Author Archives: andrewbudge

Reverend Calvin Philleo: Suffield Resident, Family Man, and Born Abolitionist

After being informed that there was a dark chapter to the life of Calvin Wheeler Philleo that we had missed, we pressed on with our research and found three possible books of interest that could illuminate the lives of Prudence Crandall and her husband Calvin.

(1) The Fillow, Philo and Philleo genealogy. A record of the descendants of John Fillow, a Huguenot refugee from France

The excerpt below contains information about Rev. Calvin Philleo the Husband of Prudence Crandall. It gives us insight into his family, origins, and a brief snapshot of his life.


The excerpt below contains the vital information concerning Rev. Calvin Philleo’s only son, Calvin Wheeler Philleo. Calvin Wheeler is of Rev. Calvin’s first marriage to Elizabeth Wheeler, and not the child of Prudence Crandall. From the third book, we examine (below) the marriage between Rev. Calvin and Prudence Crandall resulted from Calvin’s wish for a mother to his three children from the previous marriage (many of Prudence Crandall’s friends and William Lloyd Garrison disapproved of the union between the Reverend and Prudence)**See Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

Link to book by Van Hoosear, D. H. (David Hermon), b. 1844


A record of the marriage between Calvin Wheeler and Elizabeth. P. Norton which we extracted from the Town of Suffield’s public archives.

Suffield, November Seventh, Eighteen Hundred and Forty Nine.  Calvin W. Philleo and Elizabeth P Norton…officially joined in Marriage by me.  [name]…Minister of the Gospel


We are beginning to construct a family tree of the descendants of Rev. Calvin Philleo based upon the records we have at our disposal.

(2) Calvin’s Own Writing

While diving deeper into the life’s work of Rev. Calvin Philleo we discovered that his son, Calvin Wheeler, also was an excellent public speaker and an author. “He commenced a serial entitled ‘Akin by Marriage’ and “Twice Married: A story of Connecticut Life” (Hoosear, 114). Hopefully, within these writings, we can find more details about the life of his father, and his father’s second wife, Prudence. Pictured below is the cover as the book is published!

ISBN 13: 9781363631391

As of today [2/23/19], we have not yet managed to secure our own copy of this book for our research but we will update this segment with a synopsis and takeaways when we do.


(3) Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

ISBN-13: 978-0819576460

Prudence Crandall’s Legacy, written by Donald E. Williams, is a work that we, in our American Studies class, have become well versed in. It documents the life of Prudence Crandall, her struggles and successes, but it also provides a unique perspective on the relationship and influence between Crandall and her husband Calvin.

Takeaways:

The following are takeaways and important quotes taken from our in-class collaboration regarding the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:

  • “She was in name Prudence Philleo, but in every other respect she lived as Prudence Crandall, making her own decisions and earning her own keep” (Williams, 237)
  • “Education offered the potential for opportunity, self-sufficiency, even freedom, especially for women, blacks, and the poor. Crandall discovered, however, that educating the oppressed involved risk and clashed with deep-rooted traditions in American society.” (Williams, 1)
  • “More important, Garrison finally saw the school in action; students were learning their lessons assisted by devoted teachers such as William Burleigh, Prudence, and Almira. To see the realization of Crandall’s efforts- a true working school for young black women- and to know it existed in part because of his work with Crandall and his advocacy in the Liberator was deeply moving for Garrison.” (Williams, 150)

From the Seneca Baptist Association, our class has uncovered documents about some of the Rev. Philleo’s accomplishments in Suffield:

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Driving Questions:

What were the emotional dimensions to the marriage of Prudence Crandall and Rev. Philleo?

  • We know a large part of their marriage agreement was that Rev. Philleo needed a mother for his three kids. Was this the only reason they married or was there more to their marriage?
  • We also know from the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy that many of her friends and William Lloyd Garrison did not approve of their relationship. Did anybody support their marriage? Other friends? Family members?

Prudence Crandall is the primary educator of Sarah Harris at the school she sets up, has the historical record forgotten her legacy as a teacher? 

  • Has her legacy as an educator become clouded by her high profile court cases and her relationship troubles?
  • Is the fact that Sarah Harris desired to one day be an educator the only reason Prudence taught her?
  • Why did Prudence persevere with her school after all the public backlash she faced?

What did the Rev. Calvin’s son address the town of Suffield about in 1856? 

  • We know this was a big election year, could his address possibly have anything to do with this?

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African Slavery in Suffield

This xerox copy (click here for the pdf copy of this source) of this article from the Windsor Locks Journal was given seven years ago to our teacher, Mr. Bill Sullivan, by a member of the Suffield Historical Society. We know that H. S. Sheldon’s notes of the article are located in the archives of the Kent Memorial Library, but we have to wait some more months before the library restoration project is complete. The notes are essentially a handwritten draft of the article. The Windsor Locks Journal archival copies of 1885 at the Windsor Locks Historical Society are missing. Therefore, we have done our best of transcribing all of the text of the original article. We also learned from some librarians that the 1885 editions for this newspaper are also not online. Perhaps they have been added to some digital collection, yet we have not seen that resource online.

This year’s #PBL American Studies class is focusing on Women’s History in Suffield, and we want to learn more about the female slaves listed in the article. We are intrigued about Rose and her claim to be a native-born African Princess. The evidence for her claim was the fact that her back was tattooed the whole length, which was tradition for African Princesses. This part of her story reaching back to Africa resembles Venture Smith’s tale, and that loose comparison has made us more curious to find out more information on her story. We also hope that we can find more information on Dinah and Ginny because they may be found somewhere in the 19th-century records. The story of Tamar’s life piques our interest as she experienced three different owners; two in Suffield and finally sold to Solomon Smith of Haddam, Connecticut in 1798.

So we now begin our research in different locations online as well as asking historical societies and libraries about their resources and documents that are not online. Please comment on this blog thread if you have any suggestions or advice for our work ahead.

Update 1/30/19

Could Comfort Smith possibly be a woman? An article titled “The Smith Family Remains” in the historical Hartford Courant leads us to ask the question:

Written for the CourantJ, R. B. (1876, Jul 04). The smith family remains. Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/553926457?accountid=46995


Death notice in Hartford Courant of the daughter of Comfort Smith, 17, reads:

Late Thursday afternoon the dwelling-house of Mr. Daniel Leonard, of Feedinghills was struck with lightning. A daughter of Capt. Comfort Smith, of Suffield, 17 years of age, who was on a visit at Mr. Leonard’s, was almost instantaneously killed by the shock.


Article 7 — no title. (1795, Aug 31). Connecticut Courant (1791-1837) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/548488239?accountid=46995

Venture Smith family tree including the marriage of Tamar Loomis (sold by Comfort Smith) & Solomon Smith:

Calvin Philleo: Husband to Prudence Crandall

Can you help us with our research? While many Connecticut residents know the story of Prudence Crandall and how she opened a school to educate young African-American girls in the early 1830s, few know the story of her marriage. Our project-based learning class will investigate her husband, Calvin Wheeler Philleo, because he was also a resident of Suffield. We want to know if more history about their relationship can provide more vital information about our state heroine’s historical record. What was significant about their marriage? We can search more information about him in our local archives. Along with checking Suffield Academy’s archives, we will reach out to members of the Suffield Historical Society and check records in the town hall. While conducting a preliminary research using the Hartford Courant Historical newspaper database, I found these records below. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions regarding researching this figure. 

Basic Information:

Calvin Wheeler Philleo was a free-soiler and the husband of Prudence Crandall (School teacher & Activist) 

Born: 14 June 1822 Vernon, Oneida County, New York, USA

Died: 30 June 1858 (aged 36), Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA

Buried in the Old Center Cemetery in Suffield, CT | Mem ID: 7976434                                            (discovered on www.findagrave.com)

Hartford Courant: Historical Newspaper References

Further Reading:

https://sparedshared8.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/1841-charles-b-utley-to-calvin-wheeler-philleo/

This link contains some further biographical details of Calvin Philleo and also a transcript of a letter sent from Charles. B. Utley to Calvin in 1841. 

Update – 12/12/18

Suffield. “Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut, October 12, 13 and 14, 1920, with Sketches from Its Past and Some Record of Its Last Half Century and of Its Present.” Library of Congress Information Bulletin, Victor, http://www.loc.gov/item/23002816/.In-text CitationCheck for GrammarCheck for Plagiarism

Update 1/5/19

Driving Question

After delving deeper into the affiliations of Calvin Philleo, I am left with a question: What is the history of the free-soiler movement in Suffield, CT?

Skills Required

To uncover the truth of this question I will need to develop my networking skills and reach out to people that may be more knowledgeable about the topic. I will also need to refine my database searches and online research techniques.