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March 27, 2015 Trumbull, Connecticut - Written History


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Eliakim Beach's Tavern

By John Lauria

After Trumbull's first town meeting (held on November 20, 1797) Eliakim Beach invited all those who attended back to his tavern to celebrate.  At this meeting, Eliakim was elected as Trumbull's first town clerk, a position he held for the next 20 years.  Eliakim Beach's Tavern or "ordinary" served many important roles in Trumbull's early history.  The tavern was built in 1765 by Eben Hawley as a colonial mansion for his new bride, and was located on Daniels Farm Road, just east of the Pequonnock River.  Unfortunately, in 1767 Hawley died at age 30 leaving behind his young wife, infant son and the extreme amount of debt of 1,135 pounds related to mortgages held by John Hancock of Boston on his house and gristmill.  Exactly when Eliakim Beach took ownership of the mansion is not clear, but accounts place him there during the revolution.
In colonial days it was required by law that each town was to provide an ordinary for road-weary travelers to sleep and dine, and where care could be provided for their horses.  The proprietor of these establishments had to be approved as a fit person by two magistrates.  Eliakim Beach (1751 - 1821) chosen to run the first ordinary in North Stratford was a man of considerable influence.  In addition to being the first town clerk, Eliakim served for fifty years as deacon of the Trumbull Congregational Church, was the Town's key-keeper (of the pound), and first post master.
The Beach Tavern similar to those of the latter 18th century, not only provided food and drink, but was a center of business and social life.  Usually marked by a prominent sign, taverns were the main sources of community news, mail, gossip and confrontation.  Here meeting notices and new ordinances would be posted as an early substitute for the daily newspaper.  In rural areas, taverns were usually part of the keeper's home, and regular stops for the local stage coaches.  Distances by travelers were often measured from tavern to tavern rather than from town to town.  Although public drunkenness was considered sinful and unlawful, most people of period would partake in alcoholic beverages and rum, whiskey, beer and ale were served at Beach's Tavern.
Besides being Trumbull's first non-secular meeting place, it also served as a place of sanctuary during the revolutionary war.  On July 8, 1779, Mary Silliman, fled Fairfield during its siege by the British and sought sanctuary at Eliakim Beach's Tavern.  Her husband, Brig. Gen. Gold Sellick Silliman, had previously been taken prisoner by the British, and Mrs. Silliman was pregnant and with another small child at the time.  On August 8th, she gave birth at the ordinary to one of early America's most prominent scientists, Benjamin Silliman, for whom Silliman College at Yale is named after.  Benjamin Silliman's achievements include founding Yale University's Departments of Chemistry and Natural History in 1802, the first time such curriculum was offered in either American and British institutions, and also beginning the American Journal of Science which is still published today.  In 1809, Benjamin Silliman married Harriet Trumbull, daughter of Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. of the family for which our town is named.
In 1862 Beach's Tavern was purchased by the Town of Trumbull and served as the Town Hall.  In 1883 the Beach Tavern was sold for $100 when it was replaced by a new Town Hall (The Helen Plumb Building).  Beach's Tavern still stands today but no longer on Daniels Farm Road, for in 1961 it was carefully disassembled and then moved to Darien where it stands today as a private home!

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