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.)

Ti and Phill seemed to gravitate to each other. And why should they not? Was not Titus Dr. Gay's boy? And Phillis Captain Hanchett's girl? Aristocracy was a great point among the colored folks as well as the whites and of about equal value . . . .

None the less, Titus did talk quite a deal of nonsense, which did not seem wholly disagreeable to Phillis. After supper things were cleared away and the rooms tidied up a little, all sorts of games were in order.

The dining room and kitchen were given up to the servants. The white people had the rest of the house. The elders talked politics and theology, with now and then a condiment of mild gossip. The young people danced most of the time and played many games that to say the least of them were "hilarious," and practiced more or less the sublime art of making love. The negroes emulated the sports of the young folks, for seldom one of them gets too old to frolic. There was more abandon, more real mirth among them than the others, but there as the same underlying current. Asrubel Hastyngs fell as desperately in love with Densy Carroll as Titus did with Phill. It is a game confined to no race or color or previous condition.

The evening seemed short enough to the actors, as such evenings always do, though it was past the time when "graves yawn and ghosts walk." There as great commotion at the breaking up, as is to be expected on all such occasions. It is a sort of pair-off time, or rather, the pairing-off exemplifies itself at that point.

Titus wanted to walk home with Phill, and she wanted him to. It was only a little distance—say three miles. But she came with Pompey and Trix, and it took a great deal of diplomacy to arrange a modus vivendi, as they call it now-a-days. Titus had the sensation of feeling the weight of Phill's hand on his arm, and the privilege of carrying her apron and basket.

They came to Squire Hanchett's safe and sound, though it took them a good spell to get there. They came near losing their way, familiar as it was. They were startled several times by screech owls, and two or three times heard something amazingly like a wild cat. Once they thought they saw an Indian prowling around. Strange, but these things rather added to their enjoyment. How a fellow does like to show his manhood on such occasions by protecting the girl, and how she does like to be protected. There was not much talk on the way home; there seldom is. But Titus managed to say some remarkably silly things, which Phill laid away in her heart and told him to "hush."

Titus slept very little that night, and when he did it was to dream of an angel, but always with a black face. The next morning the doctor said: "Titus, what time did you get home last night?"

"The meeting broke up about twelve, sir, and I didn't stop on the way. They kept me stepping sure, and I was done tired out."

"Did you have a pleasant time?"

"You know, I don't care much about that kind of meeting. There's too much nonsense."

"I am very glad, Titus, to find you always so serious and thoughtful for a colored person. It argues well for your future life."

"Thank you."

"You may bring around the chaise and get ready to drive me to Squire Hanchett's."

Of course Titus' conscience was very tender that morning. He felt sure his master had heard something not altogether to his advantage concerning the last night. But neither in going or returning or afterwards did the doctor say a word upon the subject uppermost in Titus' mind.

This was one source of unrest for him. Another was that although he stayed more than an hour at the squire's, he did not catch a glimpse of Phill. And yet he was certain she knew he was there.

He thought of little else on the way home, or for the next week, for that matter. How to see her or at least how to hear from her, was the question.


* * *

As it turns out, Titus and Phill do not have a happy ending. In a subsequent piece for The Connecticut Magazine (available via Google books), Judge Smith tells of how after escaping her master, Phill hides out in a cave with Ti's aid. Unfortunately, she becomes very ill and eventually dies, with Ti at her side. Ti never marries or talks of another romantic relationship.

According to research done by the Suffield Academy’s American Studies class (2012-13), Thanks to the Gradual Emancipation Act, Titus was freed by Dr. Gay in 1812 at the approximate age of 25.

After being freed, he lived in Suffield and was mainly employed by the church, helping out the minister and working as the sexton, gravedigger, custodian and bell ringer. He died in 1837 at the age of 50, and was allegedly buried in the northwest corner of the Suffield Congregational Church.

Slavery in Connecticut: Reminisces of Old "Ti"

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