Slavery and Sugar

Did Sugar Feed Slavery?

Our Own Backyard

Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island was a provisioning plantation for 2 sugar plantations in Barbados in the 1600's.
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Sylvester Manor Timeline

Prior to 1651, Shelter Island was home to the Manhansetts who had ties to the Montauketts and Shinnecock by family, and by trade, culture and tribute to the Mohegan-Pequot peoples of coastal New England.

1651 - Nathaniel Sylvester and partners purchase Shelter Island for 1600 lbs. of raw sugar from a CT businessman to provision their Barbados sugar operations with grains, salted meat, wool, barrel staves and other raw materials. Labor is supplied by enslaved and indentured Manhansetts and enslaved Africans who by 1680 number 23, making the Sylvester Manor plantation one of the largest slave-holding properties in New England.

Nathaniel builds a home for he and his wife and her two slaves, which she brings from Amsterdam. The location of this original house is unknown, but recent archaeological digs show that there may have been as many as 80 buildings on the property at one time.

1653 - The Manhansetts dispute the CT businessman's right to sell the island without their consent in New Haven court and win their case, requiring the 4 partners to purchase the island directly from the tribe. Nathaniel Sylvester and Youghco, the sachem or chief, exchange "turfe and twigge" to solemnize the transaction.

1672 - Quaker founder George Fox visits the Sylvesters and holds Quaker meeting with the Manhansetts.

1680 - the land is broken into parcels and it isn't until 1735 that Nathaniel's grandson is awarded the old house and 1,000 acres.

1735 - Brinley Sylvester levels his grandfather's house and builds the existing dwelling.

1776-1783 - The Dering family, proprietors of the Manor flee to CT during the Revolutionary War, leaving the Manor to be looked after by the slaves. The British pillage the woodlands and fields and the Derings return to a wasted farm.

1820 - Comus Fanning, a freed African American, buys 21 acres of land from the Derings. This property is bought back in 1865 by the Horsford family, Sylvester family descendents.

1821 - London, last of the Manor slaves is manumitted.

1827 - On July 4th, slavery is abolished in New York.

1884 - The slave graveyard is fenced and marked with the engraved boulder. The family graveyard is fenced and marked with a table monument honoring the Quakers.