Every September, people from all over East Haddam and the country gather to remember a man named Venture Smith.
He was brought to the United States from Africa to be enslaved, but after buying his own freedom a century before the Civil War, he became a successful landowner in Connecticut, creating a legacy that is still celebrated. today.
East Haddam town historian Dr. Karl Stofko is one of the people behind the creation of Venture Smith Day, which will be celebrated this Saturday. He studied Smith’s incredible story and his roots in the East Haddam area.
Venture Smith would have been the son of an African king. He was stolen from Guinea and sold as a slave in the northeast in the 1730s. According to legend, his young life was exchanged for rum and calico.
After decades of hard labor, Smith finally bought his freedom and brought his family here.
“He actually got his freedom before the Revolutionary War. It was free while it was still a colony that was rather unknown. There weren’t many free black landowners in CT at the time,” Stofko said.
“When he became free he brought his family here to Connecticut and he started buying land with the money he had saved up and ended up owning 134 acres, three houses, several businesses. He became a very successful entrepreneur,” he continued.
Venture Smith Day is this Saturday, September 10 from 1-4 p.m. at First Church Cemetery in East Haddam. It is open to anyone who wishes to come. The organizers ask guests to bring something to sit on and come prepared to learn and have a good time.
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