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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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Digging into Thaddeus Leavitt’s Historical Records

Working in a project-based learning environment, our class was challenged to investigate colonial times in Suffied. In 1773, The Boston Tea Party split the colonies into factions. The year after the Tea Party, 1774, was called America’s “Pivotal Year.” Judging from our research so far, our local town of Suffield participated in this national pivot as well. Mum Bett, a Massachusetts slave gained her independence that year, which was a turning point for slaves in gaining their independence in Connecticut. Our class is researching

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Thaddeus Leavitt’s house built in 1800s

if Suffield’s population supported the patriots. Also, what did these effects have on Suffield’s four individual slaves, what was their lives like? Our class collaborates and comes up with different evidence and stories to support our claims. So far, I have looked into Mum Bett’s Massachusetts’s case and how she gained her independence by using the argument that her freedom was a “constitutional right.” I then decided that Connecticut slaves heard about her independence by the word of mouth, and it must have been a trend. I then took a jump and started researching Thaddeus Leavitt’s connection to the New London Port. Reading his diaries, I found out he was an extremely wealthy man who had a boat that transported goods from the New London Port from here to the West Indies. This meant that he was part of the triangle trading system, which is very prominent. Now, I want to start researching what types of goods he transported, and what distributor he had. I also would like to know what slaves he owned, if any. Digging into Leavitt’s life would potentially open a lot of doors for our research. Researching in depth about Leavitt’s life I did not find exactly what I thought I would. I was researching whether or not Leavitt owned slaves, which was a lot more difficult then I assumed it was. I still did not find any evidence that he did own slaves, but I found this claim from an article,

“Slavery was common throughout the Connecticut River Valley during the eighteenth century, and the 1774 Census for the Colony of Connecticut listed 37 slaves in Suffield. Throughout the Connecticut valley, wealthy merchants, tavern owners and town ministers owned slaves.” (1)

Considering that Thaddeus was a wealthy merchant, it is assumed that Thaddeus owned a family slave, yet our research showed that he did not own slaves according to the 1790s census. Another interesting thing that I found was that Thaddeus was also an inventor. He invented an early improved version of a “Cotton Gin.” By definition, a cotton gin is “a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for much greater productivity than manual cotton separation.” (2)

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Thaddeus Leavitt’s drawing of an early improved version of a cotton gin.

This makes me realize that in fact, Leavitt was a very successful businessman and was very intelligent. He helped invented a machine to make his business ahead of everyone else, and was smart enough to write in a diary for everyone else to hear. Later down the road, this machine made Leavitt become a familiar man to people across seas, which made trade a lot easier for him. The last thing was his diary. Although I have read his diaries before, I never realized that he wrote down different receipts, or instructions for things. This gives me a better idea of how what he was learning he probably learned it through trade or networking with people outside of his town. Receipts for “taking film off a horses eyes” or “a cure for a Cancer” told me that Thaddeus Leavitt was not alone; he had a whole network behind him. To further my research, I will start to research his family and their settlements in Ohio and how the family position’s Suffield’s wealth in the early 19th century, which involved real estate venture in the west. In an article I was reading, it read that “Thaddeus Leavitt and Suffield businessmen Oliver Phelps (then the largest landowner in America), Gideon Grander, Luther Loomis and Asahel Hatheway owned between them one quarter of all the lands assigned to Connecticut in the Western Reserve.” (4+5) This combined wealth encourages our class to look into these families more. On my next HOT Log, that is what I will be digging into!

Sources:

  1. “WikiVisually.com.” WikiVisually. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Thaddeus_Leavitt>.
  2. WikiVisually.com.” WikiVisually. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Cotton_gin>.
  3. “Leavitt Diary Page 21.” Leavitt Diary Page 21. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://www.suffield-library.org/history/leavitt/page21.htm&gt;.
  4. American Journal of Education (1855–1882), Vol. VI, Henry Barnard (ed.), Printed by F. C. Brownell, Hartford, Ct., 1859
  5. Jump up 
^ J. Hammond Trumbull (1886). The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, 1633-1884. BiblioLife LLC.

Essential Information for our Investigation.

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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.

 

Sources:

  1. https://archive.org/stream/documentaryhisto00shel#page/22/mode/2up/search/harry+roco
  2. http://www.hsgct.org
  3. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/j-hammond-james-hammond-trumbull/the-memorial-history-of-hartford-county-connecticut-1633-1884-volume-2-mur/page-46-the-memorial-history-of-hartford-county-connecticut-1633-1884-volume-2-mur.shtml
  4. http://cupola.gettysburg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=ghj