Derrick Oxford – the story

This story is courtesy of Jane Stephenson from Plainfield Historical Society

Plainfield town history states that Benjamin Cutler owned two slaves, one named Darok, who had served in the Revolutionary War, and that his slaves are buried in unmarked graves in the Cutler (now Coryville) cemetery.  In May of 2017, after finding the graves, we began to research Darok/Derrick in an effort to obtain a headstone from the VA. We uncovered a fascinating history. 

In the spring of 1775, William Gallup and his wife, Lucy Denison, and seven children ages 1 month to 13, made the 190 mile journey from Stonington, CT to Hartland, Vermont. They likely traveled first by sail, and then flatboat, up the Connecticut River. With them was at least one slave, a man named Darok/Derrick, but there were likely more slaves with the family.

New London County CT had the largest proportion of slaves to whites of any place in New England. The largest and most prominent Stonington families—the Wheelers, Williams and Gallups owned dozens of slaves. Darok/Derrick is first mentioned in the 1737 will of Isaac Wheeler, then again in the 1755 will of his son in law John Williams, who was the grandfather of William Gallup. Derrick is listed in each will as part of a family group that includes his wife Jenny, and daughters Jenny and Kate.

In May of 1777, “Negro Darok” enlisted for three years in the Revolutionary War from Plainfield, perhaps because the Plainfield selectmen were offering an enlistment bonus. He-fought at Ticonderoga and Saratoga, was injured or became ill and was left at Albany. A certificate dated Sept 20, 1781, and signed by the Hartland selectmen, including William Gallup, reads as follows: This may certify that Derrick Oxford, a Negro slave to Mr. William Gallup….enlisted in ye three years service and continued til he obtained a furlow home to his master near one year and then returned to said service.” He served until July 1780 in the First NH Regiment. He immediately enlisted as a private for militia service in the new state of Vermont on August 1, 1780 and served until the end of 1781. He was one of the highest paid soldiers, except for some officers. After the war, he apparently returned to live with his master William Gallup. In June of 1784 Gallup petitioned the NH government for money due him for Derrick Oxford’s service.

But at some point, Darok/Derrick Oxford, apparently came to live with Benjamin Cutler. Cutler’s farm in Plainfield is less than four miles from Gallup’s farm in North Hartland, and ferries crossing the river made it an easy trip. Was Derrick actually sold to Cutler, or simply bound out?

Why, after a lifetime of service in the Wheeler/Williams/Gallup extended families, would he have come to live with Cutler?  One possibility is that since slavery had technically been illegal since the VT constitution was signed in 1777 Gallup, who had served as a selectman, and then in the VT legislature, felt compelled to sell him out of state, as other slave owners in VT did. There are very few emancipation records in Vermont, so no record that he was emancipated. Could Derrick have known the Cutler men from his RW service?

In the 1790 census for Plainfield, Cutler is enumerated as having two “free persons of color” (FPOC) in his household, and Gallup still had one person. By 1800 neither household had any FPOC, so we presume Derrick and the other person in Cutler’s household died between 1790-1800.

 

Updated: 2018-10-28 — 16:42

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