Charles Ethan Porter (1847-1923) was a 19th century African American still-life artist most famous for his portraits of fruit and floral still-life studies. Although known primarily as an artist, Porter and his family were also involved with various social causes affecting African Americans. In 1860, Porter’s sister Cynthia Jane married Richard Alonzo Jeffrey, nephew of famed abolitionist brothers Amos and Leverett Beman. Jeffrey was from Meriden and was active in the Lincoln Club, founded by his brother George in remembrance of the president and for the advancement of civil rights and equal opportunity for people of color. Another Porter sister, Mary, married Henry Vanness in 1865, a freight handler for the railroad who was eventually promoted to train conductor, a position he held for over forty years. He is believed to be the only black train conductor in the country at that time. Through family connections like these, the ongoing struggle towards freedom was strengthened. In Grove Hill Cemetery, follow the main drive and turn right at the fourth paved path, the Porter family plot will be on the right. The graves of Henry Vanness and Mary Porter are nearby.
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