Smith-Harris House, c. 1845
Thomas Avery House
(Smith-Harris House)

   East Lyme is also home to the Thomas Avery House, a c.1845 Greek Revival farmhouse on the National Register of Historic Houses. Also known as the Smith-Harris House, the house is located at 33 Society Road, Niantic.  You may contact the museum by phone at 860.739.0761 or email at [email protected].

   The Smith-Harris House Museum opens to visitors in June for the summer season. It will be open Friday through Sunday, noon to 4:00 p.m., through August. (Closed July 4th weekend.) Tours are every hour on the half-hour, starting at 12:30 p.m.; last tour at 3:30 p.m.  A 45 minute guided tour of the farmhouse demonstrates the family and agricultrual lives of the Avery, Smith, and Harris families through the 1840s and into the mid-20th century. Discover what East Lyme was like around the time of the Civil War and afterwards. Suggested donation of $5.

   For more information, visit:

The Smith-Harris House Museum

82 Plants Dam Road, East Lyme
Samuel Smith House

   East Lyme’s most recent historic acquisition, located at 82 Plants Dam Road, East Lyme, is recognized on the National Register of Historic Houses as the Samuel Smith House, c.1685, with additions in 1735 and 1812. It is currently being developed as a living museum of the 17th century. For more information, visit:

Samuel Smith House

East Lyme Cemetery Listings

   In the fall of 1934, under the auspices of FERA and the WPA, and with support from the Connecticut State Library, the inscriptions of each East Lyme cemetery were copied and included in the Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions.  We have posted the inscriptions, by cemetery, at:

East Lyme Cemetery Records

   Listings for veterans, through the Spanish American War, may be found at:

East Lyme Veteran Burials

Lee House Tour Guide Orientation

Saturday, May 14th, 10:00 a.m.

   Tour Guide co-ordinator Rod McCauley will be holding an orientation session for guides for the upcoming season at the Lee House. Intended as an opportunity for returning guides to brush up on their skills, the session is also open to anyone interested in joining their ranks.

   Contact Rod at [email protected] if you are interested in attending.  Our tour guides are an invaluable part of our volunteer staff, and we are grateful for the time and knowledge they share with our guests.

Our Mission

The purposes and objectives of the Society shall be:

   1. To engage in educational, archival, research and exploration activities and to support such activities that will increase knowledge of and engender appreciation of the history of the Town of East Lyme and its heritage.

   2. To encourage the preservation and restoration of the town’s historical assets, such as houses, structures, burying grounds, early artifacts and other things associated with the town’s origin and history.

   3. To determine and develop year round historical programs and implementation of same. These programs and activities shall include the period of colonial history and may include all periods of American history and other history.

   4. To cooperate and participate with other organizations for similar purposes and objectives, both within and without the town.

   5. To establish the Thomas Lee House Preservation Committee to ensure the protection and preservation of the Thomas Lee House as an American heritage, wherein books, documents, pictures, furniture, tools, implements, artifacts and other articles associated with the history of the Thomas Lee House and the family are housed.

Thomas Lee House
Dedication of the Thomas Lee House, 1914
Dedication of the Thomas Lee House, 1914

   The Thomas Lee House (c. 1660) is one of the oldest wood frame houses in Connecticut still in its primitive state.  The Lee House is listed on the National Register of Historic Houses, and is open for tours during the summer months. Learn more about the Lee House at

About Us

Take a Virtual Tour of the Lee House.

   Several of our volunteers work to maintain the East Lyme Archives, a collection of documents and photographs in the East Lyme Room of the East Lyme Public Library. If you would like to know more about this program, you can read about it at

East Lyme Archives

Little Boston School House
Little Boston School House

   The first record of a school in the area of the Lee House dates to at least 1734. The present building was erected on land donated by Elisha Lee. In use until 1922, the building was eventually moved to its present location, next to the Lee House. It was donated to the East Lyme Historical Society in 1926. Learn more about the Little Boston School House at

About Us.

   Anthropology students from East Lyme and Ledyard High Schools, under the direction of James Littlefield and Dr. John Pfeiffer, conducted an archaeological study of the site of the original Little Boston School House. Their results can be found at:

Anthropology @ ELHS

Reports from the Field
by Rod McCauley

Lee Saw Mill

Overhead View of Lee Sawmill Site

   Town of Lyme records (page 171) dated January 10, 1727, show that Thomas Lee IV, John Lee II, Stephen Lee (second child of Thomas Lee III with that name), and John Lay were granted permission to construct a sawmill at Bride Brook for the sum of 15 pounds and a provision to supply Town residents with boards priced less than the prevailing market rate.

   Joshua Hempstead noted in his diary (page 263) "Thos Lee Junr Died October the 20th 1733 in the 28th year of his age a hopefull young man. He never Eat any flesh or Cheese". Hempstead referred to Lee as Junior even though he was fourth in the family line to bear the name. As evidenced by Hempstead's observation of Lee's dietary habits, he was evidently a man ahead of his time relative to embracing a vegan lifestyle.

Details of Earthen Berm

   New London court records (sixth book of wills Folio 151 . 152), dated November 15, 1733, show the estate inventory of Thomas Lee and lists: "One quarter part of ye Sawmill & appertenances" valued at 12 pounds and "One half of ye Dragg & Logchain, & Saw" valued at 3 pounds, 15 shillings. Although mills were a crucial part of the local economy during colonial times and the Town (East Lyme) contained at least 18 of various types, no further records of this particular site have been located.

Dam Throat

Dam throat

   Today, all that remains of the site are two heavily overgrown, earthen dam berms. The berms are about one hundred feet from the present Bride Brook memorial marker on the north side of Route 156. A survey of the site reveals the berms extend about fifteen feet out from the east bank of Bride Brook and about one hundred sixteen feet from the west bank. The east berm is about five feet in height and the west berm ranges from five to seven feet in height. The berms are about twenty one feet wide at their base and separated by an opening (dam throat) about six feet wide. Steep banks on the west side of Bride Brook indicate the majority of the material for the berms was taken from that side. All that earth roughly equates to about two hundred ninety cubic yards or about fifteen to twenty modern tri-axle dump trucks, an impressive accomplishment, considering the builders were using only human and animal power.

Berm, facing West Berm, facing South

Views of the berms

   A closer examination of the dam berms revealed the remains of four structural timbers under the surface of Bride Brook. The timbers were located on the west berm and measured approximately five to six inches square. The timbers protrude out into the streambed toward the east berm and curve south, influenced by many years of flowing water. The timbers would have originally extended across the dam throat and connected with the eastern berm. The original dam throat would likely have been closer to three feet wide. The timbers would have been part of the structure that supported the water wheel that powered the mill and the gate that controlled the flow of water.

Artifacts found in the mill area

   The area was swept with a metal detector, which revealed the structural timbers contained the remains of iron spikes. Three iron spikes were also found on top of the west berm near the dam throat and a piece of cast iron was found in the streambed, just south of the dam throat.

   Research for this article found a reference to two mills operated by unknown Lee family members located in the vicinity of Grassy Hill and Beaver Brook Roads. Also, a mill was operated in what is present day Ledyard by a Joseph Lee (1732-1820). Although no other connections have yet been found, both references make for intriguing research possibilities.

   Readers interested in learning more about saw mills are encouraged to tour the Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill (open seasonally).

Your Support is Important!

   The East Lyme Historical Society owns and maintains the Thomas Lee House and Little Boston School House, offers educational programs to the community throughout the year, works to provide access to historical materials through its publications, archives, and website, and is always ready to work with other groups to help foster understanding and appreciation of the history of our town.

   And we do it all as volunteers!

   The generosity of our town and our members is greatly appreciated. Time, energy, and dollars donated are put immediately to work.

   If you are currently a member, THANK YOU! If not, please consider joining us. You may download the Membership Form here, or print the Membership Form page here, and mail either one to us, or you can contact us at:

[email protected]

   Donations are always welcome.

   And please remember: all of our programs are open to the public, free of charge. We welcome your participation!

BUSINESS OWNERS: Become a Business Member of the East Lyme Historical Society for only $50 a year. Members receive a free listing on our Business Directory page, with a link to their own sites, as well as being mentioned in our newsletters. Our website is currently attracting over 900 unique visitors and 14,000 hits each month, from all over the country, and from around the world. Many of them are in the process of planning trips to our area, and would be interested in the services you provide. Local residents will recognize your generosity, as well.

INTERESTED IN BEING A VOLUNTEER? The Society is busy year-round, with a calendar full of events to plan and execute, and a substantial property to maintain. We are always looking for people to get involved. If you have ideas, would like to help organize future activities, or want to be a more active member of the society, let us know. We'd be thrilled to hear from you!