Historical Society to present story of Rhoda Feb. 21

A Cheshire historian will share the story of Rhoda, a Connecticut child born free in 1741 then sold into slavery, and her descendants, who were among the earliest settlers of a community on the Southington-Plainville border.

On Saturday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m., Christine Pittsley, a third-generation Cheshire resident, will share what she’s learned about Rhoda, whose mother was a free Native American and whose father was an African-American.

The talk, at the Plainville Historic Center, will reveal how this baby, born free but into poverty without a surname, went from indentured servant to slave. Rhoda’s case was heard before the Superior Court and reviewed by the state General Assembly. One of Rhoda’s children was kidnapped by men armed with guns – twice. The Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, whose members included Noah Webster, Theodore Dwight, Ezra Stiles, and David Daggett, was one of the principal groups working for her freedom and the freedom of her four children.

In the early 19th century, Rhoda’s son became one of the founding members of the African-American Birches community on the Southington-Plainville border. Pittsley will share stories about the lives of African-Americans who lived in Cheshire and surrounding towns in the 18th through early 20th centuries. This presentation will also highlight some of the other family ties between Cheshire, Southington and Plainville, with a look at the Hammick, Bellamy and Naaman families.

Pittsley, who serves on the boards of the Association for the Study of Connecticut History and Cheshire Historic District Commission, has worked for the Connecticut State Library since 2008. She manages the Remembering World War One: Sharing History/Preserving Memories project.

The Plainville Historic Center is at 29 Pierce St., Plainville. The talk, presented by the Plainville Historical Society and Queen Ann Nzinga Center, is free, but donations are welcome.


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