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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Meahl

Hagar Mingo (1799-1859): Pious Black Yankee

Updated: Jan 15

Hagar Mingo was born sometime in September 1799 to Nelly, an enslaved woman owned by Major General Jedediah Huntington (1743-1818) and his wife Ann Moore Huntington (1754-1831). Her father is unknown. She was baptized at New London's Episcopal St. James Church September 15, 1799 (1). In the book of Genesis, "Hagar" is a servant. The name "Mingo" is possibly of African or Native American origin.

Until she was roughly 24 years of age, Hagar was legally bound to the Huntingtons under the Connecticut Gradual Abolition Act of 1784 (2). They lived in New London.

The needlework shows a young enslaved black New England woman with her mistress and charge.
"The First, Second, and Last Scene of Mortality, Prudence Punderson" The needlework shows a young enslaved black New England woman tending to a baby. This enabled her mistress the luxury of drawing. Courtesy: Connecticut Historical Society

Fortunately, there are some primary sources about Hagar (which is not typical for most women of that era, black or white). Thus, we can try to patch together episodes of her life by researching the Huntington family, events of the era, and church records.

In her early life, Hagar probably worked exclusively for the general and his wife until 1831 when Ann Huntington died at age 77(3). Then Hagar moved to Norwich for a time and likely worked for other members of the Huntington clan.

20th century image of the Jedediah Huntington home in New London, CT (razed in the 1950s). Its original design mimicked that of George Washington's Mt. Vernon. Hagar would have worked (and maybe lived) here from 1799-1831.

Backtracking a bit, Jed Huntington died September 25, 1818 in New London. At that point, Hagar was approximately 19-years old. He was one of the last generals from the American Revolution to die. Huntington had been the customs house collector for the Rhode Island/Connecticut coastline--among many other titles he claimed.

In 1821, at 22, Hagar was admitted to the New London First Church(4).

On or around April 1, 1823, Hagar was freed. She was approximately 24-25 years of age. The widow Ann had given her an inheritance which she used to buy a Bible.

Hagar Mingo's worn Bible. Purchased with her money on becoming free in 1823. Courtesy of the New London County Historical Society (NLCHS), New London, CT.
The beautiful inscription in Hagar's hand. Image courtesy of the New London County Historical Society, New London, CT.

Here is my transcription of Hagar's words. I am not sure about the last line.

"New London, April 1, 1823

The property of Hagar Mingo--purchased with the bounty of her late beloved and respected master, Gen. Jedidiah Huntington

Dear Witness of Truth and memorial of Love, from my master on earth & my Master above. Still let me be guided by thee--

Till the kind hand that gave thee shall welcome me there,

Where the Beggar is rich & the thief is fair, And the children of bondage are free."(5)

These lines say a lot. For one, it looks as if she added the qualifier "master" into the first section as an afterthought. Maybe she decided she couldn't say "friend," or "father," and she wasn't his wife so she had to add "master" to make it look more appropriate? Maybe she was just leaving room to write out his long name. Probably the latter.

She revealed her reliance upon God for a guiding light in a world that does not value her skin tone and that has enslaved herself and thousands of others in the United States. She is boldly referencing her preference for emancipation of all enslaved people. Also for a world in which everyone gets a chance at the "American Dream."

Hagar was admitted to the Norwich Second Church in 1831 (Congregational) after Anne's death. The church was known for its inclusiveness toward Blacks. It held Sabbath school for Black children where they could learn reading and writing. The Reverend James T. Dickinson, leader of the anti-slavery society of Norwich, delivered a notable sermon on the evils of slavery on July 4, 1834. This evidently caused a mob of angry white people to attack the congregation. Hagar probably attended the service (6)

In 1850, she traveled with the Reverend Daniel Huntington and his third wife, Sarah Sage Rainey (1797-1887)to Bridgewater, MA where he had been a pastor decades earlier. (Daniel was the sixth child of Jed and Ann's and about 10 years older than Hagar). He was returning to his flock at their hour of need. But it would be short lived as the reverend died in 1854 at the age of 66 (7).

Hagar Mingo's large grave with inscription. Located at Cedar Grove Cemetery, New London, CT.

Back to New London went Hagar most likely with Sarah Huntington. She died just shy of 60--young, perhaps worn out from all the hard labor she had done for the large and busy Huntington family. In fact, Sarah would outlive Hagar by 30+ years. It is interesting to note that Ann Huntington lived to be 77 years--both women living way longer than their domestic servant.

Hagar's grave is in the same section of the extended Jedediah Huntington family plot in the back section (5) of the large (and beautiful) Cedar Grove Cemetery in the outskirts of New London. No other Black American graves are within this small Huntington plot--evidence of the Huntington's love for Hagar as well as her willingness to be buried with her white family--perhaps her only surviving family.

Hagar Mingo's simple engraved tombstone within the Major General Jedediah Huntington family plot.

The inscription, paraphrased from the Bible, reads: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over many a few things I will make thee unto ever many things: enter Him into the joy of thy Lord."

Hagar was important to the Huntington's under their early 19th century code of morals and system of rank. What was most important to them was that she cared for THEM in an obedient, self-sacrificing way. She was a faithful domestic whose mother had been a legal slave--one of many that served the Huntington's during their decades of high wealth and privilege in Connecticut. It was these Black Americans that helped their white owners accrue wealth as Elise Lemire points out in Black Walden her instructive picture of what Black enslaved people's lives were like in the historic town of Concord, MA (from the 17th into the 19th centuries).(8)

Hagar certainly enabled the families she worked for to live comfortably by doing the hard manual labor, day in and day out, that was required in those times.

In the 21st century there has been a resurgence of awareness of just how deep Connecticut played a role in the enslavement of Black Americans from the 17th to early 19th century. New London County on the eve of the Revolution had the most enslaved persons in Connecticut. Most middle- to upper-class families of Norwich had at least 1-2 enslaved persons. Not only was owning an enslaved person a key way to free up the owners to do more lucrative white collar work (and avoid hard farm labor or laundry) but it also was a status symbol. Status was the only way to get land and play a role in government. Connecticut held onto slavery and Black codes long past its sister states in New England. In fact, slavery, was still technically legal in Connecticut until 1848.

This is the end, for now, of obviously a skeletal biographical sketch of Hagar. I hope to update it someday soon with more research.


(1) Barbara Brown and James M. Rose, Black Roots in Southeastern, Connecticut 1650-1900, New London, CT: New London County Historical Society, 2001, 252.

(2) Ibid.

(3) The Connecticut Gradual Abolition Act of 1784 stated that children born to enslaved persons after March 1, 1784, could not be held "in servitude" beyond the age of 25.

(4) Underlining and capital letters are Hagar's. Bible photographs courtesy of NLCHS.

(5) Hagar Mingo, words in the front piece, Bible, April 1, 1823.

(8) Elise Lemire, Black Walden, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.


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