Located at 1 Dyer Cemetery Road, just off Route 44 in Canton, is the former Dyer’s Inn and Tavern, which was featured in a recent article in the Hartford Courant (“Cars, Cash And Prohibition: The Legends Of Dyer’s Inn And Tavern,” by Dan Haar, July 27, 2014). The main house was built in 1789 by Isaac Wilcox, who moved to Pompey, New York, in 1801. In 1810 Daniel Dyer purchased the house and gave it, the following year, to his son, Zenas Dyer (1788-1856), as a wedding present. Zenas Dyer, a farmer, married Sarah “Sally” Chedsey. He opened the house as a tavern in 1821 and it soon became a favorite of travelers on the old Albany Turnpike. A tavern sign, made for the inn by by William Rice in 1823, is now in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society. Each year, the tavern alternated the hosting of the Canton Agricultural Fair with Abraham Hosford’s Inn. Zenas, who also had a cider mill where he distilled cider brandy, operated the tavern until 1851 and the property then remained in his family for many years. In the twentieth century, Zenas’s great-granddaughter, Margaret, had a business selling fudge and salted nuts. As related in Reminiscences By Sylvester Barbour, a Native of Canton, Conn. Fifty Years a Lawyer (1908):
Mr. Zenas Dyer, grandfather of Daniel T. Dyer, was another man who took part in Canton’s setting-off proceedings. In 1812 he built the house in which the grandson lives, situated on the north side of the old Albany turnpike, near Farmington river, on an elevation commanding a fine view of varying scenery. Mr. Dyer used the house for a time as a tavern, sharing with nearby Hosford’s tavern the entertainment of the extensive traveling public. I well remember him and his son Daniel, who many years owned and occupied that house; both highly respected men. Daniel T., the only child of Daniel, succeeded to the ownership of that house, and resides there. He is the owner of some 500 acres of land, and is an honored member of the democratic party, to which party, if I mistake not, Zenas and Daniel belonged. The present Mr. Dyer and his estimable wife, to whom I have already referred, are royal entertainers. Numerically, and in winsome manners,’their children would delight the heart of President Roosevelt, and they help to make up a very happy family. Mr. Dyer’s exhibition at the centennial of his grandfather’s old tin lantern, which was a guide to travelers seeking a good inn to tarry at, attracted much attention.
The house was added to in stages over the years and the property had many outbuildings, some of which still survive today. Now the property is divided into six apartments.
Daniel Eels (1757-1851), a cooper, built a house on Main Street in Cromwell around 1782. He moved to Whitestown, New York in 1795 and sold the property, which then had a number of owners until 1802, when it was purchased by William Smith, who then sold it to his brother Capt. John Smith. The house (373 Main Street) may actually have been built at that time, instead of the earlier date of 1782. In the late nineteenth century, this Colonial/Federal house was altered in the Queen Anne style.
At 93 Shunpike Road, corner of Evergreen Road, in Cromwell is a brick Federal-style house constructed circa 1811 to 1815. The house was built by Eber Sage (1790-1848) on land deeded to him by his father, Solomon Sage. In 1835 Eber Sage’s house and farm were purchased by Samuel Kirby (1771-1849). In 1875 the property was sold from the Kirby family to Patrick Caffrey and remained in his family until 1944.
Built around 1810, the house at 736 Main Street (at Cedar Street) in Branford was dated in a W.P.A. survey to c. 1834, perhaps because it has a later Greek Revival doorway. The house was likely constructed by Linus Robinson who soon sold it to John Hobart and Edmund Palmer. The house remained in the Palmer family through the nineteenth century and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Isaac Palmer House.
This house at 35 Main Street in North Stonington was built by William Avery (1765-1798) around 1792. In partnership with Nathan Pendleton, Avery opened a tavern in the house. He also built a store, later called Browning & Clark, on the same lot. This building later became the tailor shop of Cornelius Cornell. The house and store were acquired by Stanton Hewitt (d. 1847), who had married William Avery’s daughter, Mary. Hewitt owned a grist mill and shingle mill in North Stonington. In the 1860s, the store was moved to become what is now a wing of the nearby Noah Grant, Jr. House. Stanton Hewitt’s son, Charles Edwin Hewitt, inherited the house and he returned to North Stonington to live there around 1900. He died in 1910 and his daughter, Edna Hewitt Tryon, inherited the house. She left it to her nephew, Fernando Waterman Bentley (d. 1981) in 1946.
The late Federal/Early Greek Revival building at 60 Main Street in North Stonington was built between 1816 and 1828. Originally a residence, it was being used as a post office and store by the 1860s. The post office had previously been located in the nearby Holmes Block. Hillard’s general store occupied the building at 60 Main Street in the early twentieth century. The Town Clerk’s office was located here as well until 1904. The post office continued in this building until 1986. The building was then home to the law office of William H. Hescock, Esq.
Rev. John Wightman (1723-1781) was an itinerant Baptist minister, originally from Groton, who settled in Southington around 1770. According to Heman R. Timlow in Ecclesiastical and Other Sketches of Southington, Conn. (1875):
When Mr. Wightman came to Southington, Mr. Merriman [Southington's first resident Baptist pastor] was already nearly eighty years of age, and to this veteran Christian the presence of such a sympathizing friend and ally must have teen the occasion of great joy. It is my own impression, but I cannot support it by documentary evidence, that Mr. Wightman had occasionally supplied preaching for the Baptist families in the vicinity of Bristol and Red Stone Hill, perhaps a few weeks at a time. When he came to settle permanently, he removed to the neighborhood of Mr. Merriman on what is now the west mountain road. His house was just north of the junction of the road leading from Wolf Hill.
A uniform tradition is that he was in poor health and could endure but little exposure. But the families of his charge were few in number, and there was but little pastoral work to do. During the last year or two of his life he was confined almost wholly to his house. He died of consumption, April 4, 1781. Before his death he had succeeded in having a burying ground laid out, not far from his house, on the Wolf Hill road, and he was the first to be placed therein. The inscription upon his tombstone is as follows:
“Here lies the remains of the Rev. John Wightman, who departed this life April ye 4th A.D. 1781, in the 55th year of his age.
The servant of the lord most high
Sent with the gospel from the Sky
In dreary shades of lonesome night
To spread the grace of heavenly light.”
All the information that 1 can get concerning Mr. Wightman represents him as a devout Christian man, and of amiable traits of character. Like all his family in the eastern part of the state he was on excellent terms with the “standing order.” There is no evidence of any jar between him and Mr. Chapman who was pastor and ex-pastor of the Congregational church, while he was here. And the families of Congregationalists and Baptists were on the best of terms. There is no evidence of the least alienation until after 1780. Backus says “Mr. Wightman was a shining example of uniform piety and benevolence, until death put an end to his useful life which he ended in the most joyful manner at Farmington” (Southington.)
Rev. Wightman’s house, at 1024 Mount Vernon Road in Southington, was built around 1770 (the date he purchased the land). Since the house has Federal-style features outside but not inside, it is possible the exterior details were added later.