News 12 Special Report on Bush-Holley House & Witness Stones Project

News 12 Long Island
By News 12 Staff
February, 21 2022

As reported: Retired history teacher, Dennis Culliton, founded the Witness Stones Project in Guilford to restore honor to the names of the people who were enslaved in Connecticut. In Cos Cob, it was after the American Revolution when two families lived in the Bush-Holley House — one the enslaved, the others the enslavers. Dating back to the 1700’s, the landmark is one of a handful of historical homes in Connecticut that interprets enslaved quarters.

Culliton was inspired to remember these enslaved individuals and he enlisted some help from local historical societies and schools to research the history. Heather Lodge at the Greenwich Historical Society works with local students on the project.Lodge says it’s important work “finding the stories of these people, everyday bits of their lives, because people don’t have to win a war or be a governor or president to be important.”Lodge also says eight children were born enslaved in the Bush Holley House during that time.Their names are Phillis, Miley, Rose, Lucy, Nanny, Cull Jr, Jack, and Hester.Teresa Vega participated in last year’s Witness Stone memorial ceremony. Vega is a historian, a genealogist and a descendent of another enslaved family in Greenwich. She traced her ancestry to the Lyon-Green-Merritt family. “The Bush family who were enslaved at the Bush-Holley House, they were friends and acquaintances of my ancestors in Greenwich,” she says.

One enslaved child, Hester, was remembered, along with her mother Candice. The mother and daughter were eventually freed. Lodge says Hester was quite a successful woman we are not entirely sure what she did, but she amassed a fair amount of money throughout her life. The proof of this was in Hester’s will, there were books, dresses, silver, and money to buy a headstone for her and her mother all listed in the document. They are the only formerly enslaved people in Greenwich who have headstones. More than 160 years later, their names etched into their headstones, barely legible, fading but there.Born into slavery, died free and now, never forgotten.