Suffield Academy’s American Studies class learned from Hezekiah Spencer Sheldon’s May 1885 Windsor Locks Journal article that colonial Africans were buried in the northwest corner of Suffield’s first churchyard, which is the Old Center Cemetery. While trying to learn why colonial Africans were buried in the northwest corner, the class found the following vote in Suffield’s Town Record Book.
Many towns in the Connecticut River Valley had similar practices for colonial Africans. Do you know of any other records that shed light on this colonial custom in Suffield? Please connect with the display case’s blog: https://amielpzakdisplay.wordpress.com and create a comment.
In the recently published African American Connecticut Explored, which is a collection of essays, Tamara Verrett’s essay explains the origins of the Talcott Church in Hartford. African Americans in the early nineteenth century were tired of sitting in galleries and began gathering on their own in the conference room of the First Church of Christ, now Center Church in Hartford. From these meetings emerged the Talcott Church, the first African American Church in Hartford.
Below is an image of the Suffield’s Town Record Book entry for May 17th, 1731. This is a transcription of the 12th entry:
12th. Voted, to allow ye [the] masters of negroes, and free negroes, a liberty to, for them to make a seat for s [said] Negroes at ye [the] Norwest corner of ye [the] Meeting House, upon ye beams.
Please click on the comment thread and offer any suggestions or insights on transcribing the December 23rd line entry. Bob Romer’s Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts as well as Joseph Carvalho’s Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts 1650-1865, 2nd Edition both capture a moment in Reverend Ballantine’s Journal when he describes in February of 1767 Sylvia’s “bitter aversion” to a possible negotiation for sale from the Gay family. Interestingly, Reverend Ballantine, fellow minister from Westfield, was a rare example of a Connecticut Valley minister who did not own slaves. Nevertheless, he did have Sylvia in his home as Reverend Ebenezer Gay lent her out to the Ballantine family. Sylvia also sought refuge with the Ballantine family on a previous occasion in November 8, 1763.
We are fortunate to have Reverend Ebenezer Gay’s Almanac for the year 1767. The almanac does not mention Sylvia in the month of February, but the entry for December 23rd does have Sylvia’s name on it. Thus, the two journal entries of Ballantine and Gay do cross-reference for the 23rd of December. Nevertheless, the last word after Sylvia’s name is hard to decipher. Can you read the last word after her name? Please click on the comment thread and offer any suggestions or insights for that word and the whole line. Feel free to comment on the absence of Sylvia from the February entries as well.
The American Studies class at Suffield Academy announces a free lecture at Kent Memorial Library on Monday, April 1, from 7PM-8:30PM. Bill Hosley, a leading expert on New England art and history, will narrate a slide show about how Connecticut is one of the few states that can actually tell the story of American architecture from our national origins to the present with superb public sites. Hosley’s lecture will include a grand tour of three centuries of Connecticut architecture, as well as the broken dreams left in the wake of the urban renewal trend in mid-twentieth century Connecticut. Discover how appreciating the historical value of Gay Manse within the larger story of Connecticut architecture fosters a powerful civic experience and connection to our shared sense of community. This program will also create awareness that our little state contains a spectrum of architectural assets that make it a veritable museum of American life.
Principal at Terra Firma Northeast, Bill Hosley brings over thirty years experience of Connecticut Valley history and culture to our project. Bill Hosley now consults with museums and historical societies to help them reaffirm the role of history, architecture, and design as a way to create a more healthy and vibrant civic life.
The American Studies class is conducting an investigation of a chimney ruin on the east of side of Gay Manse. The class is testing a theory that Reverend Ebenezer’s slaves were associated with this dwelling. The class invited Bill Hosley to learn more about the historical value of Gay Manse (1742) and its location in the historical narrative of the Connecticut River Valley. Bill Hosley’s lecture also celebrates the installation of a new display case in Kent Memorial Library. Crafted by local artist Rex Brodie, the display case was made possible by a grant from the Amiel P. Zak Fund. The display case now hosts several old photographs of Gay Manse.
Bill Hosley is curator, museum director, public speaker, project manager, writer, photographer and cultural resource entrepreneur, he has more than 30 years work experience in museums and historic preservation. Former employers and affiliations include the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Historic Deerfield, Winterthur Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum and, most recently, Connecticut Landmarks and the New Haven Museum where he served as executive director. Hosley also founded Historic Hartford, Inc. and was the co-founder of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Arts & Heritage Action Partnership. Author of five books and dozens of articles, a founding advisor to Connecticut Explored, and contributor to The Hartford Courant’s PLACE, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers.
The members of Suffield Academy’s American Studies class (2012-13) transcribed this document. Please “comment” below the post if you have a suggestion for a word or phrase in our transcription. We also invite your insights or reflections about this document.
We the subscribers, civil authority of the town of Suffield, on the application of the Rev. Ebenezer Gay and William Gay both of said town, owners of Ginny Dinah and Titus black Persons and born slaves to their late Father, the Rev. Ebenezer Gay deceased, have [emancipated] said slaves and find each of them to be in health, under the age of forty five years, and over the age of twenty five years and that they are desirous of being made free and hereby [satisfied] our approbation of their being manumitted by their said owner. Dated at Suffield the 11th Day of May
We the subscribers, owner of Ginny Dinah and Titus who were born slaves to our late father Ebenezer Gay deceased, having received a certificate from Thaddeus Leavitt and Asahel Hatheway [both] of Suffield Justice of the Peace for Hartford County approbating the same have [emancipated] and set at Liberty said Ginny Dinah and Titus- I hereby discharge them and each of them from any claim we may have to their Persons, in services, in [writing] we have [demonstrated] our hand. The 11th Day of May Anno Domini (AD) 1812
Ebenezer Gay Jr.