On August 12th a number of descendants of the Nehantic Indians held their annual gathering at theThomas Lee House. They came from as far away as Texas and Iowa to share their family stories and history. The featured speaker this year was Dr. John Pfeiffer from Old Lyme who has studied and lectured on the local Native Americans for many years.
We were delighted to have Sharon Powack and her husband from North Granby, Connecticut, visit the Lee House on July 1st. They brought with them a gift for our collection. It is a Revolutionary War powder horn that belonged to Elisha Way, who lived in our section of Lyme.
Way served in Lt. Lay's Company from Lyme. After his mother died his father married Polly Lee, a descendant of Thomas Lee. Elisha died in 1842 at the age of 85 and is buried in the Old Stone Church Burial Ground on Society Road in East Lyme. The horn is on display in the case in the Judgment Hall of the Thomas Lee House Museum.
The East Lyme Historical Society recently received these pictures of William Orlando Lee, descendant of Thomas Lee, from Orlando's great, great grandson, Ronald Albert Lee. The following excerpt from Descendants & Ancestors of Charles and Fanny Crandall Lee: A Lee Tree, by Reverend Earl Lee Smith, tells us some of his interesting story:
William Orlando Lee, fifth child of Charles and Fanny Crandall Lee, was born 15 December 1828 at Cuyler, Cortland County, New York. He died 17 May 1915 at South Haven, Van Buren County, Michigan. He married 1st Caroline Campbell, who was born in 1829, probably at Covington, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. She died in 1903. He left her about 1870 and married Anna Hurlbut, who was born ca. 1842 in New York State. She died 1 November 1895 of Brights Disease, in South Haven, Michigan. William married 3rd 11 March 1898 Isadora Fink (Mrs. Maken). Isadora was born 25 December 1849 in Indiana to Reuben J. and Lucinda Armmense Fink. She died 28 December 1899 with cancer of the uterus. William married 4th 11 November 1900 Eliza Webster (Mrs. Horton). She was born 18 January 1852 in Ontario, Canada to John and Margaret Lang Webster. She died with diabetes 14 December 1911.
William is buried at the Lakeview Cemetery in South Haven, Michigan beside his second wife, Anna. His third wife, Isadora is buried on the other side of Anna. On the other side of William his adopted daughter's four year old son is buried. Eliza, his fourth wife is buried in the Lakeview Cemetery beside her first husband. Caroline, his first wife and mother of his children, is buried in the Gray Cemetery, Covington, Pa.
When William Orlando Lee left his first wife he changed his name to Orlando William Lee, for reasons I have not attempted to document, though I have some suspicion as to why. William and Anna adopted a daughter, Lettie, who married W.J. Minter. Anna's obituary stated that she had been married for thirty-two years. It does not state if she had been married previously or not. She married William in 1863. The story is that he left to fight in the Civil War. After the war was over he came back home for a short time and left. There are no Civil War records to verify his service. It is also strange that a veteran, who lived until 1915 would not have drawn a Civil War pension. There is no G.A.R. marker on his grave, nor i s he pictured with the Civil War veterans in the South Haven museum. After the death of either his second or third wife, he invited his first wife and children to join him in Michigan. Caroline turned him down; however, his eldest son, Charles did join him there.
William is listed in the 1850 census of Covington, Pa. as a blacksmith; however, he did not stick to that trade. He went into the hotel business at Covington, and apparently ran it as long as he stayed there. Land records indicate that William came to South Haven i n 1888, but they do not indicate where from. He is listed in the South Haven City Directory as a fruit grower. However, his main enterprise was that of operating a health resort hotel,"The Lee Park Resort." South Haven is a town on the shore of Lake Michigan. He retired about 1905. Isadora was a guest at the resort when he married her. Lee Street in South Haven is named in his honor. He lived at 709 Lee Street. The house is now owned by a relative of his fourth wife, Eliza, Miss Evelyn Webster. It is still a legend in South Haven, of how in his old age he took up an old black frock coat and a tall black hat, and was often seen walking about the streets of South Haven.
If you have any Lee Family photos or stories you'd like to share, we'd love to have them. Contact us at:
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.
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.