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11 Sheffield Avenue
William P. Tristram House, 1842

Although the mid 1800s were called the Age of Affluence, most Norwalkers did not share the affluent life.[1]  The majority of them were either farmers or seafarers. Among this group were William P. and Julia Seeley Tristram [2] who set up housekeeping together in 1853. William must have built the house as a single man. Among the very first purchases listed in Julia’s expense ledger are “$55 for a horse, $26 for a wagon, and $50 for a cow.”[3] The young Tristrams were able to live a very comfortable life their first year as a married couple on a budget of only $583.


But sadly times grew more difficult for them. When William fell ill in 1863, money was tight, probably because he couldn’t work, and they had to borrow money.  As his health declined, so did their financial situation.  Julia listed each expense, including “$.25 for [the] first doctor’s visit” but by the end, she listed $12.50 for a consulting specialist.  Bills for laudanum - a popular pain remedy of the times – and paregoric added up, followed by purchases of whiskey, brandy and ‘anodynes’, presumably for pain, and finally, “one coffin, $20.80.”  Julia died herself in 1864. [4]


[1] Ray, Deborah Wing and Stewart, Gloria P; Norwalk being an historical account of that Connecticut Town;  

[2] Julia was the granddaughter of Alphonse and Hannah Seeley who lived at 177 Rowayton Avenue.

[3] “Expenses from the Commencement of Housekeeping”  April 1, 1853 (through 1863) of Julia Ann (Seeley) Tristram.  The young wife recorded every single household expense. Collection of Historic Rowayton

[4] The Norwalk Hour, Anniversary Edition; September 10, 1901

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