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New Haven County Court Records: Blog

The Plight of Devenshare Nero

by Sarah Morin on 2021-04-26T08:39:00-04:00 in African Americans, Archives, Civil Rights & Human Rights, Connecticut, Courts: Connecticut Courts, History | 0 Comments

Today we will examine the first cases involving an African-descended individual that we discovered in the New Haven County County Court records as we begin our National Historical Publications and Records Commission [NHPRC] funded grant. When quoting from documents, we will use the actual spelling, including transcriptions of individual words as necessary. (For more information about colonial spelling practices, see The Standardization of American English at

William Hoadly vs. Samuell Pond... and Samuell Pond vs. William Hoadly

In 1712, William Hoadly of Branford, administrator of his late father’s estate, sued Samuell Pond over who was the legally-designated enslaver of an African-descended man called Devenshare Nero. Hoadly claimed that Devenshare belonged to the estate, and demanded thirty pounds in damages as well as for Pond to “soruder [surrender] up sd Devenshare yt so he may be distrebuted according to Law; which hath Bin to ye damige of sd admin ye sum of thurty pounds.”

Pond pleaded in abatement, but the jury granted Hoadly “a surrender of sd negro in ye Issue and Cost of Cort.”

single page of paper with handwriting

Writ for William Hoadly vs. Samuell Pond

However, the matter did not rest there. Pond immediately requested an appeal to the Superior Court, which was granted (County Court Records, New Haven County, Vol. 2, 1699-1712/13, p. 491). The outcome of that trial is unknown (we will likely discover more details when we reach the Superior Court records), but the lawsuits between the two enslavers dragged on for years afterward.

However, it appears that Pond ultimately succeeded in his appeal, because in 1714, he sued Hoadly in County Court, demanding twenty pounds damage upon the claim that Hoadly “did unjustly and under Colour of Law by a Certain Writ to that End obtained attach out of ye hands of ye said Samuell Pond his negro man named Devonshire and detained him ye sd Devenshire unjustly.” Hoadly pleaded not guilty, but this time the jury found “for the plaintiff ten pounds mony and Cost of Court.” Per the record book (Vol. 3, 1713-1739, p. 39), Hoadly was allowed an appeal to the Superior Court, and so it is likely that the fight with Pond continued.

Devenshare Nero had no say in these matters. Unfortunately, we know nothing about him except for his race. We do not know if he was born in Africa and brought to New England, or if he was born in New England. The records do not reveal his feelings about his circumstances or if he had a family that was splintered by these protracted court battles over his enslavement. His ultimate fate, sadly, is unknown. But we can ensure that Devenshare Nero’s story is told and that he is remembered.

The Connecticut State Library would like to thank the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for their generous support of this project.

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