Hempsted Houses Education Programs

The Joshua Hempsted House, built in 1678, is the oldest surviving structure in New London. Joshua Hempsted is well-known to historians because of the diary he kept from 1711 until his death in 1758 where he documented daily life and work in New London. His diary contains detailed information about the work of Adam Jackson, an enslaved farmer Joshua purchased in 1727, providing a window into early New England slavery. This story of slavery was not rare. Another enslaved woman, Dinah, ran away from the house and her master (the diarist’s grandson) in 1803. By the 1840s two strong abolitionist sisters, Mary and Martha Hempstead, were living in this house and speaking out against the pro-slavery sentiments still prevalent in their city and country. The stone Nathaniel Hempsted House was constructed by Joshua’s grandson Nathaniel Hempsted. He was a merchant and one of three rope makers in maritime New London.

Hempsted Houses School Programs

We have a new program that focuses on Language Arts and Common Core testing. The program will reach students in grades two through eight. We want to market the program so that school districts will send students to the Hempsted Houses for field trips throughout their schooling so that students and teachers can build relationships with the site and its staff. Students can have more in-depth learning during their visits instead of trying to learn the entire history of the site in one visit. The idea behind the field trips is to help us meet our goals of being a community resource and collaborating with local schools.

Each field trip for the site is based on an Essential Question developed by area teachers with us. There are Learning Objectives that show the skills and knowledge students are to obtain from the classroom performance task and the actual field trip to the site. The Performance Tasks have been created by local teachers and help with classroom preparation for PARCC testing. PARCC assessment is based on the core belief that assessment should work as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning and is used to measure how students are succeeding in school based on the Common Core curriculum standards.

Grades 2-3

Living in New England in the Late 17th and Early 18th Centuries

Essential Question: What was life like for people in the late 17th and early 18thcenturies?

Goal: The goal is to compare typical experiences in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to those of today.

Performance Task Activity: You have discovered a secret doorway that can bring people to 18th century New London, Connecticut. Upon using the time portal, you made some discoveries about life there and then. You will create an entry for your blog describing your discoveries about late 17th and early 18th century Connecticut.


Performance Task Activity You are a child living in the 18th century (the 1700s) in New London, CT. You want to remember what a typical day is like here, so you are going to write a story about one in your diary. You have some stories from other people to help you too.

Field Trip Visit: Students will help with chores such as getting wood from the wood pile, carting water with the yokes, and haying. Students learn about some of the chores related to fiber, including carding the wool and seeing the spinning wheel. In the garret, they learn about how food would have been stored. They see a page from Joshua’s diary and talk about how his diary can teach us about life in the 18th century. Outside, students learn about the work of making candles and soap.

Grades 4-6

Who Were Adam Jackson and Joshua Hempsted?

Essential Question: What can the use of primary and secondary sources tell us about the lives of Adam Jackson and Joshua Hempsted in New London, Connecticut during the 18th century?

Goal: The goal is to conduct research and collect evidence on the 18th-century life of Adam Jackson and Joshua Hempsted by using the primary and secondary sources provided.

Performance Task Activity: As a museum director, you are preparing an exhibit comparing the typical day of an enslaved worker and a slave owner in New England. You have spent some time researching the lives of Joshua Hempsted, a slave owner in New London, CT and Adam Jackson, Joshua’s enslaved farmer as examples for this exhibit. To go along with your exhibit, you have decided to create an informational brochure that includes a comparison of the lives of Joshua and Adam. Visitors to the museum will read your brochure so that they can learn about these two men. Using more than one source, choose the best information to develop a comparison of Joshua’s and Adam’s lives. Then, write an informational brochure – you can include drawings – that shares what you have learned about how the lives of a slave owner and an enslaved man were different.

Field Trip Visit: A Day in the Lives of Adam and Joshua – Students split into two groups and go through the activities of Joshua and/or Adam and then switch roles. What do their days look like? What do their days have in common and what is different? For example, Joshua wakes up in his room and Adam wakes up in the garret. Adam starts off his day working with the livestock outside while Joshua starts off his day working indoors in his office. The two men work together in the garret shucking and storing corn in the evening. At the end of the day, Adam goes to sleep and Joshua ends his day writing in the diary.

Grades 6-8

Slavery in 19th Century New England

Essential Question: How did 19th century Americans determine and support their positions on abolitionism?

Goal: The goal is to learn and investigate the pro and anti-slavery arguments prevalent in nineteenth-century New London and formulate and create an argument of your own.

Performance Task Activity: You are an adult living in New London during the 1840s. Slavery and abolition have become important issues of the day. Your neighbors, the Hempsteads, have been talking with people in New London about creating an abolitionist group. Some in your community support the abolitionist efforts to end slavery, but others oppose their efforts to “interfere” with slavery. You decide to research both sides of this issue and write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging people to support one side or the other.

Field Trip Visit: Use the house to share with students what slavery looked like in New England. Have students go through the rooms and figure out what in the room was brought to the house through the slave trade. For example, cotton cloth, sugar, rum, ivory, the livestock Joshua sends to the islands, etc.