The Flora Slave Case from the Hooker Archives

In his “Some Reminiscences of a Long Life”, John Hooker recalls the Flora Slave Case.  In 1845, Hooker lived in Farmington, Connecticut—a town famous for its connection to the Underground Railroad.  Hooker moved to the area in 1840 and in 1841, he began practicing law.  He identifies Reverend Mr. Hemingway of Suffield, Connecticut as the man who asked him to help examine evidence that pertained to an important slave case in Virginia.  “It appeared that a large number of slaves in and about Fincastle…had brought suits, claiming their freedom.  They were the descendants of a Negro woman named Flora…” According to the affidavits, Flora supposedly lived in Suffield, Connecticut with her husband and two daughters.  The two daughters were dead, but under a settled rule of slave law, “the child followed the condition of the mother, and if Flora and her daughters were free, all their descendants were entitled to freedom” (Hooker).  The two daughters of Flora were free women, but they were kidnapped somewhere in Connecticut and, thus, the eventual suit laying claim to freedom.  John Hooker immediately responded to Hemingway and traveled to Suffield.  There, he approached long-time residents of the town and asked them questions about the existence of Flora.  He was able to collect very conclusive evidence.  Flora and her family belonged to man named Hanchett.  This white man took off with Flora and her two daughters one day leaving Flora’s husband behind.  Flora soon died and the two daughters never saw their father again.  Hanchett was already dead by the time the state dropped the charges against him.  Though the group could not verify this story, we have been able to verify the existence of Hanchett.  Further examination of eighteenth and nineteenth century Suffield censuses should yield more evidence.  Flora was not a documented slave but John Hooker’s investigation and the reminiscences he put down on paper have brought us closer to our goal.

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This entry was posted in American Studies, HOT Log March, March Hot Log 2014, Project Based Learning, Slavery, Underground Railroad. Bookmark the permalink.

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