Category Archives: slavery

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:

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Titus Kent-Middletown Investigation

My ProjectBase Learning Class has been researching 1774, regarding slavery and freedom. We have found information on Rose and her son Prince, slaves who came to Middletown on a Dutch Ship. Mr Phillips, of Middletown Connecticut, sold Rose and Prince to Reverend Ebenezer Gay, of Suffield Connecticut. After reading about your exhibition, we were wondering if you had any records of this. We do not have the exact dates to this sale, however, Reverend Ebenezer Gay was the Minister in Suffield from 1742-1796, and during this

Windsor.Locks.Journal.5.29.1885.pdf copy.jpg

Windsor Locks Journal, 1885. Written by trusted town historian, with first hand source from Ebenezer Gay’s Granddaughter

time he purchased his slaves. I am looking into where the Dutch ships originated from, especially trying to find the origin of Rose Gay, who had a tattoo on her back that suggested royalty. Rose Gay went on to marry Titus Kent, another slave belonging to the wealthy Kent family of Suffield. During our research we found, by looking through old war documents, monuments and lists, that Titus Kent fought in the Revolutionary War along with Elihu Kent and Elihu Kent Jr. We are still uncertain whether Titus got his freedom after the war, but we found records of applications for his pension. What is interesting about these documents is that they are not filed so that Titus himself could have retrieved his pension. They are filed so that other people could get his pension.  While we are very interested in your documentation regarding slaves sold in Middletown, we are also wondering if you came across and documents regarding slaves being granted their freedom after fighting in the Revolutionary War?

Browne Plantation

 

In my first blog, I wrote about Godfrey Malbone who, owning a 3000 acres farm in Pomfret, Ct with 27 slaves, was long thought to be the largest slave owner in Connecticut. However, during my research, I found out about an even larger plantation located in Salem, CT (“in what was then Lyme” CT). This plantation was 13,000 acres, had 60 slave families, and was owned by a wealthy Salem, Mass., merchant, Col. Samuel Browne.  Browne never lived on the land, but he hired overseers. He rented out large tracts but retained about 4,000 acres for himself that passed to his son and then his grandson.

slavery

Picture of Gerald Sawyer

 

The site of Browne’s plantation is being explored by archeologists from Central Connecticut State University, and the lead researcher is Gerald Sawyer.

 

“For perspective on the Salem plantation, Sawyer refers to new research done by anthropologist Robert Fitts in southern Rhode Island, an area better known for having had slave plantations. Combing Colonial records, Fitts found that most Rhode Island plantations had fewer than a dozen slaves, numbers similar to those in Virginia’s famed Tidewater region and that only three had as many as 19 slaves.

Sawyer’s excavations of the Salem plantation have unearthed artifacts believed to be from “known African-American ritual practice” and burial customs.

Sources:

Lang, Joel. “Chapter One: The Plantation Next Door.” Courant.com. N.p., 12 July 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. <http://www.courant.com/news/special-reports/hc-plantation.artsep29-story.html&gt;.

Schwartz, Sydney. “Yankee Slavery.” Archaeology Archive. Volume 54, Number 5, September/October 2001.  

Photo Credit:  http://archive.archaeology.org/image.php?page=0109/