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Black Families in Granby

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Black Families In Granby

And The Surrounding Area:

Black families have been part of Granby’s life since before the American Revolution. Because even free Blacks could not vote or hold public office, were not leaders in the established church or government, and rarely owned businesses, it is difficult to follow their lives.

Information can be found in the census and town records (both probate and land transfers) as well as church records and surviving account books from businesses and individuals.

Carol Laun gathered statistics and stories:

Somewhere around 1987, Carol Laun, volunteer archivist, began to gather statistics and stories about Granby’s Black residents. Most of the information found on these six interactive signs came from Carol’s research.

In his will of 1744, Joseph Phelps of the Turkey Hills district (now East Granby) bequeathed his property, his Great Bible and “use of my negro Tom” to his wife Mary. And in 1760, in another will, his son Joseph instructed his wife Hannah “I do order my negro man servant Zickery and my negro woman servant Citty, that are husband and wife, shall not, after my decease, be put asunder, but have liberty to choose their master among my children to live with.” People often used the term servant to mean slave. This may have been the same Zacheriah (Zacky) who fought in the Revolutionary War and died a free man in 1779.

Zacheriah and his wife Citty were not the only Blacks in the area called Turkey Hills District because in 1775 it is recorded that a seat was built for the Negroes at the church in that parish.

The Census shows accurate numbers:

  • Census of 1790 - Ozias Pettibone, 5 slaves; Pliny Hillyer, 2 free; Roger Moore, 1 free

  • Census of 1810 - 17 Blacks living in white homes; 15 in Newgate Prison; 28 Black families in town

  • Census of 1820 – in white homes, 13 males, 13 females; poor house, 25 males; black families, 33 males, 23 females (not including children)

  • It’s been estimated that black families were living in the area of the Jewett houses (on the west side of Salmon Brook Street) down to what is now the historical society, as well as “Shack Town” which is thought to be in what is now East Granby near Granbrook Park.

An invitation to continue to explore our town’s history with these interactive signs:

Take some time to explore the other interactive signs for information about the following: Black soldiers who served in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary and Civil Wars; the Wallis family; the Elkey family, the Black Percy family and their owners the Pettibones and Granby’s white, abolitionist author Emily Clemons Pierson.

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