Meet the Howards

Here’s an introduction to the residents of 96 Palisado Avenue in the year 1810.

Nathaniel & Ann

Nathaniel Howard was born in 1745 in Mansfield, Connecticut, son of Nathaniel and Martha Howard. Little is known of his early years, but following in his elder brother’s footsteps, he took to the sea. East Windsor’s shipbuilding industry made it an attractive town for those seafarers hoping to one day captain their own vessels, and by 1772, Captain Howard resided there. In that year, however, he purchased a small house alongside Palisado Green in Windsor. The following year, he married Ann Watson, daughter of Ebenezer and Ann Watson of East Windsor.

With the start of the Revolutionary War, Captain Howard enlisted in the Navy and captained the Ranger. The British soon captured the vessel and imprisoned Howard on the prison ship Jersey in New York Harbor. After the war Howard returned to the sea, sailing to the West Indies, London, and Amsterdam for trade. All the while, his family in Windsor continued to grow. His eldest son, Nathaniel, Jr. was born in 1777, followed by John, William, Anne, and George. Anne died at age 2 in 1787, leaving the Howards with four boys.

By the 1790s, the aging Captain retired from the high seas and opened a small store inside his home in Windsor. He offered for sale imported fineries suitable for refined ladies with taste. His wife was one such woman. Ann came from a wealthy East Windsor family, and her brother, John Watson, became the richest man in East Windsor. It is written that Ann Howard sported the first umbrella in Windsor and was soon mocked by neighbors carrying broom sticks topped with sieves. Captain Howard clearly kept his wife provided with the latest fashions, but he also fancied up his modest dwelling with a carved front doorway, enlarged windows, and added triangular pediments for visual effect – perhaps in a vain attempt to compete with his brother-in-law’s architectural behemoth of a home in East Windsor.

Nathaniel and Ann were 65 and 61, respectively, in the year 1810 and should have been winding down after a lifetime of working. But, their world had been upturned in 1809 with the death of their eldest son, Nathaniel Howard, Jr.

Nancy & Annie

Nathaniel Howard, Jr. married Nancy Vibbert of Hartford in 1800. The following year their daughter, Annie, was born. Within a few years, Nathaniel and Nancy moved to New York City where the younger Captain Howard launched trading vessels to Europe and the West Indies. With his United States passport in hand, Nathaniel Howard, Jr. operated on dangerous seas as tensions between the British, French, and Americans were running high. Nancy and their two-year-old son, Nathaniel, accompanied Captain Howard on a run to Martinique in 1808. They were captured by the British and fell ill while awaiting their trial. Nathaniel Howard, Jr. and his infant son died in St. Lucia in 1809. Nancy Howard recovered, returned to America, and moved to Windsor with her daughter, Annie, age 9. Nancy’s father had passed away and her mother had remarried, making the Howards’ comfortable home on the Green a natural refuge.

George & Sarah

In contrast to his older brother, Nathaniel and Ann’s youngest son, George Howard, did not become a sea captain. Instead, he apprenticed in the country store of his first cousin, John Watson, Jr., in East Windsor. While there, he courted Sarah Trumbull. They married in June 1810 at the end of his apprenticeship. Not having a home of their own, the newlyweds moved into the Howards’ home in Windsor. George partnered with his elder brother, William, to run a grocery and dry goods store just down North Meadow Road from the Howards’ home. Nathaniel and Ann now had a full household again. And by the end of 1810, they were expecting another member – George and Sarah’s first child.

In the year 1810, Nathaniel, Ann, Nancy, Annie, George, and Sarah grappled with all the aspects of life that still affect us today – birth, death, marriage, status, commerce, politics, religion, local issues, global concerns, and never-ending chores. Our reinterpretation of the Strong-Howard House sheds more light on these issues that shaped their world and ours.

 

By Christina Vida, Curator.
Top image: actors Susan Buchholz  and Walter Mantani portray Ann and Nathaniel Howard, 2015.

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