John Southmayd (1675/76-1755) was the son of a Middletown,
Connecticut, mariner, William Southmayd. According to legend,
William at one point allowed a negro boy belonging
to him to escape from his boat. Middletown, located
on the Connecticut River, was active in the slave trade
with Barbados as early as 1661.
Rev. John Southmayd moved to Waterbury in 1705 and was ordained
as the pastor of the Congregational Church. He was a highly
respected member of Waterburys community. He inherited
a large amount of money from his father, and eventually
became one of the largest and wealthiest land-owners in
Waterbury. His life was not without misfortune, however;
he outlived his wife and all his children.
By the time of his death at age 80, Southmayd owned
two people--a woman named Fillis and a man named Sampson.
Southmayds will declared that my negro man
and my negro girl were to take care of his grandchildren
until the youngest one was 12; at which point, if they were
faithful, careful and industrious in this, they
could be free and able to choose which member
of the Southmayd family they would live with following their
freedom. This is reminiscent of Mingos fate following
the death of Deacon Clark. The enslaved were permitted to
make limited decisions about their lives, but it was assumed
that they would always work as servants.
Rev. Southmayd retired from his duties as pastor nearly
two decades before his death. His successor, Rev. Mark Leavenworth,
became a close associate of Southmayds and was the
executor of his will.
In the 1890s, the remains of Rev. Southmayd were disinterred
from the Grand Street Cemetery. His body was reburied
in Riverside Cemetery, but his skull was examined by Dr.
Walter H. Holmes, who published an article in 1891 in
the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal comparing
Southmayds skull with that of a Native American.
Southmayds skull then found its way into the private
collection of Rev. Joseph Anderson, minister of Waterburys
Congregational church, and editor of an 1896 History
of Waterbury. Holmes and Anderson both commented,
in their separate publications, on the unexpected shape
of Southmayds skull, which had a relatively low
brow. Many people in the late 19th century believed that
someone's intelligence and personality was directly related
to the size and shape of their skull.
Southmayds ear bones were placed in a glass bottle
which was put on display at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury
during the early decades of the 20th century. It is not
known if the skull remained with Joseph Anderson or if
it was re-interred with the rest of the body.
Map depicting the early village that later became Waterbury.
John Southmayd's home was located on West Main Street,
near the corner of what is now Meadow Street. Illustrated
in Henry Bronson, The History of Waterbury, Connecticut,
published in 1858.