Location: First Congregational Church of Stonington, 903 Pequot Trail, Stonington, Connecticut
According to a 1934 letter written to Neel Cuff from Richmond, Kentucky, Cato was born in Stonington, Connecticut. While we don’t know from the church records when the Cheseborough family purchased Cato, we do know that from as far back as April 1744 Elihu Cheseborough purchased Prince & Primus, and through their marriages, he was able to obtain ownership of their wives, Phoebe and Surviah.
We also know that in Mr. Cheseborough’s 1769 will amongst his valuable possessions, “all of his negroes” were to be divided equally between his three sons. After Elihu’s death, we know that Cato went to his son Naboth. We know in the 1772 Quit Claim of Elihu Cheseborough’s property that Cato appears on an itemized list tucked between 12 heads of cattle, 30 barrels of cider, and 6 other enslaved boys with the names of Jeremiah, Prince, Africa, Jack, Cuffee, and Nero.
We know that Cato enlisted in the American Revolutionary War in April 29, 1777, at the approximate age of 17, and was discharged on May 1, 1780. Due to the Connecticut Act of 1777, Cato could serve during wartime in the place of a white man and when discharged would be freed. During his three-year service, he fought primarily in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He sustained an injury that would impact him for the rest of his life as a result of the brutal cold while serving at Valley Forge. We know that his war injury (frostbite) made it difficult for him to work and earn a wage, so he went to court to prove his service and earn a pension.
Lastly, we know that in August of 1820, Cato married Flora Palmer at the First Congregational Church in Stonington.