Plaque location: Lyme Street at the corner of Library Lane, Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library
The earliest known reference to an enslaved African or African-descended person in Lyme appears in a New London County Court record. When Lyme’s constable in 1670 cited Richard Ely, the town’s wealthiest inhabitant and former townsman, together with his wife Elizabeth Ely, for “prophanation of the Sabbath and also contempt of authority,” he included “ye Negro servant Moses,” said to be “instrumental therein,” in the court summons.
Three years later in 1673, Ely mortgaged his extensive property, called Six Mile Island Farm, that stretched along the east bank of the Connecticut River above today’s Lords Cove. The mortgage deed itemized the property’s “housing, fencing, cattle, horses, household goods, and two negars,” showing that Moses was not Ely’s only “Negro servant.”
Richard Ely was a shipping merchant from Plymouth, England, with experience in the Barbados trade who moved in about 1665 from Boston to the Lyme property that his second wife had inherited from her brother George Fenwick. Fenwick had served as governor of the Saybrook Colony, and likely because of Ely’s land wealth, status, and connections in the West Indies trade, a town meeting in January 1667/8 elected him, along with Renold Marvin, as a townsman, or selectman. Whether Ely transported Moses from Boston to provide agricultural labor at Six Mile Island Farm, or purchased him later through shipping connections in Barbados, is not known.
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.