Tag Archives: Suffield

George Washington, His Visit and Impact on Suffield

Today in class we found an excerpt from the book called The Biography of a Town by one of our town’s historians, Robert Hayden Alcorn. This book gives us a history of Suffield, Connecticut from 1670-1970. Towards the beginning of the book on page 80 there is a page that mentions George Washington’s two visits. He came to Suffield in 1775 and 1789. On both occasions, he traveled up from Windsor and continued on to Springfield, MA. In 1775, we learned that he addressed Suffield’s residents across from the Austin tavern and under the town’s two sentinel elms. In this image of an excerpt from Alcorn’s history,

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Excerpt from  Alcorn’s The Biography of a Town

we also found another letter (primary source) regarding Mary Austin (Seth Austin’s wife) who wrote to Washington in 1789 about the Austin Tavern receiving counterfeit money from a man named Jonas Mace, who apparently made a very good career by counterfeiting money. She wrote to Washington asking for help to see if he could save them. She writes: “Necessity is my only apology for addressing a Gentleman of your dignified Merit—Having no alternative; you will excuse me…” In this letter she said her household and tavern had about twenty people living there, and they were very low on money and in much distress. I believe that these twenty people must have included the five slaves that my classmate discovered on the 1790s census.  This fact rings true with how we learned that ministers and tavern owners owned slaves throughout the Connecticut River Valley.

The webpage Founder Online, published by the National Archives, supports our claim that George Washington had lunch at the Austin Tavern in 1775 when he was passing through on his way to take control of the Continental Army in Cambridge. This letter that Mary writes was written after the war.

Source: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-03-02-0322

Dr. Alexander King Insight into 1774

Our Suffield Academy Project Base Learning class has been researching 1774 relating to slavery and freedom in Connecticut, and more specifically Suffield. In my last blog post I mentioned my research on two of Suffield’s founding families; the King family and the Austin family. I was interested in their families’ relation to slavery and their opinions on freedom. I discovered they were minutemen and fought for freedom, but I wanted to know more. Through my research I came across Dr. Alexander King’s diaries. This primary source is very important, as Dr. King was the town’s doctor. Thus he was often traveling around and very aware of what was going on. His detailed diary entries discuss the town’s emotions and opinions surrounding the events in the colonies. The topic of conflict arises

in 1773 after the Boston Tea Party. King describes on May 12th, 1774, that four ships arrived in Boston and locked down the port on behalf of Parliament to stop all traffic except for provisions and fuel, until Boston payed for the tea they dumped over. The Colonies were greatly alarmed by this, and the Ct General Assembly met to discuss resolutions related to American Liberty. King was a part of the General Assembly and provides information on their meetings and their discussions on freedom. The General Assembly met again on October 3rd, 1774 to pass an act prohibiting the importation of slaves. This is very important to our topic of slavery and freedom as it provides an insight to the colonies views on slavery and how they were going about fighting it in 1774. King also describes the people in America growing extremely angry and ready to take up arms to fight for liberty. “The mobish temper was so high that it is dangerous for a moderate man to manifest his opinion” (Page 9 1774). This provides insight into the Colonies coming together to prepare to fight and their strong will to stay free and independent. To continue my research, I hope to look into the General Assembly further and their stance on freedom, while hopefully finding more primary sources.

 

http://www.suffield-library.org/history/king/king1776/diaryking1776.htm

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