Category Archives: Deposition

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.

Who Has the Legal Custody Over Flora?


Mumbett, Elizabeth Freeman:the first African-American woman to win her way out of slavery in 1781. We don’t have an image for Flora, but we can take Mumbett as a reference to get a general idea of how Flora might looks like since they have similar background. Source:

As we are doing history in a project based learning environment and preparing a presentation for the Suffield Historical Society on the other Underground Railroad, especially about the Flora’s kidnapping case, we posed a question: Did Exeter, her husband, has the legal custody of Flora, or did Hanchett, the slave owner, have the property rights over his slave. Flora’s case is about a married black woman who was kidnapped and sold back into slavery.

We found a book, Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England, written by Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck, and an article, “Flora’s flight: A Montgomery county freedom suit” from Library of Virginia, which both mention that Exeter sued Hanchett for his legal title to the ownership of Flora. In this case, the court of common pleas in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, sentenced Hanchett guilty because Hanchett was known as a villain in town. Exeter was awarded damages around £65.  However, there was another state case in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in which Hanchett claimed that Flora and Exeter had “consented” to limit their marital rights in their wedding so that Flora should be remained a “servant” obligated to him, the slave master. Unfortunately, Exeter lost the case because the judges of the Court respect the property rights of an owner from outside the state as Exeter and Hanchett are from Connecticut.

As we connected with the Library of Virginia, we were given a court archive about Exeter v. Hanchett case. The document is all handwritten in cursive, so it will take us a significant amount of time to transcribe it. We will also post it on our classroom blog and ask other experts to guide us in the process. On top of that, we are wondering if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Hampden County Superior Court have the same court documents and depositions about Exeter v. Hanchett case.


  1. “Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England.”Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
  3. Image from:




Can You Help Us With Transcribing #CTSuffieldHistory?

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)