Plesant Valentine (1848-1915) was born in Richmond, Virginia and is believed to have been African American, which would have made him a slave at birth. An unusually large and strong boy, at the outbreak of the Civil War at age 14 he is said to have run away from home and joined a Confederate regiment. After a year-and-a-half and several battles, he escaped to the Union lines where he served as a cook for the 20th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers.
He worked as a hired hand for farms in Bloomfield and Burlington. In 1874 he married Agathe Arnold, a professional seamstress who had emigrated form Germany and was living in New Hartford. They lived frugally and eventually owned several farms consisting of hundreds of acres in Burlington, Canton, and New Hartford. In addition to farming, the Valentines were involved in lumbering, charcoal making, farm rentals, and real estate.
For the last twenty-two years of his life, Valentine lived in a gracious 1855 Italianate style house at 306 Southeast Road in the Nepaug section of New Hartford. The Valentines “often hosted bountiful meals prepared by Agathe and a hired woman for people less fortunate,” according to author Margaret Lavoie. In poor health for about a year, Valentine died of cancer. Plesent Valentine is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Collinsville.
For more on Valentine and his family, see Images of America: New Hartford by Margaret L. Lavoie pp. 39-44. For a poem about Valentine go to http://davidkleff.typepad.com/home/2012/02/plesant-valentine-poem.html
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today.