The Howes and the Howe Tavern (1716–1861)
In 1716 David Howe began what was then called a "hous of entertainment" along the Old Boston Post Road, one of the first mail routes in the country (operating since 1673). Known as Howe's Tavern, the Inn was an expansion of Howe’s own private home. Business thrived by way of the busy coach traffic to and from the cities of Boston, Worcester, and New York. In 1746, David Howe passed the family business to his son, Ezekiel, a Lieutenant Colonial who led the Sudbury Minute and Militia to Concord center at the beginning of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. Each generation expanded the Inn’s main building as business thrived.
The Inn’s prosperity continued as Ezekiel passed the tavern business to his son, Adam, in 1796, who in turn handed it down to his son, Lyman, in 1830. Lyman died in 1861, having never married, and the Inn was inherited by relatives who ceased formal operation of the Inn for short overnight accommodation, but continued renting out the hall for dances and rooms for lengthier stays.
Howe Family Timeline
David How marries Hepzibah Death on Christmas Day.
Samuel How deeds to his son, David, Lot #50 of the Sudbury New Land Grant. A map of the land, dated 1702, depicts it without any dwellings.
The first written record of a building on Lot #50, a map dated 1707, shows one small dwelling; the How’s first
homestead (today represented by the Old Bar and the chamber above). The “summer beam” in today’s Old Bar is original to How’s first home.
Four Sudbury selectmen petition the “Court of the Sessions at Concord” and grant David Howe permission to “keep a hous of entertainment for travelers.” It is theorized at this time that David How doubled the size of his original two-room home.
First year Ezekiel Howe (son of David) listed as the innkeeping license holder. An undated document shows that Ezekiel charged “Lodging 4 pence each; A good dinner 20 pence; Common dinner 12 pence; Best Supper and Breakfast 15 pence each.”
1st Howe innkeeper, David, dies at age 85.
Lumber receipts indicate that Ezekiel makes significant improvements to the Inn building (eight total rooms with new gambrel roof).
On April 19th, Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel Howe leads the Sudbury Company of Militia and Minute to Concord Center. General George Washington passes Howe’s Tavern as he rides to Cambridge to take command of the Continental forces (a tablet in front of the Inn attests to his passing the tavern but Washington’s diary make no mention of stopping at Howe’s).
The Marquis de Lafayette, on his third visit to America, travels the Post Road on his way from Albany to Boston, passing the Howe Tavern but not venturing inside.
Lumber receipts indicate that the “New Kitchen and chamber above” were added to Inn (today’s Tap Room and Ballroom above).
George Washington again passes Howe’s Tavern. His diary mentions stops in Marlborough and an overnight stay at a tavern in Weston.
Ezekiel Howe dies at age 76, and son Adam takes over as innkeeper. Adam attaches a small barn to the east, converting it to a large kitchen with chambers above (the Old Kitchen and rooms 9 and 10 above today).
Isaiah Thomas, publisher of the Massachusetts Spy writes in his journal “Very cold. Very bad traveling. Snow light. Broke the Sleigh a few rods from Howe’s at the black horse in Sudbury. Tarried at Howe’s from 11 o’clock this forenoon.”
Archives records contain a handwritten ticket reading “Admit the bearer to A. Howe’s Hall [today’s ballroom] in Sudbury on Wednesday Evening, Jan. 27, 1819.”
Lafayette again passes Howe’s Tavern as he travels the Post Road and makes his final tour of the US.
Abolitionist writer Lydia Maria Francis-Child visits the Howe Tavern, and later recalls “The dinner was plain and old fashioned, like all else around us, but everything was delicious.”
Tradition states Lyman Howe begins his tenure as innkeeper.
Adeline Lunt, wife of Boston editor and journalist George Lunt, visits the Inn and later recounts “[The Howe family] were indeed a pleasing representative of old fashioned New England respectability and prosperity in its best sense combined with domestic happiness and virtue.”
Adam Howe dies at age 77.
Jerusha Howe, sister of Lyman and the "Belle of Sudbury" said to have entertained visitors by playing the pianoforte in the Parlor, dies unmarried at age 45.
On May 22, Henry David Thoreau writes in his Journal “Left our horse at the Howe Tavern. The oldest date on the sign is ‘D.H. 1716.’”
The last of the Howe innkeepers, Lyman, dies at age 60 having never married and the inn passes to relatives who no longer wish to operate the tavern. In November of that year, an auction was held to settle Lyman’s debts, totaling over $6,600––many Howe heirlooms were purchased.