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History: Colonel Daniel Brainerd House in Higganum Center

By Alessio Gallarotti.

(August 27, 2020) — An interview with Sam and Pamela Crum, Stewards of the Colonel Daniel Brainerd House (built 1780).

The Colonel Daniel Brainerd house is one of the most historic homes in Haddam.  Not only due to its date of construction, but also because it is a family relic of the Brainerd family, one of the most prominent families in the history of Haddam.  Colonel Daniel Brainerd (1752-1809) was the descendant of Daniel Brainerd, (1641-1715) one of the original founders of the town of Haddam.  The former Brainerd built the house after the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).  Since the home claims to have been built in 1780, there appears to be some confusion about the actual date of construction.  This house is the only colonial farmhouse left in Higganum’s northern commercial center.  Some notable architectural features: a common center chimney (found in many colonial homes); 2 ½ stories tall; five bay façade; post beam frame; granite foundation; wood shingle gable roof; double overhang (not common feature in Haddam at the time).

Colonel Daniel Brainerd was a farmer by trade, and member of one of the most prominent families in Haddam at the time.  It is therefore not surprising he would build himself a farmhouse on a generous plot of land.  Though his title was “Colonel” there is no evidence of him partaking in combat during the American Revolution or any other war.  This title is therefore believed to be honorary.  Haddam was once largely farmland, which in other words means many farms and farmhouses and not the wealth of forest we have now.  The Colonel Daniel Brainerd house was located on quite a bit of land in the beginning, 25 acres to be precise.  This acreage once encompassed the land which the Haddam Elementary school is built on as well as much of the surrounding area.

Today, Sam and Pamela Crum are the owners of the historic home though Sam prefers to call he and his wife “stewards” of the house.  They have been there since 1983.  Their intention is to preserve this historic place for future generations as well as for the Brainerd family who are welcomed on occasion.  The home is entirely original with the exception of one extension on the rear of the home.  This means, of course, no garage and no electrical infrastructure.  Though they do have electricity, Sam refuses to use things such as central air because he believes creating this new infrastructure will disrupt the architectural integrity of the home.  He and his wife prefer a portable AC device.

There is a barn to the rear of the home that has an original interior that Sam prefers to use for woodworking rather than vehicle storage.  To the right of the home is a working well which Sam also prefers not to use for the usual purpose but mentioned the water was drinkable.  The Crums inherited another well which was once located on the 25-acre plot of land.  They sold the well to the current owner of that property.  Sam said in the colonial period families would commonly sell land but maintain ownership of the well located there because it was the sole source of water.  The well would by consequence be awkwardly located in the middle of someone else’s land.  Having modern water systems, such a well is not as necessary as it once was, and so the Crums sold it to the man whose land it was situated on.  They eventually settled on the paperwork and a bottle of whiskey as payment.  The Crums stated the Brainerds are dispersed today but have family reunions in Haddam.  They partake in these reunions by allowing them into their ancestral home.

References: Janice Cunningham and Elizabeth Warner. “Portrait of a River Town–The History and Architecture of Haddam, Connecticut.”  (1970) The Greater Middletown Trust.

Photos: Front of house courtesy of the Crums. Other photos taken by Alessio.

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