When searching the archives for information on women in sports at Suffield Academy, I came across a 1974 issue of The Bell. Dennis Kinne, the athletic director at the time, reached out to the female students, offering them opportunities to participate in male teams such as track & field and cross country. This is very interesting, especially when comparing this historical moment to Suffield Academy’s athletics today. With women very integrated in our culture today, both athletically and academically. I am interested in finding out more about how women integrated into the athletic aspects of life at Suffield Academy. There must have been certain issues and challenges that Suffield Academy had to overcome involving athletic integration that would be very cool to discover and bring to light. Researching this topic will also bring to light the issues of gender equality present during the 1970’s, and I am very interested in comparing that to Suffield today. Another aspect of Suffield Academy’s history that I am interested in learning about is title IX and how it affected the athletics teams. Did Suffield lose any teams or gain any teams after title IX was enacted? This is an aspect I am hoping to learn about along with co-educational teams becoming competitive on campus.
The Bureau of Investigations, later known as the FBI, was a critical tool for the United States in counterintelligence during World War I, especially after the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was used to stop interference with the military, preventing insubordination in the military, and preventing support of the enemies of the United States during the war. Any person who conveyed information that was intended to interfere with the U.S. war effort or promoting the success of enemies was subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. In one famous case, Eugene Debs made a speech criticizing the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. These acts were stopped around the country by the Bureau of Investigations and one occurrence even happened right here in Suffield. In a declassified report from the Bureau of Investigations, the investigating officers detail this occurrence in Suffield. A fairly successful tobacco farmer of West Suffield, CT, Ewald Wever, discouraged many people in his tobacco warehouse not to buy the second Liberty Loans. He told the people that they would just lose their money because soon the Germans would be ruling over the United States. There were at least two people, who before talking to Mr. Wever, wanted to buy the Liberty Loans, but after talking to Mr. Wever, they decided against doing so because of the way that he talked about them. When Mr. Wever was later asked to buy some Liberty Loans, his response was that he had no money. This was obviously not true since it was well known to everyone around he was a quite wealthy man. Our research so far shows that Mr. Wever had a tendency to be pro-German as he was born in Germany before becoming a United States citizen. Once while in Springfield, MA, Mr. Wever refused to stand for the National Anthem until a fellow resident forced him to stand. Mr. Wever’s actions caught the attention of the FBI thanks to a tip from Charles Bissell, who has a strong connection to the Suffield School. The FBI followed up with Mr. Wever and their desired action is unknown.
Based on 1920 Census, Mr. Wever lived in West Suffield, CT, was from Germany and was sixty-two years old. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the tobacco warehouse that Mr. Wever managed was called the “Kaiser & Boasberg plantation,” which consisted of two warehouses, one where the women sort the shade-grown tobacco and the other where the men sort the Havana seed leaf. He lived with his wife and one of his sons and one of his daughters. The family also had a maid who lived with them, which shows that they were financially strong. While doing research on Mr. Wever through Ancestry.com, it was revealed that he had a total of four children with his wife. We continue to research the family of Mr. Wever and are looking to see if there are any direct relatives of him. We will also look into if Mr. Wever and Mr. Bissell were economic rivals, which may have prompted Mr. Bissell to report Mr. Wever. It was known that Mr. Bissell made money in tobacco, therefore this could give him a reason to report Mr. Wever. As we continue to look into new leads, look into acts of espionage in your own town.
During the 1910’s and 1920’s, African Americans participated in the Great Migration, and Connecticut served as a safe area where “Negroes” migrated to after leaving southern areas, such as, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, according to our research. This historic event changed Connecticut’s landscape forever and was etched into history as “The Great Migration.” While Georgia was the main area that most of the African American people migrated from, other states such as Florida and Virginia also saw a large decrease in African American population during this time. Other Caribbean countries like Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands also had populations that were part of the Great Migration as most of their population was dispersed throughout the northern states in the US, with Connecticut being one of the most popular. This information can be tracked by comparing the 1920 US Census to the 1910 US Census. A census is defined as, “an official count or survey of a population, typically recording various details and statistics of all individuals inside the US.” The 1920 census shows a bar graph of the increase of the African American population in the northern and western states between 1910 and 1920. The north saw a 26.6% increase in their African American population as it changed from a mere 16.7% to a whopping 43.3%. The total amount of African American’s in the northern states in 1920 was 1,472,309. Connecticut counted for 21,046 naturally born African American citizens, and the Hartford region alone counted for 4,199 of that total population. The 1920 census does not list individual cities and towns, but instead graphs the regions of the state. This means that all Suffield information and statistics are included in the Hartford region of the bar graphs.
*Graph from the 1920 census showing the population of Negroes in the Northern states during this time*
Censuses also list other valuable information besides just the populations of specific areas. When government officials are asking for information for the census, they also ask questions like, “What is your average source of income?” Due to the effect of the Great War, Connecticut actually saw a dramatic increase in their salaries and wages between 1914-1919. This was largely due to the fact that industrial changes needed to be made in order to accommodate the production needed for the war. From the information that government officials receive from the census, they are easily able to calculate other valuable information just from the population. For example, they are able to tell the difference in gender varying from state to state. In the US as a whole, there were more female African Americans than there were male African Americans, specifically 5,253,695 people to 5,209,436 people respectively.
*Graph from the 1920 census showing the population of Negroes in Connecticut regions during this time*
When researching the 1920 census in Suffield, I took the time to target individual people, specifically African Americans who migrated from southern states to Suffield, CT. Two of the people that I found, Virginia Rice and Barbara Jesse, were originally born in Georgia and then migrated to Virginia, before meeting with the same family that claimed them and brought them to Suffield. Interestingly enough, the family that claimed Virginia Rice and Barbara Jesse in 1920 was the headmaster at Suffield Academy, Hobart Truesdell. Virginia Rice is listed as a servant in the 1920 census meaning she worked for the headmaster presumably performing whatever duty for which she was tasked with; perhaps she was a maid. Barbara Jesse is listed as a boarder in the 1920 census, which is strange because a boarder is usually as student and it is uncommon for a student to be living in the headmaster’s house, especially if she was attending the Suffield School. This could be some sort of scholarship type reward or based off a distant family connection to the headmaster. I will continue to investigate her situation more.
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,
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.
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.
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.