While doing more research on the Faith Congregational Church, I have come to realize that this church had more meaning to it than blacks not being able to praise and worship within the benches down below. As stated before, in 1819, a group of African Americans in Hartford grew weary of being assigned seats in the galleries and in the rear of churches and decided to begin worshipping on their own in the conference room of the First Church of Christ, now Center Church, in Hartford. This would become the first black Congregational Church in Connecticut, the third oldest in the nation. The congregation moved its services to a building on State Street in 1820. That same year, the congregation established itself as The African American Religious Society of Hartford and resolved to build a house of worship where all would be welcome and no one would have assigned seating. In 1826 the congregation purchased property at the corner of Talcott and Market streets, where they built a stone-and-brick church. This church became a huge part of Hartford’s black community and a place where all of the individuals who did not believe in slavery could meet and gather together. After that, members of the church realized that they needed an education for them to be able to prosper. They decided to establish a district school.
Over the past couple weeks of research, I have been able to find a lot more data and sources to more firmly prove the existence of a second underground railroad. I have been exploring the into the characteristics of an educated individual who helps out fugitive slaves as well as being a prominent member in local society and or involvement with the local church. In my investigation, I found a strong correlation between individuals containing these characteristics and helping out with escaping fugitive slaves. Henry Forster is a perfect example of such influential character who had been mentioned last year but not fully researched. As a cobbler and religious man, Foster was considered an intellectual and according to documentation had played a key role in the aid of escape of fugitive slaves. As for new leads, I found one of the biggest connections so far in my research. I stumbled upon another church organization called AME Zion Church that works closely with Taj’s first Baptist church in the transportation and corroboration of fugitive slaves. Rather than extending along the coast, I believe that there have been many different branches of this railroad sprouting like a tree and conjoining in the far north. One thing is clear, the black freemen were given minimal credit for their instrumental role in helping fellow African Americans escape the hardships of slavery. What is not initially apparent when researching Henry Foster is his involvement with a church congregation in Tarry town. Foster Memorial AME Zion Church was “founded in 1860, by Amanda and Henry Foster, Rev. Jacob Thomas, and Hiram Jimerson. Amanda Foster, considered the “Mother of the Church,” was the driving force in the formation of the congregation whose first meetings were held in her confectionery store” (nygeo.com). The church poses a large question as to the possibility of an expansion in our focused study. According to another source, During the Civil War, “members of Foster AME helped to provide food and shelter to fugitive slaves escaping to Canada, and also provided assistance to those fugitive slaves who decided to settle in Tarrytown. Like most AME churches, Foster AME is a religious and social crossroads for the black community, providing a meeting place for worship and a place for public interaction” (nps.gov). It can most likely be deduced that the church congregation did not simply stop aiding the escape of claves after the end of the civil war. I want to look further into this connection and research more into the possibility of other branches in this underground network spanning across New England. For the the time being I think that I am on a good path and I am up to date with everything I need to be in order to be prepared for our presentation. I have recently started looking into the documents that we as a class have had a privilege to view documenting relevant underground railroad cites. “It’s amazing how secretive they remained, even after the [Civil War],” said Diana Ross McCain, a historian who recently reviewed 13 supposed sites in Connecticut (Courant.com).
In the early 19th century, abolitionists were mainly fighting slavery for their civil rights and freedom. On top of this back ground information, we got to know that when the lawyer is arguing about Flora’s freedom rights, he was arguing about how the right of her husband is larger than the slave owner instead arguing solely for the freedom about Flora; therefore we can conclude that the nuance in the 19th century was interesting and significant for us to investigate more of these events since it was a nationwide culture, or mindset at the time, not only happening in a specific region. Northampton in Massachusetts had its own history about the civil rights movement in the mid 19th century. The Northampton Historic Society states that members of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry established a utopian – it seems that they are way too optimistic about the issue – community that everybody is treated equal regardless of sex, color or condition, sect or religion. They also had regular lecturers like Frederick Douglass to speak of civil rights movements. However, things did not go down like they imagined. Since they were especially united around the issue of the abolition of slavery and therefore less focused on the part of individual woman rights and freedom, eventually the association failed to exist over time since nuance on treating woman rights and slavery still existed heavily in a men-focused society although they felt the most ”equality of feeling” in the association, it still did not reach the level of freedom and rights they were looking for. Since nuance existed and similar events should have had taken place all over the country because it was one of the most significant issues in the 19th century, it is reasonable that we could find similar historical events or organization in the town of Suffield’s history and investigate more from the organization into the Flora case and possibilities in the case.
As we further investigate into these cases and explore the conflict between slavery abolition and woman suffrage in the 19th century, we need high order thinking skills to navigate these investigations. For example, the fact that the famous lawyer Strong argued for Exeter in the court by saying Exeter’s rights as a husband owning his wife is greater than the right of a slave owner owning a slave. This example displayed that the lawyer ignored woman’s rights in order to win the case, and the reason behind is worth thinking, why was he doing so? Was it because sometimes the goal to win is higher than anything include integrity and consciousness?
Northampton Historic Society:
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. 
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 .
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 .
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.
 Love of Freedom
After searching 1790’s census at Southwick and 1790’s census at Hamden, I didn’t find any people who is related to our main character – Exeter. At first I guess is because that most of slaves’ surname are given by their mother, because they have no idea who their father is. Also some freed slaves were known to have changed their surnames after gaining freedom. And when we consider that Exeter is not a slave but only a free African American, the potential of finding information about him on record is challenging.
On the other hand, searching Hanchett in Suffield comes out result of Capt. Oliver Hanchett who born in 17, August, 1741 and died in 20, September, 1816, who married with Rachel Gillet and had nine kids, one of them had the same name to his father, Oliver Hanchett, who dead in the year he born. However, keep searching the latest posterity of Oliver Hanchett, I found Theodore Hallas Hanchett, which lived from 1920 to 2007. Thus, unfortunately, we cannot get more information by talking to Oliver Hanchett’s offspring face to face.
After getting the big picture of our research, we started to focus on different tiny parts of details. We utilized the source Love of Freedom by Catherine Adams. I discovered something very useful and largely related to the project from the footnotes: a book named Seventeen Eighty-Three: The Turning Point in the Law of Slavery and Freedom in Massachusetts by Emily Blanck. Blanck guided us through the change in slavery law mainly in the state of Massachusetts during the late 18th century. More importantly, Blanck used Flora’s trial as one of the three major historical events in supporting her book’s thesis. After analyzing the booking, I found that Blanck gave us a clearer image on how exactly Flora’s case was like, from Exeter’s perspective and the responses of both lawyers. For example, she described the process of how Exeter and Flora married as “servants” when ruled by Benjamin Scott and both remained enslaved. While Exeter was set free before, and that became the main supporting evidence to the court case- Flora should be Exeter’s property under their marriage. In conclusion, Hanchett was only found guilty for stealing the couple’s personal items but not for kidnapping Flora. Other than that, Blanck left some clues for us to solve as well, which include if the Supreme Court did inappropriately infringe upon the property rights of a Connecticut slaverowner (42) or not and to find out the actual copies of documents filed in the appeals of the trials (39). I see that a lot more things were being solved from this document and it helped us take a big step forward towards solving our mystery.
Seventeen Eighty-Three: The Turning Point in the Law of Slavery and Freedom in Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1559880?seq=15#page_scan_tab_contents
Dear administrator of Congressional Church of Southwick,
The Congressional Church of Southwick
I am a Suffield Academy student, and as a class, we are doing project based learning class and a presentation in Suffield historical society on Underground Railroad, especially about the Flora’s kidnapping case. The Flora’s case is about a married black woman and being kidnapped and sold as slaves. There are different storylines derived from Flora’s case during our research; one of the most significant clue is her husband, Exeter, while he was on his journey searching for Flora. By searching the information from the book Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts 1650-1865, 2nd edition, we found that Exeter’s birth and death records may be stored in Congressional Church of Southwick, 1775-1814, composed by Joseph Carvalho III. Could you please help us investigate Exeter’s history? Does your archive have the record for Exeter’s baptism and his death or his marriage record? Or if you can provide any extra information to help us verify Exeter’s identity?
In our previous investigation, we also found a book, Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England, written by Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck, which provides a glimpse about Exeter’s attempt to free his wife, Flora. We learned that Exeter searched for Flora, walked from Suffield and Southwick to New York without any efficient transportation during that time and died without anyone knowing anything. If we can prove that the Exeter mentioned in the Church’s record is the one we are searching for, Exeter’s baptism and death record may be our new start point to discover more information about him. In the future, we hope to find out what happen during his journey, who did he meet, and how did he die. Furthermore, according to the historical documents, Exeter experienced two appeals, one in the lower court and the other in the Massachusetts Superior Court. Exeter won the first appeal because the local judges know that Hanchett, the man who kidnapped Flora, was a villain in on the boarder between Suffield and Southwick; however, Exeter lost the second one because the case was judged based on the state law at that time, in which claimed slave holders still possessed the slaves after their marriages. Therefore, we aim to find the deposition and the court document about these two trials because any details or resources may be a key factor in determining what happened during Flora’s kidnapping case. This project requires a lot of research skills and critical thinking skills because we never know if the information we find is authentic or explicable, and it’s hard to find any paper form documents due to its long history. If you can please provide any clues, this will be a huge progress in our research.
Suffield Academy 16’
- “Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England.”Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
- FLORA’S PLIGHT: A MONTGOMERY COUNTY FREEDOM SUIT
- Pictured from : http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?p=2905