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Waterbury's Slave Owners
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Dr. Edward Field

Dr. Edward Field (1777-1840) was probably Waterbury’s last slave owner. Born in Enfield, Connecticut, he came to Waterbury in 1800 and lived in the home of Sarah Leavenworth, widow of Rev. Mark Leavenworth, and operated his doctor’s office from a side room. Field and Dr. Joseph Porter, Preserved Porter’s nephew and son-in-law, were granted permission in 1803 to inoculate town residents for smallpox. Field married Sarah Leavenworth’s granddaughter, Sarah Baldwin, in 1807. He was the first treasurer for the borough of Waterbury, and was involved with the formation of the Holmes & Hotchkiss manufacturing company in 1830.

When Sarah Leavenworth died in 1808, Dr. Field was the executor of her will, and his wife inherited much of the estate. His wife died a few months after her grandmother; Dr. Field married his wife's sister, Esther Baldwin, in 1810. Field tore down the Leavenworth homestead in 1816, replacing it with a larger house and office. Field’s house was inherited by his daughter Mary and her husband, Charles Buckingham Merriman, who served as Waterbury’s mayor in 1869. The Merriman house, as Field’s house became known in the late nineteenth century, was moved to nearby Watertown in 1925 to make room for the Immaculate Conception church.

Two African American women, Peg and Phyllis, had been enslaved in the household of Mark and Sarah Leavenworth. Peg died June 13, 1806, when she was 54 years old. Phyllis died May 20, 1821, when she was 60 years old. She appears in the 1810 census record as a slave in the Field household and as the only person still enslaved in Waterbury. The 1820 census listed her again in the Field household, but as a free person.

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Merriman House, c. 1880
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Merriman House, c. 1880
The house was built by Dr. Field in 1816. It was later modified by his son-in-law, Charles Merriman. Collection of the Mattatuck Museum.

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