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Benjamin Prentice, Slave


Benjamin Prentice, Slave

By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Spring 2009 and Revised 1 Jan 2009
Cleanup -- 1 Feb 2023

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). [1]

"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."

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

The following additional information about Benjamin appears on page 207 of a publication called "Supplement to the Courant. 1840":[2]

"The oldest inhabitant of Marlboro', Mass., is Benjamin Prentiss, a colored man, who was born in Connecticut, 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 Connecticut, 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 record of his marriage to his first wife is listed in the Massachusetts Vital Records:[3]

PRENTISS
Benjamin [negro. W] and Candace Hapgood, Apr. 23, 1800. [See Gen. Reg., 1857 - p. 367.]

Benjamin's wives are both buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Marlborough. Their gravestone inscriptions are as follows:[4]

In Memory of
Candace Prentice
wife of
Benjamin Prentice,
Sep 12, 1807:
in the 54 year
of her age.

And,

In Memory of
Mrs. Hannah,
Wife of
Mr. Benjamin Prentice,
who died
June 20, 1824,
AEt. 53.

His obituary reads as follows:[5]

PRENTICE, Benjamin, Marlborough, March 20 [1857], ae. nearly 97, a negro and once a slave in Connecticut. He was born in New London, Conn., Feb. 4, 1760. In 1792 he ran away and got as far as Shrewsbury, Mass., where he was caught and taken back to Connecticut, and sold for $300. He soon after made a second attempt for his liberty, and succeeded. He went to Stow, Mass., where he lived a few years and then came to Marlborough, where he has resided for nearly 60 years. He married Candace Hapgood, April 23, 1800. She dying after a short time, he married a second wife, whom he survived about 30 years. He had no children, but spent his last days with the children of his second wife. At the time of his death, he was the oldest man in town, being 97 years, 1 mo., 16 ds. old. Though uneducated he was intelligent and respected, and for many years exercised the right of suffrage, the question of his citizenship having never been raised.

Benjamin is buried at Main Street Cemetery, Hudson, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, East Section, Lot 179.[6]

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?"

References

1. The History and Genealogy of the Prentice, or Prentiss Family, in New England, etc., from 1631 to 1883, by C.J.F. Binney, 1883. Google Books

2. Supplement to the Courant. 1840, (volume unknown), page 207. rootsweb.ancestry.com

3. Massachusetts Vital Records. Marlborough Marriages, page 298. ma-vitalrecords.org

4. Marlborough, Massachusetts, Burial Ground Inscriptions Old Common, Spring Hill, and Brigham Cemeteries, by George Maynard, 1908, page 131. Google Books

5. Annual Obituary Notices of Eminent Persons who Have Died in the United States. For 1857[-1858], page 285. Google Books

6. Benjamin B Prentice at findagrave.com.


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