Dad's Memories

- 10 October 98 - 10 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

VENTURE - A Haddam Neck Legend

Near the tip of Haddam Neck, about a mile South of the Langdon's farm land, on a ridge rising from the "The Cove" on the Salmon River, above the "Lower Swamp" and the "Lower Meadow", are the remains of the cabin of Venture Smith. An early settler in Haddam Neck, Connecticut and a local legend on "The Neck", VENTURE settled here around 1775 or 1776 at the age of 47 - a freeman (thru his own labors) for about 11 years - after being kidnapped from Africa, sold into slavery at the age of 6, and suffering the life of a slave under 3 different "masters" for 29 years.

Click for a Close-up map view of "The Neck"

In 1798 VENTURE related his memoirs which was published in New London, titled - 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.

Venture's book and memory survive to this day both thru oral history and thru the reprinting of his narrative: In 1835 by his decendants; In 1896 by H.M. Selden - a Haddam Neck resident who supplemented the original text with "Traditions" (local legends) and accounts of Venture by people from the area who had 1st or 2nd hand memories of Venture; In 1971 in 5 Black Lives an anthology published by Wesleyan University, Middletown Connecticut of 5 of the 6 known published autobiographical works by black ex-slaves living in Connecticut and recalling their deliverance between 1729 and 1870 (a reprint of the 1896 version with Traditions); And, most recently in 1996 by the University Press of Kentucky in Unchained Voices an anthology of black authors in the english-speaking world of the 18th Century (a reprint from the original 1798 work).

Venture died, on "The Neck" in 1805, and, with his wife - Meg, and one of his four sons - Solomon 2nd, is buried in the cemetery of the First Congregational Church, Route 151, East Haddam, Connecticut.

I have reproduced in full - here online - VENTURES book and as many various published commentaries as I can locate. "Web" source links found in searching for "Venture Smith" along with applicable commentaries are reproduced on this page.
The publishing and reprinting history of VENTURE'S BOOK can be found
near the bottom of this page
Links to my electronic reproduction of Ventures book - in full -
with it's associated commentaries will also be found
at the bottom of this page - in a Link Index




Dad has recounted many times that as a boy in the 1920's (120+ years after Venture's death) and later - while hunting down on the point in the 1940's and 50's - seeing the remains of Venture Smith's cabin, still in reasonably good condition, with his rowboat still stored in the basement beneath it. Dad also recounted that - in respect of Ventures memory and legendary status on The Neck, he and his hunting buddies were careful not to disturb the cabin or it's surroundings.

On revisiting the cabin site on our trip in Sept 1998, there was no remaining evidence of the wooden cabin - or the rowboat. However, the stone walls of the basement, the stone wall terraces in front of the cabin site to the South - down toward the Salmon River - and the low stone dam at the foot of the "Upper Swamp" above, behind, and to the West of the cabin site were still in relatively good condition. All these stone works are, I'm sure, made from that "good Haddam Neck Granite". Beavers had added their own dam about 30' upstream from Venture's Dam, and the power company ( Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant ) had added a dirt access road about 150' upstream of the beavers dam - accomodating the beavers with a culvert thru the road at water level. This access road leads to a firing range - pushed up in "Venture's Meadow" - to the North of and behind his cabin site.

Based on recent (2000 - 2001) talks with my cousin "Ham", this area that was pushed up as a firing range by the power Company in the late 1960's to build "Connecticut Yankee" was one of many areas that were RICH with early Indian artifacts (not to mention, or consider the property's significance as VENTURE'S Homestead) which were "destroyed" by the Power Company with no respect for the land or it's historical significance.  I'd just like to see them try such a heavy handed approach these days !!!  It would not happen.  Then too the Power Company "took" most of our old homestead land and the land to the south (the whole "rest of The Neck") and our prime hunting land ..... which did not set well with Uncle Art, Aunt Clara, or ANY of the Langdon kids!!



Venture's Cabin Foundation, ~20' x 20'


Venture's Terrace Walls


Venture's Pond & the Beaver's Dam


Beaver Pond


Venture's Meadow


I am sure that these early recollections by dad about VENTURE, and the respect that he exhibited for this black man - who obtained his freedom through his own efforts - and in time earned the respect and admiration of the people of Haddam Neck (where I was born and lived to age 5) influenced my attitude towards blacks, and people in general.

In Connecticut, I remember having very little contact with black people. I don't recall any living in Haddam Neck, although thru age 5 this is probably to be expected - I only have a very few memories from "The Neck" prior to moving to Glastonbury. In Glastonbury, I only recall one black family living in the town - he worked as "the trash man" and seemed to be generally well thought of - I don't recall going to school with or having any personal contacts with any blacks.

It wasn't until we moved to Florida at age 16 that we lived in an area where there was a significant population of blacks. For the most part, they lived on the "West side of the tracks" in Riviera Beach, and had their own schools. Having not been in any schools with blacks to this point, I took little notice of their absence. Also, it is and was "natural" for public schools to be built for, and populated with, the children living near that school. I took little note of the fact that we now lived in "the segregated South".

I did go thru the period of legislated racial integration in the South. In 1963, my senior year, Riviera Beach High School was integrated. We had one negro boy in my graduating class. Also, in 1968, during my senior year at The Citadel, it admitted it's first black cadet. Personally, I took no offence with - and little notice of - the furor created by the prospect of bringing segregation to an end. My folks had instilled in me a respect for people who were willing to "make it on their own" in general, and a distaste for those not willing to try - as well as a distaste for those who thought the world "owed them something" for some perceived past wrong.

Even now, after these 130+ years since emancipation, and 30+ years of legislated integration, people still have a tendency to keep to "their own", which is natural. However, "their own" is now to a much greater degree determined - thru one's own efforts - by education and it's resulting economic circumstance, than by "race". There are many colors and hues of people around the world, but we are all of the "human race".

It is for this reason that I have dedicated some time and effort thru research, reading, and now this on-line publishing of Venture Smith's story. To honor the memory of VENTURE, to respect and honor the teachings of my dad & mom, and to highlight and recognize VENTURE's efforts, on his own, in overcoming his "unfortunate circumstance". And finally, to let VENTURE's story serve as a shining example to all who may view these pages.

Info gathered from "The Net" .... about Venture Smith


Source: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, A Native of Africa

New London, Conn., 1798; expanded ed., Hamden, Conn., 1896

Kidnapped at the age of six, Venture Smith was sold to the stewart on a slave ship and brought to Connecticut. At the age of 31 (actually 36), after several changes of ownership, he purchased his freedom with money that he earned by hiring out his labor and "cleaning musk-rats and minks, raising potatoes and carrots, and by fishing in the night, and at odd spells." In order to purchase his wife and sons, he fished, sailed on a whaler, ferried wood from Long Island to Rhode Island, and raised watermelons. Later, he actually became a slaveholder, purchasing at least three slaves. At his death at the age of 77 in 1805 in East Haddam, Connecticut, he left a hundred-acre farm and three houses.

(_____ This entry then follows with AN EXCERPT from Chapter 1 of Venture's book _____)



Recent book references:


Louisiana Authors: B

..................................... This "may still be available" ....................................

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (1902 - 1973)

Five Black Lives: The Autobiographies of Venture Smith, James Mars, William Grimes, the Rev. G.W. Offley, James L. Smith.

Middleton, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1987, c1971.


.......... currently AVAILABLE Purchased 10/98 - from this source ..........

Unchained Voices; An Anthology Of Black Authors In The English-Speaking World Of The Eighteenth Century

By: Editor: Carretta, Vincent // Editor: Caretta, Vincent

Softcover 387 pages

Carretta has assembled the most comprehensive anthology ever published of writings by 18th-century people of African descent, enabling many of these authors to be read for the first time in two centuries. Contributors include Briton Hamilton, James Albert, Ukawsaw Cronnopsaw, John Marrant, Venture Smith, Francis Williams, David George, and Boston King. Photos. Pub Date: November 1996 Pub: University Press of Kentucky

OUR PRICE USA/Canada: US$19.30 Australia/NZ: A$38.70 Other Countries:US$23.20

ISBN: 0813108845


Town of East Hampton ---- "Growing and Prospering Since 1767"


Municipal Services

Town Clerk

The Town Clerk is responsible for recording and maintaining the community's vital records.

What You Can Get Done at the Town Clerk's Office

Contact: at (860)267-2519
.......... HAVE CONTACTED and received this book set ..........
This is still available for $20.00 + $1.20 Tax + Postage
Vol 1 - Yankee Township, Carl F. Price (212 pages)
Vol 2 - Postscripts to Yankee Township, Carl F. Price (338 pages)
Vol 1 - Has a chapter devoted to VENTURE (Chapter 5, "An African Yankee" pgs 43-56) which discusses him as "...well known in East Hampton, though his home was below the southern boundary of the town on the Salmon River Cove at Haddam Neck...". This discussion is, for the most part, drawn - as a recount - from Ventures book, referred to as "... His own life story which was published in pamphlet form in 1798...". It goes on to discuss the traditions associated with Venture by people living in the area and the republication of Ventures story - with traditions - by Henry Martin Selden in 1897. This section closes with the following paragraph - The Old Cove Burying Ground - NOT the burial place of Venture Smith - is located in this map view of Haddam Neck by the gray marker noted "16 ?" almost directly across the Salmon River Cove from Venture's cabin location, and is discussed at greater length by Kevin Tulimieri in his article "Spirits of the Ancient Burying Yard". Carl Price, in Postcripts to Yankee Township (#62 - "History of Lake View Cemetery" has this to say about the Old Cove Burying Yard:
This section is prefaced with a photograph of VENTURE'S brownstone grave marker.

Vol 2 - Postscript 12 - "Slaves in Connecticut (p49-53) also contains references to Venture, along with a brief discussion of slavery as it existed in this state and is reproduced online here.

Venture is also mentioned in Postscript 21 - "The Story of Cinque" as "... the redeemed African slave who in Revolutionary days became a much respected property owner in Haddam Neck." The Story of Cinque is the story of "... the mutinous slave who journeyed from Africa to Connecticut and back...", a recount of the slave mutiny on the ship "Amisted" it's resultant trial and their return to Sierra Leone.

For those curious about other tales associated with this region of Connecticut, I have reproduced the table of content for these two volumes of Yankee Township here as a bit of an appetizer - along with selected other passages from these volumes concerning VENTURE, Haddam, Haddam Neck, and East Hampton.


.... Entry reproduced here - in full ....

A simple handmade wooden flour scoop, crafted around 1800 by an African-American Revolutionary War veteran from East Haddam, Connecticut, is the most recent addition to The Connecticut Historical Society's collection of more than 1250 printed materials, manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts documenting 350 years of Black history in the state.

- ..- The flour scoop was made by Cuff Smith, who was born around 1756 and died in 1822 in Colchester, Connecticut. Smith, a private in the Continental Army from 1781 to 1784, was one of more than 400 African-Americans from Connecticut who served in the American Revolution.

"Traditionally, poor people had only a few modest possessions, and what they did own has tended not to survive to the present, since they were used until they were no longer serviceable and then thrown away or sold," said Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies at Cooperstown, New York, and curator of numerous exhibitions on African-American history.

"Those objects that have survived often have no documented history," noted Sorin. "Thus it is particularly unusual not just for an object like this flour scoop to have survived, but to know who made it. That it was made by an African-American individual makes it even more rare and significant."

The flour scoop is an appropriate acquisition for The Connecticut Historical Society because the CHS library already has a copy of the autobiography of Cuff Smith's father, published in 1798 in New London, Connecticut. This book, A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa...Related by Himself, is a rare early first-person account by an African-American of his own personal story.

Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped into slavery as a child, and spent the last 30 years of his life in Connecticut, buying first his own freedom, then that of his wife and children, including his son Cuff. After obtaining his freedom, Venture Smith went on to become a respected land owner and businessman in Haddam Neck, Connecticut, where he died in 1805 at the age of about 77.

© 1997 by Maine Antique Digest


.... The entry concerning Venture is reproduced below ....

[Long Island: Our Story] Black History / 41 Names to Remember

Venture Smith (about 1729-1805). Was kidnaped from West Africa into slavery and taken to Fishers Island when he was 7. Bought his freedom and lived in Suffolk County before moving to Connecticut.


.... The entry concerning Venture is reproduced below ....

Visit Connecticut, History - Historic Sites

First Church Cemetery Route 151, East Haddam, CT

Venture Smith, a slave who purchased his freedom as well as his family's, was buried here in the 18th century.



Learn about the history of African-Americans in Connecticut, as they made their centuries long journey from slavery to freedom. This trail, officially authorized by the State of Connecticut in 1995, includes monuments, historic homes, churches, gravesites, parts of the Underground Railroad and the Amistad Trail.

.... The entry concerning Venture is reproduced below ....


For more information on visiting East Haddam, click here.

First Church Cemetery Route 151, East Haddam, CT

Venture Smith, a slave who purchased his freedom as well as his family's, was buried here in the 18th century.


.... The entry concerning Venture is reproduced below ....

The Blockson Collection and Library at Temple University


Special Collections

Slave Narrative Collection

The African and Afro-American Slave Narrative Collection contains a wide and varied compository of documented slave experiences, more than a hundred narratives make up the collection.

Among the representative works are the narrative of Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Prince Lee Boo, Robert the Hermit, Bethany Veney, Ellenor Eldridge, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Cooper, Venture Smith, Benjamin Banneker, Robert Adams, Nancey Prince and Silvia Dubois.


.... The entries concerning (or leading to) Venture is reproduced below ....

A non-profit museum, library, and education center, The Connecticut Historical Society collects, preserves and interprets the history of the diverse people—past and present—who have made our state their home.

Established in Hartford in 1825, The Connecticut Historical Society is the seventh oldest historical society in the nation and houses one of the most distinguished museum and library collections in New England. The museum's collections include the world's largest holdings of Connecticut-related graphic materials, furniture, silver, pewter, and costumes. The library is one of four major repositories for the state along with Yale, the State Library, and the University of Connecticut. The library holds more than 100,000 volumes and nearly three million manuscripts, including one of New England's finest genealogical collections.


African-American Experiences

Several years ago the CHS published a guide to its library and museum holdings relating to African American history. This book is available for purchase from the CHS. Included among these holdings are the earliest known American broadside advertising for a runaway slave, publications and manuscripts by Phyllis Wheately and Jupiter Hammond, the correspondence of Rebecca Primus, and other books and manuscripts.

And, repeated here - this excerpt - from the story from the Main Antique Digest about their aquisition of the flour scoop made by Cuff Smith - Ventures son

The Connecticut Historical Society ... library ... has a copy of the autobiography of Cuff Smith's father, published in 1798 in New London, Connecticut. This book, A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa...Related by Himself, is a rare early first-person account by an African-American of his own personal story.


Salute to Black History Month - Slavery in Connecticut, Part 1 (Volume 07, Issue 06 Friday, February 13, 1998)

.. and -

Salute to Black History Month - The Adventures of Venture, Part 2 (Volume 07, Issue 07 Friday, February 20, 1998)


FROM - "Salute to Black History Month - Slavery in Connecticut, Part 1 (Volume 07, Issue 06 Friday, February 13, 1998)"

"...By the time the Census of 1756 was conducted in Connecticut, the number of African slaves was growing quite large. With a statewide population of almost 127,000 English, there was a total of 3019 people classified as "Negroes." The growing river-port at Middletown had reached 5446 White inhabitants and 218 African. In the thriving farming town of Colchester, the 1756 Census reported 2228 English residents with 84 Black. Although not all "Negroes" in the Census were slaves, the majority of Connecticut's early African inhabitants lived in servitude. Their duties would have included tending crops, caring for animals, chopping wood, building stone walls and a great diversity of other activities. "

"... Along with the Quakers of Rhode Island, many prominent Connecticut families were on the leading edge in the fight to end slavery. The long struggle for emancipation in Connecticut took its first step in October 1774. Colony leaders passed a law banning the importation of "Indian, Negro or Molatto Slaves" into the state. ... The common desire to abolish slavery can be seen in an entry in the Middletown Town Records from June 1780; "Know all men by these Presents, that Eliot Rawson of Middletown.... being truly desirous to do everything in my power to relieve all those that are suffering for their country, for liberty, or for righteousness sake, do will & determine that my five Africans or negroes shall be free.... "

"...The gradual abolition begun in 1784, slowly lowered the number of slaves in Connecticut. By 1840, the number of slaves in Connecticut was down to only 17. The end of slavery finally came to Connecticut in 1848, when immediate and total emancipation was granted to the few remaining slaves."

"One of the most inspiring tales of an African slave in Connecticut is the story of Venture Smith, the son of an African prince. About 1735, Venture was taken from his home in western Africa and sold into slavery. As a six-year-old boy he was taken to New England to serve a series of masters. Through hard work and persistence, Venture eventually purchased freedom for himself and his entire family. About 1776, he came to live and work as a freeman in East Haddam, Haddam Neck and East Hampton. His noble, undefeatable character and incredible feats of physical strength became the material of many local legends. When Venture was 69 years old, he dictated his autobiography to East Hampton school teacher and Revolutionary War veteran Elisha Niles. The book was first published in 1798 and is a valuable account of Venture's struggle, as well as the lives of slaves in colonial Connecticut."

From: "Salute to Black History Month - The Adventures of Venture, Part 2 (Volume 07, Issue 07 Friday, February 20, 1998)"

"The end of Venture's narrative does not bring to an end this important episode in local history. Venture's tall and strong family maintained a proud presence on Haddam Neck and in the surrounding towns for many years. In 1781, when Cuff was 23 years old, he joined up to fight in the Revolutionary War. He is credited to the town of East Haddam and served for three years in Colonel Heman Swift's Battalion. Cuff had seven children before he died at age 66 in Colchester. At the time of his death on January 12, 1822, Cuff's entire estate was appraised at only $49.28. A large part of his appraised estate, $34.40, was back pension due to him for his Revolutionary War service. Unfortunately, Cuff left medical and funeral bills for $67.69 and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. The Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford has recently acquired a wooden flour scoop, made by Cuff about 1800. The hand carved wooden scoop is a wonderful connection to the son of Venture whose final resting place has been lost.

Solomon 2nd inherited his father's property on Haddam Neck after Venture's death. He lived on the family plot on Haddam Neck for many years and also had seven children. He served for a short time in the War of 1812 with a local militia named Captain Beach's Company. Solomon 2nd died in 1843 and is buried with Venture and Meg in the East Haddam Congregational Church Cemetery. When he died, the property on Haddam Neck was split between his daughter Eliza Ann and his sons Solomon Oliver and Henry. For more than 100 years, many of Venture's 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren lived in the Haddam Neck, East Haddam and Haddam area.

When Venture Smith died in 1805 at age 77, he was honored with a large funeral at the East Haddam First Congregational Church. In a final and lasting tribute to the special character of Venture, tombstone carver John Isham endowed the angel on Venture's stone with the broad nose of an African. A resident of East Haddam, Isham certainly would have known Venture and his incredible story. The tombstone portrait is a symbol of the high level of acceptance Venture gained in the local community. The Warmsleys and about 30 other descendants of Venture recently gathered at his grave in East Haddam, to celebrate the acceptance of Venture's grave site as a stop on Connecticut's Freedom Trail.

A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture is a rare glimpse into the lives of New England's slaves, but more importantly, Venture's story is an inspiring tale of one man's fight to live with freedom and justice. "

Sources: (Publication Chronology)

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, New London: Printed by C. Holt at the Bee-Office, 1798
reprinted in 1835 and Published by a descendant of Venture
revised and republished with Traditions by H.M. Selden, Haddam, Conn., 1896 (Middletown, Conn.: J.S. Stewart, Printer and Bookbinder, 1897)
reprinted in Five Black Lives - Documents of Black Connecticut,
Wesleyan University Press, Introduction by Arna Wendell Bontemps, 1971
(VENTURE'S narrative is reprinted here from the 1896 reprint)
reprinted in Unchained Voices - An Anthology of Black Authors in the English Speaking World of the 18th Century, The University Press of Kentucky, Vincent Carretta - Editor, 1996
(VENTURE'S narrative is reprinted here from the original 1798 work
with notes added by Vincent Carretta - 1996)



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

- This electronic republication has as it's sources all those noted above -
It is presented as a research work only - and the the extraction of portions of published works is gratefully acknowledged - especially the following



5 Black Lives, Unchained Voices, and Yankee Township (2 Vols)

As a research work, and with all sources duly noted, it is clearly not my intent to infringe on any copyright's which may or may not still exist. As John Sankey, Harpsichordist to the Internet, says at his website ( ) concerning his MIDI music - "As I understand the current practise of international copyright law, for music I record to be free of copyright restrictions all over the world, I may record solely music that meets one of the following conditions: .... music which was published long enough ago that every person associated with the publication died more than 70 years ago, and which exists in more than one copy today so that copy ownership rights do not exist (photocopy acceptable)..."
"...I look forward to a return to a world where "he who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me." (Thomas Jefferson). That's what my copyright notice really means. ..."




To Top of this page | To Rick's Preface to Ventures story

- - LINKS - -

- 01 - .. From: Unchained Voices ... A note on the text and editorial policy

- 02 - .. From: Unchained Voices ... A note on money

- 03 - .. VENTURE - Preface (with notes From: Unchained Voices)

- 04 - .. VENTURE - Chapter I (with notes From: Unchained Voices)

- 05 - .. VENTURE - Chapter II (with notes From: Unchained Voices)

- 06 - .. VENTURE - Chapter III (with notes From: Unchained Voices)

- 07 - .. VENTURE - Certificates (with notes From: Unchained Voices)

- 08 - .. From: 5 Black Lives Introduction by Arna Bontemps

- 09 - .. From: 5 Black Lives Image - Title page from the 1896 Reprinting of VENTURE

- 10 - .. From: 5 Black Lives Traditions of Venture - Known as Venture Smith - Compiled by H.M. Selden (1896)

- 11 - .. VENTURE Smith's Life & Story: TIMELINE- (span) 1728 to 1998

- 12 - .. Extracts from: Postscripts to Yankee Township concerning slavery in Connecticut, Venture Smith, and one other - concerning attack fears during WW II & the Pratt and Whitney plant in East Hartford 

- 13 - .. Yankee Township & Postscripts to Yankee Township (About the author, and some more about Haddam Haddam Neck, and East Hampton - with Tables of Content from each book)

To Top of this page | To Rick's Preface to Ventures story

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