by Kathleen Sasso
Thomas M. Avery was born January 1, 1798 to Abraham Avery and Elizabeth Noyes Avery. Through the Noyes lineage, Thomas is a Mayflower Descendant of Elder William Brewster:
I. William Brewster married to Mary
II. Jonathan Brewster married to Lucretia Oldham
III. Ruth Brewster married to John Pickett
IV. Ruth Pickett married to Rev. Moses Noyes
V. Moses Noyes Esq. married to Mary Ely
VI. Moses Noyes married to Hannah Seldon
VII. Elizabeth Noyes married to Abraham Avery
VIII. Thomas Avery married to Elizabeth Brace Griswold
Thomas was one of ten children. His siblings were:
Moses Avery (1786-1788) Died age 2
Elizabeth Avery Henderson (1788-1874)
Mary Avery (1790-1858) unmarried
Abraham Seldon Avery (1792 – 1868), married Esther Clark
John Noyes Avery (1794 – 1817) Died age 23
Hannah Avery (1795 – 1852) unmarried
Enoch Avery ( 1801 – 1802) Died age 11 months
Dr. Samuel Avery (1805 – 1842) married Eleanor Williamsen
William Avery (1807 – 1807 ) Died eight days from birth.
Marriage and Family
Thomas Avery married Elizabeth Brace Griswold on March 12, 1845 in East Lyme. He was 47 and she was 21. The service was officiated by Frederick Gridley, who was a neighbor, according to the 1840 Census.
Elizabeth Brace Griswold was born June 19, 1823 to Andrew Griswold Jr. and Lucinda S. Johnson. According to Connecticut Church documents she was baptized and admitted to East Lyme First Congregational Church at Niantic on May 1, 1842, and then “cut off from church communion” on September 14, 1849.
Elizabeth died on June 12, 1852. According to the North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, she died of consumption. She is buried at the Old Stone Church Burial Ground in Niantic, CT.
Together, Thomas and Elizabeth had three children:
Sarah Elizabeth Avery – 1846 – 1848
According to East Lyme Town Records, Sarah’s cause of death was Fever. She is buried in the Old Stone Church Burial Ground.
William Andrew Avery – 1847 – 1877
William was married to Lockie Payne Gorton on November 18, 1869. His occupation is listed as a farmer and salesman in the The Groton Avery Clan Book.
It appears that William lived and worked the family farm until his death in 1877 at age 29. He is buried at the Union Cemetery in East Lyme, CT.
A separate post will be dedicated to documenting the lives of William, Lockie and their children.
Charles Thomas Avery (1849 – 1901) (also known as Thomas C.)
According to church records, Charles was admitted to the First Congregational Church at Niantic on April 1, 1877, Married Martha R. Hough on November 24, 1877 and then was dismissed and recommended by letter to the Presybterian Church in Caldwell Kansas on February 10, 1878.
A separate post will be dedicated to documenting the lives of Charles, Martha and their children.
Census Reports and Land Transactions
In his father Abraham’s will, Thomas was given use of his property as long as he promised to take care of his sisters Mary and Hannah as recorded in the will:
Item I do give unto my son Thomas Avery the use of my real estate, cattle, horses, sheep and farming tools (provided he pays the legacies as above bequeathed. Lastly, I do make and constitute my son Thomas Avery Executor of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal this 26th day of June in the year of our Lord 1834.
According to Census reports, the property was maintained by Thomas and at various points he takes in his other family relatives. After Thomas dies, his sister Elizabeth Henderson takes over as head of house and then Charles Avery until he moves to Kansas.
1840 Census – Thomas is listed as head of household with (1) Free White Male age 10 thru 14, (1) Free White Male age 40 thru 49, (1) Free White Female under 5, (1) Free White Female 40 thru 49, (1) Free White Female 60 thru 69, (2) persons employed in Agriculture. Total of 5 Free White People living at the house.
1850 Census – Thomas is listed as head of household (age 52). Living in the house with him are his wife Elizabeth (age 27), his sons William (age 3) and Thomas C (age 8 months.), his sister Mary Avery (age 60) and a Black young man, Amos Watrous (age 8). Amos is a mystery so far, as I cannot find any other information about his origin or parents. The value of the real estate at this time is $3500. Thomas’ occupation is listed as farmer.
Notable neighbors are: Joe Tubbs, Farmer, Frederick Gridley, Clergyman, Sylvanus Griswold (possibly related to Elizabeth), and John Clark, Farmer (who may also have helped in building the current house according to a Quit Claim Deed dated July 20, 1849 from the East Lyme Town Records, Vol. 1, pg. 630: “To All People to whom these presents shall come, greeting. Twenty five dollars received to my full satisfaction of Thomas Avery of East Lyme has remised released and by these presents do Quit Claim to the said Thomas Avery , a Dwelling House that I built on said Averys land in the Town of East Lyme Southerly of the Congregational Meeting House in said town.”
1860 Census – Thomas (age 60) is listed as head of household . Living with him are his sons, William (age 13 ) , Charles T. (age 10 ), sister Elizabeth Henderson (age 72), widow, Elizabeth Avery (age 22) (daughter of his brother Samuel) and Ellen Avery (age 37) (widow of Samuel). The real estate value is listed as $4000 and personal estate value at $350.
1870 Census – Thomas died on March 20, 1869. Elizabeth Henderson takes over as head of house and lives with William (age 22) – real estate value 2000, personal estate value 1000, occupation Farmer. Thomas (age 20) – real estate value 500, personal estate value $1000, occupation Farmer. William’s wife Lockie (age 25) is also in residence and her occupation is keeping house. Ellen Avery (age 45 and Samuel’s widow) is also in residence.
Over the course of his life, Thomas took over his father’s farmland and eventually bought out his sisters. The speculation is that the current house standing was built around 1845, once Thomas married Elizabeth and may have included a portion from an earlier structure. The quit claim deed from carpenter John Clark (1849) and a newspaper found in the wall dated 1845, lead to this belief.
Information about ownership has been gathered from deeds that were donated by Arnold W. Avery of Noank, CT to our town historian at the time, Olive Tubbs Chendali, who in turn presented them to the Smith-Harris House on April 25, 1998. Other information was taken from a document titled The Story of the Smith-Harris House, compiled and writted by Betty Morison and Eleanor Kern, 1977. Some of the information is also taken from a letter dated November 13, 1978 to Miss Barbara Ann Cleary of the Greater Middletown Preservation Trust from Mrs. Samuel G. Morrison, Chairman of the Smith-Harris Commission. This letter summarized a title search conducted during that time. Here were some of her conclusions:
- An 1854 map indicates two Thomas Avery houses, one at the present site and another across the road. The house across the road was much smaller and built in the 18th century. It was concluded that Thomas Avery sold the smaller house.
- Real estate transactions prove the house was standing in 1845, and there is a possibility that it was built before Abraham Avery’s death in 1834. There was an ell that was removed during renovation that was much older and there has been speculation that there may have been an earlier house at the same site.
According to the information provided in the National Historic Register application for the Thomas Avery House, Jonathan Avery, Thomas’ grandfather, purchased 4 parcels of land from Daniel Smith in 1751 and the Avery clan was actively farming since at least that date.
Here is a summary of transactions by date that are related to Thomas Avery purchases of the property:
December 4, 1827 – Thomas Avery purchases 2.5 acres from Stephen P. Byington.
September 12, 1834 – Thomas Avery purchases 140 acres from his father Abraham Avery.
July 1, 1845 – Thomas Avery receives a part of the farm own by his late father from his sisters Mary Avery, Hannah Avery and his brother Samuel’s widow Ellen Avery.
May 19, 1846 – Another sister, Elizabeth Henderson agrees to the same transfer of property of her late father’s property.
May 30, 1846 – Thomas Avery received $100 from his sister’s Elizabeth Henderson, Hannah Avery and Mary Avery and he quit claimed a portion of his house to them for their lifetime of either of them.
May 19, 1851 – Sister Hannah Avery gives interest in a tract of land that belonged to her last father.
May 16, 1863 – Sister Elizabeth Henderson sells to Thomas Avery her undivided interest in her father’s estate, totaling 65 acres.
June 20, 1865 – Quit claim from Abraham Seldon Avery to his brother Thomas Avery, his undivided interest in his father’s estate, totaling 65 acres.
1869 – Thomas Avery’s sons Charles and William Avery inherit his property after his death.