Category Archives: US History

Essential Information for our Investigation.


My class and I are investigating what happened in Suffield during the pivotal year of 1774. history of Suffield, Connecticut. Because the Boston Tea Party was a turning point for the colonies and their frustration with Parliament, we are trying to see how conversations of freedom and slavery were inspired by these events.
In response to the Boston Tea Party (1773), Parliament drafted the the Coercive Acts in 1774, and residents throughout the thirteen colonies protested these acts in various ways. For instance, our class first studied the western Massachusetts town of Sheffield, and learned that Colonel Ashley hosted citizens at his house; this group composed the Sheffield Resolves. Interestingly, we learned that one of his slaves, Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was inspired by these conversations of protest and later sued successfully for her own freedom, Brom and Bett v. Ashley (1781). We are now trying to find out what happened in Suffield during the pivotal year of 1774. What part of the population supported the growing patriot cause in Boston? What portion of citizens accepted the dictates of the British Parliament and refused to petition King George III? Who was neutral?

To begin our historical investigation, it is important for us to know more about the founding of Suffield as well as some of the traditions and attitudes of freedom and slavery. 

Suffield is a town in Hartford County. In fact, Suffield was called Southfield until 1674 because it being the southernmost town, that is why in some documents Southfield is referred to our well-known Suffield. (3)

Some people’s reaction to the Boston Tea Party was excitement for the future and some people viewed it as an act of vandalism. The reactions across the American colonies were mixed. Most people did want a peaceful revolution. People just wanted to have a productive trading relationship with England. They did not necessarily want to pay direct taxes levied by

parliament and the government. People of America would have been much more comfortable paying taxes to their local legislatures.

Connecticut, as a part of the thirteen original colonies, responded to the Boston Tea Party and the upcoming events. The day after the Tea Party took place, Connecticut had thrown its full weight behind the neighbors to the north, and was willing to do all CT could to support Boston.

Connecticut, based on the data, supported the loyalists. At the outbreak of the war, Connecticut consisted of six counties and 72 townships. According to the census of 1774, throughout these counties and townships, there existed some 25,000 males between the ages of 16 and 50, of whom about 2,000 identified themselves as Tories. (4) Nowhere was the presence of these individuals stronger than in the southwestern portion of the state, particularly in Fairfield County. (2) However, the question is: did Suffield? What part of the population supported the growing patriot cause in Boston? Was the number of African-American effected in any way? I am looking forward to see what my classmates find in order to solve this part of the puzzle.

Slavery was common during the 18th century. We have colony of CT Census proving that in 1774 there were 37 slaves in Suffield.  The slaves were owned by wealthy merchants, tavern owners, Tobacco farm owners and town ministers and other influential people in town. We know that major John Pynchon had at least two slaves, Harry and Rocco, which means that other influential people of Suffield had slaves. (1) Suffield’s third minister, Reverend Ebenezer Devotion owned six slaves during this time period 1742-1796. Reverend Ebenezer Gay Jr. manumitted the family three remaining slaves in 1812. They were Titus, Ginny and Dinah. If we will be able to find out the names of people who had the most money in the town, we will be a step closer to solve this puzzle to find the right people who lived in Suffield in 1974. Using our deduction skills, we will dig deeper and deeper and eventually we will discover something that has been a secret for a while.

With the help of the Suffield Town Library, we have the access to the list of the earliest families of Suffield. By figuring out the century and what part of that century these people used to live, we would be able to tell who had slaves and then find out the names of all the thirty seven slaves lived in town in 1774.




Florence and David Ruggles – The Connection to UGRR


David Rugg;es

After reading various online source, I learned that David Ruggles lived as a legend in the UGRR movements without being reported in our history book. The fact that he sued the railroad company at the time when racism filled the culture and when most people would not help him, nevertheless he sustained a sense and reason of being right or wrong. Although he has lost the case, his actions give us an indication of the courage with which he lived his life. Before David Ruggles build up his connection with the utopian community in today’s Florence, he lived in New York City where he opened the nation’s first African-American bookstore. He tends to be the savior of many African American slaves to acquire their freedom, theses people include Frederick Douglass. Regard to his actions so far, what he has done was significant and his determination as a abolitionist is unshakable. His courage for an abolitionism and made him stand at the front line of UGRR to bring freedom to fugitive Africans was significant since he had operated before the Civil War and therefore slavery was a serious deal and he could got into trouble, even death by doing so. After David Ruggles, a guy named Basil Dorsey as a escaped slave, joined the Florence community from escaping his way out of Maryland, helped develop the UGRR and further more extended what David Ruggles didn’t have time and energy to achieve due to his injury to his body and eyes, which he experienced while protesting UGRRs.


David Ruggles and Northampton Association

David Ruggles

David Ruggles, born in 1810 and passed away in 1849, was an abolitionist in Brooklyn, New York, who resisted slavery and participated in the Underground Railroad. David Ruggles is one of the overlooked figures, and he was actually the really important in the history of the Underground Railroad. He was anearly abolitionist in America. As an activist, writer, publisher, and hydrotherapist, Ruggles strived for African Americans’ freedom in variety of ways. He salvaged more than six hundred people, including Frederick Douglass. He was even a mentor of Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and William Cooper Nell to teach them the skills of antislavery activism. As a founder of the New York Committee of Vigilance, Ruggles inspired many upstate New York and New England whites, who allied with him to form a network which became the Underground Railroad.

In 1842, a utopian community called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry was created in Florence, MA. Founders of the group, abolitionists, farmers, and silk manufactures, supported William Lloyd Garrison and the immediate abolition of slavery and wanted to participate together with others who had these beliefs. This attracted David Ruggles to get involved in this community because the community planned an egalitarian enterprise around silk manufacturing. Silk was both practical and ideological, and it did not depend on slavery. This movement protests against cotton industry, which requires a lot of labor force of slaves. By growing silk, a plant similar to cotton, they wanted to show that growing cotton is unnecessary, and therefore, owning slaves is also pointless.

Further Investigation on Hanchett

As a class, we have found much information about Oliver Hanchett, about his family, his archives, and the case they fought for to in order to get Flora back. Our initial investigation started with an evil portrait of this man in our minds since everything we read about him was negative and he was fighting for a slavery case in the North at the time that we learn the Northern states to be “free”. Even though we brought the negative feelings about him into our researches, we started to realize that he has done much positive and just things in the past. For example, he served as a Captain in the Revolutionary Army, and a police officer after his military career. These are all positive characters of his career; therefore, there was something happened that dragged him to be an evil person judged by historical viewpoint that tried to fight back a slave during the abolition period, or it was because we learned the history from the biased point of view and put this evil tag on him? Only further investigation with the aid of CT State Library about Oliver Hanchett’s life can connect all these things together. We simply cannot make a judgement based on the information we have now. Whether the history point of view was biased or not, one thing tends to be very clear – Flora is a very important slave for him, or there is something Flora held very important for him. Since he hired the best lawyer at the time – Theodore Sedgwick to fight the case over state court. The cost of hiring the best lawyer in the area is ultrahigh due to scarcity of this man’s skill on the court. On top of that, the lawyer himself is an abolition-minded lawyer, which indicates either Hanchett payed even higher price for him to fight the case, or there are something else that’s untold without having slavery involved about this case. It is far too early to draw a conclusion on investigation on Hanchett since I regard as him the most significant figure in this case.

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)


Researching and Understanding Hanchett’s War Experience


Image Source:

As we delve deeper into Hanchett’s Revolutionary War record, we should keep in mind that he left Suffield as a Lieutenant on his way to the Lexington Alarm. When he left with Arnold for the wilderness campaign to invade Canada and siege Quebec, he was a captain. Several accounts that I have read explain that higher ranking officers met with captains to discuss how best to move forward given the problems that the soldiers had with maps, weather, and faulty boats. So that puts our figure right in the heart of discussions! Also note during this long march to Quebec how other Connecticut troops abandoned the march. Can we find out how that affected other troops who continued on with the fight? Read this article to get an overview. Remember, Wikipedia is a good gateway to the topic. Let’s also reflect on how this article can be improved; we will do that revision work with my Wikipedia account (I have some digital “cred” with this organization).

Also review this article as we want to learn the battle from Arnold’s point of view, which was also Hanchett’s point of view. In both situations, utilize critical cross referencing skills and explore a few sources.

Roger Enos is an interesting figure for us to understand how he chose the opposite of Hanchett and retreated. How does his path juxtapose with Arnold and Hanchett’s? What happened to his life after that decision? Note, too, how he was older and a veteran of the French and Indian War; we’ll also show you in class how he was connected to another famous Suffield veteran of that war. Check out this link to reflect on a larger text that might help us understand Hanchett’s role: