Category Archives: Select Schools

Is There a Connection Between the Chaffee family and John Hooker?

Hi, Loomis Chaffee:

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The Hezekiah Chaffee House at 108 Palisado Avenue, Image from “Images of America Windsor” by Windsor Historical Society

We are doing a project-base learning investigation on the Other Underground Railroad, we are also focusing on the UGRR in Connecticut. We found John Hooker had a vital role with Reverend Hemengway from Suffield in terms of creating a legal case in the 1840s to free the descendants of Flora, who was kidnaped and sold into slavery. During the research about the possible routes for runaway fugitives and traces of John Hooker, we discovered that the Chaffee House in Windsor was a possible stop for the fugitive slaves from the book “Places of the Underground Railroad: A Geographical Guide” by Tom Calarco. This information is also in Horatio Strother’s text, p. 171:

Because John Hooker is one key character, a major figure in the Connecticut abolitionist movement, we are trying to find out as much information about him and his relationship to this area, Windsor and Suffield. Did he have a connection to the Loomis family? If that is the case, we wonder how and why Hooker connected with Revenerend Hemenway in West Suffield. Can you please provide us some information about the relationship between the Chaffee (and perhaps Loomis) and John Hooker if possible? Is there anything in your archives that will shed light? John Hooker relates the the Flora Case in his memoir on pp. 31-33,

Since the Chaffee House is also a possible and an important station in the runaway routine, we did further research on it to make sure the Chaffee family in our research is the same as the one who is related to your school. We found that the house was built for Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee around 1765. Dr. Chaffee’s daughter, Abigail, married Colonel James Loomis in 1805 and later they founded the co-educational Loomis Institute. The Chaffee House and the Loomis Institute then emerged to form the Loomis- Chaffee School in 1970, in which all the information about the Chaffee House matches with our research so far. Fortunately, the records relating to the slaves owned by Dr. Chaffee survive, including the documents for the emancipation of Elizabeth Stevenson. There’s another slave in the Chaffee household, Nancy Toney, who was later owned by Dr. Chaffee’s daughter, Abigail. When she died in 1857, she was the last surviving slave in Connecticut. With the evidence shown that there were slaves in the Chaffee House, we wonder if there is an any further information about who might have participated in the abolitionist activities in this area. Was anyone in the family involved in the abolitionist movement in any way?


Coco SA 16’




  1. “Historic Buildings of Connecticut.” Historic Buildings of Connecticut RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
  2. Calarco, Tom. “Places of the Underground Railroad.”Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
  3. Underground Railroad in Connecticut.


Reverend Hemenway 1850s Census

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.10.48 AMHere’s an image of Reverend Hemenway’s 1850s Census. As Shannon astutely noticed in the historic research at the David Ruggles center where those local history scholars (#PublicHistory, #LocalHistory) focussed on the 1850s Census because it supplies more data information about the household occupants, we went looking for Reverend Hemenway’s 1850s Census record in class the other day. We discovered his 1840s record with a few data entries and a couple of clicks; searching for his 1850s and 1860s, however, became problematic. After applying a few more strategies, such as searching for it through a census selection route first and not applying our birth dates, as they could be inaccurate, we still hit a wall and could not get the records. Then an email to our local expert on researching census records proved immediately valuable as he showed how Hemenway’s name was spelled differently in different census records. For the record” and future searches, we should keep in mind the various spelling and use Daniel Hemingway for 1850; Daniel Hemming for the 1860 and 1870 records. Below is Daniel Hemenway’s 1840s Census image. Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.35.04 AM

Now our class must analyze these sources in more detail. What can we learn from these two snap shots in history? What did it mean that some of Hemenway’s students came from outside of Connecticut in the 1850s data? What was the cultural ramifications for hiring and housing Irish immigrants in the 1850s in Suffield, Connecticut? Could this school be the place where fugitive slaves found refuge from the Francis Gillette House or Phineas Gabriel in Avon?

For more on Francis Gillette, visit the Connecticut Freedom Trail site:!/francis-gillette

View our previous work about Avon resident, who might have led fugitives to West Suffield, Phineas Gabriel, on other posts, click on our tagg, “Phineas Gabriel.” NB: Phineas Gabriel is also mentioned in Horatio Strother’s work, too. Click here for his work and search for Phineas Gabriel or other assets in the search box.