Rowayton’s Pinkney Park is the picturesque setting for the Rowayton Historical Society headquarters, the Seeley-Dibble-Pinkney House. The community purchased the house from the widowed Dorothy Cowles Pinkney in 1971, and the society subsequently redecorated and furnished it in keeping with a prosperous farm home of the period 1850-1890.
Today, the grey shingled house set on a point of land jutting into the Five Mile River is known as the Seeley-Dibble-Pinkney House and belongs to the Sixth Taxing District which comprises Rowayton. Although the exact date of the house is uncertain, the building was probably erected between 1790 and 1820. Records concerning the homestead go back much further than this. They show that in 1737 Samuel Richards bought two acres and one “rood” of then common land on the Five Mile River. In 1753, he added three “roods” of land and a marshy edge. Presumably, a dwelling was built, as land “with buildings” were allotted to two more generations of the Richard family until it was sold to William Whiting. Shortly afterward, in 1820, Alfred Seeley purchased the house, its property and the store which is now the Rowayton Market. In addition to the market, which was the principal store in the village, Seeley also owned sizable farms both in downtown Rowayton and in the Crest Road-Ridgewood Road area.
Seeley built the first packet to New York, the “Enterprise,” constructing it on the Five Mile River property. The “Enterprise” carried produce and the necessities of life to and from New York markets and along Long Island Sound. When he replaced her with the “Julia” in 1836, there still was no other sailing packet going regularly from the area to New York.
The family prospered and the house grew. At this time, there is no way to tell the exact size of the original Seeley home. There is evidence of its having been a saltbox with a two-story, eight-room main section and a one-story back section of one or two rooms. There have been many alterations. The roof has been raised; so have the ceilings. In the back section, two rooms have been combined to make one. Some of the windows are Victorian, others are much older.
Until the house was purchased by the town of Rowayton, it was owned and lived in by one family, through the feminine line from Seeley to Dibble to Pinkney. Alfred Seeley and Hannah Hoyt Seeley of New Canaan were newlyweds when they purchased the homestead on the Five Mile River in 1820. Later, Mrs. Seeley always kept a lamp in the south window of the sitting room so it would shine downriver and welcome home the menfolk arriving by boat.
The Seeley’s had five children—Oliver, Stephen, Julia, Emily and Hannah Minerva. It was Hannah, the youngest daughter, who married Alphonso Dibble and took title to the house and the store in 1890. The Dibbles had eight children, and, once again, the youngest daughter took title to the house.
This youngest girl, who was to inherit the homestead, was Gertrude Hannah, who was married to William Pinkney. Until she died at the age of 97 in 1967, Gertrude’s recollections of her girlhood in the Seeley-Dibble-Pinkney House were extremely vivid. And it is through her generosity that many of her family’s papers are preserved in the Society’s files.
Adapted from the article written by Jeanne Bender for the Darien Times, September 25, 1980
Photo: Gertrude "Gertie" Dibble and friends enjoying dressing up in boys' bathing suits. c. 1888