The Hyland House – A Story

The Hyland House – Guilford, Connecticut

Roll back the years to Jan. 19, 1693. On that long-gone day the home of George Hyland was the center of Guilford’s interest. In an upper chamber, upon a “bedstead with curtains”, the master of the house lay dying. Friends and townsmen were gathered about him; the Rev. Joseph Eliot, pastor-physician; John Hill, father of the betrothed husband of young Hannah Hyland; William Stone, Sr.

George Hyland’s worldly affairs were yet to be set in order and the time was short. On the first floor, in the west room of the first-period house, the family gathered about the great fire-place and spoke together in the hushed tones of the nearest on kin. George Hyland’s wife was there, Hannah Cruttenden before her marriage. Her two married daughters and their hunsbands were there, Elizabeth and Isaac Parmelee from South Lane [today Whitfield Street], Mary and Thomas Hall from Long Hill Road, Hanna, the betrothed of John Hill Jr. whose home was at the northeast corner of the Green [today the place of the E.C. Bishop House], and little Deborah whose marriage to Ebenezer Hall was seven years in the future.

The family group fell into silence as the faint tones of the dying husband and father filtered in unintelligible sound from the floor above. George Hyland was making his nuncupative will, the skilled pen of the Rev. Joseph Eliot giving it legal form. The next day, Jan. 20, 1693, George Hyland died.

It was not until the following June that the Widow Hannah Hyland reached New Haven to probate her husband’s will. Probably the journey was made on horseback, one horse having been included in George Hyland’s estate, and it was necessary to wait until the spring mud had disappeared from the rough roads and the chill of winter from the air. She was accompanied by the Rev. Joseph Eliot, William Stone Sr., and John Hill. In New Haven probate court the witnesses were sworn, the will probated and “power of adzion” granted to “Hanna Hyland, widow, Relect of y Dec’d.”

For eight years after George Hyland’s death his widow managed the farm and kept the home. Deborah having married Ebenezer Hall, had gone to live in Nut Plains, near Fence Rock. The infirmities of age were creeping upon the Widow Hyland and she felt that she could carry on no longer. She called together her sons-in-law, Isaac Parmelee, Thomas Hall, John Hill and Ebenezer Hall. Feeling herself incapable of further management of the estate, she would divide the farm into four equal parts to be divided among the four young men, reserving to herself the life use of house and barn, a small bit of land and the right to her own maintenance both in sickness and in health. Said house and barn were to belong to those “in whose allotment it shall fall.” The sons-in-law, in their turn, were to bind themselves to pay “unto our said mother at or before the first of March yearly the sum of 45 shillings yearly in meat and bread corn and a milch cow summer and winter.” The written agreement was signed on Jan. 27, 1701. The “honored mother” did not long survive, dying before the close of 1702.

Then her children assembled again in the “hall”, the west front room of the Hyland house. The Hyland estate had been divided into four portions and the four sons-in-law were to draw each man his allotment. Probably town officials presided over the lottery and excitement was apparent as each man drew his number from the urn.

The real estate of George Hyland extended from Boston street to Union street, from the Griswold home lot on the east to the present boundary on the west. The westernmost parcel was drawn by Thomas Hall; the next by Isaac Parmelee; the next by John Hill; the easternmost by Ebenezer Hall. So Thomas Hall became the owner of the Hyland homestead in accordance with the Widow Hyland’s directions, “without regard into whose allotment it shall fall.” And so passed from the Hyland name the homestead of George Hyland, although it did not pass then from the family.

Now enters the story the well-known name of Col. Samuel Hill. He was then at the beginning of his career as the prominent real estate man of his time in Guilford. One by one he purchased from the brothers-in-law the portions of George Hyland’s farm, or rather traded other parcels of land for them as was the custom of that time. on Nov. 7 1706, he traded with Thomas Hall for his allotment and, on the same day, exchanged this with Isaac Parmelee. So Isaac Parmelee held title to the Hyland homestead while the remainder of the real estate was the property of Col. Samuel Hill. So passed the Hyland house into the Parmelee name. Colonel Hill built his own house next east on the site of the home.

On July 24, 1718, Ebenezer Parmelee, son of Isaac Parmelee and Elizabeth Hyland, married his second cousin, Anna Cruttenden. To Ebenezer Parmelee, boat buklder, his parents deeded, on July 29, 1719, for forty pounds, “2 3/4 acres, it being part of the Home Lot formerly belonging to our Honored father, George Highland of Guilford, deceased where he last dwelt, with all the buildings, fences, timber and stone privileges, appurtenances and accommodations.”

The Hyland house was now the home of Ebenezer and Anna Parmelee. Ebenezer was a skilled worker in wood and metal, as befitted one who built boats, for the craftsman of that period must know all branches of his business. Here he wrought and, living here, built for himself that memorial that keeps his name remembered, the first town clock of Guilford, built in 1727 and placed in the steeple of the second edifice of the First Congregational Society of Guilford, built on Guilford Green 1714. So well did Ebenezer Parmelee build his clock that it survived the “Old Temple” or the “Three-Decker” as it was called and was placed in the third house of worship, the present First Congregational Church, built in 1830, where it did duty as the town clock until 1892. Even yet it is in running order, with its enormous key for winding the great boxes of stones that are its weights. Its final resting place is the State Historical Museum in the Henry Whitfield House.

To Ebenezer Parmelee are credited the fine specimens of mantel pieces and stair balustrade in the Hyland House. The lean-to kitchen, which left the original clapboards on walls thus made interior is regarded as added by him.

Sorrow displaced by joy in this ancient house. There were nine children born to Ebenezer and Anna Parmelee. They were Ebenezer, Anna, Samuel (died as an infant), another Samuel, Reuben, Ruth, Phineas, another Ebenezer and Nathaniel. In 1736 some epidemic swept the town and carried off four sons. When the father died in 1777, only three children survived him. When the Widow Parmelee died in 1789 she had buried eight of her nine children, only Ebenezer Parmelee Jr. surviving her.

Now Candace enters the story. It is 1773. Madame Ruth Naughty, whose home was at the southeast corner of Guilford Green (today the Guilford Savings Bank), had lately died. Two of the enslaved persons in her household, Montross and Phyliss, had been set free by her will and for their maintenance had been sold her “gold chane and locket, her ring and piece of gold, 2 silk damask frocks, her silk quilt, her furbelowed scarf, her broadcloth riding hood and head, together with all the remainder of her movable estate”. But as regarded the four young enslaved persons in her household, Pompey, Moses, Aaron and Candace, children of Montross and Phyllis, it seemed to Madame Naughty not well to set them free. So, by her will of Dec 14, 1777, Madame Naughty indentured them for life among her friends and neighbors. Chandace was committed to the care of Ebenezer Parmelee and his wife, Anna, “during their lives and after their decease to Ensign Hooker Bartlett and his wife,” Ruth Parmelee, whose home was in Whitfield street.

With Candace to the Hyland house came all the household goods bequeathed to her by Madame Naughty. The lean-to chamber over the kitchen was probably filled with her possessions. There were the bed, bedding and bedstead upon which Madame Naughty was lying when she made her will. There were two pillows and other furnishings of the bed; a little iron pot, an iron skillet, four pewter plates, one looking glass; one Dutch spinning wheel, one new great wheel, two pairs of sheets, two pillow coats, Madame’s Callimaneo frock, one white Holland apron, one chest of drawers, Madame’s light-colored Shallon quilt and broadcloth short coat; also Madame Naughty’s trundle bed and bed clothes and bedstead; her large brass kettle and a large pewter bazon; her calico frock and her dark-colored Shallon quilt.

Madame’s caps, books, etc. were divided between Phyllis and her daughter Candace, the latter being then about twenty-two years of age. Young, strong, capable, Candace may be imagined as putting her shoulder to the wheel in the home of the aged Ebenezer and Anna Parmelee. She must have remained with the Widow Parmelee after Ebenezer’s death in 1777 and until that lady’s death in 1789. Ensign Hooker Bartlett and his wife, Ruth Parmelee, had died before the mother, a possibility not covered by Madame Naughty’s indenture of Candace. So, at the age of 38, Candace was a free woman because no person living had the legal right to keep her in bondage. A deed of land in Nut Plains the gift of David Naughty to Montross and sold by Candace and her brothers, reveals that she was then the wife of Thomas Bow. One more glimpse of Candace is obtained of her in 1810 by mention of her in Mrs. Charlotte Weld Fowler’s history of the Weld maily as “poor old worn-out Candace going here and there for the accomodation of the public, sometimes washing, sometimes making wedding cake.” From then on, Candace disappears from the story.

After his mother’s death in 1789, Ebenezer Parmelee, the sole survivor of the family, who had been graduated from Yale College in 1758, retained ownership of the house for four years. In 1793, he sold the Hyland house to his mother’s cousin, Seth Cruttenden, then 42 years old, whose family included only his wife, Anna Rossiter. She died in the Hyland house in 1819. A year later Seth Cruttenden brought home his second wife, formerly the Widow Parnel Parmelee. In 1830 Seth Cruttenden died leaving no children and the probate court ordered the property sold to settle the estate. It was purchased by Randolph C. Wildman on Feb. 26, 1831, and remained in the Wildman family until 1914, a period of eighty-three years.

In 1916 the ancient house seemed doomed to be torn down as its site was desired for another building. Clarence E. Norton was about to build his brick garage on the corner of Boston street and Graves Avenue where stood the old Graves house and it was proposed to tear down the Hyland house and move the old Graves house from the corner lot onto the site thus vacated. Former Governor Rollin S. Woodruff, a resident of Guilford at that time, interceded with the owner of the Hyland house and effected a change in the plans, by which the ancient dwelling could be preserved. He persuaded the Dorothy Whitfield Historical Society to purchase it, giving important assistance to the transaction. The old Graves house was moved to the north side of the later Graves house in Graves avenue and is a residence.

So the Hyland house became the responsibility of the Dorothy Whitfield Historical Society and is in good hands. Its interior has been cleared of all modern partitions and restored to original arrangement. Its furnishings are of the period in which it was built so that one, entering its door, passes from the present into the past.