Saturday, January 5, 2013

Home History, Part III

From a prior post (see Part I and Part II), I was able to deduce that our home's name sake, James Warner, was not the builder, simply one of many owners our home had.  He was the most prominent owner under the current township which we reside in, Rocky Hill.

Rocky Hill is a township incorporated in 1843, located directly south of Wethersfield.  Prior to 1843, Rocky Hill was apart of Wethersfield.  The area was called Stepney Parish and locals would refer to the rocky area that dominated Stepney as "Rocky Hill."  The name stuck and by the summer of 1843, Rocky Hill became official.  However, since our home was built prior to the switch from Wethersfield to Rocky Hill, if we want records prior to 1843, we would need to visit Wethersfield.

Side note:  Going to Town Hall can be a tad frustrating, like going to the DMV.  The various departments within Town Hall seldom speak to one another in regards to records acting seemingly autonomous. What one department has, the other does not, and neither knows what the other has.  Forget about two different Town Halls speaking to another.  Trekking to one's Town Hall requires one to be utmost polite, as the saying goes,  "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Be patient and eventually, you'll get what you'll need.  Just don't count on them being always polite back to you, that's not their job.

My lovely wife made this journey over several days last summer as a favor to me.  She started her research in Rocky Hill's Town Clerk's office which resulted in Part I of our home's history.  The records she uncovered were a mixture of owners.  She eventually ended up in Wethersfield's Town Clerk's office viewing records dating back to the 17th Century.  Due to time, her efforts ceased.  However, I was able to make a one day visit to validate her findings and continue where she left off.  As it turns out, not only was James Warner not the originator but nor was Part II's focal person, Rev. Burrage Merriam.  The following are our combined discoveries of previous owners:

Detail - lots of it, you've been warned!
Shall we start at the beginning?

It seems everything started in the later half of the 17th century where a blacksmith named Jonathan Deming (1661-1727) moved from the Middletown area to Wethersfield where he was originally from.  His father had passed down land and likewise, he had purchased, been gifted and inherited land from others.  By 1709, he is recorded as being married to Abigail Fyler (1683-1754).  It was his second marriage and her first.  With her, he had two sons, Daniel (1709-1748) and Charles (1714-1780).  When he passed away in 1727, his entire estate was valued at 1,500£.  A legal battle resulted in the lands being divided up amongst several parties leaving a few parcels to his wife and sons.

Charles Deming (1714-1780), the younger of Jonathan's two sons, had moved to Saybrook, CT by 1738.  He was busy selling any lands he had in the Wethersfield area for he no longer lived there.  In a deed dated May 23, 1746, he writes:
To all People to whom these presents shall come Greeting. Know Ye that I, Charles Deming of Saybrook in the County of New London and Colony of Connecticut in New England, for the consideration of the sum of seventeen pounds money or bills of credit of the old Tenor received to my full satisfaction of my Brother Daniel Deming of Wethersfield in the County of Hartford and the Colony aforesaid Have bargained and sold and by these presents Do give, grant, bargain, sell and confirm unto the said Daniel Deming and to his Heirs and Assigns for ever one there part of two acres of land more or less lying in Wethersfield aforesaid at a place commonly called Demings Plain which said two acres was divided and set out to the said Daniel and Charles Deming as the whole of thier Right to a certain Tract of Land containing fifteen acres formerly granted by the Town of Wethersfield to Jonathan Deming, the said two acres is bounded as followeth.  East and West on Common and undivided Land, North on Land of John Moreton, and South on Land of Stephen Riley ... In Writting whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal the twenty third Day of May in the nineteenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Ruler of Great Britain and King.  Annoque Domini 1746.

Signed Sealed and Delivered in presence of Ephraim Willard and Lydia Willard,
Charles Deming
Daniel Deming (1709-1748) thus owns the lands that his brother inherited from their father, Jonathan.  According to to the Deming Genealogy, Daniel Deming lived in Stepney Parish and owned a large amount of land which he inherited mainly from his mother, Abigail and grandfather.  He married Mehetabel Russel in 1729 and had four children (one boy and three girls).

According to Mehetabel's diary:
My husband departed from his own house March 25, 1748.  April the 9th day he sailed out of New London, and died April the 23d day.  July 24 news came of his death.
As told by those on board, he died of consumption (aka Tuberculosis or TB).  His Will was read August 3, 1748, in which he states that his widow shall receive his "riding mare" and his "great silver cup" (lucky gal!) and his son, Jonathan (1730-1799), his home and house-lot.  The total value of Daniel's estate was 3,871£ in 1748.  Pretty impressive if the conversion to today's approximate dollars is true at ~$790,000 (converter found here:  University of Michigan)

Jonathan Deming (1730-1799), Daniel Deming's only son, married the daughter of Captain Jacob Williams in 1763.  Her name was Jerusha Williams (1736-1815).  Together, they lived in the "old homestead" of his father and raised their six children.  Jonathan served in the Connecticut Militia, first becoming an Ensign of the 9th Company, 6th Regiment in May of 1772.  He then became a Lieutenant of the 8th Company, 6th Regiment in May of 1774.  He was receiving a pension from the government for his services during the Revolutionary War.  Since the pension system was not in effect until 1818 by an Act of Congress, individual States gave pensions to wounded soldiers or their survivors.  As Jonathan Deming passed away in 1799, prior to the Act of Congress, I can only assume he was wounded during the War.  In his Will of March 16, 1795, his home is left to his only son, Daniel with the stipulation that as long as Daniel's sisters remained unmarried, that one room shall be reserved for their use.  Daniel had four sisters, with the youngest, Lydia, unmarried at the time of Jonathan's death.  She would not be married until 1808.  In 1799, Jonathan Deming's estate was valued at 3,893£ (~$800,000 today) at the time of his death.

Daniel Deming (1765-1849) was the only surviving son of Lt. Jonathan Deming (1730-1799).  Daniel married in 1795 to Fanny Callender (1770-1847).  According to the Deming Geneology, he was known as Captain Deming, but this may have been simply a nick-name and not a rank associated with military service.  He relocated his family in 1806 to Sheffield, Ma, selling the property against his father's Last Will and Testament.  Prior to Daniel's youngest sister, Lydia, getting married in 1808, the property was sold in 1806, to Asahel Merriam (1771-1808), the son of the second Reverend of Stepney Parish.  In the deed, the following was recorded:
Know Ye That we, Daniel Deming and Jerusha Deming (Daniel's mother) both of Wethersfield in the County of Hartford of the State of Connecticut for the consideration of two thousand and five hundred and sixty six dollars and sixty six cents Received to our full satisfaction of Ashel Merriam of said Wethersfield Do give, grant, bargain, sell and confirm unto said Asahel Merriam and to his Heirs and assigns forever and contain a peice of Land, Situated and being in the Parish of Stepney in said Wethersfield Containing twelve acres (illegible) more or less with a dwelling house and barn and all buildings standing thereon, bounded East partly by Land of William Griswold and in part on a highway, North on Land of William Griswold in part on Land of Elijah Robbins and the heirs of Richard Robbins, West on Land of Asahel Savage, South on a highway, reserving to the said Jerusha Deming during her natural  life the use and improvement of the South front Room, the South Midroom in the Shed, and a priviledge in the Cellar, a place to lay her wood, with a priviledge of passing and repassing to and from said premises ... In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the 28th day of March Annon Domini 1806.

Signed sealed and delivered, in presence of Elisha Gallenger and Joseph Buckley,
Daniel Deming
Jerusha Deming
Asahel Merriam (1771-1808), during this time period, Asahel is seen purchasing multiple tracks of land.  It seemed fashionable that one's "wealth" is derived by the quantity of land that one possesses.  He purchase the Deming land for $4,566.66.  Perhaps out of guilt or even trying his best to follow his father's Last Will, Daniel Deming arranged for his mother, Jersuha Deming, to remain in the family home until her death in 1815.  Asahel, perhaps having no use for the home, gives the dwelling to his mother, Hannah Seldon (now re-married after her first husband, Rev'd Burrage Merriam's death in 1776).  I personally believe that Hannah Seldon and her second husband, Ezra Seldon, were not comfortable with the living arrangements of Jerusha being in the home, but this is just speculation.  A couple months after receiving the property, it is sold back to Asahel for $500.  Asahel marries Hannah Robbins and together they have six children, with the only male being name Burrage (1798-1829).  Soon after buying the property back, Asahel passes away at the age of 36.

At 10 years of age, Burrage Merriam (1798-1849) inherits the home after his father's death in 1808 (I am unsure of the direct ownership since no records have been found as of yet).  Jershua continues to reside in the property until her death in 1815.  Burrage grows up, becomes the town's Tax Collector and marries Harriet Williams in 1829.  The photo to the right is from the Hartford Currant, August 27, 1827, requesting tax payments to be made, advertised by Burrage.  Burrage sells the property to his mother, Hannah Merriam (formerly Hannah Robbins) in 1827, for $4,616, which includes several parcels of land totaling 27.75 acres.  The deed also sees the transfer of a one-third stake in the Grist Mill that Burrage's grandfather, the Reverend Merriam built with two other men in 1775.  For the record, the Grist Mill was located on Middletown Road (today's Main Street) but was dismantled in 1880. More information can be found from Wethersfield's Historical Society here. Burrage dies in 1849, childless.

Hannah Merriam (d. 1845) was the wife of Asahel Merriam being married to him in 1795.  As mentioned previously, she was born Hannah Robbins and with Asahel, bore six children.  Other than Burrage, of her remaining children, only two outlived her, Hannah and Delia.  In a deed dated January 26, 1842, she writes:
I, Hannah Merriam of Wethersfield, in the County of Hartford for the consideration of the love and affection which I have and entertain for my daughter, Hannah Merriam, of said Wethersfield, do give, grant, and confirm unto the said Hannah Merriam, my daughter, One equal undivided half of my home lot and all buildings thereon standing in common with my son Burrage - - Said lot containing ten acres be the same more or less and is bounded Northerly by land of William Web.  Easterly and Southerly by highways.  Westerly by land of Jason Boardman.  Reserving to myself the use and improvement of the said described premises during my natural life said described premises being situated and lying in said Wethersfield, parish of Rocky Hill.  In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hands and seal the 26th day of January Annon Domini 1842.

Signed, sealed, and delivered, in presence of Benjamin G. Robbins and William Robbins II,
Hannah Merriam
Smith's 1855 Map of Hartford County, Connecticut - Library of Congress
The mother of Burrage Merriam passes away in 1845, Burrage passes on in 1849, leaving Hannah now the owner of the property.  

In 1855, E.M Woodward published Smith's Map of Hartford County.  It is the very first and only map that I have been able to find which depicts the home owners for my area.  All prior maps that I have come across of the same style are of Wethersfield proper, not showing the southern territory now Rocky Hill.  The map is massive at five feet in height with a huge amount of detail.  On it, Hannah Merriam is show where our house resides today, shown as "H. Merriam".  I've been able to find this map on sale at auction for sums in excess of $2,500.  The Library of Congress has it in their collection and has thankfully digitized it.  The image to the right is of the full map, scaled down in size.  However, if you'd like to view the map in it's full detail, go to the Library of Congress.

This map proves that the line is stable whereas we know that James Warner purchases the home from Hannah Merriam in 1859.  So finding this map dated 1855 with "H. Merriam" on our home's location is concrete evidence that we're on the right track.

James Warner (1822-1899) was a farmer, like many in the area.  He purchased the home and lands in 1859 from Hannah Merriam for $3,000 with Hannah being listed as one of three recipients of the money.  The house lot comes with 11 acres.  Hannah becomes a personal loan officer (not officially) giving James a 3% interest rate on his mortgage.  Hannah releases James from the mortgage on June 5, 1863.  James Warner becomes a representative to the Connecticut State Legislature in 1864 and 1865 for Rocky Hill Township.  He marries Martha Griswold-Warner in 1849 and has two sons.  The eldest is James H. Warner (1851-1929).  In 1899, James Warner passes away from a "paralysis of the brain".  I assume this to be a stroke in his 76th year of life.

James H. Warner (1851-1929) inherits the home upon his father's death.  He also followed his father's footsteps to become a representative to the State Legislature in 1882.  He marries Jennie C. Elmore in 1875 and has five children.  The eldest is Carl G. Warner (1876-1967).  Carl becomes the executor of his father's estate in 1929.  The home does not change hands until 1932 when Carl sells the home to his sister, J. Grace Warner.

J. Grace Warner (1881-1956) was a school teacher in the Hartford School System.  She never married and likewise never had any children.  In the 1950's, her sister, Emma, a widower, moves in with Gracie (as she is known).  The townsfolk began calling the house the "Warner Sisters Home" (perhaps these are the two women that a couple of mediums saw in our home, story here).  Carl, their brother, lived next door in a home that was demolished in 1997 (there are currently three "cookie-cutter" homes there now).  His home turned into a multifamily.  Former renters recalled that Carl Warner would collect bushels of apples from the farm behind the properties and, with a horse and carriage, bring them to the rear of the neighbor's home (our home) directly into the basement through a rear entry for storage.  Our home sits on a sloping back yard with access into the basement.

When Gracie died in 1956, Carl was once again the executor.  He sells the home to Dorothy Waters Mell (1919-2001), the daughter of Emma and his niece for $10,000.  Emma moves in with her brother next door.

In 1968, the home leaves the Warner family for the first time in 109 years when Dorothy sells it to the Venzia family.  During the Venzia's ownership, I believe they modernized the home replacing the old nob and tube electrical system and may of updated the kitchen.  I believe that Mr. Elphege Venzia was in the construction buisness or at least a handy-man for many records in Rocky Hill's town hall indicates a construction firm linked to Mr. Venzia.  There's also an old rickety work bench that was constructed of 2x4's under the kitchen possibly dating to the 1960's or 1970's.  The slab under the kitchen "ELL" where the work bench was has a peace symbol and the year 1973 inscribed in children's writing.  The Venzia's lived for a short period in the home selling it in 1979, to the Tinney family.

The Tinney's were active in the local historical society.  I do not have much information on them with the exception that Henry Tinney died in 1988, and his wife, Doris, in 2002.  She was known as "Danny" to the Historical Society whom spoke fondly of her.  Danny sold our home to Deloris Dion in 1992.  Mrs. Dion, a divorcee, lived in this home for 19 years making many cosmetic changes/upgrades to the home (perhaps a bit unwisely as well).  Mrs. Dion, at the age of 80, sold the home to ourselves in 2011 for $275,000. 

This home's history is quite long and unending.  All the information above is a combination of facts from historical records and assumptions when a lack of records was apparent.  I shall, overtime, modify this one post when new information comes to light.  Future visits to other state and private agencies are planned to enlighten myself on the extreme details of what is currently called the James Warner House.

The following are general sources of information (I plan to make a full citation page at some point):