New London County Historical Society

11 Blinman Street | New London, CT 06320

Phone: 860-443-1209

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Caesar Shaw: Freeman & Sailor

April 25th, 2019|

By: Sam Urban

Caesar Shaw was born a slave in New London on the 10th of February, 1760. He was owned by Nathaniel Shaw Jr, so he likely lived in the third floor servants’ quarters of the Shaw Mansion. At Nathaniel Shaw Jr’s untimely death in 1782 he was freed in the will that Nathaniel dictated on his deathbed. Nathaniel Shaw Jr.’s will also bequeathed him ten pounds in silver coins annually for the rest of his life; as long as he lived in New London. Ten pounds in 1782 was about $2,100 dollars in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.

It is likely that Caesar was sent to sea by his master, like many slaves in New London were at the time. The records from the late 18th century and early 19th century when Caesar was a sailor are often incomplete so we only know of two specific voyages that Caesar participated in. The first voyage was in 1795 to the West Indies on the sloop Betsey. A notarized certificate that says Caesar is a free man and an American citizen protected Caesar from runaway slave catchers and British impressment on his journey. Caesar’s second voyage to the West Indies was […]

Benedict Arnold’s Privateering Past

April 25th, 2019|

By: Steve Manuel

From Benedict Arnold to Nathaniel Shaw Jr. on August 10, 1780.

“Dear Sir,
I have taken the liberty of enclosing sundry letters, bills sale etc.; by which it appears that Capt Joseph Packwood in August 1778 sold to Capt Thomas Truxton one fourth part of the sloop John with her cargo. Amounting to £1070, lawful money, for which amount Capt. Truxton drew on me (then in Philadelphia) which draught I stood ready to honor when presented; it also appears by Capt. Packwood’s letter that he had no doubt of the draughts being honored. It also appears by the papers that the sloop made one voyage and returned safe from the West Indies in March 1779 with a cargo of rum, sugar, & Molasses; — How many voyages she has made since, or what has become of her, I have never heard. Capt. Truxton informs me that Capt. Packwood wrote him some time since, requesting him to draw two thousand pounds lawful money, part of the profits of the Voyage, and at the same time objected to his sharing in full proportion alleging for reasons, that the sloop was not paid for when bought and that the money had greatly depreciated; […]

Joshua Hempstead Diary Update

April 25th, 2019|

By: Patricia M. Schaefer

In April of last year I wrote an article for the newsletter about the upcoming new edition of The Diary of Joshua Hempstead 1711-1758. It is still upcoming, but there has been progress. I have finished the proofreading, Dan Connors has formatted the entire diary so that we have page numbers, and I’m mostly finished checking name index errors and additions.

This means there are two major tasks remaining: changing the page numbers in the index to match the page numbers in the new edition; and getting the diary printed. The new edition is seventeen pages longer than the last one, partly because of formatting changes, but mostly because of added content. There were a few entries added that had been suppressed by the Victorian transcribers, but most of the added content is a line here, and another one there. Most of these were simply missed, being at the end of an entry, squeezed between two other lines, or at the bottom of a page. They add up. There are a number of diary entries that make much more sense with the added line. For instance:
Tuesd 15. fair Cloudy. Samll Hide in Town. I was at home & in […]

Two Thomases

April 25th, 2019|

By: Patricia M. Schaefer

In the last newsletter, I wrote about a few children who have headstones in the old burying ground without there being a stone for parents or other members of the family. This time we’ll cover two other children, both named Thomas, who do not have other family members with headstones in the burying ground. Both were named after their fathers, although the circumstances of their lives were quite different.

The first of them is Thomas Avery, whose headstone reads, “Here lyeth the body of Thomas Avery, who departed this life July the 3rd, 1712, in the 8th year of his age.” “Eighth year” meant that he was seven. Joshua Hempstead’s diary gives more information: “Thursd. 3d fair hot. I was at Groaton all day with Brothr Plumbe Laying out Lots att Nowayank [Noank]. a very hot day. Little Thomas Avery drownded in a Swimming.” On Saturday 5th he records, “Tho Avery was buryed yesterday after Lecture.” Lectures were held on a Thursday or Friday before a Sunday on which Communion, or “Sacrament” as Hempstead called it, was served to full church members during the Congregational worship service.

Thomas was the son of Thomas and Ann (Shapley) Avery, part of the […]