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, February 1, 2015

Welcome and Introduction by Author/Historian Jeffrey Bingham Mead

When I published Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1995 I never intended it to be a textbook. That still holds true now in 2015, literally twenty years since it was released to the public. 

For some time now my desire has been to put the text of that publication online. I toyed with the idea of publishing a second edition. A few of you suggested it. 

But those who know me well understand when I assert that simple is best. And so it is. It has to be. Let's just say that my interests have diversified. I've occasionally called for a 30-hour day. I'm fearful that some legislative body might seriously grant my wish! 

More than anything, my decision to create this online site sprang from years of teaching international students in Hawaii and the Asia Pacific Rim. The emergence of smartphones and portable learning devices and technologies convinced me that making this fascinating material freely available online was what I was destined to do.

I hope that Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut excites and invigorates further efforts to preserve the history of this town. There is much about the  Black or African American heritage of this town and others in the region that remains to be told.

When I released the book I challenged other historians, historical associations and individuals to publish similar materials from towns and cities in the region. Here it is Year 2015. No one has accepted. That's unfortunate. It's never too late. 

As an educator by profession, this online site should be used by teachers and students, scholars and those who enjoy the study of history to satisfy curiosity and pure enjoyment.

It is my pleasure to share all this with you. No grant funds were involved in the creation of this site. I do not profit from this site -but I certainly hope that you do. 

If you have questions please contact me by clicking this link

By the way, I accept invitations to come to your meeting, your classroom or event to guest-lecture in-person, online or by phone on this subject -and many others. Don't be shy about getting in touch with me. 

Historically yours, now, evermore -and everywhere,

Jeffrey Bingham Mead

Copyright 1995 by Jeffrey B. Mead
All rights reserved.

Permission to reproduce in any form must be secured from the author.

Library of Congress Catalog Number 94-79800

Original edition published for the author by Gateway Press, Inc., 1001 N. Calvert Street, 
Baltimore, MD 21201

Original edition printed in the United States of America. 

Please direct all correspondence to the author at this link

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chapter 3: Awakenings and Abolition (1995 Printed Edition)

“The signs of the times appear to indicate that the "Great Battle" is soon to be fought... Some learned men think the witnesses are soon to be slain, & that the mother-land of our Pilgrim Fathers is to be a place of the great battle of God Almighty.” 
                                                                                     Congregational Missionary Amos Starr Cooke 
                                                                                     in Hawaii, November 1, 1842, from a letter 
                                                                                     addressed to Deacon Silas Hervey Mead of 
                                                                                     North Greenwich Congregational Church.

On June 17, 1788 the General Association of Connecticut, the state organization of Congregational ministers, proclaimed the trading of slaves to be unjust and that all steps should be made to extinguish it.  (1)

In September it was voted that Elizur Goodrich, Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Wales would be a committee to compose an address and petition to the General Assembly, "that some effectual Laws may be made for the total abolition of the Slave Trade, to be laid before this body at their adjournment hereafter determined. " (2)

The next day an outline of this petition was presented and accepted. Dr. Edwards and Dr. Wales were then appointed the task of sending the petition to the General Assembly in October. The resulting legislation prohibited Connecticut citizens from engaging in the slave trade.

The attitude favoring the abolition of slavery was acceptable enough in 1790 when "The Society for the Promotion of Freedom, and for the Relief of Persons Holden in Bondage" was formed. Yale president and theologian Ezra Stiles was elected its president. In 1791 it sent off a petition to Congress calling for abolition "from a sober conviction of the unrighteousness of slavery." (3)

The path toward total abolition of slavery on a national scale would not be so  seemingly graceful. In 1818 church and state were legally divided in Connecticut, but the distinction between the two in the political and ecclesiastical exercise of its citizens were not so detached. The 19th century brought unforeseen challenges with consequences for the nation as a whole. The influence on the emancipation of the slaves was significant. 

The inception of the 19th century in America also brought the dawn of the most intense and formative period of Protestant revivalism to date. From 1800 to 1870 spiritual fires were fervently re-ignited within and outside parishes across Connecticut and beyond. The ramifications were enormous in Greenwich, across Connecticut and the rest of the nation.

The Second Great Awakening was the intellectual and spiritual turning point. The emotionally  charged revivals were paralleled by strong intellectual unrest.  Social upheavals provoked by a decay in the moral fabric of society were widespread.   

This was occasioned by falling church attendance, said to have been as low as ten percent, widespread alcoholism and toleration of slavery. Defying God's word against immorality, engaging in gambling, imbibing in alcohol, as well as buying and selling slave men and women for profit were all seen as clashing with the general well-being of religious people. Slavery went from being tolerated to effectively equated with Satanism. 

Many humanitarian and social reform movements flourished in this period. Missionaries were sent to other parts of North America, Africa, Asia and islands in the Pacific.  The temperance movement was started. Education became a cornerstone of everyday  life . Spreading the word of God was of paramount importance. Freedom of thought, ingenuity and creativity burst forth like a tidal wave across America. 

An early 19th century watercolor of the Second Congregational Church by Mary Mason (1808-1833)
Image credit: Greenwich Historical Society. 

This period saw the creation of the largest number of churches in Greenwich history. The North Greenwich Congregational Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Calvary Episcopal of Round Hill, the Round Hill Methodist Episcopal Church, the First Methodist Church, Diamond Hill Methodist, Banksville Baptist and others large and small were established. Revivals were carried on, and those members not abiding by the teachings of the churches were sometimes brought up on charges; some members were expelled for infractions.

One of the most famous luminaries of the Second Great Awakening in Connecticut was Rev. Lyman Beecher. The father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Beecher was invited in 1829 to preach at the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich. He was an enthusiastic Calvinist who fostered the revivals and thought himself to be empowered by Almighty God to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. 

Beecher assailed unbelievers, alcoholism, slave holders, Unitarians and Catholics, too. He ardently justified Calvinist tenets. He held that believers under God's absolute control who repented their sins could do so on their own free will and deemed it their responsibility to do  so immediately. Of slavery he said,"Were it in my power to put an end to slavery I would do it; but it is not. I can only pursue the measures best calculated, in my judgment, to get the slaves out of bondage in the shortest time, and the best manner...is to make emancipation easy instead of difficult." (4)

The Town of Greenwich did not have any independent anti-slavery groups. Efforts to abolish slavery were concentrated in the town's churches. The center of such efforts appear to have been concentrated in the Second Congregational Society and in the Stanwich and North Greenwich Congregational societies in northern Greenwich. According to early references there was a group of about 13 men engaged in the Abolitionist cause.

Shubal Brush of Stanwich was one of Greenwich's most gifted 19th century orators. Born in 1801, Brush was an active member of a debating group that met during the 1850s. He was an intellectually gifted thinker whose convictions and principles on a variety of subjects were deep-felt. He was the eldest son of Benjamin and Rachel Brush, and great-grandson of Rev. Benjamin Strong, the first Pastor of the Stanwich Congregational Church. A tanner by trade, he lived and worked near the original site of the church at the corner of Taconic and North Stanwich Roads.

The Brush Lockwood House, 1795, residence of Abolitionist and Orator Shubal Brush, Greenwich, Connecticut. 

The following excerpts are taken from one of his addresses on the issue of slavery:

I am surprised to find men intelligent in the 19th Century claiming and asserting that the Word of God sanctions Slavery as it now exists in this Nation...But the Abbetors of Slavery have attempted to construe His Word and Work to prove Slavery is of Divine Origin...Is not Slavery a sin, yes it is a great National Sin. But we are told the Word of God sanctions Slavery, or in other words, that it does not prohibit Slavery as it now exists. And we in which He authorizes the Slave Trade as it now exists in this Nation. Who I ask does not know that Robbery and Murder are inseparately connected with Slavery as it now exists…

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. And should I charge any or either of the Abbetors of Slavery as now pursuing such a course, they would denounce me as a vile slanderer attempting to bring them into disrespect by the vilifying of their characters...I should be dragged before some Earthly tribunal to answer for such rashness...God sooner or later  will arrange the Business with all who charge Him or claim it is His will that the System of Slavery should exist.  (5)

This is a photocopy of an original manuscript excerpt (reduced size) from
and address delivered by Shubal Brush in a debate on slavery, circa 1850-60.
(Brush Family Papers, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich)

Gravestone of Shubal Brush, Stanwich Congregational Church Cemetery. 

Another Greenwich citizen active in the Abolitionist cause was Deacon Silas Hervey Mead. Born in 1796, he was one of the founders of the North Greenwich Congregational Church in 1827. "In the prime of his life he went far and near to hold meetings, that sinners might be saved,” declared his obituary in 1878. "In anti-slavery times he was a radical on the question of human rights as on that of alcoholic drinks, and all in these parts who knew an Abolitonist knew Silas H. Mead.” (6)  Deacon Mead's enthusiasm was illustrated by his gift of the land where the church still meets today.

Deacon Mead had an on-going, long distance relationship with Amos Starr Cooke, a prominent leader of the Congregational missionaries in Hawaii, who lived in Greenwich with his wife Juliette before departing for mission work in the Pacific. 

Amos Starr Cooke, circa 1859, Honolulu. 

Cooke wrote to Deacon Mead in January, 1840 observing that "...we are all Abolitionists, and as fond of being free as you & others are of having the Southern slaves set at liberty. O! Liberty, thou art dear to the missionary & to the Christian..."   (7)

Two years later Cooke wrote again from Hawaii to Mead: "You will probably hear soon, if not already, the stand some of our brethren took, last Spring, on the Anti-Slavery Question. You said but little in your last about that subject. I hope you are not growing cold in it. It is too important a subject to leave alone; and yet it must not be attended to the neglect of its accompanying or similar subjects, which now agitate the Christian church. I see by papers &c that some of our good brethren at home are so zealous in the Anti-Slavery cause that it blinds their eyes...They are all one, & the same thing, to overturn the kingdom of Satan."  (8)

Silas Hervey Mead's gravestone, North Greenwich Cemetery. 

A letter sent by Mead to his friend Cooke in Hawaii, dated November 8, 1842, offers a clue that all was not going well in North Greenwich. Deacon Mead's reply to Cooke's letter of March 29, 1842 spells out his position on his fellow Abolitionists. His religious convictions are clearly the core of his stance on slavery: 

“...Ever since the Meeting house has been closed against the prayer meeting for the slave we have been going down rapidly. The subject of Abolition is gaining ground fast, it was debated in Congress last session in spite of them, for when they put it out of one door the Lord would bring it in at another. For my part I and my family stand very near alone on that subject in our place. You speak about the Abolitionists, I will here just state that their enemies gave them the name of persons of one idea and I for one will respond to that name. I hope I never shall have any other idea only to do God's will without distinguishing whether it is popular or not, and that I believe is true respecting the largest part of the Abolitionists that I am acquainted with. You say you are afraid some of the Abolitionists zeal for that object blinds their eyes to other benevolent objects...I tell you my friend in a general way show me an Abolitionist, and I will show you a strong Temperance man and a strong man for keeping the Sabbath, and a  strong man for God anyway and every way. I'll not vote for it, but against it, nor will I use the products of slave labor as a general thing neither for eating, or wearing, at home or abroad. I must say by that I am opposed to it at all times and places and for anything and everything. And I would say to you hold on against Slavery...You must expect to be persecuted if you oppose the sin of Slavery."  (9)

The year 1850 saw the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, provoking Abolitionists to provide haven for runaways. Though documentation is not available, Greenwich was a stop along the Underground Railroad. 

Josiah Wilcox House, Riversville Road Greenwich, Connecticut. Image captured Nov. 15, 2014. 

Josiah Wilcox and his family are said to have harbored fugitives in their home off Riversville Road, as did others in northern Greenwich. 

In a letter sent by Deacon Mead to his cousin Obadiah Mead on the subject of harboring fugitive slaves, dated March 5, 1851, Silas H. Mead states: 

“…I have not found any command to obey every ordinance of man. To submit is one thing, and to obey another. So the Apostles thought when they were forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus...I will also call your attention to the sixteenth chapter of Isaiah and the five first verses and to the fugitive slave law and there I think you will find that you and every other person are forbidden to feed or administer to any of the wants of the fugitive slave...if you will then conclude it is best to obey every ordinance of man regardless of any higher law, your heart must be harder than what I now think it is, and it is hardly worth while for you and me to talk anymore on this subject.” (10)

In the archives of the Second Congregational Church there is a book entitled "An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans," by a Mrs. Child. The inside cover includes the signature of Deacon Jonas Mead, dated 1833. 

She remarks that, 

”...fifty years hence, the black laws of Connecticut will be a greater source of amusement to the antiquarian, than her famous blue laws.”   (11)

In less than 30 years young men from Greenwich and elsewhere, both black and white, descendants of slaves and slaveholders, would be called into service to preserve the United States of America and eradicate slavery forever. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice. All Americans were emancipated, but the price for freedom and liberty was high.

FOOTNOTES (1995 Print Edition)

1   Records of the General Association of Ye Colony of Connecticut. Case, Lockwood & Brainerd Company, 1888, page 126.

2    Ibid., page 126-127.

3    Society for the Promotion of Freedom and for the Relief of Persons Holden in Bondage, 1791. 

4    Lyman Beecher Stowe. Saints, Sinners and Beechers. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1934) page 66.

5    William E. Finch, Jr. Archives, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich: Shubal Brush Family Papers.

6    Greenwich Observer, January 2, 1879, page 3, column 3.

7    William E. Finch, Jr. Archives, The Historical Society 

8     Ibid., Amos S. Cooke to S.H. Mead, March 29, 1842.

9     Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library, Honolulu, Hawaii. Missionary Letters 1816-1900 From Family and Friends, Mead thru Ryder: S.H. Mead to Amos S. and Juliette M. Cooke, Nov. 8, 1842.

10    William E. Finch, Jr. Archives, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich: Obadiah Mead Letters, Silas H. Mead to Obadiah Mead, March 5, 1851.

11    Mrs. Child. An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans, 1833. page 214.

Chapter 2: He Bringeth Out Those Which Are Bound With Chains (1995 Printed Edition)

Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 
Exodus 13:3

The path to emancipation taken by the few local Greenwich residents who held slaves was tied in with legislative enactments originating in the colonial and state legislatures. Some, but not all, were certainly motivated by a moral and religious sentiment that the slaves ought to be free. 

The Quakers were among the first to denounce slavery in Connecticut. Others throughout the state proclaimed their advocacy for manumission in the latter 18th century after the end of the Revolutionary War.

In the end Connecticut pursued the path of gradual emancipation, a path mostly influenced by economic and political concerns. 

The American Revolution was the single most important cause for the decline of slavery in 18th century Connecticut. The momentous shifts associated with  the political, economic and religious convulsions before the rebellion against Imperial British rule influenced the status of slavery.

Some slaves were allowed to serve in a number of the Continental regiments, though there is no record of any slaves in Greenwich serving as such. The incentives for service included offers of land and freedom. Blacks were not segregated into separate detachments. But in the end many whites opposed arming black slaves, and there was the problem of restitution to owners since slaves were considered property.

This quagmire proved to be one of the strangest ironies of the cause for American independence and liberty throughout the new Republic. 

Just prior to the beginnings of the Revolution the Assembly in October, 1774 banned the importation of any Indian, Negro or Mulatto slaves into Connecticut as follows:

Whereas the increase of slaves in this Colony is injurious to the poor and inconvenient...that no indian, negro or molatto slave shall at anto be disposed of, left or sold within the same, or who knowing such slave or slaves to be so imported and brought into this Colony shall receive or purchase them, or any of them, shall forfeit and pay to  the  Treasurer of this Colony  the sum of one hundred pounds, lawful money, for every slave so imported, brought into this Colony, received or purchased... and that it shall be the duty of all constables and grand-jurors to enquire after and make presentment of all breaches of this act. (1)

The earliest known documented manumission of a slave in Greenwich occurred on February 2, 1776. Robert Field, a Quaker farmer living in the outermost area of northwestern Greenwich, freed his slave named Cuff. The certificate states that:

Considering the Case of Negroes now in Slavery believing they Should be free do hereby declare my negro man Cuff to be free and that henceforth he shall be free and at Liberty from me and my Heirs Executors & Administrators as if he had never been a Slave. (2)

In October, 1777 the Assembly passed another piece of legislation concerning slaves:

Be it enacted...That if any master or owner of any servant or slave shall apply to the selectmen of the town to which he belongs, for liberty or license to emancipate or make free any such servant or slave, it shall be the duty of such selectmen to enquire into the age, abilities, circumstances and character of such servant or slave, and if they, or the major part of them, shall be of opinion that it is likely to be consistent with the real advantage of such servant or slave, and that is is probable that the servant or slave will be able to support his or her own person, and that he or she is of good and peaceable life and conversation; such selectmen, or the major part of them, shall give to the owner or master of such servant or slave a certificate under their hands of their opinion in the premises, and that the master or owner of such servant or slave hath liberty to emancipate and set at liberty such servant or slave, he, his heirs, executors and administrators, shall be forever discharged from any charge or cost which may be occasioned by maintaining or supporting the servant or slave made free.  (3)

This legislation did not require any master or owner to set free their slaves or servants. It did provide for a legal procedure by which such masters and owners could acquire a certificate subject to the approval of the town Selectmen. This legislation also relieved the former master or owner of any obligation to support the emancipated slave or servant. 

The next manumission in Greenwich took place about two years later. Francis Nash, also residing in northwestern Greenwich

"set my negro woman named Catherine free... at Liberty & free to act as a free Agent for herself as clear from me or mine as I am able to do..."  (4) 

This was recorded in the Greenwich Land Records on April 2, 1779, one day after it was signed and witnessed. Catherine was set free, as the manumission certificate affirms, to support herself independently without any obligation to Francis Nash, her former owner. This apparently reflects the intent of the October, 1777 statute passed by the Legislature. 

In 1784 the Connecticut legislature added the following clause to the Act Concerning Indian, Mulatto, and Negro Servants and Slaves: 

"Sound public policy requires that the abolition of slavery should be effected as soon as may be consistent with the rights of individuals and the public safety." (5)

This amendment ordained that all children of slaves, regardless of the status of the parents, both in the State of Connecticut after March 1, 1784 would not be held in servitude after attaining the age of 25 years. The new legislation did not free any slaves in bondage at the time,  but it awarded to their children the status of apprentices until age 25 years when they would become free. (6)

Those slaves born before March 1, 1784 would die off, and thus slavery would eventually vanish. 

Six years later, with the first Federal Census of 1790, the statistics show that there were 2,759 slaves and 2,801 freed persons in Connecticut. (7) 

The October, 1788 session of the General Assembly included further work on matters concerning gradual emancipation and abolition of slavery. 

In "An Act to Prevent the Slave Trade,"  (8) the legislature forbade Connecticut citizens and inhabitants from engaging either directly or indirectly in the slave trade. The penalty for violation of this law was fifty pounds per person and five hundred pounds per vessel used in the transportation of slaves. 

Furthermore, it was forbidden for anyone to transport out of Connecticut, 

“any free Negro, Indian or Molatto, or any Person entitled to Freedom at the Age of twenty five Years, Inhabitants or residents within this State, or shall be aiding or assisting therein, and be thereof duly convicted shall forfeit One Hundred Pounds..."  (9)

This act went further, however, by adding "that nothing in this Act shall operate to prevent Persons removing out of this State for the purpose of residence from carrying or transporting with them such Negroes or Molattoes as belong to them, or to prevent persons living within this State from directing their Servants out of this State about their ordinary and necessary business." (10)

In order to comply with the mandates set out in the October, 1784 legislation, a clause was added to the "Act to Prevent the Slave Trade." Passed in 1788, it required the owners of slaves and servants in each town to report to the town clerk the names and other pertinent facts regarding their children born after March 1, 1784:

"...That all Persons who now are or hereafter shall be possessed of any Child or Children born after the first Day of March 1784, and which by Law shall be free at the Age of twenty five Years, shall within six Months from the rising of this Assembly, or within six Months after the Birth of any such Child deliver or cause to be delivered to the Town Clerk of the Town where such possessor belongs the name of such possessor as also the Age, Name and sex of every such Child or Children on Oath to the best of his or her knowledge under the Penalty of forty shillings, for each and every month neglect to be recovered before an Assistant or Justice of the Peace the One half to the Complanent and the other half to the Use of the poor of the Town where such Child or Children Live." (11)

Evidence of compliance with this law can be found in the early vital records in the Greenwich town clerk's office. These records are registered in manuscript form and contain the first genealogical information known concerning Greenwich's slave population and their children. 

The following entry is recorded for children of slaves of David Bush of Cos Cob: (12)

Phillis, daughter of Patience...............born April 6th AD 1789
Milley, daughter of Patience.............born April 12th AD 1791
Rose, daughter of Patience................born May 15th AD 1793
Lucy, daughter of Patience.............born 27th of August 1795
Nanny, daughter of Patience..............born 10th of April 1798
Cull, son of Patience..........................born 2d of April 1801
Jack, son of Candis.......................born 18th of March 1802
Hester, daughter of Candis..............born 6th of January 1807

Samuel Bush, a son by David Bush and his first wife, has the following children of slaves listed in the record books: (13)

Bob, son of Moses.........................born December 23, 1785
Tack, son of Moses............................born November, 1787
Ellen, daughter of Jude...................born November 25, 1793
Jack, son of Ellen..................................born April 2, 1814

Dr. William Bush was a younger brother of David Bush. The children of slaves in his household were: (14)

Platt...................born July, 1789
Candis................born July, 1791
Diana..............born April 9, 1793
Rose..........born January 21, 1795

William Knapp was the son-in-law of David and Sarah Bush. Mr. Knapp had five children of the slave woman Milla listed in the record books: (15)

George, son of Milla..........born Dec. 13th 1792
Jenny, daughter of Milla, born January 18th 1795
Eleanor, daughter of Milla...born 13th Dec. 1798
Rachel, daughter of Milla..born 23d of May 1800
Alfred, son of Milla... born March 15th AD 1804

Henry Grigg also has a listing for children of a slave: (16)

Abbe, daughter of Flora...................born April 5th AD 1784
Pena, daughter of Flora.........born December ye 22d AD 1788
Charles, son of Flora, born March ye 13th AD 1793

Jared Mead's name also includes a list of children of slaves in his household: (17)

Prue, daughter of Jared Mead's wench Sib, was born on the 16th day of August AD 1790.
Lucy, daughter of do, was born 18th July AD 1792
Joe, son of Prue, was born on the 8th day of September AD 1812
Dorcas, daughter of Lucy, born August ye 22d AD 1812

Israel Knapp was the owner of Knapp Tavern, today known as Putnam Cottage. Mr. Knapp also registered the names and birth dates of several slave children: (18) 

Jenny, daughter of Israel Knapp's wench Nelly, was born ye 25th day of June AD 1789.
James, son of do, was born March ye 14th AD 1791.
Nero, son of Prue, was born 9th day of June AD 1815.

In May, 1792 the Connecticut legislature once again acted upon matters of slavery. A new law passed which totally forbade the transportation out of state of any slave for the purpose of selling. The penalty for violating this law was 100 pounds. (19)

In addition, the legislature established legal procedures by which a master or owner of a slave could willingly emancipate and make free a slave: 

Be it Enacted...That any Master or Owner of any Slave shall be disposed to emancipate and make free such Slave, and shall apply to any two of the Selectmen of the Town to which he belongs, it shall be the Duty of said Authority, or Authority and Selectmen, as the Case may be to enquire into the Health and Age of such Slave, and if they find upon examination that such Slave is in good Health and is not of greater Age than forty five Year or less Age than twenty five Years said Authority, or Authority and Selectmen shall give to the Owner or Master of such Slave a Certificate thereof under their Hands...and if the Master or Owner of any Slave shall on receiving such Certificate emancipate and set at Liberty such Slave he his Heirs, Executors and Administrators shall be forever discharged from any Charge or Cost which may be Occasioned by maintaining or supporting the Slave made free as aforesaid; Provided that the Letter of Emancipation and Certificate shall be recorded in the Records of the Town where the Master of such Slave resides. (20)

It is this piece of legislation which seems to have given the few in Greenwich who held slaves the incentive from a legal point of view to free them. This statute discharged and exempted former-slave owners from supporting their former slaves in cases where the freedmen or freedwomen were unable to support themselves. Most of the manumission certificates entered in Greenwich records cite this law in the wording of the texts. 
In 1797 the Assembly reduced the age of manumission from 25 years to 21 years: 

"That no Negro or Mulatto Child, born within this State after the first day of August, 1797, Shall be held in Servitude longer than untill he or She arrive to the age of twenty-one years; Notwithstanding the Mother or Parent of Such Child was held in Servitude at the time of its birth, but such Child at the age aforesaid Shall be free…" (21)

Most of the emancipation of slaves in Greenwich took place during the years 1795-1816. One unique record of an emancipation registered the freeing of two married slaves by Jabez Fitch in 1796. (22)

Some others were mandated by last wills of former owners, as in the case of the estate of Lucy, widow of Moses Husted, Jr. (23)

Greenwich's last emancipation occurred in 1838 under unusual circumstances. 

Heusted Reynolds was born in Greenwich and moved to the Town of Windsor in Bertie County, North Carolina. Mr. Reynolds died a bachelor in 1837. In his last will and testament he states the following order:

"I direct and desire my Executors... to sell at public sale all my lands and real property of every description, and all my negroes and personal property..." (24) 

Heusted bequeathed to his brother Ard in Greenwich a gold watch with chain and all his clothing. Other members of the Reynolds family and their Close family cousins in Greenwich received money from the estate. That seemed to be the end of it.

Heusted requested to be entombed in a "Patent Cement Coffin" and buried with the other deceased members of his father's family in Greenwich. 

It is not hard to imagine the jolt the Reynolds family and their Close family cousins in Stanwich suffered when the executors of the estate arrived in Greenwich with the body of Heusted Reynolds -and an unsold slave from North Carolina named Willis. 

The reason Willis was not sold is not known. Ard, Harriet and Elizabeth Reynolds as well as Tompkins Close Jr., and Sally Close -all being the legatees of Heusted Reynolds' estate and acting on behalf of the minor children- agreed to immediately "Emancipate said Willis Reynolds and relinquish all our ownership and claim to him or his property and declare him a free person to all intents and purposes...."  (25) 

Willis Reynolds disappeared and his life after emancipation remains a mystery.
It was not until the year 1848 that Connecticut finally passed legislation which provided for immediate and total emancipation and abolition of slavery forever. 

According to the 1840 Federal Census there were only 17 slaves left in Connecticut. Given the arrangements mandated by the laws for gradual emancipation in 1784 these 17 slaves in all likelihood were of advanced age. 

The emancipation process in Greenwich, like elsewhere in Connecticut, was an uneven one. Freedmen like Cull Bush, Frank Husted and York Mead stayed in town as farmers and laborers. Land records contain transactions involving them in the buying and selling of real estate. The offspring of the newly freedmen and women attended public schools and churches in town. None were segregated, and although blacks were citizens, none had the right to vote until after the Civil War. 

Though the last slave was freed in 1838, the preoccupation with slavery and emancipation did not end.

FOOTNOTES 1995 Printed Edition

1   Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Volume 14, 1772-1774, (Hartford, 1887), page 329.

2   William E. Finch, Jr. Archives, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. This certificate was presented by Mary

3   Public Records of the State of Connecticut. Volume 1, 1776-1778, (Hartford, 1894), pages 415-416.

4   Greenwich Land Records, Volume 11, page 15.

5   Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut (New London, 1784), pages 233-235.

6   Ibid., page 235.

7   Federal Census, 1790.

8   Records of the State of Connecticut,Volume 6, 1785-1789, (Hartford, 1887), pages 472-473.

9   Ibid., page 473.

10  Ibid., page 473.

11  Ibid., page 473.

12  Early Greenwich, Connecticut Vital Records, Volume 1, page 145.

13  Ibid., Volume 1, page 150.

14  Ibid., Volume 1, page 147.

15  Ibid., Volume 1, page 144.

16  Ibid., Volume 1, page 145.

17  Ibid., Volume 1, page 144.

18  Ibid., Volume 1, page 144.

19  Records of the State of Connecticut, Volume 7, 1789-1792, (Hartford, 1887), page 379.

20  Ibid., page 379-380.

21  Public Records of the State of Connecticut. Volume 9, 1797-1799, (Hartford, 1953), pages 38-39. 

22  Greenwich Land Records, Volume 13, page 653-654.

23  Connecticut State Library and Archives: Stamford Probate Estate Papers, Box #35.

24  North Carolina State Library and Archives:Windsor, Bertie County Probate Estate Records.

25  Greenwich Land Records, Volume 23, page 457.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Emancipation of Willis Reynolds by Ard, Harriet and Elizabeth Reynolds, and Sally D. and Tompkins Close, Jr., Estate of Heusted Reynolds (1838)

by Harriet Reynolds, Tompkins Close, Jr., Sally D. Close,
Ard Reynolds (Guardian for minors), Elizabeth P. Reynolds
Volume 23, Page 456-457
Signed: May 3, 1838
Recorded: May 4, 1838

Whereas Willis Reynolds a coloured man and a Slave belonging 
to the estate of Husted Reynolds deceased late of the Town of Winson in 
the County of Bertie and State of North Carolina, and Whereas the exe-
cutors of said estate has permitted said Willis to come into the possession 
of certain legatees to said estate as owners of said Slave residing in 
the town of Greenwich in Fairfield County and State of Connecticut 
to writ Harriet Reynolds sister to said Husted Reynolds deceased and 
Elizabeth P. Reynolds, Sally D. Close and Tompkins Close Junr. her husband 
Ann Eliza Reynolds, John Reynolds, Harriet L. Reynolds and Julia-
Husted Reynolds, all children of Ard Reynolds brother of the deceased 
and the four last mentioned being minors under the age of twenty 
one years of whom Ard Reynolds their father is by the proper authority 
and according to the laws of the State of Connecticut appointed their 
Guardian to act and do for them in all matters that a Guardian can act 
for minors under the age of twenty one years, and whereas said present 
owners of said Slave are disposed to emancipate him according to the laws 
of the State of Connecticut. They have applied to us the subscribers viz 
Samuel Close, Esq. and Conklin Husted, Esq. both of the civil author
-ity of the town of said Greenwich in said Fairfield County. 
And whereas we the said authority having examined said Slave 
and find him to be in good health and not of a greater age than 
forty five years and that he is anxious to be made free. Now 
know ye that we the Civil authority do authorize said owners 
of said Slave to emancipate said Slave according to a certain 
Statute in the State of Connecticut entitled to prevent slavery and 
this our certificate to said owners of said Slave shall discharge 
them from any expense for the support of said Slave provided 
the letter of emancipation and the certificate be recorded in the 
record of the town where said owners resides, dated at Greenwich 
May the 3rd day 1838.

                                                                      Samuel Close     Civil
                                                                      Conklin Husted   Authority

Know all men by these presents that We the Subscribers viz., 
Harriet Reynolds, Elizabeth P. Reynolds, Sally D. Close and Tompkins 
Close Junr. all of the Town of Greenwich in the County of Fairfield 
and State of Connecticut, and Ann Eliza Reynolds, John Reynolds, 
Harriet E. Reynolds and Julia Husted Reynolds, children of Ard 
Reynolds all of said Greenwich being all minors under the age 
of twenty one years, and having chosen our Father Ard Reynolds 
our guardian and he being appointed to the office and authorized
to act for us minors, and where as Willis Reynolds a slave belonging 
to the estate of Husted Reynolds late of North Carolina Deceased and
we bring legatees of said estate and said Willis having come into our
possession as owners of said Slave by the permission of the Executors
of said Estate. Know ye, as far as we are concerned as owners of said
Slave, we do hereby Emancipate said Willis Reynolds and relinquish
all our ownership and claim to him or his property and declare him 
free person to all intents and purposes as it regards us and that 
he may hold and own property and act for himself as another free 
citizen so far as we have any right to emancipate or make him 
free.  In witness whereunto we have subscribed our names and 
affixed our seals this 4th day of May AD 1838
In Presence of
Catherine Nash
Gary Lyman Nash
Harriet Reynolds  L.S.
Elizabeth P. Reynolds L.S.
Tompkins Close Junr.  L.S.
Sally D. Close  L.S.
Ard Reynolds   L.S.  
Guardian for the minors

Received to record May 4th 1838 
and recorded by me Samuel Close  Town Clerk