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William Winters Neighborhood
Winter Avenue and Mitchell Lane, Deep River, CT 06417
“I was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, about the year 1808. I had five brothers and two sisters and was known as Daniel Fisher….When I was Twenty years of age my master was obliged on account of heavy losses to sell me and I was sent to Richmond to be sold on the block to the highest bidder….I was taken by my new master to South Carolina. I remained there until October when, in the company with another slave, we stole a horse and started to make our escape….the next morning…we run the horse into the woods. We kept on our way on foot, hiding by day and walking by night. We were without knowledge of the country, and with nothing to guide us other than the north star....we managed to stow ourselves away on a vessel loaded with wood bound for Washington.
As kidnappers were plenty, it was thought best for our safety that we separate….In the company with some Philadelphia colored people, I was taken to New York, and it was there I met members of the Abolition party….at New York, I was put on board a steamboat for New Haven… on arrival, a colored man took me to the Tontine Hotel, where a woman gave me a part of a suit of clothes…. I was fed and made comfortable, and then directed to Deep River with instructions that upon arriving there, I was to inquire for George Read or Judge Warner. I walked all the way from New Haven to Deep River.
After I worked at different times for Ambrose Webb and Judge Warner in Chester, and for Deacon Stevens in Deep River, getting along very nicely though always afraid of being taken by day or by night and carried again to the South….I went to New Bedford after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, because it was known that Massachusetts was more friendly to escaped slaves than Connecticut. I remained in New Bedford several years, returning after the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln.”
Excerpt from William Winter interview published in Deep River New Era,
November 22, 1900.
When Daniel Fisher arrived in Deep River in 1828, he was advised by Underground Railroad conductor, George Read to disguise and rename himself. He chose the name William Winter. Indications are that he blended in with and found refuge in an African American community already present in Deep River. His sister Nancy and other family members followed him to the area. Photographs and documents show that in Deep River, African Americans and whites worked, worshipped and attended school in non-segregated facilities.
Although William Winter worked for various employers, he was also a skillful entrepreneur. He purchased property in what became known as Williams Hill on Main Street where he had pastures, gardens and apple orchards and experimented with growing cotton and tobacco. He also operated his own catering business, purchased and sold real estate and was a landlord.
William Winters died November 22, 1900 at the age of 92 and is buried in Fountain Hill Cemetery. Although he never married and had children, his sister Nancy’s descendants lived in Deep River until 1964 when Nancy’s granddaughter, Florence Sturgis died.
“A Former Slave’s Odyssey,” The Day, Monday, December 25, 2000.
An African American Settlement in Deep River, Research Report for the Connecticut Historical Commission, Dr. Katherine Harris, 2003.
“A Former Slave’s Odyssey,” Deep River New Era, Friday, November 22, 1900.