William Tully House (1750)

April 10th, 2017 Posted in Colonial, Houses, Old Saybrook

In 1745, William Tully of Saybrook divided his property among his heirs, with land at North Cove going to his son, also named William Tully. Soon after (c. 1750), the second William Tully built the house that still stands at 135/151 North Cove Road in Old Saybrook. Perhaps starting with just one room, the house has been much enlarged over the years. The house is also known as Heartsease, perhaps for the flower Viola tricolor that once grew in the yard. The name may also have originated during the period of time the building served as a summer house for female workers. At one time the house was known as the Whittlesey House for Captain John Whittlesey, who seems to have owned it at some point in the eighteenth century. During the Revolutionary War, on the night of August 8, 1779, a notable incident took place at the house. A group of Tories from Middletown had been caught having brought goods down the Connecticut River to sell to the British. Their confiscated merchandise was stored in the basement of the Tully House under the charge of the third William Tully, then 21 years old. As related by Mabel Cassine Holman in “Along the Connecticut River” (The Connecticut Magazine, Vol. XI, No. 4, 1907):

eight Tories came to the house and demanded entrance. Tully refused to open the door. Without further words it was broken in. Taking his old flint gun, Tully fired; the musket-ball passed through the first man, who still advanced, but the one directly back of him dropped dead. Tully turned upon the other six, wounding one with his bayonet; the remainder escaped by the windows. When the first man whom Tully shot discovered the ball had passed through him he dropped dead with one hand on the window and the other grasping a chest of tea.

The fourth William Tully was a noted doctor. Born in the house in 1785, he graduated from Yale in 1806 and then studied at Dartmouth Medical College, receiving his medical license in 1810. He practiced medicine in various places, including Middletown, CT and Albany, NY, before serving as professor of materia medica and therapeutics at the Medical Institution of Yale College from 1829 to 1842. As related in Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Vol. VI (1912):

For a time his relations with his colleagues were satisfactory; but eventually he was dissatisfied with his compensation, and imagined that there was a conspiracy to slander him, so that he ceased giving his lectures in the spring of 1841. His resignation of his professorship was not accepted until August, 1842. Subsequently he spent nearly a year in South Carolina, without his family. In the spring of 1851 he removed to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he died on February 28, 1859, in his 74th year. During his later years his professional occupation was mainly in consultation, and his circumstances were sadly straitened. He was buried in New Haven.

Dr. Tully was much respected during his lifetime as a particularly learned doctor and a research-oriented professor. As related in Sketches of the Old Inhabitants and Other Citizens of Old Springfield of the Present Century (1893), by Charles, Wells Chapin:

The late Noah Webster, D.D., in the preparation of his dictionary, acknowledged his indebtedness to Dr. Tully for important aid, in that he had the supervision of the department of the work relating to the subject of medicine. Dr. Tully died February 28, 1859, aged 73 years

In 2002, the Tully House was at the center of a preservation struggle between an owner who wanted to demolish it and preservationists.

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