MARGARET CROSLEY LEWIA
Plaque location: 4 Lyme Street, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
Margaret Crosley, also called Peggy, was born enslaved in 1766 in the section of Lyme called Black Hall. The youngest child of African-descended York and Native American Eunice Crosley, both enslaved servants of Matthew Griswold, “Peggy servant-girl to Matthew Griswold” was baptized in 1767 by Rev. Steven Johnson. In a series of newspaper columns two years earlier, Lyme’s minister had boldly defended Americans’ God-given gift of liberty, but he never defended the rights of those locally enslaved.
“Matthew Griswold Esquire,” the distinguished lawyer who served as Connecticut’s governor from 1786 to 1788, emancipated “Peg Servant” in 1798. She was then 32. The emancipation certificate describes the “Negro Girl” as a “slave for life” and states that “her Industry, Fidelity, and Integrity hath convinced [him] of the Properly [propriety] and Righteousness of manumitting & giving her her liberty.”
Four years after Peg was freed, she married Lewis, the enslaved servant of Matthew Griswold’s nephew Col. Marshfield Parsons. For the next decade, she likely provided domestic labor in Parsons’s house and coaching inn adjacent to today’s First Congregational Church. Whether as a free Black she received wages for her labor is not known. Margaret and Lewis had two children, James born in 1804 and Eunice, named for her grandmother, baptized in 1806.
When Lewis was set free and acquired the surname “Lewia” has not been discovered, but starting in 1820 the Lewia family appears in census counts. An 1868 map of Old Lyme locates the property on today’s Sill Lane where Margaret and Lewis’s son James Lewia, who by then spelled his surname “Lewis,” had lived previously with his parents. A gravestone in Duck River Cemetery, placed between grave markers for Lewis Lewia and Eunice Lewia, commemorates the death of Margaret Crosley Lewia at age 79 in 1845.
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.