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Rinaldo Burleigh (1774-1863)

Rinaldo Burleigh (1774-1863), father of the Abolitionist generation, was himself a potent force for social change. He was born in Eastford, Connecticut. His father died when Rinaldo was ten years old, and, to compound his problems, the young man  lost an arm in a cider mill accident at the age of 14. He then decided on pursuing a life of the mind as a scholar. He studied under Master John Adams at a select Academy in Canterbury before he attended Yale University (1803). When he returned, he succeeded his teacher as the preceptor at the renowned Plainfield Academy. The Burleigh family history notes that he served "successively as the preceptor of the academies of Plainfield, Woodstock and Colchester" (133). Following Larned's account, his Woodstock tenure was likely from 1814-1816, where his “two years’ administration was efficient and profitable, bringing the institution to the culmination of its early prosperity” (373). For many years, he served as Deacon at the First Congregational Church of Plainfield, but eventually broke from them because of their unwillingness to confront the issue of slavery. He embraced and endorsed Abolition, becoming the first president of the Plainfield Anti-Slavery Society. His last sixteen years, from 1847, he was afflicted with blindness, and was cared for by his wife and his daughter.

Sources - Connecticut Historical Society and Museum

Hebbard, J.C., “Contemporary Reformers: Prudence Crandall's Immediate Co-Workers,” Topeka Capitol April 13, 1886.

Burleigh, Charles, Genealogy of the Burley or Burleigh Family of America. Portland ME: B. Thurston and Co., 1880.

A Catalogue of the Trustees, Instructors, and Students of Plainfield Academy, Plainfield, Connecticut, for the Year, Ending August 1832. Brooklyn CT: Advertiser Press, 1832.

Larned, Ellen D., History of Windham County Connecticut 1760-1880, volume II. Reprint edition Pomfret CT: Swordsmith Productions, 2000; original by the author, 1880.


Clarence Winthrop Bowen, The History of Woodstock Connecticut. Norwood, Massachusetts: The Plimpton Press, 1926, p. 377

​"From daguerreotype owned by Miss Agnes Burleigh Allen, Plainfield, great-grand-daughter.” 

Notices and Publications

Mentioned in The Unionist (via The Liberator) as the first President of the Plainfield Anti-Slavery Society, August 1833.


First Congregationalist Church, Plainfield. Built 1816
(photo, Jerry Doughtery

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