Plaque location: 12 McCurdy Road, Duck River Cemetery
Tantiphant, also called Philip, was indentured by his father James to John Lay, Jr. of Lyme in 1732 for a term of six years and one month. The “Indian boy” likely performed agricultural labor for two years on Lay’s farm, on today’s Johnnycake Hill Road, until he shipped out on the sloop Elizabeth with Capt. John Sears, a Lyme mariner engaged in the West Indies trade.
New London County Court records suggest that Lay did not, or could not, prevent Tantiphant from going to sea and instead sought financial compensation. “Considering yt his Indian had so Great a Desire to Go to Sea,” the records state, Lay “thought it would be more for his Profitt to Let him go than keep him att home.” That calculation proved correct when Lay brought suit against Sears. Several witnesses stated that Tantiphant had left on a voyage to Antigua and St. Kitts in 1734, and Barnabus Tuthill, also a slave-holder, testified that Lay had been reluctant to part with his servant. Lay valued his loss at 30 pounds per year absent, and the court ordered Sears to pay him 95 pounds for fraudulently acquiring his Indian servant.
When the Elizabeth was later frozen in at Rocky Hill, an active Connecticut River port then part of Wethersfield, Sears released Tantiphant with two other sailors “to go home until ye vessel was thawed out and he would take them on board att Saybrook.” Court records do not indicate whether Tantiphant returned to Lay’s service, but Sears apparently prospered in the West Indies trade. In 1760 he added 500 acres to his Lyme landholdings, and he also purchased property in Newport, Rhode Island.
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.