By Douglas H. Shepard
James Mullett, grandson of Robert and Elizabeth (Gibbons) Mullett of Milton Abbas, England, was born on 17 October 1784 in Whitingham VT to James (1754-1829) and Sylvenia (Perry) (1765-1852) Mullett. The elder James Mullett, born in England, was conscripted into the British army and shipped to America to fight in the Revolutionary War. When the British surrendered at Saratoga, he and a fellow soldier defected He stayed on, settling in Vermont and later moved to Darien NY. The elder James Mullett was a tailor with little income so, as the oldest of thirteen children, young James Mullett had little formal schooling. When the family moved to Darien, he was apprenticed to a joiner/millwright and became quite adept at his trade. However, in 1810 he moved to Fredonia and worked as a clerk in the store of Lovejoy & Hale about at today’s 58 West Main Street.
According to an account by Orson Stiles, Mullett was hired to represent someone being tried before a J.P. and did so well that his friends encouraged him to consider studying law. He acquired whatever law books he could and studied them during the slack times at the store. Along with his friend, Elijah Risley, Jr., he signed up to study law with Judge Houghton and in 1814 was admitted as an Attorney to the Court of Common Pleas. He was successful and rose in his profession. Around 1816 he built a small, two-room dwelling near Houghton Common, perhaps on his later house site at 142 West Main Street. In 1816 he married Sally Fitch and they took up residence in the one room, using the other for his law office.
As his family, and his practice, grew, he found it necessary to build a larger and more elegant home at today’s 142 West Main Street in 1820. Levi Risley said it was “planned, built and occupied by Judge Mullett …. It was built with wings and verandas and about the first house built in Fredonia that could claim style, convenience and finish.” Then, in 1828, he built again, this time a brick house at what became 30 East Main Street. It was known in recent years as The Colonial Inn. It has been replaced by a drive-in bank. The Mulletts had at least five children: James P. (the first student to attend the Fredonia Academy in 1826), John C., Elizabeth, Sarah S. and an unnamed girl of about three, who died in a home fire. Judge Mullett died on 10 September 1858. Sally Mullett died at the home of her daughter Sarah Grant on 28 July 1890.