Skip to main content

Vermont Roadside Historic Marker Honoring  Dinah to be dedicated on June 18

Category

Contact:

Laura V. Trieschmann
Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

Judy L. Hayward
Historic Windsor, Inc. peihwi@gmail.com
802.674.6752

Vermont Roadside Historic Marker Honoring  Dinah to be dedicated on June 18

Windsor, VT  - A roadside historic site marker honoring Dinah (d.1809) will be placed at 70 State Street in Windsor, Vermont on Saturday, June 18 at 10:30 am.  All are welcome to attend for remarks and refreshments.

Dinah, an enslaved woman, was at the center of a court case, Selectmen of Windsor v. Stephen Jacob. Jacob built the house at 70 State Street in Windsor in the 1780s. Historic Windsor, Inc., purchased the property in 2008 and is working on its rehabilitation in hopes of selling it to an owner interested in preserving the structure. The marker is the culmination of over a year of work by volunteers to prepare a text that tells the story of a woman who spent more than half her life in Windsor, enslaved or free without manumission.

The text of the double-sided marker is the following:

Dinah-side one

c. 1753 – 1809

Dinah was taken to Windsor in 1783, identified only as a Negro woman slave about thirty years of age, valued at £40. An ensuing court case would later make her the best known of those to have been enslaved in Vermont despite its 1777 Constitution - the first to prohibit adult slavery. In defiance of the law, lawyer Stephen Jacob purchased Dinah, obtaining a bill-of-sale from a future Vermont legislator that was witnessed by a town leader. Dinah served the Jacob family in the adjacent 18th-century house. When no longer in his service, she fell into need and requested town support, which was denied by a vote of the Windsor residents who urged their selectmen to charge Jacob legally for her care instead.

The lawsuit, Selectmen of Windsor v Stephen Jacob, was heard before the Vermont Supreme Court in 1802 when then-Justice Stephen Jacob recused himself. Remaining justices disavowed Dinah’s slave status, ruling no inhabitant of the state can hold a slave, thus absolving Jacob of her care while affirming Vermont’s prohibition of slavery. In total, Dinah continued to live in Windsor for nearly three decades, enslaved or free without manumission. Labeled as Jacob’s wench or African Dinah, she was summoned by selectmen to leave town, assaulted by a deacon’s son, and suffered repeated illnesses. Although Dinah died in poverty, she was identified in a published obituary as a woman of color. The location of her grave is unknown.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation--2022

The website for the Vermont State Historic Preservation Office roadside historic site marker program. “Unveiled in 1947 by the Vermont Legislature, the Roadside Historic Site Marker program has proven an effective way to commemorate Vermont’s many people, events, and places of regional, statewide, or national significance. Over 300 cast-aluminum green markers, crested with the distinctive gold state seal, are placed throughout Vermont to provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and insights into the present.”  For a complete list of Vermont’s markers, visit https://accd.vermont.gov/historic-preservation/roadside-markers

Historic Windsor, Inc., is a nonprofit historic preservation organization formed in 1971. Programs in historic preservation skills and technology are offered through its Preservation Education Institute throughout the United States. For more information:  peihwi@gmail.com or 802.674.6752.