Plaque location: 4 Lyme Street, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
The four unnamed enslaved persons that the 1790 census counted in the household of Col. Marshfield Parsons almost certainly included Basil. A minister’s son and prominent militia officer, Parsons had turned his father’s parsonage at the foot of today’s Lyme Street into a coaching inn. Basil, along with Lewis and two others then held in bondage, would have contributed agricultural and domestic labor to support the inn known as Parsons Tavern. Basil was likely still held in bondage in 1800 when Parsons’s household included three slaves, but ten years later the census ten years later shows no one enslaved by Marshfield Parsons. Basil appears in town records as a black pauper in 1812.
For the next nine years, until 1821, the town paid for Basil to board with Cato Huntley. Cato, according to a tax assessment list, was enslaved in 1796, at age 28, by Amos Huntley, whose surname he was assigned. A town treasurer’s report notes a payment of $9.00 to Cato Huntley in April 1818 for “supporting Basil.” That same month the town paid Joshua Warren for a quart of brandy for Basil. The brandy was likely medicinal, as town physician John Noyes had previously treated Basil.
Dr. Noyes’s bill had not been paid, and in 1813 his brother and executor Joseph Noyes sued Parsons’s executor Charles Smith for the costs of caring for Basil. John Noyes, Joseph Noyes, and Charles Smith had all previously owned enslaved persons. The probate document describes Basil as a “negro servant & Slave for life.” Town relief payments for Basil stopped in 1821, likely because of his death. Six years later in 1827 Cato was placed on town relief and taken to the alms house.
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.