Plaque location: 5 Lyme Street, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme parsonage
Lyme’s vital records note that Jack Howard son of Janny servant of Samuel Mather Junr was born 12 Jany 1795. The enslaved youth was 14 when his “service” passed by will to Samuel Mather Jr.’s unmarried son James Mather, age 24, who inherited his father’s mansion house. The bed and furniture in the northeast room in the second story of the ell, referred to in an estate inventory as Jack’s room, also passed to James. The Mather house serves today as the parsonage of the First Congregational Church.
Jack Howard’s mother Janny was likely one of the four enslaved persons listed in Mather’s household in the 1790 census. Nothing is known about Jack’s father, and no other traces of Janny have been found. She is sometimes confused with Jenny, a “Negrowoman servant” owned by Samuel Mather Jr.’s cousin Dr. Samuel Mather. In 1799 Dr. Mather, who practiced medicine in North Lyme, emancipated his servant Jenny, age about 54, after which she lived in Colchester with his friend and colleague Dr. John Watrous.
The four persons enslaved in Samuel Mather Jr.’s household in 1790 likely worked as agricultural and domestic laborers, as stevedores hauling goods to his warehouses, and as deckhands on his thirteen ships, many built at the Hill shipyard nearby on the Lieutenant River. Jack Howard would have assisted with those tasks as he acquired strength and skill. Whether other enslaved children were born in Mather’s household is not known.
The 1810 census, taken a year after the wealthy merchant’s death, shows one free non-white person in the household of James Mather, but no one enslaved. Perhaps Jack Howard was freed at age 15. No later traces of him have been found.
Samuel Mather Jr. house
Only traces remained of the early shipyards, wharves, and warehouses along the Lieutenant River when W. F. Clark’s general store sold this postcard in 1910.