The Door to Freedom – Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War

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Ever wanted to be a member of the Daughters or the Sons of the American Revolution (DAR and SAR) but felt that descendants of Africans did not serve in the War, and therefore you could not qualify? Well, hold on! The family was right in the middle of the Revolutionary War, fighting for the freedom of this country, as well as for themselves and their families.

As we finish this branch of the family tree, we are traveling to Colchester, Connecticut. Colchester is East of Vernon, where we left Edward and MaryanneFreeman in the last post, and is located in New London County in southeastern Connecticut. This section of Connecticut was the largest slave holding region in New England.

Colchester is known for starting the Colchester School for Colored Children, founded in 1803 and located behind the Colchester Congregational Church near the town green. This was the first Connecticut school formed to provide education for black children. Black teachers were hired at town expense, and parents were expected to help pay the cost of their children’s education. The school was closed in 1848 as students were accepted into the Bacon Academy and local schools.

Colchester is a site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. More information about the Freedom Trail can be found at  If you live in New England, this can be a good family day trip as the weather warms up.

Today we are visiting the Eli Freeman and Edward (Ned) Carter families, both of Colchester, the last twigs we have found on this branch. There is limited information available on these families, but enough, particularly on the Carter family, to give us a sense of their lives, as well as their service to their country. Two resources provided a great deal of the information and stories I have been able to find on these families:

James M. Rose, Barbara W. Brown. (1979) Tapestry: A Living History of the Black Family in Southeastern Connecticut. New London: New London County Historical Society.
Barbara W. Brown, James M. Rose, Ph.D. (2001) Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut 1650-1900. New London: New London County Historical Society.

You can find these resources through your library, interlibrary loan, or copies for sale at various sites on the Internet. You will find more detailed stories, particularly on Ned Carter, his sons, and their Revolutionary War service, in these resources. I really recommend that descendants try to purchase a copy of Tapestry. The story of the Revolutionary War experience of the Carters is something that you will want to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

The parents of Edward Carter Freeman, who we discussed in the last post, are EliFreeman and Sarah Carter, both of Colchester. Eli was born around 1765, probably in Colchester. In 1800 he was listed in the Colchester Federal Census as head of a family of six and as a free man of color. He was not listed as an independent household in the 1810 census. All free people of color in Colchester were listed as part of a white person’s household, so they are unable to be identified separately. In the 1820 census, there were five in the family: one male under 14 years old, one male 14 to 25 years old and one male over 45 years. There was one female under 14 years old, and one over 45 years. One person was employed in agriculture, probably as a farm hand.

The identity of Eli’s wife and the birth dates of his children are taken from the ledger of Dr. John R. Watrous of Colchester, who delivered the babies. Eli married Sarah Carter about 1790.

Eli and Sarah had at least seven children. Very little is known about the children. All were born in Colchester.

  1. Child was born October 1791 and died February 17, 1795 in Colchester.
  2. Child was born in May 1793 and died December 1, 1795 in Colchester.
  3.  Child was born in December 1794 and died December 1, 1795 in Colchester.
  4.  Child was born in October 1796.
  5.  Child was born in September 1798.
  6.  Statira was born between 1800 and 1804. In 1870 she was living in Hartford and working as a housekeeper.
  7.  Edward Carter Freeman was born January 18, 1815, and died April 20, 1890 in   Vernon.

Eli probably died between 1820 and 1830. He was not found in the 1830 census.
Sarah (Sally) Carter was the daughter of Edward (Ned) and Jenny Carter. The dates of Sarah’s birth and death are unknown, but if she is the daughter of Jenny she would have been born before her mother’s death in July 1766. If she was born in 1765, she would have been 31 at the birth of her first child, and fifty at the birth of her last child. There was a large gap in ages between child six and seven; however, it is possible for a fifty year old woman to have a child. It is also possible that Sarah’s mother was Sybil, her father’s second wife and Sarah was born after 1765. There is no documentation to support which woman was Sarah’s mother. Sarah’s death is unknown.

Ned Carter, Sarah’s father, was probably born around 1720. He was originally the slave of Jonathan Kellogg of Colchester. [1] Ned Carter served at Crown Point (Fort on Lake Champlain on what is now the border between New York and Vermont) during the French and Indian War in 1755, and was emancipated because of his service in the war. However, his family was still enslaved. His wife, Jenny, was also a slave of Jonathan Kellogg. Several of Ned and Jenny’s children were given as property to Jonathan’s sons.

In January 1776, the Continental Congress approved a plan allowing free Negroes to serve in the Continental Army. In May 1777 Ned and his son Esau enlisted. Esau was emancipated in May 1777 by Israel Kellogg, his owner and son of Jonathan Kellogg, so that Esau could join the Army. Asher, another of Ned’s sons, enlisted May 1, 1777, which meant he had to be emancipated before this date. Ned’s son, Aaron, was emancipated by Christopher Comstock of Chatham. Aaron paid 40 pounds for his freedom, which was probably what he received for entering the service as a substitute for Salmon Root of Chatham. A fourth son, Edward Junior, also enlisted in the Spring of 1777. He had already served nine months before he reenlisted. He and his family were emancipated as a result of his service. The Carters were in many of the important battles of the Revolutionary War, and suffered through the difficult winter at Valley Forge. Tapestry gives an amazing summary of the various campaigns the Carter family fought in, and their contribution to achieving independence from Britain.

Jenny, Ned’s first wife, was a slave of Jonathan Kellogg. She was baptized in the First Church of Colchester on April 11, 1742. In 1750 three children, listed as servants of Jonathan Kellogg, were baptized. These children were probably hers. Jenny and Ned had at least seven children:

  1. Edward (Ned) Carter Jr was born about 1750. Edward married Eunice Williams around 1773 in Chatham. By 1805 he and his family had moved to and purchased property in Ellington. He also changed his last name to Chappell. His grandson, who identified as Indian, would marry into the Andrews family. Edward and Eunice had at least 11 children. He collected a pension from his Revolutionary War service, as did his widow after his death. He died February 26, 1826.
  2. Esau was born about 1755. Jonathan Kellogg willed 10 year old Esau to his son Israel in 1765. [2] In February 1770 Esau was arrested for breaking the Sabbath. Israel paid the fine. Israel emancipated him in 1777 so that he could join the Continental Army. After he returned from military service, he married Anna. By 1800, he had moved to Tolland, Connecticut and was living beside his older brother Ned. There were six in the family. In 1810 he was living in Willington with 9 in the household. He died between 1810 and 1820. His wife is listed as head of the household in the 1820 federal census.
  3. Sarah was discussed previously, and might not be the daughter of Jenny.
  4. Aaron was born about 1745, and married Rachel Bolles in 1765. He purchased his freedom from Christopher Comstock in 1777 and entered the Continental Army. In 1790, he was living beside his brother Jacob, and had ten in his household. In 1793 the town of Colchester gave him supplies to move, and he moved to Windsor, Connecticut where he died in 1797. Rachel moved to Middletown and collected a pension based on her husband’s service.
  5. Jacob was given as a child to Joseph Kellogg, Jonathan’s oldest son. When Joseph died in 1762, Jacob was given to his oldest son Silas. In 1783, he was a free person and was warned by the town of Colchester to leave, along with his wife Mercy. That warning was later rescinded and Jacob stayed in town. He was in the 1790 Federal Census with four in the household. In 1794 his father, Ned, was living with him and the town paid for his board. Jacob died October 30, 1794. His wife continued to care for Ned after Jacob’s death. Jacob and Mercy had at least two children.
  6. Asher was emancipated by 1777 when he enlisted in the Continental Army. He did not receive family supplies so he would have been single. Following the War he married Rachel (last name not known), and was living in Middletown by 1812. Rachel and Asher had at least two children. He was listed in the 1820 Federal Census for Middletown with six in the family. Asher died before 1830. His widow was listed in the 1830 Federal Census with four in the family.
  7. Child died April 12, 1763.

Jenny Carter died July 25, 1766. We know that not all of her children were free when she died. We do not know if she had been given her freedom before her death.
Ned Carter married (2) a woman named Sybil following Jenny’s death. They had at least two children.

  1.  Amos was probably born between 1766 and 1770. He was billed by Dr. John Watrous of Colchester for medical treatment of his mother in 1790. He was referred to as both Amos Carter and Amos Ned. No record has been found for him after 1794.
  2. Infant child baptized in sickness October 22, 1774. Nothing else is known about this child.

Sybil died around 1794. Her husband, Ned Carter, then lived with his son Jacob, and his wife Mercy. Since the town of Colchester paid for his expenses and board following his wife’s death, Colchester threatened to sue the heirs of Jonathan Kellogg for his support. The suit was dropped upon his death on January 10, 1797.
[1] Timothy Hopkins. (1903). The Kelloggs in The Old World And The New. California: San Francisco.
[2] Ibid., Volume 1, p. 46.

You can get a free e-copy of the Kelloggs book on Google books. You can also purchase copies through The book has information on the family who were the slaveholders of the Carter family, which includes some information on their slaves.

This concludes the stories on this branch of the tree.

The next post will bring us back to Monson and Palmer, Massachusetts and the Wallace family. The Wallace family is one of the earliest black families to settle in these towns.

Until next time….

From Slavery to Indenturing Children: The Russell and Anderson Families of Connecticut

I usually think of indentured servants as those immigrants who came to the colonies, and in exchange for their passage across the ocean were indentured for a period of years, usually seven, to work off their debt to their benefactor. Yes, it was a form of slavery, but there was an end in sight. Some of my relatives came to this new land as indentured servants, and I had relatives who as children were indentured following the death of their father.

However, I was surprised to see in the Connecticut families we are following parents, who themselves had been enslaved, indenturing their children. I can only guess at the reasons. Time travel would be the only way of knowing for sure! Were the families so poor that they were having trouble supporting their children? Did they truly want their children to learn a trade so that they might have more opportunities for employment in post-Revolutionary War New England?

“To Selectmen of Middletown: My son Samuel Peters is now living with Joel (Foote) Esq. of Marlborough and I wish to have him bound out to him until he arrives to the age of 21. The Mr. Foote doing by the boy as is customary and learn him a trade.” Signed by Fortune Russell and Jane Russell. Indenture date was March 28, 1826. Samuel was about eight years old. [1]

Sawney Anderson, the father of Fortune’s first wife Rebecca, bound out three of his children. However, their contracts were more specific with the type of trade they were to learn, and I would consider this more as apprenticeships, however without payment. Daniel Anderson was 19 when he was bound to Roger Brown of Wethersfield for two years to learn the trade of cordwainer. Sawney’s daughter, Else Anderson, was 12 when she was bound to Elisha Hale of Glastonbury to age 18 to learn the trade as servant. And Sonny Jr. was 17 when he was bound to Elisha Hale for four years to learn the trade of cooper. [2] Sonny did become a cooper in Glastonbury following the apprenticeship.

This week we will visit the Russell, Peters, and Anderson families. As we get closer to the Revolutionary War and slavery in Connecticut, the information available on the families become more limited, and as we “dead end” it is likely because individuals and families were enslaved.

The parents of Mary Ann Fortune Russell, the wife of Edward Carter Freeman and whose family we discussed in the last blog, were Fortune Russell and Jane Peters.

Although some records indicate that Fortune Russell was born around 1775 in Marlborough, Connecticut, I believe he was actually born earlier than that. I have found no actual documentation verifying his date of birth. However, on June 13, 1790 he married his first wife, Rebecca Anderson, of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Few men married at the early age of fifteen years. I think he was probably at least ten years older and was born around 1765. It is very possible that he was born into slavery, but had been freed by the time of his marriage.

Rebecca Anderson, born May 8, 1768 in Glastonbury, was the daughter of Sawney Anderson and Susannah Freeman. Sawney was formerly a slave of Captain Peter Harris of New London, Connecticut and was part of the sale of the estate of Captain Harris upon his death. Sawney was purchased by Venture Smith, himself a former slave, and was allowed to work for wages and pay off his debt for his own freedom.

“…in the consideration of the Sum of Forty Pounds in Money & Ten Bushels in Corn & Ten Bushels Rye to us in Hand paid by Venture Smith of East Haddam in Hartford County received to our full Satisfaction……Sell. Set-Over & deliver unto the said Venture Smith a Certain Negro Man named Sawney which was the Property of said Capt. Peter Harris Deceased. Seventh Day of December 1778
East Haddam October 26, 1779

The Within Bill of Sale was given upon Condition in Nature of a Mortgage for a small sum that I was bound in for Sawney & he having paid the same. I do this day Deliver this Bill of Sale to Sawney having no further claims upon him.
Venture (his X mark) Smith” [3]

Sawney moved to Glastonbury and purchased property. He and his son, Sawney, Jr. also owned a sloop. Sawney did indenture several of his children to learn trades, and his second wife, Phillis, died in the poor house. Sawney and his wife Susannah had at least seven children.

Rebecca Anderson and Fortune Russell had eight children. The original vital records did not always include the year of birth, or the year was illegible.

1. Horace was born December 20, 1785 and died March 14, 1848. He married (unknown) Carter on May 13, 1813. He died from dropsy (edema) due to intemperance (excessive use of alcohol). His year of birth is based on his death records, which indicated he was 63 at the time of death.
2. Elias was born August 13, 1799. No further information has been found on him.
3. Emeline was born December 20, unknown year. No additional information is known about her.
4. Daniel Anderson was born March 20, 1806, and died July 29, 1847 from dropsy due to intemperance.
5. Caroline was born March 20, unknown year. She married Rosewell Russell, Jr. on August 25, 1845, and she died August 31, 1869.
6. Lucretia was born February 5, unknown year. No additional information is known about her.
7. Ichabod Pease was born May 1, unknown year. No additional information is known about him.
8. Clarissa was born October 11, unknown year and died August 31, 1869. No additional information is known about her.

Rebecca died January 27, 1810 in Glastonbury. Fortune’s second wife was Jane Peters. Jane was born about 1780 in Glastonbury. I was not able to determine who her parents were, but she was probably related to the other Peters families living in Glastonbury. Fortune and Jane married on December 1, 1822. Children of Fortune and Jane are:

1. Samuel Peters was born about 1818. Other than the information on his indenture, nothing else is known about him.
2. Mary Ann Fortune was born August 20, 1817 and was discussed in the previous blog on the Edward Carter Freeman family.
3. George was born July 1, 1819. No additional information is known about him.

Fortune was found in the Federal Census for Glastonbury in 1810, 1820, and 1830. He probably died between 1830 and 1840. Jane was found in the 1850 Federal Census living in the Oliver Hale family household. She was 70, and the only black person living in the household. She likely was a servant in the household. She probably died between 1850 and 1860.

I recommend the following autobiography to learn more about slavery in Connecticut. It is available on-line.

A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America. Related by Himself: Electronic Edition. Smith, Venture, 1729?-1805

Venture was almost seven years old when he was captured in Africa and sold into slavery. His autobiography provides insight into what it was like to be enslaved, and his journey towards regaining his freedom. Venture purchased Sawney Anderson and allowed him to regain his freedom.
[1] Kathy A. Ritter. Apprentices of Connecticut 1637-1900. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1986.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Patricia A. Trapp. Silent Voices and Forgotten Footsteps. A Chronicle of the Early Black Culture of Glastonbury, 1693-1860. Thesis for Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies, 1996. Wesleyan University. Self published.

We will finish this line of the family tree in the next post where we will discuss the Eli Freeman family, and the Ned Carter family.

Until next time…..


Sons Lost in the Civil War – The Edward Carter Freeman Family

29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment

1863 was a historic year for black Americans. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued, freeing slaves in the states that had succeeded from the Union. States began to organize black militia to fight in the Civil War. Massachusetts organized its famed 54th Infantry Regiment early in 1863. Late in 1863, Connecticut passed legislation 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. [1]

Henry Freeman, son of Edward Carter and Mary Ann (Russell) Freeman, and older brother of Jeanette (see earlier blog on George Andrews and Jeanette Freeman) was 22 years old when he enlisted in this new Connecticut regiment on December 17, 1863. His 18 year old brother, Julius, followed him, enlisting on December 29, 1863, and was mustered into the 30th Regiment the same day. For a family that was financially struggling, the prospect of a $300 bounty and a regular income was attractive.

Continue reading “Sons Lost in the Civil War – The Edward Carter Freeman Family”

The Powers Family of Ludlow, Massachusetts and Suffield, Connecticut, Part 2

Marcus and Lovina Powers

The earliest family members identified on this branch of the tree are Marcus (also known as Mark) and Lovina Powers. Marcus and Lovina, as well as their oldest children, were probably slaves for part of their lives. Marcus was born about 1760 in Rhode Island, and Lovina was born about 1764 in Colchester, Connecticut. Rhode Island and Connecticut had the largest number of slaves in the New England states, and most blacks were enslaved when Mark and Lovina were born. In 1774, Suffield had 33 enslaved individuals, Colchester had 173, and Connecticut had 5,101 slaves, the most of all the New England states. In addition to Africans who came here as part of the slave trade, Indians were enslaved during the various Indian Wars. Continue reading “The Powers Family of Ludlow, Massachusetts and Suffield, Connecticut, Part 2”

The Powers Family of Ludlow, Massachusetts and Suffield, Connecticut, Part 1

As I was reviewing my notes and preparing to write about the Powers family, I found myself going down lots of “rabbit holes”. That’s the fun part about researching the family, and sometimes you uncover an interesting piece of information. I have an inquisitive mind that just never seems to stop, often keeping me awake at night as I come up with more questions seeking answers.

I found a reference in a book that Polly Powers of Ludlow provided a safe haven for a significant number of former slaves at her farm. I wanted to know more about this part of her life. I did not find a lot of additional information, but I learned a lot more about the Underground Railroad along the Connecticut River Valley. Ludlow, where Polly lived, is very close to Springfield which was a hub of abolition activity. In looking for land records of the Powers family, I found a record of Mark Powers purchasing land in West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1794, and also verified that the family came from Suffield, Connecticut.

I was curious why many of the early ancestors living in Massachusetts were born in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Why had they come to Massachusetts? The answers to that question led me back to slavery in New England. Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts by judicial decree in 1783. Massachusetts and Vermont were the only safe havens for people of color at that time. Connecticut and Rhode Island enacted gradual emancipation laws, which meant that the children of slaves born after March 1, 1784 would be emancipated after completing a period of servitude, ranging from 21 to 25 years. These laws did not provide for emancipating those born before 1784. Rhode Island did not formally ban slavery until 1843, Connecticut not until 1848. New York enacted a gradual emancipation law in 1799 but again children must remain in servitude 25 to 28 years before they were free. This was gradual abolition but not freedom. So the answer to the question as to why Massachusetts – it was so they and their children could be free.

Ancestors Lovina Jones

Phebe Powers

Phebe Powers was the mother of Lovina Jones, Calvin Dexter Andrews’ wife. As mentioned in the post on Calvin and Lovina, the only time Jones was used as a surname was on her death records and her tombstone. I do not know where it came from, if it was her father’s name, or if it was a mistake. I did not find a record of her birth or marriage.

Phebe was born January 9, 1801 in Suffield, Connecticut. She was the daughter of MarkPowers (also known as Marcus) and his wife Lovina. Mark and his family were listed as other free people (not white) in the 1790 and 1800 censuses for Suffield. Phebe was living in Wilbraham, Massachusetts in 1825 when her daughter Lovina was born. The next time she was found in records was May 9, 1834, when she filed intentions to marry Dea(con) Oliver Dutton, a 74 year old white man who was a widower. Phebe would have been 33 years old. The marriage was not recorded as having taken place, and he died nine years later.

Almost four years later, on January 23, 1837 Phebe married Henry Newport in Hardwick, Massachusetts. Henry was born about 1806 in Massachusetts, and was recently widowed. His first wife died in 1836 and he had three young children. Henry was a farmer and a laborer, and he died February 5, 1859 in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The cause of his death was “fits”, which sounds like he had a seizure.

Phebe and Henry had three children together:

  1. William P. was born about 1841 and died December 8, 1843 in Ludlow.
  2. Nancy was born in September 1846. She married Levi Johnson about 1877, and they had three children. She lived in Ludlow, Monson, and Springfield.
  3. Spencer was born about 1847 in Ludlow. By 1883 he was living in Boston and working as a coachman. He married Annie Frances Jones, from Norfolk, Virginia, on February 23, 1885. They had at least one child. By 1889 Spencer was living in Cambridge and working as a janitor. He was 70 years old when he died on April 13, 1917. His wife preceded him in death on April 14, 1914. They are buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Beginning in 1843 and through 1845, Phebe, her husband and children are on the state paupers list for Ludlow. In 1850 she is living next to her daughter Lovina and her family. In 1855, they had moved to Chicopee, Massachusetts. In 1860, as a new widow, she is once again living in Ludlow and working as a washerwoman. Her daughter Nancy is a domestic, and her son Spencer was also in the household. Life must have been hard as a single mother trying to support her family.

In February 1863 Phebe received $10 from Solomon Pierce, relinquishing her rights in the estate of her brother, Prince Powers of Monson, Massachusetts. Prince had a small farm in Monson, and he died in January 1863. Phebe died April 1, 1879 in Ludlow from old age and dropsy (an old term for edema). She was 78 years old, and working as a servant at the time of her death.

The next post will be on Mark and Lovina Powers and their other identified children, Charles James Powers and Prince Powers.

Until next time…..


Philip Andrews Jr and Philip Andrews Sr


As we continue to climb the Andrews branch of the tree, we have almost reached the top of what I have been able to find. The father of CalvinDexterAndrews was PhilipAndrews, Jr.  Philip was a lifelong resident of Ludlow, Massachusetts. He was born about 1808, the son of Philip and Sarah (unknown) Andrews. Philip must have been married twice, since his second wife would have been too young to be the mother of Dexter. He married (2) Mary Ann Powers on January 1,1838 in Ludlow. Mary Ann was eight years old when Calvin Dexter was born, supporting Philip’s relationship with another woman before his marriage to Mary Ann.

Calvin was probably the only child born from Philip’s first marriage. Philip and Mary Ann had one child: Mary Ann Andrews (Jr) was born about 1830, and married George W Mason April 12, 1855.  Philip is listed in the 1840 census with four in the family, one adult male (Philip), one adolescent male (Calvin Dexter), one adult female (Mary Ann Sr.), and a girl under 10 years (Mary Ann Jr.).

Not a lot is known about Philip. He probably worked as a laborer on the farms in Ludlow. Philip died violently at a young age. He was 34 years old when he was accidentally shot to death on October 17, 1842.[1]   I have not found out the details of this death. If someone can find the old newspapers that covered Ludlow during this time period, that might give us more information on what happened. His death occurred only six months after his father’s tragic death.

Mary Ann Powers was born about 1817 in Ludlow. She was the daughter of CharlesJames and Polly (unknown) Powers, and a first cousin of Lovina Jones, the Continue reading “Philip Andrews Jr and Philip Andrews Sr”

Bessie DeBoise Smith and Barbara DeBoise Stewart

We only have a couple of pictures of these women, and I wanted to share them with you.

Bessie (DeBoise) Smith was Frank DeBoise’s sister, and the aunt of James DeBoise. When Richard was young, he would spend summers in New Haven, Connecticut with his aunt Barbara, sister of James, as well as Bessie and her husband Billy. Richard hated the short pants that Barbara made him wear!

Bessie Smith and Richard DeBoise
Bessie DeBoise Smith and Richard DeBoise August 25, 1946
Barbara (DeBoise) Stewart
Barbara DeBoise Stewart about 1976