Plaque location: 96 Lyme Street, Florence Griswold Museum
“My Negro boy Harry” was born on December 3, 1790, according to Judge William Noyes’s testimony half a year later before Lyme’s justice of the peace Seth Ely. A 19th-century scrapbook listing those whom Judge Noyes enslaved indicates that Harry was almost certainly the second son of Nancy and Jordan Freeman. A notice posted by Jordan Freeman in the Connecticut Gazette in December 1817 announcing that Nancy had “eloped” from his “bed and board” ended Jordan’s obligation to provide for his wife’s support. By then Harry, age 27, had likely been sent to Northford, today’s North Branford to serve Judge Noyes’s youngest son.
Harry’s age when he left Lyme to serve Rev. Matthew Noyes, Northford’s minister, is not known. Census records list one enslaved person in the minister’s household in 1800 and two free non-white persons living with the minister in 1810. Northford’s church records show that Matthew Noyes baptized Harry Freeman and admitted him to communion on December 1, 1816. No emancipation certificate has been found for Harry Freeman, but Connecticut’s gradual emancipation law provided that any person born into slavery after March 1, 1784, would become “free” at age 25. Harry’s 25th birthday was December 3, 1815.
Five years later the census counted four “Free Colored Persons” in Rev. Noyes’s Northford household, a boy under 14, a young woman between ages 14 and 25, and two adult men between ages 26 and 44. Harry, then 30, was likely one of the adult men, and he may well have had a wife and son. He died in Northford three years later at age 32 on February 14, 1823.
A half sheet of yellowed paper itemizes the former slave’s burial costs. Preserved among the papers of Rev. Matthew Noyes in the archives of the Florence Griswold Museum, the list shows that the minister paid, on the day Harry died, $2.45 for “a Shroud & making,” 65 cents for a “sheet & Handkerchief,” $2.00 for digging a grave, and $3.50 for a coffin. Rev. Noyes purchased a gravestone for $12.00 three years later from Adonijah Tomlinson to mark Harry Freeman’s gravesite in Northford’s 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.