17th Annual Venture Smith Day - East Haddam

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  • 17th Annual Venture Smith Day

    Date: September 14, 2013
    Time: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

    Location:  First Church of Christ Congregational, 499 Town Street


    The 17th annual Venture Smith Day Festivities will be held in the cemetery at the First Church of Christ, 499 Town Street (RT. 151), East Haddam on Saturday, September 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail events. All are welcome. Please bring lawn chairs or blanket. Son of an African king, Venture Smith became the first black man to document his capture from Africa and life as an American slave and successful black freeman in Connecticut. Adults and children who are interested in learning more about Connecticut history in the 1700 and 1800s are encouraged to attend. In case of inclement weather the celebration will move into the parish house of First Church.

    Guest speakers who will talk about their research regarding Venture Smith include Cynthia Goetz, Town of Haddam Historian; Dr. Karl P. Stofko, Town of East Haddam Municipal Historian;  Dr. John W. Sweet, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;  and  Marta Daniels, author and historian. Attendees will learn about what the inventory of Solomon Smith’s estate tell us about his father (Venture Smith), John Cook’s (Haddam, CT) involvement in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and the role Venture’s descendants played in the 29th Connecticut Regiment of Colored Infantry at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War.

    Venture Smith’s family genealogy and artifacts and crafts from Ghana and other regions of Africa will be on display. A town proclamation will be presented and wreath laying ceremony by the descendants of Venture Smith and the annual Venture family reunion photograph will take place in the cemetery by Venture’s grave.

    There will be plenty of time to renew old friendships, talk with speakers, and Venture’s descendants and enjoy light refreshments.

    Questions please call (860) 873-9375.  To review the original Venture Smith autobiography go to  www.docsouth.unc.edu/neh/venture2/menu.html

    A Brief Biography of Venture Smith
    Born around 1729, Venture Smith’s African birth name was Broteer, and he was the eldest son of King Saungm Furro of the tribe of Dukandarra in Guinea, West Africa. He was captured about 1736 when he was seven years old and was sold for “4 gallons of rum and some calico” at Anamabo on Africa’s Gold Coast to Robinson Mumford, the steward of a Rhode Island slave ship. Broteer was renamed Venture because he was purchased by Mumford’s own private venture. Venture grew up as a slave on Fishers Island, New York, which was being leased by the Mumford family at that time.

    Around 1750 he married Meg, another Mumford slave, and they had four children. After a failed escape attempt in 1754, Venture was sold to Thomas Stanton of Stonington Point, Connecticut. In 1760, he was purchased for the last time by Oliver Smith, of Stonington. Smith allowed Venture to purchase his freedom in 1765 and in return Venture took the name Smith as his surname.

    Venture then lived and worked on Long Island to raise money to purchase the freedom of his wife and children. During these years he cut wood, farmed, fished, and spent seven months on a whaling voyage. In 1774, Venture sold all his land on Long Island and in Stonington and moved his family to East Haddam. He then began purchasing land on Haddam Neck along the Salmon River Cove from Abel Bingham and others. His farm grew into 134 acres with three houses; twenty boats, canoes and sailing vessels; two fishing businesses and a commercial orchard. His entrepreneurial ventures included river trafficking, lumberjacking, carpentry and farming. All this he accomplished without the ability to either read or write.

    In 1798, Venture dictated his autobiography to teacher Elisha Niles, which was then published in pamphlet form by Charles Holt, editor of the New London Bee. It has been reprinted many times. It is the only slave narrative of the 18th century that recounts life in Africa. His life story has been an inspiration to many over the years. Venture died on September 19, 1805, a highly respected man by all in the Haddams. He was survived by his wife, two sons, Cuff and Solomon, and several grandchildren. Several of his descendants still live in Connecticut.