The Pardon T. Wightman House, 236 Marlborough St.

Contributing Writer

In 1846 the heirs of Thomas Bateman, landowner and farmer, hired Atwater & Schubarth to survey and plat the portion of his land bounded north by London St., West on Main St., South on Bridge St., and east on the railroad. There were 64 lots, and less than a month after the survey was done, Pardon T. Wightman purchased 2 lots on the east side of Marlborough St., between Union and Bridge Streets, measuring 100 x 100 feet. Within a year, he had completed building this house at 236 Marlborough Street. The 6-room, 2-story house has 1,515 sq. ft. of living space. This property is behind where the original 1850s Our Lady of Mercy Church, and in the late 1960s, behind the new shopping center built by George Erinakes, which contained as an anchor tenant, the old Greenwich Hardware store. 

Pardon Tillinghast Wightman (1805-1888) was the son of Benjamin & Patience (Allen) Wightman. While there is no clear family connection to Pardon Tillinghast (1736-1805), it is notable that Pardon T. Wightman was born on April 27, and Pardon Tillinghast died on May 3 of the same year, so presumably Wightman was named for the older man, who was a well-known Baptist preacher. Some of the extended Wightman family also spelled their surname Whitman, but the pronunciation has always been White-man, not Whit-man. Historic Cemetery 17, off Frenchtown Road contains gravestones for the family using both spellings.

Pardon T. Wightman married Mary Ann (Fowler) Wightman (1809-1888), daughter of John & Elizabeth (Aylesworth) Fowler. Pardon’ worked as a wheelwright, and made and repaired wooden wheels. His grandfather John Allen was a Revolutionary War veteran. The British Navy plundered his farm, stole his cattle, burned his home at Quidnesset, and held him as a Prisoner of War in Newport for 3 months. After the war he was a state senator and a judge. When Pardon died in 1888, his will specified that the house would go to his widow for her lifetime, however, she died 24 days before him, and the house was sold and the proceeds went to their 3 surviving children Susan E. Wightman (b. 1835), Lydia A. Crandall (1836), and Daniel A. Wightman 1846), and the minor children of their deceased son Henry (1839-1874): George H. and Sadie M. Wightman. The house was sold in 1890 to John F. & Mary A. Burns.

John Francis Burns (1855-1893) was born in New York, the son of John & Elizabeth (McDermott) Burns, both born in Ireland. John married 1874 Mary Ann (McElhone) Burns (1857-1935), born in New York, the daughter of Michael & Mary (O’Neil) McElhone, both born in Ireland. In 1870, John, age 14, worked at a cotton mill in town, in 1880 he was a liquor dealer in town. John died without a will in 1893, age 38. He and Mary had a total of 11 children, but by 1917 there were only 6 children still living: Mary/Minnie E. Burns, b. 1875; Grace M. Burns, b. 1892; and Harold H.T.A Burns, b. 1893, all unmarried and living in East Greenwich, and Joseph L. Burns, b. 1885 and wife Annie, John F. Burns, b. 1877 and wife Mary, and Thomas A. Burns, 1881 and wife Nellie, all living in Providence. These 6 surviving children transferred all their rights in the property to their mother, Mary A. Burns.

In 1930, the mother Mary T. Burns transferred the title to the house to herself and her 3 unmarried children: Harold, Mary and Grace. The 1940 census shows that Harold had married Ann Marie (Ward) Burns, b. 1910, who worked as a private nurse. The 1951-52 School census shows that Harold (as Earl H. Burns) was now living here with his wife Ann, and his sisters May (aka Mary, Minnie), b. 1875, and Grace, b. 1891. Harold’s 1942 World War II Draft Registration lists his full name as Harold Earl Tucker Aloysius Burns, and shows that he was 48 years old, worked at Greenwich Mills in East Greenwich, lived in this house, and was 5 ft. 6 in. tall, 166 lbs, with hazel eyes, gray hair and a ruddy complexion. It is also noted that he wore glasses.

Minnie died in 1954, and in 1973 Harold and his sister Grace transferred the title to themselves and Harold’s wife Ann Marie. Grace died in 1974, and Harold died in 1976, leaving Harold’s widow Ann as the sole owner.

In 1989, Ann Marie (Ward) Burns sold the house to John J. & Genevieve Ward of Lafayette Hill, PA. Due to the fact that that buyer and seller are both named Ward, I suspect that Ann and John may have been related.

In 1994 John & Genevieve Ward, still living in Lafayette Hill, PA, sold the house to Scott M. & Linda S. Battista, the current owners.

Bruce MacGunnigle is the East Greenwich Town Historian. He can be reached at His book “Strolling in Historic East Greenwich” is available at the Green Door, 130 Main Street.

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