Over the past twenty five years, while docenting, taking part in school programs, participating at living history events/reenactments and historical commemorations, I have heard many stories and legends about Gov. Jonathan Trumbull and the War Office. During the last five years or so, I have spent a lot of time researching the written record on the history and traditions of this building.
It has been suggested that the War Office was built by Jonathan Trumbull in 1758. Personally, I do not believe this, since there is no real evidence to back this claim. This theory is derived from entries in Jonathan Trumbull's account book regarding expenditures for work on a shop in 1758. The BIG question is what shop? The location of this shop is not specified, and the Trumbulls had several stores/shops. I believe a stronger case can be made that the shop mentioned in Trumbull's account book in 1758 was the shop/warehouse in East Haddam, Connecticut, known as, "The Counting House." Jonathan Trumbull had, "a store, wharf, and land at East Haddam." This fits the narrative of a shop or store being built in East Haddam for Jonathan Trumbull's nephew, Joseph Sluman, prior to 1759.
In William Warren's book, "Isaac Fitch of Lebanon, Connecticut, Master Joiner 1734-1791," Warren suggests the possibility that Trumbull's store in Lebanon, known today as the War Office, was built in 1758. This was first published in a two-part article in 1976, and later as a book in 1978. I've noticed in the last twenty years or so, that this theory has been taken by some historians and authors as evidence of proof, citing this book as their source, without any evidence to support it. There is no proof, it's supposition, a theory. No one knows the actual date that the War Office was built? There are several statements in this book that I have questions about, or that I do not agree with, which may be discussed at a later time.
Warren does briefly mention the store or shop in East Haddam, "Trumbull also had another shop, or warehouse, down on the Connecticut River at East Haddam, locally known as the "Counting House," where his goods were unloaded and stored before being brought up to Lebanon." And as a comment on a footnote, "Perhaps this store was the shop mentioned in the inventory of Joseph Sluman's holdings." I'm not sure why the East Haddam shop wasn't given more consideration, since it fits more closely into the historical 1758 time frame?
It is also stated that, "In 1763 -- as shown by the unpublished papers of Joseph Trumbull -- Mr. Sluman was connected with some of the business enterprises of the Trumbulls, and made voyages to the West Indies and elsewhere." There is a published letter from Joseph Sluman to his cousin, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., discussing business written from Martinique in 1763.
"Counting House, c. 1755, 1 1/2 stories, frame, gambrel roof, clapboards. Originally built for use as a warehouse and store for a nephew of Gov. Trumbull, now a private residence."
"Pre-Revolutionary Colonial structures include: the Tinker House, #1; the Counting House, #6; the David Annable House, #8; the Reuben Cone House, #12; the Nathan Hale School, #53 (Fig. 5); and #74. Of these buildings, the most important is the Counting House; for large commercial structures dating from this period are extremely rare."
Joseph Sluman married sometime in 1759 or 1760 and, "settled at East Haddam, New London County, Connecticut." I have not been able to find any further information about his marriage, or if he had any children? After his graduation he went to work for his uncle Jonathan Trumbull, as mentioned in several of the quotes above. In the late 1750's he went into business for himself, but he was still involved in business with the Trumbulls.
Joseph Sluman's business in East Haddam closed in the mid 1760's. His property became Jonathan Trumbulls in 1767, who deeded it to his son Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., who then sold it in 1768.
Joseph Sluman was a member of the Susquehanna Company (as was Jonathan Trumbull), and he first moved out to Wyoming in Spring 1773. Possibly earlier? He became involved in the Pennamite War, or the Pennamite-Yankee War (1769-1799) which was a conflict between Pennsylvania and Connecticut over claims to the land in the Wyoming Valley along the Susquehanna River. In, "The History of Wyoming," it states that, "The name of Joseph Sluman, occurs frequently in the old records. From his being often named on committees, and several times chosen member of Assembly, it would appear that he was trusted and honoured, . ." "At a town-meeting of Wyoming settlers held at Wilkes barre in September, 1773, Joseph Sluman, Esq., of East Haddam, Conn., a member of the Susquehanna Company, and a Nephew of Jonathan Trumbull, then Governor of Connecticut, was chosen to present to the General Assembly at its session in October a petition relative to establishing some regular and permanent form of government at Wyoming." Over the years he would travel between Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
On April 26, 1775 he is listed as attending the Connecticut General Assembly Meeting in Hartford representing Westmoreland.
Joseph Sluman was present at the conference with the Six Nations at Wilkes Barre on July 27th and 28th, 1775, "Present. Col. Zebulon Butler, Joseph Sleuman, Esq., & many others. As also Ieyeounghkmojahaugh, a Tuscarora Chief, with several Head-men of the Six Nations, . . ." In one of Butler's speeches, he states, "Brothers -- We are willing to have a Wyoming Fire, which shall be lasting, and we will apply to our Great Chief, Governor Trumbull, that he may appoint some chiefs to meet you at the Wyoming Fire so often as shall be thought best, which we doubt not will be done."
At a meeting held on August 8, 1775 in Wilkes Barre, Joseph Sluman was chosen as a member of the Committee of Correspondence. "The meeting then voted that the inhabitants of the town would "unanimously join our [their] brethren in America in the common cause of defending our [their] liberty;" and "Mr. John Jenkins, Joseph Sluman, Esq., Nathan Denison, Esq., Mr. Obadiah Gore, Jr., and Lieut. William Buck" were chosen "a Committee of Correspondence for the town of Westmoreland."
On September 28, 1775, Joseph Sluman was captured and taken prisoner by the Northumberland militia, and spent several months in a Philadelphia jail, being released sometime after December 20, 1775. "Immediately upon their arrival [at Warrior Run], they [the Yankees] were attacked and fired upon by about 500 Northumberland militia -- one man being killed and several wounded; the party all taken prisoners, robbed of their horses and all of their furniture; Messrs. Judd and Sluman sent to Philadelphia gaol; three others confined in Sunbury gaol; and the others dismissed." His property taken included a large pistol and saddle. The conditions of these jails were poor, they were usually cold and damp, prisoners were ill fed, and the jails were full of sickness and disease. It is possible this confinement led to his early death, around the age of 40, in 1776?
"Joseph Sluman died peacefully and quietly in 1776 at East Haddam, about eighteen miles south-west of Norwich, . . ." It appears that Joseph Sluman died prior to October 10, 1776, "The Assembly also appointed Nathan Denison to be Judge of the Court of Probate of the district of Westmoreland until June 1, 1777, as the successor of Judge Joseph Sluman, who had died a short time previously."
Joseph Sluman, the nephew of Jonathan Trumbull, should not be confused with Joseph Slocum, or his son Jonathan Slocum who immigrated to Wilkes Barre from Rhode Island.
In conclusion, with the little we do know, it seems to me that the shop in East Haddam, Connecticut fits the 1758 time frame better then the shop (War Office) in Lebanon, Connecticut? As discussed above, this too is supposition, a theory. This shop in question could also be referring to a shop that we don't know anything about? Lost to history?