Please note:
   Descriptions of the Thomas Lee House and information about the Lee family presented in these articles are as they were understood to be at the time. More recent information is available through various publications of the East Lyme Historical Society. You can find more about these at:

Publications

Front hall, c.1914
Front hall
Jedgement Hall, c. 1914
Judgement Hall
Kitchen fireplace, c. 1914
Kitchen fireplace
Parlor, c.1914
Parlor
Upper chamber, c.1914
Upper chamber
Some scenes from the Thomas Lee House when it first opened for visitors
The "Ladies"

   Four women deserve special honors for the work they did to preserve the Thomas Lee House for future generations:

   Miss Celeste Bush: Celeste was born in 1846 on the Bush Homestead in East Lyme. At age 16 she began teaching in the same Niantic schools she had attended. She went to the Normal School in New Britain, becoming a teacher, and later prinicipal, at the Framingham Normal School in Massachusetts. On her return to Niantic, Bush began writing and collecting town history, and became active in preserving East Lyme's heritage. She was the first Secretary for the East Lyme Historical Society when it was founded in 1897. Bush was a distant cousin of the Lees, through the Brown family. She died in 1930.

   Mrs. Alice Hunt: Alice and her husband purchased the 40 acre Bride Brook Farm in 1909. Built by Andrew Griswold in 1750, the house was across the street from the Lee House. When she became aware that the new owner of the Lee House intended to tear it down, she asked him for an option to purchase it. She and Bush appealed to the Society of Colonial Dames, the Society of Colonial Wars, and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities for help. After determining that the house was worthy of preservation, the three groups contributed generously to its purchase and repair. Hunt spent over 40 years as hostess for the house.

   Mrs. Evelyn McCurdy Salisbury: Evelyn was born in Lyme in 1823, a Lee descendant through Thomas' sister Jane. She and her husband, Professor Edward Salisbury, wrote five volumes of history about many of the early settlers of Lyme. Salisbury was one of the founding members of the Connecticut Society of Colonial Dames in 1893. She was instrumental in securing funding from that Society to save the Lee House. Salisbury died in 1917.

   Mrs. Susan Sophia Lee Warner: Susan, born in 1838, was a descendant of Thomas Lee and Sarah Kirkland.  She married author Charles Dudley Warner, who later became editor of the Hartford Courant. As residents in the Nook Farm area of Hartford, the Warners became close friends of the Samuel Clemens family. Susan was a distinguished pianist, performing at Carnegie Hall in 1911.  She helpded to establish the Hartford Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also a charter member of the Connecticut Society of Colonial Dames, and worked with Salisbury to raise money to preserve the Lee House. Warner died in 1921.

Celebrating 100 Years of the Thomas Lee House Museum
1914-2014
From the pages of The Day

June 4, 1914
THOMAS LEE HOUSE TO BE PRESERVED

Thomas Lee House at time of purchase, 1914
Thomas Lee House at time of purchase, 1914

   East Lyme Historical society members, aided by representatives of the Colonial Dames, D.A.R., Society for the Preservation of Antiques(sic) in New England and the Society of Colonial Wars, celebrated yesterday the acquisition of the Thomas Lee house in East Lyme.  Interesting papers touching on the subject of ancient houses in New England were read and the work of the East Lyme society in securing the funds with which to purchase the Lee house was detailed by Miss Celeste E. Bush, who also gave a historical sketch of Thomas Lee.

   Ernest E. Rogers, president of the New London Historical society, also spoke. There were 115 visitors registered at the old house during the day, the celebration lasting from 11 o’clock until late in the afternoon.

   The Thomas Lee house, which was built in 1660, has had an interesting history. Built originally as a one room structure, additions were made from time to time by the builder and when the existing road was cut through he made alterations which transformed the rear of the house, past which the road went, into the front, which accounts for the odd construction of the building.

   The several societies interested in the preservation of the house raised the money for its purchase with the aid of a large contribution from Mrs. Charles Dudley Warner, and have also raised the nucleus of a fund to provide for the restoration of the place.

   One of the features of interest was the reading of the charge of Thomas Lee to his children while he lay on his deathbed and which he desired to be transmitted to his descendants. He dwelt on the necessity of obeying the fifth commandment, his charge being short but forceful. Chorus singing with melodeon accompaniment marked the close of the exercises.

   Among those present were eight descendants of Thomas Lee, one of whom read a well prepared story of the life of the pioneer.  There were also 11 members of the Colonial Dames present, with a number of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs. Sidney H. Miner, regent, Mrs. Philip C. Dunford and Mrs. Carl Viets represented the local chapter. Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Smith and Ernest E. Rogers of this city were also present.

   Lunch was served under the trees around the old house after the ceremonies had been concluded, a troop of Boy Scouts offering their services in clearing up the place after the visitors left.


June 5, 1914
HISTORY OF OLD THOMAS LEE HOUSE

   Having given in yesterday’s paper a brief account of the notable gathering at East Lyme on Wednesday afternoon, we now present a further and fuller account of the ancient building there, known as “The Thomas Lee House,” in whose precincts the Wednesday afternoon party assembled to celebrate the accomplishment of plans for its preservation. We derive our account from the excellent paper read on that occasion by Miss Celeste E. Bush, president of the East Lyme Historical society, in whose charge the building rests.

   Thomas Lee, a man of gentle birth, godly character and large fortune, left England for Saybrooke in 1641, but died on shipboard, leaving the care of his family and fortune to his friend, Matthew Griswold. His son, Thomas Lee, 2nd, took up the wide fertile fields of the Bride-Brook valley, and there, according to expert opinion, about 1660 built the eastern portion of this ancient house; adding the western end some time later. About the year 1713 the house was righted and made to face about from south to north, looking to the new highway from Lyme to New London, and some additions were then made but the interior has never been much changed since the days of the second Thomas Lee.  This building, the oldest timber structure now standing in Connecticut, is a most interesting historical monument. When its builder arrived at Saybrook, a lad of 7 years, he was as near the times of Columbus as we are to those of Washington. While he was growing to manhood the Long Parliament was sitting in England, and the Puritan Revolution was sweeping that country. When the building was in progress the commonwealth was drawing to its close and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II was accomplished. This house has been subject to seven English sovereigns and under every form of government known in our land. Its builder was a member of the legislature in 1676, constable when Sir Edmund Andross was governor of New England, and a justice of the peace, the old east room being his judgment hall. It was an old house when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, and it still sheltered members of its original family when General Lee surrendered at Appomatox.

Thomas Lee House, 1914, being inspected
Thomas Lee House being inspected, 1914

   It was deeply felt by many conversant with those facts that a house coeval with 250 years of American History should not be dismantled nor left to further dilapidation and decay, but should be properly restored and religiously preserved. In order to do this, the property must needs first be purchased. How could a small and poor society, like the Historical society of East Lyme, acquire such a property and carry out such a patriotic, praiseworthy, but expensive enterprise? This problem was finally solved by the generous cooperation and contributions of three patriotic societies-the Colonial Dames and Colonial Wars of Connecticut, and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. By these societies the purchase price of the property and the nucleus of the restoration fund were secured.  To descendants of Thomas Lee and to other kind and generous friends, and especially to the invaluable assistance of the president of the New London County Historical society, credit is due for the remainder of the sum deemed necessary for the work of restoration now entrusted to the competent hands of Mr. Isham of Providence.

   What use will the East Lyme Historical society make of the restored building? Incidentally it will be the home of that society and a centre for social, religious and educational work for the whole community. Primarily, it will stand as a most suitable memorial to the founders of the colony, as a mute yet eloquent witness to the lives and labors of those who came hither to subdue the wilderness, to create a commonwealth here that has given “laws, freedom, truth and faith in God” to their innumerable descendants, and from whom we have derived our goodly heritage. It will testify of our appreciation of their heroism and of our gratitude for their devotion.

Thomas Lee House being used as chicken coop, 1914
Thomas Lee House in use as a chicken coop, 1914

   The house, when restored, will be a substantial, if not spacious, building, beautifully situated as to its environment, not too far from nor too near thronged highways, a good type of the early colonial house, a fitting patriotic shrine that cannot fail to attract numerous visitors and richly to repay their visitations. “We hope and plan to use this house,” says Miss Bush, “so that all who enter its venerable portals shall bear thence a quickened sense of the high message of our heroic ancestors, who felled the forests and planted the vines of Connecticut.”  This old house has doubtless been the scene of many a forgotten romance. If we are not mistaken it was there that the wedding of Reinold Marvin and Betty (Phoebe) Lee took place, which gave Bride brook its name, and which was made the subject of a poem written 50 or 60 years ago by one Martha Noyes, which poem was read at the recent gathering by Mrs. Trowbridge of New Haven.

   We congratulate the East Lyme people on the success of their strenuous efforts to secure and perpetuate this valuable relic of our colonial days, and we congratulate the people of our state, as well. May their example stimulate many of our older towns to undertake similar enterprises. Turn aside as you whirl along the turnpike from Lyme to New London, turn aside just where the white schoolhouse stands not far this side of Niantic, take the woodsy road southerly to east Lyme (less than three miles) and see the old Thomas Lee house as it is today. We anticipate your gratitude and thanks for this good counsel.

Society for the Preservaton of New England Antiquities Bulletin

1914

   At last the Society has been able to make a beginning of preservation work in Connecticut. The opportunity came when the Secretary of the East Lyme Historical Society asked for help in an effort to save from imminent destruction the Thomas Lee house in that town, said to date from about 1660. In answer to this appeal there was held in the house a meeting at which were present our Connecticut Vice-President, Mr. George M. Curtis, and Elford P. Trowbridge, representing the Connecticut Colonial Dames, and several members of the local historical society.  The building was carefully inspected and found to be of such exceptional interest as to be well worthy of preservation. The financial arrangements were satisfactory, the house and a modest lot of about 10,000 square feet being purchasable for $500. After considerable correspondence three societies-the Connecticut Colonial Dames, the Connecticut Colonial Wars, and our own,-each contributed $200, thereby paying for the property and making a beginning of a repair fund. About $500 additional was contributed, nearly all of which came from Lee descendants. Of these contributors special mention should be made of Mrs. Evelyn McCurdy Salisbury, who not only made the largest personal contribution, but whose invaluable history of Lyme families was indispensable in establishing the history of the Lee house.

   On April 20th, 1914, the house was bought by the East Lyme Historical Society, subject to reversion, in case the local society should go out of existence, to the Connecticut Society of Colonial Dames, the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars or the S.P.N.E.A., in the order given. The eighteenth Annual Meeting of the East Lyme Historical Society was held on the grounds on June 3rd, and the newly purchased house was thrown open to inspection.

Thomas Lee House, front, undergoing repair c.1914
The front (north) side of the house during repairs, c.1914

   Of restoration work there was fortunately none to be done, but a considerable amount of repairing was called for, and this was put into the very capable hands of Mr. Norman M. Isham. Under his directions the rear roof was reshingled, the sides were newly clapboarded to within four feet of the ground with bead clapboards like those found on the house, new window sashes were put in throughout, and the chimney was repaired. The new clapboarding was not carried down to the ground because of the need of new sills, costing about $100, for which no money was available. The only other repairing needed will be reshingling the front roof and some new floor boards. When this remaining work is done, the old house will be in the condition in which it is to be left, and the future of one of the oldest and most interesting houses in Connecticut will have been safeguarded so far as humanly possible.

   An interesting discovery was made when the northern frame of the original house was exposed for repairs. Empty mortise holes which showed signs of previous use, indicated the likelihood that the original house had at sometime a leanto. This doubtless disappeared at the time the house was made to face north rather than south.

Thomas Lee House, rear, during repairs c.1914
The south (kitchen) side of the house during repairs, c.1914

   The East Lyme Historical Society started eighteen years ago with three members and even now has only twenty-five, so that it ranks as one of New England’s smallest. Besides saving the Lee house, this Society has spent about $2,500 in putting its ancient burial ground in to practically perfect condition; given indispensable aid in restoring two other old burial grounds; acquired and suitable marked the sites of two ancient churches; made lists of its Colonial families and Colonial houses, and given a valuable public entertainment every year.  That it should have achieved so much is but new proof of the superiority of quality over quantity. The acquisition of the Lee house, with over $500 to spare for repairs, is wholly due to the untiring efforts of this very small Society, its Secretary writing about five hundred letters in the effort to establish the history of the house and raise the fund for its preservation.

   Our own Preservation Society was able to give $200 towards the purchase price, which amount represented two years’ accumulation of one-half the annual dues of Connecticut members. The more Connecticut members we have, the more money can we set aside to spend in that state.  We ought to have $200 available to spend each year, but this would imply the doubling of our Connecticut membership. That it can be doubled is certain and it is to be hoped the members will themselves see that it is done. They may feel reasonably certain that if it is done, every year or two should see some fine old Connecticut house saved, as was done in the case of the Lee house.

Letter to the Editor, The Day

February 9, 1915
HISTORICAL LEE HOUSE NEEDS OLD FURNITURE
Venerable East Lyme Residence Being Fixed Like Old Times

To the Editor of The Day:

   A newspaper not only furnishes information for its family of readers, but offers a kind of bureau for the exchange of ideas. It occurs to me that its good offices might be carried a step further and an exchange of kindly deeds be effected. The East Lyme Historical society, by dint of hard work has bought and repaired the Thomas Lee house. Incidentally it will be the home of the society, but primarily it is for the benefit of everyone who loves New England bygones, and if there are any Day readers who would like to help in furnishing the old house with period furniture their contributions would be welcomed. We do not care to make a museum of antiquities of the house, but to furnish it as a colonial home was furnished one or two centuries ago. The Way family, one of the oldest in town, has made the very acceptable gift of a cloth weaving outfit, loom, spinning wheel, quill wheel, etc. From other sources we have a chair table and some colonial chairs. Through the courtesy of Mrs. Carl Viets, who belonged to the old Comstock family, we have the pewter communion service of the Ancient Baptist church. One of our members has arranged to paint the woodwork in the old “keeping room”; another, to paper it with a colonial pattern of wall paper; another, to furnish curtains for the windows. We very much want an old four-post bedstead; if someone would contribute that, two of our ladies will furnish a chamber in colonial style. We especially need chairs, slatback, fiddleback, Windsors, any of the old styles. We already have two fine braided mats, but could use more. We would like old fireplace cooking utensils, shovel and tongs and andirons, a slice (long handled shovel for cleaning oven) bellows, pot hooks and trammels, a bake-kettle, candlesticks, in short, whatever was used in an old New England home.

   The Lee home is pronounced by expert antiquarians, to be one of the oldest and most interesting houses in America. If it were properly furnished it would make one of the most attractive objects of interest in this vicinity. A better object lesson in history could not be offered to school children than this old house which has seen more than two and a half centuries of modern history. Nor could there be a more desirable spot for a summer gathering of any of the many patriotic societies. It is easily accessible, either by the Shore road through Indian woods, or by the old Post road, following the East Lyme trolley road as far as the Niantic schoolhouse (easily recognized by the boulder and tablet on the site of an ancient meeting house) and then turning south through the Bride Brook valley; the old house faces this road where it opens into the Shore road. Only a mile away is the Paul Gould beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of white sand on the coast and an almost unbroken solitude. A good farmhouse luncheon or dinner can be secured by arranging with the caretaker in advance.

   Our society welcomes to the old house everyone who loves these memorials of the past and offers to them an opportunity to help to make it a real picture of colonial times by joining in its plenishing with suitable articles.

One of the East Lyme Society. Niantic, Ct., February 1, 1915

From the pages of The Day

June 4, 1915
TAFT TO SPEAK TO EAST LYME SOCIETY
EX-PRESIDENT TO ADDRESS HISTORICAL MEETING NEXT WEDNESDAY AT OLD LEE HOUSE

   The eighteenth annual meeting of the East Lyme Historical society will be held at the Thomas Lee house next Wednesday.  Ex-President Taft and other distinguished persons have accepted invitations to be present and the meeting is expected to be one of unusual interest.

   There will be a business meeting of the Old Stone Church Burial Ground association (Inc.) in the Judgment hall at 9 a.m., followed by the business meeting of the East Lyme Historical society (Inc.) Ex-President Taft and his party will arrive at 11 o’clock and will give a reception to the members of the various patriotic societies present. Luncheon will be served at noon and there will be addresses from Mr. Taft and others, singing by the Ladies’ chorus of Niantic and music by the East Lyme band in the afternoon.

   These meetings are open to all who wish to pay the admission fee. Auto busses will be provided at the railway station at Niantic and at the Niantic hill schoolhouse. The best route for New London people taking their own conveyance is to follow the East Lyme trolley to Niantic hill, two miles west of Flanders corner, and there turn south by the Bride brook (sometimes called Sunkapaug) road.  The Lee house is at the foot of this road.


June 5, 1915
MANY RARE RELICS GIVEN LEE HOUSE
EAST LYME HISTORICAL SOCIETY GETTING THEM READY TO DISPLAY TO VISITORS

Ladies of the East Lyme Historical Society, c. 1914
Ladies of the East Lyme Historical Society, c. 1914

   To guard against the disappointments that come from small misunderstandings the East Lyme Historical society puts forth this second notice. Ex-President Taft’s party will arrive at the Lee house at 11 a.m. on June 9 and those who wish to be present at this reception should be on hand early. The autos from Niantic railway station and Niantic hill will begin running at 9 a.m. and those who wish to use them should gather at these two points seasonably.

   Since there is a prospect of an unusually large attendance and the Lee housekeepers have only a partial equipment of housekeeping wares, East Lyme friends are asked to bring their own cups, glasses and spoons for use at the luncheon.

   On Thursday of this week the women of Little Boston and South Lyme under the direction of the resident hostess, Mrs. Harry Hunt, held a working bee to put the old house in final order for the meeting. The Old House committee of the Society of Colonial Dames has just presented the Lee house a valuable collection of kitchen utensils of the Colonial period, and the people of the vicinity have also been generous in gifts to the old house so that there was a unique collection to be spread out and arranged. There are kettles of all sizes, from tiny skillets to those requiring the strength of two persons to lift. There is some valuable treen ware; a unique collection of candle sticks, lamps and lanterns; there are pewter platters and quaint old bottles; bake ovens, bake kettles, cranes with pot-hooks and trammels, and a frying pan, big enough for the use of a giant. There is piano which was made at Music Vale, in Salem, at a time when that was the only school of music in America, and some fine old chairs. This is by no means a full list of the gifts offered the old house, but there is still room for other pieces which lovers of New England bygones may like to place in this suitable environment.


June 9, 1915
EX-PRESIDENT TAFT URGES REMEMBRANCE OF OUR PAST
IN ADDRESS THE FEATURE OF EAST LYME HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S ANNUAL MEETING DECLARES WE CANNOT AFFORD TO FORGET IT-BIG ASSEMBLAGE AT OLD LEE HOUSE

President William Howard Taft at the Dedication of the Thomas Lee House Museum, June 1915
President William Howard Taft at the Dedication of the Thomas Lee House Museum, June 1915

   Ex-President Taft of New Haven was the guest of honor and principal speaker at the annual meeting of the East Lyme Historical society here today. In his address the distinguished visitor declared that we cannot afford to forget the past history of our country.

   The meeting was held in the old Thomas Lee house in the Little Boston section of the town. The exercises began at 10 o’clock but the ex-president and Mrs. Taft did not arrive here until about 12 o’clock. The event was attended by about 500 persons from all over the state, coming in automobiles and carriages, of which there were about 100 each.

   The visitors gathered about the house early in the festivities and were shown the interior and exterior of the house.  Shortly after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Taft a luncheon was served in a tempting and appetizing style.

   After a prayer, Miss Celeste Bush, secretary of the East Lyme Historical society gave a history of the old house in which the meeting was held, which proved most interesting. Former President Taft was then introduced and gave an informal but delightful address, in which he expressed himself as being glad that he belonged to the society of Colonial Dames. The keynote of his address was that “we can’t afford to forget our past” and his remarks were enthusiastically received.

Capt. E. E. Rogers Spoke.

   Capt. Ernest E. Rogers, president of the New London County Historical society, then spoke and in a few well chosen remarks praised the good work of the East Lyme society.

   The next speaker was Judge William Marvin of Lyme, a descendant of Betty Lee and Captain Renald Marvin, local celebrities, who told of some of the ancient history of the surrounding places.

   The feature of the exercises was the chorus singing by 14 ladies, who rendered a selection entitled Greeting to Spring.  The East Lyme band, recently organized, under the leadership of Harry Hunt, furnished the music and made an excellent impression.

   The event was most successful and will go down in the annals of the East Lyme Historical society as a pleasurable occasion.  The invited guests were members of the Society of Colonial Dames, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, State and County Historical society and Lucretia Shaw chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. There were many persons from New London and surrounding places in attendance.

Two Elections Held.

   Before the exercises the East Lyme Historical society and the Burial Ground association held their annual business meeting and election of officers.

   East Lyme Historical society elected the following officers:

President-Rev. Charles M. Reed.
Secretary-Miss Celeste Bush.
Treasurer-Miss Grace Comstock.

   The following were elected officers of the Burial Ground association:

President-Major George S. Smith.
Secretary-Miss Celeste Bush.
Treasurer-John J. Comstock


June 10, 1915
HISTORY OF OLD LEE HOUSE TOLD BY MISS C. E. BUSH
ENTERTAINING SKETCH OF EAST LYME’S HISTORICAL BUILDING. MRS. WALKER AND MRS. TROWBRIDGE ALSO MADE INTERESTING ADDRESSES-MANY DISTINGUISHED VISITORS.

   It isn’t often that a village historical society can get an ex-president of the United States to visit it as a guest of honor, but that is what the East Lyme Historical society did Wednesday when it had a visit from ex-President Taft. The old Lee house, supposed to have been built in 1650 is not the easiest place to get to but a surprisingly large number of people from this part of the state attended the meeting and there were visitors from far as well as near. Hon. Charles F. Brooker of Ansonia, governor of the society of Colonial Wars, was there, so was Mrs. Williston Walker of New Haven, president of Connecticut branch of Colonial Dames. Mr. Appleton, secretary of Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Norman W. Isham, authority on Colonial houses, and others.  Ex-President Taft came over from New Haven with Mr. and Mrs. Elford Parry Trowbridge in the latter’s auto. The old house was crowded with interested visitors all day. Most of the visitors placed their names in a register supplied by the East Lyme Historical society.  The Lee house is in excellent state of preservation and is a fine example of old Colonial buildings of the very earliest period.

   The grounds about the spacious property are well supplied with shade trees and under their spreading branches benches were set out for the auditors and for luncheon.

   In addition to the addresses of ex-President Taft and Capt. E. E. Rogers of this city, very interesting talks were given by Mrs. Walker of the Colonial Dames and Mrs. Trowbridge, both of New Haven.

   In The Day Wednesday was printed an account of the Historical society’s exercises, but due to the lateness of the hour it was necessarily brief.

HISTORY OF OLD LEE HOUSE

   Miss Celeste Bush of Niantic, to whose untiring efforts the success of the occasion was largely due, delivered the historical address of the day. Her sketch of the old Lee house was as follows:

Thomas Lee House with well sweep

   For the benefit of those to whom the subject is not familiar we offer a brief sketch of the old house in whose honor we are assembled.

   From the careful study of its architecture by the most expert antiquarian in that line in this country and from the full history of the Lee family in the Salisbury papers we have good reason to believe that this house was built by a first settler, that the date 1660, claimed for it is conservative, and that it is, therefore, one of the oldest and most interesting English-built houses in America.

   As you see the house today, it is a double house, facing north toward the highway, with a lean-to addition in the rear. The original, the eastern end, was a single house, facing south, having a lean-to on the north and with no highway in the vicinity. Later, but still in the 17th century, the western portion was added.

   In Vol. I of the Land records of the ancient town of Lyme, is an entry for the year 1713 to the effect that the highway about to be opened between Lyme and New London should pass near the house of Thomas Lee. At about that time, and as a natural consequence of the opening of the highway, the house was shifted so as to face north, the old lean-to was removed and a new one built across the south side. Since that time no great changes have been made other than to keep the house in repair.

   These changes were made in the days of Thomas Lee 3rd., but the house itself and the family history show that he inherited it from his father, Thomas Lee 2nd. In the south wall of the west chamber one of the small, original window frames was left in position. It has not felt the weather since 1713 and yet is weather worn to an extent that means 50 years of previous exposure.  This would carry the building to about 1660. Moreover, the family history shows that Thomas Lee 2nd was a member of the general assembly and father of half a dozen children as early as 1676. The fact that the east end is so obviously older than the west, together with other points in the family history, suggests strongly to some of us that the older portion may go back even to the mother of Thomas Lee 2nd.  Thomas Lee 1st was one of those Puritans who emigrated from England in the troubled times of the Puritan Revolution. He embarked in 1645 but dies on ship-board, leaving a widow and three children. With Mrs. Lee were her father, William Brown, her sister and brother.  They all came together to Saybrook, but later went elsewhere, leaving Mrs. Lee here. Can we imagine any better reason for Mrs. Lee’s separation from her family that that her property had been located here? From a time to which the memory of man runneth not the Lee family owned the greater part of this beautiful and fertile Bride Brook valley. No record of this grant appears in the Saybrook Land Records which would argue that it was made prior to 1660 the earliest date to which their records run. Thomas Lee 1st was a man of large fortune and serious character. He would not have made a momentous change without prudent preparations and he could readily secure a grant of land through his old friend and neighbor, Matthew Griswold, who came earlier and whose holdings adjoined the Lee property on the south.  And what more reasonable than to suppose that William Brown’s stay in Saybrook was for the purpose of seeing his widowed daughter housed and settled with her children on her late husband’s estate. If these inferences from the old house and from the family history are correct this is the ancestral home, not only of the New England Lees, but of other distinguished families. A daughter of Thomas Lee 1st married Samuel Hyde and from her was descended a president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. Elizabeth Larrabee, a daughter of Phoebe Brown Lee by her second marriage, was the mother of Joshua Hempsted, author of the famous Hempsted’s Diary. James Cornish, her son by a third marriage, was the ancestor of the Cornishes of Simsbury. With such a clear and full record, we may well accept this as one of the most interesting, as well as oldest, houses in the country.

   The acquisition of the Lee house by the East Lyme Historical society is another story. We had studied our old houses and knew the Lee house to be the oldest of all, but as the last Lees were eccentric and received no visitors, we knew little more. The last representative of the family died a few years ago and the place was purchased by J. B. Rathbun. Mrs. Hunt, a new-comer in the neighborhood, but more interested in local history than many of the native born, attended a meeting of our society and learned of our anxiety to study the Lee house. Obligingly and very promptly she gained Mr. Rathbun’s permission to examine the old house and invited the secretary to make the coveted visit with her. We had not the slightest thought of buying the house. Our society had but 15 members and $12 in the treasury. But when we saw that venerable and austere interior we were overwhelmed with the feeling that it might not be torn down, as was the intention of the owner. We had no money, but we had experiences that taught us that if a thing was really worth doing and someone would make an honest effort to do it, help would come.

   We asked for a price on the house and some time in which to raise it and were given $500 as the price and an option of 90 days. The hoped for help came; we applied to the chairman of the old house committee of the Society of Colonial Dames, who recommended us to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Their secretary, Mr. Appleton, came on and saw the house and pronounced it well worth saving. Mr. Seymour of the Society of Colonial Wars, engaged Norman W. Isham, the great authority on colonial houses, to examine and report on the house, and his report being favorable, these three societies gave us $200 each. Other contributions, largely from Lee descendants, brought the sum in hand up to $1,000, which was ready well within our 90 days’ option.

   The $500 in excess of the cost price was so nearly enough for the necessary repairs that it seemed wise to contract a small debt, about $100, which we hope either by our own efforts or the generosity of friends who have not as yet contributed, to meet at an early date. And we are anxious to relay the old well, which has begun to cave in and to build a protecting fence against the destructive forces of the souvenir hunters who dig out the flowers from the lawn.

   We do not call this begging; we are offering a share in the best we have. We have not saved the old house for ourselves, but for the state, the nation and posterity. We do not welcome you to our house, but to your house. Here you may come as freely as we to meditate on the quarter-of-a-thousand years in which this house has been contemporary. Here you may bring your children to teach them, as no printed page could how God called our fathers to leave their native country for a promised land that He would give them; how He made a safe path for them through the ocean, fed them in the wilderness, and sheltered them from savage enemies; how they brought forth on this soil of Connecticut the first government of the people, by the people, for the people the world ever saw, the model for every similar government that the world has since seen. Here, if anywhere, you can impress upon their minds that we must honor those Puritan fathers and mothers if we would live long in the land which the Lord, our God, hath given us.

   We hear much at this time of the necessity of great armies and navies for national defense. There is one thing more necessary to that defense than either army or navy, and that is a strong, enlightened spirit of patriotism and to that spirit this venerable mansion is a perpetual inspiration.”

   Among New Londoners present were: Mr. and Mrs. Herbert L. Crandall, Mrs. Charles B. Graves, Mrs. Clark Smith, Mrs. Charles B. Jennings, Alfred Coit, Mrs. Philip c. Dunford, Miss Elizabeth Gorton, Mrs. Marenda H. Bryant, Mrs. Joseph Comstock, Mrs. Franklin W. Darrow, Mr. and Mrs. George S. Fenner, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Fuller, Mrs. Fred Hull, Mrs. L. E. Daboll, Mrs. Frank Green, Mrs. Joseph Dean, Mrs. Kitty Huntley, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest E. Rogers, Miss Lucretia Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Newcomb and family, Mrs. Elisha L. Palmer, Mrs. Richard Mansfield, Mrs. Sidney H. Miner, Mrs. E. M. Smith., Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smith 2nd, Miss Fanny Learned, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel M. Prentis, Eldridge Prentis, Mrs. L. K. Shipman, Mrs. C. W. Potter, Mrs. J. E. Underhill, Theodore Bodenwein, O. G. Andrews, Mrs. Richard Latimer of Montville.