When the academic literature on slavery on Long Island,1 was developed, material now on the Internet was not available. Therefore the disposition of slaves through wills was almost impossible to trace.
The New York Historical Society typeset all wills probated in the New York City Court in the eighteen century, including all of Long Island; this material was scanned and is now retrievable by keyword, such as “slave,” “Indian,” or “negro.”2 at Ancestry.com. The Lester Will Book, 1897, with annotations by William Smith Pelletreau (1840-l918) who was the Clerk of Southampton, New York for many years, can now be printed from the Web at longislandgenealogy.com. We are also fortunate to have access to The Salmon Records3 of Southold deaths and the First Presbyterian Church of Southold’s records of marriages and christening during parts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.4
Using these resources, we succeeded in identifying well over 200 slaves in the East End towns5 who were mentioned in wills, inventories, church records, and private listings between 1680 and 1796.
The purpose of this paper is not to repeat the excellent studies of this very “peculiar institution” which is so excellently described in the sources footnoted, but to identify the now known individuals who labored under this system.
The disposition of slaves in the 1600s was often freedom, which is also true after the Revolutionary War. But, these eras are book ends to a solid middle between 1700 and 1790 when slaves were either bequeathed or sold. Most slaves were African Americans although it was not unusual for them to be Indians.6 Slaves imported into the East End were often “seasoned” first in the Caribbean where they would gain some English language skills, survive devastating diseases such as small pox, and be whipped into compliance.
Labor was always at a premium throughout the Colonial period, and the British government encouraged the importation of slaves to do the hard work required to build the economy of the colonies. The New York colony had more slaves than New England, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania combined. About 20% of the population of Suffolk County in 1698 was African and most of them were slaves. Except for a few instances of wealthy families such as the Sylvesters on Shelter Island and the Floyds in Mastic, most slave owners had one or two, rarely more. Travel for a slave was often proscribed to a mile from home, so socializing and maintaining links to one’s religion, culture, and language was virtually impossible. Christenings and marriages were allowed, by law, and it is possible that slaves participated in church activities in order to socialize with each other. It may be that through the records of the First Presbyterian Church of Southold it is possible to watch the sale and purchase of slaves within the households of the town. Often, it seems, a slave baptized or married under one master, is disposed of in the will of another. It is intriguing to speculate.
After the land itself, the next most valuable asset to a yeoman farmer was his slaves. They are often listed with sword, gun (musket) and Bible or cow, cattle, and sheep. They were bequeathed in the same manner or sold to pay debts.
Life for a slave in rural Long Island was lonely and isolated. Slaves usually labored alongside their owners and lived in their houses. Throughout the Eighteenth Century laws were enacted which made their lives ever more restricted and desperate.7
Everyone labored from dawn to dusk in dozens of occupations. There was no time for idle hands.
Just dealing with the livestock required skills in herding and tending, breeding, training oxen to plough and horses to halter, hay making for winter fodder of fresh meadow and salt marsh hay, sheep shearing, wool washing, carding, spinning and weaving, butchering, smoking, salting and packing up beef and pork, rendering of tallow, candle making and soap making.
To build and maintain the buildings suggested skills in felling and sawing of timber, shaping shingles and other wood products for domestic use or for sale, construction of buildings, carts, and general carpentry.
In the fields, skills included clearing land not already cleared by the Indians, making and planting, harrowing, hoeing, and weeding of crops, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, carting, cleaning, milling, and storage of grains which included wheat, winter wheat, oats and Indian corn. They had to make lanes for oxen teams.
They made fence railings and fences. They stocked the ware house and loaded and unloaded vessels. They made bricks and laid them.
The garden, orchard, and cider mill meant digging, manuring, sowing, weeding, harvesting, hoeing, sowing, gathering, cleaning and storage. Also planting, pruning and harvesting fruit, making cider and casks for storage. Also, skills were required for fishing and fowling. The salt marshes required the drying of salt.
The kitchen and household demanded cooking, gathering of vegetables and eggs, butchering, plucking and hanging poultry, making pillows and featherbeds, desalting brined foods, grinding corn for bread, baking and yeast preservation, pickling, preserving and drying, preparation of medicines, laundry and ironing, sewing and mending.
In the areas of birth, life and death, skills were required in child birthing procedures and childcare, nursing the ill, preparations for burials and the burials themselves.
Firewood was chopped, hauled, and stacked, Ashes were saved for lye and dying. Roads, walls and foundations were built with stone which needed to be broken and hauled. The landing and piers required sinking of piles and building stone foundations.
This first known disposition of slaves on the East End is that of Nathaniel Sylvester in 1680. He arrived on Long Island in 1652 with slaves from Barbados for the purpose of managing a supply plantation for the family sugar cane businesses in the Caribbean. An inventory completed on September 8, 1680 following Sylvester’s death, lists six men, five women, six girls and three boys. The slaves named in the will and their family groups are as follows: Tamero, his wife Oyou and their four children, three of whom were possibly boys; Black John and his daughter Prescilla; Negro J:0 and his wife Marie; Negro Jenkin; Jaquero, his wife Hannah, and their daughters Hope and Isabell; Tony, his wife Nannie, and their four daughters Hester, Abby, Grace, and Semnie; and Japhet and his wife Semnie. The inventory values the slaves: “To three negro men 60.00.00; To three negro women 45.00.00; To five negro girles 40.00.00; Here follows what is in partnership viz one halfe: To two negro women L30.00.00; To three negro menn 45.00.00; To three negro boys 30.00.00; To one negro girle 8.00.00.” In his will, Nathaniel disposed of his slaves by giving them to his children, often breaking up slave families.
In his will in 1684, John Budd, a yeoman farmer in Southold gave his “negro woman Catherine and her child” to his wife Mary. That same year, Thomas Jessup of Southampton decreed in his will that his “negro man” was to be “freed after four years.” In 1690, Benjamin Horton of Southold was of like mind: “I give to my man Joseph one sow one gun one sheep and his time to be out next May day...” John Swazey of Southold in 1692 agreed: “My will is that Besse ye servant shall be free & set at liberty at my decease & she shall have the bed she lieth on.”
John Tooker of Southold wrote a Codicil to his will which was proved in 1692 in which he disowned his sons and daughters if, in his wife Hannah’s opinion after his death, they “molestered” or were in any way unkind to her. He had the same admonition for his slave:
...if my Negro man called Richard or Dick shall behave himself submissively faithfully and diligently to my said dear wife Hannah truly observing and performing all her lawful commands not absenting himself by night or day from her service without her leave that then my said wife shall at her death fully free discharge & set ye said negro Richard or Dick at liberty giving his freedom but if the said negro Richard shall behave himself as a stubborn unfaithful and disobedient servant to her then my Will is yet she shall & may at any time sell him to her own best advantage of behoof.
Stephen Hand of East Hampton, in 1693 gave his Indian boy to his eldest son Stephen with the admonition, “also ye Indian boy he paying five pounds to ye boy to ye end of his time if he shall have a full year to serve.” Freedom in the end. In Smithtown, Richard Smith to his son Job: “we give and bequeath our negro Robin for ye term of twelve years ... and at ye end of ye said twelve years, the said Robin shall be freed.”
On the otherhand, in 1701, James Herricke of Southampton gave his daughter Sarah “my melatto boy George for herself and service forever.” A year later, Peregrine Stanborough of the same town gave his slaves Will and Isabel to his wife Sarah”‘with ye bed and bedding they lye on.”
The first law regulating slaves occurred in1702. No one could trade with a slave without this master’s or mistress’s permission. Owners could discipline a slave as seen fit but could not take a slave’s life or sever a body part. Slaves could not carry guns. They could not congregate in groups larger than three unless working for their owners. “Whipping was the the penalty, up to forty lashes. Towns could appoint a public whipper, who would be paid up to three shillings for each slave whipped.”8 As years passed, more and more laws were passed placing greater and greater restrictions on slaves.
In 1706, John Conkling of Southold left his slaves to his two sons: “I leave to my wife [Sarah] one-third of money and movable estate, except certain negroes ... All the rest of my personal estate to sons John and Henry.”
That same year, Matthew Howell of Southampton left to his eldest son Nathan “Also my negro boy named Reuben and my best sword and worst gun...” To his son Israel he left “Also the next worst gun and sword, and a negro boy called Felix.” To his son Ezekiel, he left “Also a negro boy Archibald and my best gun and a serviceable sword.”
In 1707, John Paine of Southold, a mariner, willed “also my sloop and my negro slaves, and two cows and 30 sheep” to be sold.
A year later Daniel Sayre of Southampton ordered the sale of his slaves, “and to my son David, my two negro slaves, called Jerry and Moll, and they are to be sold by my son in law, Jeremiah Topping, and my son Daniel, and the money distributed.” He is gentler with another slave: “It is my desire that my negro woman may have liberty to choose her master, when she is sold, and she is to have all her clothes.”
In 1714, Thomas Youngs of Southold bequeathed to his sister Martha Gardiner, “a negro slave, such as my wife shall appoint her.” His gives to his nephew Joshua Youngs, “a negro slave and a silver tankard.” In 1716, Susanah Pierson of Southampton gave to each of her daughters Hannah and Sarah “an Indian girl.” To her daughter Mary, she gave “two Indian girls.” She also willed that “the negroes are to be sold altogether, for I would not have them parted.” This is a sentiment that was rarely practiced. Slaves were valuable property and dividing families for economic gain was common.
In 1717, Samuel Woodruff of Southampton left his wife Hester, “1/3 of all lands, meadows, and Commonage, and a negro slave, John, and £20.” Two years later his fellow townsman John Cook instructed his executors about his wife Elizabeth, “I also give her my best feather bed and the use of the best room in my new dwelling-house. Also my negro woman Hitt, and £30 in money.”
In 1724, Anthony Ludlam of Southampton disposed of his slaves as follows: “Cesar” to his wife Rebecca, “Cofe” to his son Samuel, to his daughter Phebe Haines, “my negro boy Firns,” to his daughter Sarah Baker, “my negro boy Peter,” and to his daughter Temperance “my negro boy Stephen.” The following year, Joseph Fordham, Jr. also of Southampton directed that his “3 negro children” were to be sold to pay debts. At the same time, “I leave to my wife [Martha], a negro woman named Abigail.”
According to the Salmon records, on March 1, Joseph Elison’s “negro child” died and on March 5, Captain Braddick’s 18 year old “negro man” died. On May 31, 1725, Captain Reeves “negro child” died, on June 16 Joshua Wells’ “negro man” died, and on June 23, “a Indian woman.” On June 24 Benjamin Moore’s “negro woman Betty” died at age 27, and for the same day is the notation “92 Josiah Indian Sqow.” On September 7, Mr. Way’s “negro woman Judah” died.
In 1727 John Mulford, Jr. of East Hampton left his “negro woman” to his wife Hannah.
The following year John Knowling of Shelter Island willed to “leave to my wife Hannah, a negro boy and a negro girl, and the bed that I lye on, and the trundle bed with its furniture, and 2 iron pots, and a brass kettle, and a warming pan, and pewter, and 6 spoons, and my Large Bible.” Hannah Knowling, at the same time, left “Tamor” to her daughter Mary Merrow and “a negro boy” to her grandson John Merrow. “My daughter Mary Merrow is to have use of him until her son is of age.”
In 1729, Jonathan Hudson of Shelter Island, willed, “I leave to my daughter, Hannah Spencer, £32 Boston money, and 2 cows and a negro girl. To my daughter, Deborah Parker, £20 and 2 cows and a negro girl.”
In Southold, on April 27, 1730, Samuel Conklyn’s “negro man Killis” died.
James Reeve of Southold in 1731 left “to my wife Deborah, one choice bed and furniture, and my negro slave Betty and £10, of such parts of my movable estate as she shall chuse, at money price ... I leave to my eldest son, James Reeve, all the rest of my lands and meadows and buildings, and my negro boy Dick.”
The following year, Jabez Mapes also of Southold left “a negro man” to his son Joseph, and Thomas Mulford of East Hampton left “2 Indian servants” to his wife Mary.
In 1733, Isaac Raynor of Southampton left “1 negro girl” to his daughter Phebe, “a negro boy and girl” to his daughter Hannah, and Joseph Youngs of Southold left “my negro man” to his son Josiah.
Josiah Halsey of Southampton left his slave to his wife Mary, with the understanding, “my slave John is to be free after the death of my wife.” This was a highly unusual act and suggests both affection and respect in the master, slave relationship. However, it must be recognized that freedom placed John in peril. Few people of color were free men. He could be challenged as a runaway wherever he went. John’s best opportunity for gainful employment would be on a vessel out of Sag Harbor the tiny port that had been founded just two years before.
William Halliock of Southold whose will was written in 1728 but not proved until 1736 admonished, “If my wife does not sell my negro men, then my sons Zebulon and Peter shall have them equally between them, and they are to pay £4 in produce of this town to my daughters Abigail and Margaret.”
In 1737, John Hedges of East Hampton willed, “My wife Ruth is to live in my house during her life. I also leave to her my household goods which she needeth to keep house with, and a negro girl and a cow, and my 3 sons are each of them to pay her £5 if she needeth it.”
Theophilus Howell, also of East Hampton, in 1739 left “to my wife Abigail the use of the east end of my dwelling-house, and 1/2 my barn and garden, and the use of 1/3 of all my lands, during her widowhood, And a negro man and woman, And the best bed and all the linnen cloth, and £20 in money, and £10 of movable estate.”
On December 22, 1739 in Southold, Benjamin L’Hommedieu’s “Dinah Sworta or negro wench” died. On December 25 Justice Wickham’s “negro girl” died.
In 1740, Sanuel Lore of Southold left a “negro boy” to his son Samuel. Ananias Conkling left “a negro man” to his wife Hannah, and in 1741 Samuel Beebee of Southold left the “negro boy Josiah” to his daughter Patience Beebee.
Joseph Hildreth of Southampton in 1742 left “to my dear wife Deborah, the use of 1/3 of all lands, meadows, and buildings, also my negro man and the best room in my house...”
In 1743 Joseph Hull of Southold ordered that his slave Titus was to be sold “and the money put out for the benefit of my daughters, Mary, Prudence, and Elizabeth, till they are of age.”
A year later Theophilus Pierson of Southampton disposed of his slaves as follows: “a negro boy Peter” to his son Henry, “my negro girl Peg” to his wife Sarah, and “my negro Hector and my wench Dol and her child are to be sold.”
Also, in 1744, Daniel Foster of Southampton left “to my wife Lydia, my negro girl Leah, and 1 cow.”
In 1746, Matthias Burnet of East Hampton willed, “I leave to my grand son, Burnet Miller, all my lands, meadows, and commonage, and all my right on Montauk, and all stock and cattle, and all wainage and farming tools, and all my books, gun and sword, and my Indian boy and negro boy.” He left his “Indian girl” to his wife Elizabeth. Also his fellow townsman Samuel Dayton left “to my beloved wife Dorothy the use of the west end of my now dwelling house, from the bottom to the top, and also a convenient garden at the west end of my house, so long as she remains my widow; Also a negro wench Hagar, and 1/3 of all my personal estate.”
On February 15, 1746, a white man and two negro men “all three stifled on board a sloop” in Southold.
In 1747 Silas Sayre of Southampton willed that his wife was to have the use of “my negro slave” until his son Ezekiel became of age. His neighbor John Topping willed: “All the rest of my houses and lands I leave to my son, Nathan Topping, also my gun and sword. I leave to my wife a negro boy and my plow and cart and farming utensils, and my best bed and furniture.”
In Southold, on July 5, 1747, Colonel Hutchinson’s “Peg negro woman” died. On March 3, 1748, Limos “a negro about age 40” died. On August 21, both John Budd’s “Peggy” and Deacon Tuthill’s “Hope” died. On May 22, 1749, “Justice Youngs negro Har...” died.
In Southold in 1748 Jeremiah Vaill left his “negro girl Hagar” to his wife Elizabeth. A year later, David Horton left “York” to his son David, and in 1750 Henry Tuthill bequeathed “my negro Tim” to his son Henry and “a negro woman and her child” to his daughter Bethia Landon.
Also in 1750, John Havens of Shelter Island left his two oldest slaves to his wife and then to his daughters Sarah and Elinor. To the three others daughters Desire, Phebe, and Mary “each a negro slave.”
That same year Abraham Howell of Southampton speaking of his wife Patience, “I also leave her a negro man and all the gold and silver money in the house, and 6 best silver spoons, and silver tumbler, and 2/3 of the movable estate, and a silver cup and silver tankard.” Samuel Thompson of Brookhaven gave his servant “Sharper” to his wife Hannah with the admonition that he was not to be sold. To his daughter Mary, he left two silver spoons and a “negro girl” but “my executors are to sell the negro children, and the money to be paid to my daughter Susanah.”
In Southampton Elisha Howell left “to my wife Damaris, the use of 1/3 of my house and lands, and 1/3 of my movable estate during life, also 2 negroes.” He left his son Arthur “my negro man Adam,” to his son Elisha “my negro man Pompey,” to his son Samuel, “a negro boy,” and finally, “I leave to my daughters, Abiah Pierce, Charity Halsey, Martha Smith, Sarah Price, and Phebe Howell, each £5, and to my daughter, Susanah Halsey, £20, and a negro girl.”
In 1751, David Gardiner left “to my wife Mehetabel, the use of my home lot and buildings, in the town of East Hampton, which I purchased of Richard Shaw, so long as she continues my widow; Also my riding chair and my chair horse, and one silver teapot, one bed and furniture, and the choice of my negro slaves.”
In early September 1751 in Southold, Justice Youngs negro boy died. On December 6, The negro Toney’s wife Hope died.
In 1752, Ephraim White of Southampton left “to my wife Sarah my house and home lot, and a negro man and my movable estate. I leave to my son, John White, all the rest of my lands, buildings, and meadows and Commonage, also my gun and cane.” Josiah Howell of Southold, a blacksmith and a man with a great deal of land, left “a negro woman” to his son Elias. Job Halsey of Southampton left to his brother John “all my meadow on the west Beach, from Quogue ditch west; Also a £50 right of upland and meadow in Assop's Neck, and a negro boy and all my movables, and I make him executor.” Isaac Halsey Jr., left his wife Phebe “a negro woman and a negro boy.”
In Southold, in late December, John Prince’s “negro woman Jin...” died, on June 18, Dick’s Squaw Tamer, and on July 14, Henry Ludlum’s “negro man Cuffe.” On August 10, 1752 Dinah Indian’s child died, and on December 28 Dinah Squaw herself died.
In 1754 Thomas Catfield, who had been Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and died at age 68, left his wife Hannah, “Lewsey.”
John Corey of Southold left “Juhah” to his wife Dorothy, “Shubaal” to his son Abijah, “Violet” to his daughter Elizabeth Lewis, “a negro girl” to his daughter Dorothy Dickerson, and “Dorcas and Thankful” were to be sold.
In Southold, in late December, John Prince’s “negro woman Jin...” died, on June 18, Dick’s Squaw Tamer, and on July 14, Henry Ludlum’s “negro man Cuffe.” On August 10, 1752 Dinah Indian’s child died, and on December 28 Dinah Squaw herself died.
That same year, John Budd also of Southold left his land to his sons John, Asa, and Benjamin, ordered his movable estate to be sold, “except my negro boy, whom I leave to my daughter Jemima.” Proceeds from the sale were to benefit his six daughters.
In Southold in 1754, on April 3, Colonel Hutchinson’s negro Robbin died at age 25, and on April 24 Justice Thomas Youngs’”negro girl” died. On May 13, John Wells’ Indian boy Will died, and on August 22 John Salmon’s “negro woman Phillis” died. Other slave deaths that year included: William Moore’s “negro Hegar” on November 6, Johanthn Diamond’s “negro girl” on December 8, and Mathias Corwin’s “mallata girl” on December 3.
In 1755 the estate of Benjamin L’Hommedieu of Southold was settled with the disposition of his slaves as follows: “a negro man and woman” to “my beloved wife Martha,” the “other negro woman” to be sold and money paid to his daughter Elizabeth Bloom, and the “negro girl Hagar” to his daughter Mary L’Hommedieu.
In the same year and also in Southold, the widow Sarah Conkling gave her “negro man” to her son Joseph, a “negro girl” to her daughter Elizabeth, one half of “all stocks of cattle and negroes” to her son Thomas, and all the rest of the “cattle and negroes” were to be sold to benefit her children Henry, Joseph, Sarah, Rachel, and Elizabeth.
Also in 1755 in Southold, Joshua Youngs left his wife Mary “a negro girl.” The following year Ebenezer White of Southampton, the first minister of the church of Bridgehampton, left “Tower” to his son Elnathan White and his “negro woman Quaw” to his son Silvanus.
The 1755 slave deaths in Southold included: on January 3, Deacon James Reeve’s “negro girl,” on February 3, Doctor Samuel Gilston’s “negro child,” and on February 29, Lieut. Thomas Reeve’s “infant negro girl.” On March 7, Doctor Gilston’s “negro woman Hagur,” perhaps from complications of childbirth, dying so soon after a baby in the household. On August 22, 1756 William Albertson’s “negro boy” aged 3 died.
In 1757 Nicoll Floyd of the Manor of St. George in Brookhaven left to his eldest son William, later a signer of the Declaration of Independence, “... smith’s tools, and whaling tackling, with all my Indians for the design, And all my negro or Indian servants on my farm ...” To each of his daughters, Ruth, Tabitha, Charity, Mary and Anne, he left each “a negro girl” and a bed.
In 1758, Jeremiah Culver of Southampton left his “negro wench Ruth to my wife Damaris.” A year later John Mackie also of Southampton left “my negro man Pompey and my team” to his wife Mehetabel.
In 1759 David Corey of Hashamomack in Southold, stated that “my wife Mary is to be provided for according to my agreement with her in writing before our marriage...” which suggests a pre-nuptial agreement, and he left his gun and “negro boy called Crack” to his son Jasper. He also left “a negro boy and my silver hilted sword” to his son David. To his daughter Anne, wife of Zachariah Horton, he left “a negro girl which now liveth with her,” and daughters Deborah and Sarah each received “a negro girl.”
That same year, William Salmon of Southold left his daughter Hannah Hempstead “a negro girl.” To his daughter Abigail he bequeathed “£20 , two cows, 2 swine, 4 sheep, and all household stuff and a negro girl.” He required that the administrators were to “sell all lands and meadows, and the rest of moveable estate and a negro boy ...”
In 1761, Joshua Wells of Southold curiously left to his third son John “1/2 of a negro boy.” Zerubabel Halliock left “a negro slave” to his wife Esther. Thomas Reeve left to his only son Thomas “... also my negro wench Pegg who is not to be sold out of his household without her consent.” Stephen Hand of East Hampton left “my negro woman Lucy” to his wife Annie.
There were two curious transactions in Southold in 1762.
Barnabas Wines freed two slaves, Peter and Pegg, with 1/2 acre of land and required that the “executors shall give a bond that the negroes shall not be a burden to any town.” To Peter he gave his “chest and wearing apparel, and £10, also my gun and small iron pot, hoe, one scythe, one sickle.” To Pegg he left, “all her wearing apparel, and her beding, three pairs of sheets, two chestts, one pot, one trammel, one pewter tongs, four old chairs, two basins, a linnen wheel, one cow and calf, one box.”9 This was a generous gesture without local precedent, and apparently did not set an example.
John Salmon, on the other hand, required that all his slaves be sold, “for the support of the Gospel in the First Society in the Town of Southold for the support of the Godly, Orthodox minister of the Dissenting order, Clear and Sound in the Calvinist Doctrine.”
Also in 1762, Elihu Howell in Southampton, left his “negro man” to his son Theophilus and “a negro woman, one cow and ten sheep” to his daughter Hannah Halsey. In 1763 William Havens of Shelter Island ordered his executors to sell his two slaves. In 1764 Thomas Jennings of Southampton left “my negro boy Pompey” to his wife Sybil.
On January 8, Lymus “ye son of Jereboam and Dorcas, Negroes” was baptized in Southold, as were Elizabeth and Shadrick “Negroes of Benjamin Wells on March 26 and Dorothy, Isabel, and Pomp, “the servants of Lieut. Booth” on June 29.
On October 6, 1765, Lucy “daughter of Jereboam and Dorcas, Negroes” was baptized.
David Hedges of Southampton left “my two negroes Joshua and Phebe” to his son Daniel in 1766. In East Hampton, Jeremiah Mulford left his Great Bible and “my negro boy Sharper” to his son Lemuel.
In Southold, Jude “servant woman of Nathaniel Tuthill” was baptized. Another one of his slaves, Dorcas, daughter of Dorcas, was baptized on August 17. On October 12, Zilpha and Dorkiss “daughters of John, Negro servant of Jonathan Conklin” were baptized.
In 1765, Thomas Dering took up residence at his family estate on Shelter Island. He made an inventory of his property which included six slaves: including Cato, London, Comus, Matilda, Judith, and a male child named London. 10
In 1767 in Southampton David Pierson left his “negro wench Violet” to his wife Elizabeth and his “negro man Tower” to his son Lemuel. In Southold Thomas Moore left “Hagor” to his wife Hannah and to each of his daughters Mary and Hannah £100 and “one negro child.”
Southold slave deaths in 1767 include, on September 30, Benjamin Goldsmith’s “negro boy,” and on October 22, “Sarah Harys Squa.”
In 1768 David Fithian of Southampton bequeathed “a negro boy” to his grandson Jesse Halsey and in 1769 Nathan Halsey left “a negro boy and girl” to his son.
In 1768 in Southold, on July 16, one of Thomas Dering’s slaves”Le ...[illegible] died, possibly London. On November11, Joseph Wickham’s “negro child” died.
On September 5, 1768, Peter and Ruth, “servants” of Joseph Wickham of Southold were married. Also that year, Cesar, Mr. Zacheas Goldsmith’s “Negro man” and Catherine were married on November 21. Also in 1768, on August 28, Zeneus, son of Jude “servant, woman to ye widow Mary Hutchinson” was baptized. On August 7, 1769, Peter, “servant of Maj. Parker Wickham” and Elizabeth “servant of Benjamin Wells” both of Cutchogue were married. In that same year the following baptisms took place in Southold: April 2, Jedediah, “son of Peter, servant of ye Widdo Mary Tuthill,” June 25, Robbin, “son of John Peter, servant of Thomas Moore,” and on October 29, London, “servant child of Thos. Dering, Esq., offered by him, both of Shelter Island.”
Josiah Miller of East Hampton in 1770 left his “daughter Phebe Parsons 1/3 of all my personal estate except my negroes, Tankard, and farm tackling.” His slaves went to his son Jeremiah who also inherited the land.
Also in 1770, on May 27, Enos. “son of late servant to Lieut. Moses Case, and Peg, servant to Abraham Case,” was baptized in Southold. On December 30 of that year, Mehitable, “daughter of Jereboam, servant to Mrs. Mary Hutchinson,” was baptized.
In 1771, Shelter Island had a population of 167, 27 of whom were “blacks,” or 16%. Jonathan Havens had 6, Thomas Dering, 5, Daniel Brown, 3, William Nicoll, 8, Nicoll Havens, 3, Obadiah Havens, 1, and Jonathan Havens, Jr., 1.
In 1771 Josiah Woodhull of Brookhaven left “one of my negro girls” to his wife Clement.
Jason, “son of Catherine, servant of Lieut. Moses Case of Southold,” was christened on July 14.
Eleazer Hawkings bequeathed “a negro wench” to his daughter Mary in 1772.
Baptisms in 1772 in Southold included: on February 23, Lydia, “servant woman to Ezra L’Hommedieu” and Jude, “servant woman to Zacheus Goldsmith,” and on June 19, Stephen, “son of Jack, servant to John Conkling, Jr.”
In 1773, the slave christenings in Southold both on August 22, included Titus, “son of Jude, servant of ye Widdo Hutchinson,” and Limas, “son of Catherine, servant of Lieut. Moses Case.” In early November Zaceus Goldsmith’s “negro child” died, and on November 23, John Conkling’s “negro Peter.”
In Southampton in 1774 John Mitchell ordered that “Prime” be sold. “I authorize my executors to sell my negro man Prime wither to the west of the Island or Gardiners Island.” His intention was to remove Prime from the community.
Israel Halsey left to his son Josiah “all the rest of my lands and buildings and rights of land; Also my largest bible and my best cane, and a negro named “Simon.” He left £10 and “Dinah” to his daughter Mary Rogers, “two negros” to his son Wilman, and “two negroes” to his son John.
Also in 1774 in Southold, Constant Booth left “Joe” to his son Joseph. His “negro boy Mingo” was to be sold. At the time of his death, the house in “Sterling” was the only house in what is now Greenport.
Also in 1774, there were six baptisms of slaves in Southold: on January 22, Nance, “an Indian woman educated by Ensign Hempstead;” on April 3, Jenny, “daughter of Peter, Negro servant of Widdow Hutchinson;” on April 20, Dorcas, “daughter of Jereboam, Negro servant of Widdow Hutchinson;” on June 2, Joseph Wickham’s children as well as his servants, Ruth and Dinah; on October 9, Peggy, “daughter of Peter and Ruth, servants of J Wickham;” and on October 23, Peggy, “daughter of Jack and Doll.”
Southold slave deaths in 1774 included: Justice Youngs “negro Tom” on February 12, “free Peter Negro” on March 7, Widow Hutchinson’s “Negro Robin” on April 8, Jospeh Booth’s “negro boy” on May 25, Benjamin Conkling’s “negro child,” about June 1, on October 24, R. Hemstead’s “negro Florice,” on December 29, Cyrus James Webb (negro), and in late December Ezra L’Hommedieu’s negro twins.
In 1775 in Southampton, William Smith, doctor, planned that his slave would go to his wife, however, “if my negro man Peter does not conduct to the satisfaction of my wife and my son William, my executors are to sell him.”
That same year, Shelter Island had a population of 171, of which 33 were “negroes,” 19%.
In Southhold, two slaves were baptized, both on March 26: Eunice, “daughter of Titus, servant to Ezra L’Hommedieu;” and Jude, “servant woman to ye Widow Mary Hutchinson.” On February 27, Ezra L’Hommedieu lost another “negro child.” Around July 19, a “negro child” belonging to Benjamin Wells died. On October 8, Widow Hutchinson lost a “negro child.”
In 1776 Benjamin Hawkings of Brookhaven left “a negro girl” to his daughter Julianna Smith and instructed that “two negroes “ be sold “... and as much personal property as will pay debts.” That same year in East Hampton, John Dayton left “all household goods and a negro girl” to his wife Abigail.
In Southold, on February 18, Festus, “son of Catherine, servant woman to Lieut. Case” was baptized; on March 6, Kedar and Jude “servants” were married; and on May 5 John, “son of Peter, servant of Joseph Wickham” was baptized. Thomas Reeve’s “negro Peggy” died in April.
By the late fall of 1776 many of the land rich on the East End who were sympathetic to the revolutionaries had fled to Connecticut to escape the British who occupied Long Island. They stripped their land and houses of valuables. Many left their wives and children to scrap by and to inhabit their homes which the British would not use as barracks if occupied. Slaves stayed or fled as their masters required.
In February, “Mary Jurdon Squa” died. On September 21 Terrel’s “negro Yarrobu” died and on September 30, Widow Havens’ “negro wench Zil.”
In 1779 Stephen Roberts of Southampton bequeathed “my negro Robinson” to his son Stephen.
On February 12 in Southold, Darby, “a negro man” died and on August 10 an Indian drowned.
Joseph Conkling owned land both on Shelter Island and on Hogs Neck. His 1780 will states “I leave to my negro wench [Marria] her time” and “I also give to Merria her daughter Cloe during her life.” In other words, he freed Marria and gave her her own daughter as a slave.
In Southold, Joseph Booth’s Joseph died on January 20.
In 1781 Martha Strong of Brookhaven left “Oliver” to her son Selab.
On June 6, there was a tragedy in Southold in which three “negroes drowned” including Parker Wickham’s “York” Osborne’s “Catury” and “Joseph” a child. On July 20, Joshua Benjamin’s “negro child” died.
In 1782 Joseph Reeve of Southold admonished, “My negroes [are] to have the choice of their masters without regard to price.” His wife, in the same year, left to her son “Ebenezer Reeve, my negro man named Reuben. Unto my son-in-law, John Gardiner, and to my son-in-law, William Corwin, and his wife all the remainder of my estate, consisting in money, goods, and chattels, to be equally divided. My executors to take proper care for the suitable maintenance of my two old negroes, Titus and Jude, and keep a sufficiency of my estate in their hands for that purpose.”
William Downs left “the negro girl” to his “well-beloved wife Sarah.”
In Southampton, Lemuel Howell left to his “loving wife Abigail...the use of a negro wench called Jane.” To his son Moses, he gave “my negro boy named Elymas, ” and he gave “Titus” to his son Caleb.
Samuel Hudson in Southold gave “Florah” to his wife during her life and that Florah “shall have her choice which of my daughters she shall live with after my wife’s decease.” 11
Captain Daniel Osborn gave his wife Hannah “Peg...[for her] sole use during her widowhood.” Mary Reeve left “my negro man Reuben ... unto my son Ebenezer Reeve.” She also required, “My executors [are] to take proper care for the suitable maintenance of my two old negroes, Titus and Jude, and keep a sufficency of my estate in their hands for that purpose.”
In Brookhaven Frederick Hudson left his “negro wench Kate” and his “negro boy Dick” to his wife Sarah. At Manor of St. George’s, Daniel Downs left to his “well beloved wife Desire” his “negro girl called Zipora” and empowered her to “dispose of her as she sees fit.” Thomas Stephens of Southampton gave “unto my loving wife Mehetable ... one mulatto boy named Hira.” Cornelius Halsey left “my negro girl called Dinah” and “my negro boy called Jack” to “my loving wife Millescent.” Abraham Gardiner of East Hampton left “Zil” and “Reuben” to his “beloved wife Mary.” Reuben was then to go to his daughter Rachel Mulford at the decease of her mother.
In 1783 Joseph Mapes of Southold ordered that “my negro man William” and “ my negro woman called Gense” be sold. However, “Whereas I have verbally given to my said daughter Ame a negro girl called Hagar, she may have her choice of said negro or the part of my moveable estate, but not both.”
On January 29, John Negro died in Southold. On July 24, Simon Landon’s “wench” died.
In 1784, Richard Floyd of Brookhaven made the following provisions for his slaves, “As I have heretofore made some provision for my beloved wife Elizabeth, I make no further addition except my three negro wenches Jude, Zipporah and Kate (but not Kate’s child for that I give to my son Benjamin) ...Further my negro boy Tice, while my widow...” Richard Miller gave to his “beloved daughter Ann ... £20 and a ‘mulattow’ slave named Bette” and to his “beloved daughter Sarah Woodhull £20 and a ‘mulattow’ slave named Margarate.”
In Southold, on May 23, Phillis, “servant woman of David Fanning” was baptized. Southold slave deaths included: Pompe Negro on January 8, Gershom Terry’s wench Hannah on May 24, Doctor Conkling’s “wench” on September 17, and Justice Terrel’s “negro Simon” on November 12.
In East Hampton Phebe Parsons gave “my negro girl Sarah” to her grand daughter Phebe. To her daughter Mary Osborn she gave “also my negroes namely Jack, Violet and the negro child.”
In 1785 in Southampton, Abraham Squire gave “my negro boy Cambridge” to his wife Phebe. The following year, Silas Halsey left “my negro girl Dinah” to “Susanah my beloved wife.” In Brookhaven Jonathan Thompson left “Andrew” to his wife Mary and “my negro man named Sharpes” to his son Samuel.
In Southold, on February 22, 1786, Noa, “son of a serving woman of Benjamin Wells” of Cutchogue, was baptized. On November 1787, William Moore’s “negro Hegur” died and on July 28, J. Cleveland’s “negro wench” died.
Following the Revolutionary War, the residents of Long Island became ambivalent about the institution of slavery. The Quakers, particularly, found it a hypocrisy and pressed for it to end. In 1788 in New York State, it became lawful to manumit a slave. For a slave to be freed, he or she had to be less than 50 years of age, of sound mind and body, and capable of earning a living. The law required that the local overseers of the poor had to approve. That did not always happen and soon small colonies of destitute freed slaves developed in Jamaica and Flushing.
In 1789 Joshua Clark on Shelter Island freed Lymas. In Southold in 1791 Barnabas Terrel stated that executors were “not to sell [Cain] without his consent.” John Gardiner in Southold in 1795 freed “Cuff.” He required that all other slaves over age 30 were to be freed. Younger ones were to be freed at age 30. Joseph Booth decreed that his “negress Doll” was to be maintained for the rest of her natural life and that “Ruben” was to be freed. Thomas Dering of Shelter Island, upon his death, freed Matilda. A year later Phineas Fanning of Southold freed “Cornus.”
This is not the end of the story, of course. But, it is the end of retrievable records. What this recitation does, I hope, is to give to the thousands of unknown slaves a touch of humanity that they were not granted in life. In this sea of cold economic reality, there are moments of tenderness and generosity which are to be celebrated. The rest is a bleak reminder of the cruelness of this “peculiar institution.” In 1799, New York State began a long process which would lead to the ending of slavery on July 4, 1827. Slaves freed from bondage during this quarter century were to be educated and provided with skills to earn a living. This usually did not happen and as a nation we remain poorer for it.
1 Day, Lynda R., Making a Way to Freedom: A History of African Americans on Long Island, 1953
Wortis, Helen Zunser, A Woman Named Matilda, Shelter Island Historical Society, 1978
Marcus, Grania Bolton, Discovering the African-American Experience in Suffolk County, 1620 - 1860, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1988
Vahey, Mary Feeney, A Hidden History: Slavery, Abolition and the Underground Railroad in Cow Neck on Long Island, 1998
Naylor, Natalie A., Exploring African American History: Long Island and Beyond, 1991
2 Approximately 180 wills cited in this article were found in this resource.
3 The Salmon records are listings of deaths in Southold between 1696 and 1811 maintained by the Salmon family of Southold, New York.
4 These records can be found in the New York Genealogy and Biographical Record between July 1933 and July 1935. These materials are in the Long Island Collection of the East Hampton Public Library.
5 The towns are Southold, Shelter Island, East Hampton, Southampton, and Brookhaven. I used everything I could find from those towns. 1 have one Smithtown story because I though it was edifying. An equally interesting study could be done using the five Western towns of Suffolk County from the same sources.
6 Because of the isolation of slaves and the dwindling Indian populations on the East End, it was not unusual for these two populations to intermarry.
7 To learn the many skills required to run a successful farm in the 1700s, skills masters and slaves alike had to have, visit http://www.shelter-island.org/slavery.htinl
8 Dewan, George. The Rise of Slavery LIHISTORY .COM: http://www.lihistory.com/3/hs3l3a.htm
9 Kruger, Vivienne L., Francisco the Negro, 1985 doctoral dissertation, as repeated by George Dewan, The Rise of Slavery, LIHISTORYCOM.
10 Wortis, A Woman Names Matilda, page 50.
11 It is possible that Florah is the same person who married “Crank” on July 2, 1764.