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Sarah Whitman Hooker House, 1944

Sarah Whitman Hooker house, 1944

Sarah Whitman Hooker (February 27, 1747 - January 5, 1837) was the wife of Thomas Hart Hooker and the owner of the Sarah Whitman Hooker house in West Hartford. She was a descendant of William Pantry, one of the founders of Hartford, and became famous for harboring two British prisoners during the American Revolution.

She was also the grandmother of Henry Talcott, a prominent education advocate in West Hartford, and the great-grandmother of Sarah Whiting Talcott, a talented artist in the region.

Life and Death Edit

Born in 1747, Sarah Whitman was the daughter of the Deacon John Whitman and Abigail Pantry, and was a descendant of William Pantry, one of the founders of Hartford. She was a great-granddaughter of the Reverend Solomon Stoddard, the first librarian of Harvard College. At the age of 22, in 1769, she married Thomas Hart Hooker of Farmington, who was fourth in direct line of descent from the Reverend Thomas Hooker, the first settled clergyman of Hartford, and a framer of the Connecticut Constitution, on which the Constitution of the United States was modeled.

Between 1770 and 1775, the Hookers had two children - Thomas Hart Hooker, Jr. and Abigail Pantry Hooker.

In the spring of 1773, she and her husband bought in West Hartford the Sarah Whitman Hooker house, which had been known as the "Mills Place," situated on the south side of New Britain Avenue. Two years later, in May 1775, aroused by the Battle of Lexington, her husband Thomas was one of the first to enlist in the American army against Great Britain. He joined the Revolutionary Army near Boston, where he served for several months and then died of pleurisy on November 26, 1775. He had, however, signed a Deed of Manumission respecting his then-slave Bristow, which became effective in early May 1775. The Deed set Bristow as a free man.

Andrew and Philip Skene

Philip Skene (left) and son Andrew (right)

After the Americans captured Fort Ticonderoga at the southern end of Lake Champlain in May 1775, they sent the Governor of the Fort, Philip Skene, and his son Andrew to the Hooker house as guarded prisoners on July 26, 1775. Skene remained there - quite comfortably - all the rest of the year and throughout the following winter. He liked to entertain, and on the evening of January 16, 1776 gave a dinner party for some of his Tory friends. The guests came in a sled and the shouts to the horses were thought to be a joy over the American defeat at Quebec just two weeks before. After dinner, served by Sarah Whitman Hooker, the company sat down to a game of whist. Suddenly, they learned that a company of over twenty American patriots had gathered in a house across the street and intended to attack them.

Hooker sent their servant across the road to find out what was happening and he reported that Captain Abraham Sedgwick of the militia was trying to persuade the patriots to desist and believed he would succeed. The angry men were only shooed away when Sarah Hooker went over and talked to them. The Tory friends were taken to Hartford on January 19.

Skene remained a captive until September 1776 when Governor Trumbull told him that he had been exchanged. After Skene was captured again in October 1777 and was sent to Cambridge, Massachusetts, her Tory guests gave her "a beautiful gold ring as a token of their respect for her and appreciation of her kindness."

After the war, Hooker continued to manage the farm and house (a homestead in the original meaning of the word) with the assistance of Bristow, who was an agriculturist of some local renown. Bristow had earned 60 pounds to purchase his freedom by selling his labor when his daily work for the Hookers had been completed. She continued to live in the homestead until 1794 when she sold it to her two children for "love, affection, and one dollar." She had married Captain Seth Collins in 1778 - he died in 1793. Her children sold the house to their uncle Charles Seymour, youngest son of Ensign Timothy Seymour, who started building "my mansion house on four mile hill" sometime between 1715 and 1720. Charles Seymour was also the husband of Sarah's sister Lucy.

Hooker continued to live in West Hartford until about 1830 when she went to Pennsylvania to live with a great-niece. She died on January 5, 1837 at the age of 90. She was buried in West Hartford and her will was probated in Connecticut.

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