FortuneWaterbury in the 18th CenturySlavery in WaterburyReligion and SlaveryWaterbury's African AmericansWaterbury's Slave OwnersResources
Waterbury's African Americans
goback to Waterbury's African Americans List

Comfort Homer

In 1795, a girl named Comfort was sold by John Thompson to Miles Newton. Thompson lived in the part of Waterbury that is now Middlebury. The 1790 census does not show him as owning any slaves. Miles Newton lived not too far from the Waterbury Green. Comfort was stated to be “about fourteen years of age” on the sales contract; it was later determined that she was only 11 when Thompson sold her to Newton. She probably worked as a domestic servant for the Newton household. On June 28, 1801, the Congregational Church baptized a group of people: the three children of Miles Newton, Comfort, the four children of Harmon Payne, and a young woman named Lucy, who was enslaved in the Payne household.

When Comfort was sold to Miles Newton, it was for “the term of her natural life.” If Comfort had been fourteen in 1795, then she would not have been eligible for Gradual Emancipation, which stated that any enslaved person born after March 1, 1784 would be granted their freedom on their 21st birthday.

In 1810, Comfort sought out Noah B. Benedict. Benedict lived in Woodbury and was a judge of probate as well as a member of the state House of Representatives. He was married to the sister-in-law of Waterbury’s Judge Bennet Bronson. Comfort may have met with him while he visited his family in Waterbury, or she may have traveled to Woodbury, as the laws prohibiting travel by African Americans had been repealed in 1797.

Comfort told Benedict that she was 26 years old as of May 1810, which meant that she was born in May of 1784, making her eligible for Gradual Emancipation. Benedict pronounced that this was true, and that she had been free as of March 1, 1809. He further declared that Miles Newton would be “liable for false imprisonment” if he continued to hold her against her will, and that Newton owed her payment for the work she had done for him since March 1809.

Immediately upon winning her freedom, Comfort left the Newton household. The 1810 census shows no African Americans living there.

Comfort Homer may have had family in Woodbury: an African American woman named Hannah Homer died there in 1841 at the age of 62; she was five years older than Comfort.

Related Biographies

Bill of Sale for Comfort
Enlarge this image
Bill of Sale for Comfort - 1795
Comfort is sold as a slave for life to Miles Newton by John Thompson. Collection of the Mattatuck Museum

Noah Benedict's Pronouncement
Enlarge this image
Noah Benedict's Pronouncement - 1810
Benedict declares that Comfort Homer is a free woman and is owed back wages from Miles Newton. Collection of the Mattatuck Museum

© Copyright 2004, Mattatuck Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.