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Plaque location: Black Hall

Prince, son of York and his wife Eunice Crosley, was born into hereditary slavery in the Black Hall household of Capt. Matthew Griswold Esq. (1714-1799). Baptized in 1755, Prince was sold twenty years later in 1775 to Samuel Platt in New Milford. Two years later in 1777, Griswold, who served as Connecticut’s Deputy Governor and Chief Justice, sold Prince’s brother Jim to Joseph Sill (1715-1782) in Lyme, who then sold him to another buyer in New Milford. 

Prince was known as “Governor Griswold’s Negro” when he enlisted in the Continental Army in August 1777. He served in the 7th Regiment under Col. Herman Swift until his discharge in August 1780, then re-enlisted in May 1782 and served 8 months in the 4th Regiment under Col. Zebulon Butler. Prince was involved in multiple engagements: 1777 Germantown, 1777/8 Valley Forge, 1778 Monmouth, 1778/9 Redding, CT, and 1779/80 Morristown, NJ. He then returned to Lyme and in 1788 married Caroline Miller/Brockway Crosley (1770-1855) in East Haddam. With her he raised several children in North Lyme, where he lived until his death in 1818. Whether he is the transient mulatto named Prince who was found guilty of theft in Stonington in 1787 and bound out to Stephen Breed (1760-1835) is not known.

Details about Prince’s life appear in his 1838 Revolutionary War pension record. According to testimony from his son John Crosley, Prince at the time of his enlistment was generally called Prince Griswold but after gaining his freedom used the name Prince or Prentiss Crosley. Prince’s sister Margaret Crosley Lewia (1766-1845), called Peggy (commemorated by a Witness Stone in 2021), whom Matthew Griswold freed in 1798, testified that after Prince’s military service, he settled in North Lyme where he resided until his death. Testimony from Samuel Lord noted that Prince’s marriage to Caroline Miller was a matter of “common notoriety,” an apparent acknowledgment that she was white, and confirmed that the couple “had a large family of children.”

The years following Prince’s military service have not been documented, but after his marriage, he likely worked at least briefly as a mariner, as he appears in the Federal Seaman’s Register in 1796, which lists him as 6 feet 1 inch tall. The Lyme census count in 1800 lists Prince Griswold with six in his household. His burial place is not known, but two years after his death, the town paid its schoolmaster in 1820 for teaching town paupers, among whom were two children of Prince Griswold, deceased.  

More than two centuries after his death, the Sons of the American Revolution in 2024 honored Prince Crosley’s military service with a veteran’s grave marker and a color guard ceremony in Old Lyme’s Duck River Cemetery.

Research into the lives of those enslaved in Lyme is ongoing and sometimes uncovers new details that may not have been known when the stone was installed. The text on this page reflects the most current information. 

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