There were several African American women in Waterbury
and Westbury named Phyllis (sometimes spelled Filis, Fillis
Capt. William Hickcox's estate inventory, taken in 1737,
included "Filis the negro woman," valued at
£100, and "Lewis the negro man," valued
at £140. They were among the first African Americans
to be enslaved in Waterbury.
A "negro girl" named Fillis was mentioned in
the 1755 will of Rev. John Southmayd, minister of Waterbury's
Congregational church. Fillis and Sampson, Southmayd's
"negro man", were promised their freedom if
they were "faithful, careful and industrious"
in helping to raise Southmayd's grandchildren. They would
then be able to "live with any of my [Southmayd's]
children they shall choose, or any other person, and if
they live with any of mine, and should live to be a charge
the charge to be levied out of my estate, except it should
appear that those they have lived with have been considerably
profitably by them. Fillis also appeared on a bill
for the medical expenses incurred by a white woman named
Lydia Cosset in the winter of 1749-50. "Philas",
as her name was written, cared for Lydia Cosset for one
day, and her services were valued at 10 shillings, the
same as the white women who also took care of Cosset.
Southmayd's successor as minister of the Congregational
church, Rev. Mark Leavenworth, also owned two slaves, Phyllis
and Peg. The 1790 census recorded one person enslaved in
the Leavenworth household, presumably either Peg or Phyllis;
the 1800 census listed two. Peg died in 1806; Phyllis died
May 20, 1821, when she was 60 years old, too young to have
been the same woman in Southmayd's household. Mark Leavenworth
died in 1797. Phyllis and Peg became the property of his
widow, Sarah. Following her death in 1808, Phyllis became
the property of the Leavenworth's son-in-law, Dr. Edward
Field. Phyllis appears in the 1810 census record as a slave
in the Field household and as the only person still enslaved
in Waterbury. The 1820 census listed her again in the Field
household, but as a free person.
The minister of the Episcopal church, Rev. James Scovill,
is reputed to have owned two slaves, Dick and Phillis.
No historical records have yet been found about this Phillis.
The 1790 census recorded a free African American woman
named Phillis as a head of household, with one other African
American in her home, in Waterbury.
Phillis Freeman, age 82, died in Watertown on Aug. 2,
The second of three pages. Halfway down are "Lewis
the negro man" valued at £140 and "Filis
the negro woman" valued at £100. Neither Lewis
nor Fillis appeared in the estate distribution in 1739,
nor were they mentioned in Hickcox's will. Collection
of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.
Waterbury Selectmen's Bill - 1749/50
"Philas the negro of Mr. Southmayd" cared for
Lydia Cosset, a Simsbury resident who became ill while
in Waterbury. Collection of the Mattatuck Museum