Sarah Whitman Hooker was the daughter of Deacon John and Abigail
Pantry Whitman, born in the West Division of Hartford on February 27, 1747. Through her mother, she was a descendant of William
Pantry, one of the founders of Hartford. She was also a great-granddaughter of the Rev. Solomon Stoddard, the first librarian
of Harvard College. At the age of 22 she married Thomas Hart Hooker of Farmington, who was fourth in direct line of descent
from the Rev. Thomas Hooker, the first settled clergyman in Hartford, and a framer of the Connecticut Constitution, on which
the Constitution of the United States was modeled.
Thomas Hart Hooker and his
wife Sarah Whitman Hooker moved to the house and extensive farm at the corner of South Main Street and New Britain Avenue
in West Hartford as newlyweds about 1770. Mr. Hooker later purchased the property in 1773. Between 1770 and 1775, the Hookers
had two children, Thomas Hart Hooker Jr. and Abigail Pantry Hooker (later Abigail Pantry Talcott). In April 1775, Mr. Hooker
signed a Deed of Manumission respecting his then-slave Bristow which became effective in early May of that year. This Deed
set Bristow at liberty as a free man, "to come and go wherever he pleases without any maleference from me or my
heirs or any one claiming to represent me or my heirs." In June of 1775, Mr. Hooker joined the Connecticut militia
and went to the defence of Boston. He died of pleurisy in November of that year. Mrs. 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 the 60 pounds to purchase his freedom by selling his labor when his daily work for the Hookers
had been completed.
In the late summer/early fall of 1775, with her husband away
at the War of Independence, Governor Trumbull of Connecticut asked Mrs. Hooker to accept as boarders British Governor and
Colonel Phillip Skene and his son Captain Andrew Skene. They had been in England petitioning the Crown for funds to
reinforce Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point, the two strategically important forts (in what is now upper New York State) on
Lake Champlain which protected the Colonies from invasion from Canada. King George III had refused additional funding
requested by the Skenes and instead sent them to Philadelphia as envoys to the Continental Congress. They were asked to join
the Patriot side of the conflict. They refused. They were given safe passage to New Haven, whereupon they were met by the
Committee of Public Safety which refused further safe passage for their return home and took responsibility for them. The
General Assembly approved housing the Skenes with Mrs. Hooker. Both Colonel Skene and his son gave their "parole"
(word of honor not to try to escape) and accepted accommodation with Mrs. Hooker as an alternative to a local jail. Mrs. Hooker
in her turn accepted responsibility for their safekeeping.
During the winter of 1776,
some persons in the West Division of Hartford had the idea to tar and feather Colonel and Captain Skene. Mrs. Hooker was decisive
in persuading the crowd to disperse and in so doing probably saved the lives of father and son. The Skenes stayed with Mrs.
Hooker until April 1776. Colonel Phillip Skene returned to Great Britain to plead for compensation for his lost lands. Captain
Andrew Skene broke his word of honor and joined the British forces under General Howe then beisieging New York City. The cannon
seized from Fort Ticonderoga after its capture by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in May 1775 were transported by
General Knox to aid General Washington's army besieging Boston, and were instrumental in persuading the British to depart
from Boston in March 1776.
Mrs. Hooker continued to live in the Homestead until 1794 when
she sold it to her two children for "love, affection and one dollar." She had remained a widow for three years
and then married Captain Seth Collins who 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. In his letters to his wife, written from his post during
the Battle for Long Island in the summer of 1776, Charles Seymour concluded every letter with the words,"give my
best wishes to Mrs. Hooker". Sarah Whitman Hooker continued to live in the West Division until about 1830 when
she went to Pennsylvania to live with a great-niece. She died January 5, 1837, a few weeks short of her ninetieth
birthday. She was buried in West Hartford and her will was probated in Connecticut.
people associated with the Homestead who will be profiled on this page:
Ensign Timothy Seymour
Captain Timothy Seymour
Captain Charles Seymour
Jedidiah Wells Mills
Abigail Pantry Talcott
Thomas Hart Hooker, Jr.