Monday, January 25, 2010

Venture Smith - Africian Yankee

Chatham, Haddam Neck and East Haddam in the late 18th century all shared the industriousness of neighbor and friend, Venture Smith. Born “about 1729,” the son of Saungm Furro, the king of Dukandarra, in Guinea, West Africa, he was the equivalent of a “Crown Prince.” Captured by the ruler of a neighboring land, Smith, then a 7 year old boy, was sold into slavery, sent on a slave ship first to Barbados, finally ending up in Rhode Island. His African name Broteer was changed to Venture during this ordeal. Enduring a long and arduous life and being sold several times until a Colonel O. Smith bought him at age 31, who permitted Venture to purchase his own freedom, though on terms that yielded an exorbitant profit. Working on Fishers Island and Long Island for several more years he earned enough to purchase the freedom of his wife Marget and 3 children. At age 47, Venture sold his Long Island property and moved to East Haddam, finally buying 10 acres in Haddam Neck were he engaged in numerous businesses including owning a score of boats and sailing vessels. Smith wrote his autobiography in 1798 and lived to the year 1805.
One of his many stories related to the day he married Marget in 1751. Apparently, he threw a rope over his master’s house and told Marget to pull on one end, while he pulled on the other. Neither budged the rope. Then he called her to his side of the house, and together they pulled it off in a jiffy. He then told her, “Marget, if we pull in life against each other, we shall fail; but if we pull together we shall succeed.” And so, together they pulled all through their difficult life and their mutual affection continued to the end.

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