Her grosgrain goune blacke

This is the first item listed on the two-page inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Welles of Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1683. We rarely come upon an inventory that dates this early, and even fewer that were of estates of women. Of course, it helps that she was the widow of Governor Thomas Welles. And in his will of 1659, he designated that “the land wch I head of hers should return to her agayne; . . and that howsehold stuffe wch remaynes.” Property brought to a marriage by the wife generally was subsumed by the husband’s estate, so Thomas’ actions were quite unusual. But it explains the size of the inventory, and the fact that she owned 14 acres of meadowland, 30 acres of upland and one 50 acre lot.

The first 14 items in the inventory are clothing, including gowns, petticoats, waistcoats, and suits. The list also includes yard goods, bed linens, a featherbed, rugs, pewter, livestock, and cookware. The inventory was taken by Samuel Talcott, James Treat and Samuel Butler, selectmen of the town of Wethersfield. Ms 07880.

For more information on coverture (women’s property rights in marriage) please visit the following web site: womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/g/coverture.htm.

Visit our web site at http://www.chs.org to learn more about our collections.

I David Barlow, of Sherman

A very recent addition to the collection had me hopping up and down with excitement. We now have  copies of two wills, one written by David Barlow in 1814, and the other by his wife, Sarah Barlow, written in 1822. The couple lived in Sherman, Connecticut.

My original interest in these documents was that David willed “my Negro by the name of Jack” to his wife, along with livestock and cash. Subsequently, in her will Sarah noted that  “to my servant named Jack I give and bequeath one bed and bedding being his bed which he now uses . . . It is also my will that the said Jack shall have his Freedom he being a now a slave immediately after my decease and I hereby emancipate him the said Jack from and after the time of decease.”  Further research revealed that Jack married another Negro servant, stayed in Sherman, and died in 1849 at the age of 83.  Slave-related documents from Connecticut, never mind Fairfield County, are scarce–hence my excitement.

The rest of the will, was equally intriguing.  Barlow was a farmer, but he owned one oxcart, a wagon, a sleigh, and two chairs.  Not the transportation one equates with a farmer.  Research on him did not uncover much, except that on the grand list of Sherman in 1790 he was taxed $600.00, which was one of the highest assessments at the time. So, we have a rather rich man.

Sarah was also a surprise. To her granddaughter Sally Barlow she left her gold beads, and to granddaughter Sarah B. Hubbell, she left a bureau, a large dining table, one tea-table, two looking glasses, one set of silver tablespoons and one set of silver teaspoons. Again, not what one would necessarily expect on a farm. The actual estate inventory is part of the document, and provides a bit more insight.  However, we need to find more information on the Barlow family to fill out their story. Were they active in town government, state politics, the church? As is often the case, I have more questions than answers at this point.