Silas Deane House (1766)

May 21st, 2007 Posted in Colonial, Houses, Wethersfield

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Built next door to the Webb House, on Wethersfield’s Main Street, in the late 1760s for Silas Deane, a Yale educated lawyer from Goton who settled in town in 1762. Deane married Mehitable Nott Webb, the widow of the merchant Joseph Webb, in 1763 and their son, Jesse Deane, was born in 1764. Because Mehitable died in 1767, it is probable she never lived in the Deane House. After her death, Deane married a second wealthy widow, Elizabeth Saltonstall Evards, in 1769. Deane became involved in the American Revolution, serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In 1776, he was sent to France on a mission to secure French aid. Later joined by Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee, Deane worked well with the former in negotiating an alliance with the French, but clashed with the latter. Lee’s charges that his colleague had mismanaged funds eventually led to Deane’s recall.

After a dispute with Congress, Deane returned to Europe in 1781, where he lived in poverty for many years. He later died in mysterious circumstances in 1789 before he could complete his return journey to America. By then his reputation had been severely damaged by Lee’s accusations and by the publication of private letters in which Deane had questioned the Revolution and considered rapprochment with Britain. He had never been found guilty of Lee’s charges and in 1842 was exhonorated by Congress.

His house was acquired by the Colonial Dames in 1959. After undergoing a historic restoration, it opened to the public in 1974, as part of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum. The museum has created a website, Silas Deane Online, which features images, a timeline, exerpts from primary sources relating to Deane, and a virtual tour of the house. He was also discussed last year in the Hartford Courant.

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