The Quiet, Concientious David Howe

David Howe (1674-1759)

Red Horse Inn

Proprietors of the How family tavern–How’s Tavern/ Red Horse Inn/Wayside Inn. Photo shared on

As I amass data and legends and documents about these Howes, I start to think of them as having specific personalities, even though there is no direct historic information.

For instance, although his son Ezekiel was a born politician–outgoing and energetic, and his father Samuel a wheeler-dealer (the Donald Trump of colonial Sudbury),  I picture David as a serious, religious man who prefers to have an orderly life. [UPDATE: When I wrote this, the world did not know Donald Trump in the same way they do since his run for the Republican nomination for President.  I regret comparing Samuel to Donald. While Samuel had activities–development, building, money-making, political–in common, he certainly did not share a similar value system.] He would probably have been strict with his children and conducted his life with one eye on the afterlife, being industrious, charitable and faithful.

Though I am perfectly aware that it is unscientific, and against the principles of any serious historian, I just can’t help guessing.

In talking about David, I am continuing my journey back through history. Once I get to David’s grandfather John Howe, we will have all of the Howe family from the first to arrive in America to my 5 x great-grand uncle Ezekiel and his brother my 5 x great- grandfather Israel. And they will be in order, so you can see the development of the tavern-keeping Howe family for 200 years from the very early 17th century until nearly the end of the 18th century.

David was the sixth child of Samuel and Martha (Bent) How. He had one younger sister and gained six half-siblings when Samuel married his second wife, Sarah Clapp. For David, a large family seemed the norm.

When he married Hepzibah Death in December 1700, he took his vows seriously and planned to have a large family.  His father deeded 130 acres on the west side of Sudbury over to David–a handsome piece with plenty of room for a house, fields, and a mill.

With the help of his father, David built the house that became a tavern and today stands as part of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.  Although there was a strong family tradition of tavern keeping, he did not rush into the tavern business. His father, Samuel, was a tavern keeper, the older Howe tavern was a few miles east of the land David was given. And David’s grandfather, John had kept a tavern in Marlborough as had a couple of other relatives.

Old Red Horse Tavern

Old etching of Red Horse Tavern/ Wayside Inn, used with permission of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn archives. It is speculated that the original house occupied the area that is the front door and the two windows to the right in this picture, and in the present inn.

When he first got the land, David had his hands full clearing land for his new house, and then for fields and pasture.  He also needed to think about the use of the fast-running creek that ran through his property.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts was being plagued by battles of the French and Indian War, which dragged on from 1689 to 1763. Their was a brief peace in 1713, and perhaps that encouraged David to think about what peace would mean regarding traffic along the Boston Post Road, and how convenient a location his land would be for a tavern.

Since 1707, citizens in this western part of Sudbury had been interested in establishing a new meeting house that would be more convenient to them than the present one on the east side of Sudbury across the Sudbury River. This was important because the people were required by law to attend religious services on Sunday and listen to a sermon by a minister paid by the town.

Not only that, but generally a tavern was located near the meeting house. Worshipers needed a place to relax, get something to eat and drink after their travel from home and, in the winter, warm up from the usually unheated meeting houses. So if the permission was given for a new meeting house, a tavern would be a necessity. David’s signature joined others on the petitions. However the west side meeting house was not authorized until 1722.

At any rate, he applied for and received a license to “keep a hous of entertainment.” He set to work, probably with his father Samuel’s help (Samuel was a carpenter) and built an extension on his home. [UPDATE: Due to the comment of an astute reader –below– I need to correct this assertion that Samuel might have helped.  The license was granted in 1714 and Samuel died in 1713, so he could not have helped with remodeling in 1714. Although there are some tales that David’s house served as a resting place for travelers before it received a license, that tale has been discounted by historians.] The family would live in this new section, while travelers would eat and drink on the main floor–what is now the front Parlor–and sleep on the floor above, that is still a bedroom in Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.

Sudbury Massachusetts

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn Bar in Sudbury MA. The beam across the ceiling may be original from David and Hepzibah’s orginal home, circa 1702. Photo in public domain from Wikimedia.

By 1720, Hepzibah had presented her husband with four sons and three daughters, including my 5x great grandfather Israel and the youngest  Ezekiel (1720). [For more on the children, you can read my article on Hepzibah, David’s wife.]

The brief peace between the English and the French did not last, and in 1724 there was an Indian raid on a farm near Sudbury and Rutland.  The following year, 1725, David’s brother Daniel, a member of the militia, marched off to fight, but was sent home because he was lame.

Around 1727, David, now both a farmer and a tavern keeper, added one more title–miller.  He built a mill on the stream that ran through his property.  The picturesque mill that shows up in illustrations of the present inn was imported by the Ford Foundation. It is not the original David How mill.

[insert map]

As if fighting the Indians did not keep them busy enough, townspeople were battling each other as well.  All the small towns of Massachusetts seem to be in constant turmoil during the 17th and early 18th centuries about town boundaries–spawning the familiar New England clusters–TownName Central, North TownName, South TownName, East TownName, etc.

According to A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn,

By 1740,  David had led another petition to the court for a new town to be carved out in the How Tavern area. This was never approved.

Perhaps as a consolation prize, in 1741 David How was elected as a Selectman of Sudbury.  This was a period when selectmen were charged with regulating taverns and more and more tavern keepers were seeking election so that they could keep the regulations from becoming onerous. However, since David was 67 years old, I cannot believe that he was lusting after political power.  I believe the election was more of a show of respect for an honored elder of the community.

Two years later–1743–David’s youngest son, Ezekiel married Bathsheba Stone and they moved in to How’s Tavern.  This triggered another enlargement of the building.  But in 1744, David decided to formally turn over the building, land and business to Ezekiel, although David’s name is on the license through 1747. David How Jr. took over operation of the mill.

David lived a long life, dying at the age of 85 (1759) and no doubt continued to advise Ezekiel, and perhaps step in when his son was off on military duty.  As I mentioned in the article on Hepzibah, she continued to live with her son and daughter in law until her death ten years after David.

David’s life record reflects a concentration on the fundamentals. He was not a man to be distracted by military service or tempted to move to a new community.  He lived in Sudbury all his life and working at plain non-showy work–whether that meant clearing land, farming, milling or running a tavern.

I believe the Biblical names of his children reflect his deep religiosity.  For example, instead of naming his first born son after himself, he named him for a son of the Biblical King David–Eliphalet.  That and his lack of leadership roles in the community lead me to believe that David was modest and humble. Altogether, a fine Puritan son.


  • My maternal grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson), was the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth How (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel How,the son of
  • David How.

Research notes

  • In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy, (1995)
  • As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn, by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley(1988)
  • A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb (2011)
  • Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929), Massachusetts Historical and Genealogical Society. This is said to be the best of the several genealogies of the family. Although I do not have a copy of the entire book, portions of it are available on the Internet.
  • Middlesex County records found on Birth, death and marriage.
  • Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County Massachusetts Vol. 1, ed by Ellery Bicknell Crane (1907) Available as a Google Books e-book.
  • I also have had assistance from the archivist and a historian at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 thoughts on “The Quiet, Concientious David Howe

  1. connie

    Very fascinating!!

    I also have Howe’s in my direct line- would be interesting if they are somehow related to your Howe family line. I haven’t explored enough on that line to be sure- I have Anne Howe (my 9th great grandmother) her father was John Howe (1600 to 1671)

  2. Michael

    I see an error here:

    “At any rate, he applied for and received a license to “keep a hous of entertainment.” He set to work, probably with his father Samuel’s help (Samuel was a carpenter) and built an extension on his home.”

    Samuel died in 1713 and the licence was acquired in 1716 , he couldn’t have helped his son build the extension.

    Great stuff!

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Thanks for being a careful reader, and for your interest in the Howes.
      You are right, that statement was not correct. I consulted two books, A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb, which says, “Samuel was a carpenter and likely helped with the construction (he was about sixty at the time; he would pass away at age of seventy-one in 1713).” But that sentence is referring to the construction of the original two-story, two-room house that David How and his wife lived in PRIOR to running a tavern.

      The other book, As Ancient is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn by C. Garfield and A. Ridley, tripped me up in a couple of ways. First, although I know that Samuel died in 1713 according to the town death record, the “Hostelry” book shows a family tree with his date of death as 1716. The text, however correctly says 1713. The second thing that tripped me up was this passage: “Plans for that first How Tavern in Sudbury may have been sparked by the 1714 petition for a separate township. Samuel How may even have helped his son enlarge the building to make way for wayfarers before he died.” [italics mine] The only way that is possible is if a legend that David ran an informal stopping place for travelers before he was granted a license for an inn was true. Both books debunk this story, which is based on one traveler’s journal.

      So thank you again, and I have made a correction in my text.

  3. kendra schmidt

    Great article with historical background and details. I also have Howe ancestors from the area. I’ll check later today to see what the connection is.

    1. Kendra Schmidt

      Hi Vera – I checked my family tree and I descend from Samuel Howe (1654-1727 and Mary Nutting of Middlesex, MA. Samuel and Mary moved to Plainfield, CT and I descend from their son John, to Samuel, to Silas to Keziah Howe. Somehow our families must intersect but I haven’t figured out how yet. When you have Colonial New England ancestors the lines intersect at some point, and often more than once.

  4. arlan keyes

    I am a descendant of the Howes. Hepzibah, David and Hepzibahs daughter, married Cyprian Keyes my Great Grandfather. Cyprians father Thomas was also married to Elizabeth Howe who was Lt. Samuel Howes sister. She was abducted by Indians and recovered years later.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I wrote about the Elizabeth How abducted by Indians and her sister Sarah Howe Joslin here According to the history named “John Howe of Sudbury and Marlborough,” Elizabeth was the niece of Lt. Samuel rather than his sister. Samuel was a son of the first Pioneer John How who came from England, and she was a daughter of John How (1640), son of the pioneer.

    2. Sandra Showerman-Gast

      I am also a descendant of David Howe through his youngest son Ebenezer (Lydia Woolcott) Howe. I feel so lucky to have had so many of our descendants write such beautiful stories about the family. At Christmas I will be imparting all I have learned onto the next generation. Thanks to all my distant cousins for such research and the willingness to share with the world!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.