According to tradition, Asa Barnes established a tavern in his home in the Marion area of Southington in 1765, the same year he married Phebe Adkins. In 1781, when French troops under the comte de Rochambeau were marching through Connecticut on their way south, the eighth campsite of their march was established nearby on French Hill. During the four nights of the encampment, Rochambeau and his officers were entertained by Barnes in the tavern. They would stop there again during their return march, on October 27, 1782. Barnes continued to live in his tavern/house until his death in 1819. His son, Philo Barnes, leased the home to Micah Rugg and Levi B. Frost, pioneers in Southington’s bolt manufacturing industry. Frost, a blacksmith, purchased the property in 1820. The original building burned in a fire in 1836 and Frost rebuilt his house in the Greek Revival style. While the Frost House, which is located at 1089 Marion Avenue, features the classic hallmarks of that style of architecture, it is unusually long at 50 feet. This may be due to the house being constructed on the foundations (and perhaps even incorporating the original framework) of the original eighteenth-century tavern.
Happy Fourth of July! During the Revolutionary War, the French General Rochambeau’s army passed twice through Newtown: first in June, 1781, during the march to the Battle of Yorktown, and again in October, 1782, during the return march. On June 23, 1781, Claude Blanchard, the French commissary officer, arrived five days before the army to make arrangements for supplying the French camps. As Blanchard related in his diary (translated by William Duane, edited by Thomas Balch and published in 1876):
Newtown is on a hill surrounded by hills which are still higher. There are only a hundred houses with two temples [churches]. One of them was near the place where I lodged; and, as it was Sunday, I saw many people from the vicinity dismount there. As all the inhabitants of the country are proprietors and, consequently, in pretty easy circumstances, they had come on horseback, as well as their wives and daughters. In the neighborhood of Boston, they come in carriages; but here the country is mountainous and the horse is more suitable. The husband mounts his horse along with his wife; sometimes there are two women or two young girls together; they are all well clothed, wearing the little black hat in the English style, and making as good an appearance as the burghers in our cities. I counted more than a hundred horses at the door of the temple, where I heard singing before the preaching, in chorus or in parts. The singing was agreeable and well performed, not by hired priests and chaplains, but by men or women, young men or young girls whom the desire of praising God had assembled.
To-day I was rejoined at Newtown, where I spent the whole day, by M. de Sançcon, my secretary and some surgeons and apothecaries. I pointed out to them the site which I had selected for the hospital, and set out, on the 25th, to proceed to the American army.
Blanchard stayed in Newtown at the Caleb Baldwin Tavern, which had been built about 1763. Caleb Baldwin was a schoolmaster, postmaster and town clerk in Newtown. The tavern is where local farmers would drink sassafras beer after the sheep grazed in Ram Pasture. According to Newtown’s History and Historian, Ezra Levan Johnson (1917):
Caleb Baldwin’s Inn had the reputation of being the pattern of neatness, homelike in all surroundings and it was also claimed that there could be had the best broiled chicken or sirloin steak to be found in Fairfield county. The motherly reputation of the hostess made it a much sought place for restfulness.
The building remained in the Baldwin family until 1917. Still standing at 32 Main Street in Newtown, the former tavern was later remodeled twice, in the Federal and Victorian eras.
The Daniel Basset House, north of the Green in Monroe, was built in 1775. The house has large second-floor ballroom where, according to local tradition, a ball was held on June 30, 1781, to welcome the Hussars of the French mounted Legion led by the Duc De Lauzon (pdf). Lauzun’s Legion, which was protecting the southern flank of the main French army under the Comte de Rochambeau, was camped just south of the village center of New Stratford (now Monroe). The French would soon march to fight in the Siege of Yorktown. The Basset House, located near Masuk High School, maintains much of its historic appearance, with early nineteenth-century decoration around the entrance.
The oldest surviving house in Middlebury was built by Josiah Bronson on Breakneck Hill Road in 1738. The house also served as a tavern and hosted a number of French officers during the Revolutionary War: first in 1781 when Rochambeau’s French army encamped in Middlebury from June 27 to July 1, on its way to the Siege of Yorktown, and again from October 26-28, 1782, during their return journey. One of the officers to stay in the tavern was the Baron de Viomenil, who was second in command to General Rochambeau during the Yorktown Campaign. At these times, Rochambeau himself most likely stayed with Captain Isaac Bronson, Josiah’s father, further down the hill. The Josiah Bronson House was acquired in 1940 by Lawrence M. and Esther Duryee, who restored it.
In June of 1781, the army of the French general, the comte de Rochambeau, on its way to join George Washington and fight in the Battle of Yorktown, camped at what was later called Rose Farm in Bolton. Between June 21 and 25, 1781, four regiments of the French soldiers spent one night each at the camp, which was the fifth French army encampment of their journey from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia. The farm was part of the land originally owned by the town’s first minister, Reverend Thomas White and at the time of the Revolutionary War, the property, called the Minister’s Farm, was owned by Reverend George Colton, who was Bolton’s minister from 1764 to 1817. The farm still has numerous stone walls, built by early settlers who initially cleared the land. Many of these walls were noted on a map made by Rochambeau’s engineer. The minister’s house, originally built in 1725 by Rev. White and where Rev. Colton entertained Rochambeau in 1781, has been significantly altered. Once believed to have been replaced by a new Greek Revival-style house, built around 1840 by Reverend James Ely, it is now thought that the core of the later house is the original colonial structure, much altered and added to in later years . The farm was owned by the Rose family in the twentieth century. It was saved from the building of an expressway in 1994 and in 2000, after a campaign to save the land from development, it was purchased by the town of Bolton and is now the Bolton Heritage Farm.
The Oliver White Tavern was built around 1741-1743 on East Street (now Brandy Street) in Bolton. Oliver White sold the house after it was built, although it continued to bear his name when it became a Tavern, between 1753 and 1764. During the Revolutionary War, Capt. Joel White owned the Tavern, which was situated near the farm where General Rochambeau’s French troops camped in June of 1781, during their march to the Battle of Yorktown. Some of Rochambeau’s officers stayed at the Tavern, while the general himself went to the Daniel White Tavern, nearby in Andover. The Oliver White Tavern continued in operation until around 1790.
Daniel White’s Tavern, on Hutchinson Road in Andover, was built as a house in 1722 and was opened as a tavern in 1773 by Daniel White, who was a Coventry selectman and an army captain during the Revolutionary War. Known as White’s Tavern at the Sign of the Black Horse, the house had two inner walls on the second floor which could be swung upwards to create an enlarged ballroom. The Tavern was a frequent stopping place for the comte de Rochambeau during the Revolutionary War. He stopped there in May 1781, on his way to and from his conference with Washington in Wethersfield. Later, in June of that year, when his army camped nearby in Bolton, on its way from Rhode Island to fight in the Battle of Yorktown (and again in November, when the army was returning), Rochambeau and several of his officers were guests at the Tavern. Rochambeau was there again in 1782, when he traveled to Newburgh, New York, for his final meeting with Washington.