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News and Events
Ladies of the East Lyme Histsorical Society
Ladies of the East Lyme Historical Society, c.1914
Donations to the Society

   It is always interesting how many items that have left East Lyme find their way back home. This past month we have received two items of interest.

   The New Boston Historical Society in New Hampshire was going through their files and found a copy of the April 1947 Old-Time New England with a story on the Thomas Lee House. They contacted us to see if we would like it for our collections. We only have one "well worn" copy and were glad to accept it. They sent it out and it will be placed in the Lee House in the spring. The article is available here.

   We also received a note from Janice Bonaccorso of Barkhamsted, CT. She sent us an old post card of the beach at Rocky Neck. We have a few cards from this era, 1930's, but not this one. It also will make a nice addition to our collection.

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   The afternoon rain on Saturday, June 11th, didn't stop over 70 people from visiting the Lee House for the 12th annual state wide open house. They came from many different towns in Connecticut and marveled at our old house and its stories. Also on hand were Vicki Forrer, showing spinning and weaving, Bob Nucci with colonial weapons and charcoal making, and Melissa Miko with a mother goat and baby.

   Thanks to all the members of the East Lyme Historical Society who worked to get the house, school, barn and grounds ready for the program,and to those who were on hand Saturday to make this another great event.

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   On May 20th, eighty-four 5th grade students from the East Lyme Middle School, along with teachers, parents and chaperones, visited the Thomas Lee House Musuem for a Colonial Times program. They toured the house with Lois Hobby, learned about Archaeology from Jim Littlefield, Bees from Tom Kalal, Colonial weapons with Bob Nucci, Spinning and Weaving with Vicki Forrer, and Goats from Melissa Miko.

   A special Thank You to Janet Carlson and Nancy Kalal for putting the program together and to all the members who helped in the background.

   You can view images from this program here. Special thanks to Edita Kirvelevicius for sharing her wonderful photographs with the Society.

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   Sixteen area historic house museums have joined together to create a new trail brochure highlighting the stories of the region’s growth from European settlement in the 1600s to industrial expansion in the 1800s and beyond. Houses included on the trail include: Ashbel Woodward House Museum, Franklin; Avery-Copp House, Groton; Ebenezer Avery House, Groton; Jabez Smith House, Groton; Beaumont House, Lebanon; Captain Nathaniel Palmer House, Stonington; Colchester History Museum, Colchester; Denison Homestead, Mystic; Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme; Hempsted Houses, New London; Shaw Mansion, New London; Leffingwell House, Norwich; Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, Gales Ferry; Samuel Smith House, East Lyme; Smith-Harris House Muaeum, Niantic; and Thomas Lee House Muaeum, Niantic.

   Sponsors and supporters of the trail brochure include: Antonino Auto Group; R & B Apparel Plus; Citizens Bank; Dime Bank; Eastern Regional Tourism District/Mystic Country; Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition; and The Day Publishing Company.

   This regional initiative includes printed brochures, interactive online brochure and social media promotion coordinated by the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, The Day Publishing Company, and the Eastern Regional Tourism District/Mystic Country.

   To download or view the printable brochure, visit www.historichousesct.com.  To request a printed brochure, email [email protected].

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   A few months ago mention was made of the Archive Group working on documenting old mill sites in East Lyme. Eighteen sites have been located so far, the last found being a sawmill on the lower east side of the Four Mile River. We have filed and inventoried the information and it is available for viewing in the Archive Room of the East Lyme Public Library, Mondays between 10:00 a.m. and noon. More information will be added to these files as we gather it.

   Our next project is to document the original nine schoolhouses in East Lyme. We are fortunate to have photos of a few of them.  Starting in the 1880s, the town Annual Report listed each district and the progress for the year. It also listed the number of children, teachers and their pay,and many interesting events. We are developing a file for each school, with information about it. If you know of any stories of any of these schools, we would very much like to add them to the files. Please contact us here.

Elizabeth Kuchta, East Lyme Library Archive Supervisor

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   A preservation funding resource has been developed and is now available on the East Lyme Historic Properties Commission page of the Town of East Lyme website.

   The Preservation Grant funding Resource provides general information about grants and identifies major sources of funding.  Because annual criteria, deadlines and amounts change, website contacts for each source are also provided to enable individually focused current updating.

   While experienced organizations and municipalities may have accessed such sources, this resource provides information across a variety of interest areas, all related to preservation, and can be especially helpful to those groups newly searching for financial support.  It is a service the Historic Properties Commission enthusiastically provides.

   You can find this information at Preservation Grant Funding Resource.

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   Fifteen seniors from the East Lyme High School Anthropology Class were busy this fall at the site of the barn foundation to the east of the Thomas Lee House. The barn burned down in the 1950's but earlier had been used for cows and farming.

   Their teacher, Willard Reed, had them set up a grid and then scrape the soil searching for artifacts from the farm.  They also did some test pits around another foundation. Items that were found were put in plastic bags and labeled to be taken back to the lab at the high school. There they will clean the items and try to figure what the item is and how it was used.

Archaeological dig at the Lee House, 2015

   Each fall and spring a class goes out into the field in different areas of town looking to uncover the past. Over the years they have been to the Lee House a couple of times and also across the street at the original site of the Little Boston School. Some of the items that were found there are displayed in the school. In the spring we hope to have some of the items that were found this year on display.

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The Thomas Lee House with new roof, front

   The shingling of the Lee House was finished in early November. With only one day of rain the job was quickly done.  The chimney was also repaired and new flashing was put around its base.

The Thomas Lee House with new roof, rear

   The Society has been watching the roof on the house, knowing that in a few years it would need to have new shakes. This past spring it was noticed that there were some very small leaks starting and we couldn't hold off any longer. On Oct 19th, the removal of the old roof shakes began. After removing the old shakes some of the battens were found to be in much worse shape than we thought, and also would need to be replaced.

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Up-down sawmill, grist mill and dam on Latimer's Brook
Up-down sawmill, grist mill and dam on Latimer's Brook

   Grist mills and sawmills are among the first buildings that people would erect upon the settlement of a town. The Monday morning East Lyme Public Library Archive group has been working on mapping out and documenting the many mills that were in the area now called East Lyme. Including the grist mill on East Pattagansett Road at Bush Pond, erected in the 1690's, and the mill on Hope Street (which many of us remember), there are at least fifteen mills that have been located in town, with the possibility of more.

   Old town records, deeds, newspaper articles and photographs have been searched to find these mills. Many are gone with no trace of their existence. The remains of a few can be found where the dams used to power the waterwheels are still in place. Some are remembered by place names such as Mack's Mill Cemetery and Oil Mill Road.

   If you are interested in finding out about this project or where these mills were located, you are welcome to stop by the East Lyme Public Library Archive room on Mondays between 10:00 a.m. and noon. If you have information on a mill, or have the remains of one on your property, we would love to hear from you!

Liz Kuchta, East Lyme Library Archives supervisor

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Herman F. Lee
Herman F. Lee

   Three large portraits of Lee family members were donated to the East Lyme Historical Society by Mrs. Linde Hendrickson of Long Island. Mrs. Hendrickson is a 12th generation descendant of Thomas Lee. The portraits are of Orlando E. Lee (1808-1857), his wife Lydia A. Miller Lee (1807-1885), and their son Herman F. Lee (1835-1864).

   Orlando, of the 7th generation of Thomas Lees, was born in what is now East Lyme. He and Lydia A. Miller, daughter of Anson Miller, were married in 1834 in the Congregational Church where they were very active. Soon after that they moved to Staten Island, where Orlando became a very prosperous business man.

   After Orlando Lee's death, and the untimely death of their son in 1864, Lydia returned to the village of Niantic.  She owned a house at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and was once again active in the church. She donated much to that church, including a parcel of land on Lincoln Street for the construction on a new church building in 1879. Gravestones for Orlando, Lydia, and Herman are located in the Old Stone Church Burial Ground at the intersection of Riverview and Society Roads.

   These portraits, which were painted in 1851, are now hanging in the East Lyme Town Hall in the lower conference room.

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