Funeral held for Connecticut slave 215 years after his death
The remains of a man known as “Mr. Fortune” lay in state at the Connecticut state rotunda on Thursday, more than 200 years after his death, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Mattatuck Museum, Fortune was owned by a bone surgeon, Dr. Preserved Porter. Following Fortune’s death in 1798, Porter had his bones boiled to be used for medical study. Local records attribute Fortune’s death to drowning, but an examination of his remains held at Quinnipiac University could not determine a specific cause, while noting that his neck showed evidence of a fracture not associated with hanging.
Researchers estimate that Fortune was 55 years old at the time of his death. The AP also reported that during his life, Fortune owned a house and raised four children with his wife, but had no control over how his body would be handled after his death.
The museum acquired Fortune’s bones from a descendant of Porter’s in 1933. Director Bob Burns told the AP that medical technology will now allow researchers to study his remains without needing to have the bones present.
“We’ve always had a desire to finally put these remains to rest,” Burns said to the AP. “But there was always a concern that there may be some new opportunity to learn more in the future. And that future is right now.”
A service was also held for Fortune at a local Episcopalian church, in keeping with the faith in which he was baptized.
“Our brother Mr. Fortune has been remembered, and it is with restored dignity his bones shall be buried,” the Rev. Amy D. Welin told the hundreds of people who attended. “We bury Mr. Fortune not as a slave, but as a child of God who is blessed.”
Watch the Associated Press’ report, aired Thursday, below.