LCHS Annual Meeting

Stories of Enslavement, Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton

Speaker:  Marjory Gomez O’Toole

  • Wednesday, August 10, 2016
  • United Congregational ChurchMarjory O'Toole 2016 by Chris O'Toole
  • 7:00 PM      Business Meeting
  • 7:15 PM       Speaker  
  • 8:00 PM     Refreshments, Book Sales, Author Signing
  • Please Note: The memorial dedication originally planned for 6:30 PM in the cemetery has been postponed because of a delay with the monument.  

Marjory O’Toole, Little Compton Historical Society Managing Director, will share the personal stories of some of Little Compton’s 250 enslaved and forcibly indentured people during her talk at the organization’s Annual Meeting.  The event is free and open to the public and will be held on Wednesday, August 10 at 7 PM at the United Congregational Church on the Little Compton Commons. Members of the Historical Society are especially encouraged to attend to vote on the organization’s board members and officers. A brief business meeting will take place from 7 to 7:15, followed by Ms. O’Toole’s talk. The evening will conclude with refreshments and a book-signing.

Ms. O’Toole has been the Managing Director of the Historical Society for over a decade. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Humanities at Brown University. For the last three years she has been conducting primary source research that sheds light on the lives of Little Compton’s enslaved and forcibly indentured men, women and children who lived and worked in the community from 1674 to 1816.

This summer, and specifically August 5, 2016, marks the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in Little Compton. Kate Hilliard, the last person known to be enslaved in Little Compton, gained her freedom on August 5, 1816 when her owner, David Hilliard’s will, was approved in the local probate court. David granted Kate her freedom in his will and directed his grandson to care for her in her old age. Kate was enslaved by the Hilliard family throughout her life and worked in their tavern and the poor house that they ran. She married an enslaved man named Prince Grinnell and together they had at least two children.

The Historical Society is celebrating the end of slavery in Little Compton by honoring the lives of enslaved people like Kate Hilliard. Their stories were lost from our local history for over two hundred years and have only recently been rediscovered through the Historical Society and Ms. O’Toole’s efforts. This July the Society published Ms. O’Toole’s book entitled “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold, Stories of Enslavement Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton, Rhode Island” and opened a special exhibit by the same title. The book is now available at the Historical Society’s museum shop and Wilbur’s General Store, Earle’s Gas Station, Gray’s Daily Grind and Partner’s Village Store as well as It is also available for loan at the Brownell Library and other libraries throughout the state.

Reservations are not required for the annual meeting.  Directions and more information is available by calling 401-635-4035.


2 thoughts on “LCHS Annual Meeting

  1. Marjory,
    I want to share a recent exciting research story with you.

    On ancestry DNA I was contacted by a 4th or 5th cousin match, Jean Harding, who is African American. This was a real shocker because my family history is as Caucasian as can be and very much early New England and Quaker. I began a project to see if I could find the connection to this wonderful 93 year old African American lady. I had just about given up, but had her DNA results uploaded to GEDMATCH and discovered a connection to another researcher whose genealogy I know. What an exciting moment. This researcher and I share Samuel Swain and Mary Cook as 4th great grandparents and further research convinced me that the African American connection is through my Cook line of Little Compton. Abial Cook is my 6th great grandfather and I knew from biographical research I had done that he and his ancestors owned slaves. I have the wills. That research taught me about the history of slavery and blacks in Rhode Island, a real surprise to me.

    In me and my wonderful new African American cousin Jean you have the living embodiment of the slave history of Little Compton. Because of the fact that on her end the connection is through an “unknown” grandfather I don’t think we will ever be able to find the exact genealogical path, but I was thrilled to be able to tell her of her connection to Rhode Island and the history of slaves there.

    How amazing is family history, from the Cooks of Rhode Island to me and to an amazing 93 year old African American lady living in Oakland California.

    I look forward to reading your book and sharing it with Jean and her family.

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