Samuel Smedley of Fairfield enlisted at age 23 as a lieutenant of marines of the defense during the American Revolution and became a captain a year later. In the book Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer, author Jackson Kuhl writes about how he survived smallpox and a shipwreck as well as being captured twice by the British. Smedley commanded three different commissioned privateers out of Black Rock Harbor, the largest being the “Defense,” which was armed with twenty guns and manned by a crew of 100 men. A scale model of the ship is housed at the Fairfield Museum in its “Creating Community” exhibition.
The current Fayerweather Yacht Club in Black Rock, Bridgeport has a connection to Smedley. The clubhouse itself was built as a chandlery in 1772 by Smedley and Samuel Sturges, and was part of the main waterfront of Black Rock. According to the FYC website “It served as a storehouse for many of the goods which reached Black Rock from the West Indies, China, and other parts of the world … The Smedley and Sturges storehouse with an addition on the seaward side, was converted to a residence. The addition, located in the vicinity of the present Club flagstaff, was later torn down. The hand-hewn beams of the 1772 storehouse are visible overhead.”
Smedley is thought to be one of Fairfield’s most heroic town residents during the Revolution, and is buried in the Old Burying Ground on Beach Road. His headstone fell into disrepair but was restored in 2012, the 200th anniversary of his burial. He is buried next to his father.
Learn more about Smedley on Wednesday, May 30, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Museum’s History Bites Lunchtime Lecture. Jackson Kuhl himself will be on hand to share Smedley’s story and answer questions. Co-presented with the Black Rock Community Council History Program. Bring a lunch, and the Museum will provide beverages and dessert. $5 suggested donation, or free for Museum members. Copies of Kuhl’s book are available for purchase at the Museum Shop.
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The Fairfield Museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Museum is especially grateful for support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, the State of Connecticut, Town of Fairfield and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.