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Benjamin Prentice, Slave

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Benjamin Prentice, Slave
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Spring 2009 and Revised 1 Jan 2009

In reading C. J. F. Binney's "The history and genealogy of the Prentice, or Prentiss family, in New England, etc., from 1631 to 1883," the following footnote on page 282 is found attached to Christopher Christophers (father of Sarah, who married John Prentis.

    "Benjamin Prentis, born a slave to Christopher Christophers (b. c. 1683) at New London, Ct. Feb. 4, 1760, and given to his dau. Mrs. George Latimer, by his owner, ran away in 1792 [at the age of 32], was recaptured, but in a second attempt [in 1793] succeeded. He was living, November, 1855, in Marlboro, Mass. ae. 95. (New London Chronicle, Nov. 1, 1855) He d. March 20, 1856, ae. 97 years 1 month, 16 days. (New England Historic, Genealogical Register, January, 1857.) This slave, Benjamin Prentis, was very likely a son of Christophers by a slave woman."

    (See link at Google Books .)

Binney erred in that the Christopher Christopher Christophers referred to was b. 1683 and d. 1729, some 31 years before Benjamin Prentis was born.

We do have the following additional information about Benjamin Prentis from a posting at Rootsweb.ancestry.com which appears on page 207 of a publication called "Supplement to the Courant. 1840":

    "The oldest inhabitant of Marlboro', Mass., is Benjamin Prentiss, a colored man, who was born in Conecticut, February 4, 1760. He was a slave and the property of a Mrs. Lattemer, from whom he ran away in 1792, but was seized in Shrewsbury, in that State, and taken back to his owner. The idea of a fugitive slave from Conecticut, strikes one oddly enough.

    The next year [1793] he ran away again, and, settling in Marlboro', has remained there for almost two generations. He was an eye witness of Benedict Arnold's doings in Connecticut, at the head of the British troops, seventy-four years since. His memory is excellent."

The forgoing information raises some interesting questions:

  1. Since it was not the 1683 Christopher Christophers who gave Benjamin to Mrs. George Latimer, who was it that gave Benjamin to her?

  2. What is the full maiden name of "Mrs. George Latimer"?

  3. Since Benjamin was not "born a slave to" the 1683, Christopher Christophers, who was he born a slave to?

  4. What evidence did Binney have for his speculation that Benjamin Prentis, "was very likely a son of Christophers by a slave woman"?

  5. When did Benjamin acquire the surname of "Prentis?" Was it before he fled in 1793. Or did he select it himself after his successful flight in 1793, and, if so, why "Prentis?"

If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

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