In 1995 I published my first book 'Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut.' My original intention was for it to be used as an educational resource. This is an online companion site that I've created, especially for those of you utilizing online resources and smartphones. I've also included additional items and news articles not found in the 1995 edition. Jeffrey Bingham Mead, Historian and Author. October 13, 2014.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chapter 1: Will Ye Even Sell Your Brethren? (1995 Printed Edition)

"The very idea of becoming a Land or Sea Pirate, to capture Human Beings to sell into Slavery to American Slave Masters fills the mind with Horror.”

Shubal Brush (1801-1864) From a debate address delivered circa 1850.

It is an amazing thought that over the course of the first two hundred years of Connecticut's history as both a colony and a state in a representative republic slavery existed  at all. For those who kept slaves the employment of such labor, as well  as the mind-set which permitted it, was no more questionable than owning farm animals and other forms of chattel property. The relationship between slave and master was fundamentally flawed in the cause of American independence was the most distinguishing contradiction in a newly-born republic exalting the merits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A registered sale of a slave involving an exchange of money is indicated in the  Greenwich Town Clerk's Land Records, Volume 9, Page 27. The deed is dated March 5, 1761. 

In part the transfer of ownership states that "I David Mead Snr of Greenwich in the County of Fairfield and Colony of Connecticut for and in consideration of the sum of Eighty Pounds New York money to me in Hand paid before ye Delivery hereof by my Son David Mead Jnr., of the said Greenwich...By these presents have Given Granted Bargained and Sold unto him the said David Mead Jnr and to his Heirs and Assigns for Ever one certain Negro Boy Fourteen Years of Age Called Jack by Name..."

Manuscript Recording of the Sale of Jack by David Mead Sr. to David Mead Jr. 

Only a minority of the heads of families in the Town of Greenwich retained slaves. The maintaining of slave laborers was never widespread. Reverend Ebenezer Dibble, Episcopal minister of Saint John's Parish, Stamford, stated in a letter to the Colonial Assembly in Hartford dated March 25, 1762 that the population of Greenwich consisted of 2,021 whites and 52 blacks. (1) 

In the year 1774 Greenwich had 2,654 whites and 122 blacks. (2)  How many of the blacks were free or slave is not known. 

In 1790 the first Federal Census was carried out. The census lists the total population of the Town of Greenwich at 3,175. Out of this number, 49 individuals in Greenwich held 80 slaves. 

1790 Census: Name of Slave Owner and Number of Slaves (3)
Anderson, Jeremiah: 1

Banks, Elizabeth (widow): 1
Bay, Thomas: 2
Belcher, Dr. Elisha: 1
Brown, Nehemiah: 1
Brush, Benjamin: 1
Bush, David: 8
Bush, Samuel: 4
Bush, William: 1
Coe, Jonathan: 1
Fitch, Colonel Jabez: 1
Green, John: 1
Hobby, Benjamin: 1
Hobby, Ebenezer: 2
Hobby, John: 2
Hobby, Joseph, Jr.: 2
Hobby, Mills: 1
Husted, Abraham: 1
Husted, Moses, Jr.: 7
Joyce, Sarah (widow): 1
Knapp, Israel: 3
Knapp, Jonathan: 1
Lewis, Reverend Isaac: 1
Lyon, James III: 1
Mead, Andrew: 1
Mead, Amos: 4
Mead, Benjamin: 1
Mead, Elkanah: 1
Mead, Jared: 4
Mead, John: 1
Mead, Jonah: 1
Mead, Joshua: 1
Mead, Nathaniel: 2
Mead, Titus: 1
Merritt, Nathan: 1
Merritt, Nathan, Jr.: 3
Mills, Samuel: 1
Palmer, Messenger: 2
Peck, Isaac: 1
Pine, Samuel: 1
Pughby, Samuel: 1
Reynolds, Joseph: 1
Sackett, Justus: 1
Seymore, Samuel: 1
Simmons, Jeremiah (widower): 2
Seward, Reverend William: 1
Wilson, Jotham: 1
Wilson, Nehemiah: 1


Prior to the year 1853 most probate matters concerning the Town of Greenwich were carried out in neighboring Stamford. Some of the wills and estate inventories are unambiguous in referring to the disposition of slaves and provide the most graphic evidence of the status of African slaves as legal personal property of the deceased masters. 

Bush Holley House, former home of David Bush. Today it is the headquarters of the Greenwich Historical Society.
The upper story of the back wing extending to the left was the slaves quarters. 

David Bush died on May 8, 1797. At the time of his death he was the largest single owner of slaves and Greenwich's wealthiest businessman. He lived in what is called the Bush-Holley House today, the headquarters of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich since 1957. 

A closeup of the back wing of Bush Holley House. The lower story was the kitchen;
the upper story was the slaves quarters. 

It is surmised that these slaves worked as household servants, farm hands and on the docks at the Cos Cob Landing located just across the street. In those days this was the commercial center of the town where boats docked and businessmen, farmers and others gathered. The Bush farm in Cos Cob covered an area of 35 acres.

This is a permanent exhibit of the slaves quarters inside Bush Holley House, Greenwich. 

Mr. Bush's last will and testament as well as his estate inventory were extensive. He never emancipated any of his slaves, deciding instead to bequeath them to other family members. To his widow Sarah he conveyed "my negro girls Patience and Phillis...also during the time my said Wife shall continue my widow I will that my negro man Cull shall live with her as her slave." (4)

In addition to these bequests David Bush also imparted "to my said daughter Fanny her heirs and assigns my black girl Candice, to my daughter Charlotte my black girl Mille, to my daughter Grace my black girl Rose.” (5)

The estate inventory of David Bush, (6) dated June 13, 1797, catalogues his slaves and their "appraised" values, which amounted to $624 in total:

Negro Man        Jubeter            150 Dollars
      "   boy         Charles            120 Dollars
      "   girl          Candis              70 Dollars
      "     "            Peggy               50 Dollars
      "     "            Millie               30 Dollars
      "     "            Rose                 20 Dollars
      "     "            Lucy                   2 Dollars
      "     "            Patience              7 Dollars
      "     "            Phillis               50 Dollars
      "   man         Cull                 125 Dollars

When Moses Husted, Jr. (Also spelled Heusted) passed away in November, 1795 he bequeathed his slaves to Lucy, his widow. From the Proceedings of the Probate District of Stamford “8 negroes” were assessed at 120 Pounds by Isaac Howe and Nathaniel Mead, appraisers of Mr. Husted's real and personal estate. (7)

His widow, Lucy, died July 30, 1796. The last items listed in the inventory of her personal estate registers "two Negro men & two Negro girls and one Negro child.” (8) Mrs. Husted did not have any children.

From the list of debts against the estate of the widow Lucy Husted the amount of 9 Shillings was paid to "Jeffry, a Negroman.” (9) The entry does not elaborate on the reason for this payment. 

Mrs. Husted's will also stipulated that her slaves were to be set free- with one exception. A particular clause states the following provisions regarding one slave named Cesar:

Item: I Give and bequeath to Major Brown son of my sd sister Sophiah Brown, Dec'd or to sd Sophiah Marshall my negro man Cesar a slave for life, sd Cesar to have his Choice to live with wich he Pleases and the Person with whoom he chooses to live is given & bequeathed twenty Pounds New York money to be Paid by my executors (viz.) sd Major Brown or Sophiah with wich said Cesar chooses to live on condit either said Major or said Sophiah than I Give and bequeath said Cesar a Slave for life to any other of my sisters children or children of sd sister Sophiah brown Dec'd or to any other of my brother's Children with Whoom he is willing to go and live is to have the twenty Pounds above mentioned and it is my Will that no Person who shall take said Cesar as above mentioned shall sell said Cesar to any person….” (10) 

The slave Cesar went to live with Lucy Husted's nephew, Major Brown. He lived in the Nehemiah Brown House located next to the First Church of Round Hill. The following is an acknowledgement by Major Brown of his acceptance of Cesar and the 20 pounds: (11) 

This is to certify that I the subscriber Major Brown do acknowledge that I have rec'd of Joshua Purdy and Israel Peck executors of the last will and testament as master to serve for life. I therefore evidence promise and bind myself my heirs executors or administrators forever to support and maintain the said negro man Cesar during his life. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the seventh day of September Anno Domini 1796.
Signed & sealed In presence of
Reuben Holmes Junr.       
Major Brown (L.S.)
Deborah Mead
Rec'd to record December ye 27th AD 1796
And recorded by me  Jabez Fitch, Register 

An acknowledgement by the slave Cesar is recorded immediately following Major Brown's acceptance of this slave and the 20 pound payment from Lucy Husted's will. There is no explanation recorded in the Greenwich records to indicate the reason for the shift in ownership over emancipation. 

It is entirely possible that Ceasar was elderly and unable to provide for himself. Such a procedure was in fact permitted by Connecticut legal statutes held over from the colonial era. As early as 1702 it was mandated that should a master free a slave and the freedman or freedwoman became impoverished then the former master would then become responsible. This also included the former master's heirs and estate executors and administrators. 

In 1711 this procedure was expanded to include the selectmen of the town in the event a former master was unable to perform this duty. (12)

Cesar approved of this according to Greenwich land registers. (13) The following certificate was recorded:

This is to certify that I the subscriber Cesar a negroman do acknowledge before evidence that I make choice of Major Brown for my master to serve him for life agreeable to the will of my late mistress the widow Lucy Heusted late of Greenwich dec'd and desire that Joshua Purdy and Israel Peck executors of the last will & testament of the widow Lucy Heusted late of Greenwich dec'd do agree with the said Major Brown to accept of me the said negroman Cesar agreeable to my choice. In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal the seventh day of September Anno Domini 1796.

Signed Sealed in presence of
Reuben Holmes Junr.                                his
Deborah Mead                           Cesar X Negroman (L.S.) 

Rec'd to record December ye 27th AD 1796

And recorded by me  Jabez Fitch, Register

Major Brown died on September 8, 1847. His last will and estate inventory does not mention Cesar or any slaves. Cesar's own death date is not recorded. Speculation points to Burying Hill Cemetery as his final resting place. This is the oldest cemetery in Round Hill, and it is probable that his grave is marked among the anonymous plain fieldstone markers that dot this site. (14)

On the 9th day of April, 1810 another curious transaction was recorded in the land records. Daniel Smith of Stamford conveyed to a man named George Moore of Greenwich a black male child named George. George Moore may in fact be a former slave emancipated by Amos, Silas, Solomon, Abraham and Jared Mead, all heirs of the estate of Ebenezer Mead, in 1796. Mr. Moore agreed to accept the boy named George "untill he shall arrive to the age of Twenty one years....." (15)

Frederick A. Hubbard, author of his reminiscences entitled Other Days in Greenwich, offers a brief narrative regarding the probated will of Justus Sackett, which was written in 1815. Mr. Sackett, an officer  in the American Revolution, died on January 15, 1827. He left his son, Justus Sackett, Jr., the family's ancestral tall clock- and his black boy named Charles. (16) 

Marriages between slaves did occur though records are not abundant. Slaves could not marry without the consent of their respective masters. One such marriage took place in May, 1791 in Greenwich with Dr. Amos Mead officiating as Justice of the Peace. In Ledger #3 there is the following record: 

May, 1791. There were joined in marriage Obid, James Davenport's Negro man to Phillis, Mr. Titus Mead's Negro woman, by consent of their masters. (17)

In 1796 a married slave couple named Cornelius and Nelly were emancipated by Jabez Fitch, the date of their marriage and by whom a ceremony was performed. (18)

The burial places of slaves, in addition to the freedmen and freedwomen, is a point somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Union Cemetery is located off Milbank Avenue and is owned by the Second Congregational Church. Robert W. Mead, on November 2, 1851, deeded three acres of land to the Second Congregational Society to be used as a burial ground. (19) 

An excerpt from Spencer P. Mead's Abstract of Tombstones, Greenwich, Connecticut, pertaining to Lot #23
in Union Cemetery, Milbank Avenue, Second Congregational Church. 

There were several stipulations. According to the deed on file "Lot #23 to be free ground for the interment of people of said town and strangers, who may die in the town who are by reason of poverty unable to purchase a burial plot....the southerly part of said Lot #23...for the interment of people of color, and such portions as deemed advisable to be sold in burial lots to people of color at a rate not exceeding one cent the square foot. (20) 

The gravestone and final resting place of Candice (Candas) Bush, Union Cemetery,
Second Congregational Church, Greenwich, Connecticut. 

The only one of the emancipated slaves in Greenwich with a gravestone is Candice Bush, buried in Union Cemetery. Candice Bush died on August 11, 1859. 

Her daughter, Hester Bush Mead, is buried beside her. Hester's tombstone states that she passed away on March 2, 1864, aged 66 years. According to Hester Bush Mead's probated will, she directed her executor, former Greenwich Academy Principal Philander Button, "to Collect all my Just dues and pay all my just debts-to cause to be erected a good tomb stone over the grave of my Mother and also one for myself." (21)

Cull Bush, who was emancipated by the widow Sarah Bush, is buried in an unmarked plot in the same section of Union Cemetery. He died on March 24, 1876. (22)

This same section of Union Cemetery also contains the final resting places of numerous free black residents of the town dating from the early 19th century. 

A bit of history recounted by the late Mr. Milo Palmer of Cos Cob several years ago concerned a woman named Massy Pomroy. She is buried in the Palmer family cemetery in northern Cos Cob. Her gravestone says she was born March 8, 1742 and died on August 20, 1839. Family tradition holds that Miss Pomroy was either an indentured servant or an emancipated slave from outside Greenwich. Massy Pomroy died in her 97th year.

Among the ancient public cemeteries in Greenwich is the Old Burying Ground in Byram. Located off Byram Shore Road, this site may have originally been a Lyon family  plot. It contains the final resting places of many of the earliest settlers of the southwestern corner of the town. 

One of the most interesting mysteries pertaining to this site is the possibility that an age-old burial site for early slaves may exist here. A map in the town clerk's records delineates the borders of the Byram Cemetery and a "Colored Cemetery” located below a steep incline between the main burying ground and Byram Cove. (23)

As of yet no deed-related documentation has been unveiled establishing the date this cemetery was created. There are no records known to date identifying the names of the slaves, freedmen and freedwomen who may be interred here.

Footnotes (1995 Printed Edition)

1   Spencer P. Mead. Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich. (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1911), p. 87. 

2   Lydia Ingersoll Ely, Slavery in the Town of Greenwich (Unpublished) William E. Finch, Jr. Archives, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, 1970, page 3.

3   Ibid., page 6-7.

4   Stamford Probate Records, Volume 8, page 509.

5   Ibid., Volume 8, page 511.

6   Ely, page 7.

7   Stamford Probate Records, Volume 8, page 365.    

8   Connecticut State Library & Archives, Box 35: Stamford Probate Estate Papers-Lucy Heusted, 1796.

9   Ibid., Box 35.

10  Stamford Probate Records, Volume 8, page 440.

11  Greenwich Land Records, Volume 14, page 309.

12  Ely, page 9.

13  Greenwich Land Records, Volume 14, page 309.

14   Jeffrey B. Mead, A Landmark in Round Hill, Greenwich Time, November 23, 1990.

15   Greenwich Land Records, Volume 18, page 503.

16   Frederick A. Hubbard. Other Days in Greenwich (New York: J.F. Tapley Co., 1913), page 252-253.

17   Connecticut Family Records: Collected in Commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of the Settlement of Connecticut. The Connecticut Chapter of the National Society, Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America, Inc., 1915, page 166.

18   Greenwich Land Records, Volume 13, page 654.

19   Greenwich Land Records, Volume 28, page 683.

20   Ibid., Volume 28, page 683.

21   Greenwich Probate Records, Book A, page 410-411.

22   Spencer P. Mead, Abstract of Tombstones of the Town of Greenwich: Unmarked Graves, 1913, page 7.

23   Map # 1980, Greenwich Town Clerk's Records. Map of the Public Dock, Cemetery, and Road at Byram Shore in the Town of Greenwich, Conn., S.E. Minor & Co., Civil Engineers, July, 1911.

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