Witness Stone commemorating Luce installed at 70 Lyme Street
The Witness Stones Project
A growing number of Connecticut towns, including Guilford, Madison, Greenwich, Suffield, and West Hartford, have worked in collaboration with the Witness Stones Project to install in their communities small plaques that commemorate individuals once enslaved. Through research, education, and civic engagement, the Project expands the understanding of local history and honors the humanity and contributions of those formerly held in bondage. Its research-based curriculum materials engage students of different age groups in history, civics, and language arts classes with inquiry-based learning. Dennis Culliton, the retired Guilford teacher who established the Witness Stones Project, modeled the effort on the Stolpersteine Project in Berlin that commemorates those persecuted by the Nazis before and during World War II. Read more about the Witness Stones Project.
Witness Stones Old Lyme
Witness Stones in Old Lyme mark sites of enslavement and serve as memorials to vital but forgotten members of our community. The small brass plaques embedded along Lyme Street present details drawn from land records, emancipation certificates, and other primary sources that document the circumstances of those who lived here enslaved. The plaques, installed flush with the ground, have been placed primarily on the west side of the street for pedestrian safety. An interpretive sign and map on the Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library’s lawn, and postcards available at Partnership locations and at the Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall, allow visitors to follow the trail of the Witness Stones.
Students in the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools become historians as they explore primary documents provided by the Witness Stones Project. The timelines, biographies, artworks, poems, plays, and maps they create make the sometimes unexpected story of local slavery tangible, personal, and relevant to their own lives. Additional information about the town’s forgotten history appears here on the Witness Stones Old Lyme website. Selected research materials are available at the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library’s reference desk.
Founding partners coordinating the Old Lyme initiative are:
Community partners include:
In restoring history and honoring the enslaved, the Old Lyme partnership joins a growing regional coalition that includes:
Witness Stones Old Lyme has partnered with four distinguished Connecticut poets to create a tribute in verse to those remembered on Lyme Street plaques, with generous support from a Health Improvement Collaborative of Southeastern Connecticut (HIC) Partnership Grant for Racial Equity,
Poets Marilyn Nelson, Rhonda Ward, and Kate Rushin (left to right) examine gravestones in the Duck River Cemetery, where Jenny Freeman, Nancy Freeman, Pompey Freeman, and six others who lived enslaved in Lyme are buried.
Witness Stones Old Lyme Committee
Carolyn Wakeman (Chair), Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager (Co-Chair), Mary Bradford, Deborah Butler, Liz Frankel, Katie Huffman, Amy Kurtz Lansing, Lisa Reneson & Betsey Webster