Slavery in Connecticut: Reminisces of Old "Ti"

 

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(Warning: As this article was penned over a century ago, there is language that is racially insensitive and offensive by today's standards but was acceptable at that point.)

[Titus' master] Dr. Gay was a learned man, as was his son after him, and very hospitable. Often his brother clergymen came and stayed over night and perhaps longer. Then there were notable discussions of science and literature and theology. Art was lightly touched on, for it was not indigenous to Suffield soil. It was a great thing for a boy to have such associations, and especially for Titus, only one degree removed from Africa. Later in life these scenes came back to him, as they come back to all happy enough to pass through them, and made him a better man.

Among the earliest memories that Titus loved to relate was the coming home of the soldiers and the great celebration. When these old New Englanders started out on a jubilation, it was bound to be a success. Tradition has handed down an account of how many beeves were killed, how many gallons of rum were furnished, how many pigs were roasted, how many bowls of punch were drank, how many sheep were eaten, how many kegs of flip washed them down. For our Yankee fathers were not so temperate either in eating or drinking as their descendants . . . .

Not did he ever tire of telling of Washington's visit to Suffield. He seemed to feel as it would not have been a success but for his efforts and his master's. His master was one of the principal officers of the day, and made the welcoming address; while Titus waited on the general. It needs no embellishment to make it appear a great occasion, for it really was. It was a gala day for Suffield . . .

Titus was never sick—that is, seriously—at least while he was in his teens. Once he managed to get laid up a few weeks by getting his leg broken. There was a "raising," and boy-like, he ventured too carelessly and had a fall that was a lesson to him—that is, if anything is a lesson to a sixteen-year-old boy . . . .

At sixteen, a boy was supposed to know enough to quit school—that is, if he was ever to know enough. And whether he did or not, he quit. So with Titus. He knew a little arithmetic. He had heard of geography, but not of grammar, for which he ought to have been thankful for it would have cramped him all his life, as it has most folk. He could scrawl a little and call it writing. So much he knew. And he quit.

He had not distinguished himself at school except for his good nature. In fact, he never did distinguish himself much anywhere or at any time. He was a very commonplace character, as best suits our purpose in illustrating the last days of slavery in the state of Connecticut. He was a simpleminded, honest, faithful fellow. He had no one else in the wide world to love but the doctor and his family. And he set to work in earnest to help. He, too, did "what he could." And the doctor needed all his help. Who ever heard of a New England divine that did not, excepting, of course, those who get rich by marriage or accident?

There was great improvement in the farm the years following, and Titus' strong arm did most of the work. Everything around the manse looked trim and well kept.

When about nineteen Titus became entangled in a love affair from which he never recovered. There was a husking—corn shucking, the call it in old Virginia—at Major John Pynchon's. All the white folks were invited, and most of them went. Of course the colored people were there to wait on the table and to attend to the odd chores.

The good doctor for once permitted Titus to go, although as a rule he did not approve of servants going to such frolics. But Zack, Judge Loomis' body servant was going, and he was a trusty boy for Titus to go with. The negroes had few opportunities to meet, as their masters had a notion it made them giddy and unsteady. Titus had seldom seen a colored girl, except when, as driver, he accompanied his master in his calls on his parishioners, and that was not a good time to form new acquaintances. But on this moonlit October night he was destined to form some that led him a merry dance . . . .

There was Bet Norton and Trix Austin, and a half dozen others at work setting the tables and trotting here and there. But Phillis Hanchett was the comeliest wench in all the neighborhood. It was said she knew it and was a little inclined to flirt, after the custom of her pale-faced sisters. But there was not much truth in that . . . .

 

Slavery in Connecticut: Reminisces of Old "Ti"

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