Slaveholder Roundup #1: New Haven

Even moderately perceptive readers (which I’m sure is all 5 of you) will have noticed that I’ve been avoiding naming the slaveholders who issued these various manumissions. The point of that is simply to center the enslaved people in their own stories when I’m trying to talk about them. Nonetheless, it is obvious that the identity and status of the slaveholders is also relevant to the lives of the enslaved, certainly prior to their becoming free and possibly afterward. Personal connections were arguably even more important than they are now, and the opinion of a former slaveholder about a free person could have had a major impact on their ability to succeed in life.

So, a few words each about the people who once held other people in slavery. We’ll return to the manumissions as soon as I’ve found the time to copy some more.

Amasa and Silva
The woman who held Amasa and Silva in slavery until September 21, 1772 and gave him 10 acres of land was Jemima Griffin, widow, who was illiterate enough that she signed the documents with a mark. Aside from her generosity and willingness to speak of Amasa as a genuine human being with good qualities, this is all we know about her so far. I will probably be looking up the land she gave Amasa – she stated that it was land her late husband had bought from a specific individual – but I haven’t done that yet. Clearly, the family were fairly prosperous landowners (they had to be, in order to keep and maintain enslaved people), but more information will have to wait till I find out her husband’s name.

The man who held Gad in slavery until May 28, 1777 was Solomon Stone, except that the manumission document states that he’d recently purchased the man from Mr. David Gilbert, presumably in order to have him substitute in the Revolutionary Army (and as previously noted, Gad wound up deserting not far into his service). It’s possible that Solomon Stone didn’t actually live in New Haven – the document doesn’t say he does, and I’m only finding men by that name in the county. David Gilbert is too common a name for him to be easily tracked down (there were, according to genealogical sites, several generations of that name in New Haven, at least two of whom might have been this one). Stone must have had access to cash in order to buy an enslaved man for a substitute (and Gilbert also must have had money too), but that’s the most we can guess from this.

Ceaser, Rose, and Cato
The man whose estate sold Rose and her son Cato to Ceaser on May 31, 1777 was General David Wooster, hero of the Revolution and Yale graduate. To be fair, it’s possible that Revolutionary fervor might have led him to free the people he held in slavery at some point, but after serving in the French and Indian War from 1755 to 1761 and in the disastrous invasion of Canada in 1775, he died on May 2, 1777 of wounds taken during General Tryon’s raid on Danbury and passage through Ridgefield, Connecticut. It was the executors of his estate, Mary Wooster and Thomas Wooster, who demanded £60 from a man for the freedom of the people who may have been his wife and son.

It appears that Mary was his widow and Thomas his son, a common probate court response when organizing an intestate estate. According to her 1807 gravestone (recorded in Find A Grave), Mary was the daughter of Yale University President Thomas Clap and “a lady of high intellectual culture … beloved for her many Christian virtues.” Thirty years prior, those Christian virtues – as with so many Americans – had not prevented her from participating in the sale of human beings. Thomas attended Yale and was also an officer during the Revolutionary War (Sons of the American Revolution, Revolutionary Characters of New Haven (1911), p.40), but little else seems to be known about him. It took money, almost all the time, to make college graduates and military officers out of colonial-era men. The Wooster biographies, however, focus on the service, not the resources that backed it. I do mean to look up Wooster’s probate papers when I have a chance, just to see how many other people (if any) he was holding in slavery when he died.

Pompey Panchard and Leah
The man who sold Leah to Pompey Panchard on March 23, 1778 was Jared Ingersoll, a name prominent enough to have not one but two Wikipedia entries. I believe that in this case we are looking at Jared Ingersoll Sr., a Loyalist probably born in Massachusetts who attended Yale and stayed in New Haven as an attorney afterward. He served as an official of the colony government for a while, and then received a British commission as a stamp agent for Connecticut in 1765 – which made him extremely unpopular, and he was quickly forced to resign under duress. He moved his family to Philadelphia in 1771, where the Crown had made him a judge, but he annoyed the colonial legislature so much that he returned to New Haven in 1777, and died there in 1781. His son Jared Ingersoll stayed in Pennsylvania and served as a delegate to the national Constitutional Convention. His gravestone is in the basement of Center Church, and indicates that he was only 60 when he died, and (interestingly, considering his Loyalist background) is very laudatory – claiming that “His Morals were unblemished. He was thoughtful, collected and sagacious, open and sincere, mild, affable, and courteous.”

Yet he once required a man to pay 26 shillings for the freedom of his (probable) wife.

Phyllis and Sharper
The man who documented his intent to leave personal property and access to land to Phyllis and Sharper on December 21, 1785, was John Whiting, who of course was listed in the marriage record reproduced in their entry. I really need to look at the probate record to confirm all this, but I’m pretty sure that we’re looking at another man with a tombstone stored under Center Church. He was yet another Yale graduate and held many local offices in New Haven, as well as being a Congregational deacon. These are all activities (especially Probate Judge) that were the expected province of wealthy, or at least well-off, men. The fact that he owned a “rope-walk lot” means either that the name had stuck with the lot, or he actually did own a business that was important to a maritime place like New Haven. He died in June 1786, not long after the manumission document was written but well before it was actually recorded. His epitaph is not so rhapsodical as others, giving the impression of an earnest, honest, and respected man. Who only freed an enslaved woman (and generously gave her things) in his will, not during his life.

The man who held Peter in slavery until June 11, 1793, was Daniel Goffe Phipps. Actually, the document states that he’d recently bought Peter from James Gilbert – a man already mentioned but still otherwise unknown. Did Phipps buy Peter expressly to free him? Phipps was a Boston-born (in 1751) Revolutionary War veteran who served in the Connecticut militia, actually commanding ships in 1779 (Nancy) and 1782 (Betsey), and received a pension at New Haven in 1832 (Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Vol. XXV (1908), p. 292). Another record has him commanding the Rebeccah in 1780 (Naval Records of the American Revolution (1906), p. 434). He is not to be confused with his grandson of the same name, who was born in 1821, also served in the Navy and in trade (including the slave trade), and was an engineer. The first Daniel Goffe Phipps married into a seafaring family of New Haven, the Townsends, and in addition to his naval (and privateering) service engaged in the West India trade – a direct connection to the general slave trade (Atwater, History of the City of New Haven to the Present Time (1887), p. 633). The mystery of why, in 1793, he freed Peter is likely to continue to be exactly that.

The woman who held Socoro in slavery until October 5, 1815 was Ann Sophia Mix, wife of Caleb Mix and daughter of Abraham Pinto Esquire of Trinidad; the manumission document further states that Socoro had previously been held in slavery by Ann Sophia’s unnamed mother. I have not been able to find out anything useful about Abraham Pinto of Trinidad, although the title “Esquire” indicates that he was wealthy (the term was not then applied exclusively to attorneys). It is quite possible, however, that he was actually the son of Jacob Pinto, who was living in New Haven (possibly having come from New Orleans) in 1745. Abraham and his two brothers, Solomon and William, served in the Revolutionary War; in fact, Abraham was wounded in the British invasion of New Haven in 1779. After the war, William and Abraham became part of the shipping trade between New Haven and Trinidad – and thus were almost certainly involved in the slave trade to some extent (Connecticut DAR, Chapter Sketches: Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution; Patriots’ Daughters (1904), pp. 179-181). He had married Mary Gualt of Boston in New Haven in December 1779 (Vital Records of New Haven, 1649-1850, Vol. 1, p. 471). Anybody involved in trade at the Pintos’ level had to have been wealthy (at least as long as things went well).

Caleb Mix and Ann Sophia were married in New Haven by Rev. Samuel Merwin (Congregational) on September 21, 1815 (Vital Records of New Haven, 1649-1850, Vol. 1, p. 471). A Caleb Mix is also reported as having been wounded in the 1779 invasion of New Haven (Sons of the American Revolution, Revolutionary Characters of New Haven (1911), p. 105). I have a lead from about Ann Sophia’s life history, but haven’t got a reply yet. The Mix family was numerous and prominent in New Haven, but most of them did not make much of an individual impression in the easily-available records. Find A Grave has listings for both of them, however. Ann Sophia Pinto Mix, wife of Caleb, was born on June 10, 1795, and died November 30, 1890. Caleb Mix was born November 8, 1791 and died December 13, 1868 – so if this is the right Caleb, the one who served in the Revolutionary War is obviously a relative, not the man himself.

The woman who held Polly in slavery until October 10, 1821, was Elizabeth Harding, formerly of Natchez, Mississippi. I can’t find anyone named Harding in either New Haven or Natchez in the 1820 U.S. Census or (New Haven only) 1830 census. In fact, this manumission is the only information I have that Elizabeth Harding ever existed; I don’t even know if that was her maiden name or her married name. It’s clear that she maintained contact with people back in Natchez, even though she had moved to New Haven, but that’s it for information. Presumably the Harding family was plantation owners or otherwise involved with the enslavement in Natchez (there are a couple of prominent possibilities, but no certain connection).


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New Haven: Peter (1793)

On June 11, 1793, a man named Peter apparently did not pay a cent to the slaveholder who filed this manumission – at any rate, the document does not mention any compensation. Its wording is likewise a bit different from the others I’ve looked at:

Know all Men by these Presents, that I … do hereby emancipate & make free Peter my Negro Servant, whom I lately bought of …, & I do hereby declare the said Peter to be a free Person, & I do hereby from henceforward forever give up & quit to him the S[ai]d Peter all the right I have or may have to his Services, & wish that he may henceforth be considered in the Same Situation, as those, who are born free.


New Haven Land Records, Vol. 46, Pg. 19.

We see here the slaveholder’s specific renunciation of any future claims on Peter’s labor, with the interesting twist that he gave those rights to Peter’s labor to Peter himself. It is a strange kind of thinking to regard a person’s labor as a thing separate from the person, which can be returned to him. I can only think that it reflects the formal legal view of enslaved people as laboring things – which makes the document’s use of the term “free Person” all the more interesting.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, it’s fairly common (especially in these later documents) for manumissions to state that the freed person won’t have any claim to support from the former slaveholder. We haven’t actually seen any of those yet, I think, but I’ll go into the legal details when we do. The part about Peter being “considered” the same as those “born free” may be an oddly-worded attempt at excluding the possibility of future claims for support. It is, I think, the fact that these documents were usually written up by people without expertise in the law that leads to so much revealing variation in the terms.

This document does not contain many clues to the direction of future research. I found three African-American men named Peter in the 1800 census: Peter (family of 4 – surnamed Johnson in the index, but that’s a mistake); Peter Porta (family of 2); and Peter Wilson (family of 7). I have no way of knowing which of these is the right man. He might even be none of them, if he chose to live in a white household as a free servant. The 1810 census is useless for this research, of course, since the New Haven marshal only put in first initials for everyone.

This is actually the outcome I expected for most of these manumitted people; the amount of information I’ve been able to dig up on the others I’ve looked at so far has surprised me. In this case there is quite a bit of information about the slaveholder, but that’s not who I’m writing about. Peter’s life as a free man (like his life as an enslaved man) will, it seems, have to remain a mystery to curious historians.

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New Haven: Phyllis and Sharper (1785/1793)

What should we think of slaveholders who freed enslaved people in their wills? On the one hand, I suppose it’s great that they did that. On the other hand, what kept them from doing the right thing while they were alive? Sometimes I think they had Judgment Day in mind, and hoped this gesture would help their case in the afterlife. But I also think that they’d lost track of the fact that all of their deeds would be measured, and that holding a person in slavery was a choice they made every day for years. I doubt that a last-minute change of heart had as much effect as they hoped.

And then there’s this guy. Apparently, Phyllis had made herself so useful and congenial that the slaveholder not only allowed her to marry a man named Sharper, but planned to free her in his will. But not only that, he went to the trouble of writing up a separate document confirming the intentions of his will:

Whereas I have, in my last Will, given to my Servant Gal Phyllis, her freedom at my death, all her wearing Clothes & bed Clothes, & all that she calls & owns for and as her own, & ten hard dollars, & also liberty to build a small house at the east end of my rope walk lot, with land round it for a garden spot, described in sd Will, to enjoy during her life & the life of her Husband Sharper, the longest liver, & have ordered my ex[ecutors] not to interrupt or hinder the Same, all which I hereby Confirm & establish …


New Haven Land Records, Vol. 45, Pg. 547.

Notice that like in many of these documents, he squeamishly substituted “servant” for “slave.” But he did write it up. And he not only gave Phyllis her freedom, but her belongings, cash money, and the right to live on a plot of his land for her life and/or that of her husband. This was far more generous than what most slaveholders did.

But he didn’t actually do it all while he was still alive.

This document was dated December 21, 1785. According to the land records, there were no witnesses to it, and – interestingly – it was not filed on the record until May 11, 1793. Without looking at the slaveholder’s probate record, it’s not clear why there was this delay; perhaps Phyllis produced it during the probate process and the judge ordered it recorded, perhaps Phyllis decided to record it herself, perhaps the executors – whom either Phyllis or the slaveholder obviously feared might not carry out his wishes – chose to record it.

I was astonished when a quick Google search turned up a 2012 paper on marriages at Trinity Episcopal between 1768 and 1800, based on Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800, Vol. 7 (available on the Internet Archive), which specifically mentioned Sharper and Phillis … and also someone else. The entry from the book is as follows:



Frederic W. Bailey, Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800, Vol. 7 (New Haven, CT: Bureau of American Ancestry, 1906), p. 23.

So, this says that Sharper, an enslaved man, married a white woman in June 1782. Now, that’s not impossible (Connecticut law did not make it illegal), but honestly I’d want to have a second look at the record to see if the transcriber got it right. It certainly would have been a huge scandal.

Then, as you see, it says that Sharper Rogers, a free man, married Phillis, an enslaved woman, in January 1784. Were they the same Sharper? It’s an unusual name, so perhaps they were, but perhaps not. But at least from this, we know that Phyllis and Sharper had been married for almost two years when the slaveholder wrote up the document about the eventual freedom of Phyllis.

A single Sharper appears in the 1790 census:


Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Connecticut (1908), p.103.

So presumably this is Sharper and Phyllis. I haven’t failed to notice that so far, it’s only the marriage record that gives him a surname, so it’s an open question whether it really was his surname. The 1800 census returned a Sharper Mix (in a family of 4) in Wallingford, which is in the same county as New Haven:


U.S. Census, 1800, via Heritage Quest Online.

I know there were Mixes in New Haven as well, but I’m not at all convinced he’s the right guy. He appears in Wallingford again in 1810, in a family of 3, and after that there’s nothing in the county.

So that’s the end of the line on this quick research. I believe, based on the filing of the one document on the land records, that somewhere near the waterfront in New Haven, there was once a small house near the rope walk in which Phyllis and Sharper were able to make a life for themselves, together, as free people – despite the earlier, day-by-day moral failings of the former slaveholder.

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New Haven: Ceaser, Rose, and Cato (1777)

On May 31, 1777, the administrators of the estate of a New Haven slaveholder received, in consideration for two enslaved people, sixty pounds (the British pound was still the currency of the rebellious colonies). As in the manumission discussed just prior to this one, however, the “buyer” was problematic:

for the Consideration of Sixty pounds Lawfull money rec[eive]d of Ceaser a Negro man we have Sold and by these presents do hereby convey to Sd Ceaser Rose a Negro woman and Cato her Son


New Haven Land Records, Vol.39, Pg. 502.

To be clear, this says that the estate’s executors were convinced by the payment of a large sum of money to “transfer” the “ownership” of an African-American woman and her child to an African-American man – presumably the child’s father. Why does the document make no mention of this? Probably because the child’s enslaved status was a result of his mother’s enslaved status, which was the important thing as far the slaveholders were concerned.

Again, this is a bit early for reliable additional data on this family, especially since they are denied a surname. But we do, astonishingly, have two vital records entries for them:


Connecticut Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, Vital Records of New Haven, 1649-1850 (1917), p. 398.

Although this seems to indicate that Prise and Cato were born free before their mother’s manumission in 1777, I think the record was actually made in the 1780s, in an effort to ensure that the children were identified as being free people. This was a wise strategy, because it was not impossible for some white person to claim that a free African-American was really an enslaved person. Yes: African-Americans’ freedom was frequently contingent upon never coming to the attention of a white liar.

Why Prise was not included in the manumission is not known to me as of yet. Moving forward in time, the 1790 census did contain an entry for a three-person nonwhite family headed by a Ceaser (see below), when Prise would have been 20 and Cato 15. Of course, the couple could have had more children by then, and the older ones had moved out; the simple family size of 3 is not very informative. This could even be another family entirely.


Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Connecticut (1908), p. 105.

White people, by the way, were grouped into females, males 16 and over, and males under 16 (and slaves, like “all other free persons,” were all lumped together). Collecting data about non-white people, aside from their total numbers, was not a priority.

In the 1800 census there were three non-white men named Cato: Cato Edwards (family of 4 in total), Cato Saunciy (family of 3), and Cato Thomas (family of 4). If the families had been white, they would have been divided into male and female, each with five age groupings, but they were still just “all other free persons” (and also the last category, “slaves”). So although we know that the Cato we are interested in would have been about 25, we have no way to identify which of these men was him.

So here we stop; the 1810 census marshal for New Haven recorded, very unhelpfully, only the first initial of the people there; in the 1820 and 1830 censuses there was nobody named Cato in New Haven, even if they had age groupings for non-white people (which they didn’t); and the 1840 census, which did include age groups, still had no one named Cato.

And that’s enough with the lost ends. I found out a lot more about this family than I ever expected to – thanks for sticking with me this far!

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New Haven: Pompey Panchard and Leah (1778)

On March 23, 1778, a slaveholder of New Haven declared on record that:

I … for the consideration of Twenty six shillings lawfull money rec[eive]d to my full satisfaction of Pompey of sd Newhaven a free Negro man late Slave of … the sd Pompey sometimes called Pompey Panchard, have sold, and do by these presents do sell make over & deliver, unto him the sd Pompey, a Negro Woman Slave, called Leah aged about Fifty years at and until the Ensealing hereof to me belonging and being sound and well so far as I know – To have and hold the sd Negro Woman Leah, unto him the sd Pompey, his heirs Ex[ecutors] and assigns for and during her natural life –


New Haven Land Records, Vol. 37, Pg. 496 (03/23/1778)

The way the document assumes Leah will remain enslaved is disturbing, isn’t it? Pompey Panchard and Leah were not historically prominent enough for me to have found anything else about them, but there are other mentions in various sources of people purchasing spouses or other relatives and it’s always put as buying them “out of slavery.” But in 1778 Connecticut, at least, the standard forms apparently just didn’t encompass that idea – though they did encompass the idea that a free African-American could enslave another African-American.

As I said, disturbing.

I looked for Pompey Panchard, and also just Pompey, in Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Connecticut and found nothing. Nor was there a Leah. If Leah was his spouse and they were about the same age, either of them would have been around seventy years old by 1790. It’s quite likely that they had passed away by then, or were living in another household, or had moved away. Records of this period are not as detailed or accessible as those of later periods.

At any rate, I definitely prefer to think of Pompey diligently saving up money until he could pay off the man holding his wife, Leah, and get her out of slavery. How many years did it take, if they were fifty years old? I shudder to think.

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New Haven: Gad (1777)

On May 28, 1777, a man named Gad agreed to serve in the Revolutionary War in exchange for his freedom. The entry in the land record book simply says,

This may Certify that Gad my Negro Servant just purchased … I do discharge from my Service and shall have no demands on him myself, nor his heirs Exr nor assigns but shall be free to all intents and purposes in case I can be free from him on condition he shall serve in the Continental Army during the War


New Haven Land Records, Vol. 36, Pg. 419

One of the witnesses noted that he understood that Gad had enlisted that same day with Captain Prentice’s company.

What we learn from this document is that the slaveholder almost certainly purchased Gad in order to have him serve as a substitute in the army, though this document doesn’t actually say that. Presumably, he consulted Gad in advance about the idea – it would hardly do him any good to spend the money and then find that the enslaved man refused to join the army, even in exchange for freedom.

After diligent searching through Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, 1775-1783, I determined that Captain Prentice was probably part of Connecticut’s Sixth Regiment. And there, on page 214, was this entry:


Connecticut. Adjutant-General’s Office, and Henry Phelps Johnson. Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, 1775-1783. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1889.

So he did join, and he served almost two years. According to my cursory research (thank you, Wikipedia), the Sixth Regiment traveled to Peekskill, New York in May, and stayed at West Point over the winter of 1777-1778. They worked on fortifications, including one called the “Meigs Redoubt,” probably named after their colonel.

The next summer, the Sixth joined Washington’s main army in White Plains, New York. Then their brigade spent the winter of 1778-1779 at Redding, Connecticut, where Major General Israel Putnam (of Connecticut) took command of the troops there. In early 1779, they camped across the Hudson from West Point.

And there, on March 16, Gad Stone deserted. He missed, I can’t help but note, the Connecticut troops’ attempt to respond to Tryon’s raid (they missed him) and their successful storming of the British fort at New York’s Stony Point in July.

But why did Gad desert? I don’t know. As can be seen from the book snippet, he was far from the only Revolutionary War soldier to desert. Reasons for desertion were surely as many as the men involved – dislike of military life, conflict with officers, the need to help family back home, or whatever.

I would have to dig a lot deeper to find any more details about his service. It seems unlikely that I could learn anything about his life after the military – if he had any sense, he would have carefully avoided the slaveholder he was substituting for and changed his name.

But even so, he was a free man, living under whatever name he chose, wherever he chose.

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New Haven: Amasa and Silva (1772)

Amasa, “a negro” about nineteen years old, was freed on September 21, 1772, as was Silva, a “negro girl” about seventeen years old. These manumissions, by the same slaveholder (a widowed woman), took place under a different legal situation than the later ones that I’ve looked at. Because of this, the language in each emphasizes that the slaveholder is renouncing any claim to the freed person’s labor, as in the one for Amasa:

I do make him a free man to all intents & purposes, so yt from the day of the Date hereof what ever he ye sd Amasa Shall by honest Labour & industry or in any Lawfull way gain or acquire Shall be his own property and at his Sole dispose and free from any Demand or Claim either in his person or Estate by me or my heirs …

New Haven Land Records, Vol. 33, Pg. 387, 09/21/1772

New Haven Land Records, Vol. 33, Pg. 387, 09/21/1772

The absence here of a stipulation that the freed person will have no claim on the former slaveholder for future support is interesting – I’m not sure yet whether that is an exception or a reflection of the legal environment. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t read too much into the emphasis on “honest Labour” and “Lawfull way.” I think that reflects a concern to not inadvertently claim other people’s property, or ill-gotten gains that would properly belong to the state. Legal documents can be very oddly precise in some ways.

But there’s more – at least about Amasa (I haven’t had time to try to figure out what became of Silva). On September 23, 1772, the ex-slaveholder gave him, free and clear, ten acres of land (which she noted used to belong to her late husband). I mean literally “gave.” The consideration noted in the deed was

the respect and Regard that I have toward Amasa my Late negro Servant whom I have Lately Set free as by a writing under my hand appears


New Haven Land Records, Vol. 33, Pg. 397, 09/23/1772

I’m rarely surprised when looking at land deeds these days, but that floored me. Consideration of this intangible sort usually appears in transactions between close relatives – parents and children, most often, or siblings, will cite “love and affection” or similar formulation as fictive compensation. “Respect and regard” hits the same notes in a different key, I think, specifically the key of “not setting off the panic alarms of my racist culture.” It makes me think that Amasa lived in this slaveholder’s household from childhood, and she came to have strong parental feelings towards him. But it’s also a very interesting choice of words, suggesting that she also had a high opinion of his character and competence.

And ten acres! I’ve seen occasional gifts of land to former enslaved people, but they’re usually an acre or two at most. I desperately want to find out what Amasa made of this gift and his freedom, but haven’t had time to look. It’s especially difficult since I suspect he took a surname; I found this deed only because it was indexed under “negro” with several of the manumissions. Connecticut deeds rarely mention the race of the parties, so unless you’re looking for a specific name or (in earlier years) under terms like “negro” or “slave,” it’s hard to find these transactions.

If and when I do find out more, I’ll update, of course.

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