The first session of Congress struggled with concern for the abolition of slavery. There were about 2,000 slaves in Connecticut, 30 in New Haven. The African Society was formed to promote freedom for slaves. There was a predominantly black neighborhood near the Wooster Square area. Many of those who lived there were leaders in the community, owned homes, farms and land. Three gravestones in the Grove Street Cemetery, the first planned in the US. with family plots, bear names of people who lived in the neighborhood.
Attention turned to local problems in New Haven. The Board of Health was formed in 1795 as a result of yellow fever, scarlet fever and smallpox epidemics. In 1788 the Fire Department was started.
The Grove Street Cemetery was created in 1797 because the Burying Ground on the Green had become an ugly sight with between 3,000-5,000 graves. Elm trees were planted around the city. There was need for better roads, banks were started throughout the state and Long Wharf was a busy scene with much shipping to the West Indies. Important citizen names of the time were Stiles, Sherman, Hillhouse and Baldwin. Timothy Dwight was the second president of Yale.
A portrait of New Haven in 1800 would show four public wells on the fenced in Green were cattle grazed. The people began to wear looser fitting, more comfortable clothes. The traditional English dress of wigs and silks disappeared and everyone dressed the same.
By 1815 immigrants from many European countries arrived. All three churches that stand on the Green had been built. Monuments from the Burying Ground were being moved to the new cemetery.
The harbor was very active. A black man named William Lanson solved a long standing problem by building the wharf out into the harbor, using stones from East Rock. This great feat meant that cargo could be unloaded directly onto the wharf instead of transferring it to smaller boats that carried it to land from the ships. New manufacturing appeared, carriages, clocks, wool cloth, rubber boots, arms and hardware meaning jobs and progress for New Haven.
Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801. He worked to make the country more democratic because in many ways the government’s power was still held by the same families who ruled 150 years earlier.
Just as New Haven thrived as a seaport, a new disaster struck which brought an end to Theophilous Eaton’s vision of a great harbor. The British blockaded ships all along the east coast which stopped trade, jobs and the flow of money. This was known as the War of 1812. When it was over, other ways of supporting the city were created as factories for manufacturing were built. New Haven became famous for making buttons, wool and for Eli Whitney’s gun factory. At the same time, many people moved west to find new land and opportunities.
By 1820, the first black church was formed. More congregations soon followed. Two synagogues were formed also as many Jews came to America seeking freedom from oppressive governments. The church—state became separate, ending the original concept of the colony forever.