Dad's Memories - VENTURE SMITH

- 10 December 98 - 14 December 98

VENTURE Smith - A Real Haddam Neck Legend 

and Author of

A NARRATIVE -of the- LIFE AND ADVENTURES -of- VENTURE A NATIVE OF AFRICA, But Resident Above Sixty Years in the United States of America RELATED BY HIMSELF 

Originally Printed in 1798

VENTURE'S Story is presented here with commentary from many sources - both print and "web" 

Compiled by R.E. Langdon

EXTRACTS FROM: Postscripts to Yankee Township, Carl F. Price ... c 1941/47, republished by The East Hampton Bicentenial Committee - 1975

Postscript 12 - (pp 49-53) "Slaves in Connecticut"

(Reproduced here - in full)

Some of the readers of Chapter 5 in Yankee Township, entitled "An African Yankee" - the story of Venture Smith - have expressed their amazement on learning that slavery ever existed in Connecticut.

- more coming -

FROM: Postscripts to Yankee Township, Carl F. Price ... c 1941/47, republished by The East Hampton Bicentenial Committee - 1975

Postscript 50 - (pp 274-278) "Concerning Holdfast Gaines"

(Extract Re. VENTURE Smith - reproduced here)

Rick's Note: In this postscript, Mr. Price compares the "tradition" of Holdfast Gaines - another name that I recall from deep dim memory , a true native of this Connecticut region - with that of Venture Smith, and reveals how their life paths crossed as related in another book Holdfast Gaines.

"Would you like to see Venture Smith in action near his 18th century home at the cove and on the hill across from Salmon River, and hear some of the philosophy he brought with him from his native land in Africa? Do you want to stand in Leesville and hear the mauls and the mallets of shipbuilders ringing clear from Albert Shepard's shipyard up the river, miles away? Or would you choose, vicariously through a young Mohegan Indian, to spend a 40-day vigil in the cave of Hobbomok near Machimoodus?"

"Then read the new novel, Holdfast Gaines, by Professor Odell Shepard, erstwhile Lieutenant-Governor of Connecticut and his son, William Shepard (New York; Macmillan, 1946) ... you may feel at home as you read of the Old Cove Burying Ground, of the Devil's Hopyard, of Mystic and Norwich, Higganum, East and West Haddam, and Haddam Neck. ... this novel compasses the whole period which included both American wars against the British."

"The story is the biography of a Connecticut-born Mohegan Indian, known to the white man as Holdfast Gaines, and to the tribe which he was chief, as Sleeping Bear. In a sense, it is his spiritual biography, ..."

After Holdfast Gaines departed from the dearly beloved white girl with whom he had spent his youth, he sought his Uncles counsel (the famous Samson Occum - who in England raised funds for the development of Dartmoth College), and they both spent a 40 day vigil on the Indians Mountain of their God - Hobbomok, and received the vision.

"The vigil which Holdfast kept for 40 days was in the famous cave near Moodus - the "Cave of Hobbomok," as the Mohegans called it. This gave the authors opportunity, with ingenuity and magic creative imagination, to blend into dramatic unity, at the climax of Holdfast's mystical adventure, the sacred Mount Machimoodus and the personality of Venture Smith, with which readers of Yankee Township are made familiar in Chapter Five, "An African Yankee" (Venture Smith) and Chapter 11, "Matchitmoodus Noises" (with its descriptions of the caves and the mountain)."

"In those long, lonely days, there came to Holdfast doubts about his quest for vision. The winter deepened and the sterner cold came on ... Finally he set out for Machimoodus, struggling long and slowly in the deep snow ... he fell back into the snow, and there made his bed ... years later ... he recalled the wierd memories of that night, what vision came to him, what hallucinations - the sence of being borne by strong arms ... the feeling that a great bear was there. What had really happened was this:"

"On the morning after his vision, he had been found up there wandering, half-crazed, by Venture Smith, the famous Negro son of an African King, for many years a slave to white men, and now a prosperous farmer and ship owner, living in Haddam Neck. This black Saint Christopher, mighty as a bear, had gathered him up as though a child, had borne him gently down the mountain, fed him, made him sleep, listened to him, understood him, and, greatest boon of all - believed him. Venture had said that in Africa, too, when he was a boy, every medicine man and chieftain had to keep his vigil and talk to the gods before his real strength came upon him."

"There followed some of the philosophy of the wise and illiterate Venture, in whose home he was nursed back into strength until the New Years Day. ..."

FROM: Postscripts to Yankee Township, Carl F. Price ... c 1941/47, republished by The East Hampton Bicentenial Committee - 1975

Postscript 59 - (pp 315-317) "Slavery in Chatham"

(Reproduced here - in full)

- more coming -

FROM: Postscripts to Yankee Township, Carl F. Price ... c 1941/47, republished by The East Hampton Bicentenial Committee - 1975

Rick's Note: This has nothing to do with either slavery or Venture Smith but I found a portion of it very interesting as it relates to fears of Japanese attack - against the Pratt & Whitney plant in East Hartford, where dad was working at the time. Maybe dad will post some recollections of his own concerning this time - the early days of WW II, rationing, Victory Gardens, canning, saving grease to make homemade soap, saving soap scraps for use in dishwashing using a soap wisk, cutting both ends out of cans to save them as scrap metal, ... I remember some of this - because these wartime restrictions became "habits" that both dad & mom continued to live with, and carry on, for years after the war ... Dad may even remember the particular "scare" recounted below.


Postscript 54 - (pp 294-297) "Attack on East Hampton Feared"

- Extract of that portion related to the Pratt and Whitney plant in WW II -

In July and August of 1943, the second summer after Pearl Harbor, when the black-out, no longer a novelty, was getting to be an annoyance, and wardens from shouting "Lights out!" were beginning to get hoarse, when patriotic citizens on Barton Hill back of the Williams residence were patiently noting the passing flights of planes, there was noticeable in town a mild hysteria, mostly subdued, but occasionly vocal.

People were asking, if any German planes should fly up from Long Island Sound to blitz the Pratt and Whitney plant, would they drop a few bombs en route on East Hampton's factories? And what would happen if a few of those spies the German submarines were landing on our coast escaped arrest and succeeded in some gigantic plot of sabotage?

Shortly after California reported they had discovered certain signposts set up along the countryside for the guidance of Japanese planes, two East Hampton men noticed on East High Street two advertising bill-boards, so erected that they formed an acute angle pointing in the direction of the Pratt and Whitney factory in East Hartford. As they motored westward, they noticed in this town, in Portland, and in Middletown at South Farms, other instances of twin bill-boards, bearing the same advertisements as the East High Street ones, and set up at the same acute angle, pointing from their respective locations directly toward Pratt and Whitney.

This seemed to them to be more than a mere coincidence. Was it possible that the Fifth Column was operating in Middlesex County to guide the coming raid of German bombers? The situation was duly reported to Hartford, where it seemed to cause no excitement. When the California scare subsided as wholly unfounded, the East Hampton alarm also faded away into silence.

If East Hampton could be thus uneasy with the German bombers still on the other side of the Atlantic, what must have been the spirit of panic in town during the War of 1812, when the British fleet sailed into Long Island Sound, ........

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