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Silence Will

Silence was sold as a “slave for life” by Samuel Willis of Middletown, Connecticut, possibly in the 1760s, and was purchased by Joseph Hopkins, an attorney and judge who lived on West Main Street in Waterbury. Silence was chosen to sweep the Waterbury Congregational Church from 1774 to 1778, and was mentioned in Cuff Capeny’s 1777 will as the “servant” of Joseph Hopkins. Hopkins was considered to be the most prominent citizen in Waterbury, dining with George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

The census records from 1790 and 1800 show a free African American, and no slaves, living in Hopkins household. According to Hopkins’ will, written in 1801, he “emancipated and made free” Silence in 1798. Following her emancipation, she continued to work as a servant for Hopkins. In his will, Hopkins binds his heirs to “to contribute to her free support” should she ever be unable to support herself and decreed that Silence should be allowed to live with whichever of his heirs she chose. Hopkins intended this arrangement to serve as compensation for her work over the years.

It is not known what happened to Silence after Joseph Hopkin's death.

Related Biographies

Joseph Hopkins' Will
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Joseph Hopkins' Will, 1801
The second page of Hopkins' will, in which he discusses Silence. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.

Cuff Capeny's Will
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Cuff Capeny's Will, 1777
Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.

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