A backwards season

Is it global warming, or isn’t it? In a new acquisition for our collection, in 1827 Richard Bacon of Simsbury, Connecticut, may have thought so. In May he wrote: “The first part of the month quite warm + pleasant the latter part quite cold + the season backward.” In May, that trend continued:” The spring may be said to be quite cold and backwards hay was very short altho not scarce as was anticipated in consequence of a few warm days in April” and he complained of “many rainy days this month.” It sounds almost like Connecticut’s spring 2012.

The book covers 1827 to 1831. Many months Robert gave only a summary of the weather; for others he recorded nearly daily. And that was not all he recorded. On June 2 someone named Charles, who was 18, died at 8:00 in the evening; on June 20, the heifer went to the bull. One of his more interesting entries was made in September, which had been a very rainy month. He wrote, “My self at Granby at work on the locks on the night of the 19th about 10 o’clock fell into the Salmon Brook on the upper side of the culvert & was drawn thro the Center Timbers + with the asssitance of J. Ennis got out almost unhurt.”

Do modern scientists look at diaries such as this one to help measure climate change? I know they sample ice cores and things like that, but what about written materials? Anyone know a scientist we could ask?

To read the entire diary, visit our research center and ask for Ms 101628.

African-American Land Owners in 18th c. Simsbury

The Connecticut Historical Society’s website is http://chs.org Please visit the site to learn more about us! (Due to issues beyond our control the site is not currently listed with Google. )

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

One of the collections I cataloged this week is the Joshua Holcomb papers. Holcomb was a landowner in Simsbury, Connecticut. His papers include farming accounts, some records about the local militia, estate inventories, and a number of property deeds. It was among the deeds that I found one for land sold to Holcomb by “London Negro.” Yes, a free, African-American man owned land in Simsbury, Connecticut in 1759.

Property deed (front), Joshua Holcomb papers, 1759-1816, Ms 41605. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

London Negro sold five acres of land in the Turkey Hills Society to Joshua Holcomb for £ 66.  The deed is a standard printed form, with language still in use today. The location of the land is handwritten, detailing the adjacent parcels and landowners.

An interesting addition to this deed is a handwritten mortgage. I will admit I have not had enough time yet to study this and completely understand what is happening. It appears, though, that London Negro is paying Joshua Holcomb for something over the course of the next three years.

Property deed (back), Joshua Holcomb papers, 1759-1816, Ms 41605. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

According to Mary L. Nason, who published African-Americans in Simsbury, 1725-1925, there were two Londons in the region who owned property. They were “London [Wallis], ‘negro lately slave to Isaac Owen of Windsor, deceased, now a free negro’ and a London Freebody, ‘negro of Capt. Nathaniel Holcomb and wife.'” Nason states that London Wallis served Mrs. Mary Griffin, but was able to build a home for his family in Tariffville and eventually buy the land. By the late 1750s he was free, and able to purchase more land. London Freebody lived near Simsbury’s Barn Door Hills but was not very successful in his business dealings. Freebody ended up in debtors prison. There were too many obstacles for Wallis and Freeman in the business world and, according to Nason, neither succeeded. Eventually both men lost their property (Nason, 5).

The deed, and the rest of the collection, are open for research. Please visit!