George W and Jeanette (Freeman) Andrews of Vernon and Manchester, Connecticut

RI 14th Heavy Artillery Battle Flag
RI 14th Heavy Artillery (Colored). Used by regiment during Civil War. Textile collection RI Historical Society


When George Washington Andrews, Ruth Andrew’s great grandfather, was born in 1853, the United States was in turmoil over slavery. Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States. Harriet Beecher Stowe had released her bestselling book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the year before. When George was four, the Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott decision, stating that slaves are not free when transported from a slave territory to a free territory. They also ruled that Congress could not ban slavery in a U.S. Territory, and that blacks could not be awarded citizenship.

Abolitionists, opposed to slavery, became more vocal. The conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery supporters became more violent. John Brown, educated in Massachusetts and Connecticut, became strongly committed to the abolitionist movement while living in Springfield, Massachusetts. He became the leader of violent actions against slaveholders and slave supporters, most known for the Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas of pro-slavery supporters and the raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia while trying to initiate an armed slave revolt. The turmoil of the 1850s led to the Civil War. It was much better to be a black or Indian family living in the North than the South, but life was hard.

In New England, the Industrial Revolution resulted in more factories opening along rivers. The upper Connecticut River Valley experienced the growth of industry, as well as French-Canadian and other immigrants moving to the area to work in the new industries.

George Washington Andrews was born March 25, 1853 in Ludlow, Hampden County, Massachusetts. He was the son of Calvin Dexter and Lovina (Jones) Andrews, and the sixth of 10 children. About the time of his birth, his father left the family and moved to Ellington, Connecticut. Not far from Ludlow, Dexter saw this as an opportunity to ensure his family had a better life. His family received state assistance and was listed on the Ludlow pauper rolls as early as November 1, 1853.[1] Lovina’s family was still living in Ludlow, and provided support for her and her children while her husband was getting established in Connecticut. Her family was from Connecticut, and there was movement back and forth between Massachusetts and Connecticut among family members.

In 1860 when George was six years old, he was living in the John Hamilton household, a white farmer living two houses from his family. It is unclear what relationship the families had, but it is likely that George was helping with farm work. He also attended school during the year.

In 1861 when George was seven, the Civil War started. He saw a lot of the white men on the surrounding farms leave to fight in the War, and many of them did not return home, or came home injured or ill. Congress passed legislation in 1862 allowing black men to serve in the Army, overturning a federal law passed in 1792 that prohibited black men from service. Two years later in January 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the states that had succeeded from the Union. Recruitment of black soldiers to fight in the War began in the fall of 1863.

Rhode Island mustered in the 14th Rhode Island United States Colored Heavy Artillery, which later became the Rhode Island 11th United States Colored Heavy Artillery, in August 1863.[2] Since Connecticut did not yet have a regiment of black soldiers, in late September George’s older brothers, Calvin Dexter, Jr. and Martin Phillip traveled to Providence with their father, who verified their age and gave permission for his sons to join the Rhode Island troop. Connecticut passed legislation in late 1863 to form the 29th Regiment of Colored Volunteers, which was full of recruits by January 1864. They then formed the 30th Regiment of Colored Volunteers. Seventy-eight percent of the eligible Black men of Connecticut enlisted in the Army. Fortunately, Calvin and Martin both returned home following the War.

George was living with his parents in Ellington in 1870. He married Jeanette Freeman on March 27, 1875 in Vernon, Connecticut. In 1880, George was living with his wife and young family in Vernon, and working on local farms. By 1900, he had moved his family to Manchester where he remained until his death.

There were few black families living in the small towns of Massachusetts and Connecticut – Ludlow and Ellington, and few living in Vernon. It appears that George and Jeanette were the first of the Andrews that settled in Manchester, which became home for many descendants of the family. By 1900, Manchester was a growing city with mills manufacturing textiles, soap, and many other items. It was considered a “Boomtown” and was in a period of great growth. The population more than doubled between 1900 and 1930. The Andrews probably moved to Manchester for better economic opportunity in the various businesses located in the city. They still continued to be one of the few black families in the area.

In 1903, George’s father died. Dexter’s will left $1 to his daughter, Mary Chappell, and the remainder of his estate was to be divided between his other two living children, George W. Andrews and Jennie L. Layton.

George was 5’10”, and weighed 150 pounds when he completed information for the Connecticut Military Census in 1917. He was a driver, and could drive a team of horses. He worked as a laborer most of his adult life. Census records described his ethnicity as black or mulatto. He was sick for seven days before his death from bronchial pneumonia on December 9, 1928 in Manchester. He was 77 years, six months and 19 days at the time of his death, and is buried in the Vernon Center Cemetery in Vernon.

Jeanette Freeman was 19 years old when she married George, who was 22. She was born October 29, 1856 in Vernon, the daughter of Edward and Mary Ann (Russell) Freeman. Jeanette was the youngest of her parents’ 10 children. The Civil War also affected her family. Her brothers, Henry, Julius, and George all served in the Connecticut regiments. Henry and Julius died during their service. This was extremely hard on her family. Her father was disabled and was not able to provide for the family. Her mother and her brothers, until they went into the Army, were responsible for the family’s support.

Following her marriage, Jeanette kept house for her family, and also worked as a washerwoman taking in laundry. She was sick for six days before her death on December 22, 1922 from a general aneurysm. A secondary cause of death was chronic nephritis, or an inflammation of the kidneys. She was 67 years, seven months, and two days at the time of her death, and is buried in Vernon Cemetery.

George and Jeanette had eleven children, all born in Vernon.

  1.  Unknown daughter was born was born November 26, 1875 and died before February 20, 1880.
  2. Charles Henry was born September 11, 1877 and died November 24, 1948 in Palmer, Massachusetts.
  3.  George Frank was born February 21, 1880 and died July 1, 1880 in Vernon. George died from cholera, and was five months, 12 days at the time of death. A number of deaths from cholera occurred in Vernon around this time.
  4. Martha Elizabeth was born March 6, 1882 and died before December 1948. She married Arthur Nelson Peters about 1920. He was born September 14, 1878 in South Windsor, Connecticut and died after April 1942. Martha was nicknamed “Mattie”. She was residing in Manchester in her parents’ household from 1900 to 1920, and had moved to Tolland by 1930. In 1900 the federal census lists her occupation as a house girl, and “no occupation” was listed in subsequent censuses. Martha probably died before April 1942, which is when her husband completed the World War II draft registration card. She was not listed on the card as a contact person. Martha was Arthur Peter’s second wife. Martha had three children. She was 16 years old when her first child was born. She did not marry the child’s father, Albert Thompson, and it appears that she and her son continued to live with her parents. She also had a second son whose father is unknown. She and Arthur Peters had one son.
  5. Calvin Dexter was born December 17, 1883 and died March 5, 1911 in Manchester. Calvin was 27 years, two months and 18 days at the time of his death. He died from acute nephritis, and was sick for three days. Calvin is buried in Vernon and never married. He worked as a driver for a coal wagon, or as a teamster.
  6. William Nelson was born March 25, 1886 and died November 15, 1937 in Manchester. He married Amy Louise Slader January 30, 1926 in Manchester. She was born about 1896 in the West Indies. William worked as a teamster in a coal yard, as a laborer in a saw mill, and a piper at the Manchester Water Works. He was of medium height, stout build, and had dark hair and eyes. He was 52 years, seven months and 19 days at the time of his death. He died suddenly of a heart attack, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Vernon.
  7. Ernest E. Andrews was born February 25, 1892 and died May 30, 1892 in Vernon. Ernest was three months, seven days when he died from accidental drowning. His ethnicity is mulatto.
  8. George Hebert Andrews was born February 25, 1892, and died January 16, 1962. He was a corporal in the Army during World War I and served in France, participating in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from October 26 – November 11, 1919. He is buried in the Grove Hill Cemetery in Rockville, Connecticut. He married Martha L. Freeman, daughter of Edgar and Edith J. (Peters) Freeman on June 24, 1922 in Manchester. She was born about 1904 in Connecticut and died March 25, 1951 in Manchester. George worked as a laborer, and was working for the WPA in Manchester in 1942. Martha did housework and was a servant.
  9. Emma Josephine Andrews was born March 16, 1894 and died February 1976. She married Henry Chester Stewart on October 28, 1916 in Manchester. Henry was the son of Henry Stewart and Florence Thompson. He was born July 17, 1895 in Hartford, and died October 12, 1936 in Manchester. He was 41 years of age at the time of his death, leaving his wife with three young children to care for. Emma and her husband lived in Hartford and Manchester. Henry has been listed in city directories and the federal census as working as a porter, a laborer at a soap factory, and a laborer at a lumber company. Emma worked odd jobs including housework.
  10. Ella Louisa Andrews was born April 14, 1896 i. In 1920, Ella worked as a laborer on a tobacco farm. No additional information was found on her.


[1] Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988.
[2] Russell M. Franks, Guide to Rhode Island 11th United States Heavy Artillery (Colored) [Collection] 1853 – 1913, (Providence College DigitalCommons@Providence, 2008).

Our next family sketch will be on the Calvin Dexter and Lovina Andrews family of Ludlow, Massachusetts and Ellington, Connecticut.

Until next time,


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