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 Ancestry.com 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).