Monday, February 17, 2014

52 Ancestors - Week 7: Lyman Howe

A few weeks ago - I learned that my Howe ancestors owned a very famous Inn - for over 150 years - before it was sold to someone outside the family.   I want to do a post following the history of this tavern - but today I'm going to focus on the final member of the family to be the inn keeper - Lyman Howe.

The Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn 1935

First - a brief introduction to this inn I have been speaking had 3 different names, but the last name, and the name it is most famous for is:  The Wayside Inn.   Yes - it's THAT inn.  The one that Longfellow wrote about his book - Tales of a Wayside Inn, published in 1862.

The inn, located in Sudbury, Massachusetts,  started out as the Howe Inn, then was changed to the Red Horse Inn to distinguish it from the other Howe inn a few towns away, and then was changed to The Wayside Inn.    The inn started as a Samuel Howe's house - and he deeded it to his son, David in 1702.  David converted the house to an inn.  It then passed from father to son until Lyman Howe took over as inn keeper in 1830.  

Red Horse Inn Sign

Besides Longfellow, the inn has had quite the history:

  • George Washington in 1775 and again in 1789
  • The Marquis de Lafayette in 1784 and again in 1824
  • Henry David Thoreau in 1853
  • Rumor has it that the Wayside Inn was the inspiration for the childrens song:  Mary Had a Little Lamb - though other information is that the schoolhouse associated with the song was not originally there, but moved to the grounds when Henry Ford owned it.
  • The mill on the grounds is used as the Pepperidge Farms logo
  • It was owned by Henry Ford - yes THAT Henry Ford, the car maker.
  • The inn is haunted - the most prominent ghost being that of Jerusha Howe, Lyman's sister.
  • Lyman Howe is the inspiration for Longfellow's poem - The Landlords Tale
  • The owners of the inn consider it the 1st living museum in America

Pepperidge Farm Logo

Wayside Inn Mill

Lyman Howe was born November 6, 1801 in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

Lyman is described as being imposing, dignified and grave in appearance.    He was gentleman type farmer - overseeing his land, but doing little work.    He liked material things - often seen in his chaise around town as he visited the schools, went to the post office or errands.   He was proud of the family silver - brought from England, and was called Squire Howe.    He never married.  One report is that he considered the country girls beneath him.

Lyman Howe

Lyman Howe became inn keeper of The Red Horse Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1830.

Lyman was an educated man, particularly in astronomy.   He was active in civic affairs, serving as a Justice of the Peace and a member of the school committee, leader of the Congregational Church choir.  He was well known and respected in town, and known for his stories.   He was scared of lightening.  He would sit on a high stool in the bar room and count flashes and calculate how far the storm was.

With the arrival of the railroad, coaches were not used as much, and business at the inn waned as Lyman got older.  In March 1861 died.  "He was found dead in his bed by his faithful negro servant, Pete."  (This quote appears in almost all the sources listed below).   He had  no wife and no children.  There was an auction held in November of 1861 to settle Lymans debts totalling $6,600.

The inn was passed to distant family members who did not with to continue running it.   For a time they rented it out for special events, and ultimately sold it to Edward Rivers Lemon.

The dirge for Lyman How was sung by Dr. T. W. Parsons, one of the many authors and poets who spent time at the inn.

"Thunder clouds may roll above him,
And the bolt may rend his oak;
Lyman lieth where no longer
He shall dread the lightening stroke."

Never to his father's hostel
Comes a kinsman or a guest;
Midnight calls for no more candles;
House and landlord both have rest.

Fetch my steed!  I cannot linger.
Buckley, quick!  I must away.
Good old groom, take thou this nothing;
Millions not not make me stay."

Howe Coat of Arms hung in The Howe Inn


  • The History of Sudbury Massachusetts 1638-1889, by Alfred Sereno Hudson, Published by The Town of Sudbury, 1889.  Link
  • The New England Magazine, March-August 1894, New Series Volume 10, Old Series Volume 16 Warren F. Kellog, Publisher.   Link
  • Daughters of the American Revoluation Magazine Volume 8, January-June 1896.  Link
  • The Wayside Inn, Its History and Literature.  An address delivered by Samuel Arthur Bent at the Wayside Inn on June 17, 1897.   Link  

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