Sarah Pardee, The Belle of New Haven

Sarah Lockwood Pardee was the fifth of seven children born to Leonard Pardee and Sarah Burns. There are no records to confirm when she was born, but it is estimated to have been between 1835 and 1845. Her family was part of the upper middle class in New Haven, Connecticut.

Sarah was a most unusual child. She was a child prodigy. She mastered Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian by age twelve. She was a remarkable musician. She was knowledgeable in classic literature; Homer and Shakespeare were two of her favorite authors. She was also considered to be quite beautiful. All of this earned her the title of “The Belle of New Haven” among New Haven society.

New Haven is the home of Yale University (Yale College during her lifetime). The school’s progressive thinking and activities were not lost on her. She was admitted to Yale’s female scholastic institution, the ‘Young Ladies Collegiate Institute’ at a young age. She studied the liberal arts, the sciences, and mathematics.

Sarah Pardee Winchester

William Wirt Winchester was the only son born to Oliver Fisher Winchester and Jane Ellen Hope. He started life in Baltimore, Maryland but the family moved to New Haven when he was still a baby. His father was a co-founder of a successful clothing company in New Haven. He took the profits invested in a firearms manufacturing company that became the famous Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Sarah and William traveled in the same social circles. His sister was Sarah’s classmate at college and both families attended the same church. The couple married on September. They welcomed a daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, on July 12, 1866. Unfortunately, she died 40 days later.

William’s father died in 1880, leaving the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to him. William died from the effects of Tuberculosis the following year. He was 43. Sarah’s inheritance upon his death made her one of the wealthiest women in the world at the time.

Sarah traveled around Europe for a time after William’s death. In 1884, she moved to the San Francisco Bay area. She settled in what is now San José, California to be close to some of her Pardee relatives. They settled in California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Sarah purchased an eight-room farmhouse with 161 acres of farmland and started the project that would consume her until her death on September 5, 1922. Today, we know it as the Winchester Mystery House. In our next installment, we will take a look at this most unusual home, its myth and reality and why Sarah is in the news.

Thinking of Sarah and how she might have dressed

– Donna Klein


Information for this article came from The Truth about Sarah Winchester website.