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Ephraim Hawley House

The Ephraim Hawley House is a Colonial American wooden post-and-beam timber-frame saltbox farm house on the Farm Highway, Route 108, on the south side of Mischa Hill. It is the oldest house extant in the historic area of Nichols, a village located within Trumbull, Connecticut, in the New England region of the U.S.[1] Construction of the house began between 1670 and 1690 and was expanded to its present size by three additions.[2][3][4] The house is unique: Besides being one of the oldest houses in the surrounding area, it has been located in four different named townships in its history, but has never moved; Stratford (1670–1725), Unity (1725–1744), North Stratford (1744–1797) and Trumbull (1797–present).

Ephraim Hawley House
Hawley Homestead
Ephraim Hawley House Jan 2011.JPG
Image 2011
Ephraim Hawley House is located in Connecticut
Ephraim Hawley House
Location within Connecticut
Former names Sara Nichols Homestead
Alternative names Eliakim Hawley Place
General information
Status Private home
Architectural style Colonial, Saltbox
Location Nichols
Town or city Trumbull, Connecticut
Country United States
Coordinates 41°14′05″N 73°09′34″W / 41.2348°N 73.1594°W / 41.2348; -73.1594Coordinates: 41°14′05″N 73°09′34″W / 41.2348°N 73.1594°W / 41.2348; -73.1594
Construction started 1670
Completed 1690
Renovated 1787, 1882, 1920, 1987
Owner Residential
Technical details
Structural system post-and-beam



Spring 2015
Fall 2009

The Hawley Homestead was dated to 1690 during the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers' Project conducted during the Great Depression. Joan Oppenheim completed a research report on the house while studying Architecture at Yale University. She concluded, after examining the structure, researching land records, probate records and the Hawley record, that the house was built between 1683 and 1690 by Farmer Ephraim Hawley who married Sarah Welles, granddaughter of Connecticut Colony Governor Thomas Welles in 1683.[5][6]

The date of construction was not only based upon architectural details of the house, but also upon comparisons with other homes of the period, facts given to her by the Curtiss family, who owned the house at the time, and information from the Hawley Record which stated that Ephraim resided in Trumbull.[7][8] Oppenheim also stated the dating of the house compared with that of S.S. (State Survey) on file at the School of Fine Arts at Yale.

The house was dated to 1671–1683 in the 2002 Historic and Architectural Resource Survey produced for the Connecticut Historical Commission by Geoffrey Rossano, PhD. The 2010 Historic and Architectural Survey of the Town of Trumbull, Connecticut produced by Heather C. Jones and Bruce G. Harvey PhD for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, dates the house to 1670–1683. A piece of an oak post was carbon dated to 1710 with a standard deviation of 20 years.[9]


Image before 1881
Image circa 1882
Image 2011
Began as a Cape Cod cottage

The house began as a ​1 12-story Cape Cod cottage thirty-six feet wide by twenty-six feet deep with an eight-foot-wide central stone chimney with three fireplaces. There were four rooms downstairs; a small entryway, parlour and dining room in front and the kitchen in back. The second story was one undivided loft. Due to its modest size, the house was expanded by three additions.

Oak frame and siding

The first growth white oak post-and-beam frame consists of eight by ten inch girts, eight by eight inch plates and eight by ten inch splayed posts. The common rafters are eight by eight inches and taper to six by six inches and the floor joist are six by six inches and spaced twenty inches apart.

Oak clapboards 18th century lean-to attic

The six inch by ten inch summer beams run parallel to the front of the house and are dovetailed into the girts. They are located above the interior walls that divide the front rooms from the kitchen. The floor joist do not rest on the summers. Since the house was plastered when built, the summer beams were reduced in depth and concealed within the plaster ceiling. According to Connecticut Architectural historians, the introduction of plaster, as an interior finish, brought about the end to the tradition of using summer beams. The home builder, holding onto more traditional building methods, included summer beams in the framing, but in a reduced size, as they were being phased out altogether.[10]

The roof sheathing and flooring is vertically quarter sawn one-inch-thick oak boards with random widths between twelve and thirty inches. The flooring is laid directly over one-inch-thick split oak boards that were not suitable to be used as flooring. The mortise-and-tenon joints are held by wooden pins, and the flooring is nailed with large hand-wrought iron nails (see image).

Original quarter-sawn oak flooring over slit-stuff

The four- to six-foot-length hand-riven oak clapboard siding is nailed directly to the oak studs with large flat rose-headed nails which was the typical material and application for the earliest New England homes (see images).[11]

Oak clapboards 1840s lean-to attic
Oak clapboard joints 1840s lean-to attic
Stone chimney

The first floor of the house was built at ground level with a very modest field stone foundation. There is a partial dirt cellar located on the south side of the house. The eight-foot-wide stone fireplace is squared up to the chimney girts on all four sides. The three flues are laid up with clay on top of a ten-by-ten-foot stone foundation. The kitchen hearth is nine feet six inches wide by five feet seven inches deep. There is a one-foot crawl space around the chimney foundation below the first floor. A forty inch deep brick beehive bake oven is built into the right rear wall of the kitchen fireplace and its small opening is spanned by a wrought iron lintel. The brick are seven and one-half inches long by three and one-half inches wide by two inches thick indicating they were made before brick dimensions were regulated in the Colony of Connecticut in 1685.[12] There is a small tinder box built into the left wall of the kitchen firebox. The fireplace inside dimensions are four feet four inches high by six feet ten inches wide and is spanned by the original ten-by-ten-inch oak lintel, which rests on oak beams. The side walls of the kitchen firebox are roughly dressed granite. Cooking pots were hung from a lug pole. Above the ridge, the chimney flue outside measurements are forty eight inches wide by thirty eight inches deep with a course of three inch thick dripstones in the front and back.

Interior finish

The original front exterior door opened out and the stairs, closed in by vertical paneling, are parallel to the front of the house behind the parlor in the kitchen. The vertical feather-edge beaded poplar hardwood paneling alternate in width of thirteen inches and fifteen inches. The ceilings and walls are clam shell plaster on riven oak lath. Initially, there was no baseboard molding and the plaster finished flush to the flooring. The girts and posts were plastered over and not cased.

The ceiling heights are between six feet two inches and seven feet two inches on the first floor. The rear exterior door opening is five feet three inches high and originally opened out. An original casement window opening located on the east rear wall, in the kitchen, is twenty two inches square and is fifty four inches from the floor. This small opening was plastered over when the lean-to was built behind the wall in the 1840s. There is evidence that at one time shelving was installed in this opening.

The upstairs ceiling height is six feet. The surviving oak sash window frames have dimensions of twenty eight inches wide by forty six inches high, and also serve as studs for the clapboards and lath. The original interior doorways are twenty eight inches wide by five feet eleven inches high and the interior partitions are made of ​1 12-inch-thick vertical oak boards.


The first addition took place in the eighteenth century when a seven-foot-deep lean-to addition was added onto the northeast corner of the rear of the house which might have been used as a birthing room and eventually became the buttery (room) or pantry. The north exterior wall is made up of two inch thick oak boards. When the lean-to was built, the roof was extended, without a break, to within six feet six inches of the ground and gave the house its saltbox shape. The original hand-riven oak clapboard exterior siding is preserved in the attic that was created (see images).

The second addition was completed sometime before the American Civil War, when a lean-to was added to the remaining rear of the house. This may have been used as a bedroom for Sara Hawley, who had received lifelong use of the house upon her husband's death and lived to the age of 87. The poplar vertical feather-edge beaded paneling, that had encased the original stairs, were reused as roof sheathing. The rear exterior oak clapboards were preserved in place in the attic that was created (see image). A new central staircase and interior wall was built, since removed, enclosing the kitchen fireplace and turning the house into a two-family residence at this time.

Oak clapboards 1840s lean-to attic

The third addition was completed sometime around 1882, when the front roof was raised to a full story in height. The original common rafters were replaced with new vertically-sawn two inch by ten inch common rafters. The original oak roof sheathing was reused. The second floor was also partitioned into five small rooms, each with its own closet. The new batten doors were hand planed pine and the cast-iron hardware, hinges and latches were made by Eli Whitney Blake.

Truman Bradley

Schaghticoke Indian Truman Mauwee, or Truman Bradley, had moved into the house as a tenant farm worker in 1840. In 1881, Bradley purchased the house from Charles Fairchild for $450 ($100 in cash and a $350 mortgage to Fairchild) and did the second floor renovations himself.[13] Once the renovations were completed in 1882, Bradley sold the house to next door neighbor Clarissa Curtis for $525 ($175 cash and Curtiss assumed the $350 mortgage to Fairchild).[14]

Original end rafter configuration

Ephraim HawleyEdit

Ephraim, the son of Joseph Hawley, was born on August 14, 1659 at Stratford.[15] He was chosen as a fence viewer with Benjamin Beach on January 17, 1687.[16] He was propounded as a freeman (Colonial) to the court of the Connecticut Colony at Hartford in May 1687 with his brother Captain John Hawley.[17] To be elected a freeman in the Connecticut Colony at this time, one had to own real property, a dwelling house, in his name.

Ephraim died on April 18, 1690 and the inventory of his estate was taken on May 14, 1690 and filed on June 12, 1690.[18] Local legend is that he and his horse were killed by lightning, and since no grave has ever been found and the inventory of his estate did not include a horse, this may be true. Fairfield County raised an army on April 11, 1690 to defend Albany, New York following the Schenectady Massacre during the King William's War. Hawley may have died during the trip there, from fighting or disease (small pox). His peer who served in the war, Lt. John Hubbell, died on May 1, 1690 at Wood Creek (Fort Ann) in New York and was buried at the spot where he died.[19][20] Lt. Agur Tomlinson, Ensign of the army raised in Fairfield County, would later marry Ephraim Hawley's widow Sara Welles in 1692.[21]

The lengthy inventory submitted to the Fairfield County Probate Court appraised the house lands and meadow at 352 pound (currency), a negrow at 55 pound (currency) and a bed and bedding at 25 pound (currency). Since Ephraim died intestate, without a will, and according to English Law at the time, title to the dwelling house passed to the oldest living male heir, his half brother Robert Haule. His widow's dowry was returned to her out of her eldest son Daniel's double portion of lands, which were sold, and she received all of the movable estate or personal property.[22][23] Hawley's estate was not distributed until December 14, 1706.[24]

Sarah Hawley and Lt. Agur TomlinsonEdit

Widow Sarah married Lt. Agur Tomlinson in 1692 and had a son named Zachariah in 1693. However, there were complications during a later childbirth and Sarah and her baby, named Sarah posthumously, died on June 29, 1694 in Derby and were buried together.[25] Tomlinson inherited his wives personal property according to law.

Soon after Sarah's death, the Hawleys began to have some differences with Lt. Tomlinson over the orphaned Hawley children. In 1696, the Probate Court at Fairfield, ruled that the Hawleys would "award Tomlinson 50 pounds and a bed worth 5 pounds and discharge him from all further charges or trouble in bringing up ye children of sd. brother deceased". Tomlinson returned 25 pounds worth of his deceased wife's property to her children, making an entry in the Stratford land records on November 11, 1696;

Know all men by those presents I Agur Tomlinson of Stratford in ye County of Fairfield in ye Colony of Conocticott in now England in consideration of ye entire love and affection that I have and bear to ye children of my deceased wife namely Daniel Hawley Gideon Hawley and Abia Hawley ye children of Ephraim Hawley late of Stratford deceased I do freely give grant and bequeath unto ye said children as followoth; to Daniel one plowshare and coffer one chain one cow and one calf, to Gideon one gun and sword one camblot coat and one stuff coat, to Abiah one blanket at Mr. Woolcots one bed one coverlid one rugg one flagin one warming pan curtins and valins, two pewter platters and two plates one pot one cup two pillows one chest of drawers one pewter candlestick and bequeath two mares running in ye woods to ye above Daniel and Gideon.

The final settlement between Lt. Tomlinson and brothers Captain John and Samuel Hawley over the children and the property were entered into the Stratford land records on November 30, 1696.

Daniel HawleyEdit

Daniel married Elizabeth Brinsmade in 1707 and raised 5 children in Trumbull and died on July 28, 1750. On May 26, 1708, Daniel recorded his 48 acres of land by way of the division in the woods of the six mile division;

lying in the sprains of the Pequonnock River west of Porters Hill bounded on the south with the land of John Hurd and common land and west north and east with common land being in length on the west side 84 rods and at the north end 80 rods in length and at the south end 108 rods wide here note that part of the above land at ye south east corner on the east side is a parcel of swamp land and is bounded on the east with a brook on the west side of Porters Hill and at the north east corner with a chestnut tree and stones laid to it the line runs westerly on the south end of the hill to the line that runs from the northwest corner bounded with a white oak tree on the west side of a hill about 10 links northward which line runs southerly to the northwest corner of John Hurds land.

Ebenezer Hawley

Ebenezer, great grandson of Daniel, built a colonial mansion in 1765 for his bride, Hannah Beach the daughter of Israel and Hannah Burritt. He owned and operated the family gristmill which had been rebuilt in 1722 by his great grandfather and his cousin Ephraim. His home was located on a rise just east of the Pequonnock River, in present-day Trumbull Center, on his grandfather Daniel's farm. He fought in the French and Indian War and died in 1767, at the age of thirty, leaving behind a 1,135 English pound note payable to John Hancock of Boston.

This large home was converted into a tavern by Eliakim Beach during the American Revolutionary War and from 1862 to 1883 served as Trumbull's first municipal town hall. This is also where Mary Silliman, wife of captured American General Gold Selleck Silliman, fled when the British burned Fairfield, Connecticut during the American Revolutionary War. While at the tavern she gave birth to son Benjamin Silliman, America's first Scientist and pioneer in energy. The town sold the historic house for $100 in 1961 and it was dismantled and reassembled in Darien, CT.[26]

Nero Hawley

Nero Hawley, a free negro man, was a slave who earned his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution in place of his owner Daniel Hawley, Ephraim's great grandson.[27]

Gideon HawleyEdit

Gideon's grandson graduated from Yale University in 1749 and worked under Jonathan Edwards and became a missionary to the Iroquois Indians.[28][29]

Captain David Hawley

David, great grandson of Gideon, served in the American Revolutionary War under Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain on October 11, 1776. Hawley commanded the two-masted schooner USS Royal Savage with a crew of 50 men. His cousin Ephraim Hawley (1746–1777) served as his lieutenant, and his young nephew Samuel Hawley was also a seaman. The ship ran aground during the battle and was burned by the crew to prevent it from falling into British hands. The Royal Savage had been Arnold's flagship until he went aboard the ship USS Congress. This naval battle is considered to be the first of the United States Navy and delayed for one year the British attempts to cut the colonies in half.[30] David Hawley is also credited with capturing twenty British ships during the war for American Independence. He is most famous for leading a raid across Long Island Sound on November 4, 1779 to capture Tory Judge Thomas Jones to exchange for captured General Gold Selleck Silliman who had been taken prisoner out of his Fairfield, Connecticut home by the British in May 1779.

Major Aaron Hawley

Aaron, great grandson of Gideon, served as brigade major under General Gold Selleck Silliman.[31]

Abiah HawleyEdit

Abiah, daughter of Ephraim and Sarah, married William Wolcott of East Windsor, Connecticut on November 5, 1707 at seventeen. Their son William married Abigail Abbot and produced a daughter named Abigail Wolcott who married Oliver Ellsworth in 1772 and lived in the Oliver Ellsworth Homestead.[32]

Ellsworth was made the third Chief Justice of the United States (1796–1800) by President George Washington. Ellsworth was also a member of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. He and Roger Sherman advanced the Connecticut Compromise, prepared the first draft of the United States Constitution and is credited by some to have preserved the name the United States Government. He was also a U.S. Senator from CT (1789–96). Their son William Wolcott Ellsworth, served in U.S. Congress from (1829–1834) and was Governor of Connecticut from (1838–1842). Abiah Hawley died on June 16, 1716 at 26.

Captain John HawleyEdit

John, Ephraim's brother, took title to the house sometime after 1690 and before 1721 when his name appears in the land record when his neighbor Zachariah Curtiss gifted his farm to his son and used Captain John Hawley as part of the southern boundary. John was named Captain of the Second or North Company of the Stratford Train Band and was also Justice of the Peace for Fairfield County.[33]

Captain Robert Hawley

Robert, grandson of Captain John, was named Captain of the North Stratford Train Band in 1773 and at a special meeting on November 10, 1777, he was appointed to a committee to provide immediately all those necessaries for the Continental soldiers.[34] On March 12, 1778, the parish of North Stratford made donations of provisions for those residents serving in the southern army stationed at Valley Forge under General George Washington.[35]

Eliakim and Sally Sara Hawley

In 1787, Eliakim, son of Captain Robert and Hannah, married his second cousin Sally Sara Hawley, great granddaughter of Captain John Hawley through Nathan, and received the new dwelling house as a gift from his father for love and good will.[36] Eliakim withdrew from the Congregational Society of North Stratford on January 1, 1801 and joined the Episcopal Church of Trumbull.[37] Sally Sara Hawley lived in the house for 60 years until her death in 1847 and was the last Hawley to live in the house.[38][39]

Farm HighwayEdit

On December 7, 1696 the Farm Highway, present-day Nichols Avenue Connecticut Route 108, was laid out by the Stratford selectmen to the south side of Mischa Hill.[40] The highway was 12 rods wide, or 198 feet, where Broadbridge Brook runs off the south side of Mischa Hill, at Zachariah Curtiss, his land, and at Captain's Farm. Broadbridge Brook runs off Mischa Hill west of the present-day intersection of Route 108 and the Merritt Parkway and flows southwesterly to Broadbridge Avenue in Stratford.

In October 1725, when the Connecticut Colony approved the Parish of Unity, they referred to the Farm Highway as Nickol's Farm's Road.[41] The Nichols Avenue portion of Route 108 in Trumbull is the third-oldest documented highway in Connecticut after the Mohegan Road, Connecticut Route 32 in Norwich (1670) and the King's Highway, or Boston Post Road Route 1 (1673).[42]

1964 house tourEdit

The Trumbull Historical Society organized its first historic house tour on October 24, 1964. Tickets to the event were $2.00. The society printed a brochure with historical information on each house on the tour, which included the Ephraim Hawley House. The brochure proclaimed the Ephraim Hawley House was unequivocally the oldest house in Trumbull. It was presumed that the house was built by Ephraim Hawley between 1683 when he married and 1690 when he died. Mr. Elliott P. Curtiss owned and was residing in the house at this time, and put many of his 17th and 18th century antiques on display. The Hawley house was also featured on the cover of the first modern street map of the town of Trumbull published in 1965.

The house todayEdit

Over the last 345 years, the appearance of the house has evolved as each family has left their mark while expanding, adapting or preserving the house to accommodate changing ideas about space, function, comfort, privacy, cleanliness and fashion. Many original architectural details remain preserved including; partial dirt cellar, field stone foundation, oak post and beam frame, oak roof sheathing, stone chimney with brick beehive oven, oak interior walls, wide-board quarter-sawn oak flooring, clam shell plaster walls and ceilings over riven oak lath, poplar paneling, oak batten doors, oak window frames and the original riven oak clapboard siding in the lean-to attic.


See also


  1. ^ D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Fairfield County Connecticut, J. W. Lewis & Co., Philadelphia, 1881, page 790
  2. ^ W.P.A. Federal Writers Project, State of Connecticut 1935-1942
  3. ^ Geoffrey Rossano PhD, Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Trumbull, Connecticut, produced for the Connecticut Historical Commission, Hartford, CT, 2002
  4. ^ Heather Jones and Bruce Harvey,PhD, S&ME, Inc., Historic and Architectural Survey of the Town of Trumbull, Fairfield County, Connecticut, Produced for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Hartford, CT, 2010
  5. ^ New England Families Genealogical and Memorial, William Cutter, 1914, Vol. 1 page 275 [1]
  6. ^ Lineage Book of Hereditary Order of Descendants of Colonial Governors (Google eBook), Robert Glenn Thurtle, Genealogical Publishing Com, 2009 [2]
  7. ^ The Hawley Record, Elias S. Hawley, 1890, p. 2
  8. ^ Magna Charta, John S. Wurts, Brookfield Publishing Company, 1945, p. 1995
  9. ^ Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory [3]
  10. ^ Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut, J. Frederick Kelly, p. 67
  11. ^ Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut, J. Frederick Kelly, Dover Publications, 1963, page 81 [4]
  12. ^ Colonial Records of Connecticut Vol. 3 page 192
  13. ^ Trumbull Land Records Vol. 12, p. 54
  14. ^ Trumbull Land Records Vol. 12, p. 126
  15. ^ Stratford Land Records Vol. 1, page 27
  16. ^ Stratford Land Records Vol. 1, page 25
  17. ^ Colonial Connecticut Records 1636–1776, Vol. 3, page 233
  18. ^ Fairfield Probate Records Vol. 4, page 9
  19. ^ Colonial Records of Connecticut, Vol. 4, p. 14
  20. ^ History of Warren County, New York, William H. Brown, 1963
  21. ^ Hawley Record, p. 442
  22. ^ Colonial Records of Connecticut Vol. 4 page 167 May 1696
  23. ^ The USGenWeb Project Fairfield County CT Abstract of Probate Records Vol. 4, 1690–1702 page 101.[5]
  24. ^ Fairfield Probate Records Vol. 4, page 214
  25. ^ Hawley Record p. 443
  26. ^ Trumbull Historical Society Website Retrieved on 2016-12-27
  27. ^ Orcutt, Vol. II p. 1030
  28. ^ Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Franklin Dexter, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1896, Vol. II page 205, [6]
  29. ^ Extracts from the Itineraries and other Miscellanies of Ezra Stiles, 1755–1794, page 498 [7]
  30. ^ The Gondola Philadelphia and the Battle of Lake Champlain, John Batten, 2002 page 60 [8]
  31. ^ History of New York during the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jones, 1879, Vol. 2 page 568 [9]
  32. ^ The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Reverend William Cogswell, Boston, 1847, Vol. 1 page 253. [10]
  33. ^ Colonial Connecticut Records 1636–1776, Vol. 6 pg. 184
  34. ^ Orcutt, Vol. I, p. 376
  35. ^ Orcutt, Vol. I, p. 380
  36. ^ Stratford Land Records Vol. 22, p. 431
  37. ^ Orcutt Vol. 2 p. 1030
  38. ^ Orcutt, Vol. II, p. 1030
  39. ^ Orcutt, Vol. II, p. 1057
  40. ^ Orcutt, Vol. 2 p. 1049
  41. ^ Colonial Connecticut Records 1636–1776, Vol. 6 p. 568
  42. ^ Kurumi Connecticut Roads retrieved on 2008-04-11


  • Reverend Samuel Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Volume 1, Fairfield Historical Society, 1886
  • Reverend Samuel Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Volume 2, Fairfield Historical Society, 1886
  • History of Trumbull Dodrasquicentennial 1797–1972 Commemorative Book, Trumbull Historical Society, 1972
  • Connecticut General Assembly, The Public records of the Connecticut Colony 1636–1776, Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1885
  • William Cothren, History of Ancient Woodbury Connecticut, Bronson Brothers, Waterbury, 1854
  • Frederick Haines Curtiss, A Genealogy of the Curtiss Family, Rockwell and Churchill Press, Boston, 1903
  • William Richard Cutter, New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, Lewis Historical Publishing, NY, 1914
  • Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1896
  • Elias Sill Hawley, The Hawley Record, Press of E. H. Hutchinson & Co., Buffalo, NY, 1890
  • D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Fairfield County Connecticut, J. W. Lewis & Co., Philadelphia, 1881
  • Joan Oppenheim, Yale University History of Art-53a-Research Report, New Haven, CT, 1950
  • Nancy O. Phillips, Town Records of Derby, Connecticut 1655–1710, Sarah Riggs Humphreys Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Derby, 1901
  • Albert Mack Sterling, The Sterling Genealogy, Grafton Press, NY, 1909

External linksEdit