It's a House, a Church, a Fort, and More

This is the Henry Whitfield House, currently a museum in Guilford, CT. It's the oldest house in CT, and the oldest stone house in New England. Yes, stone is plentiful in these parts.

Can you guess for whom the first house in town was built? Yes, a minister. A Puritan minister with nine children (and a wife, of course). I love to think about what life was like in those days, and I find it interesting that the best house was for the minister (not for the richest guy around). Henry Whitfield was born in England around 1592 and did emigrate for his religious beliefs.
I was distressed to read that he returned to England late in his life, leaving behind his wife and 'most' of his children. Of course in those days there were very few opportunities for a woman to earn a living, so I can't help wondering how she supported herself when the breadwinner left. I want to know why he left. Did this make him a bad minister, that he essentially abandoned his family? Maybe he would have taken them and they refused to go? However, his wife did eventually return to England herself, so...
This is the field in front of their house. Rock walls are ubiquitous in New England. I have one myself. (They are very expensive to repair these days!) In those days, the material was everywhere and labor was cheap.

The minister's house served as the church, until a separate church could be built. The walls were almost two feet thick, so this building also served as the town fort. This minister and his wife opened their home to travelers. There were only three bedrooms for the 11 of them!

Finally, this building was the first museum in the state of Connecticut! That's quite a lot of uses for one building, I think.

In subsequent years, the house was owned by two different families who each held onto it for over a century (apiece). This may have contributed to the fact that the house is still standing.

One last tidbit for readers: Henry Whitfield was descended from Chaucer.

No comments: