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Dr. Porter and His Family

Dr. Preserved Porter (1729-1803) was a life-long Waterbury resident. His brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all doctors specializing in the treatment of bones, as was Preserved. In 1782, Preserved was one of three physicians in Waterbury.

He married Sarah Gould of New Milford in 1764 and had four surviving children, two sons and two daughters, born between 1766 and 1777. Following the death of his first wife, Preserved married Lydia Warner Welton in 1781, when his children would have been aged 4 to 14 years old. Lydia was the widow of Thomas Welton, who died in 1780.

Fortune and Dinah may have been enslaved by the Porters in the 1780s, since their three younger children were born in Waterbury in 1786, 1788 and 1791.

When Dr. Preserved Porter died in 1803, his estate was substantial, valued at about $7,000. When his widow Lydia died in 1821, her estate was modest and her possessions were few in number, but luxurious: silver spoons, strings of gold beads, velvet shoes.

Lydia Welton Porter was a devout Episcopalian: when she died, she left almost 10% of her modest estate to the Episcopal Church ($20) and owned a number of religious books associated with the Episcopal Church. She may have encouraged Fortuneís baptism in Waterburyís St. Johnís Episcopal Church, which took place in 1797.

Preserved Porter's home was inherited by his widow, Lydia, and his sons Isaac and Jesse. In 1805, Lydia agreed to lease one third of the house and one half of the garden from Jesse for $6 a year. Lydia later moved in with her Welton relatives. In 1813, Isaac gave his third of the home lot to his brother Jesse and moved to Pennsylvania.

Jesse followed in the family tradition and became a doctor. Preserved Porter's estate distribution included one skeleton, presumably Fortune's, which was inherited by Jesse Porter. Jesse built a stone house on the corner of East Main and Cole Streets, near the Porter farm, in 1833. He was considered eccentric in later years. He died in 1860 at age 82. His grandson, Jesse Leonidas Law, and Law's wife continued to live in the home on East Main and Cole until 1869.

Jesse Porter had two sons and two daughters. One of his daughters, Adelia, married a tailor named David Law, who later became Waterbury's postmaster. Adelia and David were the grandparents of Dr. Sally Porter Law McGlannan, who gave Fortune's skeleton to the Mattatuck Museum in 1933.

Two people were enslaved by Preserved Porter at the time of his death. Dinah was inherited by Porter's widow Lydia. Luke, a young man, was inherited by Porterís daughter Hannah. Hannah was 38 years old, and the wife of Joseph Bronson, a Waterbury farmer. They had four children, born between 1787 and 1794; the three eldest were daughters. Luke would most likely have helped work the Bronson farm until he was 21, at which point he gained his freedom.

Other members of Preserved Porter's family were associated with anti-slavery activity in the nineteenth century. Preserved's great-nephew, Timothy Porter, was a vocal opponent of slavery. His house was reputed to have been a station on the underground railroad. Born in 1792, Timothy Porter would almost certainly have known the people enslaved by his great-uncle.


Related Biographies


Preserved Porter's Estate Inventory
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Preserved Porter's Estate Inventory, 1804
A page from Porter's estate inventory, listing a skeleton, presumably Fortune's, valued at $15 in a category of miscellaneous articles. At the bottom of the page, Fortune's widow Dinah is listed as "Negro woman" valued at $10, and a young man named Luke is included as "Negro man's services till of age" valued at $166.67. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.


Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution
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Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution, 1804
The fourth page of the estate distribution. Dinah is included in the list of items given to Porter's widow. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.



Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution
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Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution, 1804
The tenth page of the estate distribution, showing items inherited by Jesse Porter. Fortune's skeleton, listed as "one Scilliton," appears at the bottom of the page. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.




Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution
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Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution, 1804
The thirteenth page of the estate distribution. Luke is included in the list of items given to Porter's daughter Hannah Bronson. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.




Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution
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Preserved Porter's Estate Distribution, 1804
The seventeenth page of the estate distribution, showing a list of items given to Porter's daughter Lavinia. Dinah's name is crossed off near the bottom of the list. Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.


Preserved Porter's Estate Expenses
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Preserved Porter's Estate Expenses, 1804
A list of expenses charged to Porter's Estate. At the bottom of the page is a list of expenses incurred by Isaac Porter, including a day of travel to Derby "to sel Dinah" and a day to New Haven "after Dinah." Collection of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives.


 
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