; married Ellis Aldrich Darling)
  • Eliza Jane Parmenter 1828 – 1908 (married Wilson Darling, the brother of her sister’s husband, above)
  • Lyman Hunt Parmenter 1829 – 1887 (Lyman Hunt Parmenter was blind.  He moved to Boston as an adult and worked as a musician and music teacher, and married twice.  He has descendants who research genealogy.)
  • Almira Parmenter 1839 – 1913 (married Charles Fish)
Tap Room, Wayside Inn

Tap Room, Wayside Inn. Note the barred gate above the bar, ready to swing down during closed hours.

Did the children grow up nearby the inn?  The 1850 census (similar to 1830 and 1840) shows Buckley and Persis living with Lyman, age 21, and Almira, age 11, still at home (3).  In the households on either side were daughters Susan and Eliza Jane, with their husbands and a couple of young children each – no property value given for any of them (so likely no real estate owned). Buckley and the two sons in law were listed as “Laborers.” There was another Howe family, owners of the farm, nearby, separated by a few other farm laborer households.  When I visited the inn I heard about some farm housing which was (later) rented out, and I suspect the nearby farm may have been where the family was located when the children were growing up.  I think this Framingham location is what kept me from realizing he worked over the line in Sudbury.

The era of the 1830’s – 1860’s is perhaps best captured by Adeline Lunt in her article “The Red Horse Tavern” in an 1880 issue of Harper’s Magazine (6).  She was one of the many guests who made the inn their home for some part of the year. She described Buckley as follows:

Then there was Buckley – Buckley Parmenter – a faithful male servant of the Squire, and who had a home with him as long as he lived, and who would have laid down his life to serve him.  He was near seventy, but nimble as a squirrel, and as spasmodic in his movements.  He had a remarkable accomplishment, which was to take a board nail between his teeth and bite it in two!  Yet he was vulnerable, for one summer night he set to work to demolish a hornets nest from the corner of the house, and after getting it down he put it quietly under his arm and strolled toward the brook to deposit it there.  But the hornets were not disposed to take things thus quietly, and before he had half reached the spot, out they flew in every direction, stinging him fearfully.

The silly, boyish story about the nail makes me think of a story about Buckley’s great-grandson, my great-grandfather Russell Darling.  He died when I was a baby, but my older brother has a funny memory of him – Jay must have been about 5 or so – and the elderly Russell said to him “Go on, boy, punch me in the stomach as hard as you can!  I can take it!  Go on!”

Tap Room at the Wayside Inn, perhaps c1900

Tap Room at the Wayside Inn, perhaps c1900

The Red Horse Inn and the Squire

The inn belonged for many generations to the Howe family.  It is truly an historic inn, with roots going back to the 1600’s, on the main road leading west from Boston.  During stagecoach times, there was a good business in dining, drinking and accommodations for travelers and horses.  The house was expanded over the years to 18 rooms.

Lyman Howe was the last of the direct line of four Howe tavern keepers; he took over from his father, Adam, perhaps around 1830.  Buckley would have grown up with Lyman and his sister, Jerusha, and two additional siblings, one of whom was running the grist mill while Lyman ran the inn.  Jerusha Howe was an educated and refined woman who owned the first piano in that part of Massachusetts.  Engaged to a British soldier, after he returned to England to make arrangements for his new life and was never heard from again, she remained single for the rest of her life and died at 45 in 1842.  According to the stories I heard on a visit to the inn this weekend, her spirit haunts the inn.

Jerusha's piano was later re-purchased and placed in the front parlor.

Jerusha’s piano was later re-purchased and placed in the front parlor.

Like his sister, Lyman never married.  Known as “Squire”, cultivated and intellectual, he pursued some scientific and civic interests.  As railroads took the stagecoaches off of the Boston Post Road, business at the inn shifted from hurried stops to lengthy stays in the lovely country setting of the aging inn.

The history of the “Howe’s Tavern” or “The Red Horse Inn” is a fascinating one.  The inn played a prominent role at various critical times in American history, including the Revolutionary War.  The rooms are reminiscent of travelers downing cider, horses impatiently stamping out front, soldiers marching on the old Boston Post Road.  But that’s not why it’s famous.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
          — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863
Center hallway at the Wayside Inn

Center hallway at the Wayside Inn

Buckley’s Later Years

The 1860 census shows Buckley and Persis living at the “Hotel” with owner Lyman Howe and four employees (5).  Lyman’s fortunes had declined in the previous 20 years, and debts had built up.  Business at the inn was unprofitable and perhaps Lyman Howe was not an ideal manager.

When Lyman Howe died March 26, 1861, it was the faithful Buckley that found him the next morning (7).  The estate went to a distant elderly relative, and there were many debts to pay.  There was an auction and many of the family belongings were sold, although according to Lunt’s article (6) the inn had been only sparsely furnished for decades. The elderly relative died in six months, and her sons maintained the property as a kind of long-term rooming establishment.  It was during this transition, in 1862, that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow decided on the inn as a setting for some narrative poems he was forming into a volume.

Longfellow had been familiar with the inn for decades, and the Squire and Longfellow were familiar with each other, although there is no direct evidence of a meeting.  Apparently, Longfellow’s visit that inspired the setting for his book occurred in 1862, after the Squire’s death, and the book was published in 1863.  Longfellow was urged by editors to go with the name “Tales of a Wayside Inn” and his volume assembles a set of characters, fashioned after his own friends and various devotees of the inn, including the Squire, to spin poetic tales while relaxing in front of the fire at the inn.

Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

The book of beautiful poems was a huge success, and inspired many to want to get a look at the “Wayside Inn”, although The Red Horse Inn no longer operated as an inn after Lyman’s death. Its use varied in these years from long term guests or rentals to parties, outings and special functions only. It was a marketing plan that took 30 years to form, and involved some twists and turns, but eventually the inn was purchased by individuals with the money and imagination to turn the historic inn into the “Wayside Inn” which so captivated Americans.  And yet, as you can see in my photos, the inn manages to remain true to its actual past as a significant historical landmark.  Few buildings, when you walk through them, maintain so much of an eighteenth century simplicity.  Today “Longfellow’s Wayside Inn” is owned and managed by a historic trust.

Was Buckley still present during Longfellow’s visit in 1862?  By 1865, Buckley and Persis had moved in with daughter Susan and her family in Wrentham, Massachusetts.  Buckley died 28 April 1871 in Wrentham, and he and Persis are buried at the Burnt Swamp Road Cemetery in the Sheldonville section of Wrentham, just behind the house where Susan and Ellis Darling lived.

Longfellow’s friend, Thomas William Parsons, (called the “poet” in the Tales), penned a poem after the death of the Squire and, in a sense, after the death of the well-beloved inn.  It ends with:

Fetch my steed; I cannot linger:
Buckley, quick; I must away.
Good old groom, take thou this nothing –
Millions could not make me stay.
         – Thomas Williams Parsons, The Old House at Sudbury
Grave marker of Buckley Parmenter, Sheldonville, Massachusetts

Grave marker of Buckley Parmenter, Sheldonville, Massachusetts

Next Steps

  • Learn more about whether Buckley’s father Elias Parmenter had any connection to the inn
  • Re-investigate Persis’ death date
  • Work to carefully uncover more of Buckley and Persis’ grave markers in Sheldonville
  • Research all of the Sudbury lines including the Goodnows, Browns, Hunts and Parmenters.
  • Investigate the presence of the name “Buckley” in the Howe family (a young Buckley Howe was noted nearby in the 1860 census).  Was Buckley Parmenter given a name common in the Howe family, or was the later Howe named for Buckley Parmenter?


(1) “Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F4XC-VJV : accessed 05 May 2013), Buckley Parmenter, 21 Mar 1798.

(2) Curtis F. Garfield. Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the life of a Town, a 256-page sequel to A.S. Hudson’s History of Sudbury. Porcupine Enterprises, 106 Woodside Road, Sudbury, MA 01776.

(3) Year: 1850; Census Place: Framingham, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: M432_323; Page: 454B; Image: 249.  Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]

(4)Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.  Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).

(5) Year: 1860; Census Place: Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: M653_510; Page: 994; Image: 575; Family History Library Film: 803510.  Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]

(6) “The Red Horse Tavern” by Adeline Lunt, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, v. LXI, June to November 1880, p. 608-617.

(7) As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn by Ridley, Alison and Garfield, Curtis.  Porcupine Enterprises, 1989.

Other sources:

History of Framingham, Massachusetts by J.H. Temple. Published by the Town of Framingham, 1887.

A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E Plumb.  The History Press, 2011.

The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts 1638-1889 by Alfred Sereno Hudson. Published by the Town of Sudbury, 1889.

The Old House at Sudbury by Thomas William Parsons. Cambridge: Press of John Wilson and Son, 1870.

Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1863.

“The Wayside Inn” by Joseph S. Seabury, The House Beautiful, v. XXXVI, no.2, July 1914, p. 33-39.

Photos by Diane Boumenot.

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Then all arose, and said “Good Night.”
Alone remained the drowsy Squire
To rake the embers of the fire,
And quench the waning parlor light;
While from the windows, here and there,
The scattered lamps a moment gleamed,
And the illumined hostel seemed
The constellation of the Bear,
Downward, athwart the misty air,
Sinking and setting toward the sun.
Far off the village clock struck one.
    — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

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