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Did You Know? . . . Trent House

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” -I Cor. 12:26

The William Trent House is the oldest house in Trenton, dating back to 1719. King George gave the 600-acre land grant property, which belonged to the Leni Lenape people, to the Trent family. The family moved from Philadelphia to Trenton where the Scottish merchant’s shipping business would continue, dealing mostly in slave trade. Trent traveled widely including the West Indies where he purchased slaves from Africa.

Trent’s household, located near the Delaware River, included his wife, native people, and eleven immigrants. African enslaved people, known as immigrants, existed not as people, but as property. Names given them by their owners further isolated slaves from their former personhood. In 1790, when the Census began, all people became documented by name and place. 

Wealth accumulated in slave trade transactions and taxes made King George richer. The King sought more slave trade in the years before the American Revolution. Slave labor brought them no recompense, not even what they grew agriculturally. Slaves subsided on a quarter of the calories their owners required.

One of the Trent’s slaves was an extraordinary man who was literate. He wrote a permission slip and forged Trent’s signature to get away from the plantation. While free he was over-heard planning to kill the Trent family. A reward for his capture was set at 4 English pounds. When Trent died on Christmas Day, 1774, and arsenic and root appeared on the property, the slave man and three other slaves suffered hanging for Trent’s death.

Dr. Samuel Stephens, Trustee of the William Trent House 1719, hypothesizes that since arsenic and root were present, the law judged the slave guilty with no collaboration, when consumption may have been the cause.