Suffield Academy’s #UGRR Investigation for 2015-16 Academic Year


Rev. Hemenway’s Select School in West Suffield

In the spirit of the Suffield Academy’s Sophomore Leadership service-learning project, the American Studies class challenges students to collaborate on an investigation of a local history mystery and then make a public presentation on what they learned and how they learned it.

This Year’s Investigation: The Other Underground Railroad

In the 1790s a former captain in the Revolutionary army named Hanchett operated a small tavern just over the border of West Suffield in the town of Southwick, Massachusetts. According to John Hooker, a major figure in Connecticut’s abolitionist movement, “He was a desperate character, and the terror of the region.” Hanchett attempted to kidnap Flora, a free African-American, and her two daughters, but Flora’s husband Exeter, “a man of respectable character,” was able to fight off Hanchett. Nevertheless, one day Exeter came home from work and discovered Flora and the young girls missing. A warrant was issued for Hanchett, but he remained on the Massachusetts side of the border. Exeter went on two long journeys searching for his family yet died never knowing their fate. Then in 1845 Reverend Hemengway of West Suffield wrote a letter to John Hooker; the two men formed a partnership to sue Southern slave owners in Virginia so that the descendants of Flora could be freed. The class will investigate this whole case as well as Hemengway and Hooker’s legal journey, which included four trials, and the last one was in the Supreme Court of Virginia. The class will also present their findings to the Suffield Historical Society on April 19, 2016.

Furthermore, this year’s class will become educational ambassadors and establish an academic network across the state in order to write a more current history of the Underground Railroad with students and teachers from other CAIS schools. They will manage, edit, and promote this network from the class blog:


Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, and Survival, by Matthew Warshauer.
Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow.
Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo


One thought on “Suffield Academy’s #UGRR Investigation for 2015-16 Academic Year

  1. Pingback: Celebrate Our Failure | CAISCT PBL Blog for Collaborative Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s