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Town Historian's Annual Lecture Will Examine Slavery In Fairfield County



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Town Historian’s Annual Lecture Will Examine Slavery In Fairfield County

Much has been written about slavery and its consequences on a national scale in America, but little on the institution as practiced in Fairfield County. Newtown Historical Society will host a lecture, “The Slaves of Central Fairfield County,” in a program presented by Town Historian Dan Cruson on Monday, January 8. The lecture will be presented in the community room of C.H. Booth Library, and will begin at 7:30 pm. Admission is free.

Mr Cruson published his research on Newtown’s slaves some years ago. In the intervening time he has continued his work in Newtown, as well as expanding the study to the broader setting of Easton, Redding, Weston, Trumbull and Monroe. A book containing his latest information will soon be published.

One of his most remarkable findings concerns the discovery of both a concealment shoe and spirit marks in the still standing home of the former slave Cato Freedom. Freedom built his house soon after being emancipated about 1783, and hid a worn-out shoe in the building during construction.  This was an old British custom designed to bring good luck to the house.

In a unique blend of the European milieu and his own African background, Freedom also left a spirit mark on the basement masonry, ensuring protection for the household from the African point of view, and Mr Cruson will bring the latest research on this fascinating case. He will also detail the rare finding of an Underground Railroad stop in Weston, and the sale of a three-year-old girl in Newtown for the sum of 25 cents.

Finally, while the abolitionist movement was certainly gaining strength in ante-bellum Fairfield County, so apparently was the reaction to it. Mr Cruson will offer an account of the night Georgetown Baptist Church was blown up following an abolition lecture in 1838.

In addition to being Newtown’s first official Town Historian, Dan Cruson is a past president of Newtown Historical Society and is a member of its Board of Trustees. He is also a past president of the Connecticut Archeological Society.

He was for many years a teacher of local history and anthropology at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, and has lectured extensively in the area. He is the author of several works on the history of Newtown, including the tercentennial publication A Mosaic of Newtown History. While his new book on slavery in Fairfield County is still in press, his earlier book on the slaves of Newtown will be available at the lecture.

Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the program. For further information, call the society at 426-5937.

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