Plaque location: 4 Lyme Street, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
Lyme’s church records tell us that Lewis Negro servant to Col. Marshfield Parsons was baptized in 1795. An elaborate verse epitaph on his gravestone in Duck River Cemetery states that Lewis Lewia died in 1852 at age 79 and shows that he was admired by those who erected the grave marker. His birthplace, parents, and early circumstances are not known, but at age 17 he was likely already enslaved in Marshfield Parsons’s household, where the 1790 census lists four persons held in bondage. With another enslaved person named Basil, identified in town treasurer’s records, Lewis likely assisted in the operation and maintenance of the coaching inn known as Parsons Tavern, where travelers between New York and Boston found respite.
In 1802, Lewis married Margaret Crosley who was born enslaved in the household of Matthew Griswold, later Connecticut’s governor. Governor Griswold emancipated Margaret in 1798. Church records note that Lewis and Margaret's children, James and Eunice, were baptized in 1804 and 1806. The date of Lewis's emancipation is not known, but no one remained enslaved by Marshfield Parsons in 1810. A decade later, according to the 1820 census, Lewis Lewia, age 47, headed his own household. From a church letter written in graceful penmanship with his signature in 1830, we know that he somehow acquired an education.
In 1835, Lewis paid for five acres of land on Sill Lane. Identified in the 1850 census as an agricultural laborer, age 76, he owned real estate valued at $300. After Margaret Lewia’s death, their son James, with his wife Harriet and sons Livingston, age 23, and Charles, age 22, lived together with Lewis Lewia in his household. From school records, we know that both grandsons attended the Sill Lane district school.
In 1830 Lewis Lewia, a church member since 1795, read aloud an official letter to Prince and Jenny’s oldest daughter Nancy. It required her to appear in the Meetinghouse and answer charges of intemperate drinking and neglect of Christian duties. A note on the back of the letter shows Lewis’s signature.