Archive for the ‘Wayside Inn of Sudbury Massachusetts’ Category

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.

The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/05/06/buckley-parmenter-wayside-inn/

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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