WITNESS STONES PROJECTS

In its effort to document enslavement and expand our understanding of the local past, Witness Stones Old Lyme joins other community initiatives in Restorative History. We invite you to learn more about these projects.

 
Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School

The Lyme-Old Lyme Schools have included the Witness Stones curriculum in their seventh-grade social studies and English language arts classes. In the spring of 2021, students became historians as they used primary documents to learn about Jenny Freeman and Lewis Lewia, two enslaved residents of the town. This work helped make the story of local slavery tangible, personal, and relevant to their own lives. As their final project, using Marilyn Nelson's Fortune’s Bones as inspiration, they wrote their own poems about the experience of enslavement.

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The Chains

by Maggie Thuma

 

I was linked to these chains

Since the day I was born 

These chains that forced me down

Pulled me to Marshfield Parsons

And left me torn on the ground 

 

The Col. Marshfield and his family 

As white as the falling snow

Used me and abused me 

To be freed was only in one's fantasy

 

His tavern smelled of dirt

Like the grimmy liquid 

I was forced to clean up

Dreaming of the day 

These chains break apart

    

Enslaved by the color of my skin

Enslaved with my family next to me

Enslaved standing by my wifes bright eyes

Enslaved with my young children

Hoping for what the future brings

 

Until the day the chain links were broken

Pieces of my past scattered on the floor

I live a good life with land and a house 

But I will never forget those chains

That tore my life apart 

Without a Choice

by Thomas Kelly

As my family struggled and felt pain while suffering

Barely even breathing

My husband and children fighting for their lives

Yet could not reach for there objectives they would like

To become free, and live their own lives

No freedom, only ownership.

Without a choice working day and night

Without a voice unending servitude 

We have no control over what we do

Unless we are ready to end all things too

We have no control over what we do 

unless we are ready to end all things too.

We have no control over what we do 

unless we are ready to end all things too.

Untitled

by Anne-Marie Hinkley 

I was enslaved by Marshfield Parsons 

Forced to work

He had a life outside of the house

Unlike me

 

He had a job

He got paid

He had a choice of profession 

unlike me

 

I was worked like an animal

In a cage on a leash

The church records speak as if I were a object

“Lewis, negro servent to Col. Marshfield”

He was his own person

Unlike me

Untitled

by Anne-Marie Hinkley 

I was enslaved by Marshfield Parsons 

Forced to work

He had a life outside of the house

Unlike me

 

He had a job

He got paid

He had a choice of profession 

unlike me

 

I was worked like an animal

In a cage on a leash

The church records speak as if I were a object

“Lewis, negro servent to Col. Marshfield”

He was his own person

Unlike me

Farmering

by Eve Videll

 

Farming

Farming all the time 

From sunrise to sun down

 

Farming

My hands burn all the time

Cuts, bruises and calluses

 

Farming

Sun shines all the time

Lighten by the stars

 

Farming

Untitled 

by Taylor Quinton

Lewis was born enslaved

But his enslavement was not forever

Some time between 1800-1820 

he became a free man

He was like a bird flying in the sky

 A kite flying high

Lewis was forever a free man

 

He had a family

A house

A job

He had a life of his own,

As a free man

He worked in the field as a farmer

Making money for his family

To put food on the table

To keep a roof over their heads 

He still remembered when he was not a free man

 

In freedom he would think

 of times when he worked for no pay, 

Worked his fingers to the bone every day

He did what his enslaver said 

Never disobeyed 

Lewis could then say that he was forever a free man

Poem on Laws/Perspectives during 1700-1800’s

by Chase Gilbert

 

How I have always dreamed.

The freedom of movement

beyond my boundaries

To study the world

Afar from properties

Oh, what it means

to be free

 

How I have always dreamed.

The ability to learn

To read

To write

To solve

Amongst my family

To not be considered a threat

Oh, what it means 

to be free

 

How I have always dreamed

To value more than a price.

I was listed

I was sold

Is this how you considered me?

 

At last I was finally free

With independence

revolving around me.

Never again a slave

With laws surrounding me.

Gate

by Jade Lawton 

Nancy, Prince Jr

All put up a good fight

In the end 

They were all doomed

 

Pompey, Crusa, and Temperance had no choice, 

for they were born without a voice

 

The father, Prince soon shared the fate 

He was let go in 1826, 

He now waits by the gate

 Sickness followed him like a pest

Never letting him free until his life undone

 

Prince was not a person

But property

He wanted  him alive 

not because he cared 

 But for the labor he carried

 

Summer 1822  the trees blew

 The birds chirped

 But for me, I waited  for my son

Pompey 

 

I had waited once again

Nancy in 1853

Heartbreaking News

by Kathy Zhange

It was a sunny afternoon,

I was humming my little tune,

Knitting a new sweater for the Noyes family,

Little did I know the pain and agony I would soon feel,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

Footsteps in the hallway,

Getting louder by step,

The noises stopped, 

Little did I know the pain and agony I would soon feel,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

There was a knock at the door, 

Willaim walked in looking at the floor,

He was holding what seemed to be a letter,

Little did I know the pain and agony I would soon feel,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

He handed me the letter,

Sympathy in his eyes,

I studied the letter,

Little did I know the pain and agony I would soon feel

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

It was nicely written in cursive,

I read through it,

I dropped the sweater,

Little did they know the pain and agony I was feeling,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

Crying I crumpled the letter in my hand,

Tears running down my face,

I felt my face burning up,

Little did they know the pain and agony I was feeling,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

 

The letter held my nightmare,

Prince has died at sea,

The ship that carried his body was called “Barney”,

Little did they know the pain and agony I was feeling,

Pain and agony pain and agony.

Jenny

by Cole Donnelly 

A lonely soul, locked up away

 

From where she had originally laid,

 

Throughout her days, were highs and lows,

 

But family helped her feel at home.

 

She had many children, including grand and great-grand,

 

Some of which passed away, to her dismay.

 

She hoped and dreamed of becoming free,

 

But could never escape from slavery.

 

What was the fate for most, of her ethnicity and race,

 

Had owned her to her last breath and to the grave.

Untitled

by Coleman Curtiss-Reardon

Lewis Lewia was his name

1779 birthplace unknown

his future; enslavement

 

He met Margaret Crosley

She became his bride

Together, they had Eunice and James

 

July 9th, 1852, at age 73

He lay in bed reciting his life

Then an hour later, he left the earth

Jenny

by Ben Goulding

I was treated like an animal,

My only friends were the stars and the moon.

I was put to work on the property,

From sunrise to way past noon. 

 

When I failed my master I was punished,

I could get out of beatings with luck.

But if I was truly falling behind, 

I could be whipped or worse, tied up. 

Poem 1

by Maddie Trepannier

Laws I must obey,

Every week and every year,

Rules in place to follow,

I can not escape this life ,

Freedom will never be mine to take.

 

 Jenny could not leave her enslaver’s property,

She could not be taught to read or write,

She had no control over what was hers.

 

The Fugitive slave acts,

Seizing those who left their captivity,

Returning them to servitude,

Harsh punishments set over them,

Held into labor and service.

 

  Pomp, Jenny’s son  

He had ran away

Advertisements in newspapers saying his name

Describing his poor conditions 

But for once he had human agency.

Poem

by Ilona Binch

 

Sun shining through the windows.

Children running through the halls.

There were joyful voices in the air

Even though nothing was right at all.

 

I was knitting socks and gloves 

For children that weren’t mine.

My children worked for families that weren’t ours.’

Their children got toys - my children got scars.

 

My body was their property.

To the Noyes my enslavers.

I took care of their children,

But my thoughts were of mine.

 

When I was “Old Jenny,” 

I worked and worked not even getting a penny.

I would care, and I would clean.

I was nothing, not even a thing 

 

When I was a “Freeman,” 

I was something 

I helped others be free like me.

No one should have to suffer the indignities of slavery.

What is Human

by Connor Vautrain

Human 

A word to be thought

What does it mean?

 

To us human is living

To be free

To be ourselves.

 

They were human too

But did they know that?

 

Or do they think to put the label of themselves as sold

As owned 

As property 

 

They were treated as such

Beaten like garbage

Tortured

Put into property records

 

Dehumanized

Dehumanized

Dehumanized

 
Witness Stones Poets

The Old Lyme Witness Stones Partnership, with generous support from a Health Improvement Collaborative of Southeastern Connecticut (HIC) Partnership Grant for Racial Equity, has joined with four distinguished Connecticut poets to create a tribute in verse to those remembered on Lyme Street plaques.

 

Antoinette Brim-Bell, Marilyn Nelson, Kate Rushin, and Rhonda Ward capture unheard voices and bring vividly to life experiences, attitudes, and emotions long ignored and then forgotten. Their reflections in verse allow Cato, Humphrey, Temperance, Arabella, and others to speak to us today about their years of enslavement in Lyme. Their work will be published later this year. ​

Poets Marilyn Nelson, Antoinette Brim-Bell & Rhonda Ward read at the Witness Stones Old Lyme Installation Ceremony on June 4

 
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