Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Inn

As I was researching my paternal family tree, I was delighted to find out that one of my earliest Sudbury, Massachusetts ancestors was the original innkeeper at Longfellow's Wayside Inn, a place that played an important role in my childhood and on into my adulthood. It was a place where my family and most people who lived in town would gather to mark special occasions in their lives. Hardly a birthday nor graduation celebration would go by without a visit to the Inn. This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continually operating inns in the US. It was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his "Tales from a Wayside Inn" An excerpt:

"As ancient is this hostelry,
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality."

Today an extremely popular restaurant and an historic landmark known by folks all over the US, spending the night there is a memorable event. There is no TV but lots and lots of  history and a warm and comfortable environment filled with antiquity, along with a surprise for all overnight guests, a hunt of sorts. But, you have to stay there to discover it. I won't be a spoiler here, but let's just say, you will have plenty to keep your mind occupied in spite of there being no television in the room. The rooms are few, so it is a special treat to be able to make a reservation there.

The familiar smell of the woodsmoke permeates the old wood beams and walls. The mouth watering smell of good hot American food like roast beef and baked potatoes fill the dining rooms on any given evening.  In the winter, the crackle and occasional sparks from the fires in the huge walkin fireplaces, bounce onto the hearths. In the summer,  fireflies can be seen sparkling in the rose garden and by the wooden bridge that covers the brook nearby, as people stroll around the grounds, imagining a time gone by.

But perhaps all isn't peaceful and serene all the time, as it was recently featured in an episode of Ghost Adventures. It is rumored that Jerusha How's ghost still walks the halls of the Inn, although I saw no such evidence during my stay.

My ancestor was David How. Through his youngest son Ezekiel's line and then on through Ezekiel's youngest child, Jane How Eames, runs our family tree. The How family left a long and interesting family history behind. Certainly deserving of more than a few lines here, perhaps one day I will do a lengthy post about the Inn's history and the innkeepers. The strong emotional feelings I have always felt for this Inn may have had more to do with the ancestral connection not yet discovered and less to do with the award winning chicken pot pie, or fresh hot corn muffins, made from corn milled at the grist mill down the street that are served at every meal or that yummy Jerusha Peach salad that I have loved ever since I was a kid. 

Today I am including a short poem. A poet always wants her readers to "get" her poem, so just to give you a little bit of a back story, in this one I used the metaphor of an inn to illustrate the genealogy hunt I enjoy so much, the hunt that all started with Henrietta of the blog. The inn in the poem is not our Wayside Inn, but it certainly inspired the idea.

The Inn
Suzanne Hall Eaton

My journey led me by an inn, an ancient looming ghost,
Near brook and wood and field I knew, yet I felt that I was lost.
This way I come most every day, the brook I cross is there.
The creaking bridge remembers me and the brief exchange we share.

But this old inn, I don’t recall ever seeing it before;
Mystified and unafraid I approach the weighty door.
A gentle push is all it takes, it gives in as if to say:
“Come in. You’ll find your truths are here”; the hearth-fire lights the way.

Along the hallways, left and right are doors, each like the next,
Secured and locked tight from inside protecting every guest.
Whispering at a door I ask “What secrets do you keep?”
But no response comes from within, so deeply do they sleep.
Peeking through the keyhole, the mystery unfolds
Just enough to feed the need to know what secret that room holds.
There must be some connection between these guests and me;
Some Master plan has brought me to this Ancient Hostelry  
To find the key, unbolt the doors and share the truths revealed;
Then rest awhile at this old inn, near brook and wood and field.

May 26, 2011



Barbara Poole said...

So nice to see a post on The Wayside Inn. I've been there many times, and love it (fortunately it isn't too far from where I live). Thanks for posting this, and you must be very proud that your ancestor was an innkeeper there.

Heather Rojo said...

This is one of my favorite special occasion restaurants. We celebrated my husband's graduation from MIT there in 1982, with his parents from Spain. They were enchanted by the colonial inn. I wish it were closer!