Slavery in Wilton

In February 2019, the Society opened the exhibition “Tools of a Shameful Trade” to display artifacts related to the international trade of enslaved African people, as well as objects related to slavery here in Connecticut. Tools of Shame combined PDF

Fact: In 1757 David Lambert took possession of an enslaved African man named Jack; an original document on display at the Wilton Historical Society confirms the sale. He also bought “Coffee,” age 11, in 1760.
Fact: US Census data of 1790 and 1810 indicates that there were slaves in Wilton, owned by many of the families whose names we know well – Marvin, Middlebrook, St. John, and Belden. Other documents show slaves were owned by additional families: Comstock, Fitch, Davenport, Grumman, Gregory, Hickox, Keeler, Betts, Abbott and more. Not only Africans were enslaved; Native Americans were, too.

1757 Bill of sale documenting the sale by Joshua Jennings of an enslaved man named Jack to David Lambert.

Fact: Research has revealed that an enslaved African woman named Haggar, born c. 1770 and owned by Samuel Belden II, was married to Bill Tonquin, an enslaved Native American. Bill Tonquin was owned by another branch of the Belden family in Wilton. Haggar and Bill Tonquin had three children; Prince, Nancy, and Black Jack. The family lived in the Belden Store at the corner of Ridgefield Road and “Danbury Pike”. Haggar Tonquin is documented as being the last slave in Wilton. Her children were slaves, but were born with the promise of freedom, as they would have been freed at age 21 by the Connecticut law passed in 1784. However, that legislation did not free either Haggar or Bill; not until 1848 did the state free all the remaining slaves.

Fact: On November 26, 1838 the Rev. Nathaniel Colver of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society spoke at the Baptist Church in Georgetown, where “his lecture was disturbed by unruly persons” according to Bob Russell’s history of Wilton. He lectured again on the following two days, hoping to organize a Georgetown Anti-Slavery Society. But about 2:00 am on November 29, the church suffered substantial damage from the explosion of a keg of gunpowder under the pulpit. No Anti-Slavery Society was formed, and the perpetrators of the crime were never brought to justice.

Fact: An Anti-Slavery Society was never organized in Wilton, either. Its formation was thwarted by two well-directed “torpedoes” made of gunpowder wrapped in sacking and tied with tar ropes. These devices were placed under the windows of the home of David and Aaron Chichester on Pimpewaug Road in December 1838. The Chichesters were hosting Dr. Erasmus Hudson, another organizer from the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society, who was hoping to form a group in Wilton. The slow fuse devices exploded during his lecture, showering the attendees with glass.