Category Archives: Suffield

Black Codes: 1731 Document from Suffield Town Records

Suffield Academy’s American Studies class learned from Hezekiah Spencer Sheldon’s May 1885 Windsor Locks Journal article that colonial Africans were buried in the northwest corner of Suffield’s first churchyard, which is the Old Center Cemetery. While trying to learn why colonial Africans were buried in the northwest corner, the class found the following vote in Suffield’s Town Record Book.

Many towns in the Connecticut River Valley had similar practices for colonial Africans. Do you know of any other records that shed light on this colonial custom in Suffield? Please connect with the display case’s blog: http://amielpzakdisplay.wordpress.com and create a comment.

In the recently published African American Connecticut Explored, which is a collection of essays, Tamara Verrett’s essay explains the origins of the Talcott Church in Hartford. African Americans in the early nineteenth century were tired of sitting in galleries and began gathering on their own in the conference room of the First Church of Christ, now Center Church in Hartford. From these meetings emerged the Talcott Church, the first African American Church in Hartford.

Below is an image of the Suffield’s Town Record Book entry for May 17th, 1731. This is a transcription of the 12th entry:

12th. Voted, to allow ye [the] masters of negroes, and free negroes, a liberty to, for them to make a seat for s [said] Negroes at ye [the] Norwest corner of ye [the] Meeting House, upon ye beams.

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Reverend Calvin Philleo: Suffield Resident, Family Man, and Born Abolitionist

After being informed that there was a dark chapter to the life of Calvin Wheeler Philleo that we had missed, we pressed on with our research and found three possible books of interest that could illuminate the lives of Prudence Crandall and her husband Calvin.

(1) The Fillow, Philo and Philleo genealogy. A record of the descendants of John Fillow, a Huguenot refugee from France

The excerpt below contains information about Rev. Calvin Philleo the Husband of Prudence Crandall. It gives us insight into his family, origins, and a brief snapshot of his life.


The excerpt below contains the vital information concerning Rev. Calvin Philleo’s only son, Calvin Wheeler Philleo. Calvin Wheeler is of Rev. Calvin’s first marriage to Elizabeth Wheeler, and not the child of Prudence Crandall. From the third book, we examine (below) the marriage between Rev. Calvin and Prudence Crandall resulted from Calvin’s wish for a mother to his three children from the previous marriage (many of Prudence Crandall’s friends and William Lloyd Garrison disapproved of the union between the Reverend and Prudence)**See Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

Link to book by Van Hoosear, D. H. (David Hermon), b. 1844


A record of the marriage between Calvin Wheeler and Elizabeth. P. Norton which we extracted from the Town of Suffield’s public archives.

Suffield, November Seventh, Eighteen Hundred and Forty Nine.  Calvin W. Philleo and Elizabeth P Norton…officially joined in Marriage by me.  [name]…Minister of the Gospel


We are beginning to construct a family tree of the descendants of Rev. Calvin Philleo based upon the records we have at our disposal.

(2) Calvin’s Own Writing

While diving deeper into the life’s work of Rev. Calvin Philleo we discovered that his son, Calvin Wheeler, also was an excellent public speaker and an author. “He commenced a serial entitled ‘Akin by Marriage’ and “Twice Married: A story of Connecticut Life” (Hoosear, 114). Hopefully, within these writings, we can find more details about the life of his father, and his father’s second wife, Prudence. Pictured below is the cover as the book is published!

ISBN 13: 9781363631391

As of today [2/23/19], we have not yet managed to secure our own copy of this book for our research but we will update this segment with a synopsis and takeaways when we do.


(3) Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

ISBN-13: 978-0819576460

Prudence Crandall’s Legacy, written by Donald E. Williams, is a work that we, in our American Studies class, have become well versed in. It documents the life of Prudence Crandall, her struggles and successes, but it also provides a unique perspective on the relationship and influence between Crandall and her husband Calvin.

Takeaways:

The following are takeaways and important quotes taken from our in-class collaboration regarding the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:

  • “She was in name Prudence Philleo, but in every other respect she lived as Prudence Crandall, making her own decisions and earning her own keep” (Williams, 237)
  • “Education offered the potential for opportunity, self-sufficiency, even freedom, especially for women, blacks, and the poor. Crandall discovered, however, that educating the oppressed involved risk and clashed with deep-rooted traditions in American society.” (Williams, 1)
  • “More important, Garrison finally saw the school in action; students were learning their lessons assisted by devoted teachers such as William Burleigh, Prudence, and Almira. To see the realization of Crandall’s efforts- a true working school for young black women- and to know it existed in part because of his work with Crandall and his advocacy in the Liberator was deeply moving for Garrison.” (Williams, 150)

From the Seneca Baptist Association, our class has uncovered documents about some of the Rev. Philleo’s accomplishments in Suffield:

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Driving Questions:

What were the emotional dimensions to the marriage of Prudence Crandall and Rev. Philleo?

  • We know a large part of their marriage agreement was that Rev. Philleo needed a mother for his three kids. Was this the only reason they married or was there more to their marriage?
  • We also know from the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy that many of her friends and William Lloyd Garrison did not approve of their relationship. Did anybody support their marriage? Other friends? Family members?

Prudence Crandall is the primary educator of Sarah Harris at the school she sets up, has the historical record forgotten her legacy as a teacher? 

  • Has her legacy as an educator become clouded by her high profile court cases and her relationship troubles?
  • Is the fact that Sarah Harris desired to one day be an educator the only reason Prudence taught her?
  • Why did Prudence persevere with her school after all the public backlash she faced?

What did the Rev. Calvin’s son address the town of Suffield about in 1856? 

  • We know this was a big election year, could his address possibly have anything to do with this?

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Female Teachers at Connecticut Literary Institution at Suffield of 1846

The following information comes from the Catalog for the Connecticut Literary Institution at Suffield of 1846. Several teachers are listed as “Female teachers.” The list is all women but we don’t know if they taught the women or both women and men. It is interesting that they earned less than men and they didn’t work for many years. The least paid men earn about 400 dollars. The highest paid man earned 700 dollars. The average woman earned 500 dollars. In today’s dollars that would be 11,573 dollars. Teachers were not paid well at Connecticut Literary Institution. There are also assistant teachers. We don’t know what assistants did compared to full teachers. It doesn’t seem like many teachers compared to today.

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