Samuel Arthur Bent.

The Wayside inn. Its history and literature. An address delivered before the Society of colonial wars at the Wayside inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts, June 17, 1897 online

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Online LibrarySamuel Arthur BentThe Wayside inn. Its history and literature. An address delivered before the Society of colonial wars at the Wayside inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts, June 17, 1897 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Its History



Chap. P7*^

Shelf V S^^B^



The Wayside Inn

Its History and Literature


Delivered before the


at the

Wayside Inn, Sjdtiury, Massachusetts
June 17, 1897

Member of the Council

y^m OF CONG^^



Mr. Governor and Gentlemen:

This old town of Sudbury, to which on an anniversary-
dear to Massachusetts we make our summer pilgrimage,
was one of the earliest inland settlements of the Bay
Colony, The population on tide water was pressed by
increasing immigration as early as 1637, ^r^^i in that year
it was proposed that a company should proceed westward
from Watertown, "owing," as the record has it, "to
straitness of accommodation and want of more meadow."
Concord was already settled to the northward, and when
in 1638 men of Watertown and Cambridge pushed their
way into the wilderness, they formed the nineteenth town-
ship in the Colony, obtaining the grant of a tract of land
five miles square, bounded east by Watertown, that part
now Weston, north by Concord, south and west by the
wilderness. Their route had been, however, already
marked out for them. Through the south-east corner of
their settlement passed the Indian trail, or the " old Con-
necticut path," along this very road from the sea-board
to Connecticut, by which the ministers Hooker, Stone,
their companions and families, had already journeyed
towards the settlement of Hartford.

Our settlers were joined here by others coming direct
from England, several of them, Haynes, Noyes, Bent,


Rutter, and Goodenow, fellow-passengers in the " good
shipp ' Confidence ' " sailing from Southampton, April
24, 1638, meeting on this common settling-ground Stone,
of Cambridge, Parmenter, Treadway, Pelham, and Browne,
of Watertown, and here, to the number of fifty-four, build-
ing their cabins looking into the darkness of the wilder-
ness beyond.

It was natural that they should ask their pastor, the
Rev. Edmund Browne, to name their settlement. He
had come from England in 1637, and from his early
home in Sufifolkshire or from that of some of his family
he called the town Sudbury, which was confirmed by the
General Court in 1639 in the act of incorporation. And
not only did he name it Sudbury, but he gave another
Suffolk name to a section of it, Lanham, from the town
spelled Lavenham, but pronounced Lanham on the other
side of the water.

There exists no record of the dimensions of any of
the first dwelling-houses of Sudbury, but we may judge
something of their size by the specifications in a lease of
a house to be built by Edmund Rice prior to the year
1655. It was certainly a very small house, "thirty foot
long, ten foot high, one foot sill from the ground, sixteen
foot wide, with two rooms, both below or one above the
other, all the doors, walls, stairs with convenient fixtures
and well planked under foot, and boarded sufficiently to
lay corn in the story above head." Their earliest dwell-
ings may have been even simpler, with the most scanty
furniture, teaming being difficult from Watertown over
the new road to Sudbury.

Sudbury had rich natural advantages for a successful
settlement. The town was well watered ; the heavy
timber covering much of the land was free from under-
brush ; wild fowl, turkeys, pigeons, grouse, were plentiful ;
game was abundant, in the pursuit of which the Indians


had made clearings ; while broad meadows lined the river
and brooks. The settlers were all young men, the emi-
grants from England were also in the prime of manhood,
and for many years not an old man was to be seen in the
settlement. They prospered within their own limits, and
pushed still further, sending their sons into the wilderness
to build up other settlements ; to Worcester, Grafton, and
Rutland, forming municipalities within their own borders
or adjacent to them, as Framingham and Marlborough.
But one cloud rested upon their horizon, threatening them
as all frontier and outpost settlements, until the storm of
Indian invasion burst upon them, and every habitation,
save sheepcotes, was swept into destruction.

Among the early settlers was one John How, a glover
by trade. He was admitted a freeman in 1641 and was
chosen selectman the next year. In 1655 he was
appointed " to see to the restraining of youth on the
Lord's day." He was a petitioner for Marlborough
plantation in 1657, moved there about the same year, and
was elected a selectman. He was the first tavern keeper
in that town, having a public house as early as 1661.
" At this ordinary," says the historian of Sudbury, " his
grandson, who afterwards kept the Sudbury Red Horse
Tavern, may have been favorably struck with the occupa-
tion of an innholder and thus led to establish the busi-
ness at Sudbury."

The proximity of John How's house in Marlborough
to the Indian plantation brought him into direct con-
tact with his savage neighbors, and by his kindness he
gained their confidence and good will, and they accord-
ingly not only respected his rights, but often made him
their umpire in cases of difficulty. He acquired, I have
read, the reputation of a Solomon by his decision of a
dispute where a pumpkin vine sprang up within the
premises of one Indian and the fruit ripened upon the


land of another. The question of the ownership of the
pumpkin was referred to him, when he called for a knife
and divided the fruit, giving half to each claimant. This
struck the parties as the perfection of justice, and fixed
the impartiality of the judge on an immutable basis.
John How died in 1680, at the age of seventy-eight
years, and left an estate valued at ;^5 1 1 .

His son Samuel, a carpenter by trade, born in 1642,
married, in 1663, Martha Bent, daughter of John Bent, of
Sudbury, the first of that name ; and later widow Clapp, of
Hingham. He is described as a man of great energy and
public spirit. He could at any rate have given points to
any real estate dealer of the present day on the expansive
power of the English language as applied to land, as will
be seen from the following incident. He entered into a
land speculation with one Gookin, of Cambridge, sheriff
of Middlesex County, a son of Major Gookin, well known
as a writer, soldier, and friend of the Christian Indians.
They bought, in 1682, of the Natick Indians a tract said
in the deed to contain ** by estimation two hundred acres
more or less." The western boundary was not specified
in the deed, and the words " more or less," when applied
to " waste land," so called, were understood to give the
purchaser a wide latitude. How and Gookin accordingly
took possession of all the unoccupied land between Cochit-
uate pond on the east and Sudbury river on the west,
parcelled it out, and sold lots from time to time to bona
fide purchasers. The Indians at length became dissatisfied
and complained to the General Court of encroachments
upon the grant of 1682. How and Gookin submitted to a
committee of the court their deed, and a writing from
some of the Indians for an enlargement of the grant, and
a receipt for money paid in consideration thereof. The
committee found that under these writings How and
Gookin had sold i,Too acres north of the Worcester


turnpike, which was confirmed by the General Court,
and i,ooo acres south of the turnpike, which was not
allowed, but remained in possession of the Indians, and
later became a factor in a land controversy between the
towns of Sherborn and Framingham.

In 1702 Samuel How gave his son David, born in 1674,
a tract of one hundred and thirty acres of the so-called
" new grant " of Sudbury, and on one of the lots of this
grant, bounded easterly on the highway and westerly by
Marlborough, David How began immediately to build a
house. During its erection tradition says that the work-
men resorted at night for protection against Indian
attacks to the Parmenter garrison house, half a mile
away. Soon after its construction How opened it as a
public house, the fifth tavern on the road from Boston
westwards. In a letter to an English lady, dated Dec.
28, 1863, Longfellow gives his version of the genesis of
this house. " Some two hundred years ago," he says,
" an Enghsh family by the name of Howe built there (in
Sudbury) a country house, which has remained in the
family down to the present time, the last of the race
dying about two years ago. Losing their fortune, they
became innkeepers, and for a century the Red Horse has
flourished, going down from father to son. The place is
just as I have described it, though no longer an inn. All
this will account for the landlord's coat of arms, and his
being a justice of the peace, and his being known as the
squire, things that must sound strange in English ears."
That a man of good familj'' should open a public house
in the early days of our New England towns would not
to those who have read the history of the times need
either explanation or apology. The institution of taverns
in these towns followed quickly upon their settlement.
Being a recognized need in a new and thinly settled
country, no one thought of speaking of them as an evil,


or even as a necessary evil. That travellers and sojourners
might be provided for, taverns were licensed by the
General Court as fast as new villages sprang up. Super-
vision was strict, as the spirit of a patriarchal community
founded on morals would require. An innkeeper was not
then looked upon as a person who was pursuing a dis-
graceful or immoral calling. He was generally a respon-
sible and respectable member of the village community.
His house, closely watched by the constable, whose busi-
ness it was to know everybody else's business, became a
landmark for the community. Streets in towns like
Boston were named from the taverns situated on them,
and in the country the signs which bore the rude effigy
of a horse or a bull, a star or a sun, were hailed by the
weary traveller as offering " all the comforts of home."

Nor do I find that David How was compelled by a
reverse of fortune to open his house to the public. He
was one of a family of thirteen children of Samuel How.
One of the local historians says that these thirteen made
an assignment in 1714, the year in which, according to
some authorities, the house was opened. No such
assignment is on record in Middlesex County, so far as
I can discover. The administrator of Samuel How's
estate certified to the injury it would receive if divided
among so many heirs, and administration was accord-
ingly continued for several years. I am told by Mr.
Homer Rogers, who bought this estate after the death of
the last Howe, that in examining the title for the first deed
of the property for nearly two hundred years no record
of any assignment, attachment, or other incumbrance
was found upon it.

It may be supposed that David How, one of so large a
family, found it necessary to earn his living by a respect-
able calling, and the business of his grandfather in Marl-
borough would naturally suggest that of an innkeeper.


He accordingly opened his house to the public, not the
first man in Sudbury to do so, but destined to eclipse
them all in the celebrity of his inn and the fame of his
descendants. His house, then called simply " How's
Tavern in Sudbury" to distinguish it from How's Tavern
in Marlborough, soon became known. Thus in 17 16
Judge Sewall records in his diary that he started with a
friend for Springfield on the 27th of April. He says he
" treated at N. Sparhawk's, got to How's in Sudbury
about one-half hour by the sun." The original house
was a small one, generally supposed, says Mr. Rogers, to
be the L in the rear of the present edifice, although
others speak of some part of it as standing as late as
1829, implying that the original structure has by this
time disappeared.

David How kept the tavern until his death in 1746,
when it passed into the hands of his son Ezekiel, by
whom it was enlarged as increased business made
necessary. Receiving the custom of the great highway
and mail route from Boston westward, the old inn of one
story was merged in a more elaborate structure of two
stories with a gambrel roof and arms spreading on either
side, receiving through its seventy-nine windows alike
the summer's and the winter's sun.^

Its new proprietor christened his inn the " Red Horse
Tavern," to distinguish it from the " Black Horse " of
Marlborough, and hung in front of it a sign, one side
of which bore the effigy of a fiery steed, while on the
other were later seen the initials of the first three owners :

D. H 1686

E. H 1746

A. Howe 1796

'The photograph, of which the frontispiece is a reproduction, was taken June
17, 1897, by Mr. Arthur Cecil Thomson, of the Society of Colonial Wars.


For years this sign swung to the breeze and bore the
heat of summer and the blasts of winter, and was un-
doubtedly showing its weather-beaten and half-obliterated
features when Longfellow saw it on the visit which was to
immortalize the Red Horse Tavern as the ** Wayside
Inn," for he included it in the picture of the house :

" Half effaced by rain and shine
The Red Horse prances on the sign."

But the old sign has disappeared just as the old name
gave way to the newer title.

It was during the incumbency, if I may use the word,
of Ezekiel How that a price list was established at Sud-
bury for various commodities, and the following tariff for
taverns would not tempt our new proprietor of 1897 to
embark in a business which promised so little profit on
the financial basis of the last century. It reads thus :

Mug best India flip


New England do .


Toddy in proportion

A good dinner


Common do .


Best supper and breakfast

15 each

Common do .




I cannot as one " to the manner born " describe this
house, with its many rooms given to public use and its
apartments private to the landlord's family.

Entering the house and turning to the right, we find the
tap-room, in the most ancient-looking part of the house.
In one corner over the bar is the wooden portcullis, which
rose to the call for refreshments, or fell as trade was dull.


We still see the ancient floor, worn more deeply than in
any other room, overhead the heavy timbers, the very
oak of which is seasoned with the spicy vapor of the
steaming flagons. Upstairs you are shown the travellers'
rooms which those of lesser note occupied in common,
and the state chamber still decorated with its wall paper
of blue-bells, where tradition says Lafayette slept on his
journey to Boston, in 1824. Above in the garret the
slaves were accommodated, and when Indian invasion was
feared grain was stored there against a siege. In one of
the upper rooms was the dance hall, which was later
placed in an annex to the ancient building. In the more
modern room the dais still stands at one end for the
players, the wooden benches are still fixed to the walls,
the floor is smoothly polished by feet once swiftly trip-
ping in the old-fashioned contra dances or the stately
minuet. Gone are the dancers, silent is the violin, over
all the place for thirty years has reigned a solemn still-
ness save when it is broken by the sweet voices of Nature
and Nature's offspring, or, as Parsons sang of it :

"The 'scutcheon is faded that hangs on the wall,
And the hearth looks forlorn in the desolate hall ;
And the floor that has bent with the minuet's tread
Is like a church pavement — the dancers are dead."

Could we have passed a day under the hospitable roof
of the Red Horse Tavern one hundred and fifty years
ago, those four and twenty hours would have enrolled
before us a perfect picture of New England life. Long
before daylight our sleep would have been disturbed by
the rumbling of the heavy market wagons, taking to
Boston produce of the garden and the farm from western
Massachusetts, even from New York, and from intermedi-
ate places along the route. Later in the day we should see


them filling with heavy wheels and large canvastops the
spacious lawn in front of the house, returning empty from
their destination, their drivers refreshing themselves in the
tap-room while their horses were baited in the barns. On
our descent for breakfast the music of a horn winding
through the valley announced the arrival of the mail-
coach from Boston, which started on its journey at three
o'clock in the morning, its inmates silent like so many
shadows, until the rising sun clothed them with forms and
touched them like Memnon's statue with speech. The
black stable-boys rushed to take out the horses, the maids
stood attendant behind the tables hot with the morning
fare, mine host himself, erect in military dignity, stood at
the door as the travellers emerged from their pent-up
quarters, cramped and dusty and eager to break their fast
after a journey of three and twenty good English miles
from the Town House in Boston. Before the tavern was
opened this road was a mail route; in fact, from 1704,
when appeared the first newspaper in America, a western
post was carried with greater or less regularity, and travel-
lers availed themselves of the post rider's company over
a tedious and sometimes dangerous road. It was in such
company that Madame Knight made her famous journey
on horseback from Boston to New York in the very year
we have mentioned, 1704, and in the curious account of
it which she wrote, she says that at Mr. Haven's ^ she
could get no sleep because of the clamor of some of the
" town topers " in the next room, discussing over their
cups the signification of the Indian word " Narragansett."
So she says that she finally fell to her old way of compos-
ing her resentment as follows :

** I ask thy aid, O potent Rum,
To charm these wrangling topers dum.

1 A tavern in what is now North Kingston, R.I.


Thou hast their giddy brains possest —
The man confounded with the beast —
And I, poor I, can get no rest.
Intoxicate them with thy fumes,
O still their tongues till morning comes ! "

" And I know not," she adds, " but my wishes took
effect ; for the dispute soon ended with t'other dram ; and
so good-night! "

Returning now to our inn, when the mail-coach had
pursued its journey with a refreshed and consequently
better-natured company, a travelling chariot with four
well-groomed bays, coachman and footman in livery,
with trim lady's maid and prim duenna, caused even a
greater sensation than the more plebeian mail-coach with
its heterogeneous company. A dainty lady, dressed in
the fashion of the day, alighted for an hour's refreshment,
amid the open-mouthed wonder of the onlookers, just as
some years later Dorothy Quincy paused on her journey
to Bridgeport to meet John Hancock, whom she married
at Mr. Burr's, in that distant town. And before she
started on her way again she exchanged greetings with a
solemn deputy travelling on horseback from Springfield
to the General Court, arrayed, like travellers of that time,
with riding coat and " stirrup-stockings," and well-filled
saddle-bags. So important a personage Colonel How
greeted with cordial but respectful familiarity, and invited
to partake of cheer a little more choice than the ordinary
traveller could expect even at the famous sign of the
Red Horse.

But while the travelling statesman was giving our host
his views on public affairs a novel sound struck the ear.
A distant drum brought the boys and the maids and the
tap-room loafers to doors and windows. Soon the shrill
music of the wry-necked fife lent the melody of the


"Road to Boston" to the rataplan of the drum. Bay-
onets gleamed in the sunlight striking through the
heavy foliage of the oaks, and a dusty company of foot
soldiers tramped along the road. "Halt!" cried the
captain, opposite the door. Arms were stacked, ranks
were broken, the landlord showed the officers into the
room behind the bar, while the men stretched them-
selves upon the grass under the oaks, which were old
then, and well grown when, nearly a century earlier,
Wadsworth and Brocklebank marched under them to
their glorious death.

All through our New England history the Red Horse
was a favorite resting-place of the New England soldiery,
mindful of its proverbial good cheer. As long ago as
1724, during Lovewell's war, this tap-room was the ren-
dezvous of the troop of horse, steel-capped and buff-
coated, that patrolled the roads hereabout. Later, the
troops hurrying to the frontier in the French and Indian
wars, to Ticonderoga and Crown Point, shook the dust
from what it would be sarcasm to call their " uniforms,"
before this house. Later still, the Worcester minute-
men, led by Timothy Bigelow, rested here on their
forced march at the Lexington alarm, until the distant
rumbling of Percy's cannon hurried them to the front,
and from still further away Putnam and Arnold and the
Connecticut militia may have asked their way at this
house, whose landlord himself had buckled on his sword
and ridden to the fray with the men of Sudbury.

Ezekiel How, at the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, was
lieutenant-colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Middle-
sex County Militia, of which James Barrett, of Concord,
was colonel. The next year. May 10, he was chosen by
the Legislature as colonel of the regiment, and held his
commission until Jan. 26, 1779, when he resigned.

At the time of the Lexington alarm, one-fifth of the


entire population of Sudbury was enrolled in the six
companies of the town, and the number in actual service
at Concord and Lexington was three hundred and two.
Word came between three and four o'clock on the morning
of the 19th of April to the Sudbury member of the Pro-
vincial Congress, by an express from Concord, that the
British were on their way to that town. The church bell
was rung, musketry was discharged, and by sunrise the
greater part of the population was notified. The men of
this town had already received " the baptism of fire."
They had learned of war since it had been brought to
their very doors by the savage warriors of King Philip,
and in the intervening period one hundred names of
Sudbury's sons are found on the muster rolls of the suc-
cessive French and Indian wars.

" The morning of the 19th was unusually fine," wrote
later a Revolutionary soldier, " and the inhabitants of
Sudbury never can make such an important appearance
probably again. Every countenance seemed to discover
the importance of the event." The Sudbury companies
took two different routes to Concord, and on their arrival
two of them, commanded by Captains Nixon and
Haynes, with Lieutenant-Colonel How, who accompa-
nied them, started for the old North Bridge. "When
they came within sight of Colonel Barrett's house they
halted," says the historian of Sudbury ; " before them
were the British, engaged in their mischievous work.
Gun carriages had been collected and piled together to
be burned, the torch already had been applied, and the
residence of the colonel had been ransacked. They
halted, and Colonel How exclaimed, ' If any blood has
been shed, not one of the rascals shall escape ! ' Dis-
guising himself, he rode on to ascertain the truth." It
was probably not far from nine o'clock when this eve^t
took place, which shows the celerity with which the Sud-


bury troops had moved, Shattuck, in his history, says
that two companies from Sudbury, under How, Nixon,
and Haynes, came to Concord, and having received or-
ders from a person stationed at the entrance to the town
to proceed to the North instead of to the South Bridge,
arrived at Colonel Barrett's just before the British sol-
diers retreated, which is confirmed by the statement of
the Revolutionary soldier before quoted, that " the Sud-
bury companies were but a short distance from the
North Bridge when the first opposition was made to the
haughty enemy." At any rate the Sudbury companies
joined in the pursuit of the retreating British, and in at
least two of the sharp encounters which occurred, one
at Merriam's Corner and the other at Hardy's Hill, they
bravely bore their part. They sustained a loss of two


Online LibrarySamuel Arthur BentThe Wayside inn. Its history and literature. An address delivered before the Society of colonial wars at the Wayside inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts, June 17, 1897 → online text (page 1 of 2)