Item #4128 [17th Century Connecticut Daybook]. Samuel Wolcott.
[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].
[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].
[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].
[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].
[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].

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[17th Century Connecticut Daybook].

Wethersfield, Connecticut, 1678–1682. 4to, golden brown parchment. 162 pp., 30 pp. of which are in shorthand.

A rare seventeenth century daybook, providing a treasure trove of details about the daily exchange of goods and services in the Connecticut towns of Wethersfield, Middletown, Haddam, Hartford, and thereabouts, in the years 1678–1682. Although fragmentary, with the loss of numerous leaves, there is nevertheless much matter here.

Sam Wolcott was a Wethersfield, Connecticut farmer and merchant with connections to the West Indies. His account book records transactions over a four-year period, involving such activities as buying and selling tobacco, rum, molasses, “Indian Corne,” peas, knives, and flax; paying for services like shoe-making; carting and husking corn; plowing; threshing; “wroughting”; spinning; pasturing horses; trading goods for services (such as nursing his wife); “assigning payments” to others; making agreements; and using witnesses and marks for signatures. Cash payments for his duties as constable are also noted.

Wolcott trades with over seventy customers, most notably Brother John Wolcott, Peter Buckley, James Russell, Johnathan Wells, Nath. Bowman, Ben Crane, John Stoddard, George Wolcott, Jack Boarman, Thom. Bacon, Jonathan Colfax, Jack Griswold, Joseph Curtis, Robert Warner, Major John Talcott of Hartford (a prominent political and military figure), and more. Wolcott also does business with “Tutabone[?] Squaw,” a transaction involving the carting of corn and 3 coats. John Stoddard exchanges cider for hops; Thom Griswold trades apple trees for rum and cider; Steven Hollister trades raccoon and wild cat skins for rum and sugar; Thom. Bacon purchases 3.5 yards of Scotch cloth on October 18th, 1681; and Goodwife Towling “nursed his wife” in trade for wheat and other items from April 12th, 1679–May 2nd, 1679, following the birth of Samuel Wolcott Jr. on April 11th. Beneath Amos Williams’ name in the Debtor section from November 1682, Wolcott notes that “Widdow Pane ordered him to pay.”

Various agreements are recorded. One Robert Warner signs the following:

I, Robert Warner of Middletowne do hearby engage to the accompt of good Indian Corne at two shillings & three pence to Sam Wolcott, at any place in Middletowne…Woolcott shall order at, on, or before the first of October…insuring of witness, my hand. Witnessed by Judith Woolcott, Mary O. Barnfield, and “signed by his marke.”

Agreements are also made with native people. In an account headed “a squaw,” the following is noted: On August 25th, 1681, “…the Indian engaged to pay the squaw debt with writing by his hand,” signed with an X, and witnessed by John.

Of particular note are entries relating to a black slave. On September 4th, 1678, p. 64, Wolcott writes “bringing up my Negro from Haddam”; and then on November 2nd, 1680, “they brought up my negro from Hadam w…him away.” This is almost certainly Wolcott's slave Jack, who is known as one of the first runaway slaves in Connecticut (by some estimates there were just a few dozen slaves in the colony at the time). In June, 1681, Jack fled Wolcott, making his way to Springfield, where he was captured, then escaped again, and set fire to a house in Northampton while searching the larder for food. Jack later testified that Wolcott always beat him, "sometimes with 100 blows so that he hath told his master that he would some time or other hang himself" (see Warren, Wendy. New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, pp. 204–206). For his crimes, Jack was hung and his corpse burned in a pyre.

On a partially blank page about halfway through there is a later signature scrawled diagonally that reads, “Josiah. Robbins Book.” Towards the end of the volume the hand changes and there is a page and a half of entries under the heading “March 25, 1776 Book Account with Mr William Killby,” who has traded many days of work for cider, pork, wheat, a peck of corn, and beans. These entries are followed by shorthand notations to the end of the volume.

An unusually early daybook, offering a vivid glimpse into the society and economy of the Connecticut River Valley towns of Wethersfield, Middletown, Haddam, and Hartford, in the years 1678–1682.

CONDITION: Lacking the first 24 leaves, and approx. 30 additional leaves as well as occasional portions thereof; covers (a single piece of parchment) largely detached.

Item #4128


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