North Stonington (1)

John Randall House (formerly known as Randall’s Ordinary Landmark Inn & Restaurant)
Route 2

This property is probably the most interesting of the 19 along the Underground Railroad route. There is a ton online about this property – the best of which I’ll copy and paste here. I had mentioned to a knowledgeable woman that I was planning on going here for lunch and she told me that it was no longer open. I was a bit surprised because there is nothing online telling me so.

ro.jpgTurns out, the local Mashantucket Pequots bought the property and don’t publicize that fact. Who knows what they’ll do with the place; but let’s hope they don’t change the character of it. It’s really very pretty and set off the busy Route 2 (busy thanks to those same Pequots and their teeny little casino a few miles up the road) and as I said, has a rich history.

Coming to the new world with his family in 1667, John Randall II was part of a very prominent family. His uncle, Sir William Morton, was a founder of New London, and his grandfather, Matthew Randall, had served as Lord Mayor of Bath, England. In 1680 John Randall I purchased land in North Stonington and five years later Randall II built his home, now known as Randall’s Ordinary. The farmstead stayed in the Randall family for more than 200 years, yet deteriorated with time.

In 1926, a man named Harvey Perry purchased the property and restored the farmstead to its original condition. It wasn’t until 1987, after the property had been sold to Bill and Cindy Clark, that Randall’s Ordinary opened for business. Very knowledgeable in colonial customs and culture, the Clarks ran the inn, providing the effect that guests were traveling back in time 300 years when they entered the homestead, and in some ways they were.

Dinner at Randall’s Ordinary in North Stonington was a unique experience, as close to dining in Colonial times as most of us will ever know. The dishes served are from authentic 18th- and 19th-century recipes, and most are cooked in the fireplaces of three small, low ceilinged dining rooms with exposed beams.

When guests called to make a reservation, they were told that drinks will be served from 7 P.M. until about 7:45 P.M., when dinner begins. At the restaurant, they were cordially welcomed by a waitress in a long skirt and mob cap who invited them to wander through the house, peer into the three guest rooms upstairs (Randall’s had a total of 12 rooms for overnight guests, with the additional nine in a reconstructed 1890 barn nearby) and order drinks in a small tap room in the rear.

By all accounts, the food was excellent and the experience certainly worthwhile. As far as the Underground Railroad, slaves were hidden here on their way to points north. Had it been open, I’d have been able to ask to see the secret hidey hole near the kitchen. Oh well.

The road to the buildings is in terrible condition – but it’s still cool to wander the grounds.

23 responses to “North Stonington (1)”

  1. Greg Randall says:

    I am disappointed to hear the homestead was sold to a private entity that may not apparently keep it open. I still have some furniture artifacts I had considered offering to that historical homestead one day. Particularly a table that was brought West in a covered wagon when my family moved to Ohio from there. As it is I will pass it along to my nephews.

    Is there more information about our family during their life in Stonington that anyone could direct me to? I would like to explore the details. I had heard about the potential link to the underground railroad system. There are more than likely other tales that have been long lost.

    BTW in our local family cemetery both spellings exist using the “a” and the “e” along with an interesting story as to why. Apparently the second syllable of our name was supposed to have the emphasis but so many people accented the first syllable it made the name sound more like RAN’dull. Adding the “e” was intended to cause persons using the name to pronounce the name with more of an upbeat. I remember this well because whenever I mispronounced our name I received the lectures about it as a child from my grand parents. Apparently we were a fussy lot. : )

  2. Randall Cooke says:

    I was just at the Randall House last month ( Nov. 2009 ) As per my fathers last wishes, With my 2 brothers and my sister. {We Are a direct Randall Descendant} *Via* ((William Vincent Randall )) We also visited the Old Randall/ Brown Cemetery. It was a Shame to see what vandals, and the ravages of time have done.. Who Knows what will happen in just the next decade. The Historical Names and figures there in will be lost forever ( Lucy Grant ) President Ulysses S. Grant’s Daughter is buried there. I saw where some little S.O.B. Spray painted a Nazi Cross, and KKK….. on one of the tomb stones..Looks like Bull dozers and other clearing equipment are moving ever closer to the family Randall/Brown Cemetery.. I hate to think. the grounds will be leveled.. and our ancestors paved over for a casino.. or Hotel.

    It was important to our Father for his children to know where we came from, and for our children to know.. But.. Cruel as time is.. Gravestones will be plowed for Developmental Greed. Loosing the history forever.

  3. Steve says:

    Mr. Cooke,

    Unfortunately, I see this type of thing all over the state – and this is a state that does attempt to salvage a lot of its history. You’d hope the Pequots would be sensitive to this type of affront, for obvious reasons.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the great info on Randall’s Ordinary. I too was disappointed that it wasn’t open when I visited in the fall of 2009. I did sneak up there and take a few pictures of the cemetery as I have relatives buried there. Such a shame to see it setting deserted like that.

  5. Paula + Steve says:

    My husband and I were so disappointed when Randall’s closed. It was our all time favorite restaurant and was our inspiration to purchase our current 1740 home where we also do open hearth cooking. Randall’s was so warm and inviting and everyone was treated like family. When the Clark’s sold it, we were fortunate enough to purchase a couple of pieces from the home at an auction, so we will always have the memory and history with us. We also thought the grounds were magnificent with the stonewalls on either side of the gravel driveway. It looked like a live Eric Sloane painting. It was just outstanding….loved it.

  6. Gregg says:

    Hi,

    This is very interesting for me to read all of this from Australia. I am a descendent of John Randall, a black slave who was enrolled into the loyalist army and then shipped to England and discharged from the army. He was then transported on the first fleet to Australia in 1788 as a convict as he stole a men’s watch in Manchester. It is believed that he was a slave to Captain John Randall so I feel that there is a connection to this place for me. My John Randall was one of only 11 black people on the first fleet. All convicts.

  7. Terry Bishop says:

    Hi. I’m not an ancestor, but grew up in North Stonington near the Randall place, and wrote an article on the Randall family a few years ago for the North Stonington Historical Society. I have nothing against the Underground Railroad, but I doubt the Randall place had anything to do with it. First, the story about the hiding place came from Mrs. Perry, who wrote a paper about the house and property back in the 1920s not long after she and her investment banker husband bought the place. I think it was her conjecture/speculation. During the research for the article, I interviewed a nice old lady who remembered the last surviving Randall who lived there, in the 1880s–she said he never mentioned anything about slaves hiding at the house in the years before the Civil War. Finally, knowing the geography of the area, I just don’t think it would make sense for someone trying to flee as quickly as possible to Canada to make such an out-of-the-way detour to North Stonington when there were so many other, more practical abolitionist groups elsewhere in New York and New England. If you’d like to see my article email me at [email protected]. –Terry

  8. Lyn Barnes says:

    Like Greg I too am a descendant of John Randall,the slave of captain John Randall.I am in awe of the place where he grew up .I look at the photo’s of the old house and the property and try to Imagine him running around the grounds,working hard in the fields and playing his flute and TAMBOUR [drum].

    I would love to have any information on other slaves of captain Randall and their descendants.I am happy to read that the slaves of captain randall were treated well.I can also imagine all of his family and other slaves gathering around while John played his instruments and every body sang.Lets hope that is how it might have been anyway!.I am very proud to be a descendant of JOHN RANDALL,AFRICAN/AMERICAN FIRST FLEETER.

  9. Belinda Hunt says:

    I am stoked to find that i am also a descendant of the african/american slave john randall.
    It would be great to read any information other people may have on the history of John Randall, it’s all very interesting to me!

  10. Randall’s Ordinary-Underground Railroad « Mystic and Stonington- A Storied Past and Present! says:

    [...] http://www.ctmuseumquest.com/?page_id=3982 [...]

  11. Helen Randall-Matthews says:

    Hello,

    I am so sorry about the closure and sale of the property. I had always wanted to visit but never made it. I am disabled and in a wheelchair but would so much appreciate it anyone who has photos might be kind enough to email any that you would care to share… my email address is [email protected]
    I too am descended from the original John Randall of Bath England.
    We have so much to be Thankful for as well as Proud of regarding our Randall Lineage.
    Thank you
    Helen Randall-Matthews

  12. Elizabeth C. says:

    Here is a little curve ball for you. I am living in Australia and am a descendant of a John Randall that came from New Haven, Conneticut but is believed to be a slave of your John Randall that, with a bid for freedom, joined the English army and then was taken back to England (along with quite a few ex-slaves) It is believed that alot of the men took on new names when taken into the English army and this was usually that of their previous owners. The most likely being John Randall of Stonington.
    The problem was that when they retreated back to England, there was a large amount of unemployment, especially with the infux of ex-soldiers, so a lot were left with no alternative but to steal or they would starve.
    So on the first fleet of convicts to Australia there were about 11 black men (Americans) and John Randall was one of them.
    I hope you found this of interest.
    It is difficult when your family history is lost to time and it can happen very easily happen but is there no local historical society that would support your in claims. If the cemetry is to be removed, could not the head stones be collected and kept? There needs to be some pro-active movement of all the descendants.
    Even though I will probably never get to Conneticut, it would be nice to know that something of my ancestors still exist in someway (even though it would be the area, not the genetics)
    Best of Luck
    Elizabeth C

  13. lisa feury says:

    Hi,

    I would like to know if John Randall II ever played a violin? When I stayed there a few nights years ago, I heard one playing during the night. The next morning the receptionist told me it was him. A few other guests hear it too.

    Also I am making a trip to Ct. in May 2012. I would like to know if I can visit the property even though it’s closed. Is it gated off?

    Thank You SO Much,

    Lisa

  14. Elizabeth C. says:

    If there are any Australian descendants of the slave John Randall, get the book (possibly at local libraries) ‘Black Founders’ by Cassandra Pybus. She talks in detail about John Randall, how he got from America to England and then transported to Australia. She also talks in detail about his life in the founding years of Sydney and how he ended up. His daughter Frances is a fascinating character as well.
    John Randall, the ex-slave, was believed to be very handy with musical instruements.
    Elizabeth

  15. bonita johnson says:

    I am a descendant I believe of a john randall who own a farm in mystic stonington area and was a fir trapper in the 1800,s or earlier. My great grand mother was born and raised in mystic ct aroun 1852 her name was frances anna randall or frances randall and she had a sister named Lucy and I believe a brother named Arthur. I have always said that I would like to try to trace that history,but everyone that could give me more information has passed away I just remeber what my aunt told me. Need to find a historian to help me connect the dots

  16. Michele of Randall descent says:

    One of my maternal great great grandmothers was Sarah Randall, daughter of Zebulon C, great granddaughter (through Joshua Jr.) of Joshua (shipwrecked) Randall, and thence all the John Randalls, etc.. My mother had visited this farm before it was turned into the Inn. I have a copy of the original deed they found in the fireplace while renovating it. I am wondering whether other Randall descendants (and those of allied families– in our branch of this line alone are found Congdons, Sissons, Cooks, Chesebroughs, Barnes, Whites, and more– might have an interest in forming a non-profit historical trust to acquire (if possible) the farmhouse and cemetery for historical and humanitarian preservation. Heaven knows how many of all of our ancestors may be buried there. I am sad that this lovely historical site may, if nothing can be done, otherwise be lost to time, and wonder if we could not actually do something to save it. I will be back east in May and can check on the status of the property. Is anyone else interested in at least looking into this?

  17. Jennifer Georgius says:

    Hi Michele, I would be really interested in trying to do something to help preserve or perhaps even try to aquire this property under a non-profit historical trust. I know there are alot of family memebers who would like to see this place preserved as well. I am also a direct decendant of John Randall, he was my great, great, great (not sure how many greats…) grandfather. Please contact me I would love to hear more of your ideas and see how we can start taking the next steps. [email protected]

  18. Clifford Philip Randall V says:

    My grandfather told me about this place and our history in America. I never thought that the public would find it so interesting. I never cared to listen, it was boring to me. I suppose that I should have paid more attention. My mother remarried and change our last name, so I no longer carry the Randall name. My mother’s lineage traveled with the sister ship to the Mayflower, but the couple died at sea. Another family member came soon after and settled in the same area the the Randall family would later settle in.

  19. Clifford Philip Randall V says:

    Jennifer Georgius,
    I just sent you a message to your posted email address.
    I was thanking you for your interest in the Randall family. That applies to you too Michele.
    I was explaining in the email that I am the last Randall in the Randall family genealogy in America. If I don’t change my last name back to Randall and that of my son’s, that is it. There truly will not be any more Randall lineage. For all you Randall family members, let me remind you how it works. A lineage is pasted down from father to son, not to the second or third son, not to the daughter. I am not trying to step on anyone’s toes or hurt someone’s feelings. You are all special. Everyone is important. That is just how it works. I am 100% the real deal with this lineage thing. Believe me, my father has reminded me of this and is very pissed that I haven’t fixed the problem. We haven’t talked now in a few years.
    I haven’t had the time or money to change my name back. That is why it hasn’t happened.
    If I had known that this family history stuff was so important to others I may have been more active with you in doing something to help you with your quest for answers or something, don’t know what, but I may have paid more attention to the Randall family history, etc.
    But honestly, I do not like conflicts with other who have such an attitude about what they think they know and who they are in the lineage. It has turned me off greatly to what to interact with others on the family history. Secondly, the Randall family is not a close and friendly bunch. It is my age group and under that are more social with each other, thanks to facebook.
    I will think more about this later. You guys are welcome to contact me, but keep it nice or I won’t reply. [email protected]

  20. Terry Bishop says:

    Hi all, I posted here almost two years ago, and it makes me really happy to see all the people with a connection with the Randall place who’ve left a message here. In addition to the Clifford Randall above, there’s another Clifford Randall who is the head/former head of the Randall Family Association–there’s even a genealogical book out on the family. He has tried to arrange for some sort of trust to protect the homestead; I think he’d be pleased if any of you reached out to him. His email is [email protected].

    I grew up a short distance from the Randall farm, and know most of the grounds–I walked all over the property when I was a kid. If anyone is interested in visiting the area, in addition to the old house, there are three Randall Cemeteries. The first is on the left side of the driveway running from Route 2 to the Randall House. It’s a small cemetery; I recall that most graves are from the 19th C. There are another two, older cemeteries located to the east, not close to the roads. I’ll be happy to give directions. I’m also going to be in North Stonington in July, and I would enjoy visiting the cemeteries if anyone’s interested. If anyone’s interested in getting a copy of the history of the Randall Family in North Stonington, just send me a request at [email protected]

    Terry Bishop

  21. Mike Lico says:

    My ancestry is from Sicily and Calabria, so I’m definitely not a descendent. However, I did live in SE Connecticut for 5-plus years starting in the late 1990’s, and loved the area’s history, including and especially Randall’s Ordinary. My parents came down from Detroit and thoroughly enjoyed being taken to lunch in such a historic place. I also took business colleagues there. Two years ago I came back on business for a few weeks, and after my work was complete, brought my new wife up for a vacation and so that I could show off SE Connecticut to her. While we had a great time, my one disappointment was not being able to take her to Randall’s Ordinary to experience an 18th century meal. I hope somebody does something to preserve this three hundred year old national treasure. I want to go back someday.

  22. Linda Hug says:

    I am working on our family genealogy and just recently found out about our Randall ancestors. When I saw the pictures of the house I was really excited and planning on visiting. Then I found out the house had been bought by the Pequoits. Does anyone know the current status of the property? Are there rules to protect it since it is on the national registry of historic places or can they just destroy it in order to add their casino? That would certainly be a shame.

  23. lynette weeks says:

    Hi everyone. Just recently i fond records of my family lineage linking Capt. John Randall as head. I have in my position records of the lineage birth, death, marriage, children dating back to 1761. Please contact me @ [email protected] for more info. This is realy great to see so many people interesting in our descendant.

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