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Finding More About Exeter and Flora Through 19th Century Depositions

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While reading through the depositions of “Horace Noble taken at his dwelling house in the town of Southwick in the said County of Hamden, Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the 16th day of August 1849,” we learned that Exeter lived with Thomas Hanchett, who was no relation to Oliver Hanchett.Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.44.53 PM.pngWe then checked the 1790s Census to confirmed this fact, and saw that there is one person accounted for in the “All other free Persons” penultimate column. We think that it is most likely Exeter. This second image of the 1790s Census is interesting because it lists the neighbors and other people mentioned in other depositions.

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The Document of Flora's Case

Deposition of Hannah King and Susan Sheldon for Flora Case from the Historical Room Collection of the Suffield Town Library

(Copy) of Hannah King

I Hannah King of Suffield in the country of Hartford & flate of Connecticut being ninety six years of age depose and say that i have ever lived in the town of Suffield and with in 1 mile of Benjamin Scott the resident of Benjamin Scott decided that Flora, a negro woman lives in a family ?aia Scott  several years and attended Church at that Suffield with his (Scott family during the time of Rev. John Graham ministry in a West Suffield and that she left the family of ?aia Scott a free woman and not a slave as I understand at the time. and that afterwards Flora and her children. I think two in number men taken and convince away Oliver Hanchett & ? and told as slaves, as was said at the time in the neighborhood that they were free children and then that ? them and ? them had no right to do for it was much talked of by the neighbor at that time as the came our home.

(Copy) Susan Sheldon

Suffield August 13th. 1842. (copies) I Susan Sheldon of Suffield in the country of Hartford in state of Connecticut being seventy six years of age and say that i was horn in their town where i resident until i was almost twenty six years of age; that my father with ?. I lived until that time residence in the west society in ?aia town; and within 1/4 of mile of the residence of Benjamin Scott located and actively recollect a negro heofman by the harm of Flora (lcied?) in the family of faid? Scott reveral years; and I recollect that she had one child while living then. I think a son and that the ?aia Flora left the family before my marriage which was at age 24. I’m a manner unknown to me.

Suffield. August 18. 1842  Susan Sheldon.

Deposition of Hannah King and Susan Sheldon for Flora Case from the Historical Room Collection of the Suffield Town Library


Deposition of Gustavus Austin of Suffield, August 13, 1842. Suffield Historic Society, Suffield Town Library

Record of Gustavus Austin

I Gustavus Austin of Suffield County of Hartford & State  of Connecticut being of lawful age depose and say that I have once lived in the West Society in Said town; and well knew Mr. Benjamin Scott, who resided and died in that town. And at that or about the town of the case of the Revolutionary War, a negro woman, who had been living with said Scott was suddenly taken away with her children; who was supposed to be sold as slaves by Oliver Hanchett and David Brunton somewhere in the state of New York; which transactions caused much talk and great excitement at the time throughout this part of the town. It was confidential that those who took them away have no right to do so; and that it as an unlawful and was much lacked of; their transaction took place near the area of the Rev. John graham’s ministry in ?aia West Suffield.


And i further defuse and say that the ?aia Daniel Brunson was a great trafficker and dealer in negros at and before ?aia transaction and that ?aia Hatchet was a mean  consiclcend equal and ready for almost any emergency. I am 98 years of age.


suffield Augest 13, 1842

copies of thru depositions take at Suffield 13. Aug. 1842. (Coco)


Caleb Strong – lawyer of the case

Our class was first introduced to Caleb Strong by the book “Love of Freedom”. Here, he is introduced as a Northampton lawyer that defended for Flora and Exeter’s lawsuit against Hanchett. He helped Exeter win the local case at 1783. Caleb Strong, as a young lawyer, helped out Exeter using the fact that Hanchett had a bad image in the region, which means that juries will be harsh on Hanchett. [1]

Caleb Strong was born in 1745 in Northampton. Graduating from Harvard, he got elected to the Massachusetts general court at 1776. He played a big role in the development of United States Constitution in 1788. He advocated strong central government. He successfully moved that the House of Representatives should originate all money bills and sat on the drafting committee. He voted in favor of equal representation in the Senate and proportional in the House. He became a U.S senator for Massachusetts in 1789 and became the Massachusetts governor in 1800. He was in positon from 1800 to 1807, then got reelected and was in office from 1812 to 1816 [2].

As shown, He was certainly a powerful figure in the society. It is very interesting to find out that a talented lawyer, in the start of his career, decided to defend a small slave case in Suffield. Northampton Historic Society notes that he was a well respected man of gentle spirit, simple tastes and manners, frugal, modest, prudent, dignified, and discreet [3].

Although there are plenty of information about his career, unfortunately, a source that records Caleb Strong’s performance as a lawyer in Flora’s case could not be found online. However, looking at his career, it is indubitable that he was a influential character in Massachusetts and his abolitionist movement helped many lives. Also, while researching about Strong, I found his memoir being sold in Amazon. Delving into his memoir can not only help us understand better about him and his career, but also help us know about Flora’s case from his point of view and how he thought about it. He is a figure who is certainly worth researching, and if there is a written record of the case from a third person point of view, it would be a great resource for us to investigate the case.
I learned various skillset of research during the class; however, I could not fully utilize it in this research since the information related to the case was limited. A lot of information was available for Caleb Strong, but there was a lack of information of him being a lawyer in Exeter’s case. I wish that I can find more about his performance in the court in the memoir.
[1] Love of Freedom

Sylvester Graham – a man with big influence

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I think that a research on Sylvester Graham would help lead our investigation. Sylvester Graham is born in Suffield, Connecticut. He is the founder of Graham crackers, and brought a great health reform in America. The most important thing about him that we need to focus on is his abolitionist movement. He was a minister, which means he had some influence on the community. His political stance is shown in the case in which Flora’s descendants was involved. He was called for testimony and gave the court a handwritten evidence, written by his father, of Flora and Exeter getting married. This supports their descendants’ argument, so we can conclude that he was an abolitionist. This is significant because he was a big figure in Suffield. He had a lot of influence in American cultural diet and political influence over the town and probably the nation. We are researching about Flora’s case that happened in Suffield, and tracing his actions can guide us through the solution of the mystery.

He was also involved in the temperance movement, and he is very likely involved in the underground railroad. I found this book “Abolitionism and American Reform” in Google Books which explains in detail about abolitionism and different people involved in the movement. It mentions Graham as someone who cared about abolitionism and unhealthy diet of Americans at the time. This book also mentions about excessive sexual activity in the South which Graham thought it was unhealthy.

If we research extensively on Graham, we will be able to find out valuable information about his contributions to underground railroad in Suffield, which likely involves Flora. Because we lack direct evidence of Flora in Suffield, Graham can lead us to some clues to solving the mystery of Flora. Also, the book may guide us through the big picture of Abolitionism in America which can give us a general knowledge about 18th and 19th century culture and history. I have googled that there is a lot of information (3) about Sylvester Graham, so it would be a good beginning point of research.


(3) Basic information about Graham